Lock and load
First person shooters are some of the most engrossing, personal, and powerful entertainment experiences you can get. You aren't just watching some character play a part on the screen, you are that character. You're seeing all of the action from their perspective, aiming down the sights of a gun in your hands, then pulling the trigger. It's the closest you can come to being a soldier, or zombie killer, or space marine. We love playing FPS games, which is why we've put together a list of our all-time favorites.
For this list, the games need to be in the upper echelon of shooters in terms of gunplay mechanics - which is why you won't see any BioShocks and Metroid Primes here (even if they do rank as some of the best games ever). Also, we at GamesRadar+ are all about the console side of gaming, so while plenty of PC shooters are outstanding, you wont find them well represented here. So, with all that in mind, here are the best FPS games we've ever played.
GoldenEye 007 takes its rightful place as the worst of the best; a shooter that can hang with the best of them, but only by a hair. It was the Smash Bros. Melee or Halo of the late '90s, the four-player, college dorm juggernaut that ate away the afternoon faster than you could chow down on an extra large pizza on Friday night. An entire generation of gamers were introduced to the magic of first-person shooting thanks to GoldenEye (on console at least). And yet, the years have not been kind to this game. The advances made in console FPS'ing thanks to Halo, Call of Duty, and others, have exposed GoldenEye as being - frankly - a bicycle riding on square wheels.
While the actual shooting in GoldenEye may feel horribly, painfully antiquated, the sheer size and scope of this first-person shooter remains its strongest suit. GoldenEye is packed with all sorts of different guns, gadgets, secret codes, an extensive single-player campaign, and several multiplayer modes to keep you busy. Anyone who spent time with this game remembers the cutthroat nature of Man with the Golden Gun, or how friggin' unfair Oddjob was (he's still banned to this day). GoldenEye 007 shone bright in its heyday, and certainly helped paved the way for the rest of the entries on this list.
24. Serious Sam: The Second Encounter
Gruff, comically macho Sam Stone is the definition of a one-man army, given the sheer body count of violent creatures he's put down in his time. The Serious Sam games are all about increasingly grandiose rampages, constantly spawning hundreds of enemies right on top of you to achieve maximum amounts of cartoonishly violent chaos. Luckily, you've got the means to take down whatever supernatural horrors that await in ancient Mesoamerica, from the typical firepower (shotguns, miniguns, and rocket launchers) to the exotic (vintage cannons, laserguns, and flamethrowers).
The Second Encounter is the peak of the series' knack for perfectly orchestrated set pieces, no cut-scenes required. Secrets that end in jumpscares, stampedes of the raptor-skeleton-looking Kleers, and parades of the screaming Beheaded Kamikaze soldiers (which make no physical sense, by the way) are just a few of the unforgettable moments that seem to happen back-to-back-to-back as you progress through the wide-open levels. It's a silly thrillride, full of color and comedy, and evokes the classic era of FPS that prioritizes the simple fun of shooting guns at moving targets over all else.
23. Borderlands 2
Borderlands 2 is probably the weakest game on this list when it comes to shooting mechanics, with gun damage that relies more on elemental multipliers and player level than shotgun-to-the-face equals dead. But wandering around Pandora, collecting loot, and using the thousands of guns to make bloody fountains out of bandits is an absolute pleasure. Plenty of shooters confine players to narrow corridors, scripted enemy encounters, and squat and pop shootouts. Not so much with Borderlands. The world is massive and open for you to explore.
The game is as much RPG as it is shooter, with multiple player classes that range from dual machine gun wielding Gunzerkers, to psychic-powered Sirens. Then there are upgradable talent trees, elemental weapons, and quest rewards. Take all of that and slap it into a four player co-op shooter experience with an open world filled with weaponized vehicles, hordes of monsters, and gargantuan bosses, and you've got a shooter that's like no other.
22. PlanetSide 2
Love the large-scale, vehicle-filled firefights of Battlefield, but wish the scope was a little bit bigger? As in, 'over 1,000 players battling across an entire continent' bigger? Sounds like you need to enlist for the ever-raging sci-fi shootouts of PlanetSide 2, a massively multiplayer, three-sided conflict that currently holds the world record for most players in an FPS battle at 1,158 concurrent combatants. That makes for a lot of bullets, lasers, and tank shells flying through the air on planet Auraxis at any given time.
