The 7 Most Influential First-Person Shooters of All Time

by Jake Weston, posted on 18 September 2011 / 12,018 Views

For better or for worse, the first-person shooter is by far the most popular genre in modern gaming. In today's crowded shooter market, it's easy to forget just how far the genre has come. This list is not examining the best shooters of all time (though it could be argued that many of titles below are in fact the best), but the titles that completely changed people's perceptions of what first-person shooters could be. These are the games that were endlessely copied at the time of their release, resulting in many "(instert influential game here) clones". From Crysis and Killzone, to Battlefield and Counter-Strike, almost every first-person shooter in the history of the genre can be traced to one of these games in some way.  

 

Doom (1993)

id's Wolfenstein 3D may have practically invented the genre, but at the time of its release it was really only played by hardcore PC gamers. It wasn't until the release of Doom that the first-person shooter genre truly received widespread notice. Giving rise to an onslaught of "Doom clones", Doom truly ushered in a new era for gaming. Two sequels followed, and id is currently hard at work on a Doom 4

 

Quake II (1997)

Doom showed gamers what single-player FPS gaming could be all about, but Quake showed them the holy grail that was multiplayer. Quake II's sci-fi inspired aesthetic and single-player campaign were certainly improvements over the original's somewhat drab design, but the multiplayer is what Quake II was all about. Both Doom and Quake introduced "deathmatch" to gamers around the world, but Quake II is when the concept really took off. Suffice to say, without Quake II , the state of modern onling gaming wouldn't be where it is today. 

 

GoldenEye 007 (1997)

Prior to GoldenEye 007, FPS gaming was primarily for the PC audience. Sure, Doom and its various clones were ported over to the N64 and PSOne, but GoldenEye 007 was one of the first FPS games designed from the ground up for consoles, and it changed everything. Based off the James Bond movie of the same name, it actually released two years after the movie (which explains why it's one of the few film-to-game adaptations that isn't appalling). The biggest innovation that GoldenEye brought to the table was split-screen multiplayer. For the first time, gamers didn't have to hook up a bunch of PC's via LAN to play FPS games together; all they needed was a TV and four N64 controllers. Last year's remake of this game was pretty decent, but it failed to capture the magic of the original. 

 

Half-Life (1998)

 Half-Life is often attributed for making the FPS genre "smart", but the truth is games like System Shock had already done that, but had an extremely limited audience. What Half-Life did accomplish, however, was make a FPS game that was both intelligent and accessible to a wide range of gamers. Opting away from the traditional Doom method of "kill everything, find keycards", Half-Life pioneered in deep stories, enemy AI, and scripted moments that are still mainstays in many shooters today. 

 

Halo 2 (2004)

Why Halo 2, and not the original Halo: Combat Evolved, you ask? The original Halo, while great, was not all that influential; Bar the arbitrary two-weapon limit, Halo merely presented a very, very polished console shooter, that expanded on the mechanics that GoldenEye and Half-Life introduced. Then came Halo 2 . With one fell swoop, Halo 2 changed the industry. Master Chief's super-soldier induced regenerative health became mandatory in pretty much every action game, even games like Uncharted and Call of Duty where the concept of characters instantly healing from bullets made absolutely no sense. But what people remember most about Halo 2 is the multiplayer that put Xbox Live on the map, where shooters like Call of Duty, Gears of War and Halo: Reach currently thrive.

 

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007)

First there were the "Doom clones", then there were the "Halo clones", and now we live in the world of the "Call of Duty clones". Pretty much every multiplayer game worth their salt has tried to emulate Call of Duty 4's massive success, be it the urban combat it helped popularize, the aiming down the sights mechanic, or the incredibly addictive RPG influenced multiplayer. Fans may deride the series now for its annual sequels, but Call of Duty is truly a force to be reckoned with. 

 

BioShock (2007)

If Half-Life showed that first-person shooters could be intelligent, BioShock showed they could be genuine works of art. Drawing upon the works of Ayn Rand and Objectivisit philosophy, BioShock is one of the few games to seemlessly combine narrative and gameplay, ("Would you kindly?" remains one of the single greatest moments in gaming history). Ever since BioShock 's release, nearly every narrative driven action/adventure game has borrowed elements of BioShock in some form or another, be it Resistance, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Dead Space, Singularity, and even Halo. BioShock is not only one of the most influential first-person shooters, but one of the most influential games of all time, period. 

