Before we had the heady graphics and realistic violence of today’s FPS games, we enjoyed the early 2D forerunners of the genre - some which have arguably not been outdone, despite their dated technology.
Running at breakneck speeds, carrying a literal ton of weapons and ammunition and bleeding from your eyeballs. Love them or hate them, FPS shooters and their many quirks have become part of gaming vernacular and pop culture. Even Blizzard, the game developer voted least likely to ever make an FPS, has Overwatch.
ID software more or less popularized the FPS genre, and by the time they released Doom 2 the longevity of the genre had been ensured. 3D Realms quickly adopted and refined the format with Duke Nukem 3D, and thanks to these early trailblazers we now have to put up with a new Call of Duty every year until the end of time. So let’s take an unrealistically paced run down pixelated memory lane of the FPS’s that we used to love. All hail these killer classics!
Wolfenstein 3D (1992)
In ID Software’s quintessential World War 2 sci-fi epic, you play as an American soldier stuck in castle Wolfenstein. Armed only with your brutish physique and whatever weapons you find lying around, you kill your way through levels of Nazi soldiers so you can take down robot Hitler.
The influence of this game’s design and game mechanics can be pretty much seen in every FPS game since then - and it came full circle when the original classic got a highly rated technical remake in 2009.
One year after the success of Wolfenstein, ID Software upped the speed, the mayhem, the violence and the gore and stuck players on Mars, surrounding them with invaders from hell.
It was literally a whole new world, as Doom’s levels broke free of the literal constraints of the low ceilings of Castle Wolfenstein, opening up a bizarre Martian landscape full of hellish wonders, where you could actually see the sky above as you were torn asunder by a floating eyeball demon.
Duke Nukem 3D (1996)
The success of Doom and its successor paved the way for many unimaginative copies, little of whom distinguished themselves in the years that followed. That’s until a game full of misogyny, toilet humor, a chatty protagonist, macho one-liners, pop culture references and innovative weapon mechanics showed up to blow everyone out of the water.
Duke Nukem’s interactive environments and weapon design (such as the freeze gun and shrink-ray) really pushed the envelope on what could be achieved in FPS games. No game hero has ever said “I’m going to rip off your head and s*** down your neck” with quite the same aplomb ever since.