The unique balance of the three available factions is reminiscent of StarCraft's asymmetrical, immaculately balanced warfare: the Terran Republic has rapid-fire weaponry and faster vehicles, New Conglomerate forces hit harder at the cost of speed, and the Vanu Sovereignty prefers hovering all-terrain vehicles and copious laser guns made possible by alien technology. Likewise, the six distinct classes ensure that every player has a specialized role to play in this never-ending fight for allied territory. This FPS is the closest you'll get to having your boots on the ground in a planetary war, and it is glorious.
21. Counter Strike: Global Offensive
Global Offensive is a paradoxical multiplatform sequel: it was developed to bring console gamers into the fold of this legendary FPS series that flourishes on PC, but ended up making little impact on the Xbox 360 and PS3, while becoming the de facto choice for the most loyal CS fans and legions of mouse-and-keyboard newcomers alike. It doesn't change much, and it doesn't need to - underneath the graphics' grittier realism, this is still pretty much the same team-based, Terrorists versus Counter-Terrorists shooter that values quick thinking and even quicker reflexes.
But CS:GO dared to introduce a few new elements to the tense, one-life-per-round skirmishes of the original. The CZ75-Auto pistol offers a high-risk, high-reward purchase, molotov cocktails can temporarily deny large swaths of the map, and the single-shot, insta-kill Zeus x27 exists solely to be an expensive taunt. In a series that's known for adhering to a proven formula, these additions have gone over well for the second most-played game on Steam. Oh, and those primo weapon skins - a purely aesthetic perk, rest assured - will delight your inner collector, especially if you're lucky enough to score a rare knife.
20. Team Fortress 2
The sad truth is that PC and console players have very different experiences with Team Fortress 2. While PC players see regular updates, new game modes, and an overflowing cache of items both useful and highly cosmetic, the version released for the Xbox 360 only contains the original, vanilla edition of the game. That means no cart-escorting Payload mode, no additional weapons, no hats. But before you demand the poor thing be put out of its misery, know this: that bare-bones version is still amazingly fun.
That's not hugely surprising when you think about it, since everything that made Team Fortress great at the start is there. Maps are colorful and more complex than they look, letting you charge right into a fast-paced slaughter, or sneak into an enemy stronghold and take them all by surprise. Each class is distinct in ways that are outside the norm for shooters (the camouflaged Spy and up-close-and-personal Pyro in particular) and complement each other perfectly, so it never feels like one outclasses the others. Most importantly, it's easy enough for new players to pick up and have a lot of fun, but deep enough for veterans to keep coming back even when updates are a far-flung dream. Compared to that, hats really aren't that big of a deal, no matter how beautiful they are.
19. Unreal Tournament 3
Unless youre a hardcore veteran of the great Quake 3 / Unreal Tournament wars of 1999 and utterly set in your ways, theres something for everyone in Unreal Tournament 3. Epic Games really diversifies the frantic fragfest with all sorts of spins on deathmatch, territorial combat and flag capture. Oh, and it has hover boards.
Unreal Tournament 3 was also one of the first console games to support mods, at least on the PlayStation 3 version. The well-tuned foundation of its first-person combat, bolstered by classic weapons like the Redeemer and the Flak Cannon, meshed perfectly with vibrant sci-fi environments, weird user-created mods and a pulsating soundtrack. The game seemed to expand every time you played, though it never quite took off commercially - in fact, Midways marketing is probably what pushed the series into dormancy until 2015.
If its possible to be famously buried by non-existent marketing, you could say Singularity is chiefly known for how unknown it was upon launch. Developed by the FPS veterans at Raven Software and dumped on an unsuspecting public by Activision, Singularity turned out to be a weird, timey-wimey shooter completely smitten with its own silliness. The game uses a time manipulation glove (just go with it) not only as the crux of a weird alternate history plot, but to taunt and torment enemies in bizarre ways. Theres a disturbing thrill in aging an enemy rapidly to the point of no return, or to revert them to a primitive man-beast that cant tell friend from foe. Even better, a temporary time bubble traps goons and other objects in stasis, letting you suspend precisely aimed bullets mid-air and let them all go at once with a snap. Theres plenty of temporal puzzle solving in Singularity too, but its only in combat where the games really on the clock.
