Love ’em or hate ’em, first person shooters have pretty much redefined the video game medium. We would argue they changed it for the better. Ever since the early 90s, the FPS genre has captured our imaginations (and sadistic pleasure) with immersive narratives, addictive gun mechanics, and fantastic online play. There’s something so addictively satisfying about the feel of a gun… er, a virtual gun, that is. And despite being repeated countless times over the years, it’s surprising that FPSs are still able to innovate over and over, reeling us back in each time. Yes, we do of course come back for the promise of a new mechanic or brand new online mode, but at the end of the day, that tried-and-true run-and-gun gameplay is what has kept the FPS genre alive all of these years.
Needless to say, the writers here at Culture of Gaming really like FPSs. We strongly believe that this genre is comprised of a few of the greatest games ever created. So, to celebrate what might just be the most influential and successful genre of all time, we wanted to take the time to rank what we believe to be the greatest FPSs ever made! But first, a few criteria:
As with all of our other lists, we tried to balance three factors while ranking these games: quality, historical importance, and (most importantly) our personal opinion. By no means do we claim that this a definitive “end-all-be-all” list. The list you are about to read represents the minds of 12 Culture of Gaming staff coming together and creating a collective opinion. If you disagree, that’s totally fine! Present your opinion down in the comments; just keep in mind that this is a subjective list.
With that said, this is Culture of Gaming’s Top 25 FPS’s of all time!
25. Planetside 2
JT: Boasting a maximum amount player count of up to 2000 per continent and 6000 per server, Planetside 2 broke the Guinness World Record for the most players in a single FPS battle by having 1,158 players simultaneously in battle. Don’t tell players that a massive land battle cannot be done with hundreds on either side. I’m looking at you, current generation war games. It’s not just limited to player count either: it has a good story behind it, squads and platoons (like actual warfare), and various environments also making great tactical use of one’s skills. You can build various structures, such as bases in which to defend your side from invaders. Various vehicles allow transportation of players, along with offering in-flight battles or ground tank warfare.
With Planetside 2, every single class available had a purpose and made use of their various skill sets. Unlike being able to revive teammates or heal on the fly, that’s where medics come in. Engineers have the sole proprietary ability to repair and place turrets. There is even a sort of super class, which was basically a dead man walking, since the medic was unable to heal him, but had some of the best equipment. There were various different factions. You had objectives. There was, and still is, a lot to this game. Microtransactions in Planetside 2 are minor and do not hold any advantage during normal gameplay. I believed they were primarily cosmetic, but I never felt the need to purchase anything myself.
Full battles could take days or even weeks to fully conclude. It wasn’t so much the engagement, but the fact there were so many opponents to defeat! Struggle for land was not easy, at least not when you have so many players fighting even for the most significant advantage in battle. Communication was key, and if you couldn’t communicate then it would not be a fun experience, and you would die often. In 2018, it’s still fun to play, but not very practical. If you have a relatively large following, I suggest you get players together and see what happens. Planetside 2 still yields over 1200 concurrent players overall, but it’s still considered a good experience. Let us hope that a new player, Star Citizen can take its place and give us massive PvP battles. The fact you were allowed 2000 player battles was an awesome idea! Definitely a memorable experience.
24. ARMA 3
Taylor Evans: Here’s your sandbox. Don’t eat it.
No other FPS can claim the amount of freedom or creativity that ARMA 3 lets you express. The only real limits to what you can do are bound by in-game assets (and of course, the catalogue comprising of thousands upon thousands of mods) and your imagination. Not only is there no end to what a player can do, but there’s also a ridiculous amount of depth to the gameplay and its mechanics. Every system in-game can be customized either through mods or base game options. Don’t like the medical system? Simplify it or complexify it. Is the fatigue system annoying? Disable it.
Game mechanics and possibilities aside, ARMA 3 is content rich, even without its primary expansion, APEX. APEX offers compelling single-player content and scenarios. The latter of which showcases all of the various fields of combat the player can demo, while the former is surprisingly fun for what boils down to a military simulation game. Another note is that the campaign offers a surprising amount of replayability, encouraging the player to experiment with different approaches to complete the missions.
Multiplayer-wise, the game comes pre-packed with co-op missions you and your friends can play in, using an easily hostable peer to peer system. Alternatively, you can use ARMA 3’s in-game editor to make your own scenarios and missions to challenge your friends cooperatively or against each other.
No other FPS offers ARMA 3’s level of depth and complexity. Unfortunately, that’s a double-edged sword, as ARMA 3 has a steep learning curve (better likened to more of a cliff) but earns a solid 24th place on our list.
23. Quake 2
JT: Quake II is an amazing experience on PC, mostly run-and-gun, but at the same time providing a worthwhile single-player and multiplayer experience. For a game centred around the single-player experience, it was so much fun! As far as an early gaming experience went, this was one of the first I have ever played dealing in the realm of FPS games. There was never as big of a selection as there obviously is now, but Quake itself was solidified as one franchise that people would always flock to. The levels weren’t deep, but later they added maps specific for multiplayer, and that’s when this game really took off.
