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The best FPS games on PC

The worthiest reticules of all time



The best shooters endure. While other genres warp beyond recognition, there is something solid about the first-person shooter that makes it as dependable as a nice big AK-47. Maybe it’s the gung-ho simplicity - look down a barrel and pull the trigger. It's as fun to fire a double-barrelled shotgun from an early 90s FPS as the slick shotties of today. For that reason, this list runs the gamut from genre classics to those released in the last year. There's bound to be something for you in this, our list of the best 50 FPS games on PC. Let’s lock and/or load.

You can navigate this feature with the links at the bottom. If you're the impatient type, the full list is on the final page.

Of course, a good shooter is not just about shooting. What lies beyond are primarily games of skill and reflex, but they are often as much about movement as they are about violence. And hey, sometimes you get a decent gimmick or story thrown into the mix.

Your favourite is at number 51. If you feel you must let us know about why we're wrong to exclude something, make sure to make your comment an effervescent explanation of why the game you love is great. Make us converts with glowing praise.

Or possibly your favourite game isn't on this list because it's not a first-person shooter, in which case you should check out our regularly updated list of the best PC games to play right now.

Note: We first ran this list in mid-2015, and this is our third revision. You can see what's been evicted from last year's list on the 'Honourable Mentions' on page 12.

OK, let's do this. Aim for the head.

Words by Alec Meer and Brendan Caldwell.

50. Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter (2009)

Developer: CroTeam
Publisher: Devolver Digital

If you want total excess at its most attractive then you'll want Serious Sam 3, but frankly it takes far too long to get going. Serious Sam HD, meanwhile, embraces cray-cray early on. Some say it's a welcome return to the just-get-on-with-it carnage of early shooters such as Doom, but really Sam is a law unto himself. Huge open spaces, huge enemies, huge weapons: it passes all the way through parody and comes out the other side as something pure and earnest. Are you shooting? Are you moving? Are you shooting and moving? Are you emitting a low, sustained scream? If not, you are not playing Serious Sam. Early Call of Duties had their infinite waves of enemies, but that micro-second to micro-second ferocity just isn't there in anything else. This is bullet hell shump as FPS, a wild dance of breathless persistence. And every time you think it's gotten as big as it can, it gets bigger.

Notes: There are now more Serious Sams than you've had hot dinners, most of which are different versions of the first game. You could get Serious Sam HD Gold instead, which includes The Second Encounter HD and assorted DLC.

Where can I buy it: Steam. Alternatively, GOG has the archaic non-HD version if you want to do the DRM-free thing.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Doom, if you want just-getting-on-with-it shooting that won't see you grind your teeth to paste with the intensity of it all. Or there's Painkiller if you want a more latter-day take on traditional shooter values, but without Sam's shouty craziness.

Read more: 16 reasons to play Serious Sam, Serious, Sam.

49. The Marathon Trilogy (1994)

Developer: Bungie Software
Publisher: Bungie Software

It seems openly bizarre that a first-person shooter from Bungie, they of the Halo series, should be considered even vaguely obscure, but that's where we are. The Marathon games were hugely influential, but never enjoyed anything like the zeitgeist moment that Doom, Quake or Duke Nukem 3D did. Part of that is for another absurd-in-hindsight reason - it was initially released for Apple Mac rather than PC, and ended up overshadowed by all the flashy fare on what was then an infinitely more popular platform.

But Marathon was groundbreaking, taking the Wolfenstein 3D and Doom formula and pinning a proper story to it for the first time, as well as giving us vertical axis aim, dual-wielded weapons and massive progress in multiplayer, physics and optional objectives. No, it doesn't still sing in the way Doom does, but you can draw a direct line from almost everything it does to what Halo does, and various open source remakes keep it in good, satisfying shape to this day.

Notes: You should probably steer clear of the original Marathon release in favour of open source, streamlined and prettified version Aleph One - with which you can play all three original Marathon games for free.

Where can I buy it: Download for free from Bungie themselves. Though again, you probably want to stick the files into Aleph One (see above).

What else should I be playing if I like this: Halo, if you want to experience a similar story and some of the mechanics in far flashier fashion. Or perhaps Blood if you want an evolved version of the Doom concept but without the lore crap.

Read more: Remembering Marathon Infinity's opening level, Have you played... The Marathon Trilogy?

48. Call Of Duty 2 (2005)

Developer: Infinity Ward
Publisher: Activision

Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan and Enemy At The Gates were go-to touchstones when Call Of Duty 2 was made, resulting in a game with no less bombast than its bug-eyed modern-day successors, but a slightly more elegant tone with some of its mind on sadness as well as spectacle. This is a military shooter about soldiers rather than action heroes (though brutal realism it most certainly is not), and that's made particularly clear in the near-traumatic Russian segments of the campaign. With often large and open environments and not too much in the way of cutscenes or bossy NPCs (though one of the earliest incarnations of Captain Price does crop up), it's still a lesson in how to create a battlefield rather than a superheroic sprint.

Notes: It was particularly tough to decide between this and the first Call of Duty. 2 has endured the ravages of age more, but its introduction of regenerating health is a sore point for many, not to mention that in some respects it's 'just' a glossier retread of 1's fine work - especially in terms of the multi-protagonist setup and the harrowing Russian campaign.

Where can I buy it: Steam, while the App Store has the Mac version (as does Steam).

What else should I be playing if I like this: Arma or Red Orchestra/Rising Storm if you want more realism, or there's Gearbox's Brothers In Arms series if you want more Saving Private Ryanisms.

Read more: The Missing Conflict.

47. The Operative: No One Lives Forever (2000)

Developer: Monolith Productions
Publisher: FOX Interactive

A lovely spoof of the James Bond genre, with its gender-flip, gleeful nicking of Flemming’s gadgets, vehicles and plot structure. Cate Archer makes for an excellent protagonist, peculiarly snooty and unlikeable in some ways, while defiant and ass-kickingly pleasing in others. The pleasure of using gadgets to approach situations in your own chosen way is immense, with a good mix of stealth, action, driving and story. Flavours of Hitman, Deus Ex and Austin Powers made for an interesting cocktail. One that really worked and still impresses with its uncommon inventiveness and wit even now. Shooters imbued with comedy to anything like this extent were rare then, and even rarer now.

Notes: 2002 sequel No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way is also a treat, but standalone expansion/prequel Contract J.A.C.K., which threw out most of the spy stuff in favour of shooter conventions (including generic gruff man protagonist, allegedly to help sales) should be avoided like 14 types of plague.

Where can I buy it: The rights are tied up in a knot no-one can (or wants) to untangle, so second-hand's your only strictly legal recourse. However, some would suggest putting on your peg leg and fetching patch. Naughty.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Hitman does gadgets and stealth impeccably well, and even weaves absurdist and slapstick humour into its assassination vignettes. Or there's Dishonored for a more flexible and serious (yet fantastical) approach to the gadgety stealth shooter.

Read more: Retrospective: No One Lives Forever.

46. F.E.A.R. (2005)

Developer: Monolith Productions
Publisher: Vivendi Interactive

This horror/action hybrid lost some of its lustre as a result of the series increasingly disappearing up its own plot-rectum, but it's important to push J-horror tropes and everyone-is-related-to-everyone blather aside and look at what F.E.A.R. brought to the shooter table. So often, this genre is just about what a pair of hands do, but in F.E.A.R. so much more of your character's body was involved. The reason we don't see much first-person kicking is that it's very hard to get it right, due to the innate preposterousness of a pair of legs appearing somewhere near your nose. F.E.A.R. got it right. Is such a physical-feeling game. It also pre-empted Mirror's Edge by making the visible body related as much to movement as it was to combat. As a gun game, it was also an early proponent of the idea that any weapon can be equally deadly in the right circumstance, which is still a refreshing move on from the arms race of most shooters. Also, spooky little girl with hair over her face wooooooooooooooooo.

Notes: Everyone bangs on about Source's deathlessness, but the Lithtech Jupiter EX engine created for 2005's first F.E.A.R. still more or less lives on too, having been used in 2012's Gotham City Imposters and modified for Shadow of Mordor. It, er, doesn't exactly look bang-up-to-date in F.E.A.R, though.

Where can I buy it: It's sitting pretty on Steam, though sadly the multiplayer has been deactivated because someone was dumb enough to base it around Gamespy.

What else should I be playing if I like this: The Condemned games if you want more spooky horror-times mixed in with your action, or No-One Lives Forever if you want to see more from developers Monolith.

Read more: The origins of Fear.

45. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (2013)

Developer: Techland
Publisher: Ubisoft

This is a series which has been all over the place, kicking off with a Wild West setting and an ambitious dual-protagonist setup, then selling its soul for the mean-spirited, present day-set The Cartel. It was the cut-price Gunslinger that hit the sweet spot though, pairing crunchy frontier shooting with a rich sense of irony about it all, but which doesn't devolve into snark or hypocrisy. Gunslinger doesn't take aim at other shooters - it stars a protagonist prone to boasting, so an absurd fight with a hundred men is justified as him telling a tall tale. He's also prone to distraction, so the action occasionally spins out into strange loops as his mind (or body) wanders, or he'll warp your on-screen reality to better fit his crazy claims. Importantly, all this is him showing off, not the game showing off. It clearly wants to be a good time.

Notes: Gunslinger was made and sold as something of a budget game, so be aware going in that there are compromises. It's short, the cutscenes look like they were dashed out in an evening and there are unresolved performance issues. The game itself still looks rootin' tootin' good, though.

