Unlike a first-person shooter, the best third-person shooters offer a camera angle that lets you see the action around you. Control-wise, they feel more apt to platforming, exploration, and agility. The result is an entirely different experience for the shooter genre.
Developers are able to enable things like cover mechanics, hidden rooms waiting to be discovered, or platforming sections to keep things fresh between firefights. As a result, the third-person shooter genre offers a wider variety of gameplay experiences.
It’s no longer just about running and gunning; there’s more strategy involved. To celebrate, we’re going to go over the best third-person shooters ever made. At times, we’ll be a little loose with the “shooter” moniker because some games on the list are just that good. We’ll also be limited to only one game a franchise, otherwise, we may be here all day.
We’re almost certain we’ve missed some of your favorites, so be sure to sound off in the comments section, Boss Level Gamer has a policy of adding new games to our published lists if enough people rage comment at us.
Mass Effect 2
The best BioWare game makes its mark as one of the best third-person shooters ever made.
As great as the original Mass Effect is, there are still some rough edges. Combat in particular is hit or miss. With the sequel, BioWare focused more on combat and control. The result is a game that plays infinitely better than its predecessor. While the combat RPG elements took a bit of a back seat, narrative choice and morality are still integral to the experience.
Mass Effect 2 is the perfect blend of cover-based shooting and character-driven gameplay and storytelling. You keep playing because you want to uncover more of the story. The gameplay loop helps make replaying for different narrative choices enjoyable and fresh.
It’s just one heck of a game.
Gears of War Is Not Just an All-Time Best Third-Person Shooter, but It Helped Launch the Subgenre of Cover Shooters
Gears of War arguably kickstarted the cover shooter trend and for good reason. It was the first true must-have title for Xbox 360. Delivering an (at the time) unique gameplay experience and intense action, it felt like the future of gaming was here.
The story for Gears of War lends perfectly to the gameplay mechanics and structure. The humans of Sera are overwhelmed by the native creatures known as the Locust. In a desperate move, humanity wipes out most of their cities to control the Locust Horde. As a result, players traverse through the ruins of Sera as they fight off the Locust.
As you can imagine, ruined cities offer plenty of cover. When dealing with the (at times) endless onslaught of the Locust, this cover-based mechanic works well to emphasize the impact of the enemy assault. The result is gameplay that, while not breaking any new ground, provides a polished and perfected experience. Gears of War’s combat is incredibly satisfying, make it one of the best third-person shooters ever made.
Spec Ops: The Line Rightfully Earns Its Cult Following as One of the Best Third-Person Shooters
Never judge a book by its cover.
Following the release of Gears of War, cover-based shooters were all the rage. Even Mass Effect was a cover-based shooter! Most of these games, however, were not Mass Effect. They were bland and forgettable entries that are lost to time.
On its surface, Spec Ops: The Line is one of those games. In reality, it’s a deep, harrowing tale about the despair and horrors of war. Cliches and tropes existed for a reason within its gameplay and story, highlighting how ludicrous they really are.
Spec Ops: The Line is a game that purposely makes you uncomfortable. It makes Modern Warfare 2’s “No Russian” look tame and shallow. The moments where players feel uneasy or uncomfortable are done with purpose and intent. Its emphasis on delivering an uncompromising message and experience cement Spec Ops: The Line as one of the best third-person shooters of all time.
Fortnite is not just one of the best third-person shooters on the market, but also a global phenomenon
It would be impossible to talk about the best third-person shooters ever developed without discussing Fortnite. I’m not quite sure where to even begin.
Fortnite has become a cultural phenomenon. Athletes and celebrities constantly stream the game. Sports superstars use Fortnite dances as in-game celebrations. How did it get to that status? By delivering unparalleled gameplay as a free-to-play title.
The combination of Battle Royale and building found within Fortnite leads to creative and exciting firefights that often feel like they’re taken directly from a Looney Tunes episode. The control scheme, which is incredibly fluid, only enhances this by distancing itself from other Battle Royales like PUBG.
You’re often encouraged to venture out, explore, and discover in Fortnite. The result is a game that changed gaming as we know it.
Resident Evil 4
The Resident Evil franchise didn’t necessarily need a gigantic overhaul with Resident Evil 4. The first three entries in the series are great games. What they aren’t, though, is Resident Evil 4.
Never mind being one of the best third-person shooter games of all time. Resident Evil 4 is one of the greatest games ever made, period.