Growing up on plenty of RTS games and RPGs, Quake II was me taking a break from conventional console and PC games of that era. Every once in a while, even with bigger releases later down the line, I would play a bit from the Quake series of games. Quake II seemed to be one of those substantially addictive games. To this day, I would not mind picking this game up to go again. It’s available on Steam for those who want to at least try out this game, for only $5. For me, this is a steal. Quake II does FPS justice, and it’s a shame it doesn’t often get talked about nowadays.
The soundtrack of Quake II and the series as a whole is one of the best parts of the game. Both voices and music delivered a new and satisfying experience. It was like AC/DC or Metallica rocking out your eardrums. Making the player feel that much more like a badass, the music only added to the mayhem of battle. The weapons never felt too over-the-top, but wielding each one in their own right changed the way you play. It’s such a good game! It needs way more attention than it currently has.
22. Far Cry 3
Omar Banat: Far Cry 3 set the standard for the future of all open world FPS games. Despite the attribution from Funhaus’ (formerly Inside Gaming) Adam Kovic of the game feeling “Like Skyrim with guns,” it is more like Fallout with a bow.
Jokes aside, Far Cry 3 is the gold standard of the open world FPS genre. There’s a reason that all Far Cry games since then have just felt like lesser versions of this title. Ubisoft captured lightning in a bottle and created something wonderful with it. The gunplay is spot-on. Your arsenal of weapons and mods make you feel like a badass one-man army. The map is massive yet inviting. You’ll be hard pressed to find a dull moment in this game.
Far Cry 3 had a good story, but one character stole the show. Vaas — voiced by Better Call Saul star Michael Mando — is one of the most memorable antagonists in gaming history. His ability to be incredibly calm one moment and then maniacally violent the next is terrifyingly wonderful to behold.
The perfect melding of story and stellar gameplay makes Far Cry 3 one of the best RPGs of all time.
21. Metro Last Light
Taylor Evans: Good night and good luck.
The Metro series has always been hailed as a sort of spiritual successor to the STALKER series, and Last Light demonstrates why the best.
Last Light isn’t a fantastic sequel, it’s just a fantastic game, standing by itself away from 2033. While admittedly the shooting mechanics aren’t incredibly in depth, they aren’t horrible, certainly not detracting from the game in any way. Last Light is atmospheric, story-driven, and provides an experience no other FPS on the list quite does.
Last Light’s single player experience blends paranormal and secular and excels at it. The player is led through the story smoothly, and you’ll always find your self both fearing and curious as to what could be around the next corner of the metro. Last Light also shines in its exterior environments, where it provides a stark contrast to the comparatively lively atmosphere of the underground, as well as depicting and building a world that truly feels alien, but with this strange sense of familiarity.
Gameplay wise, as aforementioned, is nothing absolutely groundbreaking, but still blends stealth and action sequences into fun but simple shooting mechanics. There are also several mechanics that are more likened to an RPG, yet none of these mechanics feel out of place, as they perfectly match the world the player is placed in.
Metro: Last Light is simply just a fun and atmospheric story driven FPS. While it may not absolutely revolutionize anything in terms of gameplay, it doesn’t detract from the overall experience and is worthy enough to earn a spot at number twenty one on our list.
20. Borderlands 2
Matthew Garcia: A game as memorable as it is unique. Building on its predecessor, Borderlands 2 came to us with is beautifully distinct art style, a perfect blend of RPG and FPS, and the cast of characters that no one could forget. Sir Hammerlock is a great play on President Roosevelt, Mad Moxxie is as charming as ever, and Claptrap is, well, Claptrap. On top of that, let’s just take a minute to talk about Handsome Jack.
He is in most people’s opinion, one of, if not, the most memorable villains in all of gaming. When comparing him to other villains, he has motives besides being bad for the sake of it, and a life all his own. Just look at his Diamond horse, Butt Stallion. He will even offer you money to kill yourself and follow through with the deal if you commit suicide. Many other things similar to this just add up to create a masterpiece of a character.
The gameplay is nothing to scoff at either. Each class is different in great ways, even the DLC ones offer something new and don’t feel like they have been inserted in with no reason. While the guns feel similar in use, their stats and effects make a massive difference. Then there is an extra layer of great vehicle combat that is natural to this world.
The world itself looks nothing close to natural in its appearance. It’s a good thing though! There is nothing more iconic (minus Handsome Jack) to come out of the Borderlands series than the art style. Its cell-shaded, hand-painted look aids to this game. Acting as the perfect frosting on top of this amazing cake. Each character is distinct, guns are amazing to look at.
With all of that said, Borderlands 2 has become one of the greatest FPS of all time.
19. Goldeneye 007
JT: Nothing can really be said about Goldeneye 007 that hasn’t been said already. When I was a kid, growing up around the Nintendo era of gaming, there were a good amount of choices, but I was young. Getting any parent to buy you a video game is difficult enough, especially if it’s brand new. So the first year spent playing Goldeneye was at a friend’s house. I would go over once in a while, and often when him and his brothers were there we would all play multiplayer. It was so much fun, especially playing with all the settings as they were. Our favourite map was either laboratory or the facility, and just from normal play we discovered secrets on our own.
