While they are getting their lunches threatened by RPGs and open world games in recent years, shooters remain the most popular video game genre there is even now. One reason for their continued success is their sheer versatility – unlike, for example, last generation, when a shooter had to be a military modern day setting multiplayer game, shooters this generation have taken on multiple forms, and now represent a shockingly diverse array of aesthetics and style. This, of course, is a great thing, and makes for some really interesting discussions about what the best of the batch in any given year might be. It was hard for us to narrow it down, but here’s what we got. Do remember, except for the winner, this list is unordered.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
Star Wars: Squadron
In the golden age of Star Wars games, among the most popular ones available were the Rogue Squadron titles. These space vehicular shooter games let players fulfil the fantasy of piloting the fanciful military vessels of the Star Wars universe, in some of the most thrilling combat scenarios (recreated, or inferred) from the movie series. With EA finally having managed to resuscitate the classic Battlefront games, they turned their eye to the Rogue Squadron games next, and we got Star Wars Squadron. It’s a shockingly well made game, with a bevy of modes, great controls, and some of the most immersive Star Wars content we have received in years (especially if you play it in VR). The game’s launched was marred by a few bugs and glitches, but thankfully, EA and Motive have since been working on patching it up, and today, Squadrons stands as one of the best shooters available on the market, and one of the rare titles that is easily recommended to players of all ages and demographics.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection (PC)
Microsoft and 343 Studios made good on their promise to bring the Master Chief Collection to PC, finally bringing the bulk of the franchise to the platform and seeing it achieve great popularity with an all new audience in the process. Released piecemeal one game at a time, 2020 saw Combat Evolved, 2, 3, 4, and 3: ODST all come to PC. The PC ports were extremely well made, with all the options, bells and whistles, and more that PC players expect, and the games themselves represent some of the best shooter design on the market, which explains why The Master Chief Collection has done so well on the PC as well. And the journey isn’t over yet – 343 Industries continues to work on the PC versions of the games, and players can surely expect many improvements and additions to the games to come, making an already incredible package that much better.
The Last of Us: Part 2
Great storytelling, okay at best gameplay – this has long been the refrain used to describe Naughty Dog’s titles. And while once it may have even held true to some extent, it hasn’t for a while now. Nowhere else has that been as evident as it was with The Last of Us Part 2, a game that represents the ultimate culmination of all of the studio’s learnings of their new gameplay format’s mechanics and styles. The Last of Us Part 2 has been a controversial game for many reasons, but the one thing that even most of its ardent haters have been able to admit is that it plays wonderfully. Naughty Dog have given us one of the best controlling third person shooters this side of Metal Gear Solid V (especially once you have upgraded and decked out all your weapons to reduce sway and recoil), and they have paired those excellent controls and mechanics with incredible encounter design, giving us mini sandboxes for each altercation, offering players a bevy of options and possibilities to approach any scenario, rewarding creativity and out of the box thinking. The Last of Us Part 2 reigns supreme as arguably the best playing Sony in-house developed game of all time, and one of this generation’s best playing shooters.
There’s a lot to say about Cyberpunk 2077, but the one thing a lot of people have been pleasantly surprised by is just how well the combat holds up – surely you remember the ongoing refrain that The Witcher 3’s combat was the weakest link in an otherwise superlative experience. Expectations regarding Cyberpunk’s combat were low, but surprisingly enough, CD Projekt RED have delivered a well playing shooter here. The melee combat is definitely still weak, but the shooting part of things (the one that this category is concerned with) plays extremely well. Throw in the range of different weapons, as well as the different possibilities for encounters that the game offers – what with it being an RPG and everything – and you get a surprisingly competent and accomplished shooter, that may not be the best, but is definitely among the better ones in the category that we have seen this year.
When Valve started up development on Half-Life Alyx, they decided to play Black Mesa, to refamiliarize themselves with what should go into a good Half-Life game. That the creators of the franchise turned to this game to understand what makes their own games tick should tell you just how great it is – Black Mesa, the long awaited and vaunted remake of the original Half-Life game, is absolutely incredible. The original Half-Life game was revolutionary and a pioneering trail blazer for its genre, but being the first one of its kind means that it has since been bettered in almost every aspect by pretty much every game that came after it and built on it. Black Mesa, then, plays like what Half-Life would have been like had it been made for the first time in 2020 – and honestly, there is no higher praise we can give it than that. It truly is one of the greatest shooters available on any platform at the moment, and cannot be recommended enough.
