Trying to round up the best FPS games of all time is hard.
The first-person shooter genre is one of the most influential in gaming. These games have defined generations from landmark franchises like DOOM and Quake to modern-day behemoths Call of Duty and Halo.
Still, we love a challenge. After venturing onto the battlefield, we’re back to report with our list of the best FPS games we believe everyone should play at least once. As a bonus, we’re going to include some of the best free FPS games; because it doesn’t matter that some of these titles are free to play. They’re better than the other games on this list in certain cases!
As a disclaimer, this list is ranked in no particular order. Also, only one game per franchise will appear on the list. Otherwise, we might be here all day. Let’s begin!
DOOM: Still One Of The Best FPS Games
The granddaddy of them all is also one of the best FPS games of all time. Originally released in 1993, DOOM helped revolutionize not just the FPS genre but all gaming.
Bethesda has recently done well with the franchise in 2016’s DOOM and its sequel, DOOM Eternal. As great as those titles are, DOOM can go toe to toe with them even 30 years later.
An absolutely killer soundtrack, great level design, and fast-paced action deliver a memorable experience. DOOM was great when I first played it in the late 90s. It’s still great when I play it today. Whether on my computer, Switch, Game Boy, Peloton, or virtually any other device, DOOM is still worth your time in 2022.
Quake 3 Arena: A Classic FPS Game Made Even Better!
Like DOOM, the Quake franchise was highly influential for the FPS genre. While some may argue that Quake or Quake II is the series’ highmark, Quake 3 Arena defines what it means to be an arena-based competitive shooter.
All other multiplayer FPS games draw inspiration from Quake 3 Arena. There isn’t much in gimmicks or gameplay hooks; it’s a pure deathmatch experience, making it one of the best FPS games of all time.
Others on this list have evolved with the times to incorporate systems and mechanics. At their core, they follow the guidelines laid out from Quake 3 Arena to deliver satisfying gameplay.
Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory
One of the best free FPS games of all time rightfully earns its spot amongst the best FPS games ever.
Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory didn’t come with gimmicks or bait. There were no pay-to-win options. The scrapped Return to Castle Wolfenstein expansion had its multiplayer released as freeware. Those who gave it a shot were rewarded with one of the greatest class-based team shooters of all time.
A devoted following kept content coming with various gameplay and map mods, resulting in a healthy player base. With the game recently seeing a Steam release, it’s a good time to give it a shot.
Halo: Combat Evolved
Halo didn’t just launch a franchise. It launched the entire Xbox brand.
It arrived on the scene bursting through the door and never looking back. Bungie and Microsoft crafted one of the greatest games of all time. A genre-defining experience, Halo delivers on all fronts. The campaign provides memorable action and infinite replayability with its cooperative mode.
Characters like Master Chief are worth remembering. Halo: Combat Evolved is an experience that you’ll never forget.
Last but not least is the competitive multiplayer, helping to shape the future of multiplayer gaming. Halo provides the definitive FPS multiplayer experience without the advantage of online gaming. While playing games online is easier than ever, nothing has come close to Halo LAN parties.
The decision to move the Metroid franchise to a first-person camera was controversial. Retro Studios’ gamble paid off as Metroid Prime is not just one of the best GameCube games ever but also one of the best FPS games of all time.
While an unconventional FPS compared to others on this list, it still belongs in the genre. While an adventure and exploration game at heart, Metroid Prime still delivers on the action.
Moving from the side-scrolling perspective to first-person enhances that exploration and adventure. The game tasks players with being more aware and more alert to their environment and surroundings. Combine that with the fantastic shoot-outs, and you have an all-time classic. The recent Nintendo Switch remaster only enforces this.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
I know it’s hard to believe that there used to be a time when Call of Duty would continually one-up itself. Trust me, though, that time was the mid to late 2000s.
A sequel to 2007’s critically acclaimed Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Modern Warfare 2 made what was already one of the best FPS games of all time even better. An already perfected multiplayer experience was made even better, but the true star of Modern Warfare 2 is the campaign.