 

There have been many great first-person shooters released since Call of Duty 4 and BioShock , but none have innovated and changed the industry quite like the games listed above. Until then, we appreciate everything the titles on this list have brought to the genre, and we can't wait for the next industry changing shooter.

What say you? What do you think are the most influential first-person shooters of all time? Let us know in the comments!


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61 Comments

Dr.Grass (on 18 September 2011)

I love and own Bioshock, but it shouldn't be on that list.


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EGG_OF_D00m (on 19 September 2011)

timesplitters 2 should :)


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Thefrag (on 18 September 2011)

WHERE THE HELL IS WOLFENSTEIN?


thetonestarr (on 18 September 2011)

Bioshock most definitely doesn't belong on the list, and I feel Wolfenstein should be. Without Wolfenstein, DOOM would have never existed. Without DOOM, none of the others would have existed. I agree with and support everything else.


Rath (on 18 September 2011)

Wolfenstein 3D simply has to be on that list - it practically defined the first person shooter.


Boutros (on 18 September 2011)

Yeah very good list. I would add Counter-Strike to that list and get ride of Bioshock but overall it's a great list.


JackyGoal (on 18 September 2011)

Counterstrike is part of Half Life 1, or am I wrong?


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Narishma (on 18 September 2011)

^
It started as a Half-Life 1 mod, but it's not part of it.


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thetonestarr (on 19 September 2011)

I'd still group it with Half-Life, though. It's more a side-game than its own full-fledged title.


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Kantor (on 18 September 2011)

No FPS has really managed to match BioShock in artistic achievement (or even really tried), so I wouldn't call it influential, just brilliant. That spot ought to go to Counter-Strike for popularising the online FPS genre and for still being played by tens of thousands of people per day even 13 years after its release.


hagelt18 (on 18 September 2011)

I agree with Boutros on Counter-Strike. I kind of wish this list would be expanded just a little bit to include the precursors and forefathers to the FPS genre because they had major impacts in the development world as well.


The_Botman (on 18 September 2011)

Every time I see the Goldeneye box-art now, I can't seem to not see "it". In addition, wheres Wolfenstein 3-d?


mjk45 (on 18 September 2011)

he mentioned wolfenstein 3D started it but concluded it was mainly played by hardcore PC at hat time t but Doom made it big time hence the term Doom clone


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gun711 (on 18 September 2011)

I would add Conter-Strike


Winters (on 19 September 2011)

Conter-Strike...enough said.


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Winters (on 19 September 2011)

Conter-Strike...enough said.


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_mevildan (on 18 September 2011)

I personally think Quake 1 was more influential than Quake 2. Quake 1 was the first radiosity lit, fully 3d FPS with internet play. Machinima started because of Quake. Gamespy used to be Quakespy etc But a good list otherwise. Not sure about Halo 1 vs 2, because I didn't get into the series.


usrevenge (on 18 September 2011)

are you kidding? halo 1 made console FPS competitive. it also is the reason xbox is so strong today, without halo the original xbox would have flopped as well as the 360, despite what haters think halo 3 and reach are some of the top selling 360 games and i know a lot of people bought xbox primarily for the halo series.


coolbeans (on 18 September 2011)

This is a bit of a fail list when you're considering accessibility over getting their first. Wolfenstein 3D MUST always be considered first for creating the genre in the first place. Twice in this article, you admit another game that happened before your mentioned game "already did this, but MY CHOICE was just more accessible". Imo, it doesn't matter which game more people played, it's which game started a revolution in the genre.


Zkuq (on 18 September 2011)

Quake II, Halo 2, and Bioshock are all games that shouldn't be on the list. The first Quake did what Quake II did, only earlier, and it was popular enough to call it more influental. The first Halo popularized console shooters, Halo 2 only improved on that. It was the first game that was more influental. Bioshock is not that influental, otherwise we'd see more games similar to it in many ways. Replace Bioshock with Counter-Strike instead, and I don't feel I have to present any arguments for that.


Nybbas (on 18 September 2011)

I realy don't understand how halo 2 was more influential than halo 1. Halo 1 is the game that made FPS popular on consoles, not goldeneye, or halo 2. I hate Halo, but you have to give it credit for that.