Where can I buy it: Steam or GOG.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption never left its console home but Red Dead Redemption 2 is coming to PC. As a lo-fi, more playful alternative, there's Westerado: Double Barreled, which brings (slightly silly) life as well as death to the frontier.

Read more: Have you played... Gunslinger? , our Call of Juarez: Gunslinger review

44. Dishonored 2 (2016)

Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda

Dishonored 2 is more experimental than its predecessor, most notably in the shifting spaces of the Clockwork Mansion and the altogether different shifts in a later level. To discuss that in detail would be unfair to those who have managed to remain unspoiled. When they do step outside traditional sneaking and stabbing territory, of which there's plenty, Arkane make sure their ideas aren't gimmicks bolted onto existing systems. Everything is built on the foundation of movement and observation.

There's an argument to be made for the first game's superiority and it's certainly more tightly constructed in places, but the greatest surprise of Dishonored 2 is that it swiftly banishes memories of Dunwall. The city that felt like it could be home to a trilogy at the very least is only seen briefly, and most of the game takes place in a new city in a new region. Karnaca feels like a new home within a few hours, and by the time the game is over, we know it better than we ever knew Dunwall. Now is the time to scour all of those in-game maps and charts to figure out where Arkane might take us next.

Notes: Has bumped its predecessor from this list. There were internal disagreements about which was truly the best game but we've settled on 2 for now.

Where can I buy it: Steam.

What else should I be playing if I like this: The Thief series - particularly Thief 2 - which we cruelly removed from this list in favour of a more appropriate stealth one. See also Deus Ex.

Read more: Why Dishonored 2 allows you to skip its finest content, our Dishonored 2 review, why Dishonored 2 is the Thief sequel we deserve.

43. Dying Light (2015)

Developer: Techland
Publisher: Techland

Boot a zombie off a rooftop into some spikes below. Crack his zombie mate around the head with a big pipe. Turn round and dropkick a third decaying shambler soaring across the skyline into a flaming barrel. What an excellent bunch of things you have done. Wait, is it still a first-person shooter if you have not fired a single shot?

Ah, don’t worry, there are some guns in this zombie doomsdayer. It’s just more fun to use your Doc Martin’s, or a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire. Dying Light is all about sticking the boot in and leaping from rooftop to rooftop. It feels like the result of some enterprising child who was obsessed with pretending the floor is lava. Or someone who looked at stylish parkour ‘em up Mirror’s Edge and said: “What if this, but zombies?” It is an amalgamation of many other games, but it’s a mix-up that works surprisingly well.

Notes: The difference between day and night in the game is noticeable, with scarier baddies coming out to hunt you when the sun goes down. But it’s less of a game-changer than the story suggests. However, the upcoming Dying Light 2 hopes to improve on that.

Where can I buy it: Get the vanilla or enhanced edition on Steam, or the enhanced edition from GOG.

Read more: Our Dying Light review called it “a fantastic playground for thousands of emergent scenes, from panicked horror to improvised farce.”

What else should I be playing if I like this: Mirror’s Edge is the classic parkour game, but has some frustrations. 7 Days To Die is a good zombie survival game.

42. Bulletstorm (2011)

Developer: People Can Fly
Publisher: EA

Possibly the most over-the-top shooter ever made (though Serious Sam presents stiff competition) Bulletstorm is a carnival of cartoon sadism. It's dumb as blind-drunk sheep, but smartdumb, not dumbdumb. It works very, very hard to be dumb. You also have to accept it as just a game about shooting. It's Time Crisis filtered through Jackass, with these preposterously ornate environments and setpieces attached, plus an almost bizarrely hard 'skillshot' system which means shooting someone in the willy isn't quite as straightforward as it sounds. Also it has lots and lots of dick jokes. The guy who wrote 'em now writes Captain America comics for Marvel. Cap wouldn't approve of that sort of language.

Notes: Parts of the US media made breathless and unresearched claims that Bulletstorm's violence and profanity would traumatise children, encourage sexual violence and generally destroy society. Our own John Walker played a major part in dismantling FOX et al's uninformed fearmongering on this particular issue.

Where can I buy it: The updated Full Clip Edition is on Steam and Humble.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Serious Sam if you want another FPS that doesn't take itself at all seriously (apart from on the matter of shooting, of course).

Read more: Have you played... Bullestorm?, The RPS Verdict: Bulletstorm.

41. Wolfenstein: The New Order (2014)

Developer: MachineGames
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Of everything 21st century in this list, The New Order puts the lie to nostalgia goon claims that shooters ain't what they used to be. Pairing up pure pulp with surprising heart, then earning both by underpinning the sci-fi gloss and melodrama with super-solid, impressively flexible combat, this alterna-history Nazi-shooter is the complete blockbuster package. The latter-day follow-up to all-time granddaddy of first-person shooters even boasts a stealth option. It takes you to all sorts of wild places too. Some misfire, some are exactly what you'd want, and the result is a shooter which knows exactly what it's doing, and while it's too happily dunder-headed to earn the breathless adoration of a BioShock or Half-Life, as a singleplayer action game it just doesn't compromise.

Notes: Don't opt for standalone prequel The Old Blood just because it's a newer game. It's perfectly adequate as manshoots go, but it doesn't reach as high as The New Order, in either spectacle or humanity. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus on the other hand...

Where can I buy it: Steam, Humble, GOG.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Half-Life is a clear inspiration for The New Order, in terms of being another resistance tale with dramatically changing environments. There's also the earlier Return To Castle Wolfenstein if you want to shoot fantastical Nazis without having to worry about feelings.

Read more: The RPS Verdict: Wolfenstein The New Order, and our Wolfenstein: The New Order review.

40. SWAT 4 (2005)

Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: Vivendi Universal

It's bewildering that this series stopped here. Surely everybody would love the chance to represent the long arm of justice; to lace up some heavy boots, load up with thousands of dollars worth of protective equipment and lead a brave team into a building to protect the civilians within and incapacitate the criminals by firing a beanbag into their beanbag? But you know what, that doesn’t even cover half of SWAT 4’s appeal. It’s also in the briefing where every word, every scrap of information could doom you or save a life. It’s in the ungodly stretches of silence where you’re meticulously picking your way through an empty building, knowing deadly gunfire could erupt at any moment. It’s in the minuscule gasps of action where you go dashing into a room after throwing in a flashbang. The whole game feels like you’re disarming an emotional bomb that could go off at any instant, and the serial killer level in particular is as perfect a gaming experience as has ever been put together.

Notes: Developers Irrational (who, of course, went on to make BioShocks) turned down the option to make a straight sequel as they wanted to stretch their creative wings, but they did pitch a SWAT game set during a zombie apocalypse instead. Publishers Vivendi didn't think the police vs deadhead angle was workable (a great shame) but did greenlight it as a zombie shooter named Division 9. Sadly this went unmade, as 2K acquired Irrational not long afterwards.

Where can I buy it: You can get the Gold Edition on GOG. And second-hand prices aren't too scandalous.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Try Rainbow Six Siege for a multiplayer version of storming strongholds (and defending them). Or Door Kickers for a pixelly take on the same theme.

Read more: Irrational exuberance: replaying SWAT 4, Have you played... SWAT 4?

39. Metro Exodus (2019)

Developer: 4A Games
Publisher: Deep Silver

Literal on-rails shooters Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light had us scuttling through dark tunnels for days and days, so it came as a nice surprise that the third game in this dry Russian post-apocalypse dumped players above ground in some massive levels. A big radioactive swamp and a Mad Max style desert are the highlights of this rusty, pneumatic adventure. Metro has always heaped detail into its gunfights and claustrophobic stealth sections, and Exodus plows ever onward in the same way. You have a hand-pumped BB gun for shattering lights from afar in the dark of night. You change your gas mask filter when it becomes unusable. Cobwebs frizzle and burn when you touch them with a lighter. The whole game is crawling with neat touches that place you firmly in your character’s soggy Spetznaz boots.

Notes: It’s quite a stunner, so if you want to know how to get the best graphics settings for it, Katharine has you covered.

Where can I buy it: Only the Epic Games Store for now, but eventually Steam too.

Read more: Matthew did a thorough rundown in his Metro Exodus video review. Our written Metro Exodus review said: “Metro has always been far more talented at delivering atmosphere than sensible or touching plots. And with Exodus, it again succeeds.” Nic Reuben wrote about its chummy chums.

What else should I be playing if I like this: The two previous games Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light were more linear but just as atmospheric. The STALKER series will deliver a lot of the radioactive wasteland you crave.

38. Titanfall 2 (2016)

Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Publisher: EA

This could have been the best singleplayer FPS of 2016, if it hadn't been for the new Doom. Nonetheless, if you want straight-up action thrills with a whole lot of flash, some particularly glorious movement and impressively stressful mech-based boss fights, this is going to make you very happy. And hey, there's a robust soldiers vs giant robo-suits multiplayer mode in there too, building on what the multiplayer-only Titanfall 1 already established.

That is, assuming you can find opponents. Titanfall 2 suffered from something of a failure to launch, having resolutely lost the marketing wars of late 2016. It may stay alive over time thanks to word of mouth, but even if it doesn't, definitely check it out for that singleplayer campaign. It is, however, on the brief side, so we strongly recommend playing on Hard difficulty - as well as making it last longer, it makes the mech fights particularly feel that much more satisfying once you finally claim a steel scalp.

Notes: Requires EA's Origin app to install and run, which seems to rub some people up the wrong way. More positively, in a roundabout sort of way, Titanfall 2's retail struggles means it's easy to find it for cheap.