An over-the-top narrative sets the stage for the best characters and level design the franchise has ever seen. The best part, though, is the lack of infinitely respawning enemies or bullets pouring out of random buildings. Modern Warfare 2’s campaign is populated with living, breathing environments inhabited by actual people, not nameless enemies. It’s a breath of fresh air that feels out of place with recent entries in the franchise.
One of the more unique entries on the list, Superhot is still easily one of the best FPS games.
The indie title has one simple gimmick: time only moves when your character does. This allows for insane moves straight of The Matrix. You, just like Neo, can punch an enemy, grab their gun out of mid-air, empty your clip into enemies, and then throw the gun at someone else to hinder them. All in the span of just one or two seconds of real-time action!
Superhot lets you live out all of your greatest action movie desires. It’s an experience you’ll never forget. That goes tenfold if you play the game in VR. Virtual Reality is made for games like Superhot.
Rainbow Six: Siege
Few games have had the staying power of Rainbow Six: Siege.
Released in 2015, seven years after Rainbow Six: Vegas and its sequel, Vegas 2, helped put the franchise back on the map, Siege helps redefine the tactical FPS genre. Not only is it an example of a successful “game as a service,” but easily one of the best FPS games of all time.
Ubisoft has constantly supported Siege post-launch with content updates and a thriving eSports scene. After its launch, they made a promise to keep the game fully and delivered. Just look at the list of DLC the game has seen across six years!
Rainbow Six: Siege doesn’t just provide tense and satisfying tactical combat but is a shining example of how to employ the “games as a service” model successfully. Continued updates have helped the core gameplay loop remain fresh and enjoyable.
Blizzard’s first new IP in years is Overwatch, a team-based tactical ability-oriented shooter. Combining elements of various genres and well-known franchises, it became one of the best FPS games of all time.
Upon its release, Overwatch was an immediate success. Its 6v6 objective-based gameplay meshed well with MOBA-inspired heroes, complete with various abilities. It meshes well with the game’s personality, which oozes from the screen. The characters and environment feel alive and vibrant, taking on their own lives alongside the gameplay.
The objectives themselves aren’t revolutionary, but they didn’t need to be either. The true innovation Overwatch provides is delivering engrossing gameplay despite your role. It’s never been this much fun playing a healer in an FPS; Overwatch may have stumbled from its peak, but you can’t deny how great the game was then. Even today, it’s still a good time.
Valorant: A Free FPS Game And Instant Classic!
Without Overwatch, there would be no Valorant. If Overwatch is the MOBA version of an objective-based shooter, then Valorant is the MOBA version of Counterstrike specifically.
An instant hit since its release, Valorant is not just the best free FPS game on the market currently but also one greatest of all time.
Focusing the hero-based shooter on more tactical gameplay over objectives pays off in spades. Each match is tense and exciting. Each match is also a Best of 25 which means you’ll be playing a lot more than you may realize. As nice as quick matches can be in games like Counterstrike or Gears of War, sometimes it feels like you’re in a lobby more than the actual match.
Apex Legends: Another Free FPS Game And Smash Hit!
When it was released out of nowhere in 2019, Apex Legends quickly cemented itself in the Battle Royale genre as one of the best free FPS games of all time. Other battle royales lacked the fast-paced action developer Respawn Entertainment is known for.
The decision to focus on unique heroes with abilities pays off just like it does in Valorant and Overwatch. The result is a unique take on the genre that keeps things constantly fresh and innovative.
Speaking of innovation, the ping system is a very welcome addition to help assist with nonverbal communication.
Finally, the decision to keep every match filled with three-player squads helps ease in newer players that may otherwise be on their own. Having everyone in a group is a wonderful addition that helps remove many of the “feel bad” moments that sometimes exist when you’re playing a Battle Royale alone.
Given all of this, it’s easy to call Apex Legends one of the best FPS games of all time.
When Bungie moved on from the Halo franchise, they delivered Destiny, a live service MMOFPS. Destiny was a great game that often got in its own way, featuring incredibly tight gameplay and top-notch level and encounter design.