After finally getting my own copy on my still-held Nintendo 64, I breezed through the game in normal mode. Goldeneye 007 felt like a refreshing experience. Testing my skills, it got tougher after raising the difficulty settings. It suddenly felt impossible on the final difficulty setting, but the facility level always kept me at bay. It wasn’t that the facility level was difficult by any means, but because it was too much fun to play. A lot of it was attempting to find glitches or various other areas to explore. The campaign may not have been the best, but it was the most fun with an N64 game I’ve had.
There are reasons why there have been fan-created online servers for these games. Because they were and still are that fun to play. People say Oddjob was broken, but he wasn’t really that bad to play against. Just to think too, that many years later I found out that Multiplayer was an after-thought. If it was more thoroughly thought through, would it have been as iconic of a local multiplayer experience as it is today? It’s impossible to say, but will be forever among my favourites.
18. Halo: Combat Evolved
John Hansen: The most important console FPS since Goldeneye, Halo: Combat Evolved introduced us to the Master Chief and Cortana. The importance of the Halo series cannot be overstated for Xbox in particular, but also console shooters in general. Halo was at the time the best example of how to make an FPS work on a controller. At a time when FPSs were widely regarded as a PC only commodity, Halo set the precedence to have gamers learn how to control Chief with two joysticks.
There are many trends in gaming today that Halo made popular. Vehicular combat in an FPS? That’s Halo. Regenerating shields? While the first one still had health pickups, Halo: CE introduced the regenerating health that you see in almost every FPS today.
Halo: CE also helped push the FPS trend to limit the player to hold two weapons at a time. Gone were the days of having infinite pockets for your shotgun, three pistols, rocket launcher, and sniper. This made players be more strategic in their weapon choices while in the field of battle.
Halo: CE’s story was also one of the first FPSs to have a gripping story with characters that fans cared about. Master Chief is still one of the most loved heroes in all of video games, and we have yet to this day to see his face. Cortana was also the perfect companion to start building a relationship with not just Chief, but the player as well.
The first Halo was an absolute selling point for the original Xbox. Without it, there is no guarantee that Microsoft would have a part in the console race nowadays, and there would almost surely be no Gears of War. Halo: Combat Evolved paved the way for console FPSs to become one of the most loved genres in gaming.
We also cannot talk about this series without bringing up the soundtrack composed by Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori. The angelic choir and music make Halo one of the most iconic sci-fi soundtracks of all time.
17. Titanfall 2
Anthony Dennis: So, you made it this far, huh? Well, fear not. There’s still plenty of awesome games to make up the remainder of this list and Titanfall 2 is one of them. My first experience with this game was around 3 or so years ago. I was contemplating getting Titanfall 1 but one of my colleagues at the time advised me that Titanfall 1 had no story and was basically a hyped-up demo. I wisely steered clear of it and purchased Titanfall 2 instead. I wasn’t really expecting much, maybe a Call of Duty on steroids or something like that, but to my surprise, Titanfall 2 is an extremely solid Mech/FPS.
You play as a Titan Pilot in training who is forced into battle to repair a damaged Titan. You take up the role of BT7274’s Pilot after his previous pilot was killed. For me, this game blends a perfect mixture of mech combat and pilot combat as there are sections in the game where you are separated from your Titan and must go it alone so to speak.
Controls are quick and easy to come to terms with and make you feel like your fighting a war as a superhuman.
I also love Titanfall 2’s story as well. It blends a great amount of realism with some sci-fi action as well. Of course, Titanfall 2 is set on different planets as well as in space but I must say, it does a great job to keep players intrigued with the story and it will keep you coming back for more.
Overall, Titanfall 2 is great at what it does, its intriguing, pretty and is one of the few Mech games out there today. We highly recommend this one if you have not already played it.
16. Counter Strike 1.6
Matthew Garcia: There are three aspects to a competitive FPS that I use to judge their quality: skill, knowledge and teamwork. CS 1.6 is an amazing example of all three balanced together.
Your aim and movement are the core aspects to skill in this game. Aim is unique in Counter Strike, with the concepts of spray patterns and RNG tied to how fast you are moving. Speaking of movement, it is based on several factors also unique to CS, such as acceleration, weapon in hand, and if you are in the air. Yes it may sound easy on paper, they are concepts that are easy to learn, but very hard to master.
Map knowledge is also an aspect that is hard to master. It may seem basic, but there is alot that goes into it. Where bombsites are, the positioning of your teammates, what angles you are exposed to, etc. Knowledge of the economy system of this game is just as pivotal. Knowing what to buy and when could be the difference between winning one round, or three. And you better hope your teammates can pull their weight.
Even if you have the previous two mastered, you are not guaranteed victory unless your teammates and teamwork are up to par. A critical part of this game, that no other game from that era reflected. This is not a deathmatch where you can carry your teammates to victory, but a round based game where death is permanent, and health does not regenerate… Until the next round.
It’s also important to note that player own servers and home-made game modes help this game thrive. Then there is the esports scene that spawned from 1.6, and grew into one of the largest esports scenes of all time, and the largest of all FPSs.
All of this adds up to make one of the greatest FPSs of all time.
