First-person shooters have been a key genre in video games for decades now – but why are they so popular? Maybe it’s the sense of immersion they give us: just like novels written in the first-person, FPS games put us right in the action.
We don’t just see the character as they move through the game … we become them.
There are so many first-person shooters out there, old and new, picking our favourites is just as hard as you would expect. So, we’ve picked our top 15 FPS games of all time (or, at least, so far!): in no particular order, we’re celebrating titles that either changed the genre forever, or are so damned awesome their place in history simply cannot be denied.
One accusation we can make about the FPS genre today is just how grim, gritty, and serious it all is – and TimeSplitters 2 remains one of the greatest, most colourful, most downright silly shooters ever.
With a time-hopping storyline involving zombies, cowboys, and robots, TimeSplitters 2 is great fun. With a long, exciting singleplayer campaign, as well as plenty of stand-alone challenges (and even a level-editor), the game offers solo players lots to see and do – but the multiplayer mode is an absolute blast! Snowman versus gingerbread man? Cowboy versus cyborg?
It’s gorgeous, bizarre, and totally unforgettable.
It might not be the most beautiful game to look at today, but there’s no denying Quake’s importance in the FPS genre.
Developed by id Software back in 1996, Quake used the first fully-functioning online multiplayer mode, introducing the standard model we now know so well: spawn, fight, die, respawn, fight, die, respawn, etc. The game also features an impressive single-player mode, and the diverse environments (dungeons, caves) keep things fresh.
Medal of Honor
Back in 1999, when Medal of Honor hit the PlayStation 1, there was no telling how successful it would go on to become. At the time, a first-person shooter set during WWII was massively innovative – and it still stands up today. With a story by Steven Spielberg, Medal of Honor put players in the middle of the Allies’ battle, incorporating stealth as well as run-and-gun action.
The first level, in which hero Jimmy Patterson makes his way through narrow country lanes, exchanging gunfire with German soldiers, remains a great opening: nothing can make us forget blasting our first Nazi, nor the level in which Jimmy goes incognito behind enemy lines (fake ID and all).
Far Cry 3
Far Cry 3 gives players a rare chance to enjoy first-person shenanigans without taking on the role of a soldier or zombie-slayer: as a basic everyman tossed into an extreme situation after his vacation goes awry, we develop into a jungle-master throughout the game. A smart, well-designed crafting system allows for custom weapons, and multiple side quests add depth outside of the storyline.
With a massive free-roam island, tigers, plenty of exploration, and kick-ass action, Far Cry 3 is outstanding! It was a hit with critics and buyers alike, picking up incredible scores across the board, as well as receiving numerous award-nominations.
Mashing the FPS with the RPG is a winning formula in Deux Ex: playing as an augmented government agent, this title allows you to modify your hero as you progress, improving lock-picking, weapons-proficiency, and boosting certain physical aspects.
Starting with a trip to the Statue of Liberty, Deus Ex takes gamers from a futuristic New York to Hong Kong and even Area 51, with a host of awesome weapons (including swords!) and a genuinely compelling storyline. A classic.
Team Fortress 2
Team Fortress 2 offers players accessible, colourful fun, with a range of distinct classes to choose from (Spy, Pyro etc.), giving newbies and seasoned pros plenty to enjoy. Players join one of two teams and battle in various modes, such as Capture the Flag, King of the Hill, and more.
Players can use stealth to enter an enemy stronghold, or just blast their way in – and can even accessorize their characters with hats!
Counter Strike: Global Offensive
Even if you’ve never played Counter Strike, you’ll still have heard of it.
This multiplayer-favourite sequel gives players pretty much more of the same: counter-terrorist operatives take on terrorists, with awesome weapons to choose from, and grittier graphics. To get ahead, you need to be quick on your toes, and be prepared to face players of a hardcore standard! Each player joins either side, and completes objectives as they try to emerge victorious: when your character is killed, in the majority of modes, you’re forced to wait until the current round finishes before you can respawn – adding an extra incentive to stay alive!