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Porcupine_I (on 18 September 2011)

i remember playing doom thinking: that's it! we have reached the pinnacle of gaming! what is more to come now? :-D sadly these days it seems i was right in a way


tripleb2k (on 18 September 2011)

Bioshock is on this list because of the great storytelling and environment. It isn't on here because of the game mechanics. Bioshock is a shining example of fantastic and engaging storytelling with powerful weapons and abilities.


hagelt18 (on 19 September 2011)

I agree...While there have been other FPS in the past that have attempted this...I don't think I've ever been so captivated by a single player mode in an FPS.


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CGI-Quality (on 18 September 2011)

I would swap DOOM for Wolfenstein & Bioshock for Counter-Strike. In Bioshock's case, there are a good deal of merits, but very few of them (if any) were truly influential.


coolbeans (on 18 September 2011)

Add System Shock over Half Life and I would 100% agree with the list.


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Booh! (on 18 September 2011)

Bioshock????????? I could name a dozen of better and more influential FPS and I don't like FPS...


ryuzaki57 (on 18 September 2011)

Medal of Honor should be somewhere here, no? Not that I particularly care though...


amp316 (on 20 September 2011)

Weren't Call of Duty and Halo more influential than Call Of Duty 4 and Halo 2? I'm just asking.


GamesBond (on 19 September 2011)

Your list says MOST INFLUENTIAL. While bio-shock is good and dear to fans hearts, its not "Most Infulential". Halo 2 was a perfected version of the original. But it was the original that was a game changer.(enter regenerating shields). Halo started the FPS revolution on the console. And yes, Wolfenstein. You know how in FPS you can see the gun your holding? The was Wolfenstein. The great grand-father FPS deserves to be on the list. While we are on "Influential" FPS, what about the ones that introduced the cover mechanic. I would say that's pretty influential since its standard now.


yahoocom1984 (on 18 September 2011)

No, it should be: 1. WOLFENSTEIN 3d 2. DOOM 3. Half life 4. Quake 5.system Shock 6. counter-strike 7. Halo CE


Booh! (on 19 September 2011)

Substitute Unreal for Halo and you're almost there.


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theshonen8899 (on 18 September 2011)

When I read this article I immediately thought "I loved Bioshock but it wasn't influential and shouldn't be on this list." and "WHERE THE HELL IS WOLFENSTEIN" (those exact words). When I scrolled down to release my rage, lo' and behold, the top two comments already expressed my feelings.


pezus (on 18 September 2011)

List lacks Half-Life 2. That is all


Sevengen (on 18 September 2011)

what exactly did bioshock bring to the table, other than a unique story, that wasn't done beforehand. I really can't think of anything. Not hating on the game, not at all, but to say that Bioshock is one of the most 'influential' FPS of all time shows more about the author's personal opinion than it does his objectivity.


Feniris (on 18 September 2011)

Incorrect, both Halo: CE and Wolfenstein belong on this fail list. Counter-strike should be on here before COD4 and Bioshock doesn't even belong. Halo 2 is not on a list before Halo:CE.


KylieDog (on 18 September 2011)

No Battlefield 1942 but games like Bioshock? BF1942 defined vehicle warfare. Poor list.


Hyruken (on 18 September 2011)

Think i'd remove Bioshock and put either Counter-strike or Battlefield there. Without those two games games like COD online would not be what it is. I would also include Medal Of Honor Allied Assault. The game changed a lot of things. I will never forget playing the d-day landings and trying to get to safety. Deffinatly should of been on the list.


brendude13 (on 18 September 2011)

Very good list, I would personally swap Bioshock out for a Battlefield game though.


GamesBond (on 24 September 2011)

Your list says MOST INFLUENTIAL. While bio-shock is good and dear to fans hearts, its not "Most Infulential". Halo 2 was a perfected version of the original. But it was the original that was a game changer.(enter regenerating shields). Halo started the FPS revolution on the console. And yes, Wolfenstein. You know how in FPS you can see the gun your holding? The was Wolfenstein. The great grand-father FPS deserves to be on the list. While we are on "Influential" FPS, what about the ones that introduced the cover mechanic. I would say that's pretty influential since its standard now.


pukem0n (on 22 September 2011)

seriously, no Wolfenstein? it introduced class based online shooters and pretty much was the best online shooter of all times. also, why Halo 2 and not 1? ...nevermind, read before you post ^^


Cobra_ (on 20 September 2011)

Well, I was playing split screen FPS on the Mega Drive (Bloodshot aka Battle Frenzy) so Goldeneye was definitely not the first doing this ;-)


sweatface7 (on 20 September 2011)

bioshock is a good game!!


pb1285n (on 19 September 2011)

Influential doesn't mean good. I wouldn't say this lists the best FPS games of all time but they've all been influential.


