While the debate may rage forever and ever over whether PC or console is the best way to play games, there’s one genre that is certifiably better with a mouse and keyboard: the first-person shooter.
Controllers will never be able match the precision aiming of a mouse and a fairly robust PC will always allow the smoothest gameplay, which is why you always see the best PC FPS games in eSports tournaments and not their console counterparts. It’s honestly day and night, though that isn’t to say that controller players can’t also be great — there’s just a natural “handicap” to overcome first.
The FPS as a genre also has its roots on PC: how many of us can remember sweatily inserting a DOOM floppy disk into our Windows 95 computer the size of a small aircraft carrier? It’s not only where the genre was popularised, but also where it continues to thrive and evolve with next-level visuals or retro throwbacks being just a couple of the choices afforded to players.
To satisfy the bloodthirsty, we’ve compiled a list of the FPS games on PC you should play, ranging from the recent to the old and those that are excellent homages to the latter.
This list isn’t in any particular order, but you can make your own ranking up if you so wish. We’re also excluding FPS games that aren’t only first-person, such as PUBG. Bear in mind that the competitive multiplayer portions of these games may not be as popular as they once were, or they could be the second entry and refuse to die.
The Best PC FPS Games
1. Half-Life 2
Developer: Valve Publisher: Valve Multiplayer/Single-player? Both
Could there even be a list on the best PC FPS games without focusing on this masterpiece, a game that Valve were so happy with that they (presumably) decided they could never top it with a sequel? You play again as Gordon Freeman, a scientist looking to free Earth from alien rule, but you probably already know that.
Mod this one out the wazoo, pick up some trash, and weep softly into your lap with the realisation that this, and its two episodes, are all there will ever be. It’s okay. We’re all used to it now. Valve hates money that requires hard work.
2. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Developer: Valve Publisher: Valve Multiplayer/Single-player? Both (offline training)
Arguably the definitive PC FPS game, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (more commonly known as CS:GO) asks you to not only have the quickest reactions but to also learn every pixel and possible start of one map that you will play over and over again.
It will be a harsh introduction to play it at this point in its life, but with it being free and having a battle royale to also experience, you may as well leap in with a gas mask in tow — the community can be pretty toxic, so just play with friends.
Developer: id Software Publisher: id Software/Bethesda Multiplayer/Single-player? Both
You may be wondering which DOOM game, to which we reply: “why not both?” They’re equally good for different reasons: the original for its inherent playability despite its age and the 2016 continuation for Mick Gordon and viscera.
You may want to opt for the former, however, as it will always be timeless, though the latter has a severely underrated multiplayer and a fantastic level editor to sink your teeth into once you’re done with ripping and tearing.
4. Insurgency: Sandstorm
Developer: New World Interactive Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Multiplayer/Single-player? Both (offline SP, bots)
You may immediately think of Counter-Strike when you first see Insurgency: Sandstorm, but they are actually quite far apart in almost every regard apart from having an abundance of sand. Insurgecy is less about twitch reflexes and more about working completely as a team.
The learning curve is steep and its mechanics possibly a little alien to you to begin with, but make no mistake: this is one of the most innovative and pulse-pounding FPS games in recent years.
“Insurgency: Sandstorm blends a fast pace and simple objective-based gameplay with a low time-to-kill, authentically modeled weapons and gear and an immersive, brutal and visceral style of combat to create the perfect intersection of competitive and tactical online shooters.”
5. Quake II
Developer: id Software Publisher: Activision Multiplayer/Single-player? Both
Unquestionably one of the most influential FPS games of all-time, Quake II was the feature of many LAN parties in the nineties and still has a solid amount of players to this day thanks to moda and the fact that Quake arguably hasn’t been better since.
A lot of modern games are trying to replicate the “feel” of Quake with their own homages, but this hectic arena shooter ultimately has no equal. Not bad for a game that wasn’t intended to be a sequel to Quake in the first place.
Developer: SUPERHOT Team Publisher: SUPERHOT Team Multiplayer/Single-player? SP
Basically every playground bit of playfighting as a lo-fi slice of FPS violence, SUPERHOT’s hook is one that makes it such an inherently fun experience. Time slows down to a crawl if you don’t move, allowing you to plan out your next plan of action, whether that’s punching an incoming red guy in the face and then catching his gun in mid-air or throwing an ashtray at his mate.
Developer: DICE Publisher: EA Multiplayer/Single-player? Both
While people may argue about either Battlefield 3 or 4 (or even V if they’re a bit off) being the better game, there are few voices who would disagree with the pick of Bad Company 2 as the best in the Battlefield franchise.
Featuring one of the only consistently great single-player campaigns of the whole series buoyed by a great cast of characters and an overall experience that feels like it rewards skill more than most of the recent games, there’s a reason why fans choose Bad Company 2 as an example of what Battlefield needs to return to.
8. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl
Developer: GSC Game World Publisher: GSC Game World Multiplayer/Single-player?Both
This is a straightforward one: pick up this stone cold classic about the irradiated Chernobyl and the horrors it holds, stuff it up the wazoo, and enjoy an experience as unnerving and thrilling as you’d think Resident Evil meets Call of Duty meets Fallout would be.