Where can I buy it: Retail or EA's Origin.

What else should I be playing if I like this: You could slam all the way into simulation and seek out Mechwarrior 4, or if it's the high-speed, ultra-fluid, wall-running movement that most pleases you, give Mirror's Edge or Dying Light a try.

Read more: Our Titanfall 2 review2016's best shooter, and EA explain Titanfall 2's eccentric timing.

37. Aliens versus Predator (1999)

Developer: Rebellion
Publisher: FOX Interactive

AvP was not just another game about killing nasties in the dark. It was a game about being inside the skulls of iconic movie monsters, and fleshing out those beasts far more than any movie ever did. Three playable perspectives – alien, predator, human marine – and all so distinct, and the motivation of each rendered sympathetic despite encountering them all as enemies from the other perspectives. To boot, AvP made much more of the first-person perspective than most of its gun-crazed genre-mates ever did. While the telltale targeting reticule was ever-present, this is a game about survival and observation, a claustrophobic odyssey of fear and strange abilities. Add to this multiplayer and skirmish modes that deftly realised the fantasy of the titular What If? and you have a smart, wonderfully asymmetrical remix of first-person shooters which somehow manages to be scary even when you're playing an otherworldly death-machine.

Notes: Easily confused with 2010's quasi-remake Aliens vs. Predator, which was, y'know, fine, but came across as far more straightforward. The 1999 AvP was retroactively renamed Aliens versus Predator Classic 2000 for a re-release and slight overhaul (including widescreen support, modern Windows compatibility, gamepad support and not requiring you to have CD 2 in your drive if you wanted to hear the music, which I honestly kind of miss).

Where can I buy it: The original is long out of print, but the superior Classic 2000 re-release is available on Steam and GOG.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Alien: Isolation is the other great Aliens game, though it doesn't have the strategic oddness of playing as the beasts.

Read more: An Aliens vs Predator retrospective: A Stand-Up Fight Or Another Bughunt, our retrospective on Aliens vs Predator 2.

36. Prey (2017)

Developer: Arcane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Prey is set aboard a space station with gooey aliens who have the ability to mimic whatever they desire. They took one look at human beings and decided: “No, I’d rather be a chair”. And that is why you spend a large amount of time in this new age immersive sim looking suspiciously at furniture.

But the baddies are arguably the least interesting thing about it. Talos Station takes inspiration from Metroidvanias as it does from System Shock or Deus Ex. New powers let you access spaces you couldn't reach before. Locked doors inspire curiosity and force you to make mental notes about the orbital’s metallic confines. "I'll come back here," you think, "when I can turn into a stapler." It’s exploratory sci-fi that builds on Looking Glass' legacy.

As a shooter, it often puts its guns last, favouring extraterestrial superpowers or environmental traps (even your wrench remains useful for much of the game). But why worry about guns when you can program two turrets to do all the shooting for you, and carry them around wherever you go?

Notes: A speedrunner once completed the game in 7 minutes.

Where can I buy it: Steam or Humble.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has similarly wonderful level design, even if it doesn’t fully embrace the Metroidvania school of thought.

Read more: Prey makes locked doors cool, we look at the art of Prey’s monsters, and John’s Prey review.

35. Destiny 2 (2017)

Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Bungie

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.

Where can I buy it: It’s free-to-play on Steam but that’s without the expansion, Shadowkeep.

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.

Read more: Did you know Arma 3 has a notable roleplaying scene? Our Arma 3 campaign review, we dive into the Arma 3 workshop.

33. Star Wars: Republic Commando (2005)

Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts/Activision

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.

Where can I buy it: Steam, GOG.

What else should I be playing if I like this: You could try the Star Wars Battlefronts - although they are a resolutely multiplayer affair.

Read more: See the dev commentary on Republic Commando, our retrospective on Republic Commando, and it features in the 10 best Star Wars games on PC.

32. The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault On Dark Athena (2009)

Developer: Starbreeze Studios and Tigon Studios
Publisher: Atari

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.

Where can I buy it: You'll have to find it on disc, because the digital version has been removed from GOG, just like it was removed from Steam before that.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided for more chat 'n' stabbing in an oppressive future-world.

Read more: Our retrospective on The Chronicles of Riddick, and our Assault On Dark Athena review.

31. Far Cry 4 (2014)

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft

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.

Where can I buy it: Steam and uPlay.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Try Far Cry Primal if you want this with fewer guns and more mammoths.

Read more: A ranger in Far Cry 4, our Far Cry 4 review.

30. Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007)

Developer: Infinity Ward
Publisher: Activision

The tipping point between Call Of Duty as a World War II shooter for quiet PC gamers and what it is today, an increasingly sci-fi shooter for very noisy console gamers. Modern Warfare was one of the first post-Half-Life 2 shooters to be a true blockbuster. With its dramatically shifting locations, timelines and perspectives (admittedly much more commonplace today), it successfully destabilised the idea that shooters were about one man running through a bunch of tunnels until he killed the big nasty thing at the end. With some shock outcomes, it also introduced a new sense of mortality to our usually superhuman shooter protagonists. While later CODs overplayed the role of NPC buddies and embraced a numbing cacophony, Modern Warfare managed to retain a sombre, fearful quality despite all the explosions and whatnot. It also set the standard for present-day shooter multiplayer, albeit without quite so much focus on unlockable gizmos.

Notes: Please be sure to play the campaign through to the end, because you'll unlock the Ragtime Mode, which remains the best cheat mode ever.

Where can I buy it: You can get a remastered version on Steam.

What else should I be playing if I like this: An infinite number of other Call Of Duties, I guess. There's also the Battlefield series, now COD's arch-rival. If you want an alternative to this Team America stuff, there's Spec Ops: The Line, which some people think is an inspired deconstruction of battlefield trauma, while others think it is simply mediocre. Guess which camp we fall into.

Read more: Why COD4 was one of 2007's most interesting mainstream games, and How Call Of Duty's stories went awry.

29. Star Wars: Jedi Knight - Mysteries Of The Sith (1998)

Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts

Why the expansion pack, and not the original (confusingly named) Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II? Jedi Knight was an exceptional game. As was Dark Forces before it. LucasArts (RIP) were making some of the most remarkable FPS games of the 1990s, though people only tend to remember them for their adventure games. Oddly MOTS offered something less than Jedi Knight itself. The morality choices were gone, fixing you on a path of light, which meant many of the Force powers were no longer available. But what you got instead was a far greater emphasis on the light sabre, realising it as one of the most exciting in-game weapons ever, along with a depth of narrative that was – at this point – rare in the FPS genre. LucasArts were pioneers of the early 3D FPS, and it’s time for that reputation to restored. Also, you can be Darth Vader in multiplayer.

Notes: The 2009 Steam version has a whole host of issues, fixes for many of which are listed here. Reportedly the more recently-released GOG version comes with most compatibility fixes built in.

Where can I buy it: Steam and GOG (the latter only as part of a bundle with Star Wars: Dark Forces II - Jedi Knight).

What else should I be playing if I like this: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic does lightsabers by way of roleplaying, and was the precursor to the Mass Effect series. Jedi Knight III is where to look if you just want to stab dudes with lightsabers rather than have to talk them first.

Read more: Our retrospective on Jedi Knight.

28. Crysis (2007)

Developer: Crytek
Publisher: EA

For many, the golden age of the shooter is the Doom and Duke Nukem 3D era. But there's another era to remember. The age when several big companies were trying, and often failing, to set all their shooters in an open world. You'll see STALKER elsewhere in this piece, which is the high watermark as far as I'm concerned, but I have a lot of time for early Crytek's attempts to offer the player their own playground. Now that they've moved into slick and focused linearity, I oddly miss that which I once griped about: their tendency to default to over-powered monsters in the third act out of some (presumed) fear that freeform dude-shooting wasn't interesting enough for an entire game. At least Crysis, unlike the earlier and in some ways superior Far Cry, hands you fantastical boons too: the highly tactical Nanosuit which enabled superjumps, supersprints and superpunches, wondrous for navigating the huge environments (and getting into huge fights) in the game's first half. What Crysis does so very well is to give you a generous toolbox. What it eventually does wrong is to lose confidence that the toolbox is enough.

Notes: What should have been the best multiplayer mode in the world sadly wasn't, and in any case was recently shut down. So if you pick up Crysis, be aware that you're only getting the singleplayer side of it. Also, no, your PC probably still can't run it well at max.

Where can I buy it: Steam or Origin.

What else should I be playing if I like this: The first Far Cry does better and grander island-hopping, semi-stealth warfare to my mind, but there are more irritations and it lacks the glee of the Nanosuit. I'm going to say Prototype if you want more superpowered sandboxing, even though that's a little underwhelming.

Read more: A campaign for a better memory of Crysis, and asking who's the real star of Crysis?

27. Rising Storm (2013)

Developer: Tripwire Interactive
Publisher: Tripwire Interactive

Before the big publishers came bumbling back to World War II, Tripwire's Red Orchestra series was the de facto torch-bearer for the historical shooter. Far closer to simulation than any Call of Duty or Battlefield, it's very much a specialist game, with a clarity of vision that delights its audience. Standalone RO2 expansion Rising Storm was where the more realistic (i.e. unforgiving, i.e. brutal) approach to warfare really hit its stride. The asymmetrical sides (American and Japanese), the glut of period weapons, a squad-based ethos and true variety to the maps. This is not about speedy supermen at war, and nor is it about chasing meta-rewards. It is about becoming very skilled at something very difficult: war.

