It has been nearly 25 years since Wolfenstein 3D first released. While it wasn't the first game to developed with a first-person perspective, it was the game that truly kick-started the FPS genre. Since then, countless FPS titles have released, all hoping to be better than the last. The question is, what are the absolute must play titles in the genre?
Well, today we are going to answer that question. Let's take a look at the 20 FPS games you must play before you die. To ensure a varied and fair list, only one game from a franchise will be included on the list.
Developer: Epic MegaGames (Epic Games Inc.) and Digital Extremes
Released: April 30th, 1998
Platforms: PC and Mac
Due to the popularity of the Unreal Tournament series, Unreal is often forgotten about. A seminal FPS, Unreal has you take on the role of a prisoner that was on a prison transport ship before it crash landed on the alien world of Na Pali. Escaping from the ship, you must navigate through the strange planet and find a way off it.
It isn't long before you run into the Skaarj, a hostile and barbaric alien race who enslave and terrorize the natives of Na Pali, the Nali. As far as alien worlds go, there are few games that have ever presented a strange, unique and magical world like Unreal.
A blend of the wonderful visuals for its time, magical soundtrack and fast-paced action, Unreal is one of the best FPS games of the 90s.
Developer: EA Los Angeles
Released: February 21st, 2001
Platforms: PC, Mac
Clive Barker's Undying is a wonderful blend of FPS action and horror. Set in the year 1923 on the Covenant Estate off the coast of Ireland, you take on the role of paranormal adventurer Patrick Galloway. Upon receiving a letter from his friend Jeremiah Covenant, Patrick heads to the estate to help him with his paranormal troubles.
The game uses a combat mechanic where the player can use both firearms and magic simultaneously between both hands, something that was not again seen until Bioshock. With a great story, horrifying enemies, fast paced action and awesome weapons and spells, there is little to not like about Clive Barker's Undying.
Developer: Valve Corporation
Released: November 16th, 2004
Platforms: PC, Xbox, Xbox 360, PS3, Mac, Linux and Android
There are few games out there that have the fame and reputation of Half-Life 2. It has one of the highest overall review ratings in the history of video games. The lowest critical review score it received upon release was 9.2/10. Maximum PC even went so far as giving it an 11 out of 10, making it one of the few games to ever truly crank it to 11.
Half-Life 2 takes place 20 years after Half-Life, where protagonist Gordon Freeman is awoken from stasis by the mysterious G-Man. The world has been conquered by the alien species known as the Combine, and Gordon must join the resistance against the Combine and put a stop to their reign.
At the time of release, Half-Life 2 used state of the art graphics and physics. Those, mixed with great gameplay, a new setting and a great story, led to one of the greatest FPS games of all time. If you were to rate the best FPS games ever made by review scores, Half-Life 2 would be number one for most gamers.
Developer: Id Software
Released: June 22nd, 1996
Platforms: PC, MS-DOS, Windows, Amiga OS, Classic Mac OS, Sega Saturn, Nintendo 64, Linux, Zeebo
Quake isn't just a great game, it is a game that we owe so much of modern day gaming to. It was Quake that revolutionized the Deathmatch, along with other multiplayer modes like Capture the Flag. It was also through Quake that Machinima first began, due to its in-game video capture of the series.
Despite the fact that it isn't as it was originally intended to be, Quake is still a cracker of a game. It has great level design, awesome enemies, amazing atmosphere and a wonderful fitting soundtrack created by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.
It may not be equal to the original DOOM in gameplay and polish, but despite the huge pressure on the developer and the compromises that had to be made, it is a damn fine game. As Stuart Brown (Ahoy) said in his video on Quake, "it wasn't perfect but it gave us more than we ever wanted".
Developer: Id Software
Released: May 13th, 2016
Platforms: PC, Xbox One and PS4
It was a toss up between choosing the original DOOM and this year's remake for the list. By a thin margin, I decided on this year's remake. Why? As far as reboots go, they don't get any better than DOOM. It is an absolute kick ass title.
I can see it as being how the original games team would have made it. For the first time ever, I actually find it hard to play the original game since. With a good story, awesome gameplay, badass soundtrack and excellent redesign of enemies, it really is one of the best shooters in recent years.
