35. Destiny 2 (2017)
Few shootybangs feel as fluid as this MMO bullet-hoser. There is a grace to Bungie shooters that has been around since Halo: Combat Evolved, and whatever that secret formula is, it’s here by the barrel. By the barrel of a big energy rifle, that is. Gotcha.
Since Destiny was only for console creepers, PC players will have to catch up on the story for this one. Short version: aliens are bad, shoot them. In many ways, we’ve benefitted from jumping in after Bungie refined things for the sequel. There are fewer spongey enemies, and a bit more humour and brightness to proceedings. The story itself is still a bit pants. But this is more about having a gorgeous, free-wheeling target range painted across the solar system than following any grand tale. You have special powers like the ability to swing a ludicrous sword around, or batter multi-limbed baddies with a big electrostomp. But most players will tell you the fun only starts with the multiplayer raids and dungeons, tough battlehells where teamwork and timing are as important as they are in any classical MMO.
Notes: It launched on Battle.net but Bungie and Activision split up, and the Destogang have since gone their own way.
Read more: Our Destiny 2 review said: “if a slick, beautiful shooter is keeping you up at night for a month, isn’t that sometimes enough?” Our Destiny 2 Shadowkeep review called it: “a heavy dose of nostalgia for the series’ oldest players.” See also Alice O’s endless news coverage.
What else should I be playing if I like this: The Borderlands series will give you a similar loot-scavenging runabout. If you want to dip into third-person, The Division 2 is another solid looter shooter.
34. Arma 3 (2013)
Developer: Bohemia Interactive
Publisher: Bohemia Interactive
The Arma series – spiritual sequel to the original Operation Flashpoint – has always been more of an infrastructure for anecdote-generating than being great games in the traditional sense. Although the third game was the most solid and substantial right out of the blocks, like its predecessors, the mods and maps spawned from its sizable and impassioned community are what makes it such a fountain of invention and simulation. This is better than Arma 2 in almost all ways, especially handling of UI and animation, plus there are little innovations like the Zeus mode (providing a game master for multiplayer). It’s far more tactical than most everything else on this list, to the point of it becoming almost a second career, but take a peep down the rabbit hole and you may never return. (Please note that line was not a deliberate allusion to how much time you spend staring at men’s butts in Arma 3. But maybe it is now.)
Notes: We can’t mention Arma without talking about DayZ, an internal mod for Arma II now gone standalone. A game of freeform, competitive (or co-operative, you never know) survival after a zombie apocalypse, it might stretch the definition of first-person shooter too far to comfortably sit in this list on its own, but it’s nonetheless a watermark moment for what we might loosely term ‘action’ games.
Where can I buy it: Steam.
What else should I be playing if I like this: There are those who feel the more focused original Operation Flashpoint remains superior. Battlefield 1 and Battlefield V are far more approachable if you want large-scale war with tanks and jeeps and planes oh my.
33. Star Wars: Republic Commando (2005)
Not everything that came out of the Star Wars prequels was flailing nonsense. RepCom was a tight, squad-based shooter that eschewed hokey religions, midichlorians and Obi-Wan’s roaming detective agency for a band of clone brothers facing down assorted Confederacy threats. A combination of straight-up shooting and team tactics, with a starring quartet who managed to turn a minimum of broad personalities into a maximum impact. Which is why everyone still feels so sore about the semi-cliffhanger ending.
It’s showing its age now, but it’s still twenty times better than anyone would ever have expected. Puts the Wars back in Star Wars, this one.
Notes: A rumour went round one year that EA were working on a sequel called Imperial Commando. It was not a true rumour. It was an extremely cruel fabrication. Dammit.
What else should I be playing if I like this: You could try the Star Wars Battlefronts – although they are a resolutely multiplayer affair.
Developer: Starbreeze Studios and Tigon Studios
Whether the idea of a game about, starring and to some extent by Vin Diesel is a ludicrous concept depends hugely on what ol’ growler’s up to right now. He’s currently back in favour thanks to the Fast and Furiouses being seen as pulpy indulgences rather than turgid chest-thumping, but even so, the smarts of this prequel to the mostly-knob Riddick films are hugely surprising. Part stealth game, part conversation game, and part brawling stab ’em up (as well as offering plenty of shooty-bang, of course), Riddick also boasts an inventive prison break theme and setting and pretty decent vein of science fiction. Riddick lets you play as a hardened criminal, a true anti-hero in a genre dominated by rote heroism.
Notes: Assault on Dark Athena is an expanded remake of the earlier Escape From Butcher Bay. While Athena’s prettier, there is an argument to be made that Butcher Bay is superior – it has quicksave, its lighting system doesn’t get in the way so much and it’s not saddled with the boring extra section. The balance just about tips towards the newer Athena, and in any case you can only obtain Butcher second-hand now anyway.
What else should I be playing if I like this: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided for more chat ‘n’ stabbing in an oppressive future-world.
31. Far Cry 4 (2014)
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Far Cry 2 was excellent, but Far Cry 3 stripped out much that was awkward about the game – its grim setting, its protagonist’s malaria, its respawning enemies – for something that was less interesting but more purely fun, thrilling and silly. Far Cry 4 goes further still, stripping out the wrongheaded attempts at colonialist critique from Far Cry 3 and creating something that’s even more fun, even more silly. The Himalayan-inspired setting of Kyrat is a gorgeous location, and it’s even more eager to give you toys to play with than its predecessor. Liked the hang glider in Far Cry 3? This sequel gives you one almost immediately. Then it gives you a wingsuit. Also a gyrocopter. Also a physically-simulated rope for climbing cliff faces. Also you can ride elephants.
It is ridiculous, of course, but there’s still wonderfully smart design here, too, mainly in the return of outposts. These are enemy-controlled villages which you can take down separate from the main storyline, challenging yourself to outwit different kinds of AI enemy using the box of toys the game has provided. They’re always the best thing about Far Cry, and here they’re joined by Forts – bigger, harder versions of the same idea – and enhanced by the ability to team up with a co-op partner in the same open world for the first time. Want to use your grappling hook to hang from the bottom of a gyrocopter being piloted by a friend? Yes, you do.
Notes: Why not Far Cry 5? Because despite being decent it constantly interrupts your shennanigans with bad guy monologues, and that is not the point of Far Crying at all.
What else should I be playing if I like this: Try Far Cry Primal if you want this with fewer guns and more mammoths.