The fixed over-the-shoulder camera allows for more freedom in controlling Leon S. Kennedy. Still, the inability to move while shooting pays homage to the game’s survival horror roots. The combination of survival and action delivers on all fronts. The jump scares were gone, but that doesn’t mean we’re in the clear. Sometimes, a mass of enemies accompanied by ominous music is more than enough to frighten you.
Grand Theft Auto V
Somehow it’s almost been a full decade since we last saw a Grand Theft Auto release. While the next entry in the franchise is currently under development, it’ll have to find a way to exceed the expectations set upon it from Grand Theft Auto V.
The best in the franchise and one of the best third-person shooters of all time, GTA V is a massive achievement in the world of gaming. Incorporation of the engaging narrative of three characters, each with enough playable content to fill their own game, is a lot easier said than done. Rockstar Games delivers here, creating a fully fleshed Los Santos that is worth exploring.
A key addition to the franchise in GTA V is heists. They are some of the most fun ever had in Grand Theft Auto. They’re tense, action-packed, and ripped straight from a blockbuster action movie.
Grand Theft Auto V is the kind of game you don’t mind getting lost in. It remains enjoyable no matter how often you play it.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Is Red Dead Redemption 2 just a western version of Grand Theft Auto? Well, if it really is, what’s wrong with that? Like GTA, the Red Dead franchise has established itself among the best third-person shooters ever made.
Red Dead reaches a higher pinnacle than GTA V, delivering a beautiful and inviting world filled with endless characters. It immerses you directly into the old west, entertaining you every step of the way.
The game is more than just its narrative and environmental design. Red Dead Redemption 2 features some of the best gameplay Rockstar has ever offered. Exploring and shooting your way through the fictionalized west is a dream. This combination of gameplay and storytelling helps make Red Dead Redemption 2 a game that’s a joy to play on your first or tenth playthrough.
There’s a reason why Alan Wake’s sequel has so much excitement around it. While it not may be a “traditional” shooter, it’s still one of the best third-person shooters.
The highlight is inspired storytelling that pays homage to horror and surreal genre greats like Twilight Zone and Twin Peaks. The stories within the story draw you in, encouraging you to move forward and explore everything Bright Falls has to offer.
Gameplay wise, Alan Wake delivers an incredible survival horror experience. It blends together the right amount of realistic and supernatural elements together. Alan Wake is a fantastic game and it’s great to see the franchise continue to grow.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Rebooting the Tomb Raider franchise in 2013 gave Lara Croft a much-needed breath of fresh air. The sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider, is one of the best in its class.
Like the previous game on the list, we’re being somewhat loose with “shooter,” but RIse of the Tomb Raider is just that good.
Crystal Dynamics updated its original title in all the right ways. The further emphasis on puzzles, exploration, and tombs delivered a sequel that ranks among the best games in 2015. Diving deeper into the origins of Lara Croft delivers an incredible experience. If 2013’s Tomb Raider proved that the franchise can still exist today, Rise of the Tomb Raider demonstrates the series deserves to be mentioned as the greatest in modern gaming.
Like Tomb Raider, the Hitman franchise has seen a massively successful revitalization. It culminates in Hitman 3, an amusement park of stealth action.
The latest adventure of Agent 47 is the right amount of tactical and absurd. One minute you’re performing a by-the-books stealth mission to perfection. The next minute, you’re eliminating your assassination targets in the most creative way imaginable.
Hitman 3 hones in on what makes these types of games fun. There isn’t an unlimited amount of freedom, but instead just enough to compliment the structure of each mission and scenario. From the brilliant level design to the enjoyable gameplay loop, Hitman 3 is easily one of the best third-person shooters ever made.
Socom Ii U.S. Navy Seals
Many younger gamers don’t realize how good the SOCOM franchise was back on the PlayStation 2. While games like Halo were all the FPS rage, SOCOM II U.S. Navy Seals was the game for the tactical shooter genre. The franchise may be a distant memory for some but it’s still a very enjoyable experience.
SOCOM II’s single-player delivers a team-based shooter experience despite being the only person in charge of your squad. Each of the missions requires patience and strategy to successfully completed. The multiplayer side of things featured 4v4 tactical action with a variety of game modes and customization options.
What is it about SOCOM II that works so well? It takes the established formula of its predecessor and expands on it in every possible way. This is the definitive tactical shooter of its generation.
Dead Space is a frightening horror game that doubles as one of the best third-person shooters of all time. Others on this list toe the line between shooter/action and survival horror. Dead Space, on the other hand, decides that it’s just going to fulfill both of those roles extraordinarily well.
