Over the years, first-person shooters have changed, but the arena shooter is still one of the most popular subgenres. These are the best ones.
Since MIDI Maze and Doom, first-person shooters have come a long way. Full 3D meshes are used instead of 2D sprites, you don’t need dial-up internet to fight with other people, and FPS games have a lot more game types than games from decades ago. Even so, these old games are still a big influence on most FPS games today.
Most people call these games “arena shooters,” and they focus on picking up weapons, controlling the map, and having a very high skill ceiling. Even though arena shooters aren’t as popular as they used to be, they paved the way for most first-person shooter games and are still fun to play. Even though arena shooters aren’t nearly as famous as they used to be, players still have a lot of games to choose from that are fun on their own.
Turok: Rage Wars
|23 November 1999
|Nintendo 64, Game Boy Color
After huge hits like Doom and Quake, a lot of arena shooters came out in the late 1990s and early 2000s. FPS games have been available on consoles since GoldenEye 007, and many other games were released on popular platforms to cash in on the trend.
Turok: Rage Wars was one of these games. It came out for the Nintendo 64 and had a great multiplayer mode that was a lot of fun to play. If people have the chance to play this game right now, they shouldn’t pass it up… It would be great if more people were ready to try this game. This game came out in a different form on the Game Boy Color, with a story and gameplay that were very different from the version for home consoles.
|Wouter van Oortmerssen
|PC, Wii, Mobile
When people hear the name “free-to-play game,” they often have questions because of how this type of game has been released in the past. However, in the past, any free game that became even slightly famous was worth checking out because the popularity alone showed that the games were good. Cube is no different from this golden rule.
But Cube was a pretty fun arena shooter that fans of the genre could check out. The game was mostly known for the engine it was based on. Cube 2: Sauerbraten, the follow-up, was even better, and its more powerful engine was used to make games like Red Eclipse.
|28 July 2012
There weren’t as many Quake games as there used to be because more and more popular FPS online games came out instead. This made many fans sad because their favorite arena shooters would no longer be made. Here is where Warsaw chose to pick up the pieces, adding its own unique features to many of the unique game features from the Quake series.
It turned out to be a great arena shooter that is still getting updates today. That being said, Warsow isn’t the most popular shooter out there, but it fills a need left by old-school arena shooters and has enough depth to keep players hooked for hours on end, if not longer.
|22 August 2017
Many gamers wanted to play a classic arena shooter with updated images and controls, and Quake Champions was made to meet those needs. Even though it’s not perfect in some ways, Quake Champions is still a pretty good game that fans of the genre should check out.
The game is fun to play, and the different characters’ skills are fun to use. The fact that this game is free to play means that more people can try it, but the development is slow and not very interesting.
The follow up to 2016’s Doom tried to be bigger, louder, and better in every way. Even though some people didn’t like how many different game concepts they had to learn and remember, most people who played this game liked it.
The monsters in Doom Eternal looked like they did in older games, which made the game feel more retro and interesting than ever. Doom Eternal is one of the best single-player arena shooters because of this and the huge number of guns Doomguy can use.
Overwatch 2 is a great example of how current arena shooters should feel. With its focus on short, intense online matches and its addition of unique heroes, this game is a lot of fun.
Although Overwatch 2 has been a little depressing, players are still hopeful that the third game will be better. Fans haven’t put a lot of faith in Blizzard lately because of all the problems and games they’ve put out. Overwatch 2 needs to get a lot better if they want to tell fans that shutting down the servers for the first game was the right thing to do.
|8 September 2011
This Team Xontic free-to-play adventure game isn’t exactly well-known, but it’s often thought to be one of the best PC shooters of the last few years.
The gameplay is great, even though it’s a little rough around the edges. It has tight rules, a lot of action, and a ton of group choices. With its fast-paced action and crazy physics, Xonotic feels like an old Unreal game while still being its own thing.
A lot of fun future weapons can be used to zap and blast enemies out of existence in different sci-fi stages. This first-person shooter has a huge sixteen different game modes, ranging from the more common “capture the flag” and “deathmatch” modes to a soccer match that looks like Rocket League.
|22 January 2015
Many people think of the late 1990s and early 2000s as the “golden age” of first-person shooter games, and Reakktor Studios says that this game’s look and feel are similar to those games. The few people who have found this secret gem probably agree, because TOXIKK’s settings and map plans look a lot like old games like Quake, GoldenEye, and even Turok.
