Before there was a name for the genre, gamers simply called them “Doom Clones.” Since id Software’s legendary launch nearly 20 years ago, first person shooters (FPS) have taken the gaming community by storm, and rightly so; FPS titles are arguably the most immersive, powerful gaming experiences available today. You don’t watch some scripted drama play out or help a character govern their kingdom by clicking through mountains of arbitrary text — you become that character. You are the one interacting with the environment, making split-second decisions, and seeing all the action shake out right before your very eyes. The first person shooter genre puts you on the front lines, drops you into the trenches, and forces you to blast your way through hordes of zombie/space alien/demon/human enemies. There’s nothing quite like a great FPS, and that’s why this list has been put together.
Sadly, this list won’t include some of the most iconic and beloved games to date: titles like Fallout, System Shock 2, Portal, Dishonored, and Deus Ex won’t appear here. While they are undoubtedly great games (that probably deserve their own lists), they are built upon other elements (stealth, puzzle, RPG) that disqualify them from being considered pure First Person Shooters.
Each game on the list has been ranked according to a Screen Rant Exclusive Score; these scores were reached using a top-secret blend of each game’s Raw Score (Metacritic score + User score) and just a dash of personal preference. Here are the 16 Best First Person Shooters Of All Time.
F.E.A.R. is as straightforward as it is terrifying. You’re part of a Special Forces team designed to fight spooky, paranormal beings, and your job is to blast said spooky spooks with lots and lots of firepower. The game’s oppressive, beautifully-rendered atmosphere and interactive environments elevate it above other standard issue shooters. And while the ability to slow down time during encounters isn’t groundbreaking, it did add an element of fun and strategy to the otherwise mindless Ghost Busting shoot-em-up.
Gamers picked up F.E.A.R. for one very specific reason (to get their pants scared off), and it did not disappoint. To date, the very first level still stands as one of the greatest in recent memory. It builds tension with jump scares and surreal visuals, culminating with one frantic, horrifying firefight. The game never takes its foot off the pedal from that point forward — which is probably a blessing, as the plot devolves rather quickly.
Screen Rant Score: 85
15. Doom 2: Hell on Earth
Two words: Super Shotgun. Doom 2 brought unrivaled amounts of destruction to the demon dimension, allowing players to blast through hordes of pixelated horrors again and again.
The original installment of Doom is an undeniable cornerstone of the modern FPS. Doom 2 simply improved upon that iconic game and added more to love: deeper levels, better bosses, and a more well-rounded campaign. If you’re tough enough to endure the horrors of Hell and make it to the very end, you’ll find the Easter Egg of all Easter Eggs: the head of John Romero (designer of Doom) impaled on a stick. Joy!
Screen Rant Score: 87
14. Battlefield: Bad Company 2
This one’s going to cause some issues with hardcore fans of Battlefield 3. Before everyone gets bent out of shape, consider this: on average, gamers scored Bad Company 2 almost ONE FULL point higher than BF3. That speaks volumes about the expectations and playability of each title, and we tend to agree in this case. The entire Battlefield franchise has always been spot on, but this one’s a cut above the rest.
So what makes BC2 so great? It’s the almost cinematic moments that are captured during the intense multiplayer battles. When it dropped in 2010, there was nothing else like it. Imagine riding shotgun on a quad while your buddy navigates his way through a beautifully-rendered desert. A deadly Apache helicopter is on your tail, looking for the easy kill – but you’ve got other ideas. You whip out your M2 Carl Gustav, blast that chopper to pieces, and coast through the wreckage as it falls from the sky.
We’re hopeful Battlefield 5 will prove to be the best of the bunch, but until then, BC2 is the series’ best entry.
Screen Rant Score: 88
13. Borderlands 2
Many will argue that Borderlands 2 is the weakest pure shooter on this list. They’ll say that the gun damage relies too heavily on environmental or elemental multipliers, enemy levels, and weapon type. Naysayers will shout something about something, or something. The only acceptable response: bust a move like Claptrap and throw down an unfairly-perked turret to take those whiners out.
Borderlands 2 is absolutely packed with epic loot and has thousands of unique weapons scattered across Pandora. There are an nigh-infinite number of ways to blow bandits into bloody smithereens, and truthfully, the Borderlands franchise keeps one fan-favorite aspect of FPS games intact that many others don’t: you can still buddy up and go split screen whenever you please. While so many games force players into linear paths and structured levels to fight it out with scripted enemies, Borderlands refuses to fall into that trap — its open world is truly open. Pandora is vast and unpredictable, and has so much awesome stuff to shoot.
