The Top Ten First Person Shooters of All Time

By James Hawkins in Lists!
Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 9:03 am

img_27791_halo_1 (570 x 428).jpg
Birth of a Legend

5. Halo: Combat Evolved 2001
Systems: Xbox
The subtitle says it all. The combat in the Halo games pushed the genre so far forward, few games have been able to compete. In the world of highly-stylized, sci-fi inspired shooters, Halo has the market cornered - it's control scheme is the industry standard for console shooters, and its gameplay flow and structure has been imitated countless times. Though it appeals to millions of people, the game's sophisticated mechanics and hardcore multiplayer mode have been able to satiate the appetites of even the most intense of console gamers. Throw in some awesome characters and a challenging story mode and you have the recipe for a franchise that will continue to break ground and provide heart-pumping experiences for players for many years to come.
Lasting Influence: Industry competition. Since the release of the first Halo game, other franchises have had to put a huge focus on production and innovation just to keep up. When a title like this appears and defines an era of gaming, it challenges the industry to produce high quality, epic games.

ut6ff1 (570 x 428).jpg
Pew, pew, pew.

4. Unreal Tournament 1999
Systems: Dreamcast, Mac OS, PC, PlayStation 2
Where would we be if we didn't have over-the-top shooters? After the debut of the highly innovative and genius Unreal, the folks at Epic Games decided to make the next one focused on the multiplayer. And thank God they did. Unreal Tournament expanded the genre's multiplayer content by bringing beautiful textures, realistic blood splatter, and highly-lethal weapons to an unprecedented new level. Like Perfect Dark, the integration of smart AI made solo deathmatch a legitimate time-waster in its own right, allowing it to stand beside the monstrous online deathmatches. And luckily for gamers, Unreal Tournament has been moded and updated frequently to ensure that the experience will not only last, but improve year after year.
Lasting Influence: The Unreal Engine. The Unreal Engine debuted with Unreal (obviously), but its lasting impact has largely been its use in improving the multiplayer arena and games in general. And the world would be a sad and boring place without it.

quake2 (570 x 428).jpg
I'm quaking in my boots.

3. Quake II 1997
Systems: PC, Nintendo 64, Mac, PlayStation
Quake II built upon the multiplayer madness of its predecessor. While Quake brought multiplayer shooters to the global community, Quake II moved the genre up an echelon in terms of quality and fun. Utilizing its own fantastic engine, Quake II had a relentless pace and mind-boggling gameplay. Armed with immense firepower, players could compete with each other online in sixteen-player deathmatches that would remain popular for years to come. Where Quake II really succeeded was bringing a diverse set of weapons to the genre. The railgun remains an icon in shooter history, and sophisticated weapons classes can be traced back to guns like the rocket laucher, the shotgun, and the chaingun.
Lasting Influence: Widespread online gaming. Though the first Quake allowed anyone with a crappy internet connection to join an online deathmatch, Quake II provided an even more hearty and lasting experience.

gordon-freeman (570 x 428).jpg
Enter the Free Man

2. Half-Life 2 2004
Systems: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Half-Life 2 did exactly what a sequel was supposed to do, and a hell of a lot more. After a long six-year wait, fans of the much-lauded original Half-Life game, as well as those new to the series, were met with a totally immersive story focused on rebellion, survival and exploration. The design of City 17 and the surrounding world bordered on epic, which made the player seriously feel like they were just a man fighting a cruel police-state inside a giant city, rather than a one-man army destroying everything in his path. Nearly every single part of the game had a powerful impact on the FPS industry -- from its use of physics and the legendary hero to the unique weapons arsenal to the complex non-player characters. If there is a shooter to judge all other shooters by, it is definitely Half-Life 2.
Lasting Influence: Story. Before Half-Life 2, games could get away with a weak story and just focus on gameplay. That's just not the case anymore. The second entry in the tale of the Free Man gave the genre a boost with its thoughtful, emotional storyline and nuanced characters.

goldeneye1oz7 (570 x 350).jpg
I'm too close for rockets, I'm switching to...rockets?

1. GoldenEye 007 1997
Systems: Nintendo 64
It is impossible to talk about first-person shooters in the console world without bringing up GoldenEye. The game took all of the great aspects of the movie -- the locations, Bond himself, and the notorious Trevelyan -- and mixed them with an enormous weapons selection and a long, thrilling storyline to make one of the most enjoyable and memorable campaigns of all time. The game pioneered and popularized the now-standard scoped sniper rifle, as well as context-sensitive hit locations on the enemies for a dose of realism that was previously unseen in gaming. In addition to that, the objective based missions using stealth and strategy rather than firepower introduced a new dynamic to the genre. But even more influential than the single-player was the split-screen multiplayer. It featured tons of levels, guns, and game modes that broke away from the typical multiplayer mold and produced an experience that would be followed in nearly every shooter since. When it was released, the game provided everything a console gamer could want and more.
Lasting Influence: GoldenEye 007 was the progenitor of great console shooters. Pretty much all shooters across the platforms have taken a page from GoldenEye's dossier. And over a decade later, it is impossible not to credit the game for the huge popularity of the genre.

Honorable Mention: Deus Ex, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six, System Shock 2, Half-Life, Call of Duty 2, Duke Nukem 3D, Quake, Wolfenstein 3D

Email Print

Join The Joystick Division!

Become part of the Joystick Division community by following us on Twitter and Liking us on Facebook.

More links from around the web!