Developer: GSC Game World
Released: March 20th, 2007
There are few FPS games out there that can compare in pure atmosphere to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. The game is set in "The Zone", a fictional alternate of the real life "Zone of Alienation" surrounding the Chernobyl Power Plant.
You take on the role of an amnesiac Stalker, an illegal explorer and artifact scavenger. You are dubbed "The Marked One" due to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R tattoo on your arm. Your only lead is instructions to kill a man by the name of Strelok. You must venture out into "The Zone" in an attempt to find Strelok.
Starting with only a pistol and some ammunition, you will have to scavenge, fight and complete jobs for people. Along the way, you will face off against mutants, military soldiers, bandits and more, not to mention avoiding anomalies. It has a great assortment of weapons, quests, enemies and locations.
The strongest aspect of the game is its atmosphere. There is no game out there that has an atmosphere quite like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. It surprises me that so few people ever remember or talk about this excellent, if sometimes, imperfect title.
Developer: Monolith Productions
Released: October 17th, 2005
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360 and PS3
As far as horror shooters go, they don't get much better than the first F.E.A.R. Not only is it genuinely scary along but it one of the most solid shooters you will ever play. You take on the role of Pointman, the latest recruit to Fear Encounter Assault Recon.
Your job is to stop a psychic commander by the name of Paxton Fettle after he escapes from captivity. Upon escaping, he has awoken a battalion of genetic super soldiers hell-bent on stopping anyone in his path. It isn't long, however, you realise Fettle is only the beginning of a bigger plot.
The game's combat is rock solid and despite being over a decade old, its graphics still hold up pretty well. The highlight of the game, however, is the soldiers' intelligence: Not only do they use cover and work as a team but they are always attempting to find a way to flank you. F.E.A.R. succeeds in both the horror and the action.
Released: November 15th, 2001
Platforms: Xbox, PC, Mac, Xbox 360 (Anniversary Edition), Xbox One (Halo, The Master Chief Collection)
If there was one game responsible for putting the Xbox on the market, it would be Halo. The series became the system's flagship franchise. For its time, Halo looked amazing and it's gameplay differed from that of the standard FPS games.
While it's level design was somewhat varied in the later half of the game, it's plot was good and overall a memorable title. It was it's multiplayer, however, that put the game on the map. Before it, Goldeneye was the king of FPS multiplayer but Halo was the title to surpass it.
Halo isn't just a fantastic game but a game that set a whole new level of FPS standards. It is the game from which many modern titles have gained their influence.
Developer: People Can Fly and Epic Games
Released: February 22nd, 2011
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360 and PS3
Bulletstorm is one of the craziest, over the top, violent, crude and brutal FPS titles released in recent years. You take on the role of Grayson Hunt, the leader of Dead Echo, a team of former Black-Ops-now-space-pirates on the run from their former Star General, Sarrono.
Ten years after becoming deserters, the team spots Sarrono's battlecruiser. In a drunk rage, Hunt rams the ship, almost killing him and his entire team. Now stuck on the planet below the conflict, Hunt and his teammate Ishi alone must attempt to escape the planet.
Bulletstorm's gameplay is anything but serious. The player gains points for killing enemies in creative ways. The more creative the kill, the more points he gains. The points are then used to buy new weapons, upgrades and ammunition.
It is a great game with a unique twist on the general FPS formula. The only issue I found with the game is that its plot is a bit too serious for the ridiculousness of the gameplay and characters' personalities. Other than that, Bulletstorm is a barrel of fun. I can't think of another game to give you bonus points for shooting someone in the ass.
Developer: Ion Storm
Released: June 23rd, 2000
Platforms: PC, Mac and PS2
Deus Ex is regarded by many as the best PC game of all time and is considered a cult classic. It later went on to spawn a sequel and three prequels. You take on the role of JC Denton, a nano-augmented agent of UNATCO. What starts off as a game with simple good guys and bad guys, turns into a plot of twists, turns and conspiracies with multiple plot paths.
The game incorporates elements of four different genres, RPG, FPS, adventure and stealth. Those elements give the players the ability to gain experience points to increase skills, explore and use stealth or go in guns blazing.
Deus Ex was a game that would influence countless other games throughout the game. While its graphics and stiff animations may be dated, it has great gameplay, story and soundtrack. Deus Ex really is an absolute timeless classic.