The saga of Isaac Clarke is terrifying. The constant tension and uneasiness a player feels is on point, doubled down by the fact that it’s still an incredibly competent shooter. Some horror games fall back on the fact that the hero isn’t well versed in weaponry. Dead Space instead offers a wide variety of weapons at your disposal.
You have plenty of firepower available, but the moodiness, audio design, and enemies all still manage to scare your pants off. It’s a testament to how good this game truly is.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Technically, Metal Gear Solid V is indeed one of the best third-person shooter games ever made. It’s more than that, though; it’s one of the best games ever created and an open-world sandbox of our dreams.
As the (current) swan song for the franchise and Hideo Kojima, Phantom Pain is pretty close to perfection. Its story is par for the course in Metal Gear Solid: absolutely insane and over the top. The gameplay, on the other hand, is a dream come true.
The game’s description of open-world stealth is an understatement. You are able to do just about anything your heart desires. Like Hitman 3, the only limits are your imagination. The ability to take things seriously or spend your playthrough goofing around non-stop adds infinite replayability.
Doubling as both a beautiful demonstration of what’s possible with ray tracing and one of the best third-person shooters ever made, Control is another home run from Remedy Entertainment.
The nonlinear progress helps Control stand out not just from Remedy’s other titles, but the genre as a whole. Its Metroidvania approach to gameplay is a breath of fresh air. Exploring and traversing through the Old House is a sci-fi-inspired dream. Remedy loves to draw inspiration and pay homage to the genres of its games and Control is no exception.
Perhaps the best part of the game is how powerful you not just become, but also feel. The more abilities you acquire, the more you have at your disposal. Control isn’t shy about embracing this fact, resulting in a satisfying variety of skills for the player to utilize.
While 2022 has given rise to more and more single-player adventures and new IPs, Control’s release in 2019 came at a time when publishers didn’t necessarily embrace anything that could have been milked into a franchise. Its existence was, and still is, a breath of fresh air that proves new IPs can still thrive in gaming.
Guardians of the Galaxy Overcame Lukewarm Original Impressions to Deliver One of the Best Third-Person Shooters of the New Console Generation
Despite a pretty rough first impression, Guardians of the Galaxy quickly became one of the best third-person shooters of all time. Even though the game was just released within the past year, its placement is still warranted due to the strength of its gameplay and storytelling.
The highlight here is the constant interaction between characters. Eidos-Montreal absolutely nailed the personalities and traits of every member of the Guardians. It takes a lot for banter in a game to not get old really fast, but Guardians of the Galaxy is able to do just that.
The strong usage of the characters helps make the game feel more alive. There’s a bigger investment in the story because of it. You care about everyone and their plights. You cheer their victories and you console them in defeat.
When it comes to gameplay, the team-based shooter style of combat is a perfect hit. The cast plays off everyone perfectly, resulting in one heck of a good time.
Max Payne 3
The first two Max Payne titles are masterpieces. Max Payne 3 ups the ante and shows what action games can be capable of. It’s 100% one of the best third-person shooters we’ve ever played.
Developed by Rockstar Games and not Remedy, Max Payne 3 brings the franchise in the modern world of gaming. Gorgeous graphics, gripping storytelling, and near-perfect gunplay all help deliver a memorable experience.
Max Payne 3 knows when to put the foot on the gas and deliver action sequences. It also knows when to take the foot off and let things breathe. This juxtaposition between action and narrative work so well because of their individual strengths.
The gunplay alone is enough to carry most games in their own right. The same is said for Max Payne 3’s characters and overall story. Being able to take another hard look at the character of Max Payne reminds us why this franchise is so beloved.
Let’s just not talk about the Max Payne movie.
Returnal and Its Roguelike Structure Help Establish It as One of the Best Third-Person Shooters You Can Play Today
The PS5 roguelike from Housemarque was one of the console’s best games of 2021. Returnal delivers intense action and surreal moments. It’s easily one of the best third-person shooters you can play right now.
Much has been made regarding the games’ roguelike nature, specifically the lack of save features. Yet these design choices fit not just into the game’s genre, but also its messaging. The lack of any way to escape the loop in Returnal allows players to relate more to its protagonist, Selene Vassos.
Without diving into spoilers, game design, and storytelling mirror each other perfectly. You relate to Selene’s struggles and trauma because you as a player are going through the same experience. It’s a subtle touch that helps a great game stand out even more than it already did.