With the sequel, Destiny 2 establishes itself as one of the best FPS games on the market. While it may not always have the market share of other genre behemoths, Destiny 2 has an incredibly devoted following, and for good reasons.
That same gameplay, level, and encounter design that made the original so good are better than ever. Improvements to the game’s systems, entertaining narrative, and continuous post-launch support help make the game better than ever.
While DOOM and Quake may have all the headlines for being some of the most well-known original FPS games, the conversation isn’t complete without Unreal Tournament.
Released in 1999, it helped put Epic Games on the map. Not only is it one of the best FPS games, but also one of the greatest games ever made.
At the time of its release, the game was a revolutionary title, complete with graphics, level design, gameplay, and experiences never thought possible. It took gamers to a world never thought possible, and the FPS genre and gaming industry have never looked back.
What helps make Unreal Tournament the all-time classic is the core gameplay loop being fundamentally sound. If you’re playing stock multiplayer modes or customizing each game to your heart’s desire, you’re going to have a great time.
Deus Ex: An FPS Game Offering Innovations Still Used Today
When it was released in 2000, Deus Ex started out as a sleeper hit. The FPS/RPG delivers an (at the time) innovative narrative that puts emphasis on player choice. The option for multiplayer narrative paths has become an industry standard today for the genre.
As time has gone on, fans have helped make Deus Ex one of the best FPS games of all time.
Deus Ex proves that even after the onslaught of revolutionary releases in the 90s, the genre can keep growing and pushing forward. What it lacks in visual prowess, it more than makes up for it in style, atmosphere, and mood. Deus Ex might not draw you on at first, but as you venture and explore more, you can’t help but become hooked.
Left 4 Dead: One Of The Best FPS Games For Cooperative Play
While the current trend in team-based shooters is to create heroes with unique abilities, Left 4 Dead instead focuses on four ordinary people trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. As a result, the core mechanics perfectly blend survival horror and team-based shooting. The result is one best FPS games for cooperative play.
The campaigns in Left 4 Dead are admittedly lacking; there are only four, but the game still manages to keep things fresh. The enemy AI, known as The Director, helps create a dynamic experience. This keeps things fresh for players that may have maps memorized inside and out; even though you swear certain parts of a map were safe the last 15-20 times you played it, there’s no guarantee that remains true.
Left 4 Dead is still one of the best co-op shooters available today, if not the best. Others, including its sequel, have tried to expand the gameplay foundation and emulate success, but they all have been unable to capture the original’s magic.
Crysis became best known for being the gorgeous game very few computers could run at full power on its release.
As its legacy has grown, it’s become less known for that and more for being a hero-based shooter that lets you do virtually anything your heart desires.
The game’s story is best taking a back seat to the gameplay. The Nanosuit abilities make players feel like an unstoppable force ready to defeat immovable objects. Combined with some weapon modifications that allow for beyond satisfying results (laser sight shotgun sniping people never gets old).
Is Crysis perfect? No, far from it, but it’s still one heck of a time and one of the best FPS games ever made.
Call of Duty: Warzone
Warzone just may be the best free FPS game on the market and the best Battle Royale. It blends the twitch-based gameplay Call of Duty has become known for with the tension found in survival shooters.
It may not do much to put a new spin on gameplay, but it more than makes up for it with level design. Every map we’ve seen with Warzone is a home run, filled with many hotspots for firefights and options to explore. Things are almost too daunting at first, but the gameplay keeps egging the player on.
The more you put into Warzone, the more you’ll discover and improve. It’s a game that can appeal to those that aren’t necessarily fans of the genre. Call of Duty may have gotten a bit stale over the years, but the gameplay remains fundamentally sound, enjoyable, and even accessible. That combination helps make Warzone worth playing.
Far Cry 3
When Far Cry 3 was released in 2012, the franchise was at a crossroads. The original release was a solid FPS experience, whereas the sequel was an ambitious title that didn’t always deliver.