Notes: The Game Of The Year edition includes most of the stuff from Red Orchestra II, so get that version if you can. Even if you don't, you can get various free content packs via Steam.

Where can I buy it: Steam, Humble.

What else should I be playing if I like this: There's Battlefield 1942 if you want a poppier World War II, or if you want more brutal realism, take a look at World War I shooter Verdun.

Read more: Our Rising Storm review.

26. Apex Legends (2019)

Developer: Respawn
Publisher: Electronic Arts

When Respawn said they were making a battle royale game, several mouths in the RPS treehouse opened and breathed out a long, rattling groan, like the ancient croak of dead wood. Not another battle royale for the graveyard, we moaned. Then we got our hands on it. And oh my, Apex, what excellent bumslides you have. What solid shootsing you offer. What a delightful bunch of canyons and swamps you’ve plonked us in. We should have known better than to doubt the makers of Titanfall 2’s robot antics. Since its launch Apelegs has added new characters (with new weirdo skills) and a new map, along with some fun changes to the first congregation of valleys and slums (a giant portal in the sky, a stunt arena with a flaming hoop). It’s such a solid murder hike that our shooty writers Matt, Astrid and Brendy once went on a six-hour dying spree one Sunday, playing match after match until they were exhausted. That’s not even a work day. They could have been in the pub!

Notes: Players love landing in Skull Town for some horrible reason.

Where can I buy it: It’s free-to-play on Origin.

Read more: Our Apex Legends review said it is “the best battle royale game we’re going to see for a long, long time”. Sometimes character abilities combine in surprising ways. A complete guide to all character backstories.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Playerunknown's Battlegrounds is the other titanic battle royale, as is something called Fortnite.

25. Battlefield 1942 (2002)

Developer: Digital Illusions CE
Publisher: EA

The original Battlefield still stands tall: so focused and so complete in its depiction of land, air and sea World War II team battles that there simply isn't any need for all the classes, load outs, progression systems and mode remixes of its successors. The push'n'pull of the Conquest system remains a superlative motivation to fight for your team rather than yourself, and the long race back to the front line after death a glorious moment of excited tension, balancing the need for caution with the urgency of getting stuck in again. Indeed, it got it so right in one map - the legendary Wake Island - that a not inconsiderable community still played the demo until the recent, forced server shutdown. And what theme music, too: unbeatable military bombast you'll find yourself whistling years later whenever you think you're about to do something impressive, like carry a washing machine up three flights of stairs.

Notes: The collapse of Gamespy saw Battlefield 1942 officially go offline last year, but the community has found assorted workarounds which will allow you to connect to or host servers regardless.

Where can I buy it: Tragically, EA removed 1942 from Origin when Gamespy died, so unless you'd already grabbed it prior to that (it was free for a short time in early 2014) your only recourse is to find a disc version.

What else should I be playing if I like this: The Battlefields have returned to the 20th century in recent years. Battlefield 1 is a modern take on the Great War, and Battlefield V goes back to World War 2.

Read more: Our retrospective on Battlefield 1942.

24. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (2017)

Developer: Machine Games
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

A corridor shooter that begins with the hero in a wheelchair. "Is this what a hero looks like?" the Nazi arch-villain of this alternate history might ask. Yeah, says Wolfenstein 2. It is.

A sequel to New Order, this keeps the basic formula of gunning through fascists, careful to take out a special officer enemy before they get a chance to raise the alarm and call more stormtroopers. Yes, there’s that commitment to ultraviolence and bloody bullet-hosing that we’ve come to expect from its predecessors, so perhaps it’s not surprising that Machine Games somehow managed to hide a beating heart among all this slithering viscera.

It’s over-the-top in more ways than one. The characters of the resistance aren’t afraid to get both their hands and words bloody. In one scene, the black woman leading your resistance group breastfeeds her baby while planning to overthrow the Nazi regime and simultaneously taking the time to tell you that the phrase having balls is a thoughtlessly male way to describe bravery. Is this what a hero looks like? Yup.

Notes: If you’re still not convinced, you can always try a demo.

Where can I buy it: Get it on Steam.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Wolfenstein: The New Order, or the demon-bashing moderno-Doom, also from Bethesda.

Read more: Our Wolfenstein 2 review, How Wolfenstein 2 takes the white dudebro hero apart.

23. Unreal Tournament 2004 (2003)

Developer: Epic
Publisher: Atari

A scene as much as it is a game. Looking back, it’s easy to concentrate on all the mods and things that UT2004 spawned. It was an amazing piece of work for the creative folks among us, and it spawned amazing things like Air Buccaneers. However, it was also an astoundingly well-engineered piece of gaming technology. The Unreal engine was, at this point, as smooth as a marble, and it clocked up the core super-fast deathmatch of its predecessor with the addition of vehicles and more modes than a very expensive hairdryer. It still plays like a perfect fever-dance of competitive death, with finely-tuned controls that purr in the hand. The melting pot of aesthetic styles means it shows its age. But this is like complaining that a Lotus Esprit looks "a bit 80s". It's still a bloody Lotus Esprit, y'know?

Notes: For a far prettier reincarnation, Epic are currently providing an alpha version of a new UT's infrastructure for free, with content primarily provided by the community. It's nothing like as a rock-solid as UT 2004, nor does it have the variety or player-base as yet, but hey, graphics. Also, freeness.

Where can I buy it: Steam or GOG.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Quake Live, the (semi-free) reincarnation of UT's uber-rival Quake III, unless you believe in being entirely partisan even when it comes to pretending to shoot people, in which case the other Unreal Tournaments are the only acceptable answers.

Read more: File System Ageing: Game Of The Past Edition.

22: Alien: Isolation (2014)

Developer: The Creative Assembly
Publisher: SEGA

Another definition-stretcher, given the first truly great Aliens game since 1999 involves a whole lot more hiding and quivering in terror than it does the firing of weapons. In fact, the primary mechanic is movement. I.e. when to move and when you really, really shouldn't move. It does have some traditional shooting sections if you demand them, and finds a way to make a very different and non-titular foe unsettling too, but it's the cowering from Giger's indefatigable giant-penis-with-teeth that really makes it. With environment design that borrows from the austere whites of Alien's sci-fi structures, rather than the oft-imitated more industrial design of Aliens, Isolation creates a strong sense of place as well as a strong sense of absolute terror. There are some wobbles later in the game, but journey > destination.

Notes: A disclaimer: I know one of the writers on Alien: Isolation. Please seek alternative number 22 placements in Best Shooter Lists if this concerns you.

Where can I buy it: Steam, Humble.

What else should I be playing if I like this: If you're into avoiding nasties and deciphering a sci-fi catastrophe, SOMA is a very good shout.

Read more: The lead designer of Amnesia on Alien: Isolation, the Spectrum version of Alien, all about the Xenomorph.

21. Natural Selection 2 (2012)

Developer: Unknown Worlds
Publisher: Unknown Worlds

The standalone sequel to a beloved Half-Life mod, this asymmetrical multiplayer shooter ended up doing space marines versus aliens far more successfully than the contemporaneous disaster Aliens: Colonial Marines. It's so much more than mere deathmatch though: its rare mash-up of FPS and real-time strategy sees players building bases and defences as well as battling each other directly. Each team has a commander – a single player who directs the action and builds structures – while the rest of the gang run around the sci-fi corridors, battling the opposing team and attempting to support the actions of the commander. Or completely ignoring him/her, as tends to be the way of things on public servers. A few games have taken similar positions in the time since Natural Selection first appeared, but few of them have done it with as much vigour as this. The huge differences between the sides - humans with guns, aliens with tooth and claw - saves it from the routine and predictability of standard multiplayer shooters, but be warned that you may struggle to get too much out of it without seriously committing to long-term play with a similarly-minded team.

Notes: The Natural Selection 2: Combat mod dispatches with the base-building stuff in favour of straight-up asymmetrical murder, with a touch of RPG-style levelling.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Valve's asymmetrical multiplayer shooter Evolve might interest you. There's no shortage of community chest-thumping that says Natural Selection 1, a mod for the first Half-Life, is the better game.

Read more: The devs on why they introduced a donation system, our Natural Selection 2 review.

20. Halo: Combat Evolved (2003)

Developer: Bungie / Gearbox Software
Publisher: Microsoft

We're talking about the PC version specifically, the Gearbox port of which didn't manage to be as iconic as the original Bungie version was on console, plus had a whole bunch of technical issues. Still, we got a good taste of what's been so popular in Xbox land: the wide-open spaces, the vehicles, possibly the most solid and recognisable arsenal of guns in videogames, and that sense of a great escape from the lone, tunnel-bound skirmishes of shooter tradition and into a wider war. The PC version also brought (official) online multiplayer to Halo for the first time, which a few people continue to play to this day. Halo multiplayer may be inextricably mentally associated with brightly-coloured robo-men teabagging each other, but it's such a tight, well-balanced affair which deftly weaves both land-based and airborne vehicles into the core of the combat.

There's also no denying the massive influence this alien-murdering rampage has had on shooters, from limiting the amount of weapons you can carry, to mapping explosives and melee attacks to a single key, rather than cycling through the 900 weapons you're holding just to find your frag granade. Where Halo went, others followed. It's possible half the games on this list would look very different without it.

Notes: Be sure to grab the Custom Edition add-on, which among other things enables support for fan-made maps, as well as introducing a tool with which to make 'em. Gearbox provide it for free. You'll also need a very recent patch to get the multiplayer working in wake of Gamespy's demise.