17. Wolfenstein: The New Order
Wolfenstein: The New Order sounds like it should be a dismal failure, an example of too many strange ingredients combining to make an unpalatable mess. It's equal parts stealth shooter and old-school run-n-gun, moving its fight against WW2-era Nazis into an alternate version of the 1960s where the Third Reich has effectively taken over Europe. Oh, and it also attempts to turn the silent, meat-headed Nazi killer B.J. Blazkowicz into a more human and relatable character. But The New Order doesn't just take all these disparate elements and make them work as a worthy follow-up to a series that spawned a legion of copy-cats - MachineGames has crafted one of the smartest 'mindless' shooters ever made.
Nearly every moment of Wolfenstein: The New Order is malleable, allowing you to tackle its labyrinthine pathways and devilish challenges how you see fit. Levels are open-ended, providing multiple pathways to its objectives, allowing for an equally numerous variety of strategies. Slink through hidden ducts and stealthily shoot enemy soldiers from the shadows with a silenced pistol, then seamlessly go loud with a pair of akimbo AK-47s if you get spotted (or if you just have an itchy trigger finger). Blasting Nazis with an astonishing range of interesting weapons provides its most immediate thrills, but its story is a contemplative investigation of the nature of war and things people are capable of doing to protect the ones they love, and choices you make in the game's opening chapter ripple outward and encourage multiple playthroughs.
First Encounter Assault Recon is an absurd acronym. It sends the wrong message! Even if special forces soldiers with superhuman abilities were actually fighting ghosts, psychics and the walking tanks that protect them, they probably wouldnt go around calling their business something that implied that theyre constantly terrified. As a name for Monolith Productions thriller shooter, though, its wonderfully evocative. The studio made a shooter as laudibly simple as it is nervewracking; all you do is blast stuff, but that stuff is going to freak you out good along the way.
F.E.A.R. is clearly a product of its time. The source of all the supernatural phenomena and paramilitary shenanigans youre fighting against is a little girl with scraggly black hair - a psychic and mad science experiment subject named Alma - straight out of the many Japanese horror movies popular during the early 00s. The ability to slow down time for a limited period, the games big twist on shooting, was also de rigueur at the time. What elevates F.E.A.R. above its familiar components is an incredible sense of atmosphere and incident. The first level remains one of the all time greats, a perfect roll out of jump scares, weirdness, and big taxing shoot outs that gives you simple weapons and asks you to just use them well. The pace that level sets never lets up the whole time even as F.E.A.R.s plot gets sillier and sillier.
No game here is better at putting boots to asses than Bulletstorm. It's a bull in a china shop; a runaway train that's on fire, strapped with explosives, and barreling through downtown. If you find carnage an art, then Bulletstorm is your Louvre. Creative killing is rewarded in abundance here. Strap a bandit with explosives and kick him into another bandit before detonating them both in a shower of bloody giblets: you get points. Use your beam lasso to toss a guy into an overgrown cactus just for the hell of it: you get points. Steering your sniper bullet around a corner to land the perfect headshot before detonating that bullet to trigger an exploding barrel that obliterates two other enemies: you get so many points.
The best way to approximate Bulletstorm would be to imagine any Mad Max: Fury Road trailer, re-work it into a first-person shooter, and then temper it with a streak of gallows humor that stops it from ever taking itself too seriously. And just like Fury Road, Bulletstorm's action isn't just vapid eye candy, but extremely satisfying gunplay that constantly challenges you to think of new and exciting ways of utilizing the (deadly) toys it gives you. Try it out and see if the heavy KA-THUNK of your quad-barreled shotgun doesn't warm your heart as it melts your opponents into a bloody stew.
14. Quake 3 Arena
Quake 3 is the Olympic gymnast of the FPS genre. Knowing how to aim each beautifully unique weapon is only half the battle, because there's a multitude of mobility options that blast the maps wide open, provided you can master them. Tricky maneuvers like rocket jumping, plasma climbing, and grenade jumping are all stacked atop your basic pace-quickening bunny hop, making it so that a skilled player can fly through any of the artfully laid-out maps at blazing speeds.