Screen Rant Score: 88.25
12. Wolfenstein 3-D
The OG Papi Chulo of the First Person Shooter genre, Wolfenstein 3-D isn’t just on this list for nostalgia. Yes, Wolfenstein single-handedly kickstarted a cultural movement, but it did other things, too; without a doubt, the original installment of the Wolfenstein franchise broke more space bars on more keyboards than any game in history. Now that’s prestigious. Without this almost 3-D entry, gamers may never have experienced the joy that is shooting stuff. Best of all, you can play the iconic game without having to download anything at all.
Sidenote: Wolfenstein: The New Order was actually fantastic. It didn’t receive nearly as much love as the original installment (understandably), but it is absolutely worth playing. Its weird blend of stealth mechanics and old-school run-n-gun tactics make for a fun and refreshing combo, and its open-ended levels let you blast your way through different encounters in a multitude of ways.
Screen Rant Score: 89
11. TimeSplitters 2
What, you’ve never heard of TimeSplitters or its sequel, TimeSplitters 2? You’ve never pit Gingerbread Men against Monkeys in a chain-gun battle to the death? And you call yourself a gamer?
The TimeSplitters franchise is one of the most creative, ludicrous FPS series to ever grace the shelves at Blockbuster. (For all you young people, that was a place where you could rent movies and video games. Think Gamefly, but with real-life human interaction.) TimeSplitters 2 never achieved the legendary status of Perfect Dark or Halo, but it deserves the same amount of praise. Hell, maybe even more. It delivered an absolutely mind-boggling amount of high-quality playable content for its time, and the blitzkrieg-style multiplayer modes are as hilarious as they are engrossing.
Screen Rant Score: 89.10
The staying power of Valve’s 1999 release, Counter-Strike, simply cannot be ignored. While a hefty portion of the competitive gaming population has transitioned over to Global Offensive, the original installment of the franchise is the modern measuring stick for old-school gamers and hardcore enthusiasts. Very few games have been able to replicate the harmony that Counter Strike introduced; the ingenious map layouts and supremely balanced weapons have influenced strategy-based shooters since its release nearly 20 years ago.
Another major influencer: the sense of timing and player positioning in Counter Strike. You can’t play a level of multiplayer COD without running into a CS-inspired bottleneck or higher-ground firefight. These tactical layouts all flow from the same source, and that source rings in at number 11 on our list.
Screen Rant Score: 89.50
9. Left 4 Dead 2
Left 4 Dead was a massive hit with the gaming community when it debuted in 2008, and Left 4 Dead 2 was even bigger, better, and bloodier than its predecessor. It built upon upon L4D’s insanely fun foundations and took the time to eliminate the little bugs that bothered gamers the first time ’round.
And really, what could be better than blasting through endless hordes of the undead with your best mates? There’s no K/D Ratio to obsess over, no complicated stories to buy into. It’s just you and your squad fighting for survival with any weapons you can get your hands on. Where L4D2 really shines, though, is its mechanics. The game handles like Half-Life 2 (which is a huge compliment) and features an awesome mode where gamers can join the zombie horde as super-powered creatures like Boomers or Jockeys.
With a third entry reportedly on the way, we can only hope it’s half as good as its predecessor.
Screen Rant Score: 90
8. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Call Of Duty 4: MW is a genre-defining title. It contained revolutionary elements that every FPS game tried to emulate after its arrival, like a progressive multiplayer system, an innovative and entertaining co-op mode, and an epic arsenal of customizable weapons. Modern Warfare’s single-player campaign still stands as one of the better ones in recent memory, and there’s enough content available for this behemoth to conceivably work as multiple titles. It’s not, thankfully, and Activision’s 2007 blockbuster still has tons of replay value.
The story is so intense and unforgettable that Activision hasn’t been able to top it. Even with a new sequel released almost every year, the events of Modern Warfare are still cemented in every gamer’s memory. No COD entry has impacted the entire FPS genre quite like Modern Warfare, and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon.
Screen Rant Score: 90.25
Generally speaking, most FPS titles don’t delve too deeply into philosophical rhetoric or explore ideas much bigger than “there’s the bad guy, go shoot them.” BioShock shook the gaming community to its core when it was released in 2007. It was a creepy, atmospheric masterpiece that examined the reasons behind the collapse of the once-peaceful Utopia called Rapture, and wasted no time scaring the daylights out of us all.
The graphics — powered by a mishmash of Unreal Engine 2.5 and 3.0 pieces — are superb, the plasmid injections are tons of fun to play with, and the game as a whole still has remarkable replay value even almost a decade after its initial release. There just hasn’t been another title that combined all the aspects of a pure shooter with the terror and suspense of a horror game as well as the original BioShock.
