The best FPS games span warzones the world over, and time periods throughout history. They can look gorgeous, especially when running on the PS5 and Xbox Series X, and can impress with cool new spins on the tried and tested shoot 'em up formula. They often pit us against baddies with brains, and those who want to eat them. And they always, always dazzle with their speed and their style.
Given first-person shooters are one of gaming's most beloved genres, choosing the 30 best examples is not an easy task. We need rules, but even then, for every shooter that makes the cut, another 10 fall with a headshot. On this list, we're looking at games whose central mechanic is first-person shooting. The game must be available to play right now in 2021. First-person action-RPGs such as Fallout 4, and action-adventure games like Deathloop are out, but multiplayer FPS and first-person battle royales are in. Them's the rules. Don't shoot the messenger.
Without further ado, here are the 30 best FPS games you can play today.
30. Payday 2
Format: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
A seven-year-old heist game that still hasn’t been bested. As a squad of four – it’s best played online with friends – you and your fellow goons scout banks, jewelry stores, and art galleries, hatching a plan of action. You can go in all guns blazing, but usually, you’ll want a stealthier, more tactical approach: your first steps might be disabling cameras and tying the hands of anyone that might ruin your riches. Eventually, and inevitably, bullets will start flying. It won’t win awards for its weapon handling, but there’s a joy in the chaos that reigns whenever you open fire. You’ll have to bark orders at your squadmates to stop them getting tag-teamed by security guards and SWAT teams, and trying to grab bags of cash while spraying lead from behind cover is a thrill few other shooters can match.
It was billed as a cerebral sci-fi horror game, but F.E.A.R. (and its two sequels) is best when you play it as a pure shooter. Gunfights are cinematic spectacles, with smoke trailing bullets, windows, and walls disintegrating around you and grenades sending bodies flying. A slow-mo toggle just makes it all the more dramatic, and no game since has made me feel as much like an action movie star (it’s how we imagine the Matrix video game should have turned out).
It has some of the most memorable weapons in any shooter, of which the best is the 10mm HV Penetrator, also known as the stake gun. It spits out steel spikes that can pin enemies to the floor, walls, or each other. Nail an enemy goon in the head just right and you’ll hang them on the wall like a macabre painting. But that’s never easy thanks to clever AI that will flank you, retreat to cover, and flush you out of your hiding spot with well-placed grenades. The horror occasionally shines through, so expect a few jump scares and some tense stretches where you don’t need your weapons. But don’t worry: they never last long, and you’ll have your hands back on your stake gun soon enough.
28. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
Format: PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X and S, Xbox One and PC
Of course, we had to choose a game from this iconic series for the list of best FPS games, and Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War takes the trophy. The game veers away from the linear style the series previously favored, letting you decide what missions to tackle and when, and how much time you want to spend looking for extra intel. The campaign leans heavily into its 80s setting and weaves fact and fiction as it sends you after Soviet atomic spy Perseus. The multiplayer has plenty to offer too, with classic game modes, a new 40 player Fireteam mode, a new Zombies storyline called Dark Aether, and in a smart move on Activision's part, the progression system for multiplayer ties in with whatever you're up to in Call of Duty: Warzone, which you'll also find on this list.
27. Team Fortress 2
The granddaddy of hero-based shooters, and there’s a reason its player count still regularly hovers around 100,000. Its nine classes – three attack, three defence, three support – are expertly balanced, and have provided templates for other games such as Overwatch to borrow from. From a solid, if cartoony, core of classic team modes, TF2 has sprawled, and you’ll find servers where people go all-guns-blazing for the objective listed alongside maps made just for hanging out, spamming emotes, and forming conga lines.
The game’s huge economy, which sees players trade for ever more ridiculous hats worth hundreds of dollars in real money, is a testament to how deep it has its hooks into the PC community. Newcomers might find it bizarre, but if you want to see where many of the core pillars of modern multiplayer shooters come from, look no further.
26. Bioshock Infinite
Format: PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch
The original Bioshock is a better game. But this is the best FPS list, and whatever your feelings about it as a sequel, the fact is that Bioshock Infinite is just a better shooter than either of its predecessors. They might have had guns and first-person viewpoints, but the shooting was never their focus. They were immersive, narrative-driven, systemic RPGs with shotguns.