Competing in this arena makes absurd demands of your hand-eye coordination; those rail gun headshots aren't going to hit themselves. But at high-level play, it also becomes an intense battle of wits over space control, knowing the precise timing of power-up spawn-ins and deducing where the opponent is based on subtle audio cues. Listening to Shane "rapha" Hendrixson explain all the multilayered thought processes behind his flawless play in this ESL Classics video is like going to church for those who can appreciate the finer minutiae of FPS skill.
13. Far Cry 4
Most pure shooters rely on a scripted gun-range mentality as a rule. Obedient targets rush into view and everyone merrily mows them down. Far Cry 4, on the other hand, is open world paintball where the focus is on dealing with whatever the hell turns up. Any FPS built on emergent events and improvisation needs a tight gun-handling model and this nails it, letting you pop off crossbow bolts and rockets almost with the power of thought alone, its so easy.
You could almost forget its not linear, such is the cavalcade of trigger-pumping action as honey badgers burst from bushes or trucks skid off the road spilling guards ready to attack. The behind-the-scenes scripting required to achieve such a smooth flow of action is impressive. However, perhaps its best contribution to the FPS world is that aggressive, rapid-pace stealth: swapping hiding behind corners for sprinting machete runs and stolen gun double take downs.
12. Battlefield 3
Battlefield is the king of big scale, multiplayer battles. While COD offers a much personal, more enclosed FPS experience, Battlefield goes big on everything. Maps, vehicles, events, team-play, stats one of the games real strengths is making you feel like youre a small part of a much larger, ongoing war. And youre never out-gunned, because theres always a way to take out a tank, or deal with groups of enemies - you just need to be smart with your squads and their load-outs.
Battlefield 3 specifically hits the sweet spot in terms of shooting mechanics, well-designed maps, and balanced classes/vehicles. Its no longer the most shiny or comprehensive game, but theres still a healthy community desperate to shoot you in the face and gather the XP. Sure, Battlefield 4 looks nicer, and has levolution, but its not as robust and well-designed as BF3.
11. Perfect Dark
You might think, as old as Perfect Dark is, it's long past due to retire from best shooter lists like this one. Released in 2000 when developers were turning out 3D games like proud primary schoolers at their first science fair, the adventures of Joanna Dark have aged in ways that would push other games out of consideration. But by a stroke of good fortune, and thanks to design choices that look smarter with every passing year, much of what made Perfect Dark great back then is still near-perfect now.
There's its eclectic arsenal of weaponry, including everything from a basic pistol, to an x-ray sniper rifle, to a rocket launcher that you can control via first person view, cackling as your friends scatter to avoid the inevitable. Even the sound of the guns and the way they reload is satisfying, alongside the actual shooting, which is smooth enough for dedicated players to master or newcomers to get the hang of quickly. Plus, with the option for four-person multiplayer and dozens of challenges to overcome, there's even more to do after the campaign than during it. This girl is in her golden years, and she's still got it.
Titanfall may not have a single-player campaign, but honestly, it doesn't need it. Not only is this shooter able to provide those big, explosive moments you'd get from a single-player Call of Duty campaign in a multiplayer setting, it's able to provide them by weaving them organically into the core gameplay. Besides, a proper story would just get in the way of its immediate, moment-to-moment action.
Titanfall is a game in constant motion, whether you're boosting up onto a billboard and wall-running into a bombed-out building or you're picking off AI-controlled NPCs to whittle your Titan's respawn timer down a few more seconds. And once that timer hits zero, down comes your giant mech, which you can either pilot yourself or use as your personal robot bodyguard. There are few greater thrills than hopping onto the back of an enemy Titan, shooting it to pieces, launching yourself into the air, landing on another Titan, blowing that one up, then launching onto the roof of a building, all without breaking your stride. Most games wish they could be half this exciting - this kind of stuff happens in Titanfall all the time.
9. Metro: Redux
Metro: 2033 felt more like a promise than a fully realized game when it first came out in 2010. Its post-nuclear war world, where humanity survives underground, felt forbidding and harsh, but almost comforting at the same time. Was it violent, poisonous and overrun with killer mutants and sociopathic idealists trying to control the Moscow undergrounds precious resources? Sure it was, but it also never felt apocalyptic; life in Metro went on after the bombs fell, people just wore gas masks a lot more often.
