The first-person shooter genre is among the most popular in gaming, so compiling a list of the best FPS games was never going to be easy. New, brilliant shooters are released every month, and old games are updated to make them worthy of inclusion on a list like this. To thin down the crowd, here are our rules for deciding the best FPS games – read them before you move on.
Number 1: The games have to be first person, naturally, and shooting must be the predominant game system: first-person RPGs such as Fallout are out, as are immersive sims like Dishonored, but competitive multiplayer games and battle royales are in. Number 2: This list is about the best FPS games right now, not the most important historically, so you won’t find the original Half-Life or Doom on here. Number 3: to keep this list accessible, we're only including games you can play either on current-generation consoles or on PC.
See if you agree with our choices as we progress toward revealing our number 1. Here are the best FPS games you can play right now.
30. Payday 2
Release date: August 2013
Format: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
What is it? 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, jewellery 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 squad mates 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.
Best for: Living out your bank-robbing fantasies. Samuel Horti
Release date: October 2005
What is it? 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.
Best for: When you want to break up spectacular firefights with tension and jumpscares. A golden oldie that’s readily available on PC stores. Samuel Horti
28. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered
Release date: November 4, 2016
Format: PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC
What is it? Arguably the shooter that inspired almost every other game on this list. Call of Duty was doing well enough for its first three World War 2-inspired games, but it was the jump to modern times that started its growth towards global domination. Putting present day weapons into ’s well-tuned shooting mechanics created a devastatingly lethal shooter, with bursts of gunfire dropping enemies with brutal efficiency. However, it was the story and characters that really gave this its impact. It might not be quite what you’d expect from a big manly shooter, but Captain Price and crew were relatable and human. The fact you cared about them, and what happened to them, elevated this above just shooting until everyone’s dead. And then there’s the multiplayer which, ten years ago, set a template that CoD (and plenty of other games) are still using today.
Best for: Seeing just how well a shooter can create a military-focused story without descending into cliché and grunting pantomime stereotypes. Leon Hurley
27. Team Fortress 2
Release date: October 2007
What is it? 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 evermore 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.
Best for: A reliably good time. Whether you want a properly competitive match-up or a great big muckabout, you’ll find a home. Samuel Horti
26. Bioshock Infinite
Release date: March 26, 2013
Format: PC, PS4, Xbox One (latter two in BioShock: The Collection)
What is it? Look, I know. 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 pure 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 in 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-levelled arenas, you'll often feel you're on playing part-FPS, part-RTS. And it'll never be anything less than exhilarating.
Best for: When you want to blend experimental shooting with a mind-bending, rollercoaster story, and don't mind too much whether it makes total sense. David Houghton
25. Half-Life 2
Release date: November 16, 2004
Format: Xbox One (backwards compatible)
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 (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!
Best for: Singleplayer, of course. Also picking up that can and throwing it at the guard instead of in the trash. Connor Sheridan
24. Left 4 Dead 2
Release date: November 17, 2009
Format: Xbox One (backwards compatible), PC
What is it? Bonding usually calls for either beer or a mutual dislike of something, but who needs those when 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.
Best for: Multiplayer, hands-down. Slay zombies with friends and the occasional AI, and get ready to scream out each type of special infected when you hear their telltale musical cue. Zoe Delahunty-Light
23. Insurgency: Sandstorm
Release date: December 2018
Format: PC (coming to PS4 and Xbox One in August 2020)
What is it? 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 mindframe 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 August, which will give this game the bigger audience it deserves.
Best for: Anyone who wants a realistic military sim in bitesize form. Samuel Horti
Release date: June 2020
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 colourful than CS:GO, but the clean visuals prove that the emphasis is on substance over style.
Its short stint in Early Access is testament to how much polish Riot put into its design, and how balanced its maps and heroes are. Both will only improve over time. It’s far too early to tell whether Riot will successfully usurp Counter-Strike as the go-to PC competitive shooter, but it’s certainly showing plenty of promise.
Best for: Anyone that has fallen out of love with CS:GO and wants something with a bit more personality. Samuel Horti
21. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Release date: August 24, 2012
Format: Xbox One (backwards compatible), PC
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.
Best for: A test of skills, wits, and sniping ability for when you feel the need to prove your FPS superiority online; those with fragile egos may want to stay away. Lucas Sullivan