There are a lot of really great first person shooters, but not all of them are revolutionary. Most of them try to be fun, but don't have a lot of ambition past that. There are those certain games that change the way people think about gaming. They take the genre and revolutionize it so much that every game after it is affected by it. In other words, these are the games that everyone ripped off. Here are the most influential first person shooters.
Duck Hunt was packaged with the NES in a cartridge that contained both Duck Hunt and some game about plumbers. To play Duck Hunt, you used the NES Zapper light gun which was also included. People always give Mario a ton of credit for changing the gaming industry. I think they are too quick to forget that there were two games on that cartridge.
Why It Was Important
Like most kids, Duck Hunt was my introduction to the first person perspective in a shooting game. Duck Hunt wasn't the first light gun shooting game on a console. The Magnovox Odyssey had one a few years before. The thing about the Magnavox Odyssey is that no one actually played it.
Before Duck Hunt, I had never seen a game that gave you a first person perspective. I was used to playing top down or side scrolling shooter games. It was mind blowing to me to actually feel like I was in the video game. There was no more avatar of my player. I was the player. It made me feel as though I had become one with the game.
Look at the entire history of first person shooters after Duck Hunt. If it wasn't for Duck Hunt, we might still be playing Contra rip-offs. Plus it was one of the earliest examples of a sassy side kick who would make fun of you. That stupid dog was always right there to laugh in your face if you missed all of the ducks. Jokes on you, dog. I only missed those ducks because I was shooting at you.
Everyone remembers the first time they saw Doom. I had never seen anything like it. You played as a space marine fighting actual demons from Hell. If you look at the graphics now, they look pretty cheesy. At the time, Doom was one of the most insane games on the market. It was definitely not a game that parents were happy about.
Why It Was Important
What sucked me in to Doom was the promise of sweet demon slaying. What kept me playing was the fact that Doom was a great game. It was the perfect balance of gameplay, graphics, and design. The team that made Doom had previously made Wolfenstein 3D. While Wolfenstein was great, it was very limited in how complicated the levels were. The levels were all based on a grid, they had to all be on one floor, and the textures were pretty limited. The new engine created for Doom allowed for a multiple floors, more complex floor plans, and way more textures.
Doom also had the best weapons of any game. You start with a chainsaw and work your way up to the BFG 9000. This set the bar pretty high for all later games to try to include really crazy big guns. It's still pretty common to hear someone say, "Oh, that's this game BFG."
Doom cemented the personal computer as the platform to play first person shooters. Since it was released initially as a free shareware game, Doom might be the most played video game on the planet. Doom supported multiplayer that was so popular that many schools and companies had to ban it because employees were wasting so much time during work hours playing the game and clogging up their local network. I wish I worked at a place that let me sit around and play video games all day. Oh, wait. I do. LOVE YOU SMOSH!
I don't think I've played any game more than Goldeneye. I explored every single pixel in that game. It seemed like there was always some new secret or fun way to complete a level. If you've never completed the facility using only slappers then you can't possibly call yourself a true GoldenEye fan.
Why It Was Important
No one expected anything out of this game. It was a licensed game, and most of the people on the development team had never even worked on a video game before. Plus, no one thought a first person shooter would even be worth playing on console. PCs heavily dominated the market when it came to first person shooters.
The depth of this game is unreal. It gave you options like no game had before and made you feel like you were really inside of a living world rather than just following along a preplanned path. In addition to just running around shooting every, there were tons of optional objectives that could be completed or not. This doesn't seem like that big of a deal now, but back then it felt like the first time I really had true freedom in a game. They even let you drive a tank in one level, and give you the freedom to blow yourself up.
Before GoldenEye, you had to play first person shooters on PC. This game showed the world that it really was possible to make a first person shooter on a console that was fun in both single and multiplayer levels. After GoldenEye, tons of first person shooting games started to be developed for console. Even though the market became flooded with games, none of them were anywhere close to as good as GoldenEye. Seriously though, I love this game and I do plan to name my first child GoldenEye. Any ladies out there looking to get knocked up with an N64 love child?
I was a little late to the Half-Life party. I played Counter-Strike LAN games at the local internet cafe for a long time before I even realized that Counter-Strike was just a multiplayer MOD of a much more awesome game. When I first started playing it, I didn't really know what to expect. What I got was one of the most fun and immersive gaming experiences that I ever had up until that point.
Why It Was Important
Valve, the developers of Half-Life, wanted to create a totally new experience from any of game that had come out before. They did this by getting rid of cut scenes. In most games when the story needed to advance, a lame cut scene would pop up and you'd have to take a break from the game for a little bit to watch some dumb movie. All of the events in Half-Life that would normally have been a cut scene instead happened in real time in front of you in the game. When you combine this, the excellent controls, and the challenging puzzles, you get a perfect storm of awesomeness.
The other thing that Valve did right was to encourage third party developers to MOD their game. They released everything someone would need to make their own game from scratch. There's no way they could have anticipated the flood of new games created by third party developers. A lot of times when people MOD a game, it turns out kind of crappy. Most of the Half-Life mods came out great because there was so much support from the developers. Each one is memorable and fun for different reasons. The most popular, of course, is Counter-strike.
Half-Life went on to win just about every video game award it possibly could. It even was cited by The Guinness Book Of World Records as the best selling first person shooter of all time. One game winning that many awards definitely shook up the video game industry. Especially on PC, every first person shooter that is released is still compared to Half-Life.
Half-Life's popularity also had another unexpected side effect. Because there were so many awesome mods, Valve needed a place to release them all. That place is Steam. Steam is the on-line home of all of Valve's games and mods. It has since expended in to one of the largest video game distributors. The cool thing about Steam is that you can access all of the games you have purchased. It's so handy to be able to shelve games temporarily and then re-download them when I feel like playing them again. I still log in to Counter-Strike sometimes for fun. If you want to find me on-line, I'm the one charging in to battle blasting my M-249.
Halo: Combat Evolved
I can't tell you how many hours that I logged playing friends in Halo. This game was so fun. I don't think I had this fun of a multiplayer experience since Goldeneye. That is about the highest compliment that I could give a game.
Why It Was Important
There aren't a lot of games that are so good that they popularize an entire gaming system. When Halo came out, everyone wanted to get an Xbox. Honestly, I don't think the Xbox would have even caught on if it wasn't for Halo. Like most people, I already owned a PS2 so it didn't really seem necessary until I actually got to play Halo for myself. Then I had to have it.
Halo came out before Xbox Live so it didn't support on-line play. What it did support was hooking up four Xbox's so you could get up to sixteen players in one game. I was only able to achieve this a few times in my life, but each time was one of the happiest days of my life.
Halo's perfect combination of great controls and fun to drive vehicles made it an instant classic. It became the standard by which all other console first person shooters were judged. It's no coincidence that just about every new game has vehicles in it.
What do you think is the most important FPS of all time? Let me know on twitter @zachlunch or in the comments below!