It’s safe to say that series like Halo and Call of Duty have entirely changed our expectations on shooter games forever. Nothing will live up to the experience of teaming up with your buddies and taking on the other team in Modern Warfare or Halo 3.
The Xbox One has done its best to rival some of those games on the 360 and provide an upgraded experience. We see a lot of science-fiction implemented in shooter games in 2020, and guess what, we like it!
One of the most under-appreciated games of the generation, Titanfall 2 took what everyone liked about the first game, took out everything they didn’t like, and added in a brilliant campaign mode that is both creative and wildly entertaining. Blending traditional first-person shooting gameplay with acrobatic stunts and the titular mechanical Titan robots, Titanfall 2 is frenetic in the best possible way, with Respawn Entertainment’s brilliant gunplay making it satisfying from the very beginning to the end. Its competitive multiplayer doesn’t disappoint, either, with tense battles that see both sides countering each other with explosives, rockets, and ambush tactics.
Read our full Titanfall 2 review
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Without the Halo series, there likely would not be an Xbox One at all, and you can see where it all began with Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Bundling together the remastered Halo and Halo 2 alongside Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, Halo 4, and as of 2019, Halo: Reach, the collection features some of the best first-person shooters ever made, and lets you experience the war between the UNSC, Covenant, and Flood from beginning to end. It also contains every multiplayer map from those games, so you can experience the joy of blasting your friends on Blood Gulch all over again.
Read our full Halo: The Master Chief Collection review
Halo 5: Guardians
343 Industries took the series in an emotional and disturbing new direction with Halo 4, and it went further down that path with Halo 5: Guardians. With the A.I. companion Cortana now apparently cleared of rampancy and intent of conquering the galaxy, Master Chief and newcomer Spartan Locke must both race to stop her while battling a reformed Covenant threat and the Prometheans. It lacks the mystery and strong storytelling of its predecessors, but Halo 5: Guardians is still a roller coaster ride, and its competitive multiplayer offers a modernized take on the long-running formula.
Read our full Halo 5 review
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
The best game about a super-powerful Nazi-killing man with an exo-suit powered by ancient Jewish technology, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus takes MachineGames’ signature mix of excellent and emotional storytelling with action-packed shooting, and it makes the stakes even higher. Protagonist BJ Blazkowicz doesn’t go to the moon in this game but instead travels to Venus for a meeting with Adolf Hitler himself. A series of flashbacks give us more details on the hero’s troubled childhood, but we’re still given plenty of chances to blow Nazi soldiers and even Klansmen into little bitty pieces, as well.
Read our full Wolfenstein II review
The Doom franchise, much like Wolfenstein, seemed to be ready to die an unceremonious death, and Id Software hadn’t released a game in over a decade. Then 2016 rolled around, the franchise was given a new lease on life with Doom. Stripping away the survival-horror elements of its predecessor and turning into an all-out action bonanza, Doom is the epitome of the franchise. The story? It doesn’t really matter, as long as the Doomslayer has demons to kill with his shotgun, BFG, and chainsaw – he even gives a middle finger during a period of exposition to prove this point. A sequel is on the way, too, and it looks just as insane.
Read our full Doom review
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
A reimagined take on the sub-series that defined a console generation, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare could have just been a rehash of old ideas and players would have probably eaten it up anyway. Instead, Infinity Ward told a story that examines the darkest parts of war, including the pain and death it leaves in its wake for civilians of affected countries. In its competitive multiplayer, Modern Warfare introduces new mechanics, such as reloading while aiming down the sights of your weapon, and its slightly slower pace makes it ideal for tactically-minded players.
Read our full Call of Duty: Modern Warfare review
The third game in a franchise that seems to only keep getting better, Metro: Exodus is also the boldest Metro game yet. Taking place largely outside of the titular subway station of Moscow and moving into outdoors environments and research facilities, Metro: Exodus manages to never lose its sense of suspense or terror and builds on the survival and resource-management components of its predecessors. It does this while also giving you even more ways to customize your weapon to match your style, whether that means sneaking through missions of all-out chaos against humans and mutated animals.
Read our full Metro: Exodus review
Time only moves when you move in Superhot, and that small gimmick completely changes how you play this unique first-person shooter. As much of a puzzle game as it is a shooter, Superhot requires you to plan out your every move to avoid getting hit by a stray bullet, firing every shot of your own with an awareness of your surroundings. Once you’ve mastered a level and get to watch your entire run play in real-time, you see just how insane your moves were and how impossible it would be to do it without pausing the action. On top of that, it also has a really neat and self-aware story told primary through an IRC terminal.
We don’t blame you if you want to play this game with your volume muted, because the story and dialogue are pretty putrid, but Borderlands 3 is also an undeniably fun looter-shooter from the studio that helped to create the genre. Now set on several planets instead of just Pandora, Borderlands 3 features a fantastic mix of set-pieces, vehicular combat, traditional gunplay, and special abilities during nearly every battle. Switching between weapons is crucial and feels great, and the enemies you fight are smart enough to challenge you into trying something new. Or you could just punch them to death. Your choice.