Simulacrum (on 19 September 2011)

I would say Red Faction brought destruction to the battlefield. And btw, no Battlefield?


fallen (on 19 September 2011)

I disagree. Halo one was vastly influential as it basically single handedly popularized FPS (which was dominant on PC) for the first time on consoles, where it became the dominant genre to this day. That's the definition of influential. It also did so many things first that Halo 2 (and every succeeding Halo) only iterated on. My list of 7 would be: Doom (obvious reasons) Half Life (many innovations) Halo (already explained why) Castle Wolfenstein (practically the first FPS, or first popular one, cant omit this one) Quake 3 (first sophisticated deathmatch) Counter Strike (not really sure why, but it's been one of the most played PC games for like 20 years) COD: Modern Warfare (took RPG elements into FPS for the first time with huge success) Interestingly my initial 7 didn't include Modern Warfare, but once I saw it on your list I realized I had missed it, it definitely should be there.


fallen (on 19 September 2011)

On reading some other replies, Battlefield definitely deserves the list now that I think about it (it was very influential as the first "huge maps, steal vehicles/planes and use them" type of game). However it's really hard to remove any other game from the list...

I almost think if I had to remove one it would be Counter Strike. While it was really popular, I'm not sure it did enough new to be what you would call "influential" though.

A lot of other Id shooter could be there too, it's tough only choosing 7.

Damn, it's really tough.


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Monteblanco (on 19 September 2011)

A list I agree with (although I would open some space to Counter Strike). Something weird is happening at VGChartz...


Dark_Lord_2008 (on 19 September 2011)

Doom was the FPS game that started it all. I can not remember Wolfenstein-3D. Half-Life 2 instead of Bioshock.


Araknie (on 19 September 2011)

Pretty good list until Bioshock, that artworks are not a thing that will get FPS a standard, because most of them are on the realistic thingy.


NoirSon (on 19 September 2011)

Honest I think you are reaching with Halo 2 being inflential enough to warrant being on a most influential list for FPS, but barring that everything else is fairly spot on. But as others have mentioned there are some notable missing games in from this list such as Wolfenstein 3D and Counter Strike.


slowmo (on 18 September 2011)

It's a good list imo For those complaining about Wolfenstein not being on the list, bear in mind it wasn't actually the "first" FPS. I would also add that if you added Wolfenstein as a stepping stone for Doom then you have to add Quake for moving the FPS into the true 3d world to build for Quake II. The point is they chose to do a condensed list and those chosen make the most sense generally. I'm not bothered about Counterstrike being missing as I think the original Half Life being in the list covers CS, TF, etc. The list does seem to be quite alarming though by missing Half Life 2. I'm not the greatest Half Life fan around but when you consider the steps it made introducing physics, Vehicles, great NCP's that you could actually care about. Then of course it was the launch platform for Steam which is frankly awesome. I digress but my point is if you're going to say the list isn't right guys then try and put some of your thoughts down in more detail.


oniyide (on 18 September 2011)

no MOH?? Frontline was like the biggest FPS during the PS2 era but whatever


yahoocom1984 (on 18 September 2011)

DUring that period, Half life 2 and Counter-strike source are the biggest FPS kid


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liamtoh669 (on 18 September 2011)

I think the author makes a good argument as to why Bioshock should be on the list. Although I agree any list of influential FPS games has to include Wolfenstein. Only played by hardcore PC gamers? I don't think so! Their method of distribution (giving out the first level for free) was brilliant, as throngs of people got to try out the game.


Lord_Yggdrassil (on 18 September 2011)

wow, completely agree with all of those


mjk45 (on 18 September 2011)

why and what would you replace them with


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Thechalkblock (on 18 September 2011)

this is more of a "what led to what's known as the modern console FPS" list. anyway, it's funny to know that the genre of FPS was basically invented the year I was born.


Spedfrom (on 18 September 2011)

To everyone who is saying bioshock shouldn't be on the list, you're part of why the industry lacks variety and originality. You're part of the problem.


PearlJam (on 19 September 2011)

This isn't a list of the best FPS, it's a list of the games that were most influential. You're just confused, as good as Bioshock is it didn't really influence the genre as much as those other games.