Where can I buy it: Nowhere digitally, but it's cheap enough second-hand (be sure you get a working CD key). Or just wait - Halo: The Master Chief Collection is coming to PC, and it includes the big man's debut.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Destiny 2 is the spiritual successor to the balletic firefights of the first Halo, and they are faster and shinier too.

Read more: Clues to the (eventually cancelled) Halo MMO.

19. SUPERHOT / SUPERHOT VR (2016)

Developer: SUPERHOT Team
Publisher: SUPERHOT Team

There ain't nothin' new under the sun - a miserable claim that SUPERHOT Team disproved twice in one year. First there was SUPERHOT itself, a shooter in which time only moves when you move (or shoot) (or throw something) (or punch). Then there was SUPERHOT VR, which singlehandedly redeemed the whole concept of virtual reality.

SUPERHOT is both maximum-adrenaline thrills and highly tactical - transforming the first-person shooter from a game about precision aiming and reflexive movement into one in which every twitch counted. The world is super-slow-mo until you do anything, which grants you the time to plan the move but leaves you subject to a devious puzzlebox construction in which one action leaves you vulnerable to some other threat. It is sublime, and it is impossibly cool.

Particularly in VR, where you are making those movements yourself - the ducking, the punching, the throwing, the shooting. The Matrix fantasy without any of the bilge - just superhot action. A glorious, glorious reinvention of first-person violence.

Notes: SUPERHOT and SUPERHOT VR are sadly sold seperately.

Where can I buy it: Steam, direct from devs ; Oculus store for SUPERHOT VR.

What else should I be playing if I like this: There are a lot of other VR shooters out there, but not much else compares. Play SUPERHOT.

Read more: Oculus Touch review: the games, our SUPERHOT review.

18. Quake III: Arena (1999)

Developer: id Software
Publisher: Activision

This pure multiplayer shooter, starring weapons which are the very archetypes of simulated violence, was deathmatch elevated to, if not an art form, then certainly high science. No frills, no superfluous weapons, almost nothing between you and movement, a pure test of skill and accuracy, great f---ing maps. It might have had these gothic sci-fi trappings, but Quake III could be colourless squares sprinting and bouncing around untextured paths and it would still be the complete, perfect shooting game it is. Developers Id, after creating the first-person shooter, perhaps also had the final word on it. That's why they, as much as anyone else, so struggled for relevancy in its wake.

Quake III still feels amazing, have no doubt. Quake III still makes otherwise unused parts of my brain spring to life; faster, more aware, more engaged, more awake. Quake III is good for me. And for you.

Q3DM17 4 EVA.

Notes: Quake III itself remains popular enough that you won't struggle to find a match, but it primarily lives on as the free-to-play, browser-based semi-remake Quake Live. While this retains the majority of Q3A's appeal and folds in a host of technical modernisations, if you're a purist you may struggle with the changes it's making in order to try and attract a less experienced audience. Of course, if you're a real purist you'll just play the original Q3A demo. Many still do.

Where can I buy it: Steam for Quake III itself, or free here for the base version of Quake Live, with optional payments for extra maps and whatnot.

What else should I be playing if I like this: You could give Quake Champions a go, the free-to-play moderno-Quake.

Read more: Q3WCP9, Or “Great F***in’ Level”, Strafe-Jumping's Near Death In Quake III.

17. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (2010)

Developer: EA Digital Illusions CE
Publisher: EA

There's been an overblown quality to recent games in the core Battlefield series, not helped by being saddled with turgid singleplayer campaigns trying too hard to butt heads with Call Of Duty, but the Bad Company spin-offs found new verve and focus. By which I primarily mean "you get to trash a load of stuff." The capacity to blow holes in walls is probably the most thrilling and interesting element of BFBC2. You can use it to gain access to a building, to remove cover from the enemy, or just to feel like you actually destroyed something. As well as that, it simply feels tighter, more direct and more exciting than your vanilla Battlefields. Bad Company 2, the series highlight, is the Expendables rather than Tom Clancy, with a cavalier quality that injects it with far more life than more recent military shooters.

Notes: Even the devs don't seem quite sure how to meaningfully follow BFBC2 up. As DICE boss Karl-Magnus Troedsson told Eurogamer last year, "Some people say this: the Bad Company 2 multiplayer is the best you've ever done. Okay, why is that? It's hard for people to articulate what that is, which is actually hard for us. It would be hard to remake something like that."

Where can I buy it: Steam, Origin.

What else should I be playing if I like this: The Red Faction or Just Cause games if you can't get enough of trashing the scenery.

Read more: Love is a battlefield, Thoughts & demolitions in Bad Company 2.

16. Team Fortress 2 (2007)

Developer: Valve Corporation
Publisher: Valve Corporation

That Team Fortress 2 is a sequel and a remake of a sober-as-a-nun multiplayer mod seems almost irrelevant now. But it’s part of what makes the game so important. Valve took years and years to settle upon a model for what has become one of the firmly-entrenched favourites of the PC gaming fraternity, and that they did so allowed it to prove that a multiplayer first-person shooter can be funny, even witty, and that constant experimentation and progression can keep a game alive and evolving long after it should have ground to a halt. Team Fortress 2 felt like an experiment, and it still feels like an experiment, and that experiment was a success. A move to free-to-play and a hat-centric economy has kept TF2 thriving. The cost of this is that something of the original spirit was perhaps lost in this translation to gimmee, gimmee, gimmee, but we can forgive that.

Notes: A big part of TF2's success and enduring appeal is the work Valve put into fleshing out a cast who would otherwise simply have been shootymen with funny accents. The Meet The Team video series is perhaps game marketing's finest hour.

Where can I buy it: Steam. It's free these days.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Overwatch, you fools.

Read more: Twenty bucks: Team Fortress 2, 857 Hours Later: Team Fortress 2, Achieving nothing in Team Fortress 2.

15. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege (2015)

Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft

Rainbow Six Siege does what Battlefield games have thus far only pretended to do: provide a multiplayer world which is destructible at a granular level. Instead of buildings collapsing when scripted levers are pulled, in Siege almost every door, window, wall, ceiling, and floor can have a hole poked in it via gunshot, grenades, battering rams and breaching charges.

It feels like technical wizardry and the consequences ripple throughout the entire experience, creating tension from the ability to be attacked from any angle, encouraging teamwork through asymmetric missions which force one team to defend themselves against the other's attempt to breach their compound, and forcing traditional Rainbow Six tactical awareness without a planning phase by requiring you to hold a perfect mental map of the building around you at all times.

It's equally impressive for being a team-based multiplayer shooter that feels fresh, offering something different from the Counter-Strikes and Call of Dutys while staying true to the spirit of the Rainbow Six series.

Notes: Now has a cheap Starter edition if you want to give it a try without going all in. You can pay to add bolt ons if you want the full package afterwards.

Where can I buy it: Steam and uPlay.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Rainbow Six Vegas 2 is another series highlight, particularly in terms of poppy, glitzy co-op vs AI. If you want real tactical action, you'll want to be back to the original Rainbow Six trilogy.

Read more: Have you played... Rainbow Six Siege?, A history of Tom Clancy games, our Rainbow Six Siege review.

14. Planetside 2 (2012)

Developer: Daybreak Game Company
Publisher: Daybreak Game Company

"It is the grandest of combat operas," wrote Jim after two years of playing this wide-scale, tri-faction sci-fi multiplayer shooter. The size of the maps stretches into kilometres, allowing a freedom of movement nothing else here can beat, but PS2 doesn't come up short in terms of what it gives you to use in those vast spaces. Stealth suits, mech suits, jeeps, dropships, light assault aircraft, tanks, APCs, all vying for control of bases and outposts, and colliding in huge battles outside of them. The fight rolls seamlessly from massed outdoor battles to tense indoor skirmishes and back again, and fortunes can turn on a dime as reinforcements roll in or a well-time flanking operation pays off. While PS2 does require a team to come alive, it is not the exercise in infinite patience and dedication of something like EVE: you can drop in, get involved, be useful and feel you were part of a war effort without having to set aside large portions of your life. Nothing else aims for simulated conflict on this scale, let alone achieves it.

Notes: A mediocre battle royale spinoff called Planetside Arena has been released, arguably stripping away the one thing that made the game unique among shooters - it's grandiosity.

Where can I buy it: It's free-to-play (with optional microtransactions) from Daybreak.

What else should I be playing if I like this: It's spaceship-based and an MMO, but EVE Online is the logical step upwards if you want more scale, more unpredictability and more flexibility. Battlefield 1 is probably the way to go if you want a more focused war, or one which requires less dedication to a team.

Read more: The generals of Planetside 2's forgotten war, The 1% - the story of a last stand, and Planetside 2: My Favourite Game Of The Past Two Years.

playerunknowns-battlegrounds-review-11

13. Playerunknown's Battlegrounds (2017)

Developer: PUBG Corporation
Publisher: PUBG Corporation

Or Plunkbat, as it is universally and uniformly known. Yes, you could play this in vanilla third-person mode but then it wouldn’t make our list, would it? And you don’t want us to have a bad list.

Plunkbat drops you from a plane full of screaming, hollering murder fans onto a massive map filled with tiny houses, trundling cars, and dangerous bridges. And guns. Guns everywhere. Before its release the battle royale coals had been burning strongly for a while (with Brendan Greene’s own Arma 2 mod providing the spark) but this was the game to throw petrol on the fire. It’s the reason Fortnite went from zombie defence build-em-up to massive multiplayer death battle. It’s the reason Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is adding its own battle royale mode.