15. Halo Reach
Anthony Dennis: Oh, where to start. Halo is a long running franchise, starting in the early 2000s and still running today. During that time, most of the Halo games have been distinct in their own right. Halo Combat Evolved was our first introduction to the Halo series. Showing us just how desperate Humanity was to win the war against the Covenant (and subsequently the Flood.) Halo 2, refined all of CE’s elements and showed players just what it was that Humanity was fighting for. Halo 3 brought the fight to Earth and is regarded as the most polished and well playing Halo game to date. BUT! I want to focus more on the prequel to all the sequels and detail just what it was that made Halo Reach, one of, if not, the best Halo games to date.
Halo Reach is set before the first generation of Spartans became ancient history. This Halo game is set on (you probably guessed this part) the planet Reach and focuses on Noble team as they try and repel an unknown force from destroying the planet. You play as Spartan 312 and you are the newest member of the squad, replacing a highly respected fallen comrade. Without going to much into detail, Halo Reach blends fast paced action, addictive multiplayer and a great story to boot altogether into one of the best Halo games ever made. I have played every Halo game there is to play at least 5 times and, in my experience, this one takes the cake. It’s the prequel to the sequels and does everything just about perfectly to boot. It had great multiplayer, awesome customisation options and a detailed lengthy story depicting Humans and Spartans fighting together for a common goal. Therefore Halo Reach deserves this position on our top 25 First Person Shooters.
14. DOOM (2016)
Omar Banat: I remember being skeptical of the hype for the new Doom. I had never played any of the games before and I couldn’t understand the excitement. This was probably the most wrong I have ever been in my life. I could tell from the speed of the multiplayer beta that a good time was around the corner.
Doom is the best FPS to come out in the last five years. Its insanely frantic pace makes for a beautifully chaotic experience. In a world where brown and bloom cover shooters were slowly fading away, Doom ripped and tore them to shreds. This game put the final nail in the coffin and brought fast-paced 90s-esque shooters back to popularity.
Doom has something for everyone. If you want to run up to an Imp and feed it a point-blank blast from your Super Shotgun, then go for it. Feeling less personal today? Grab the Gauss Cannon for some long-distance annihilation. Maybe you just need to blast the ever-loving stuffing of everything in sight. Sling up that BFG 9000 and go to town. The weapons are what make an FPS great and Doom is a buffet of gun fun for everyone.
13. Rainbow Six Siege
Michael Solseth: With the variety of shooters out there in the gaming world, it can be rather fascinating to think of just how many series approach the genre with a “real-life” approach. There are plenty of games that focus on the sheer firepower, but few that have players carefully plan out and execute their plan of attack. In the case of the Rainbow Six series, it has defined the “Tactical Shooter” genre that forces players to approach fights with stealth, teamwork and tactics. While the series has seen over 20 games and expansions, the one that stands out from the rest would be the most recent: Rainbow Six: Siege.
Rainbow Six is an international counter-terrorism unit with the sole mission to keep the world safe from terrorists. In Siege, NATO reactivates The Rainbow Program after a resurgence of terrorist activities. Team Rainbow has done an outreach to reach as many operators of different nationalities, and specialists as possible in order to fight this new threat. These operators can not only use a wide range of weapons, but have special abilities that can turn the fight in their favor. From sledgehammers and explosives, to hacking and map awareness, the 40 operators you can pick from have something unique to the table and can be the thing that could spell victory or defeat for your team.
There is still a campaign to play through. The focus of Siege is on the multiplayer and the 5v5 games. While you do have your standard fights, there are also modes that can have attackers invading an area as the defenders have to hold their ground. Games can be especially intense as players can not only communicate with each other to play their attack but also can destroy walls, ceilings and floors to get the job on the enemy. It is a game where even if your team goes down, you can still outsmart your opponents and come from behind to win it all.
The game had a slow start at first, but after a year of hard work and tweaks, Siege was able to make a comeback and is considered being one of the most successful competitive eSports out there.
12. Team Fortress 2
Michael Solseth: While we may have a lot of “Hero-Shooters” on this list, it is hard to argue against the series that started it all: Team Fortress. Like the MOBA genre, the start of Team Fortress came from being a mod from Quake (and later as a mod from Half-Life when the team was hired by Valve). It was a fascinating title, but it wasn’t like it was anything fancy to look at. So what better way to welcome it back than a sequel eight years later with an overhaul in its presentation and bundled in the Orange Box? Thus Team Fortress 2 was born and with it, an amazing team-based shooter.
Teams comprising from mercenaries are hired by feuding brothers to protect their company’s assets while stealing the others. A simple plot, but one that got many invested through the “Meet The Class” series and colorful cast. These nine classes range significantly from each other and bring their own strengths and weaknesses. From the fast running Scout, to the Minigun loving Heavy and everything in between, there‘s a class that fits any playstyle.
While it’s hard to imagine a game released a decade ago could still go strong, it still has its audience through the variety it offers. Since 2011, the game became Free-To-Play and you can collect different weapons and hats for your characters to have. We may have plenty of hero shooters that came out since Team Fortress 2 and will likely see many more down the road. But much like how the MOBA genre owes its start to Warcraft 3, all Hero Shooters must pay their respect to the series that not only started it but perfected it (until a certain other Blizzard game came along, but we‘ll talk about later).
