Okay, this list was never going to be easy to compile. As one of the most popular, eclectic and influential gaming genres, nailing down the list of the best FPS titles to just 25 games is an almost ridiculous task. So to help narrow things down, we made some hard and fast rules. Read them before you move on.
Number 1: The games have to be first person, and shooting has to be the predominant game system (hey, the clue is in "FPS"). So no Gears of War, and no Resident Evil 7. Number 2: This list is about currently best, not historically most important. To keep this list accessible, we're only including games you can play right now on current-generation consoles, PCs and gaming laptops, instead of having to hunt down a PS2 at a garage sale. Have no fear: we haven’t forgotten the influential games that came before. They have their very own slide that explains their importance to the genre before we get started. See if you agree with our choices, as we progress toward revealing our number 1.
25. Honorable mentions
Let's start with the influential FPS games that didn't quite secure a place on the list. If you side-step the genre's wireframe origins – expanded in our 43-year history of first-person-shooters – let's start with the granddaddy: the original, 1993 Doom. While not the first FPS, developer id's shooter is a masterclass in intelligent, cleverly-paced level design, alongside deceptively strategic gunplay - while also establishing id as the premier gun 'feel' craftsmen in the industry.
In terms of its mainstream appeal and cultural crossover, the next most influential shooter was probably , which proved that FPS could truly work on a console, delivering the most cinematic action game of its era. Rare's shooter hosts one of the most legendary multiplayer modes in history. Oddjob is still banned, though.
The split-screen multiplayer template evolved with Goldeneye's unofficial, next-gen follow-up, . Headed up by key members of Rare’s Goldeneye team, TS2 is a history-spanning, thematic pick 'n’ mix campaign skewering movies - and even Goldeneye itself - with endless, brilliantly observed pastiche. Add another terrific multiplayer offering plus the staggering depth and imagination of its Arcade challenge leagues, and you have a game way, way ahead of its time.
A less obvious choice, but a game that expertly stole – and re-assembled – the genre's greatest mechanics, is PS3's . With echoes of Half-Life 2, Chronicles of Riddick and Halo, this overlooked sequel is like a greatest hits package of FPS gaming's 40-year-history. A brilliantly structured campaign journey, fueled by inventive, satisfying weapon design, and serious fun. David Houghton
24. The Darkness 2
Release date: February 7, 2012
Format: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
What is it? A love story. A wonderful, touching tale of a former mobster who is trying to come to terms with the loss of his girlfriend while murdering his enemies using a combination of chunky automatic weapons and demonic tentacle powers. Often both at the same time. How many other games, for example, let you pick up a goon by his feet and blow him in half with a shotgun? Or to rip him in half with your tentacles like you’re pulling the wishbone at Christmas? Or shove your tentacle down an enemy’s ass and pull out his spine? Not many. Not many at all. But yeah, is a love story at heart. And it’s still playable on PC, so you have the chance to play one of the most creative, touching, and utterly sickening shooters ever made. Go do that.
Best for: The creative kills. While the story is lovely and all, you can’t beat the feeling of grabbing an enemy by the head with a tentacle and popping off his head, before lobbing it away like an apple core. Andy Hartup
23. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
Release date: November 6, 2015
Format: Xbox One, PS4, PC
What is it? Call of Duty began as WW2-era shooter focused on recreating the tense drama of war. Since then, we've had CoD games set during the Cold War, Vietnam War, modern day, even the far future and outer space. is the current Goldilocks of the CoD legacy, which is to say it sits somewhere in the middle and manages to feel juuuust right. Not too futuristic, not too held back by the past, Black Ops 3 infuses smart design with fluid gameplay to create something that feels unique and powerful without straying too far from its roots. Choosing a specific character gives competitive multiplayer a slight MOBA feel, while the campaign re-introduces four-player co-op to the series. And of course, let's not forget our undead friends lurking in the Zombies mode, which gets an entire city in Black Ops 3.
Best for: A night (or week, or month) of fast-paced, highly-competitive running and gunning, or anyone who wants to see Jeff Goldblum as a zombie-slaughtering magician. Sam Prell
Release date: August 8, 2017
Format: PS4, PC
What is it? A Vs. multiplayer FPS that takes into account a detailed, working knowledge of the last 20 years of arena shooters, so that it can understand all of the rules and conventions before tearing them up and reimagining them into something new. Its nine asymmetric character classes deliver radically contrasting gameplay experiences - each feels like they could be the protagonist of a different (brilliant) game - but all are bonded by their scope for fantastic, unexpected, tactically kinetic gameplay. LawBreakers is a shooter as deep and clever as it is immediately, air-punchingly exciting, dense with possibility and scope for player growth, while also immediate, gratifying, and easy to initially pick up.