Valve, however, is not content to just let their fans do the dirty work, and decided to give the world a new, internally developed Half-Life entry as well. Half-Life Alyx is the first new game in the franchise in over 10 years, and to say that it lives up to the enormous hype and expectations surrounding it would be an understatement. With Alyx, Valve set out to make a game that fully delivers on the promise and potential of the VR paradigm, something that no other game so far has been able to accomplish. And lo and behold, they succeeded. If there is one must play, killer app VR game, Half-Life Alyx is it, a game that is so incredible, it’s caused countless players across the world to splurge on expensive Valve Index sets (which you don’t even need! You can play it on a lower end PCVR set if you want) just to be able to experience this game in all its glory. Much like its forebears, Half-Life Alyx has set the standards for any shooter that will follow in its wake, in this case on VR – and we can’t wait to see how Valve will top themselves next. Whenever they get around to releasing a new game, anyway.
Call of Duty: Warzone
The first attempt by the Call of Duty franchise to deliver a battle royale experience was… not the best, let’s leave it at that, with Blackout not quite being the breakout hit one might expect from the pitch of “Call of Duty meets the most popular multiplayer game genre at the moment.” Warzone, on the other hand, is a slam dunk, a home run, a… whatever other sports metaphor you want to use here, honestly. It’s an incredible game, taking the fantastic mechanics of last year’s Modern Warfare and wrapping them up in arguably the best designed battle royale game available on the market currently. It’s so good, we have seen analysts argue that it might be responsible for the slight underperformance of Black Ops Cold War this year, because why bother spending full price money on a new Call of Duty, when the free to play Warzone is giving you all the Call of Duty goodness you want anyway? It’s so good that players around the world continue to make room for it on their systems’ storage, even as its filesize continues to balloon to frankly absurd proportion (we’re at over 200GB and counting at the moment).
The 2016 DOOM was a sleeper hit that took everyone by surprise, because of how incredibly great it was, and how much it understood the essence of what used to make shooters so great back in the day. So what did id Software do for DOOM Eternal? Give us more of the same, mostly, just amped up to even more intensity. DOOM Eternal has some fantastic weapon variety, shooting mechanics, enemy design, and just non-stop action, and it manages to also address several of the problems that were raised with 2016. It also delves deeper into the lore of the DOOM universe, while including much better multiplayer elements than the original’s disappointing outing on this front managed to provide. DOOM Eternal plays like a character action game with guns – it’s like a finely tuned instrument of rhythmic destruction, and at its best, there is no other shooter, and really, there are few other games, that truly manage to be better than it.
Zombie Army 4: Dead War
Given that these games are based on Rebellion’s flagship Sniper Elite series, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Zombie Army 4 is a remarkably well playing shooter – since Sniper Elite 4 was, too. Arguably the best one in the series yet, Dead War delivers all the great co-op action that excels with its map design and a surprisingly strong campaign. “Shooter with Nazi zombies” may no longer be the novel pitch that it once was, but Zombie Army 4 keeps things consistently thrilling and fresh, keeping players returning for more, offering enough fun and enjoyment that it’s easy to overlook its not insubstantial number of rough edges in the process.
A League of Legends multiplayer hero shooter. It literally writes itself, and sure enough, Valorant has been an incredible hit. Breaking all manner of Twitch and player records (only Riot’s own League of Legends has managed to top it), Valorant is now squarely a fixture of a genre that was otherwise dominated by stalwarts such as Overwatch or Counter Strike Global Offensive. Its bevy of great modes, and refined mechanics, as well as its remarkable game balance and map design, have all made it clear that Riot Games are not a one trick pony – and make us excited to see where they take Valorant, and the whole League of Legends universe, next.
Really, you probably saw this coming. If you play shooters for the pure mechanical finesse and prowess that they can offer, then there is literally nothing else on the market that is better than DOOM Eternal. It’s like a dance of carnage, blending quick mobility, over the top action, and incredible level and encounter design to deliver a truly potent mix that results in one of the best games of, not just the genre, not just the year, but of the entire generation so far. While Eternal does have some misfires of its own, including some areas in which it represents a puzzling step back from 2016, it is on the whole unmatched in terms of what it offers as a shooter, and indeed, as a mechanics driven game. It’s available on literally every platform under the sun, so you have no excuse – if you haven’t played it already, go out there and play DOOM Eternal right away.