Screen Rant Score: 91
6. Unreal Tournament
Unlike the many beloved titles released before 1999, Unreal Tournament had precisely zero interest in creating a single-player story mode. It had one goal and one goal only: put multiple gamers in an arena with lots and lots of big weapons and find out who’s the King of the Mountain. Kind of like the Royal Rumbles of yesteryear, but with a bunch of things that go PEW PEW! It introduced and improved upon groundbreaking ideas like secondary fire modes and ricochet physics, and gave gamers the Ultimate Weapon: the Bio Rifle, which shoots…radioactive Greek Yogurt?
As a result, Unreal Tournament was an addictive and explosive FPS title that kept gamers coming back again and again. With a whole heap of playable modes – ranging from capture the flag to Last Man Standing – and an endless arsenal of creative weaponry, Epic’s 1999 classic is still a pillar of multiplayer mayhem nearly two decades after its release.
Screen Rant Score: 92
5. Perfect Dark
As old as Joanna Dark must be by now, her first console-based adventures have sure aged swimmingly. Maybe it was luck, maybe it was pure genius. Whatever it was, the game’s design seems to look smarter each year, something that can’t be said for the vast majority of console shooters.
Looking for a quirky and eclectic collection of weapons? Here, try Joanna’s x-ray sniper rifle or laptop gun on for size! Scratch that, here’s a remote-controlled rocket launcher. That’s much better. Everything in Perfect Dark was done exceptionally well, including the firearm sound effects and the shooting mechanics themselves. Toss in the fact that it features four-player splitscreen madness and tons of game modes to choose from, and you’ve got yourself a time-tested classic that still deserves a play.
Screen Rant Score: 92.50
After creating titles like Doom and Wolfenstein, Id Software moved on to another project that would revolutionize first person shooters: Quake. Unlike its pixelated predecessors, Quake dropped players into a fully-developed 3-D world, complete with polygon-based levels and characters. The results were astounding, and fans quickly fell in love with the game’s more advanced controls and higher-caliber weapon load outs. Best of all, Quake improved upon the fledgling Deathmatch mode (online multiplayer) by offering more intense action and a more polished look.
It’s also worth mentioning that Quake II and Quake III Arena were fantastic additions to the franchise. Each new installment added a new layer or ripple to the equation; Quake II introduced the first ever “Jump” function, while Arena came with an extensive overhaul of the graphics and multiplayer game modes.
Screen Rant Score: 93
3. Halo: Combat Evolved
We’re all friends here, right? Good. Then let’s speak frankly: before the original Halo hit the market in 2001, console-based FPS titles were a mess. Developers hadn’t figured out how best to bring the precision of PC’s mouse-and-keyboard setup to a hand-held controller. It made for some unwieldy gameplay and a bunch of titles that were zero fun.
Thankfully, the brainiacs over at Bungie snapped the cycle, introducing the dual-stick controls that every single (decent) console-based shooter has used since. Combat Evolved was exactly what it claimed to be: a far superior game that ushered in a new era of for FPS titles and forced the entire genre to adapt. Also, STICKY GRENADES FTW.
Screen Rant Score: 94
2. Half-Life 2
If you haven’t played Half-Life 2, you’ve probably at least heard that it’s the most revolutionary, genre-defining FPS in history. You’ve probably heard that if there’s one shooter to play before you die, it’s this one. If you haven’t heard any of that, you probably live under a rock. Or eat all your vegetables willingly. Same thing.
The easiest thing to do here is list all of Half-Life 2’s many accolades, or wax poetic about its superior interactive narratives and jaw-dropping set-pieces. The easy way is never the fun way, though, so we won’t. The simple truth is that gamers won’t be thinking about any of this stuff as they race between buildings and gun down Combine troops. They won’t recall a single fact from this write up as they capture enemy grenades with their Gravity Guns, hurling them back and cackling with glee. Half-Life 2 deserves to be played by everyone, of every experience level, for the rest of ever.
Screen Rant Score:96
1. Goldeneye 007
DK Mode. License to Kill. Slappers Only. If any of these sound familiar, congratulations — you’ve had a chance to play THE BEST first person shooter ever invented. Ever. In the history of ever. Surely you’ve been blessed by the Old Gods and the New!
Goldeneye 007 is a game that still brings joy to gamers across the globe. Trying to switch over from Xbox or Playstation controls to the antiquated single joystick of N64 might be a bit trying, but you’ll get back into the swing of things in no time. Packed with tons of guns, gadgets, and (obviously) proximity mines, Goldeneye might never find itself dethroned.
Just remember: No Oddjob allowed.
Screen Rant Score: 1,000,000
Raw Score: 94 (Meta 96, user 9.2)
Disagree with our rankings? Infuriated that your favorite FPS was left on the sidelines? Sound off in the comments section!
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