A camera looks down the barrel of a shotgun, a plasma rifle, a many-barrelled chaingun. It surveys an alien landscape, a chemical weapons facility, the canyons of Hell. There is a bang, a zap, a whoosh, and in some distant digital world, one fewer Nazi, demon, or space dragon draws breath. There probably isn’t a more immediate way to show someone you’re playing a video game than to take a single frame from a first-person shooter. Unlike red-hatted plumbers and blue mutant hedgehogs, it’s the genre that’s iconic.
First-person shooters have been around for ages: Doom was 1993, Wolfenstein 3D was 1992, heck, Maze War was 1973. Imagine going back in time and showing Hall, Carmack, and Romero, or indeed Colley, Thompson, and Palmer a game like Titanfall 2, Destiny 2, or Halo Infinite, while they were working on the projects that made their names. The genre has come on leaps and bounds in the last 30 years, let alone 50, which means there are loads of contenders for the best FPS games of all time. So we put that question to you, the Just About Video Games community, to help us curate our definitive list of the best FPS games. You came back with four games from different subsections of the genre. So without further ado, here are the best FPS games of all time, as decided by Just About Video Games.
@tyrannosaur starts us off right with an absolute classic: GoldenEye 007. Released in 1997 for the Nintendo 64, it wasn’t the first shooter on a console, but it was the first that worked. Thanks to the N64 controller’s central thumbstick - the first of its kind on a console controller - aiming and shooting in first person was viable. Then as now, PC gaming wasn’t for everyone, and so GoldenEye introduced the thrills of the FPS to a whole generation of fans, any of whom will regale you with fond memories of frantic split-screen action on their sofas (with Oddjob banned, of course). Halo was to follow in the next console generation, and console gamers have never looked back. Philip explains why he thinks it deserves to be remembered as one of the best FPS games of all time.
“GoldenEye 007 mirrors the action sequences and storyline of the 1995 James Bond film of the same name, in which an evil villain has hijacked and taken control of a satellite with a powerful EMP weapon. Bond must unravel his plan and hunt him down. The game broadened the horizons of the FPS genre, employing a variety of settings for each of the missions including a dam, secret underground facilities, trains, frigates, streets, and a giant satellite dish in the jungle. You start each mission with limited weaponry and ammunition, but can claim more from fallen foes. Stealth is always an option if you want minimal casualties, or you can go full-on Rambo mode, triggering alarms and fighting through swarms of enemies.”
Philip also explains that GoldenEye 007 had plenty of secrets to uncover, such as a rocket launcher, and that the missions in which you were against the clock were especially suspenseful - exactly what you want when you play as James Bond. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone over the age of 30 who would disagree that GoldenEye 007 is a true genre great, even if it hasn’t aged quite as well as some other classics.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
A curveball entry here from @DaSamCheck. For one thing, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is technically a third-person shooter that only pulls you into first-person when you’re aiming a sniper rifle. And for another, while there are certainly some Tom Clancy games that are widely considered to be excellent, this one is seldom counted among them. However, Samuel makes a strong case in defence of Future Soldier which is worth reading in full (though we may break it out into an article dedicated to third-person shooters in the future).
Launched in 2012 and set in 2024, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is, according to Samuel, “tactical, stealthy, badass, and immersive”, which are four adjectives you absolutely want in a shooter whether first- or third-person shooter. He continues by explaining it’s a game "well ahead of its time":
“It set the standard for all Tom Clancy games with its mechanics, which are still the best of the series to date. The cover feature was bliss, going from the third-person perspective to aiming down your sights in first-person whenever you’re looking down the rifle scope for your next kill, or switching sides in cover so you could get the best approach possible.”
While weapon customisation is commonplace in shooters today, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier set a bar for immersion and tactility in the experience that even now has seldom been matched, dissecting your weapon and allowing you to change every part of it. As Samuel puts it, this meant that your weapon was your weapon, and every single component of the gun had a purpose. Again, we’d encourage you to read Samuel’s full paean to Future Soldier - rarely will you see an assessment so passionate or thoughtful to a game that’s often overlooked.
The original Doom, alongside its technical forerunner Wolfenstein 3D, popularised and defined the first-person shooter. None of Doom’s sequels really measured up to its genre-bestriding legacy - until its 2016 reboot. Though there simply isn’t the same headroom to innovate within the genre anymore, Doom 2016 takes all the technological possibilities of the modern era to drag the ass-kicking, demon-slaying, blood-spraying spirit from 1993’s jagged pixels and into glorious, riotous technicolour, Hell’s minions screaming to the lullaby of a whirring chainsaw and Mick Gordon’s djent metal soundtrack. @LetitiaTHELemon has nominated this as her entry because, while she says she doesn’t enjoy competitive FPS games, she does love a single-player entry in the genre - and Doom 2016 is one of the very best (though we have to add a nod to its 2020 sequel, Doom Eternal).
“Doom 2016 has a perfect balance of story, combat, and exploration that compels one to explore every area to its fullest without any of the enemies feeling like a chore to fight or an obstacle to make a collectible more difficult to obtain. They all have their purpose, and that is for you to rip and tear through them in the most visceral ways possible with extremely gory kill shots and incredibly satisfying Glory Kill animations, all the while powering through the story in an attempt to stop more of them from breaking through the gates of Hell.”
If that doesn’t compel you to play the Doom reboot, I’m not sure anything will. Letitia goes on to explain that you’ll get into the rhythm of the fight, and that the pacing throughout never gets too slow or intense. “It’s an experience that any FPS fan should play through at least once,” she finished, correctly.
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege
By far the most popular Tom Clancy game today, @DamienMason has nominated the franchise’s multiplayer tactical shooter as his entry. As he explains, Rainbow Six Siege has “drifted far and wide from Tom Clancy’s original vision”, but that vision probably couldn’t have encompassed what the developers have produced; Siege borrows elements from games such as Counter-Strike and Overwatch while bringing plenty of its own ideas as it stakes a credible claim to be one of the finest competitive multiplayer shooters on the market today. Damien explains why it works so well:
“There’s nothing else out there that scratches the Rainbow Six Siege itch. Believe me, I’ve looked. The competitive Bomb game mode infused with a MOBA-inspired rock, paper, scissors roster of operators and unique destructibility puts it in a league of its own. My reaction time has never been fast, and it’s only getting slower now that I’m in my 30s. But knowledge is power, my friends. Knowing where to breach as an attacker or roam around the map as a defender lets me out-think my opponents instead of accepting defeat.”
He goes on to explain that while the memories you make playing a game like this aren’t the same as those you make in a story-driven single-player one, they’re every bit as precious.
“I’ve scared my enemies to death by bursting through the wall like the Kool-Aid Man. I’ve thrown a seemingly harmless concussion mine at someone on such low health that they’ve dropped to the floor unexpectedly and unceremoniously. I’ve witnessed a friend win a round when he was outnumbered one to two, by simply standing between his opponents without firing a single shot…”
Year 9 of Rainbow Six Siege is coming up soon, and it’s still going. Damien says he will “still be smashing floors, breaking walls, and occasionally popping heads for as long as they continue to support the game.”
What do you think is the best FPS game of all time? Let us know in the comments and keep your ideas in mind - this is only a snapshot of the genre so far, so you can rest assured we will run this bounty again in the future and expand our list.