Infinite though, is the real deal. Opting for a more direct, action-driven approach, it fully commits to exploring the full scope of Bioshockian powers and gunplay with the aim of pure combat. By the time you have a full set of Vigors, you'll be playing one of the most expressive, versatile, option-packed FPS around, one that seamlessly blends a fast, kinetic emphasis with a wider, strategic battlefield plan. Tooled up, and applying the creative thought encouraged by Infinite's often sprawling, multi-leveled arenas, you'll often feel you're on playing part-FPS, part-RTS. And it'll never be anything less than exhilarating.
25. Half-Life 2
What is it? It's the one that lets you fight alien fascists by launching toilets at their heads. It feels trite to praise the many individual advancements of Half-Life 2 (physics-based weapons, keenly intelligent enemies, and characters that feel like more than walking quest-givers, to name a few) because pretty much every video game ever has tried to do the same ever since. Just compare popular games from before Half-Life 2 and after Half-Life 2 and its influence will be made immediately clear. But while many foundational games are a bit of a chore to play these days, Half-Life 2 continues to hold up remarkably well. It's just as fun to launch an explosive barrel into a room full of helmeted goons now as it was in 2004. No really, try it!
24. Left 4 Dead 2
What is it? Bonding usually calls for either beer or a mutual dislike of something, but who needs those when Left 4 Dead 2 is around? Valve’s zombie-ridden game relentlessly punishes those who shrug off their comrades’ assistance. No heroes (*cough* overconfident buffoons *cough*) here: voyage on ahead or get left behind, if you go it alone you’ll definitely meet a bloody end. What zombies lack in fortitude they make up for in numbers, but special infected ensure you never let your guard down, as it takes only one overlooked Smoker to knock your entire team for six. The Versus mode turns the tables by letting you deviously play as the special infected, disrupting the survivors’ efforts to escape whilst giving you insight into exactly how these major infected function. Which, incidentally, plays perfectly into your future sessions as the survivors. Brilliantly crafted, Left 4 Dead 2 is a drop-dead simple concept, executed perfectly.
23. Insurgency: Sandstorm
A team-based shooter with a realistic bent. It strips away UI conveniences you’d expect in modern-day FPSs, such as hit markers and kill confirm messages, which lends it a completely different feel. Having to visually confirm your kills – pump a few more bullets into your enemies, just to make sure they’re not moving – puts you in the right mind frame for how you want to play Sandstorm: extremely carefully. It rewards patience and precision over risk-taking, and if you’re caught out of position then you’re going to die, so stay the hell in cover, and make sure you’re coordinating with your squad.
It also looks and sounds astonishing, and no other game has so vividly portrayed the horrors of war. Soldiers’ screams are haunting, while bullets zipping overhead make me want to crawl under my desk. It’s currently only out on PC, but a console release is planned for some time in the future.
What is it? Riot Games’ attempt to take CS:GO’s competitive FPS crown. It’s like a mix of Valve’s twitchy shooter and Overwatch’s over-the-top heroes: it is, at its heart, still a tactical FPS in which positioning is king and you die in one headshot, but every class has flashy skills and abilities that can turn the course of a round. Some of them let you leap high in the air, others ping enemy positions, while ultimate abilities can damage enemies through walls and clear out entire areas. It's more colorful than CS:GO, but the clean visuals prove that the emphasis is on substance over style.
Its short stint in Early Access is a testament to how much polish Riot put into its design, and how balanced its maps and heroes are. Both will only improve over time.
21. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
What is it? Ever since its debut as an expansive Half-Life mod, the Counter-Strike series has constantly stayed on top of the competitive shooter scene. And though CS:GO is now the de facto way to play this Terrorists vs. Counter-Terrorists FPS on PC, it originally started life as a modernized port for consoles. CS:GO is all about tension: there are no respawns during rounds, so once you die, all you can do is watch and anxiously hope that your team detonates/defuses the bomb or rescues/retains hostages successfully. Each map is meticulously crafted to allow for myriad tactics requiring varying degrees of skill, and the lovingly modeled guns in your expansive arsenal all have minutiae in their firing rates and recoil that can only be learned through experience. CS:GO's skill ceiling is practically in the stratosphere, and it puts equal emphasis on cooperative teamwork and heroic moments where you get all the glory.
Turn to the next page for more of our best FPS games to play right now...