Star Wars: Battlefront Ii (2005)
The rebooted Battlefront franchise has had its fair share of stumbles. The originals, on the other hand, always delivered satisfying Star Wars combat. 2005’s Star Wars: Battlefront II is not just one of the best third-person shooters developed but also one of the best Star Wars games ever made.
2005’s Battlefront II improved on the original in every possible way. The expansion of an entertaining single-player campaign was a very welcome addition.
Introducing hero classes to Battlefront helps take the game to a new level. Players no longer had to settle for watching iconic Star Wars characters fight on the battlefield; they could now play as them directly.
It’s the addition of hero classes, combined with some refinement in controls and improved gameplay from the original, that help make Battlefront II a beloved classic.
The Splatoon franchise has never been a traditional shooter. Instead of direct combat, the name of the game is a turf war. This twist on the genre has resulted in Splatoon 2.
The sequel is a massive improvement over the original. Nintendo refined and perfected nearly everything about the online multiplayer experience. The in-game action remains fast and furious. Map and level design are some of the best in the genre.
It may not be your typical style of shooter, but it’s carved its place into the genre anyway. Splatoon 2 is a unique experience compared to its contemporaries. Things are a little more laid back, relaxed, and non-sensical, all of which lead to an enjoyable gameplay experience.
Metal Arms: Glitch in the System
This underrated gem has a cult following for a reason: it’s a damn good game that deserves a place among the best third-person shooters ever made.
Everything about Metal Arms screams fun. Its story is surprisingly enjoyable, setting the stage for a fantastic single-player campaign.
It’s multiplayer that gets the most mileage here, offering fantastic combat with a wide variety of over-the-top weapons. The mix of ground and vehicular combat is an absolute delight, creating memorable moments for each and every match.
Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal Proves the Franchise Is Among the Best Third-Person Shooters You Can Play Today
Honestly, just about Ratchet and Clank came could make a list of best third-person shooters ever made. The franchise pick here is Up Your Arsenal, the third entry in the series released in 2004 for the PlayStation 2.
As the franchise has moved forward, the detail and variety of locations, weapons, and characters continue to impress. In terms of core gameplay and fundamentals, Up Your Arsenal remains the pinnacle of the Ratchet and Clank franchise.
Developer Insomniac Games’ refinement of the franchise pays off with Up Your Arsenal. The formula feels perfected, allowing developers to focus on the creative and unique aspects of the franchise. Up Your Arsenal is the debut of popular villain Dr. Nefarious. Overall, it’s a turning point for the franchise that helped establish Ratchet and Clank as a premiere PlayStation franchise.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Among Thieves is the best Uncharted game. It focuses on what works in the original while expanding in every possible way.
The best way to describe Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is that it’s a cinematic experience. Setpieces and action sequences are beautifully choreographed works of art that work perfectly with the gameplay. Its story still ranks among the best in gaming today even thirteen years after release.
What truly helps Uncharted 2 stand above its peers is that even though later releases tried to go bigger, they still fall short of the accomplishments of Among Thieves. The jaw-dropping plane sequence of Uncharted 3 and the satisfying conclusion of Uncharted 4 are all great, but they pale in comparison to Uncharted 2’s perfection.
Naughty Dog understood the assignment when it came to Uncharted 2. They captured the look and feel of not just Nathan Drake’s hunt for treasure, but the same feel viewers had many years ago when they first experienced watching the Indiana Jones movies. It’s a magical feeling you’ll never forget.
The Last of Us Part II: A Third-Person Shooter That Has Aged Incredibly Well
The original Last of Us game redefined what was possible in the video game medium. It was an unforgiving, relentless onslaught of a game that shook the player to their core. The sequel isn’t afraid to raise the stakes even higher. The Last of Us Part II is undoubtedly one of the best third-person shooters of all time and a game that will age exceptionally well.
Naughty Dog pushes everything to its limits with The Last of Us Part II. The graphics and visuals are all a work of art. They squeeze every ounce of power possible from the PlayStation 4. The gameplay has evolved and been refined to an immersive experience with enjoyable and satisfying stealth-action combat.
What truly pushes The Last of Us Part II over the top is the story and characters. Naughty Dog’s ability to get the player to resonate with every character is astounding and truly impressive. The story and playable characters are all layered with purpose and intent. Narrative decisions don’t just build up to something, they have satisfying pay-offs as well.
The Last of Us Part II is a work of art that leaves us wanting more from not just this particular franchise, but also Naughty Dog as well.