Shooters have been around since the advent of time. Okay, maybe not that long, but they have had a long run. After all, Maze War, credited as the first first-person shooter and the first game to allow networked players to fight each other, was conceived in 1973 during the Pong era. Since its inception, others have built upon its foundation, giving us titles like Doom, Quake, and, eventually, sophisticated titles like Call of Duty.
Now, there are many ways to play such as co-op modes, deathmatches, and single-player adventures, resulting in a genre that is capable of reinventing itself to remain relevant. There is a shooter out there for everyone. If you hate multiplayer, pick up a story-driven title like Bioshock or Dead Space. If you don’t like playing solo, then try Overwatch.
As difficult as it can be to take out an online opponent, killing off a shooter is even harder for a myriad of reasons. Namely, the most popular franchises tend to sell like ice cream on a scorching summer day, giving off the impression that gamers just want more of the same. This assumption has led some developers to create sequel after sequel of the same drivel, essentially driving what were once innovative titles into the ground. Still, not all shooters are designed to be cash grabs; some titles persist because they are nostalgic, fan favorites, or just that good.
Here are 15 shooters that continue to respawn at the last checkpoint.
You can’t talk about Call of Duty without mentioning Battlefield, arguably the franchise’s biggest rival. Whenever a new Battlefield game is released, there is certain to be a COD entry following close behind. The two were embroiled in an endless game of chicken with neither one willing to swerve out of harm’s way—and it was hurting Battlefield.
Unlike Call of Duty, Battlefield 1’s departure from modern warfare was met with praise. Taking the series to WWI allowed them to create a great campaign mode with an engaging story told through a number of unconnected vignettes.
Without Battlefield 1, the franchise would have likely fallen into the same tailspin that is currently plaguing COD. This is one series that won’t go down without a fight (or forcing players to buy new maps).
13 Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon
This list wouldn’t be complete without an entry from Ubisoft, the master of bleeding a franchise dry. At least they tried something different with their latest entry in the series, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, shifting it to an open world that is obviously inspired by Far Cry. However, this is where the praise stops. Wildlands is a poorly written, glitch-ridden mess of a game that makes it appear as if Ubisoft is churning out games to make a quick buck.
The huge map, littered with various objectives, is a huge step away from previous iterations of Ghost Recon, where players were led in a particular direction. The sheer number of things you can do is overwhelming. Not to mention, the missions are boring and repetitive. It is almost as if Ubisoft wanted to create a new IP but were afraid it would fail without the Ghost Recon name.
Overwatch, in true Blizzard fashion, is literally everywhere right now. It is arguably the best shooter out, pitting 6-player teams against each other to complete objectives. In a world of CODs and Battlefields, it’s hard to stand out, but Overwatch manages to do so by having diverse characters that excite players and forcing those same players to work as a team.
It is this emphasis on teamwork that makes it difficult for one single player to carry the team to victory, meaning that every person on your team matters. In fact, they take it one step further by not tracking player’s kill/death ratios. After all, not every character was designed to be offensive.
While the game isn’t perfect, with over 30 million registered players, it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Though you could argue that Halo should have died with Bungie’s third and final entry, I would be remiss to overlook the great job 343 Studios did with Halo 4. After all, who wants to play a game created by a studio that has lost its passion? Handing over the reins allowed 343 Studios to take the story in a new direction.
Shifting the focus of the story to Cortana, and Master Chief’s struggle to save her, humanized our super-soldier hero in a way we had not seen before. Things were looking up, and then Halo 5 happened. Instead of focusing on the awesomeness that is Master Chief (and his team’s origin story), players are forced to complete most of the campaign’s missions with the stereotypically dull, military-type Spartan Jameson Locke.
The mediocrity of Halo 5 is a sign that Master Chief needs to go back into cryo.
As long as there is the Internet, there will be Counter-Strike. The two go hand in hand. Similar to Team Fortress, Counter-Strike started out as a Half-Life mod that was eventually picked up by Valve and released as a commercial game. Counter-Strike 1.6 was insanely popular, selling 4.2 million units over its lifetime. In fact, thousands of players still play online even though it is nearly 20 years old.
The latest entry, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, consistently draws in over 500,000 players at a time. Fans simply won’t let this franchise die. Perhaps this is because they don’t oversaturate the market by releasing a new title every year. You can trust Valve to take the time to create the best game possible. Global Offensive didn’t win The Game Award for Best eSports Game for nothing.
9 Call Of Duty
[Inserts obligatory Call of Duty entry]
But, seriously, this popular shooter franchise is the Michael Bay of video games—big explosions, cool distractions, and little in the way of story. We need a new Call of Duty about as much as we need a new Avatar or Transformers film. They change up the location and box art but serve up the same, tired gameplay.
But who can blame them for using the same cookie-cutter formula? As they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix.” Except it is broken. The sales data speaks for itself. Compared to sales of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 in November 2015, sales of physical copies of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare last November were down 50 percent.
The entirety of space wasn’t enough to fool gamers into thinking this entry was anything other than another stale slice in a loaf of moldy bread.
8 Far Cry
Oh, look! It’s another Ubisoft entry. What a surprise!
With Far Cry 5 on the horizon, it appears that there is no stopping this hype train. After all, not only has every entry in the franchise been well received, its success has inspired Ubisoft to add a bit of Far Cry to nearly all of its open world titles.
I mean, the games are consistently beautiful and give you enough stuff to do to keep you from getting bored. There’s no right way to play. Want to trample enemies with an elephant? Go for it. Want to spray and pray? No problem! Ubisoft isn’t the best when it comes to storytelling, and Far Cry 4 is no exception, but they’ve at least made the game fun enough that it doesn’t matter—like a really fun B-movie or action flick.
It’s the gameplay that keeps players coming back for seconds.
