Top 7 Influential Retro FPS Games
First-person shooters are all the rage today and this is thanks to retro FPS titles of the 90s. Today, the genre is fairly streamlined, valuing accuracy skills and tactical teamwork. During its infancy, though, FPSs were some of the most creatively built titles the industry had to offer.
Below, we look back at the top retro FPS games that influenced the games we know and love today.
First-person shooters as a genre began their rise in the early nineties with the release of Wolfenstein 3D in 1992. Though the concept of a game where you see through the eyes of the protagonist was nothing new, this WWII-inspired Nazi shooter gave it an entirely new dimension. Where 1973’s Maze simply had you navigating a ball through a maze, Wolfenstein gave you access to guns and a near-endless swarm of fascist regime followers to gun down with extreme prejudice. There was nothing quite like it at the time, leading to the kick-off of a massive genre-establishing phenomenon.
People enjoyed Swiss-cheesing Nazis but you know what they loved even more? Obliterating demons into bloody messes on Mars while headbanging to heavy metal tunes. Enter Doom, a game that catapulted the genre into the stratosphere and beyond. Ask anyone who’s ever played a video game in their life and dollars to donuts they know Doom. Beyond its blood and gore, rocking soundtrack, and sci-fi-meets-satanism backdrop, what made this id Software-developed title so great were its over-the-top weapons and fast-paced movement.
Duke Nukem 3D
Doom and its many clones turned the 90s into a time of absurdity in video games. It was never more apparent than when Duke Nukem 3D finally hit the scene. So, how did it manage to one-up Doom’s fervor for blood and heavy metal? It brought the madness of an alien invasion to Earth, added plenty of edgy (for the time) humor, and gave us a protagonist hell-bent on rescuing all the babes. But even all that doesn’t do the Duke enough justice. The game is a smorgasbord of Easter eggs, secrets, powerups, interactables, and mechanics. It’s also one of the first retro FPS games to introduce online play where two Dukes can either co-op the campaign or…duke it out against each other.
If this list is starting to make you believe that retro FPS games were all about guns and gore then you’d be gravely mistaken. Where most titles focused on leveling up their game feel, System Shock laid the foundations for narratives in FPS games. When you consider this to be the precursor to the Bioshock series, then you can tell this title was something special. Its use of the first-person perspective to deliver its story and world setting was something entirely new, producing a horror-esque vibe that challenged the growing conventions of FPS titles of its contemporaries.
Heretic & Hexen
Guns and explosions were all great but that’s not all we expect from the FPS genre today. That’s all thanks to id Software taking an experimental route with a Doom-clone of their own making called Heretic and its follow-up Hexen. At first blush, you may feel these games were just Doom with a different coat of paint but that’s completely far from the reality. Apart from having the familiar guns and guts of its other retro FPS titles, these two games introduced RPG mechanics and skills. Design-wise, many credit these games as the foundation for beloved first-person RPGs like Skyrim.
Rise of the Triad
Though a bit more obscure, Rise of the Triad was a title that attempted to push the boundaries of the growing FPS genre. For starters, it was one of the first games of its caliber to shoot for photorealistic graphics. Furthermore, its designers aimed to create a faster-paced experience which could be argued that paved the way for today’s smash hits like CoD. Finally, its arsenal was larger than anything else its contemporaries boasted.
Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and other titles of their time included 3D levels, but not 3D graphics. developed by id Software and Midway Games, Quake brought complete 3D polygonal graphics to the FPS genre, changing its landscape forever. It was also one of the first retro FPS games to use keyboard and mouse controls to provide proper aim and movement control. It wasn’t until Quake III launched that the genre entered its competitive play phase. Its fast, high-flying movement and accurate shooting hooked players, giving birth to LAN parties and tournaments, the precursors of today’s FPS esports.