Taylor Evans: Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow?
Bioshock is an absolute monster of a game, let alone an FPS. From the absolutely harrowing opening where you’re violently crashed into the ocean, to the ending that probably no one saw coming. Bioshock is an absolute experience, and had the effect of influencing games in all aspects to come.
FPS-wise, Bioshock is no slouch. While appearing a semi-generic shooter on the surface, the plasmid system added a level of depth that wasn’t quite seen in FPSs up up until that point. Past that, the crafted world of Rapture is absolutely captivating, and inspires curiosity. The player constantly wants to know more about what happened to the city, and more of its history. We’re slowly fed this information through the use of the natural feeling audio tapes hidden throughout the world, providing insights to how the world was before collapse of the society.
Bioshock doesn’t just use its environment to tell a story, the environment is also used gameplay wise as well. The player is enabled and encouraged to use the environment to their advantage, such as using electricity to shock a pool of water that enemies are standing in, or igniting a puddle of oil to create a barrier of fire. While these may not seem like incredible new ideas today, back in 2007 it was influential and revolutionary.
Bioshock is a game that gets ingrained in your memory. The experience of playing it for the first time never quite leaves you, and is never quite matched by any other game to come after. Bioshock earns a solid spot at number eleven on our list, and is dwarfed by few others.
10. Halo 3
John Hansen: Halo 3 was what many had hoped to be the perfect send-off for Master Chief. The concluding story of how he was going to “finish this fight.” From a multiplayer that holds up today much better than the first two games in the series, to a campaign that ends on one of the most epic levels in gaming history, Halo 3 was the quintessential FPS to own on Xbox 360.
This game is above all other Halo games on our list because it is a complete package than the first one, and while we acknowledge the importance that Halo 2 had on the multiplayer FPS scene for consoles, Halo 3 has the better maps overall and more fun experience online today.
This game also features another amazing soundtrack by Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori. My personal favorite in the series, but everyone knows the music in all of the games are great.
Halo 3 was also the first time the campaign was playable with four person co-op. The campaign in co-op will always hold a spot over Halo 2’s co-op for me because when one person dies the whole team does not fail the mission. There is always the chance to keep the fight going. Playing through the final mission, named Halo, with three friends and racing from all the explosions after witnessing the death of a loved character in the series will forever give us goosebumps.
This game does not change the Halo formula at all, that would happen in pretty much every game following in the series. Halo 3 was Bungie finding the best fit to give fans of the series the most complete and enjoyable Halo experience. No other game in the series can say that.
9. Metroid Prime
Andrew Marcus: Metroid Prime is an action-adventure shooter game. Exploration was a series factor in Metroid Prime, and it gave me a fun and worthwhile incentive to explore the open world. The result of exploration was access to more missile tanks and energy tanks. All these power-ups create a nice form of progression and added hours of additional gameplay.
Players also had the ability to scan certain items, object, and creatures to get more story background. I personally enjoyed scanning blue and green blurbs of stuff to read through awesome lore that ties into the story. Speaking of plot, the plot in Metroid Prime is simple and interesting. Metroid Prime begins when Samus intercepts a distress signal from a Space Pirate frigate, Orpheon. Samus then defeats the Parasite Queen and off to exploring Tallon IV she goes. This exploration leads to a quest of finding power-ups (the items previously mentioned) and challenging bosses. The boss fights feel extremely memorable and had the correct amount of challenge.
Additionally, I feel like with all exploration and searching for bosses, there was some build up towards the next boss. I also love the boss soundtracks, like the Parasite Queen and Ridley’s theme, and each soundtrack makes each boss feel even more memorable. Players can also get certain abilities and power-ups by defeating bosses that can unlock previous areas in the game. This allowed for additional exploration that rewarded players, like the Morph Ball. It allows Samus to transform into this tiny ball, which gives her the opportunity to explore certain smaller tight areas. Morph Ball allows for additional exploration.
I’ve constantly mentioned a ton of themes about the exploration in Metroid Prime, and for the most part, the exploration has been amazing in Metroid Prime. In my opinion, the Metroid Prime series probably has some of the best exploration in a video game. In most games, backtracking or exploration can really suck. However, I found that in Metroid Prime the exploration is great due to how rewarding it feels for exploring certain areas. Finally, I also found that these rewards pay off because it’s easier to take down harder enemies down the road. This allows combat to extremely satisfying and rewarding while keeping things fair.
8. Bioshock Infinite
Omar Banat: Bioshock Infinite is arguably the greatest story-driven FPS of all time. However, it’s the full package which Infinite offers that makes it worthy of being this high on our list.
The characters in this game are ingeniously written. Each one has clear motivations, consistent writing, and excellent voice-overs. Infinite also has one of the most unforgettable final scenes of all time.
Along with some of the greatest storytelling comes criminally underrated combat. The basics are a carbon copy of past Bioshock titles with your typical assortment of guns and Vigors (previously known as Plasmids). What sets Infinite apart is its commitment to verticality and open-air arenas. The openness of the maps gives you an unprecedented feeling of freedom. Constantly flowing movement and precise gunplay come together to create one hell of a good time.