BioShock: The Collection
The entire BioShock single-player series can be yours, along with add-on content, in BioShock: The Collection and their stories are still just as exciting and impactful today. Set in the underwater city of Rapture and the floating Columbia, the BioShock games deal with themes such as Randian Objectivism, nationalism, racism, populism, and American exceptionalism, all wrapped up in a science-fiction coating that makes it all much more interesting to those with less interest in politics. Once you start using the super-powered abilities, the combat will get its hooks in you, too.
After Gears 4 replicated the franchise’s formula without introducing anything particularly new or interesting, The Coalition made a much more impressive sequel in Gears 5. Centered on the struggle of Kait Diaz to come to terms with her lineage and what it could mean for the future of Sera — and mankind — the game’s darker campaign also features open-ended areas and even side missions to complete, adding further context and depth to the story. The excellent competitive multiplayer remains relatively unchanged, but the new Escape mode gives you yet another option for playing with your friends.
Read our full Gears 5 review
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
The third game in Square Enix and Crystal Dynamic’s rebooted Tomb Raider series also features the most refined take on combat, blending stealth reminiscent of Splinter Cell with traditional third-person shooting. Lara Croft remains an absolute badass, this time showing no restraint when it comes to slaughtering those who stand in her way. That can’t be good for her psyche, but for us, it means plenty of bad guys to gun down and explosions to trigger. As long as you’re not averse to gruesome violence, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a must-play third-person shooter.
Read our full Shadow of the Tomb Raider review
Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville
If you are averse to gruesome violence, then Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville might be more up your alley. The third spinoff shooter from PopCap’s series features campaign modes for both the Plants and the Zombies, as well as a robust competitive multiplayer mode that lets you play as a huge number of classes on both sides. Newcomers include a ninja-like mushroom called Night Cap, as well as the bow-firing zombie ‘80s Action Hero. Regardless of your choice, you’re going to laugh at the goofy attacks you can do, and the ridiculous environments you’ll be visiting.
It certainly wasn’t the first battle royale game, but Fortnite turned the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds formula into a worldwide phenomenon. Epic Games’ take on the genre blends the classic 100-person battles with building mechanics to create something deeper, but with accessible controls and weapons that let younger players join in on the fun. Nearly constant updates and additions have given us reason to keep playing for more than a year, including major universe-changing events.
Read our full Fortnite review
A more refined version of the formula Remedy Games established with Quantum Break, Control is also an even stranger game. Set in the fictional Federal Bureau of Control’s headquarters, the game is like if X-Files crossed paths with Max Payne and Inception. That means you have access to paranormal abilities and will face some truly bizarre enemies, all with a story that is as confusing as it is intriguing. Control lacks some of the polish of its AAA contemporaries, but it makes up for it with its sheer oddness and commitment to its central themes.
Read our full Control review
The Insomniac Games project that time forgot, Sunset Overdrive is nothing short of a masterpiece. The game takes third-person shooting from series like Ratchet & Clank, the traversal of Jet Grind Radio, and the irreverence of Deadpool to create a self-referential third-person shooter with a ton of humor and charm. You can fire vinyl records at the mutated enemies you’ll encounter, and at one point even defeat a box with a piece of the game’s user interface. Perhaps its status as an early Xbox One exclusive doomed it to fail, but it’s still worth playing today.
Read our full Sunset Overdrive review
Arcade and isometric shooters
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions
Simple and effective, Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions doesn’t try to reinvent the arcade shooter or drastically change the formula of the past two games. Instead, it’s yet another excellent, engaging, and satisfying game that you can play for hours while trying to beat that one friend’s high score. It’s still challenging, but in a refined and carefully-calculated way that never feels frustrating. It’s all backed up by brilliant visuals and a bumping soundtrack that is sure to stay in your heard for weeks later.
The Contra game that isn’t Contra, Blazing Chrome is the shooter that Konami is, for some reason, unwilling to make. Taking strong inspiration from Contra: Hard Corps, in particular, the sidescrolling run-and-gun shooter is extremely difficult, but with a modern continuing system and nearly perfect controls that make it always feel fair. Its 16-bit art style is the perfect fit for the genre, too, and if the game were released back on the Sega Genesis or SNES, it would not feel out of place.
Super Time Force
A classic run-and-gun game with a twist, Capybara’s Super Time Force allows you to rewind time and play through levels more than once in order to increase your power against certain enemies. You can do this with a number of different characters to achieve more damaging combo attacks, and learning how to use the move effectively becomes second nature. It also isn’t nearly as hard as other retro throwback shooters, so younger players should have an easier time with it, and it has a surprisingly hilarious story to tie it all together.
Sine Mora EX
An apocalyptic horizontal aerial shooter that has the formula completely nailed down, Sine Mora EX is a dark and downright strange game that blends a gruesome tale of loss and destruction with some of the best arcade shooting we’ve ever seen. Rather than use a standard hit point system, your health is tied to the time available in a stage, and as you are damaged, this timer goes down. Through special abilities you can slow down time to navigate dangerous scenarios, and learning how to escape danger becomes crucial to your success as you progress.
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