10 Classic FPS games that have been the pride and joy of PC gamers

First person shooters have been the pride and joy of PC gamers ever since Wolfenstein 3-D was available in floppy disks. The FPS genre survived an attack on it by clueless politicians and managed to come back stronger than ever. Here are ten of the classic FPS titles that helped to define the genre as we know it today.

Update: The new Wolfenstein game, released in 2014, has been a colossally awesome game that not only stays true to the original Wolfenstein 3D, but also manages to push the genre forward. It goes without saying that remakes, or reimaginings of classic first person shooters can be a damn good thing, if Wolfenstein is anything to go by. With that in mind, we’d love to see more remakes, especially high-quality titles for the latest-gen consoles.

I often look back at my childhood and think about the games that defined it. Aside from the hundreds of hours I spent playing games like X-Com and Monkey Island 2, the games I remember the most are the old FPS games. This article is reflection of the first person shooters that lead up to today's Calls of Duty, Killzones and Halos. 

Wolfenstein 3D

Wolfenstein 3D

Update:Wolfenstein 3D is given an homage in the latest Wolfenstein, and it comes in the form of the game's first level, which is playable in its entirety after you have a 'nightmare' on a pile of mattresses.

Wolfenstein 3D is the game that started it all. It may not be the most popular FPS, but it was a historic milestone for the genre. Developed by a little known studio called id Software, Wolfenstein 3D was a game that singlehandedly pioneered the first person shooter. 

The premise was simple–you're a Polish-American prisoner of war who breaks out of a German prison called Wolfenstein, leaving hundreds of dead Nazis in your wake. Eventually, you go on to battle Adolf Hitler (who happens to be in a robot suit) to bring an end to the second world war. 

It's crazy, but Wolfenstein 3D epitomizes the early days of gaming. 

Doom & Doom II


Although there were a number of games between the release of Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, Doom was the first to become a household name, and not just in the homes of gamers. I recall hearing the game referenced by Fox Mulder in an early X-Files episode. The game was even given an homage in one of its later episodes which had a Chinese character who resembled pro-gamer Thresh. 

In Doom, you play a nameless Space Marine who wakes up aboard a space station orbiting Mars's moon of Deimos, where all your fellow soldiers have turned into undead, gun-wielding monstrosities. Demons, too, have invaded the base. In typical space marine fashion, you must take the fight to them and find a way to get back to Earth. 

In the second game, Doom II: Hell on Earth, it would appear that your descent to the planet is days late, as the demons who first appeared in space have since invaded earth. To make things personal, they even killed your pet rabbit. The only thing you can do is answer their actions with bullets. Lots of them. 

Hexen II

hexen II

Not to be confused with "hexane" (not that you would do that, but Apple's autocorrect certainly did), Hexen II was the third game in the Heretic/Hexen series by Raven Software. Developed on id Software's Quake engine, Hexen II allowed you to play four distinct classes (Paladin, Crusader, Assassin, Necromancer). It even featured a rudimentary RPG system in a medieval fantasy world. 

The best part about the game was its online mode, called HexenWorld (like QuakeWorld) which featured something called Siege, a game where two opposing teams filled with different classes took on the role of attackers or defenders of a keep. It was a lot like the original TeamFortress or Onslaught mode in the Battlefield games. 

Rise of the Triad

Rise of the Tyraid

Quite possibly the campiest FPS ever made, Apogee's Rise of the Triad had a plot that paid homage to bad 80s action movies. You took on the role of one of five mercenaries, but the character you chose to play didn't make much of a difference in the game proper. Instead of killing nazis or zombies or undead space marines, you took on the fascist soldiers of a banana republic ruled by a tyrant named Oscuro, who as it turns out, was a monstrous human caterpillar made entirely out of heads and hands. 

Spanning over several chapters, Rise of the Triad pitted you against numerous enemies, including a wheelchair-bound Dick Cheney-lookalike armed with rocket launchers and various cyborg bosses. 

Like the movies it based itself on, RoTT didn't take itself seriously, and weapons ranged from John Woo-inspired pistols akimbo to a "Hand of God" attack that vaporized everything on the screen. You could even turn into an attack dog by enabling "Dog Mode". 

Rise of the Triad was also the first title to use a jump pad system, a feature later revived in Quake 3 Arena and Halo Reach. Despite using the 2D Build Engine, its developers managed to successfully create the impression of a 3D environment through some clever trickery. 

System Shock 2

system shock 2

Hailed as the precursor to titles like Deus Ex, Bioshock and even Dead Space, System Shock 2 was a damn good game in itself and stands as one of the best games ever made. As scary as it was innovative, System Shock 2 awakened primal fear in its claustrophobic environment aboard the Von Braun, a derelict ship named after the famous German rocket scientist. 

