The 10 Best First-Person Shooters of All Time

We’ve already run down the best-selling first-person shooters of all time. But if you’re looking for a great game to play, it’s not sales you’re after, but quality. This is a list of the 10 best first-person shooters of all time. All of the games on this list are certified classics. All of them broke new ground by introducing or improving at least one aspect of the genre that we had all taken for granted. Each of them in its own way left a lasting mark on shooters to come.

Below, we take a look at the 10 best first-person shooters of all time. As for our methodology, we surveyed all of the shooters listed on Metacritic, creating composite scores that account for both critic and user ratings. For example, a game with a 95 critic score and 9.3 user score would receive a 94 composite score. This should give us the clearest picture of how well the games were received by critics and gamers alike, between the time of release and now.

10. Halo: Combat Evolved

Composite Metacritic score: 91

Prior to Halo, a 2001 launch title for the original Xbox, first-person shooters on consoles were something of a mess. The problem was the controls. No one had quite figured out how to bring the responsiveness and precision of the mouse-and-keyboard controls on PC shooters to a handheld controller.

The makers of Halo cracked the code and introduced the dual-stick setup that every halfway decent modern shooter has used since. For that alone, Halo deserves a place on this list. That it kicked off one of the most important series in video game history is just a bonus.

Where to play it now: Halo: The Master Chief Collection on Xbox One

9. Deus Ex

Composite Metacritic score: 91.5

Deus Ex is unique on this list because, although it looks and feels like a first-person shooter, firing your weapon is often a bad idea. This is a tactical game that’s full of challenging, complex missions that reward you for being creative.

Sometimes that involves going in with guns blazing, sure, but other times it’s smarter to talk your way though altercations, hack into a computer, or sneak through the shadows, taking out enemies one by one. Any way you slice it, though, Deus Ex expanded the very definition of a first-person shooter.

Where to play it now: Steam on PC

8. Quake

Composite Metacritic score: 91.5

After making a few Wolfenstein and Doom games and, really, establishing the first-person shooter genre, Id Software began work on the Quake series. Unlike its predecessors, it was a fully 3-D game, with polygon-based characters and environments, which made it look a whole lot better than its pixelated predecessors.

The game also came sporting more sophisticated controls, higher-caliber weapons, and generally more intense action. It’s also one of the early PC games that featured a popular deathmatch online multiplayer mode — something that continues to be hugely popular today in series like Call of Duty and Battlefield.

Where to play it now: Steam on PC

7. Bioshock

Composite Metacritic score: 92

“Philosophical” isn’t an adjective often associated with shooters, but Bioshock offers lessons in philosophy, hubris, and the reasons societies fail. It’s heavy stuff, but it’s packaged in a hugely entertaining, creepy, and intense first-person shooter.

It all kicks off with your plane crashing into the ocean, where you find the entrance to an underwater city. You quickly realize that it was set up to be some kind of utopia, but something has gone terribly wrong. Soon you’re injecting yourself with plasmids to gain new abilities and listening to audio recordings of the city’s misguided creator.

Where to play it now: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or Steam on PC

6. Unreal Tournament

Composite Metacritic score: 92

Unlike Doom, Quake, and most other PC shooters released prior to 1999, Unreal Tournament had virtually no single-player ambitions at all. Its goal was simple: to put you in a room with other players, give everyone weapons, and let the best player win.

The result was an explosively fun, highly addictive shooter that kept gamers glued to their computers for hours on end. With a slew of modes, from Capture the Flag to Last Man Standing, Unreal Tournament was a virtual playground of chaotic destruction. What more could you ask for?

Where to play it now: Steam on PC

5. Team Fortress 2

Composite Metacritic score: 92

This team-based online shooter stands out for a lot of reasons, but primarily for its brilliant class system. Instead of offering just one type of character for everyone, like many shooters, in TF2 you can play as a diverse cast of characters, including soldier, medic, sniper, and spy.

Better yet, each character is unique from all of the others, with a highly balanced set of pros and cons. Heavies can take and dole out a lot of damage, but they’re slow to move around. Medics don’t have powerful weapons, but they’re quick on their feet and they can heal their teammates. Engineers can build and maintain turrets that look down on heavily trafficked areas. Everyone has a job, and teamwork is rewarded. Once you find your niche, Team Fortress 2 offers one of the best shooting experiences around.

Where to play it now: It’s included in The Orange Box on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3

4. Half-Life 2

Composite Metacritic score: 94

Many of the previous entries on this list focus on online shooting, but the Half-Life series is all about its single-player campaign. In fact, virtually no first-person shooter before Half-Life had a story worth following at all, because it’s hard to take in a story when you’re focused on firing rounds at everything that moves. That meant the story parts were relegated to cutscene between levels, when players really just wanted to get back into the action.

What developer Valve figured out is that players will pay attention to a shooter’s story if you let the drama play out in real time as you move through the game. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the story in Half-Life is terrific. Now if only they’d release the conclusion…

Note: Both Half-Life and Half-Life 2 made the list, but we’ve grouped them together to make room for more franchises.

Where to play it now: It’s included in The Orange Box on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3

3. GoldenEye 007

Composite Metacritic score: 94

Perhaps no game is more responsible for the rise of online shooters than GoldenEye 007 — which is kind of funny, considering it’s an offline shooter. Released for Nintendo 64 in 1997, GoldenEye was one of the first games to popularize competitive “deathmatches.” Friends would gather around the television, stalking through levels and laughing with glee as they riddled each other with bullets.

Looking back, you could say this game offered a far-from-ideal experience, with its clunky controls and tiny split-screen viewing windows. But it’s hard to deny that GoldenEye 007 cleared the way for later blockbuster shooters like Halo and Call of Duty.

Where to play it now: The GoldenEye 007: Reloaded remake for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3

2. Perfect Dark

Composite Metacritic score: 94.5

If you like GoldenEye 007, then you’ll love Perfect Dark, the game’s spiritual successor. Developed by the same team and released in 2000 for Nintendo 64, Perfect Dark carried on most of the gameplay features of the Bond classic, but without the spy movie license.

It had much of the same single-player and multiplayer content, but with a spate of new modes, weapons, and abilities. It was also one of the most technologically advanced games for Nintendo 64, requiring players to use a RAM “Expansion Pak” to beef up the system’s graphical power.

Where to play it now: The Perfect Dark remake on Xbox Live Arcade for Xbox 360

1. Metroid Prime

Composite Metacritic score: 94.5

Turning Metroid from a side-scrolling adventure into a first-person shooter was a risky move for Nintendo. But since the company had made similar transitions with the Mario and Legend of Zelda series, it charged ahead with the plan. It’s a good thing, too, because Metroid Prime is one of the most memorable shooters of all time (not to mention the best-reviewed shooter on Metacritic).

This GameCube title and its two successors took everything that was great about earlier Metroid games — especially the masterpiece Super Metroid — and expanded it into a 3-D space. You still solved puzzles, collected gear, opened doors with blaster shots, and rode elevators to new regions, but this time you did it from inside Samus’s suit. It was everything fans of the series wanted, delivered in a perfectly modern way.

(Note: The Wii game Metroid Prime Trilogy also made the list, but we’ve grouped it in here to avoid repetition.)

Where to play it now: The Metroid Prime Trilogy for Wii and Wii U

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