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Before Modern Warfare launched itself into the mainstream, the Call of Duty games had always been set in WWII. Now, playing in the then-modern world of 2007, fans were given both a gripping singleplayer mode and an immense multiplayer experience that became phenomenally successful.
With new weapon-upgrades and abilities to unlock, players have real incentives to keep taking on enemies around the world – as well as the exciting gameplay, of course. Modern Warfare received many awards, sold millions upon millions of copies, and is still hailed as one of the greatest examples of the genre today.
Without doubt, GoldenEye is the game that changed it all. Not only does this Bond adaptation give us a stunning, lengthy singleplayer campaign (complete with multiple difficulty levels, which add more objectives the higher you go, and a level-editor), but this also redefined multiplayer gaming: who can forget chasing your friends around one level after another as Baron Samedi or Jaws, wielding the famous golden gun?
While the graphics might be tough to enjoy today, the gameplay is still just as sweet now as it was back in the N64’s early days.
What can we say about Half-Life 2 that hasn’t already been said? Not much, we suspect, but we’ll try anyway.
Half-Life 2 takes action, narrative, character-development, and mind-bending set-pieces – and takes them to the next level. Weapons range from the physics-defying Gravity Gun to the everyday-charm of a crowbar, all used with aplomb by your bespectacled hero. With plenty to think about as well as shoot at, Half-Life 2 will take some beating when Valve finally reveal the third entry in the series (we all know they will!).
What comes to mind when you think of this game? Rapture? Big Daddies? Little Sisters? Plasmids? It definitely has some unique elements that help it stand apart from its less-imaginative rivals, as well as a powerfully eerie atmosphere.
Overall, BioShock is a stunning game, giving us the chance to explore a bizarre underwater world populated by terrifying enemies, transforming into a modified warrior along the way. Thanks to plasmids, players can carry a weapon in one hand whilst using the other to launch energy-based attacks – but even this power can be almost meaningless when facing a Big Daddy.
These drill-armed giants are one of gaming’s great visuals, and while the sequel gave us the chance to play as one, the first game will be fondly-remembered for years to come.
With the franchise set for a new entry, it’s important to remember just how important the first Doom was for the FPS genre. Taking on the role of a soldier left alone against a horde of fire-flinging demons, players must blast their way through labyrinthine levels, armed with chainsaws, shotguns, and, of course, the BFG (what does it stand for? Here’s a hint: not Big Friendly Giant).
Doom’s a classic, and while the graphics can’t stand up to the likes of Titanfall, it remains a fun, iconic experience.
It’s hard to imagine the FPS genre without Halo now, such is the impact the series has made. The first game blends space-based shooting and vehicular combat into one beautiful package, but also features a great storyline that captured imaginations across the globe.
With Master Chief now firmly entrenched in the gaming lexicon, Halo is a massive franchise, and looking back at the original makes it easy to see why. The action is fast-paced, exciting, and the multiplayer mode is still outstanding!
Duke Nukem 3D
Duke Nukem 3D is an irreverent shooter filled with bad-language, OTT weaponry, and strippers – what’s not to love?
Seriously, though, the Duke is still an iconic figure in the FPS genre, with his trademark flat-top and shades making for a simple but memorable look. Weapons like the Mighty Boot are still great fun, and the (then revolutionary) functioning toilets & mirrors help to make the world feel all the more real.
Last on our celebratory list is Portal – a work of absolute genius.
Unlike the majority of FPS games, Portal arms players with a portal-firing gun rather than a bullet-spewing behemoth. This title relies more on solving puzzles and navigating complex environments than mowing down hordes of zombies or aliens – and gamers lapped it up!
While the sequel is well-loved, the original is viewed as the best by many. Also, without Portal, we wouldn’t have the phrase “the cake is a lie” in our world, so there’s another reason to be thankful.
Thanks for reading – we’ll catch you next time!
So, what do you think of our selection? Have we missed your favourite first-person shooter? Let us know!