As full as its world is, though, the original Metro was miserable to play. Limp gunplay soured vivid ideas like having to manage bullets that are both ammunition and currency as well as the delicious tension of having to constantly search for mask filters on the irradiated surface. Metro Redux, the package that paired 4A Games second chapter Last Light with a vastly improved version of 2033, delivers on the original promise in full. Not only does lead character Artyoms journey finally feel complete with both games under one roof, the action is as fully realized as the world itself.
8. Left 4 Dead 2
Few things in life are better than splattering digital zombie brains all over the walls of post-apocalyptic alleyways. And that's why Left 4 Dead 2 is so great. You get to decapitate and explode hostile, risen corpses to your heart's content. And, sure there are plenty of games that let you gun down hordes of undead with everything from a shotgun to a katana sword, but Left 4 Dead 2 is easily one of the best at what it does.
There aren't any complicated stories to keep up with or kill to death ratios to worry about. It's just you and your co-op friends trying not to get eaten alive by player-controlled super zombies and common undead as you move from one safe house to the next. You get the shooting mechanics of Half-Life 2, classic zombie slaying weapons that feel oh so satisfying in your hands, and hundreds of running corpses to shoot. If you somehow get tired of blasting zombies to bits, you can join the other side and hunt the humans as the opposing super zombie team. Left 4 Dead 2 has it all, and absolutely deserves a place as one of the best shooters of all time.
7. Doom 2: Hell on Earth
Say no more than Super Shotgun to summarize the best of what Doom brought to the demon dissection table. The indispensable weapon lets you barrel through hell with, well, twice as many barrels as youre used to, amping up Dooms classic monster-mash to a bloody crescendo.
While its predecessor is the dominant cultural touchstone, Doom 2 shows far more ambition in its level design and its nightmarish menagerie, even drafting old bosses from Doom to fill in as regular enemies. It also abandons the strict episodic structure in its move from Phobos to Earth, letting you keep your arsenal for the duration of the game. And at the end of this hell-jaunt, in a secret room, youll find the remains of hells true architect: John Romeros severed head on a stick. It makes the trip worth it, every time.
6. Resistance 3
Chances are, youre one of the many people who played and enjoyed the original Resistance (because it was a PS3 launch game), got burned badly by Resistance 2 (because its ass), and didnt even bother with Resistance 3. Big mistake. It was one of the best story-driven shooters of the last console generation.
There are definite shades of Half-Life and Metro in Resistance 3, which tells the tragic story of Joseph Capellis eerie, cross-American journey, where he attempts to save humanity from the seemingly unstoppable Chimera. There are so many stand out moments in the narrative, and the emotion Capelli goes through - as he turns his back on his family for the sake of humanity - really gets under your skin. Oh, and the weapons (because theyre made by the creative minds at Insomniac) are both unique and utterly brilliant. Come on, Sony. Stop pissing about with Killzone and give us more Resistance.
In terms of pure shooter feel, Destiny has few equals. The gunplay in Bungies opus is a delightfully refined, deceptively subtle evolution of the action we know and love from the Halo series, buffed with elemental abilities and a dizzying array of weapon/armour perks. It just feels so great to play; to be in that world, hosing enemies. Whats truly commendable too, is that the shooting works perfectly in both PvE and PvP - few games truly achieve excellence at both.
And because the shooting is so smooth, so endlessly entertaining, its easier to forgive some of the games perceived flaws. Sure, Crucible still isnt the finished article, and its occasionally unbalanced and glitchy, but every match is taught and brutally contested. No, the plot isnt explained very well, but who cares when the shooting is this good? And the best part is that Destiny improves with every update, so this already-first-class FPS just keeps getting better.
4. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the game that defined modern FPS games. After Modern Warfare came out, many shooters tried to capture some of its new FPS magic, whether it was adding progression systems to multiplayer, or rollercoaster-ride action sequences to story modes. The game has one of the most memorable and satisfying single player campaigns in any shooter, genre-changing multiplayer, and an innovative co-op mode, each being just about enough content to justify as its own game but packaged together to make a gargantuan shooter that you could conceivably never stop playing.