But it’s not the game’s influence that gets it on our list. It’s the tension and the teamwork, the suspense of wandering across an open road, the panic as the death circle closes in, the excitement of a frantic gun battle, the adrenaline of a chicken dinner soundly winnered. In that plane full of hatenoise, you have a 1 in 100 chance of being the last person standing. And when that comes to pass, it’s a more savoury victory than being the top of any Call of Duty killboard.

Notes: Plunkbat is definitely the correct nomenclature.

Where can I buy it: Get it on Steam.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Fortnite battle royale, I suppose?

Read more: Has Plunkbat been improved by its updates?, Matt’s messing about in Plunkbat.

12. Overwatch (2016)

Developer: Blizzard
Publisher: Blizzard

One fine day, Blizzard decided that they wanted to take over multiplayer shooters. And so they did. From afar, Overwatch's sudden dominance seems effortless, although it's powered by a budget and expertise that almost no other game can dream of.

A team shooter that owes much to the venerable Team Fortress 2, put pushes for far more variety of characters and skillsets even if it feels a bit less tight for it. This is MOBA values applied to the online shooter, with a heavy focus on each character having a very particular set of skills and personality. You find your favourite, you learn them well - and then you switch gleefully to a new one once they're released. It's all backed up by extremely well-planned lorefluff and cosplay inspirations that has made this a darling of wider game culture as well as the hardcore.

The polished to the nth degree sheen to Overwatch can be a bit of a turn off, but even if that is the case for you, it's such a tight, enjoyable and accessible without being dumb online shooter that it flat-out doesn't matter. Blizzard totally owned it.

Notes: Overwatch has been consistenly adding new characters and maps since its release, including a hamster in a giant ball.

Where can I buy it: From Blizzard.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Team Fortress 2 for your history lesson. Apex Legends for a battle royale shooter where hero skills matter slightly less.

Read more: Has Overwatch been improved by its updates? Jay's regular column on the Overwatch League, our Overwatch character guide.

I think Gunther von Hagens has gone too far.

11. DOOM (2016)

Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda

Yes: 2016's do-over of the quintessential first-person shooter is a gory triumph in its own right. Classic weapons and a familiar bestiary help, as does it being so open about the fact we're all here for bloodshed, but it's the momentum system that makes it so damn good. Killing is movement is killing is movement: the more you kill, the faster you move, and this builds and builds in tandem with your learning how to play and how to survive.

A roomful of enemies that seems intense and unfair near the start of the game is like a country ramble compared to what comes later on - but rather than this being a simple matter of difficulty, it's because DOOM trains you on the job, expertly and effortlessly. You don't hit walls here. You punch right through them, cackling and grinning, having the time of your life. A completely unexpected, brilliant comeback. Doom still matters.

Notes: Thanks to this, we really don't need to think about Doom 3 any more. Also: Doom remains a going concern, thanks to a trickle of updates and user-made 'Snapmap' levels, so it most certainly doesn't end when the campaign does.

Read more: It was the best FPS in 2016, how DOOM's glory kills maintain momentum, and the RPS Verdict: DOOM.

10. Far Cry 2 (2008)

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft

And here's the other side of the coin to Crysis - a semi-open world shooter (this time in a dirty and oppressive Africa rather than a paradise island) which actively robs you of power, rather than festoons you with it. The dark beauty of Far Cry 2 is the extent to which it places you in danger, creating a truly hostile world in which you are hamstrung and hated rather than a playground in which you are mollycoddled and lionised. It inverts conventional wisdom as part of an astute observation that it is more satisfying and meaningful to succeed in the face of great adversity than it is to grant you more and more toys until you just can't help but be victorious. It took several more years of power fantasies before I realised that. Far Cry 2 also seeks to embrace the truth of a world of guns: it's nasty, it's really about money, people do die, you are not a hero, and no-one's coming to bail you out. Well, maybe the pal you met in that last hideout is...

Notes: As steely-focused and uncompromising as it might be, there's no denying that Far Cry 2 made some frustrating design decisions - most notoriously the respawning guard posts, who'd chase you down every damn time and hold up travel around the map in a way that was irritating rather than appropriately unforgiving. Several mods remove it, but I've got my eye on Dylan's Realism Mod, which also adds in a bunch of other hardcore stuff, hopefully resulting in a game which is just as, if not more, unfair but without being grindy about it.

Where can I buy it: Steam, Ubisoft or GOG.

What else should I be playing if I like this: The fatalistic horror of STALKER, the sober realism of the Arma games, or if (like many) you can't stand FC2's icy aversion to 'fun' and want to invert matters entirely, there's Just Cause 4, fully embracing the super-heroic, super-destructive implausibility of more traditional open world action, rather than trying to have it both ways.

Read more: Why Far Cry 2 is still the best in the series, Another life, another time: Far Cry 2 revisited.

9. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (2012)

Developer: Valve Corporation / Hidden Path Entertainment
Publisher: Valve Corporation

Timeless, deathless. Broadly speaking not much in Counter-Strike's fourth major iteration is that different to its first, because it simply doesn't need to be. Terrorists vs counter-terrorists, locked in eternal, easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master war. The once, present and future king of team multiplayer is as fiercely competitive and strategically twitchy as it's ever been, and CS:GO is all the more loved for being a little closer to the legendary Counter-Strike 1.6 than its predecessor Counter-Strike: Source was. Straight-faced and minimalist, it's a perfect collision of pursuing objectives and fighting to stay alive, with maps that can never be bettered. By this point it's entirely reasonable to assume that Counter-Strike will never fade, let alone die.

Notes: There are purists who won't leave the original Counter-Strike, and there are purists who won't leave Counter-Strike: Source. There are probably even a couple of madmen who won't leave Counter-Strike: Condition Zero. With the exception of the latter, it doesn't really matter which you play, but GO has matchmaking, interesting new modes, looks flashier, is more customisable and has a growing library of mods and add-ons.

Where can I buy it: Steam.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Rainbow Six Siege is a good contender. Team Fortress 2 if you find this too sombre and unforgiving, one of the latter-day Call of Duties if you want a progression system and/or to be sworn at more frequently, or Rising Storm if you want to be even harder on yourself.

Read more: Playing with firearms in CS:GO, Gaming Made Me: Counter-Strike.

8. BioShock 2 (2010)

Developer: 2K Marin
Publisher: 2K Games

Oh, it's hard. So hard. People who say BioShock 1 is the best BioShock game are right. People who say BioShock 2 is the best BioShock game are right. (People who say BioShock: Infinite is the best BioShock game should be buried at sea immediately). But they're both best for different reasons. BS1 has one of finest videogame openings of all time: the architecture, the mystery, the deftly immediate creation of an effective antagonist without his first having to attack you or yours, the introduction of the unquestionably iconic, darkly nuanced Big Daddy/Little Sister pairing, the sea-life, and at least two of the finest mid-game moments too - the eventual encounter with the aforementioned antagonist, and the horrifying art installation of Sander Cohen. Sadly, so much of what's around it seems plodding in the face of BS2's crunchier, more open and responsive combat in a decaying city beneath the sea. If what you're looking for, first and foremost, is an action game, BS2 wins outright. What it lacks in big moments it makes up for with consistency. Over time, I also realised that it's also a more complete, focused and moving tale, not collapsing into an undercooked soufflé of handwaving in its final act. The people who say BioShock 1 is best really are right too, though.

Notes: Another reason I eventually plumped for 2 rather than 1 is thanks to the Minerva's Den DLC, an even more self-contained tale of technology wars under the sea. It has moment-to-moment finesse that the longer BioShock 2 (or 1) just can't beat, and while the later Infinite expanded the BioShock mythos into overblown fantasy, this far more effectively dials it down into a vignette which fills in another corner of what already works.

Where can I buy it: Steam, GOG.

What else should I be playing if I like this: BioShock 1, because it's also the best BioShock game.

Read more: Colourblind gaming: is it in his eyes?, our BioShock 2 review.

7. Devil Daggers (2016)

Developer: Sorath
Publisher: Sorath

2016 was in many ways a vintage year for first-person shooters, and the reason for that was because they understood their past. DOOM, obviously; Overwatch returned to Team Fortress rather than COD; Titanfall 2 was the big sci-fi silliness of the noughties again and Devil Daggers... well, Devil Daggers is from an alternate timeline where Quake changed everything and was never forgotten in favour of military men and careful plots.

A beautiful hellscape of big square pixels against a midnight backdrop, monstrous things looming at you from the darkness, and the dance, the endless dance. A pure test of everything that first-person shooters ever taught us. Reflex, awareness, movement, practice, true grit and no surrender. It is about your own time and only about your own time, because that is all that matters - everything else that shooters ever added is mere fluff.

Devil Daggers is purity and perfection. An eternal creation. The only surprise is quite how long it took us to realise that this was what we really needed from gun games.

Where can I buy it: Steam, GOG, Humble, direct from the devs.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Thumper - similar values applied to rhythm action.

Read more: It was our game of the year 2016, our Devil Daggers review.

