The best FPS games

F.E.A.R.

Release date: 2005
Developer: Monolith
Link: Amazon

F.E.A.R.’s supernatural encounters are somewhat segregated from its shootouts. One moment you’re a time-slowing, slide-kicking SWAT superman, the next corridor you’re peeing your pants because an eight-year-old ghost is lurking in your hallway. That pacing empowers and scares you, a feat for games that combine action and horror. The creepiness that permeates everything works with F.E.A.R.’s outstanding weapon design, clever enemy pathfinding, and dimly-lit offices that are simultaneously unsettling and cathartic to blow apart in slow motion.

Far Cry 4

Release date: 2014
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Link: Steam

The other games in the Far Cry series have plenty to recommend them, but Far Cry 4 is the latest (outside of Primal) and best. It properly buys into the big and silly, letting you raid bases on elephant back, hang glide, and dangle from gyrocopters. It’s the best use of the open-world formula that Ubisoft pretty much applies to all its big games. As a shooter, it’s fantastic fun, but it’s these extra tools, and how easy it is to find yourself thrown into an absurdly fun and chaotic set-piece, that make this one of the best FPS games around.

Lovely Planet

Release date: 2014
Developer: QUICKTEQUILA
Link: Steam

It sounds cute, and it's cute-looking, but Lovely Planet is a challenging shooter in which precision matters above everything else, and memorizing the maps is all but essential. You have to kill every enemy in every level and navigate through obstacle courses of potential environmental mishaps, and you have to do this across 100 levels. Thanks in part to an unconventional but pretty art style, there’s nothing else quite like Lovely Planet on PC.

Devil Daggers

Release date: 2016
Developer: Sorath
Link: Steam

The satanic first-person time attack game does nothing to explain itself, dropping you into a flat hellplane where you stave off waves of demons of increasing number and difficulty. It initially comes off as a stylish ode to ‘90s FPS games and arcade shooters like Robotron or Geometry Wars, but unlike those games, Devil Daggers isn’t intent on leaving you smiling. It’s bleak in its presentation and unforgiving in its play. One hit from a stray demon, and it’s over. Even surviving a minute is quite the testament. 

Because Devil Daggers concentrates so intently on spatial awareness and aim, it can leverage every aspect of its design in crucial ways. For example, since the first-person perspective means you can’t see what’s behind you, learning specific demon sounds and relating their position to where you hear them is a skill essential to success. A single run can take anywhere from five seconds to five minutes (if you’re a god), which is a short enough cycle to learn how specific demons behave, how firing modes affect mobility, spawn patterns—it’s the kind of game that you can see the shape of within a minute of play, but one that hides a ton of depth in its focused design. Devil Daggers may not have an explosive campaign or a cutthroat multiplayer mode or a huge arsenal of fun weapons, but it embodies what makes shooters so great in a dense package: pointing and clicking demon skulls out of existence.

Wolfenstein: The New Order

Release date: 2014
Developer: MachineGames
Link: Steam

This big, silly revival of Wolfenstein has inventive level design, a daft but entertaining story based on an alternate WWII history, and guns that feel amazing to fire. It also made dual-wielding an exciting idea for the first time in about a decade. You battle boilerplate robo-dogs, you fight Nazis on the Moon. 

The feel of the machine guns and shotguns is spot-on. The former Starbreeze leads who formed MachineGames reinterpreted Wolfenstein in a way that made it exciting and new both for the series’ existing audience and for those gamers coming in fresh. This big, chunky shooter is so much more than just a retro pastiche, offering variety and production values you rarely get to enjoy in singleplayer games these days. The sequel's looking pretty great, too.

Doom and Doom 2

Release date: 1993
Developer: id Software

Wolfenstein 3D preceded it by a year, but Doom is in the DNA of everything here. It’s the progenitor of moving, aiming, and shooting things that hate your health bar in a 3D environment. Hunting for access cards and thumbing walls with spacebar doesn’t have the appeal today that it did in 1993, but Carmack’s technical feats (like creating height differences in a 3D environment, a totally new concept at the time) and well-animated sprites help Doom hold up as an agile, colorful, essential shooter that happens to be the foundation for every other game here. 