And that growth certainly doesn't begin and and with the player. LawBreakers is also one of the best-maintained 'live' games we've seen in a long time. Developer Boss Key is taking a refreshingly pro-active, communicative, community-minded approach to the game's upkeep, pouring constant updates, tweaks and additions into it alongside its already revealed roadmap of (free) expansions for LawBreakers' opening months.
Best for: When you need an immediate, incendiary burst of 'Holy crap I can't believe that just happened' multiplayer FPS action. Whether you play for 20 minutes or three hours, LawBreakers will give you plenty to holler about. David Houghton
21. Far Cry 4
Release date: November 18, 2014
Format: PS4, Xbox One, PC
What is it? In essence; Far Cry 3 goes to the Himalayas. Switching out the sunny not-so-perfect tourist destination of Rook Island for the vertiginous Kyrat, adds even more deadly bells and whistles to an already solid foundation of murderous exploration. Even more flora and fauna is ready to be plucked and skinned, and entire ecosystems are just waiting to be ruined as you quest for a new wallet. The story of Ajay Ghale is almost incidental to the combination of stealth and action on offer in Ubi’s intimidatingly huge open world. Whether you want to send a drone hovering over an enemy camp and tag all enemies individually before picking them off one by one with brutal melee takedowns, shoot a tiger out of its cage from a safe distance to watch it tear your foes to pieces, or literally crash down the gates on the back of an angry tusked Babar, it’s entirely up to you. However you play, Far Cry 4 is a heady cocktail of death and destruction. Drink up.
Best for: A singleplayer that’ll involve you obsessively collecting every animal skin for accessories before charging an elephant into a camp of unsuspecting foes. Sorry PETA…. Louise Blain
20. Star Wars Battlefront
Release date: November 17, 2015
Format: PS4, Xbox One, PC
What is it? Sure, is a first-person shooter. It’s also a near-simulation for some of the most iconic moments in the Star Wars universe. This game feels more like an arcade creation than the grand, stoic visions offered by the best of Dice’s Battlefield games, but you still get the studio’s hallmarks here: class variety, specialized weapons, and gorgeous graphics. Each of those elements have just been filtered through the lens of the beloved sci-fi universe. The level of detail is incredible, and it’s a must-try for Star Wars fans. You get to play as Boba Fett. Who doesn’t want that?
Best for: Living out all your wildest Star Wars dreams, either with strangers in multiplayer or with a friend in co-op. May the Force be with you. Anna Washenko
19. 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
18. 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 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
17. Borderlands 2
Release date: September 18, 2012
Format: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Xbox One, PS4
What is it? How to describe … you could say it's the underlying principles of the first Borderlands wrapped up in a more pristine, funnier shell. Or you could call it World of Warcraft: The First-Person Shooter. With its heavy emphasis on loot, loot, and more loot, Borderlands 2 drowns players in a sea of guns with varying abilities and stats (including a gun that shoots swords, and a gun that literally goes "pew pew!" every time you fire it), conveniently color-coded by rarity. The colorful cast of characters breaks away from the traditional "fighter, wizard, rogue" archetypes, and each hero is memorable in their own right. Especially Krieg. Oh Krieg, you crazy barbarian poet. Sure it's still a bit of a slog to play through if you don't have any buddies going co-op with you, but at the end of the day, this sequel still stands as the zenith of the Borderlands formula.
Best for: Those who like their FPS games to be as equally funny as they are violent - especially if they don't get attached to their armory, since something more powerful is always right around the corner. Sam Prell
16. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege
Release date: December 1, 2015
Format: PS4, Xbox One, PC
What is it? has quietly become one of the best multiplayer shooters around, combining the intensity and replayability of Counter-Strike with the unique abilities and personality of Overwatch (albeit with a more grounded cast). The real star of Siege is the impressive destructibility of your environment: walls, floors, and ceilings can all be fired through and ultimately destroyed, so you need to smartly choose which flanks to cover and which walls to reinforce, lest someone blast through them with sizzling thermite. You and your squadmates choose from a variety of highly skilled Operators, each with their own specialties that can complement each other for a rock-solid team comp, though your propensity for sneaking and aiming a gun are what matter most. Every round becomes a tactical, incredibly tense game of cat-and-mouse, as one team protects an objective while their opponents try to scout out danger and survive a breach.
Best for: The thinking person's online shooter, where careful planning, coordinated teamwork, and adapting on the fly are all a crucial part of completing your competitive mission. Lucas Sullivan
Click 'Next Page' to see titles 20-11 in our countdown of the best FPS games.