Borderlands is many things. It’s science fiction. It’s part action RPG, part FPS, and all about the loot. If you aren’t playing Borderlands for the loot hunting, then you are playing the wrong game. You start out with crappy weapons and then kill bad guys to pick up the loot they leave behind. The series made upgrading addicting. The first Borderlands even received a Guinness Book of World Records certificate for the most available firearms in a game (over 17 million).
And the variations don’t end there. Borderlands allows players to play the game in multiple ways such as co-oping with friends, challenging teammates to duels, or setting out for a solo adventure. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the latest entry, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. It did everything it was supposed to do, and subsequently, lacked its own identity.
Perhaps, this is a sign of things to come.
It’s not often that you get a game based on a novel. Although, the Metro franchise is in good company considering Parasite Eve, Bioshock, and The Witcher were all inspired by literature. However, the first two entries, Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light, both had their share of issues such as unpredictable AIs and dark levels that impeded gameplay.
Many of these issues were corrected with Metro: Redux, giving players hope that the next entry in the series Metro: Exodus, will do Aytrom’s harrowing story of survival in a post-apocalyptic Russia justice. Don’t get me wrong, the Metro games are fun, but they lack the polish of other single-player shooters like Bioshock. Overall, the series is mediocre and serves as a good placeholder between other, better titles.
However, with three full novels and a host of short stories to work with, the world of Metro isn’t going away anytime soon.
You may be asking yourselves, “Did we really need a new Wolfenstein?” It’s old and icky and from the 80s. While it may seem like Wolfenstein is just an old IP that was drudged up unnecessarily by Bethesda to make a quick buck, that is certainly not the case. The franchise’s recent soft reboot managed to raise it from the dead without sacrificing the quality of the game.
Wolfenstein: The New Order puts players in an alternate universe where the Axis powers won WWII. Players engage in a larger-than-life battle to take down the Nazi powers. I mean, who doesn’t want to take out a Nazi?
Instead of switching up the franchise’s familiar gameplay or randomly giving us a new protagonist, Machinegames ups the ante by giving us a compelling new story and relatable characters. They have found the perfect balance between new and interesting and old and familiar.
After Bungie had fulfilled its contract with Microsoft, the company set out to create a legendary, online-only FPS. Destiny 2 is on the horizon, and we are still waiting on Bungie to deliver. The superstar developer’s recent endeavor is no Halo. Content was removed from the game, the story disappointed, and the base game was obscenely repetitive. To add a bit of variety to the experience, you had to purchase cut content in the form of DLC.
Any company that’s willing to sell a skeleton of a game at full price shouldn’t be trusted. It’s obvious that Bungie doesn’t have their fans best interest in mind. Expect Destiny 2 to be more of the same. A lackluster shooter that pales in comparison to what Bungie achieved with Halo. If it weren’t for Bungie’s legendary status, this series would have been dead in the water a long time ago.
From Infinite Warfare to Halo to Destiny, futuristic sci-fi shooters are all the rage right now. With so many on the market, developers run the risk of running the genre into the ground by telling the same stories and reusing the same gameplay mechanics (much like the zombie survival genre). However, Titanfall is unique, and there is one huge reason for this: mechs. Okay, I know the game is so much more than that, but you can’t deny how god-like it feels to dominate the battlefield as a Titan.
Of course, it isn’t just about mechs. Titanfall also allows players to play as pilots, highly maneuverable soldiers with the ability to disable Titans if players are crafty enough. With Titanfall 2, Respawn added more Titans, a sorely needed campaign mode, and provided players with free DLC (you read that right), proving they’re all about pleasing their fans.
Doom wasn’t the first FPS or the first multiplayer game, but its impact on the genre is undeniable. In 1993, it was an extremely realistic game that allowed players to move as they did in the real world—gun bobbing with each step, the ability to interact with objects, and not being relegated to an overhead perspective. Yes, Doom was innovative.
It’s strong multiplayer component laid the groundwork for competitive play in gaming. It helped transform gaming from a solo experience to one that can be shared with friends (or strangers). Doom is legendary, which is why the reboot—while decent—was nothing more than a ghost of its former self. It’s multiplayer was nothing to write home about, and the single player campaign lacked the innovation that made the original great.
Nostalgia is the only reason this shooter has survived into the modern era.
Every year around E3, gamers hold their collective breath as they wait for Half-Life 2: Episode 3 or Half-Life 3 to finally be confirmed by someone, anyone! We get it. Half-Life and Half-Life 2 are the best games you have ever played, and possibly the greatest games ever made. Both titles won a ton of Game of the Year awards, making Gabe Newell’s decade-long troll that much more unbearable.
At the time, the Half-Life games were truly innovative. There were no cutscenes to interfere with player immersion, it was graphically impressive, and even allowed players to manipulate objects in the environment to solve in-game puzzles. Also, the Gravity Gun. Do I really need to explain why hurling objects at enemies with a tractor-beam-like weapon is so satisfying?
Even though a Half-Life sequel will probably never happen (seriously!), its spirit continues to live on due to its dedicated fanbase.
1 Unreal Tournament
While gamers keep the spirit of Half-Life alive with wishful thinking and frequent trips down nostalgia lane, when it comes to Unreal Tournament, they are literally keeping the game alive. In 2014, Epic announced its plan to make a new Unreal Tournament with the help of its community. They aren’t just asking for feedback in the form of a survey; they are actually using assets created by modders and asking for input on gameplay mechanics (even going so far as setting up a Discord channel).
What a unique way to breathe new life into your aging franchise. By working with the community, instead of isolating themselves for months on end, hoping their next entry is well received, Epic is nearly guaranteed to release a game that satisfies its fans. It also doesn’t hurt that the game is free (and always will be). It’s hard to argue with free!