I love the combat and the story in Bioshock Infinite, but the graphics will always be king. I have never taken more screenshots while playing a game. Infinite is an immaculate work of art. From the the launch into the sky until the final baptism every scene is a beauty to behold.
David White: While it may not be voted number 1 on this list, Half-Life sits at the top spot in a list of the most influential and historically pivotal first-person shooters ever created. It was significantly important and single handedly moved FPSs forward from linear labyrinthine corridor shooters like Doom where you shoot mindless monsters until they fall down, to an immersive, cinematic, story driven experience. Players take on the role of Gordon Freeman, a character that would eventually rank alongside Doom Guy and later Master Chief as the most famous FPS icons.
Gordon is a nerdy scientist, who following a cataclysmically disastrous experiment, inadvertently teleports an alien force to the earth by opening a portal to a mysterious border dimension known as Xen. Gordon now has to put aside his microscope and white coat and grab a crowbar (and eventually some more effective weapons) because it has hit the fan. Eventually, it becomes apparent that aliens aren’t the only thing threatening Gordon and his colleagues.
At no point does the players point of view move from Gordon’s direct first person view, there are no cut-scenes, with all story presented through exchanges with fellow scientists and real-time events that occur within the doomed research facility of Black Mesa. There are no levels in the traditional sense, nor breaks in story with different chapters of the game contiguously linked together creating one overall world and one continuous action packed adventure. You become Gordon Freeman in his desperate survival plight.
Enemies are no longer those aforementioned mindless monsters, but actively engage you in a tactical fight to the death, especially the formidable Hazardous Environment Combat Unit, Marines that work together to flank and trap you. Such focus on immersion and intelligent enemies wasn’t really done to such a degree until its release. So influential was this game that you can easily list the most famous first-person shooters in two categories: pre-Half-Life and post-Half-Life.
6. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
JT: The best thing about this Call of Duty over others for me, was how it was introduced. Not necessarily the campaign, although it helped. It was more with the co-op and multiplayer experience. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was the start, feeling like a king within that realm. Asking how to crouch and how to throw grenades, while still ranking within the top 4. Every match was similar, never feeling too unbalanced or anywhere near unfair. This Call of Duty was everything that an arcade-like shooter should be. It was the first online multiplayer game for me on the Xbox 360, and will never be forgotten.
Some things people might say about it was that it was too simple, but it relied primarily on skill. You see many now within the same franchise doing well when kill streaks are involved. Here, kill streaks were present, but never felt that intrusive as with later iterations. Relatively smaller maps made competition feel like it took a back seat, and instead it focused more on being fun. Not many Call of Duty games I can say had given me the satisfaction of both. That campaign only sweetened the deal, even having been an achievement hunter at the time. Met some of my first co-op buddies, along with getting back into the spirit of console gaming.
5. DOOM (1991)
Ethan Braun: There are only a handful of video games that shaped and redefined the medium. Games like The Oregon Trail, Space Invaders, Super Mario Bros, Ocarina of Time, and World of Warcraft changed the very way that we thought about video games. But in 1991, Id Software’s DOOM singlehandedly placed itself towards the top of that list.
Let’s face it: DOOM is the most influential game on this entire list. There’s no contest! Without DOOM, a massive chunk of the video game industry would simply pop out of existence. DOOM created the very concept of a first-person-shooter, and it stirred up a controversy surrounding “mature” games that would leave a “violent” label on video games forever. And look at where we are now: mature games AND first-person shooters dominate the video game market year after year. Without DOOM, that wouldn’t be the case.
But beyond its influence, DOOM might just be the longest-lasting game ever made.
See, I’m a youngster – I wasn’t even a thought at the end of the 20th century. So when I picked up DOOM a mere six months ago on Steam, I was expecting to play a quaint throwback to 90’s PC gaming – fun, but somewhat outdated by modern standards.
But I was genuinely shocked at how intensely gratifying DOOM is to play.
When it comes down to it, I think DOOM’s greatest strength lies in its sheer speed. You can barrel from room to room in mere seconds, shot-gunning cacodemons and plowing through zombie soldiers. If you’re quick enough, you can avoid nearly every single projectile the game throws at you – or blast the enemy in the face before they have a chance to fire. DOOM is not a game of careful “duck-and-cover” combat – it’s a game of intense, “in-the-moment” decisions that challenge your reflexes and timing rather than strategic planning.
That doesn’t mean it’s totally without strategy though – DOOM’s cleverly-designed maps are their own puzzle. I firmly believe that DOOM has the best level design in a game that came out before Super Metroid. There’s an intricate level of detail in the ebbs and flows of the world design. It challenges you to explore every nook and cranny, searching in anticipation for every scrap of ammo, health, armor, or a new weapon. DOOM has a LOT of backtracking – as a fanatic of Metroid and Zelda, I absolutely adore backtracking.
DOOM’s weapons are the most satisfying in any FPS… ever. There’s something so addictive about the tactile *BOOM! click click* of a shotgun-blast and reload, or the quick *pop pop pop* of the chain gun, or the slow *boom shwooom… CRASH!* of the rocket launcher. If you’ve played DOOM, you’ll know the sound effects I’m talking about – this stuff is ear cocaine.
