The Best FPS Games of the 1990s

Throwback to Pixel Mayhem

In the early 1990s, the first-person shooter genre wasn’t nearly as popular as it is today. The genre was still in its infancy, with the most influential games of the decade still yet to be released. That said, between 1990 and 2000, the first-person shooter genre took off like a rocket. Between the PC and home console market, gamers were getting their fill of FPS games, unaware that they would be some of the most important games ever made.

When we look back at the first-person shooter genre, it’s easy to boil it down to a simple “point and shoot” experience. However, fans of the genre know that they can much more than that.

We’ve compiled a list of the best FPS games from the 1990s, to prove that shooters are far more than just rampant aggression. If you grew up playing FPS games, there’s a good chance that your favorite is on this list. If not, please leave a comment and let us know which ones you thought we missed.

Here are our picks for the best FPS games of the 1990s, you vote for the best.

#1 Wolfenstein 3D (1992)

Although other FPS games existed before Wolfenstein 3D, a lot of people attribute this game with the start of the genre. Playing as the gun-toting spy BJ Blazkowicz, you'll mow down waves of Nazis as you attempt to escape a prison camp. In comparison to modern games Wolfenstein 3D is pretty tame, but it was quite controversial during its time due to the level of violence.

Levels in Wolfenstein 3D are extremely maze-like in nature, with hidden rooms and various collectibles. The gameplay and movement is very quick, so the game lends itself well to speedruns. We can also thank Wolfenstein3D for popularizing the boss fight, as each “episode” in the game was punctuated by a gun-fight against a particularly intimidating foe.

#2 DOOM (1993)

Although Wolfenstein 3D was plenty violent, the FPS genre barely knew blood before the release of DOOM. Playing as a space marine investigating an abandoned research facility on Mars, you'll encounter hordes of demonic hell-spawn intent on ending your life. Often considered one of the most influential shooters of all time, the DOOM franchise continues to this day.

DOOM offered an addictive and fast-paced shooting experience, the likes of which the industry had never seen before. Utilizing fan-favorite guns like the BFG and the shotgun, players would blast through countless enemies, attempting to collect colored key-cards and reach the end of the maze-like levels. 

#3 Duke Nukem 3D (1996)

There are few FPS characters as iconic as Duke Nukem, known for his cheesy one-liners and general machismo. Duke Nukem 3D made that character a reality, and the game played like an 80s action-blockbuster. When aliens attack Earth and try to steal all of our babes, Duke declares that it's “time to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and I'm all out of gum”.

Duke Nukem 3D brought a healthy dose of humor to the otherwise serious genre, blending it with bloody and hectic gunplay. Players could equip guns like the Devastator, which fires micro-rockets at a blisteringly high rate of fire. Like the action movies it takes inspiration from, Duke Nukem 3D is a whole lot of silly and obnoxious fun.

#4 Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six (1998)

Whereas other shooters prioritized action over realism, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six popularized the tactical side of the FPS genre. Playing as an elite group of soldiers who are part of the new Rainbow counter-terrorism team, it's your job to safely and stealthily eliminate threats. This is just as challenging as it sounds, thanks to Rainbow Six's attention to detail and realistic AI.

In each scenario of the game, you'll have to properly plan out your attack. Although you only control one of the soldiers during gameplay, you'll be in charge of commanding other soldiers in your unit as well. In Rainbow Six death is permanent as well, so losing a fellow soldier prevents you from using them in later missions. It's up to you to ensure that the proper equipment is available and procedure is followed, otherwise you'll have no hope of success.

#5 Half-Life (1999)

In the late 90s, Half-Life was breaking boundaries in the FPS genre. Controlling the scientist Gordon Freeman, players find themselves fending off creatures from another dimension. Half-Life was one of the first FPS games to use scripted sequences for its storytelling, instead of relying on cut-scenes. Instead of being broken up into levels, the game played as one extended story, separated into chapters.

Half-Life was a monumental success and an incredibly influential game, as it continued to prove that the FPS genre was fit for quality storytelling. The gameplay mixed challenging combat with puzzle-solving, and immersed us in the shoes of protagonist Gordon Freeman. Apart from Half-Life 2, we can't think of a game with a more satisfying crowbar weapon.

#6 Medal of Honor (1999)

The FPS genre and the historic battles of World War II have been like peanut butter and jelly for a long time. Medal of Honor is the first FPS that put gamers in the shoes of World War II soldiers. Although WWII was explored in other games before Medal of Honor, the FPS genre didn't see the gritty nature of war until this influential title popped up at the end of the 90s.

The game contains both solo and group play options, including a multi-mission campaign mode and split-screen competitive multiplayer. When you weren't experiencing the brutality of war in any of thevarious missions, you could face off against a friend in some classic death-match. With time-appropriate weapons and exciting action, Medal of Honor was a go-to game for any history or FPS buff.

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