Even with the yearly sequels, the series has yet to top the disturbing, yet ultimately unforgettable events of Modern Warfares story. After all, it's not every game that you get to experience your own death in the wake of a nuclear blast, or camouflage yourself in tall grass as enemy troops walk right over you. The multiplayer is still home to players looking for a pure CoD experience, where killstreaks only come in three varieties and gunplay skill reigns supreme. No Call of Duty game has changed the genre as much since Modern Warfare, and it doesn't look like it will be topped any time soon.
3. Halo: The Master Chief Collection
This may seem like a bit of a cheat since Halo: The Master Chief Collection is an anthology of previous Halo games, but here are the key reasons why it deserves its own recognition. First, each game has been updated in some noticeable way, whether that's a simple update to the frames per second as is the case with Halo 4, or if it's a complete re-tooling with a new engine, cut-scenes and content as is the case with Halo 2 Anniversary. In other words, despite the word collection being right there in the title, this isn't a simple rehash. The Master Chief Collection offers experiences you simply can't get anywhere else. And yes, they are all that good. Whether it's the immediately-comfortable feel of Halo: Combat Evolved, the dual-wielding and bigger-than-life action of Halo 2, the masterful sandbox design of Halo 3 or the storytelling expertise of Halo 4, each individual game in The Master Chief Collection deserves its accolades.
Second, in a move that we hope more developers take note of, 343 Industries combined multiplayer matchmaking across all titles to offer a singular experience. True, The Master Chief Collection suffered at launch (and some time post-launch) with matchmaking bugs galore, but with the technical hurdles now behind us, it's easier to appreciate the wealth of content available to players. Just as importantly, 343 didn't try to force its hand in terms of unifying the online experience. Want to play with original Halo rules? Go for it. Blood Gulch has been re-released about a bajillion times, but you can choose your favorite version. Choice is the defining attribute here, and that's worth some serious kudos.
2. Half-Life 2
Youve probably heard a lot about how Half-Life 2 is the most groundbreaking, most important, most genre-changing FPS ever made. Youve probably heard endless championing of its prowess in the areas of interactive narrative, precision pacing, awe-inspiring set-pieces, and deliriously inventive interaction. Youre probably sick of hearing it. But there are two important points about the now 11 year-old rhetoric of unreserved Half-Life praise. Firstly, its all entirely true and accurate. Secondly, none of it really gets at just how damn fun Half-Life 2 is.
Its easy to talk about a game like this by listing concrete innovations and bullet-pointed achievements, but the fact is, you wont be thinking about any of that when youre whirling between the buildings of one of H-L2s, small, open settlements, gunning down two Combine troops in a row before spinning around and launching a pinball of plasma springing around the wall to nail an unseen third. Not as you catch the fourth ones grenade with the Gravity Gun and hurl it back into his face half a second later. Not as you look up, spot a gunship and a Strider coming over the horizon, and immediately pull out your rocket-launcher, deciding which will suffer your laser-guided fury first. Yes, Half-Life 2 is a cerebral genius, but when it comes to fighting, its a Swiss Army Knife strapped to a pinwheel.
1. TimeSplitters 2
Wait, what? A semi-obscure, two-generations old cartoon shooter beating out the likes of Half-Life 2 and Halo? Yes. Because while it never quite made the iconic status of its genre's brightest stars, the GoldenEye team's best game is flat-out the most creative, imaginative, lovingly-crafted, and just outright fun FPS ever made. Not only that, but in its format, structure, and content offering, it's a game so far ahead of its time that we're still waiting for someone to catch up.
Its loose, time-travelling plot is the gateway to a pantheon of utterly unique, immaculately conceptualised levels, each with a feel, flow, and design as special as its setting and look. And although consistently hilarious in its film-pastiching conceits, it's a game packed with immense depth and precise intent, an intricate structure of differing approaches, strategies, and immediate, gratifying fun. But then there's the seemingly endless array of blisteringly fast, entertaining, and kinetic multiplayer options. And the similarly vast, ludicrously creative challenge modes, that push the tight but accessible shooting and madly eclectic weapon-set to their limits, and beg for a second, online-enabled life. And good Lord, those unlockable characters. Monkeys vs. Gingerbread Men in a chaingun battle to the death? Hell yes. Hell yes indeed.