Developer: Kuju Entertainment
Released: October 2003
Platforms: PC and PS2
I know, this one is going to raise a few eyebrows, but I have my reasons for it being on this list and I'll get to that. You take on the role of Kais, a Tau warrior attempting to rescue an Etherial named Ko'vash who was captured by Governor Severus. This starts a war between the Tau and the Imperials.
I admit this game wasn't state of the art even for its time, nor did it change up the standard FPS formula. Look past that, however, and you will begin to see what makes it a special game. To begin with, you play as a member of an alien race as oppose to being human like in practically every other FPS game.
Secondly, it was the first game Warhammer 40k game to feature the Tau race, giving the player a chance to see their culture and their unique weaponry and combat techniques. Fire Warrior tried to do something different. Yes, it isn't perfect and there are better FPS games that it, but it is an experience that no other provided. It is a without a doubt a must play for any Warhammer 40k fan.
Developer: Irrational Games and Looking Glass Studios
Released: August 11th, 1999
Platforms: PC, Mac and Linux
Another cult classic. System Shock 2 can be found on practically every best games of all time list -- and rightfully so. Similar to Deus Ex, System Shock 2 is a hybrid of genres consisting of FPS, RPG and survival horror all in one. You take on the role of an amnesiac soldier who is awoken from stasis after being implanted with an illegal cyber-neural interface.
Now essentially a cyborg, you must find out what happened aboard the ship and ultimately escape. For completing tasks and exploring you will find chips that allow you to upgrade your implants and increase your skills, such as hacking, melee weapons, psionics and so on.
System Shock 2 has a great plot, excellent and in-depth gameplay and a wonderful atmosphere. As far as sci-fi survival horror goes, you don't get any better than this.
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Released: September 26th, 2013
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox One and PS4
A remake of the classic 1997 title of the same name, you take on the role of Lo Wang, an assassin for the Japanese industrial magnate, Orochi Zilla. Wang is sent to retrieve a sword called the Nobitsura Kage. After the retrieval goes wrong and getting captured, Wang awakens to find demons invading.
Alongside a demon named Hoji, Wang must find the Nobitsura Kage and attempt to stop the invasion. To help you along the way, you will be armed with an arsenal of weapons and demonic powers. You will need to collect ki crystals, gain karma from slaying demons and find money to upgrade your weapons and abilities.
Shadow Warrior is an old-school FPS game at heart with a few modern twists to it. It has a decent story, great gameplay and its levels have plenty of secrets and exploration to them. It is an awesome title that old-school FPS fans will love.
Developer: Raven Software
Released: February 29th, 2000
Platforms: PC, Linux, PS2 and Dreamcast
There are few games out there that can be considered equal to the violence and gore of Soldier of Fortune. You take on the role of John Mullins, working for a US-based mercenary organization know as The Stop. He, along with his partner, is assigned with preventing nukes from falling into the wrong hands.
Throughout the game, you will travel to various places across the world, including New York, the Sudan, Siberia, Tokyo and Iraq. One of the unique mechanics of this game is the noise detection. If you make too much noise it will alert all enemies within the area. The higher the difficulty, the easier enemies will detect you.
All enemies have what is referred to as "gore zones". This allowed for individual damage to the various body parts of enemies. It resulted in exploding heads, removal of limbs and even shooting them in the groin which they will clutch for a few seconds before dying, just to name a few.
Overall Soldier of Fortune is a great game that does things a bit differently once you look past all the violence and gore. It offers a good challenge, excellent action-packed gameplay and a decent-enough story. What more could you ask for?
Developer: Free Radical Design
Released: October 9th, 2002
Platforms: PS2, Gamecube and Xbox
TimeSplitters 2 is easily one of, if not the best, multiplayer split-screen FPS games of the PS2 era. The game has a story mode that sends the player through various time periods in an attempt to stop the alien race of TimeSplitters from destroying mankind.
And while the story mode is good fun, it is the games multiplayer, arcade and challenge modes that make TimeSplitters 2 the legendary title that it is. The arcade and challenge modes bring the single player to its pinnacle. They pit the players in specific scenarios that they must complete within certain requirements.
The game allowed for up four player split screen and two player co-op for the story mode. With tons of different characters each with their own strengths and weaknesses, varying locations and overall fun gameplay, TimeSplitters 2 is one of the best FPS games on the PS2.