Doom and Doom 2 have also been elevated by the modding community. More than 20 years later, they’re still going strong. You’ll find new weapons, new campaigns and total conversions that let you be everything from a pirate to a cartoon square. Even John Romero is still releasing maps.

Doom (2016)

Release date: 2016
Developer: id Software
Link: Steam

We were all surprised by Doom. In the first minute, you hop out of a sarcophagus and smash in a demon skull. Five minutes later, you’re taking out imps with a shotgun by the dozen. One hour, and you’re dashing through Hell, leaping through the air to tear out a Cacodemon’s big glassy eye. Doom wastes no time getting you into the action and establishing an identity as one of the purest shooters to land in years. It’s a significant departure from the slow, disempowering survival horror of Doom 3 and a return to the original’s cheeky brutality and signature speed. Instead of following popular FPS trends, Doom went back to what made it a classic without compromise, focusing and expanding its best qualities into new mechanics.

Combat arenas are dotted with power ups, health and ammo pickups, jump pads and teleporters—it’s like playing Doom on a Quake multiplayer map—and they’re fun, not just necessary, to traverse. With the ability to double jump, arenas transform into platforming playgrounds designed for cool moments. Hit a jump pad, point blank a Cacodemon with the Super Shotgun, switch to the chainsaw mid-air, and split a Baron in half on the way down. Brutal Kill melee attacks leverage the constant movement required to stay ahead of the demon hordes by asking you to throw yourself directly into the fray for a sliver of health. Playful secrets are strewn through each level and the story is simple enough to follow without really paying attention to it. The basic jist: close the portal to hell, kill some demons.

Doom is the perfect response to FPS bloat. It cuts the crap and gets to the point. You want to click on some demons and make them go away? You want to feel cool and skilled doing it? Doom is on the case.

Dishonored 2

Release date: 2016
Developer: Arkane Studios
Link: Steam

With two playable characters who have a ton of different abilities, Dishonored 2 is one of the most freeform first-person games around. Like the original, you can play it like a stealth game and be deeply rewarded for doing so. If you're bad at stealth, though, and you get caught sneaking across rooftops or through corridors, the first-person combat is of a much higher standard than the other immersive sims around—every interaction in Dishonored 2 is world class, which is why it gets on this list, while the most recent Deus Ex games do not. The pistol and crossbow feel fantastic. 

Half-Life 2

Release date: 2004
Developer: Valve
Link: Steam

Well over a decade later, Valve’s best single-player game is still the standard for how action and storytelling are paced in first-person. Without burdening the player with interface or resorting to anything that disconnects your eyes from Gordon’s glasses, HL2 unravels effortlessly between compelling combat and sci-fi that’s grounded in relatable characters. As a shooter its guns hold up well—the plasticy pop of the basic pistol, the hollow clink and three-two-one fuse of the spraycan-shaped grenades, scavenging for sawblades to feed the Gravity Gun.

Episode Two’s climax sits with Mass Effect 2 as one of the most exciting gameplay-driven finales ever. And at the game’s outset, we admire the way Valve introduces HL2 by building up your resentment for the game’s bad guys. You’re put face-to-face with the Combine without any way to defend yourself, and getting acquainted with their cruelty provides a surplus of motivation for the hours that follow. It isn’t ageless: the loading screens that bookend level areas are a drag, and vehicles and the Source engine still don’t get along perfectly, but otherwise Gordon’s heroics stand as PC gaming’s most essential, original, and influential single-player shooter.

The Signal From Tölva

Release date: 2017
Developer: Big Robot
Link: Steam

This deliberately slow-paced and engaging FPS has shades of Stalker, with a gorgeous sci-fi open world that's based on concept illustrations by former Rockstar artist Ian McQue. You hijack a surveyor drone, investigating the signal in the title, and fend off other robot factions as you explore the planet's surface.

Later in the game you get to command other surveyors, too, who can help you in combat. The unusual and memorable setting, combined with great sounding and feeling guns, makes this one of the more notable recent cult hits on Steam.

On the next page, our favorite co-op FPS games...