Ever since I played DOOM, I can’t get it out of my head. There’s something so magically sadistic about DOOM’s addictively gratifying gunplay. No wonder it’s one of the greatest and most influential games of all time! Just thinking about it gives me a sick sense of violent pleasure…
…I’ll be right back. I’ve got some demons to slaughter.
Diamond Kelly: I grew up on innocent, wholesome titles with my younger sister. Collecting bells and selling furniture to cuddly animals was all I ever knew years ago. Never in a million years did I think I’d be blazing shot guns against giant hamsters and scientific talking primates, all to push a load across a desert town. Yet, this is what I do on the daily. Matter of fact, I look forward to it. (And as sadistic as it may seem, I love seeing that big, furry hamster slumped on the ground. I know I’m not the only one!)
Ever since Overwatch was introduced into my life a year ago, I’ve been hooked. With all the dramatic, theatrical shorts, dynamic character list, and tons of salty enemy teams leaving the game early in competitive mode, there’s nothing more I could ask for in a first person shooter. Never has a title made me so excited to bounce players off of a hill to their deaths with a frog man that goes “boop.” Never has a game made me so full of anger and rage quit after seeing a certain pair of brothers join the defense team even though there’s no tanks or healers. And never has a game made me feel so apart of a fun and growing group that is impacting the world every day.
Overwatch is a phenomenal game. And if you can get past the occasional throwers and teabaggers, I’m sure you’ll be amazed by its gameplay too. Not many games, can effectively combine talking animals with robots and warmongering humans. At least not in a fps. The Overwatch team has the best strategies to keep players satisfied and coming back, even after many sworn they’d be done with it after Brigette and her 100 foot club joined the roster. With engaging events such as the holiday updates and the World Cup tournament battles around the globe, there is at least one thing for every person to praise. Overwatch isn’t just a game, it’s a community. It’s a community filled with nerfs and smurfs and people never pushing the payload. But ultimately, it is a community that eases my mind and has gotten me through many stressful days.
There’s just something truly therapeutic about getting a quadruple kill with a tiny Korean gamer in a pink mech yelling, “Nerf This!” And no, this review isn’t condoning violence or stating that violence is the answer. There’s more to that satisfying click that sounds when you shoot that annoying Widowmaker clean off. Overwatch is about having a spray fight with a Tracer on the Hanamura arcade doors as the match starts up. Overwatch is about spamming, “My ultimate is charging,” and friendly teabagging with the Genji after taking the point. And in the end, Overwatch is about having sincere fun and letting all your worries disappear like Mercy’s worth as a hero. Thanks Jeff Kaplan.
3. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Ahmed Lulat: We can’t have a list of the best FPSs of all time and only mention one Call of Duty game.
Releasing back in 2009, at a time where couch co-op was still very much a popular thing and the rise of online console gaming growing day by day. This was the perfect storm for Call of Duty, resulting in the culmination of one of gaming’s biggest draws.
Without a doubt the best part of Modern Warfare 2 is playing online in high octane matches. The in-depth online action is faster and more exciting than most games due to the crazy competitive nature of the CoD community. All adding up to an easily accessible, strategic, and insanely addictive multiplayer experience like no other.
This stems from having truly iconic maps with amazing level design that are still fan favourites to this day. The shooting playgrounds are full of colour and built to increase player encounters, across both vertical and horizontal map layouts. Who can forget causing all kinds of chaos in the airport on Terminal? Or running around like a mad man, knifing everything in sight in the tiny desert-based map of Rust? Or trying get atop the crane on the skyscraper rooftops of Highrise? – definitely not trying to camp and snipe.
The variety in the map locations, design and sizes influences other game modes and weapon choices, giving a new and different take each time you play. The mix and match weapons setup of switching primary and secondary weapons gives a good balance between skill and strategic play. Guns previously equipped as primary are available as secondary weapons, so you can equip two attacking weapons for a full-on aggressive assault. This restructuring creates an intriguing array of gun combinations with an added level of tactical thinking. My favourites being the UMP45 sub machine gun, M1014 shotgun and the throwing knife – causing havoc everywhere and anywhere.
The restructuring also adds to the fun with interesting ways to play with friends; going full tortoise formation with the riots shields in Estate; hopping from rooftop to rooftop playing no-scope sniper matches in Favela. Just talking about this makes me want to boot up my PS3 and play the game again.
As if any of this wasn’t enough, the campaign is there for when you don’t want the rush of playing online. The single player content, whilst short, doesn’t hold back when it comes to the type of playable missions. From the counter attack and escape through snow in Cliffhanger to putting an assault on an airport in the controversial No Russian.
Other Call of Duty titles may have since built on the ideas and look of Modern Warfare 2. But underneath all the Hollywood-esque showmanship stands a great shooter experience. The cry for a remake just goes to show much gamers love this game, proving Modern Warfare 2 to be one of the most influential FPS games ever made.
2. Half-Life 2
Ethan Braun: “They can’t do it,” we all said. “Half-Life is so perfect, there’s no way that the second game can be better. It’s not possible!”