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yo_john117 (on 18 September 2011)

All the games on that list are awesome.


blkfish92 (on 18 September 2011)

Bioshock!!


Iveyboi (on 18 September 2011)

@ Boutros = TOTALLY AGREE. Other than that great list!


Mordred11 (on 18 September 2011)

completely agree with this


Runa216 (on 18 September 2011)

halo 2 needs to go in lieu of Halo 1 or even 3 (2 was just a polished version of 1, with online play), and I also think that Bioshock needs to go in lieu of Counterstrike. Other than that, good list!


PearlJam (on 19 September 2011)

Halo 2 wasn't a polished version of anything, it was the least polished game in the series but it was the most influential. What Halo CE did was basically already done by GoldenEye (good console FPS with splitscreen). It popularize the regenerating shields/health and the 2 weapon limit, but online was more important that LAN. Halo 3 was a polished version of H2.


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spurgeonryan (on 18 September 2011)

Good list! G.E, call of duty and halo are def. choices!


MARCUSDJACKSON (on 18 September 2011)

there should be more PC shooters on this list wolfenstein. wheres battlefield its done more then COD! wht has cod done anyway?


Lord_Yggdrassil (on 18 September 2011)

are you serious? why does COD break sales record every year? COD4 that's why.


  • +1
Marks (on 18 September 2011)

Aww man are you serious? If there's been two revolutionary shooters I can think of in terms of online console gaming its CoD4 and Halo 2/3. Everything about CoD4 has been copied since it came out from perks to killstreaks, to simple stuff like its perfect control scheme.


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kowenicki (on 18 September 2011)

V Good. Cant really fault that list.


UltimateUnknown (on 18 September 2011)

A very good list, I still remember being absolutely flabbergasted while playing doom on my pc as a child. It was nothing like anthing i had played before.


Godsmurf (on 18 September 2011)

While I liked Quake 2 better, historically it did nothing that Quake 1 (with the QuakeWorld addition) hadn't already done: real 3D, online multiplayer, mods. It was the first game to have all that, and is without a doubt the #1 most influential FPS of all time. Also, CounterStrike is the game that made "realistic" gameplay dominant over the cartoonesque gameplay of Doom and Quake, so should be in the list too. It was far more important than Half Life, of which it was a mod. Can't comment on the selection ofg console shooters since any shooter played with a gamepad is an abomination.


rf40928 (on 18 September 2011)

While the author is technically correct about Halo 2 being more influential then ( the first ) Halo CE.. the author seems to lack knowledge of why by not giving specifics.. The first Halo came out about a 1 1/2 years before Xbox Live existed, therefore it could not be played online..Halo's thunder was its online play.. Halo 2 became what it did because it could be played online.. To put this into perspective Xbox Live came online about 2 years before Playstation Network did.. So Halo had a headstart games on other consoles didn't.. COD was played online on XB Live 1st therefore it was already 'catered' and tweaked when it hit PSN thus COD being a successful game on two console platforms..


PearlJam (on 18 September 2011)

PSN launched in November 2006, Xbox Live launched in November 2002. That's four years, almost a whole generation. PS2 had online, but it wasn't a centralized service like PSN, and very few games supported it.


  • +1
PearlJam (on 18 September 2011)

PSN launched in November 2006, Xbox Live launched in November 2002. That's four years, almost a whole generation. PS2 had online, but it wasn't a centralized service like PSN, and very few games supported it.


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kasperl (on 18 September 2011)

Proper Top 7 list: Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem, Counter Strike, Doom, Quake, Goldeneye, Half Life Honorable Mention: Star Wars - Dark Force, Halo, Deus Ex


DocBreen (on 19 September 2011)

you are a fucking idiot to not include system shock (which spawned games like system shock 2, deus ex, bioshock and pretty much any other fps/rpg hybrid and wolfenstein - the game that created the building blocks for EVERY FPS ever made - LOL at this list


duckypwns (on 19 September 2011)

The real 7 most influential FPS games of all time: Call of Duty Call of Duty 2 Call of Duty 3 Call of Duty 4 Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 2 Call of Duty: Black Ops Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3


late_release (on 19 September 2011)

those are influential for you only


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880user088 (on 19 September 2011)

ummmm DEUS EX ???!!!!


usrevenge (on 18 September 2011)

also replace bioshock with battlefield 1942, it was the first game to be on the scale of ww2 in fact, replace halflife or COD with rainbow 6 or ghost recon for being arguably the best tactical shooters.