6. Half-Life (1998)

As every boring old fart has observed over almost 20 years, Half-life is Indiana Jones. The unexpected dangers, the daring escapes, the semi-comic deaths of anyone who isn't the hero, the quest to stay alive as the situation becomes more and more disastrous, the threat which comes as much from a trap-filled place as it does from your foes. But what foes. Like Doom before it, Half-Life has an iconic rogue's gallery not simply because it was early, but because it wasn't following any rules. Great visual ideas went in because they were great visual ideas, so it's the hodge-podge of monster tropes which somehow seems like it belongs together. The pinnacle of this is the tentacle monster, a boss fight that isn't a fight, but which has an entire level built around it and turned into one giant environmental puzzle in the process. No slathering maw, death ray or gruesome decapitator has ever been as threatening as the sad tap, tap, tap of a lost, blind giant trying to escape its metal prison, and undiscerning about who it blames for it. It's just one example of a story which tells itself as you play, often wordlessly, almost never interrupting you. Even Half-Life 2 has lessons to learn from that.

Let us not forget, too, that Half-Life might just be the greatest gift there ever was to modding, with the exception of DOOM. An awful lot of PC gaming as we know it hinges upon Gordon Freeman's first adventure.

Notes: In truth, Half-Life has been superseded by its own, second remastering, the fan mod gone standalone Black Mesa.

Where can I buy it: Steam, or second-hand.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Linear story-telling aside, it took shooters a long time to pick up Half-Life's baton. Of Valve's own back catalogue, first-person puzzler Portal is almost closer than Half-Life 2, due to its focus on conundrums, hinted backstory and sight gags. Other than that, BioShock is your best bet for a voyage through a collapsing construct with excellent environmental story-telling.

Read more: Never Been Half-Lifed, Unpotting the history of Half-Life modding, Premature Evaluation: Black Mesa, How Half-Life Killed The First-Person Shooter.

5. Quake (1996)

Developer: id Software
Publisher: GT Interactive

id's real 3D follow-up to Doom did not invent mouse free-look (that was arguably Marathon on the Mac), but it did make it a standard control method. It also spawned the most intense use of the mouse-keyboard control system to date with the astonishing multiplayer. Quake, perhaps more than anything else, is the template for what a first-person shooter is today, especially in terms of deathmatch. That said, overlook the single-player side of things at your peril: it remains fiercely playable, with superb monsters, ingeniously cruel level design, and a reminder of how brutal and thrilling things could be before the transformations of Half-Life.

What's particularly fascinating with Quake is that, over the last couple of years, it's reached the point where it's looking better rather than worse with age. Its wild mash-up of sci-fi, medieval fantasy and gothic architecture and creatures, all so physical in their blockiness and pixel-grid textures, now seems highly stylised rather than dourly retro. Quake is an aesthetic as much as it is a game, and that glorious aesthetic shines like a new sun in the grim quasi-photoreal darkness of 2019.

But, mostly, it feels so damn good. Fast, crunchy, spooky, a blistering death race through a twisting, tortured place that is all its own.

Notes: The Steam version is missing the soundtrack due to license wrangling. One way to get it back is Ultimate Quake Patch, will also introduces an improved engine which may offend your eyes a little less. There are also a whole bunch of new clients (thanks to id open-sourcing the engine) if prettiness is your main interest.

Where can I buy it: Steam, GOG, or you can combine the shareware version with FreeQuake to get the multiplayer going.

What else should I be playing if I like this: A lot of games have looked to recreate the old-school feeling of this monster. Amid Evil and Dusk are two of the better ones.

Read more: Gaming Made Me: Quake, Quakeworld's scrapped free to play 1996 business model, Arcane Dimensions is Quake rethought for 2016, Quake at 20 years old.

4. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow Of Chernobyl (2007)

Developer: GSC Gameworld
Publisher: THQ

When we think of open world games, especially shooters, we tend to think of wide-open spaces in which you can hare around attacking anything in sight. The maudlin, post-apocalyptic, bombast-free sci-fi shooter S.T.A.L.K.E.R. isn't that. It's so much more. It's a world game. Its environments are more constrained, sometimes infuriatingly so (I'm still angry about the barbed wire in the first area) and progress is to some degree gated, but they are living and they are convincing. A world divided into factions and monsters and worse, deadly outdoor spaces and terrifying indoor spaces, dark life in a land of ruin, but a real land, that breathtaking modern-day Mary Celeste that is the abandoned Chernobyl and Pripyat area of the Ukraine.

Life left it suddenly, and new life has slowly moved into the ruins. Fearful life, the Stalkers who patrol it alone or in quiet groups, wandering through the thunder and the distant sound of unspeakable horrors. The sad mutants who scurry and slope through the wasteland, mad and afraid, as much a victim of this place as you are. Small signs of hesitant community, as wanderers gather and play songs around a campfire. You're on a quest, yes, but you can choose when to engage, who to engage with, where sympathies lie, what your status and purpose in the Zone is. There are no rules in the Zone, really. It can grant your greatest wish. The wish to be somewhere else, being who you want to be.

Beauty and horror. A world barely clinging to life, and all the more alive for it. Unmatched aesthetic and architectural accomplishments, paired with broken English and half-broken technology.

Notes: I settled on the first game because I love it for being uncompromising and how deep it reaches into strangeness and unhelpfulness, which for me is key to the wasteland mercenary fantasy it seeks to evoke, but without doubt third game Call of Pripyat is more approachable, more (comparatively) slick and stable and even more fully-featured. Play both, quite frankly.

You'll also want to explore the mod scene, starting with graphical mods such as STALKER Complete then moving onto the survival sim ones which further increase the wonderful, terrible experience of life in the Zone.

Where can I buy it? It's on Steam and GOG.

Read more: How gamers experience the real Chernobyl, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: The Lost Alpha, Why game inventories matter, Idle Musing: Watching The AI Fight, On the importance of STALKER, Why I still play STALKER.

3. Left 4 Dead 2 (2008)

Developer: Valve Corporation
Publisher: Valve Corporation

Zombies: in 2008 they were still very exciting. They still are today when blessed with Valve's magic touch, which in a few, brief, cyclic co-op skits adds more life, wit and hinted-at history to its characters and its world than most of the 8 hour+ singleplayer campaigns in this list stuck together. Including L4D2 in the list was complicated, however, given most of what makes it to strong was work done by the previous year's Left 4 Dead. It's a sequel not that different to the original, and not a game that I felt, on its first outing, really changed anything. However, it's clear with time that Left 4 Dead 2 was a major under-the-hood upgrade, both closer to what was intended for the game, and also a bigger move in the direction of pure co-op, which wasn’t something that even seemed possible before the let's-all-die-together first Left 4 Dead came along.

Notes: Another strong reason to choose this over L4D1 (which still has a more memorable cast of Survivors, to my mind) is how much it's been expanded by mods. You can stick Deadpool in there, expand it from a 4-player game to a 16-player one, turn everyone into a dinosaur or recreate pretty much the entirety of L4D1 within it. Get thee to the Steam workshop and indulge.

Where can I buy it: Steam. You can get keys from elsewhere, but you ain't escaping Steam.

What else should I be playing if I like this: The Vermintide games are a direct inheritor of the format. And the Killing Floor games offer a more frenetic and weapon-focused take on primarily co-op zombie-bothering.

Read more: The best of the L4D2 Workshop, Valve on L4D2: "trust us a little bit".

2. Half-Life 2 (2004)

Developer: Valve Corporation
Publisher: Valve Corporation

Of course. So much is in Half-Life 2, from an unprecedented level of architectural design to facial animation which rendered anything else obsolete overnight, to a physics system which transformed shooter environments from scenery into interactive resource, to some of gaming's most striking baddies in the Striders and a huge step forwards in making AI companions believable and likeable.

It's also a long, changeable journey through a beautifully, bleakly fleshed-out world, and although of course you are on the hero's journey, it's careful to keep you feeling like a bit player in a wider conflict. That this, plus the cliffhanger ending of Episode 2, left so much more to be told leaves PC gaming in a perpetual state of frustration that the series has, publicly at least, ground to a halt. I don't think all of it is as striking as it once was - particularly, much of the manshooting feels routine and slightly weightless now - but Half-Life 2 gave us more than any other first-person shooter before, and maybe even since.

Notes: If it matters, Half-Life 2 itself is the most memorable instalment of its own mini-series, but Episode 2 the tightest and most thrilling. I can understand why Episode 3 didn't come to pass: this was a game constrained by its own limitations, having polished them to a new gleam in Episode 2, but with no place left to go. Let's see what happens next.

It's well worth grabbing the unofficial but semi-officially endorsed graphics mod/patch Half-Life 2 Update if you're planning to play Half-Life 2 now.

Where can I buy it? On Steam, duh.

What else should I be playing if I like this: So many shooters deliver the story as you roll now, but BioShock is perhaps the best example of this philosophy taken to its peak.

Read more: Everything I'd forgotten about Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2's Missing Information, The Boy Who Stole Half-Life 2, our Half-Life 2 Episode 2 review.

1. DOOM (1993)

Developer: id Software
Publisher: Formerly GT Interactive, now Bethesda Softworks

The alpha and omega of first-person shooters. The origin story of mainstream videogames, a violent end to what games might otherwise have been, a gateway to so much more than otherwise might have been. The maniacal Star Wars of games, the blockbuster which changed everything and the Super-8 camera which handed the tools of invention to anyone. A never-bettered (including by its own creators) collusion and collision of vision between John Carmack's technological purity, John Romero's attitude and Adrian Carmack and Kevin Cloud's lurid, no-rules creature design. In 1993, DOOM arrived fully-formed and self-contained, said all that first-person shooters really needed to say, and without pretensions to be anything more.

It embraces being a videogame, in its violence, its somehow perfectly complementary aesthetic mish-mash, its celebratory tone, its rejection of exposition, its high-speed, slip-sliding movement, its impossible levels, its escalating firepower, its increasingly titanic bestiary. It does whatever it likes because there was no perceived wisdom to say what was right and what was wrong. It was The Gun Game, the game that would always have been and the game that would always have set videogames on a certain path, because the world needed it, whether it wants to admit it or not.

