With the impending releases of Unreal Tournament 2004, Battlefield Vietnam, Half-Life 2, Far Cry, Doom 3, Halo 2, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., and others, many people might say that this year will begin another golden age of first-person shooters. What better way to gear up for the onslaught of releases than with a TenSpot to commemorate the top 10 first-person shooters of all time? After all, when the dust settles after this year, there will likely be some new contenders for the list.
Before we dive into the list, we should first define a first-person shooter. FPS games emphasize action, so you won't see games like System Shock 2 or Deus Ex on this list. Yes those are great games, and they are played from a first-person perspective, but really, they share too much in common with a role-playing game like Morrowind to be called true first-person shooters. Otherwise, we'd end up lumping games like Ultima Underworld together with Quake, and anyone can see that would be a silly proposition. And while a compelling multiplayer mode isn't a strict requirement for a true first-person shooter, our list shows that a shooter without a strong multiplayer component just doesn't quite hold up over the long run.
So what makes a first-person shooter good? Is it a cohesive story and a well-designed campaign? A creative multiplayer mode? How about a devastating arsenal of weapons? Or fiendishly clever AI enemies? The games in this list exhibit one or more of these qualities and have all affected the way shooters are made in a tangible and lasting way. The games in this list are stretched all across the timeline, from the days of the very first shooters, through the first golden age of shooters in the late '90s, and on up to more contemporary shooters that are still widely played today. As with every TenSpot, the games listed aren't in any particular order, so don't go reading between the lines, thinking we've ranked them. All of these games stand together in their collective greatness.
It wasn't hard coming up with a list of worthy candidates for the list, since the first-person genre is among the most popular in the GameSpot office, as it is in the general marketplace. The difficulty came in making final cuts and leaving off some games that we loved very dearly but that just didn't quite make the grade for this list.
Have we done a major injustice? Left off a first-person shooter that you absolutely loved to death? You've got a chance at the end of this feature to vote on your favorite shooter, or you can just e-mail us. We'll revisit the issue later in a reader's choice edition of TenSpot, where we'll pick and publish the best entries submitted to us via the voting page.