There are a lot of small arena shooter games out there, but TOXIKK jumps out because it has good gameplay, nice graphics, and a true feel of Unreal Tournament 2004. Besides that, the arsenal of weapons is a lot of fun to mess around with; it has everything from flak guns to flamethrowers.
Serious Sam: The First Encounter
When people talk about arena shooters, they can’t help but bring up Serious Sam. It’s a famous series that many game fans still love today. Fans were thrilled to see a fourth entry in this game in this day and age… despite the fact that the game itself wasn’t very interesting.
No matter what, the first two Serious Sam games did a great job of letting players fight tough enemies in huge areas. It was fun to eliminate a lot of bad guys. There was no way that it could have been difficult… It wasn’t necessary, though.
|9 October 2002
|Free Radical Design
|PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox
Many people think of this surprise hit from 2002 as a symbolic follow-up to GoldenEye 007, even though TimeSplitters 2’s cartoony aura and alien plot are very different from the Rare classic. That makes sense, since the company that made the game, Free Radical Design, has a lot of people who used to work at the British studio.
There are a lot of things that are similar, from the really fun split-screen multiplayer to the memorable story and good gameplay. TimeSplitters and its better follow-up really shine when played with three other friends on different bright maps. The cool feature that lets you change a few things and add up to ten AI bots makes things more interesting and chaotic.
The game even has a fairly easy-to-use map maker and a System Link feature (but not the GameCube version) that lets sixteen people play at the same time.
In a business where most AAA makers don’t like to take big chances, independent games have been a breath of fresh air. Most games just copy a formula to make as much money as possible. However, indie games encourage creativity because many creators are willing to take chances to make fun game loops.
This is the case with Ultrakill, a classic first-person shooter game that makes you think of arena shooters from the good old days. The game is pretty hard, and players have to be on the move at all times while hitting enemies with well-placed shots that really hurt them to finish a level.
Half-Life 2: Deathmatch
|30 November 2004
Valve kept up its good work with this fun online add-on soon after the release of the famous Half-Life 2. Deathmatch uses the same gameplay principles and source code that made Half-Life 2 a good base. Fun arena battles make the game more exciting and fun to play again and again.
Special skills, weapon start places, and quick return give the game a unique feel that is both fast-paced and strategic. There is also a competitive team deathmatch mode, and for those who want a bit more of a challenge, there is also a friendly fire game.
This famous first-person shooter series became even more famous when it came out on Xbox 360. Halo 3 builds on the exciting sci-fi plot and fun gameplay of its predecessors, but it also looks better and has more fun things to do. Bungie follows the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” a bit with Master Chief’s third game, which brings back some Halo themes and multiplayer choices.
At the same time, new cars and tools are added, and the game mode is made stronger and more exciting. The result is a great FPS game that is still fun to play today.
The very competitive arena shooter genre began with the Doom series. The first FPS games were Wolfenstein 3D and MIDI Maze. However, Doom 1993 was the first game that really embraced the speed and energy of the genre.
Doom Marine’s lightning-fast movement and complex level design went well with its powerful guns. Players could avoid enemy demons’ weapons instead of using hit-scan attacks to fight them. The arena gun genre would be made up of these main ideas. The online part of Doom may not hold up well against modern games, but the story is still as fun to play as it was in 1993.
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
|16 September 2003
|PC, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
Arena shooters are a staple of the Star Wars Jedi Knight series, but the focus is more on sword duels than on firing guns. There are still weapon choices in these games, but they are meant to work with the series’ great close-quarters fighting.
In either single-player or online areas, each player has access to a variety of Force skills, weapons, and a unique blade to use against their opponents. Controlling the area is still important because where you stand can help your enemy drop their guard, making it easy for you to eliminate them. This is the best Star Wars game ever made for fighting with a lightsaber because it has great controls and a big skill gap.
Many fans wondered if id Software still had the same magic they had in the 1990s after Doom 3 and Rage came out. People didn’t have high hopes for their reboot of Doom after playing the weak multiplayer beta.
I really hit it out of the park. The online mode may not have worked, but Doom 2016’s single-player story is one of the best in the arena series. This game did a great job of breaking down every common FPS trope while also starting some new ones. Some FPS games have shamelessly copied Doom’s push-forward gameplay and “Glory Kill” system, which was a big hit. It has never felt so good to tear through armies of monsters.
Thanks to its great single-player features and split-screen multiplayer, GoldenEye 007 from Rare would change the first-person shooter genre forever. In fact, the multiplayer feature was almost cut. Players couldn’t just fly through levels with a rocket weapon; instead, they had to plan how to finish levels with GoldenEye’s many side goals. It was also great that you could aim your guns by hand, which set the stage for what Perfect Dark would bring to the genre.
