First-person shooter games have become one of the most popular genres in gaming, with franchises such as Call of Duty leading the pack. Becoming popular in the 1990s, the decade was responsible for setting the stage for the genre and setting the standards that titles would follow for decades to come. So next time that you’re playing your favorite game, take a minute to think back to where it all began.
Here are the top 10 best FPS games of the 1990s.
10. Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II (1997)
Dark Forces 2 combines both first-person and third-person gameplay, with players able to use guns and lightsabers in the first person, as well as third-person lightsaber combat. Although the game is a lot more primitive compared to future Star Wars releases, the game is arguably one of the best Star Wars games of all time, with a great story and incredible gameplay for the time.
The game takes place one year after the events of Return of the Jedi, and although it is the second Dark Forces game, it is also the first Jedi Knight game, which saw the release of Jedi Outcast in 2002, and Jedi Academy in 2003.
9. Blood (1997)
Following the release of Doom in 1993, many Doom clones were developed, with companies looking to capitalize on the success of the game. One of the most popular was Blood, a game developed by Monolith Productions and funded by 3D Realms, the same studio behind Duke Nukem 3D, which we will get to later on. Blood took place in the early 20th Century and had a lot of horror and occult elements in it. The game saw multiple expansion packs and a sequel released in 1998.
8. Wolfenstein 3D (1992)
Releasing one year before Doom, Wolfenstein 3D is credited to being the first FPS game in the way we know them today. Wolfenstein 3D helped lay the groundwork for Doom’s success the following year. Like Doom, despite being marketed as a 3D game, it is actually a 2D title from a design perspective, but the game appears 3D to the player, which allowed iD Software to create a 3D title on very limited hardware of the time. Without Wolfenstein 3D, who knows where the genre would be today.
7. System Shock 2 (1999)
System Shock 2 is a cyberpunk action RPG survival horror game released in 1999. Following on from the first entry in the series released in 1994, the player takes on the role of a soldier trying to fight an outbreak that has occurred on his ship. The game would be the final entry in the series for many years until a sequel was announced in 2015, however, the game still hasn’t been released as of today.
6. Unreal Tournament (1999)
Unreal Tournament became one of the most popular online arena shooters when it was released in 1999. The game would see many sequels released, with Unreal Tournament being the most popular. A modern title was in development by Epic Games prior to the release of Fortnite but was canceled so the developers could focus their attention on the hit Battle Royale game. However, the legacy of Unreal Tournament will forever live on as it spawned the Unreal Engine, a game engine that is used for hundreds of popular games.
5. Duke Nukem 3D (1996)
Duke Nukem 3D is perhaps the most popular Doom clone. Released in 1996 by 3D Realms, Duke Nukem 3D has similar gameplay to Doom, but with the addition of being able to look up and down, rather than being stuck to a single viewpoint. The game has an overly sexual theme and a lot of crude humor. Duke Nukem 3D would go on to become one of the most popular games of the 90s, but unfortunately, the developers were never able to replicate its success, with a couple of mediocre sequels released before the end of the decade, and the infamous Duke Nukem Forever that got stuck in development limbo for over a decade before being released and receiving a lot of criticism. As of 2011, the series has been dormant and there is no sign of a new entry in the series being developed any time soon.
4. Quake II (1997)
ID Software took what made Doom great and make it into a fully 3D game once hardware became capable a few years later. Quake 2 is the best of the series, being one of the first fully 3D FPS games, released at a time when most developers will still releasing Doom clones. The game became that popular it helped create one of the very first eSports leagues, as well as being remastered with ray tracing in recent years.
3. Goldeneye 007 (1997)
Despite the team having virtually no experience developing the games. The small group of developers at Rare that were tasked with creating the game somehow managed to change the genre forever. Goldeneye is a video game adaptation of the classic James Bond movie. Goldeneye helped set the new standard for FPS games, with many mechanics becoming standard in games today. The game’s multiplayer component became legendary too, with up to four players able to battle it out, becoming an incredibly popular part of the game with many players having very fond memories of it today. Goldeneye saw an official remaster be developed for the Xbox 360, but it was canceled shortly before completion. The game was leaked online recently and is playable using an Xbox 360 emulator.
2. Half-Life (1998)
Half-Life was Valve’s attempt at creating a first-person shooter, and its 2004 sequel Half-Life 2 is the reason that Steam exists today. The game sees the player take on the role of Gordon Freeman, a scientist who must escape the Black Mesa Research Facility after it is invaded by aliens. Half-Life was developed on a heavily modified version of the Quake Engine, which gives you an idea of how the game plays. Due to Valve being welcoming of fan-made mods and games, it is thanks to Half-Life that the Counter Strike and Team Fortress series’ exists, with it originally being a fan-made Half-Life mod before Valve allowed it to become a standalone game. A fan-made remake, Black Mesa, that began in 2006 also became a fully-fledged game that was released on Steam due to Valve being impressed, giving them the green light to continue.
1. DOOM (1993)
Although not the first FPS game released, DOOM helped popularise the genre, bringing 3D shooters into the mainstream, despite not being 3D from a design standpoint, although it appears to be from a player perspective. Doom gained popularity due to its Shareware version, which allowed players to play the first episode of the game for free. Since then the series has gone on to define modern FPS games and is still popular today, with its latest entry, Doom Eternal, releasing in 2020.