It needed DOOM not just to scratch a bloodthirsty itch, but also to provide a canvas on which to create and to warp, without having to be part of the games industry to do this. Its modular nature enabled amateur-made content to be switched in and out, and resulted in a community gleefully making DOOM into anything and everything. Maybe we didn't get to talk to the monsters, but the game opened so many doors for so many people, and gave so many experiences to so many others. Its shareware distribution made it all the easier for anyone to lay hands on it too, unbound as it was by the limited stock and high prices of traditional retail.

Trust me on this though: this is not number one merely because of historical importance. Improbably, DOOM has aged exceptionally well, and in fact improved over the years. What was at the time relatively plodding and mechanical in its controls and intended horror tone has, thanks to the unintended addition of mouselook and strafing, grown into a high-speed, brightly-lit dance of death, pure momentum, a thundering snowball of combat against iconic threats where you are invader rather than defender, and whose faux-3D sprites upscale beautifully, perhaps even timelessly.

A tireless community still creates endless new and sometimes deeply strange deviations upon it, while its infrastructure, still after all this time the shared foundations of any first-person game, can be and has been turned to so many other purposes. DOOM was both the inevitable corruption of gaming's innocence and the necessary expansion of its horizons, and its blissful perversions continue unabated.

Notes: Try Brutal DOOM. Play Demonsteele. Play any of these. Watch John Romero's commentary. Take selfies. Play DOOM in Garry's mod. Live DOOM.

Where can I buy it: On Steam, on almost any platform known to humanity, or just grab the original shareware.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Everything else on this list.

Read more: 20 Years of Doom, Raised By Screens: Doom, Video(game) Nasties Saved My Life, How Doom Got Me Suspended, Dad & Doom, A People's History Of The FPS: The WAD.

Honourable Mentions

These are the games which were in the top 50 back in 2018 but got bumped out for something else. We still like 'em loads, though.

Shadow Warrior 2 (2016)

Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Publisher: Devolver Digital

Shadow Warrior 2 was a worrying prospect. Quite frankly, so was its predecessor. When Flying Wild Hog announced they'd be revisiting one of the nineties Build engine games that seemed best left in the past, hopes weren't particularly high. Lo Wang's adventures were a gory good time, ditching elaborate level design in favour of slick melee combat and a fancy skill tree to work through. Slicing enemies into pieces was a joy and the pleasures of carving the flesh were potent enough to make even the feeblest jokes tolerable. More of the same would be fantastic.

In a way, that's precisely what Shadow Warrior 2 delivered. More swords, more guns, more gore (it's the best dismemberment and disemboweling system around, for what that's worth) and more monsters. But it did all of that in randomised maps, taking notes from Diablo and the like with minibosses scattered around with tricky little minions. Half ARPG, all first-person hack, slash and shooter, it could have been very messy indeed.

But it works. The combat system is better than ever, the chainsaw is a delight, and there are more weapons, enemies and quests than you can shake a wang at. Against all reason, a foul-mouthed muddle of dad jokes and infinite demons is precisely what modern shooters needed all along.

Where can I buy it: Get it on Steam.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Other than the predecessor, Serious Sam or Bulletstorm are probably your best bet for 'not taking this seriously' OTT action.

Read more: Wot I think: Shadow Warrior 2, Have You Played... Shadow Warrior?

Metro 2033 Redux (2014)

Developer: 4A Games
Publisher: Deep Silver

The post-apocalypse as imagined by the East rather than the West, imagining a future-Russia where what's left of the population ekes out a fearful existence inside Moscow's subway system. On the surface, cold and radiation prevents all but the most monstrous life, while below ground various factions violently vie for control. While Metro 2033 is deeply uneven as an action game, with wildly spiking difficulty, an over-reliance on annoying monsters and infuriating quick-time events, it gets away with it thanks to its careful world-building (best underground pig farm in games?) and the decision to make combat low-tech and fiddly, your survival forever on a knife edge.

Notes: The Redux version offers a decent graphics boost, as well as improving the frustrating stealth somewhat, but you're not missing out on a vast amount if for any reason you opt for the original instead. Alternatively (or in a Redux pack) there's slicker sequel Last Light, which won't have you screaming Бля at the skies quite so often, but trades away some of the challenge and strangeness as well the frustration.

Where can I buy it: Steam, or disc.

What else should I be playing if I like this: STALKER offers a less linear, wilder and frankly far superior take on the Eastern European apocalypse, but it's a tougher nut to crack if you're coming to these things from glossy American shooters. Rage 2 is probably your best bet if that is the case.

Read more: Metro Redux review, Metro 2033 review

Star Wars: Dark Forces (1993)

Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts

If Jedi Knight was the Skywalker game, its forerunner Dark Forces was the Solo game, or at least as close as we'll ever get without someone hiring Harrison Ford to sound exasperated for 8-12 hours. This was Star Wars doing (a more ornate) Doom, and (having replayed it just this morning) it's still the best recreation we've got of the pew-pew gunfights and starkly industrial sets of the original trilogy. It's breathlessly quick, Stormtroopers are useless and fall over brilliantly, and basically you get to just dash around shooting slightly unconvincing laser guns without anyone ever having time for more than a few bon mots. It's pretty stupid, it's very Star Wars.

Notes: The XL Engine project moves Dark Forces into a slightly more modern renderer, including 3D accelerated (ooh, doesn't it feel lovely to say that again?) environments. An alpha version is available and has most of the requisite bits and bobs in it, but progress towards a planned beta seemed to stall around a year ago.

Where can I buy it: Steam and GOG.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Duke Nukem 3D or Blood if you want more throwback shooters with more open environments than Doom, or space combat sims X-Wing or TIE Fighter if you want to explore other quintessential aspects of Star Wars.

Read more: Why Star Wars Makes For Better Games Than Films.

day-of-infamy-free-weekend-2

Day of Infamy (2017)

Developer: New World Interactive
Publisher: New World Interactive

A tough multiplayer slog through World War II that feels like a treasure rescued from a time capsule. In the studio of New World Interactive, killcams and minimap radar never took off. Omnipresent voice communications was shunned. And the fatal danger of friendly fire never went away. You could call Day of Infamy old-fashioned (and it is based partly on the nostalgia of Day of Defeat) but that would ignore how much it refined the atmosphere of first-person WWII warfare.

Here, you can take the usual role of assault troopers or medics, but also the specialist roles of radio operator and commanding officer. The latter two have to work together to provide artillery, and to give the other players direction and purpose. Here, bad leaders call in smokescreens on the wrong hill, or order an assault at the worst possible moment. But good leaders shout at you from the top of a trench, telling you to get the hell out there, into the fray. Although this warlike atmosphere sometimes falls apart in tight corridors and choke points, which become grenade spam hells.

However, each respawn happens in tandem with others, and this forces everyone to move together in waves. As multiplayer conflict goes, it’s a punishing place, enforcing an attitude of “push forward or die trying”. It's as demanding of your reflexes as CS:GO. But it also delivers the morbid fantasy of being in the landing craft on D-Day far better than Call of Duty WWII.

Notes: It’s a spiritual successor to Day of Defeat, which was originally a free Half-life mod. Valve liked it so much they hired the creators and published the game for real monies.

Where can I buy it: Get it on Steam.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Insurgency, by the same developers, has a similar no-hands-held attitude. The Red Orchestra games are also punishing war zones.

Read more: Our Day of Infamy early access review.

Keep turning pages for our postscript and the complete list...

Nothing's going to make people fight more than a list of the best of the games about fighting people. There are so many others we could have included. Please suggest additions and alternatives below. Remember, the point of this whole exercise is to help people find new games to play, not to browbeat anyone into accepting The One Objective Truth. By sheer coincidence, this list does happen to be The One Objective Truth, but never mind that. Be good.

The Complete List

Alrighty, Cheaty McCheatpants, if you don't want to read about why we chose what we chose, here's the TLDR for you:

1. Doom
2. Half-life 2
3. Left 4 Dead 2
4. STALKER SOC
5. Quake
6. Half-Life
7. Devil Daggers
8. BioShock 2
9. CSGO
10. Far Cry 2
11. Doom 2016
12. Overwatch
13. Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds
14. Planetside 2
15. Rainbow Six Siege
16. Team Fortress 2
17. Battlefield Bad Company 2
18. Quake 3 Arena
19. Superhot / Superhot VR
20. Halo: Combat Evolved
21. Natural Selection 2
22. Alien: Isolation
23. Unreal Tournament 2004
24. Wolfenstein II: New Colossus
25. Battlefield 1942
26. Apex Legends
27. Rising Storm
28. Crysis
29. Star Wars Jedi Knight – Mysteries Of The Sith
30. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
31. Far Cry 4
32. Chronicles Of Riddick: Assault On DA
33. Star Wars: Republic Commando
34. Arma 3
35. Destiny 2
36. Prey
37. Aliens versus Predator
38. Titanfall 2
39. Metro Exodus
40. SWAT 4
41. Wolfenstein: The New Order
42. Bulletstorm
43. Dying Light
44. Dishonored 2
45. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
46. F.E.A.R.
47. The Operative: No One Lives Forever
48. Call of Duty 2
49. Marathon
50. Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter

For more of RPS' bestest best games, take your pick from:

Or try our genre-specific lists, if you want a particular kind of great game to play:

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