The first person shooter (FPS) genre of video games has a long history dating back to games like Wolfenstein 3D, famous for allowing you to fight a version of Hitler with arms replaced by rotating machine guns. As anyone who has ever played this classic or Bionic Commando can attest, there is little in the world that is more pleasurable that blowing up Hitler. From those early roots the genre has continued to develop and even started to integrate with other genres for unique hybrid games. From the early days to modern gaming, the following are the top ten best first person shooters ever published.
10. Counterstrike – This Half-Life mod is arguably the best pure skill multiplayer first person shooter. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. It simply tests the reflexes and skills of two teams of players on a tight map where death usually occurs within seconds of game start. It is the game that professionals play, but doesn’t have a lot of appeal to more casual players.
9. Deus Ex – This is the game that pretty much started the hybrid model for first person shooters that has become so popular today. An impressive amount of character customization allowed you to handle challenges in this game in dozens of different ways. In fact, despite the fact that it is a first person shooter, you can potentially complete the game without firing a shot. These features give the game very high replay value.
8. Bioshock – What Deus Ex created, Bioshock perfected. The plot is grittier, the character advancement is even more flexible, and replay value is even high. This dystopian game with hidden secrets and a disturbing message is one of the best first person shooter hybrids ever made and will probably give you nightmares about little girls.
7. Half-Life – From the moment you pick up the crowbar until the confusing cliffhanger conclusion, this game draws you in and keeps your attention. Released in the early era of first person shooters, this was essentially the first game of the genre with a meaningful story, even if that story was insanely implausible. Unlike previous games in the genre, the action would often stop for cut scenes and conversations that furthered the plot. This game wasn’t a giant leap in game play mechanics, but it was a giant leap in storytelling.
6. Duke Nukem 3D – Famous for the classic line, “I came here to kick @ and chew bubblegum and I’m all out of bubblegum,” this game made it clear, from the start, that it wasn’t pulling any punches. From giant pig men dressed to police officers to nude photos on the wall, this game pushed all the limits. Politicians went ballistic while actual game players simply enjoyed the ride. And it was a really good ride.
5. Doom – This follow-up game to Wolfenstein 3D is pretty much the game that cemented the first person shooter genre in history. The smooth game play, variety of weapons, and plethora of enemies made it a masterpiece in its time. Nobody will ever forget the first time they were face to face with a rocket wielding cyberdemon, nor forget when they first realized exactly what BFG stood for. Almost every game in the genre since borrows ideas from or pays homage to this game.
4. Borderlands 2 – If any game has mastered the hybrid first person shooter genre, it is Borderlands 2. Part first person shooter and part role playing game, you control a vault hunter in an epic campaign against the delightfully insane Smiling Jack. Randomly generated equipment means that nearly any weapon that you can imagine can possibly exist and the combinations of equipment and characters builds is mind boggling. The game is good both as a single player game and as a multiplayer game, permitting what amounts to MMORPG-style boss raids. Whichever you prefer, it is easy to lose hours or even days on the planet of Pandora.
3. Goldeneye – This game is famous for a number of different things, including essentially being the first successful first person shooter on a console. Before Goldeneye, first person shooters were pretty much mouse and keyboard games, because nobody quite could figure out how to get the control scheme right for a console. Goldeneye solved that problem with flair. The game itself was painfully difficult, but enjoyable if you were up to the challenge. The real treat though was the multiplayer mode that allowed up to four players to run around shooting each other. And with the golden gun, this game of cat and mouse also included one hit kills.
2. Team Fortress 2 – Where Counterstrike is the multiplayer first person shooter for elite gamers, Team Fortress 2 is the multiplayer FPS for everybody else. A class based system allows you to play in a style that conforms best to your skills. Like camping? Choose a sniper. Do better with a nimble character? Play a scout. The variety of options is large enough to fit any taste. Average players tend to excel because they need only master a single play style and this causes games to be much more competitive overall. Between that and the slapstick comedy of the game, it is simply a lot of fun to play.
1. Halo 2 – The series has hit a plateau, at best, and may actually be on the decline, but Halo 2 was a console defining masterwork. With a better story, sharper graphics, more guns, and better game play than the original Halo, it trumped a game that already was a serious contender for this list. Goldeneye may have finally discovered the formula for success console first person shooters, but Halo 2 mastered it. And, even unlike Goldeneye, this game allowed you to compete in multiplayer over the internet. While that feature is no longer available, it still has great local cooperative and competitive play that continues to add replay value long after you have finished the single player campaign.