8 First-Person Shooters that Shaped the Genre

The first-person shooter genre has changed a lot since it was born, and along the way a number of games have driven those changes. Some of the changes were big, and some were small, but all of them come together to make today’s games part of the most successful genre in gaming. These eight games were some of the most influential in the genre, driving changes that you can still see the impact of today.

Think we missed one? Tell us what it is in the comments!


The godfather of first-person shooters, Doom put the genre on the map. Not only was it a huge release for its time, it introduced vertical navigation and network gaming. It also pioneered support for mods. It was so influential that many of the shooters that came after it were known as “Doom clones.” Although it was surpassed in gameplay and graphical quality rather quickly, there’s no denying the impact it had on the genre.

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Unreal introduced mind-blowing graphics for its time, and even included one of the most robust software renderers anyone had made to that point. It was also one of the first games to use detail texturing. Most importantly, it was the game that gave birth to the Unreal engine, which has powered many of the most popular games ever made. It didn’t hurt that the game was really fun to play as well. It had one other major effect as well. It spawned…

Unreal Tournament

The single-player shooter action of Unreal was great, but when Epic Games decided to focus on a multiplayer shooter in the fledgling days of online gaming, a phenomenon known as Unreal Tournament was born. Designed as a fast-paced arena shooter, UT stormed onto the shooter scene in 1999 with multiple game types, AI bots, and support for both LAN and online play. It spawned multiple sequels, a huge competitive scene, and one of the most robust and well-supported mod communities gaming has ever seen.


It’s hard to overstate the effect that Half-Life had on the shooter genre. Before Valve’s 1998 shooter, games in the genre were about shooting everything to progress to shooting more things within a static world. Half-Life dropped you into a world that felt like more than a canvas for shooting things. It incorporated storytelling, interaction with the environment, and scripted events that make the world feel even more real. Onto all of this, it added robust mod support that spawned many games we know and love. It was a revolutionary game, and one whose influence is still felt today.


Counter-Strike began life as a Half-Life modification designed by Minh “Gooseman” Le and Jess “Cliffe” Cliffe in 1999. It was an instant hit, and before long, Valve bought the IP and hired both modders. Valve then released Counter-Strike as a stand-alone game in 2000. The game of terrorists versus counter-terrorists captured the attention of gamers everywhere, and even today, over 15 years later, it’s still being played by a large number of people.

Halo: Combat Evolved

Today’s gaming world is filled with console shooters, but before Halo: Combat Evolved came along, they were pretty thin on the ground. Bungie’s futuristic shooter had a huge impact on the Xbox. As a launch title for the platform, it was easily the console’s killer app. Its console-friendly controls and split-screen co-op made it a hit among Xbox owners, and the ability to link multiple systems together for LAN play is another great feature. Although many feel it was surpassed by its sequels, it was a huge milestone in the world of shooters.


DICE and EA teamed up for 2002’s Battlefield 1942, and the world of online shooters has really never been the same. It introduced “Conquest” mode, which pit two teams of up to 32 players against each other, with the winner being determined by a ticket count influenced by control of points on the map. It also incorporated tanks, planes, and other vehicles. The combination of large scale battles, infantry and vehicular combat, and multiple game modes shook up the genre, and Battlefield games have been a fixture ever since.

Call of Duty

Probably no first-person shooter has had a bigger impact on the genre in recent years than Call of Duty. It broke the mold by placing the player in a squad of AI teammates and sending you off through a story-based campaign alongside them. When it released in 2003, it was considered one of the best single-player shooters around, and its style has been imitated by many other games. Later installments would add multiplayer, move the action to different eras of history, and make other changes, but whatever they’ve done, gamers have loved. After all, the series has sold over 175 million copies and raked in over $10 billion in sales over its lifetime, making it the most successful shooter series of all time.

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