The online mode, on the other hand, was what really made Basket Random famous. As most people would expect, four-player split-screen deathmatch was a lot of fun. But Rare also added special features called “scenarios” that changed the game in basic ways. The Living Daylights and The Man with the Golden Gun are still two of the most interesting changes to the deathmatch model that the genre has seen.
In today’s game world, not every arena shooter needs a triple-A budget to do well. DUSK, a fast-paced arena shooter made by David Szymanski, is the best example of this. DUSK does a great job of bringing back the chaos of older shooters with its single-player game that is based on classic arena shooters.
DUSK doesn’t rely on love for the 1990s to deliver its message either. As you might expect, every level, gun, and fight feels well-made and up-to-date, while also having plenty of over-the-top cheese. With a sickle, players can block bullets, shoot two-lever action weapons at the same time, and move through areas at very high speeds. Even though DUSK doesn’t add anything new to the genre, it’s such a great arena shooter that it deserves to be put in the same category as the greats it was based on.
Unreal Tournament 2004
|16 March 2004
|Epic Games, Digital Extremes
Most fans of arena shooters already know about Unreal Tournament 2004. This is the best party-play first-person shooter game ever made. Unreal Tournament 2004 didn’t rely on a perfectly balanced setting to attract fans of the genre. Instead, it focused on a lot of different game types and unique guns.
This game has a lot of different game modes, such as Capture the Flag, Invasion, Onslaught, and the famous Assault mode. Combat in vehicles and a wide range of guns went well with the game’s many maps and game modes. New features like running made it easier for new players to avoid hits, but they also made the skill gap bigger. It’s hard to find a better arena shooter game than UT 2004.
|22 May 2000
The online mode in GoldenEye 007 was almost taken out of the final version, but it ended up being one of the best things about the game. Perfect Dark was made from the start with multiplayer in mind, so Rare had a chance to make it better than the last one and give us something genuinely special.
Great Dark is better than GoldenEye 007 in almost every way. There are better guns, more online levels, and so many ways to customize your character that it’s crazy. GoldenEye looks and feels old compared to current games, but Perfect Dark is still a lot of fun to play. That is, if people can handle the low frame rate of the Nintendo 64 game.
Unreal Tournament (1999)
|22 November 1999
|Epic Games, Digital Extremes
|PC, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2
The online part of Quake 2 was such a huge hit that many makers, including Epic Games, tried to copy it. They chose to use the Unreal Engine they made for Unreal to make an arena-based FPS game called Unreal Tournament, which would come out at the same time as Quake 3 Arena.
The game’s different game types and wide range of weapons were what drew some Quake fans to Unreal Tournament. In Unreal Tournament, each weapon has two fire modes that make them much more useful. People who play Quake will never need the Ripper, but UT’s starter weapon, the Impact Hammer, can be used to block bullets with its secondary fire. This game has given us some of the best FPS maps, like Facing Worlds.
More than just the first-person shooter type, Halo 2 changed the way computer games were played in general. Because Halo 2 is such a great social game, Microsoft’s Xbox series of platforms would continue to push online features. Players pick their best mode and jump right into a match instead of going through different stages or setting up a LAN party.
Those features are commonplace now, but the way Halo 2 is played isn’t. The gameplay in Halo 2 is great in almost every way. The relaxed, mode-focused fun of Unreal Tournament is mixed with the crazy arena shooter fun that Perfect Dark and GoldenEye brought to the N64. Lots of people liked the slayer/deathmatch mode, but Halo 2 had a lot more to give than that. Some of the most popular game types are Oddball, King of the Hill, Infection, Territories, and Juggernaut.
If that wasn’t enough, Halo 2 also has a great story that, even though it’s short and very uneven, is one of the most interesting single-player shooting experiences you can have.
Quake 3 Arena
|2 December 1999
|PC, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, Mobile
At the time, Quake 3 Arena was a huge risk for id Software. Some people were worried about a multiplayer-only game with the name “Quake” on it. The peak of the Quake series was made possible by the focus on multiplayer.
Almost everything about Quake 3 is great. There is a place for every gun in the sandbox, all the maps are great, and the AI bots are surprisingly good. Quake wasn’t different from other games because it didn’t have a lot of settings or weapons. After all, it’s Quake, the most famous game in the genre. The only thing it had to do was focus on making the best deathmatch experience possible. id Software not only reached their goal, but they also set a bar so high that no other arena shooter has been able to reach it since.