Taking place after the events of the first System Shock, you wake up dazed and confused–a soldier in a lonely, seemingly abandoned space ship. Equipped with nothing more than the skills you came with, you have to figure out what happened to the crew and, if possible, find a way to get off the ship. Through the game's innovative RPG system, you earn new skills and equipment as you go, and through audio logs lying around, you slowly discover the fate of the ship and the full reality of the situation you're in.

It's well written, innovative, and surprisingly playable despite its age. Just be sure to play it with the lights on, because the ship isn't as lonely as first impressions might indicate. 



The multiplayer revolution didn't begin until Quake. Up until then, single player games were the only titles on the market to ever make a dent in players' pockets, and investors (yeah, those guys) would rarely depend on a game's multiplayer features (which were rare) to carry the title alone. 

These days, the most successful titles (with the exception of "casual/social" games like FarmVille) are by and large multiplayer FPS titles — Halo Reach, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Team Fortress 2. None of that would've been possible were it not for the Quake revolution. 

With arguably little effort put into the single player game, most of Quake's popularity stemmed from its robust multiplayer features–DeathMatch, Capture the Flag, and eventually, QuakeWorld Team Fortress. Played in colleges throughout the United States and later supported by matchmaking services like GameSpy and id Software's QuakeWorld, Quake's popularity gave rise to the pro-gaming movement and companies like Blizzard adopted its philosophy through their own Battle.net service with Diablo and Warcraft 2. 

During the release of Quake Wars: Enemy Territory, I recall an interview with John Carmack, Quake's creator, saying that online games were on the rise but were not quite there yet in contrast to their single player counterparts. Were he to look at the state of the industry today, he would no doubt see that we've finally gotten there–and it's all thanks to him.  

Starsiege Tribes

starsiege tribes

Imagine a multiplayer FPS populated by over a hundred  players, each divided into roving squads pursuing individual objectives, with dozens of lone wolves scattered throughout. You might be thinking of MAG, or even PlanetSide, but the game I'm thinking of comes way before those two arguably great games. I speak of Starsiege Tribes, the first FPS of that magnitude and the first game to truly capture the spirit of a large-scale war zone. The game was purely multiplayer, featuring no single player campaign. 

Set in the Metaltech/Earthsiege/Starsiege universe (a poor man's BattleTech/MechWarrior), Starsiege Tribes pit various opposing factions against each other in bouts of Capture the Flag and Siege-like battles that took place over a vast expanse of terrain. Equipped with jetpacks and flying vehicles, players were tasked to destroy enemy floating fortresses and capture underground strongholds. It was pretty much all out mayhem, and the best players outshined the competition through skilled use of weapons like the disc thrower and grenade launcher. 

Duke Nukem 3D

duke nukem 3d

It's good to be the king. In Duke Nukem 3D, you're a one-liner spouting, gun-toting late 80s/early 90s action movie hero. You basically play the gun-toting Arnold Schwarzenegger from Predator, without the pretense of being a decent actor (I really do think Arnie's a decent actor). Instead of fighting a single Predator, you go up against countless aliens and pig alien cops. 

Armed with your trusty set of boots (to kick ass while chewing bubblegum), and various guns (including a shrink ray and a freeze ray), you (I groan every time I write this) take the fight to the alien enemy while rescuing helpless female strippers. Yeah, it's definitely a game of the 90s. 

Somehow I don't think the sequel's going to go down all that well with today's enlightened crowd, but with that said, it's still a great game to return to. 

Shadow Warrior

shadow warrior

Shadow Warrior is incredibly fun if you can set aside your political correctness for a few hours and embrace its cliched portrayal of a Chinese kung-fu master/gun-toting badass named Lo Wang. You fight against countless ninjas, triads, and Yakuza in a futuristic dystopian Chinatown setting. 

The game took a lot of its inspiration from Hong Kong and American ninja films of the 1970s and 80s.

Very ahead of its time, allowing the player to mount vehicles and control turrets. Featuring similar humor to Duke Nukem 3D, the game received some criticism for its portrayal of Asian characters, but speaking as someone of Asian descent, I honestly couldn't care less. It's nothing that Hong Kong cinema didn't already do 20-30 years prior. 


half life

Half-Life is the last game of the last generation and the first game of the current generation of narrative-driven first person shooters. It redefined the first person shooter from the color key-based rat mazes of the 90s to the event-based games they are today. 

You play the mute Gordon Freeman, a Black Mesa physicist who inadvertently rips a hole in the fabric of reality in what should've been a routine experiment. Your actions cause an alien invasion from another dimension, and the government, keen on covering up what happened, sends in the marines to kill all the scientists involved. You have to fight your way out of the research facility through countless aliens and soldiers and ultimately find a way to close the gap by killing the alien overlord. 

The story's doesn't sound that interesting, but how the story is delivered through the player makes Half Life the revolutionary game that it is. It set the bar for every FPS that came after.