Oh, how naïve we were.
By all rights, Half-Life 2 shouldn’t exist. The colossal threshold set by the first game was seemingly impossible to hurdle, but Valve leapt above and beyond what would have already sold incredibly well to craft something truly special. Imagine if The Godfather II was somehow even better than the first; Half-Life 2 somehow managed that exact feat. How on earth is it possible?
Really, it’s pretty simple: take a single fantastic formula and remix the hell out of it. Structurally, HL2 doesn’t do much that the first didn’t already nail. The basic descriptions for both games are practically identical: guide Gordon Freeman through a single, subtly-guided narrative as you unlock addictive weapons and solve mini-puzzles. That’s your back-of-the-box description for both games right there – but HL2 is much more than a description.
I always remember the opening moments in City 17 the most fondly. As I wander through the oppressive streets and terror-filled apartments, I’m always set in the right mood. I’m filled with hatred and malice towards the so-called “benefactors” that took over earth just to beat it into submission. And the moment that one soldier purposefully knocks a soda can onto the floor and tells me to “pick it up”… oooooh boy, that’s what gets my blood boiling.
All the hatred welling up inside leads to the moment I get my first gun. I mercilessly shoot the two guys in front of me without a second thought, and it only gets better from there. I sprint through City 17, murdering Combine soldiers and picking up ammo until the moment of freedom – the moment I zoom outside the city in my land-boat and ride the canals. From the canals to the laboratory, then to *chills*… Ravenholme, then to the buggy-racing sequence, back on foot, into Nova Prospekt, now warping through time, battling through City 17 again, and sneaking into the citadel. You can’t make this stuff up – I remember all these places vividly, as well as the characters and story beats that belong to them.
Half-Life 2 is the perfect power trip game. It takes you through a series of varied habitats as you add more and more weapons to your arsenal that bring your “killing-efficiency” to a maximum. While there are fun physics puzzles to toy around with, the real puzzle is often “How do I want to kill this guy?” And by the end of the game, you’ll be loaded with so many options, it’ll be hard to choose! “Do I launch a TNT barrel?” “Do I roll a grenade?” “Do I snipe him with my crossbow?” “Do I aim carefully with my magnum?” It presents a perfect balance of speed and tactics that I don’t think even the first Half-Life has matched – let alone many other games.
Frankly, Half-Life 2 shouldn’t exist. With the insurmountable expectation set by the first game, Valve never should have succeeded. But they did.
Who knows when they will again?
1. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Matthew Garcia: I know, it’s hard to debate the Big 3. And I know a lot of people will say otherwise. But I will tell you, right now, why Counter Strike: Global Offensive is the greatest FPS of all time.
I’m going to go off of what I have stated in the section for CS 1.6 about the 3 criteria for a great competitive FPS – those being skill, knowledge and teamwork. CS:GO game exemplifies all three of those. Yes, many of the skill-based mechanics are similar, but they are much more refined compared to CS:GO’s elder brother. Knowledge is key, especially with grenades being much more dynamic. And with teamwork being the cornerstone of the Counter Strike series, I don’t think there is a need to talk about that. But as not to repeat myself from the Counter Strike 1.6 section, I will leave that where it is.
Instead, let’s talk about the player base, a group that has only grown since the game’s release 6 years ago, and is still growing to this day. A very rare thing for a game to have, a feat not even Modern Warfare 2 was able to achieve. And while the player may play the same maps day in and day out, they find new things to do on them all the time. Whether it’s a new smoke or flash, or a new boost, they always find a way to innovate and surprise everyone. Another thing very unique to CS:GO is the custom maps and player-owned servers. For example, name another game (that isn’t Garry’s Mod) where you have dodgeball maps and a KFC employee simulator. And, of course, the prevalent KZ and surf maps and servers are still around. These people have no bounds when it comes to their creativity.
Without these players, the professional CS:GO scene would not even be possible. Hell, the esports scene would not even be the same. Dynasties have risen and fallen, upsets happen constantly, and there is a never-ending stream of montages from the community. But there is one aspect that makes watching this game fun; it is easy to watch. Unlike MOBAs or RTSs, you don’t need to know the game through and through to know that the 1v4 clutch that just happened was awesome. And the casters can mean the difference between from an awesome clip and a historical moment. Then there is the crowd; no words can describe what it is like to be at a live event. Even at home the hype is real. I cannot count the amount of times my friends and I jumped out our chairs cheering on our teams.
Yes, this game does not have a story as great as the other top contenders. But it does make up for that in every other category, being the absolute best at what it does. And for that reason, Counter Strike: Global Offensive is the greatest first person shooter of all time.
That’s our list! So what do you think? Do you agree with our pick for CS:GO as the greatest FPS ever made? Let us know down in the comments! And if you’re interested in other lists like these, be sure to check out the lists of our top RPG’s, 2D platformers, and 3D platformers.
For everything else related to video games, stay tuned to Culture of Gaming.
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I’m that crying kid in the corner of gym class. Hi!
oh, I guess I also write about video games – mostly Nintendo.
You can check out my personal site at ethangbraun.com, and contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org