Old-school shooters are making a comeback, and they are coming back hard. You can’t go more than a few steps without falling over one, and, as someone who lived through that era of gaming, I couldn’t be happier. Big shotguns, endless gibs, classic art styles, and an undeniable crunch have made this sub-genre timeless.
The thing is, most of these games only exist on PC. Sure you have some outstanding entries making the jump to console, like DUSK or Ion Fury, but the vast majority launch (or launched) on PC, and will likely stay there. If you have the rig to run these games, new or old, then these are the best.
10 Rise Of The Triad
Rise Of The Triad is the oldest game on this list and is a janky, yet lovable classic. Cut from the same cloth as DOOM – even having some of the same developers – Rise Of The Triad is quality old-school shooting at its best.
Plenty of guns, secrets, puzzles, and enemies make up the core of the game, but arguably the biggest reason to check this game out is its soundtrack. Few soundtracks compare to the absolute banger that is Rise Of The Triad’s OST, and you will be bopping along for decades to come to the jazzy beats that reverberate through the game's pseudo-3D levels. Oh, and you can turn into a dog.
9 Star Wars: Dark Forces
Ok, this one is a total cheat. Technically Dark Forces was also released on PS1, but for this list, it's PC only. Why? Because most people don’t have a PS1. If you want to play Dark Forces nowadays, you are probably going to need a PC.
Should you play Dark Forces? Absolutely. Running on the gorgeous Jedi Engine, this DOOM-inspired trip through the Star Wars universe is a joy to play – if you can get it running smoothly. The game has some quality of life issues that hold it back somewhat, but when it comes to Star Wars games, this is one of the best. Not only that, but back in the day, the events of the game were Cannon. A must for classic lore fans.
Imagine classic DOOM. Now imagine what would have happened if ID Software had continued down that path for the series’ third entry. That is Prodeus. Prodeus ranks as one of the goriest games we have ever seen. Every encounter will paint the gorgeous pixel walls with enough blood to fill a blood bank – and it’s glorious.
Prodeus is fast, brutal, loud, and beautiful – in a hellish kind of way. It is a love letter to classic shooters, even bringing back keycards to inject that faint sense of labyrinthian level design. The best part? Modern game design has refined that classic mentality to a razor sheen. Run, gun, progress, repeat.
7 Return To Castle Wolfenstein
Wolfenstein has seen a resurgence as of late with the fantastic 2014 reboot, Wolfenstein: The New Order. Way back in 2001, however, Return To Castle Wolfenstein took the venerable series and catapulted it into true 3D. The best part? This game is arguably the best the series ever got, and it’s stood the test of time better than most from that era.
The only downside is the game's general refusal to play nice on modern hardware. Thankfully, player-made mods, patches, and projects have ironed all of that out, and you are left with a timeless classic. Killing Nazis is ALWAYS fun, and Return To Castle Wolfenstein knows how to kill Nazis better than most.
6 Shadow Warrior Redux
Shadow Warrior first hit store shelves in 1997, got a few expansions, and then languished in people's memories for a decade or so before being rebooted in 2013. The thing is though, classic Shadow Warrior still holds up today, and I promise you, you’ve never played something quite like it.
Running on the Build Engine, Shadow Warrior looks amazing and plays even better. Pottering around shooting, slicing, and (literally) nuking ninjas is the name of the game here. The main protagonist, Lo Wang, is also one of the most stereotypical 90s “white guy doing a racist Asian voice” characters you will ever hear. If you have the stomach to laugh at what is clearly a series of aged jokes from a…different…time, then check it out. If you are less forgiving, then maybe give it a miss or mute him.
5 Blood: Fresh Supply
One of gaming's greatest sins is the general lack of knowledge that Blood exists. Blood was arguably the pinnacle of FPS when it came out back in 1997. You play as Caleb on a revenge mission to kill your former master, and God, Tchernobog. Mix in some classic horror vibes, and you have yourself a game.
Blood is staggeringly beautiful if you have an eye for classic sprites, and this is backed up by gameplay that was simply unmatched. Everything from throwing dynamite, and unloading two barrels of buckshot, to setting entire rooms on fire looks, and feels great. Not only that, Caleb is endlessly quotable and criminally underrated.
The legacy of Prey is one of struggle, loss, and sadness. Prey came about in 2006 after an 11-year development cycle. It had its sequel canceled, and it was eventually rebooted in 2017. The thing is though, that original title in 2006, despite being largely forgotten, is excellent and needs to be played.
Mixing Native American culture with an alien invasion gives this a style like no other, and the gameplay is out of this world. Prey dabbled with the idea of instantaneously traveling via portals long before Portal or Rift Apart were a twinkle in Vale or Sony’s eye. It’s short, it's sweet, it hits hard, and it demanded a sequel. It never got one, and the industry should be ashamed.
3 Nightmare Reaper
Back to modern titles, Nightmare Reaper takes the old-school FPS formula and mixes it with rogue-lite elements to make one heck of a game. There’s a lot to this game – much more than a list entry can do justice – but this game deserves everyone's attention.
Running around procedurally generated levels with weapons that have more randomized variables than your typical looter shooter, Nightmare Reaper delivers hours of explosive fun. I mean, who doesn’t want a double-barreled shotgun that launches napalm-filled rockets?
2 Amid Evil
Amid Evil is what happens when someone mixes the fast-paced gunplay of Quake with the mediaeval fantasy vibes of Hexen. You play as The Champion, and you go around swinging axes, firing staves, and launching literal planets at everything that gets in your way.
Amid Evil embodies everything that makes this genre great, and does it with a modern coat of pain. This game is gorgeous and is not afraid to tax your PC when the going gets tough. You will be rapidly cycling weapons, activating super modes, and killing gods – all in the name of fun. Perfection.
Old-school FPS are typically fast-moving affairs. If you stay still, you die. Circle strafe and aggression tend to win the day. Ultrakill takes that one step further. In Ultrakill you are constantly moving, dashing, jumping, stomping, and shooting to get an advantage – and it’s a blast.
What makes this game truly tick is the weapon variety and how the game encourages play. Healing is done through the absorption of recently sprayed blood. This means you have to get up close and personal, blow people up, and cover yourself in viscera to survive. It’s controlled brutal chaos.
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