Developer: 3D Realms
Released: January 29th, 1996
Platforms: MS-DOS, PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, N64, PSX, PS3, PS4 PSVita, Sega Megadrive/Genesis, Sega Saturn, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
I knew that good old Duke got a few re-releases and ports in his time, but this is ridiculous. Well, I guess it all suits his character as he does get around a bit. Anyhow, very little introduction is really needed for the titular macho man that is Duke Nukem.
Essentially, he is a video game Arnold Schwarzenegger who attempts to stop an alien invasion after they start abducting Earth's women and impregnating them. This is done all while firing out witty one liners such as "Blow it your ass", Who wants some" and "Your face your ass what's the difference?"
I know I might be coming across as being negative towards the game, but I genuinely love it. I am simply just taking this entry as seriously as the game takes itself: never very serious at all.
Overall, Duke Nukem is a damn fine game, it has great gameplay, tons of secrets to find, awesome weapons and enemies and some of the best level design you will ever experience.
Yes, the game has a cringe-worthy hero and very sexualised content, but if you are to look past that and focus more on the game, you will begin to see the genius development behind it.
Released: May 20th, 2014
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4
Without a doubt, Wolfenstein: The New Order is the best of the modern titles in the series. You once again take on the role of war veteran William Joseph "BJ" Blazkowicz. After waking from a 14-year vegetative state due to a gunshot wound to the head, BJ finds that the Nazis won the second world war.
He joins a nazi resistance and must attempt to stop the Nazi's from ruling the world. While Wolfenstein The New Order's gameplay has an old-school feel to it, it adds enough modern twists to give make it a real breath of fresh air.
The gameplay combined with an amazing soundtrack, awesome weapons, beautiful graphics using the id tech 5 engine and an imaginative and intriguing story, The New Order is one of the best FPS titles in recent years.
Developer: Irrational Games
Released: March 26th, 2013
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One
Here we have another title from Irrational Games, developers of System Shock 2. This time it is the incredible BioShock Infinite. You take on the role of Bucker Dewitt, who is sent to Columbia, a floating city in the sky to retrieve a girl by the name of Elizabeth to clear a debt.
Things don't go as swiftly as Dewitt would hope, as it isn't long before the authority of Colombia being to pursue him.To begin attempting to explain the story after that would contain both a ton of spoilers along with it taking all day.
With a fantastic story full of surprises, a beautiful and intriguing setting, innovative and fun gameplay make BioShock Infinite an FPS quite unlike anything else out there.
Developer: 4A Games
Released: March 16th, 2010
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux (Metro Redux Only), Xbox 360, Xbox One and PS4.
Metro 2033 is a game I find you will either love or outright hate. I for one, love it. You take on the role of a young man by the name of Artyom, who lives in the northern Metro station known as Exhibition. It comes under attack by a group of mysterious creatures known as The Dark Ones.
Artyom must travel to the station of Polis and request the help of the Rangers to help stop The Dark Ones. Throughout the journey, you must travel through the Metro defending yourself from mutants, Nazis and more. At times you will have to traverse the surface where you experience a post-apocalyptic Moscow.
While Metro 2033 isn't perfect and has its problems but it is a game with a great story, multiple endings, wonderful atmosphere and has a perfect blend of both moments of action and pure atmosphere. Not only that, it is worth playing multiple times due to players being able to tackle situations in different ways.
Released: August 25th, 1997
Here we are, the 20th and final entry in the list, and what better title to have as the finale than GoldenEye 007. Not only is it one of the most influential FPS games of all time, it was the third best-selling title on the Nintendo 64, behind Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64.
The plot closely resembles that of the movie. You take on the role of James Bond, who must attempt to destroy a satellite knows as the GoldenEye. While it's single player and story are great in their own right, it was the games multiplayer that made it a success. The multiplayer allowed for up to four player split screen.
With a decent single player campaign and gameplay and multiplayer that would influence FPS titles for years to come, there is no denying that GoldenEye is one of the best FPS games of all time.
So there you have it, the 20 must-play FPS games before you die. From classics like Unreal, Quake and Duke Nukem to modern titles like Shadow Warrior, Bulletstorm and Wolfenstein: The New Order and everything in between, if you are an FPS fan, all these games are an absolute must-play.
What are your thoughts on the list? Are they any games you think should be on it? Let me know in the comments below!