The 10 Greatest First-Person Shooter Games of All Time

By in large, there’s not much developers can do to reinvent the first-person shooter genre. All first-person shooter games must put the player in the first-person perspective so that they can experience all the mayhem firsthand. And while this never ceases to be fun, it’s hard for first-person shooter games to standout. The first-person shooter games listed below were able to defy the constraints of the genre and stand the test of time as the 10 greatest first-person shooter games of all time.

10. Deus Ex

Deus Ex makes the list in spite of the fact that firing your weapon is often a bad idea. The game’s primary focus is on tactics, which sometimes does mean shooting every NPC in sight, but other times it’s smarter to talk your way through altercations, hack into computers, or sneak through the shadows if you are going to survive the dystopian world obsessed with achieving the singularity. Deus Ex was the game that showed us that first-person shooter games can be just as fun and rewarding even when players aren’t shooting everything in sight.

9. Halo

Before Halo kicked off the original Xbox, first-person shooters games on consoles were massive headaches. No developer had figured out how to bring the responsiveness and precision of the mouse-and-keyboard to handheld controllers. Bungie cracked the code by introducing the dual-stick setup that every FPS has used since. Even though Halo has grown into one of the most popular game franchises, its pioneering of basic genre mechanics is why it must be included on every great FSP list.

8. Quake

After making Wolfenstein and Doom (two franchises that essentially creating the first-person shooter genre), Id Software began work on the Quake series. For the first time ever, a first-person shooter game would be fully 3-D with polygon-based characters and environments, which made it look a whole lot better than its pixelated predecessors. Much more action-packed too. Quake also pioneered online death matches, a staple of the FPS genre today.

7. Metroid Prime

Bold move by Nintendo to transform their classic sci-fi action-platformer to a FSP. This GameCube title and its two successors took everything that was great about earlier Metroid games — especially the masterpiece Super Metroid — and expanded it into a 3-D space. You still solved puzzles, collected gear, opened doors with blaster shots, and rode elevators to new regions, but this time you did it from inside Samus’s suit, which only intensified the action and suspense of exploring a monster-infested planet. It was everything fans of the series wanted, delivered in a perfectly modern way.

6. Counter-Strike

The meanest and most fiercely competitive first-person shooter of all time: Counter-Strike. Teamwork, planning and quick thinking are all needed on top of skill to survive these death matches. Three separate versions of Counter-Strike rarely fall out of Steam’s most-played list, even though the first one was released in 1999. There are many elements, but not least of which is its distinctive arsenal of real-world weapons, such as the Desert Eagle, P90 SMG, and the infamous AWP rifle, all of which are meticulously balanced with clear roles in combat. It’s also home to many of gaming’s classic maps, most famously de_dust and its iconic ramps and tunnel.

5. Unreal Tournament

1999’s Unreal Tournament is beautiful because of its simplicity. With no single-player ambitions at all, the lone objective of the game was to put players in a room together, give everyone weapons and let the surest shot win. The result? An endlessly fun, highly addictive, explosive shooter that kept gamers, including ourselves, glued to computer screens for days on end. With a slew of modes, from Capture the Flag to Last Man Standing, Unreal Tournament was a playground of senseless destruction. And how could you not love every minute of it?

4. Team Fortress 2

Team-based online shooter Team Fortress 2 is primarily brilliant for its incorporation of a class system. Instead of offering just one type of character like most shooters, TF2 lets players choose from a diverse cast of characters including solider, medic, sniper and spy. Each character is unique with a highly balanced set of pros and cons. Everyone has a job, teamwork is rewarded and the matches are rarely imbalanced. Once you master a class, Team Fortress 2 is a game you will hold very near and dear to your heart.

3. GoldenEye 007

Even though the game is based on one of the worst James Bond movies in history, the controls are awfully unresponsive and online multiplayer functionality was something developers couldn’t even dream of, GoldenEye 007 was THE game. If you didn’t spend whole summer vacations hurling grenades through the stacks almost a decade ago, you might not understand GoldenEye’s appeal. But if you do, you know that console FPS games would not be a thing if it weren’t for this game’s popularity.

2. Perfect Dark

Perfect Dark is basically GoldenEye 007 but perfected and not bogged down by elements of a crappy movie. Call us N64 nostalgists if you must but Perfect Dark proved that the success of the console GoldenEye 007 wasn’t just a fluke and paved the way for the first-person shooter games you love today.

1. Half-Life

There are two eras of first-person shooter games: pre-Half Life and post-Half Life.

In the mid 1990s we got games like Doom, Quake, Duke Nukem 3D, and Star Wars: Dark Forces. Great games? Absolutely. But what’s different in those games compared to what came after is that their worlds feel more like run-and-gun themeparks than actual places.

In November of 1998, everything changed. Suddenly shooters were all trying to copy the Black Mesa Research Facility and its amazing sense of place. Using scripted events like the classic introductory tram ride and the massacre of the scientists, Half-Life gives us the impression that this isn’t a world that exists solely to give Gordon Freeman something to shoot at. It’s a world where something terrible and mysterious is happening, and we just happen to be caught in the middle of it. This approach to storytelling has become the cornerstone of first-person-shooter design today.

What do you think of our list? Did we omit your favourite first-person shooter games? Please let us know in the comments.

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