With the franchise’s next game, Ubisoft took the criticism to heart and released one of the best FPS on the market.
Far Cry 3 delivers where it counts most. Creating the over-the-top villain Vaas Montenegro was an accomplishment, but the true highlight is the Rook Islands themselves. The world and environment are as important of a character as Vaas himself. This helps make the gameplay work, combining tactical shooting with survival elements to deliver memorable experiences.
It’s no secret why each subsequent Far Cry release has followed in Far Cry 3’s footsteps. The formula worked wonders then, and it still works wonders a decade later.
Sometimes the sequel is better than the original. If there is any game on this list to defy the sequel trope, it’s Borderlands 2.
Bigger and better over the original in virtually every way, Borderlands 2 expands in every possible way. The most noticeable change is the environment. No longer are players traversing an endless desert. The result is more varied biomes that keep things fresh and constantly introduce new challenges.
Gameplay and weapons are still an absolute delight, pairing well with the looter-shooter mechanics. Over-the-top writing, dialogue, and style continue to mesh well with the game’s design and characters. There’s a reason why the Borderlands franchise always sticks with the tried and true formula: they work.
Team Fortress 2
The original Team Fortress started as a Quake mod. The follow-up, Team Fortress 2, was originally released in Valve’s The Orange Box package and is one of the best FPS games of all time.
It eventually saw a standalone release and moved to a free-to-play model in 2011. It is still one of the best free FPS games ever made.
Everything about Team Fortress 2 just works: the characters, level design, art direction, gameplay, environments, style, substance, everything. Every class has a distinct playstyle and a personality to match it as well.
Playing Team Fortress 2 wasn’t just about playing a good game. It was about having a great time. It arguably stands the test of time today, and if Valve can handle the bot problems, then the future of TF2 is looking bright.
GoldenEye 007: The Best FPS Game For N64 And An Iconic Classic
Before Halo revolutionized the console FPS, there was Goldeneye.
Released for the Nintendo 64 in 1997, GoldenEye 007 firmly established itself as one of the best FPS games ever released. The game’s single-player campaign follows the movie’s narrative well.
Level and environment design are at the top of their game, as are character designs. The game’s graphics have obviously not aged well, but at the time, they were impressive. You knew that was James Bond. You knew that was Boris Grishenko.
Even the generic enemies had a distinct appearance (most of the time)!
Where GoldenEye 007 truly shines is multiplayer. The level design is just as good as the campaign, but the weapon design is even better. The impressive arsenal at your disposal leads to a variety of match types. Games featuring tactical mines play out far differently than power weapons.
GoldenEye’s multiplayer felt ahead of its time. It doesn’t control well, especially in today’s age, but it’s still an absolute gem.
For some, Perfect Dark is even better than GoldenEye 007. Both games are developed by Rare, which 2000’s Perfect Dark being a spiritual successor to GoldenEye.
A game that pushed the Nintendo 64 to its limits, Perfect Dark delivers an incredibly satisfying sci-fi tactical shooter experience. The multiplayer benefits from the advanced weaponry from the Perfect Dark universe. The game’s single-player is just as good, too.
The highlight of Perfect Dark is the weapons and tools at the player’s disposal. It feels like a legitimately infinite amount of possibilities are available to utilize. Rare’s creativity is on point throughout the game. From level design, multiplayer modes, weapons, enemy AI, and more, Perfect Dark is the pinnacle of achievement from the developer.
Many view the original Titanfall as an enjoyable but limited experience. It fell into the trap of a “launch window,” showcasing what was possible with the Xbox One console and Titanfall franchise but was lacking in many areas.
Titanfall 2 addressed all of the original’s criticisms in spades. The result is a natural growth of what made the original an enjoyable game, expanding in virtually every possible way. The existence of a full-fledged single-player experience alone is an improvement. Respawn delivers beyond the bare minimum, providing an enjoyable and entertaining narrative.
Multiplayer is better than ever, thanks to fantastic multiplayer arenas filled with options for pilots and plenty of room for Titans to wreak havoc.