There are other entries in the franchise that are worth tracking down that may hold up better with the passage of time, but mods are the new gods and all that. A new, full-fledged sequel called S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 (but actually the fifth game; don’t worry about it) is reportedly in the works, so watch this space.
9. Left 4 Dead 2
Developer: Valve Publisher: Valve Multiplayer/Single-player? Both (SP bots)
You may think that Left 4 Dead 2 still being so popular so far down the line from its release is pretty popular, but give yourself an hour with this squad-based horror marvel and you will see exactly why. Not only does the spectacle of the screen filling up with the undead never get old, but Valve prove again that they know how to make an iconic map or two, which means that you will want to keep playing the same levels over and over again.
It’s also a great introduction to FPS games on PC if you’re trying to adjust to KB+M from controller as the community is pretty relaxed and will understand your awfulness, not like we’re saying that from personal experience or anything.
10. Unreal Tournament 2004
Developer: Epic Games Publisher: Epic Games Multiplayer/Single-player? Both (SP bots)
While the number of people still playing Unreal Tournament has waned considerably (as it does for every game that’s been in the spotlight for so long), it’s still fairly popular and arguably the pinnacle of the arena shooter. There’s a lot to learn and many modes to try out, though your enjoyment of these will no doubt be underpinned by how many people are playing.
Epic Games have failed to match this masterpiece in carnage and mayhem despite their efforts with a recent uninspired revival before Fortnite came along and took up all their attention. If you’re sick of building walls, gather some friends and enjoy this throwback instead.
Here it is: the hardest, most stress fart inducing FPS game you will ever play. Devil Daggers may look like a retrofitted 3D Realms game, but that’s to make sure the player pays attention on simply staying alive as long as they can. That’s easier said than done, however.
The screen fills with demonic creatures that kill you in a single hit, meaning that even lasting for longer than a single minute should be viewed as a serious achievement. A great testing ground for your reflexes and KB+M fluency, as well as of your sanity that’s available for about the same price as a sandwich.
12. Deus Ex
Developer: Ion Storm Publisher: Square Enix Multiplayer/Single-player? Both (MP mod)
Without doubt one of the most influential games ever made (the modern Fallout games owe a lot to this pioneering classic), Deus Ex may look rather basic these days, but here come our old friends all the mods to fix that.
You could even argue that this might not really qualify as a shooter as you don’t even have to shoot if you don’t want to, though the temptation to turn on God Mode and try to kill Gunther might be too hard to resist — your actions will have consequences, however.
A layered and increasingly relevant FPS RPG for our times, it’s the highlight of what is, overall, a fantastic franchise.
13. Team Fortress 2
Developer: Valve Publisher: Valve Multiplayer/Single-player? Both
As fun (and toxic in equal measure) as Overwatch can be, it’s often viewed as the game that started a new subgenre of FPS: the hero shooter. That’s not quite true as Valve’s Team Fortress 2 does many of the same things (moving the payload, Pixar-esque characters, different characters for different situations and strats) and arguably just as well, if not better.
The completely different sequel to its grim military shooter predecessor has the added bonus of being free and also not Paladins, though its playerbase has been on the wane over the past couple of years. Still as fun as it always has been, though.
14. Rainbow Six Siege
Developer: Ubisoft Publisher: Ubisoft Multiplayer/Single-player? Both
From Counter-Strike rip-off comparisons and bemused series fans about it not being a true Rainbow Six game to where we are now, it’s been quite the ride for Rainbow Six Siege. Its early days were rough, but thanks to regular patches and a steady flow of new content, Siege has climbed the ranks to be one of the best PC FPS games on the market.
The meta never stays the same for long, but one thing will always remain: the cheek-clenching tension of holding a corner. A game that you can pick up and play pretty easily but take forever to master.
Developer: David Szymanski Publisher: New Blood Interactive Multiplayer/Single-player? Both
Unabashedly inspired by the work of id Software and 3D Realms, Dusk seeks to capture the spirit of nineties FPS nirvana while bringing its own twist and, hell, does it deliver. Imagine DOOM but with cultists and dual-wielding while you bunny hop around and utterly ruin some scarecrows and you have the right idea.
Featuring a badass soundtrack, different difficulties to test your mettle with, and the kind of gameplay that no amount of cocaine will help you keep up with the piece, DUSK is one of 2018’s best games and certainly the king of the FPS homages.
16. Apex Legends
Developer: Respawn Entertainment Publisher: EA Multiplayer/Single-player? MP
The newest contender on the battle royale block is one that actually may have staying power, especially with it reaching fifty million players in a month or so. It’s little wonder why it’s been such a success: Apex Legends is a refreshing departure from BR norms that does things differently.
Thanks to neat quirks like respawning, pinging, Legends, and so much more, this squad-based FPS can surely only improve even further from here. Respawn Entertainment know how to make a slick shooter, which Apex Legends just continue to evidence.
They definitely need to just delete the Wingman, though.
“Even the most jaded of battle royale fans will find their interest rejuvenated by Apex Legends thanks to Respawn’s attention to detail, superior gunplay, and fantastic innovations, though the loot boxes and progression system certainly need addressing.”