The Titanfall franchise may be on the backburner currently, but Titanfall 2 proves it is capable of delivering one of the best FPS games ever made.
There was virtually no way BioShock could live up to its lofty expectations.
Billed as a spiritual successor to the beloved System Shock 2, Ken Levine and Irrational Games made an unforgettable experience in BioShock.
The underwater world of Rapture is mesmerizing in its beauty and mystery. Non-linear exploration awaits the dark corners of the dystopian ruins of Rapture.
Gameplay-wise, BioShock mixes elements from a wide variety of genres: action, RPG, survival, stealth, and shooter. Strengths from each genre are all on display here. The ability to take down the imposing Big Daddies in various ways is an absolute delight.
BioShock’s highlight is the story, told mostly through audio recordings. They paint the picture of everything Rapture was meant to be and everything that went wrong. Twists and turns await the player as they dig deeper to uncover the truth of what happened and why he’s even in Rapture at all.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
I toyed long and hard between Biohazard and Village as the Resident Evil selection. What tipped the scales in Biohazard’s favor was an overall more even experience.
After the disastrous Resident Evil 6, Capcom took the franchise back to its survival horror roots. There was, however, one key exception: the game would not be first person. The result is one of the greatest FPS games of all time.
Biohazard knows when to lean in on the action and when to embrace survival horror. It delivers moment after moment of tense horror while still giving the player room to breathe and recover.
Is it more survival horror than a shooter? Sure, but it’s still a brilliant game and one of the best overall releases of the past few years.
The least “shooter” game on this list, Portal is still one of the best FPS games of all time.
Puzzles await the player as you navigate the labs of Aperture Science. The game itself is satisfyingly brief. It doesn’t overstay its welcome but also leaves you wanting more. The story, mostly told by the AI GLaDOS, also follows this mantra.
You’re told the right amount of information and context through the game’s dialogue. Not too much to where you’re being hit over the head with its themes and meaning, but it also doesn’t overly hold back to leave you in the dark.
Portal stands the test of time today as one of the greatest games ever made. Not bad for a throw-in title alongside Team Fortress 2, which we already talked about, and some other game within The Orange Box.
Can we just say what we’re all thinking? Valve makes not only some of the best FPS games of all time but also the best games ever made. This is the fourth (!) entry from Valve on this list, and that “some other game” alluded to earlier.
Half-Life moved the entire FPS genre forward with the same innovation and growth as DOOM. It demonstrates just what an FPS game can do, helping pave the way for other games on this list, such as Portal, BioShock, and Metroid Prime.
Valve showcases that the FPS genre doesn’t just have to be about shooting many things. It can deliver impactful stories, properly develop characters, and deliver a deep and meaningful experience.
As great and innovative as Half-Life is, you could argue that its greatest contribution didn’t come from the actual game; it came from a mod.
Originally released as a Half-Life mod in 2000, Counter-Strike has become one of the, if not the definitive, best FPS games of all time. It has seen several releases throughout the years, such as Counter-Strike 1.6, Source, and Global Offensive. Yet the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Counter-Strike’s core gameplay has not changed for the better part of two decades. Valve is following the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra to great success; Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is one of the most popular multiplayer games on Steam. It’s also one of the biggest eSports titles today.
The concept behind Counter-Strike is simple: two opposing teams battle on a variety of maps in objective-based gameplay. You’ll remain on the sidelines until the next map if you die on the battlefield. It’s a simple system that does wonders, given the tactical nature of the game. The more you put in, the more you’ll get out of it.
That concludes our list of the best first-person shooter games What video game did we miss? Would you have picked a different franchise representation? Maybe you prefer Halo 2 over the original. Perhaps the original Borderlands is more of your thing.
And remember, we’re fully aware that we sometimes miss a game that a bunch of our readers love so feel free to tell us why your favorite belongs on our list and we may add it with an update.
Let us know in the comments below, and keep the conversation going!
One CommentLeave a Reply
I can’t believe you forgot Duke Nukem 3D