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The 39 best ever first-person shooter games

The best FPS experiences you'll ever have... and a few other shooters, too

First-person shooters are amongst the most passionately loved of all games genres. But which FPS games are the best? We've complied a list of the 39 best ever first person shooter games.

And becuase we couldn't bear to leave them out, we've added in the odd third-person shooter too. It may annoy the purists, but we're here to celebrate the best in a great genre of gaming.

Now read our controversial: 18 Worst Video games ever

All these shooter games are great and you could make an argument for any of them to be the best, but we've chosen Half-Life as our best ever first-person shooter. You may, of course, disagree. If you don't agree with any of our choices, let us know in the comments field below, and check out our original list of the 28 best ever first-person shooter games from 2008 to see how our thoughts have changed. See also: The 18 best role-playing games for iPhone and iPad

1. Half-Life

Why it's great: It might seem like cheating to include two games from the same series, but Half-Life and its sequel are two entirely different animals, in a way that the endless lineage of interchangeable Call of Duties really could do with learning from. Where Half-Life 2 is a blockbuster, high-speed shooter with some psychics puzzles, Half-Life is Indiana Jones starring a silent physicist  trapped in an underground, labyrinthine research centre filled with traps, strange beasties and grand-scale setpieces. It's an adventure in the truest sense, where the shooting's really just a means of getting to the next wild scene.

2. Aliens versus Predator Classic 2000

Why it's great: Or simply 'Aliens vs Predator' if you prefer thinking of it in terms of its original, turn of the century release rather than the recent spruce-up for modern systems. AvP is all about atmosphere rather than gimmickry or heavily scripted moments, with the fear and tension just as profound whether you're a human, a predator or an alien. There's a lot of impatience with shooters which are set in metal corridors these days, and with good reason, but AvP understands that those corridors mean claustrophobia and danger, rather than just means of keeping the player on strict rails.

3. The Typing of Dead

Why it's great: Alright, technically speaking there are no guns, but don't let that put you off playing one of the most singularly strange videogames of all time. An official modification of arcade staple The House of the Dead 2, it sees its wooden-voice zombie-hunters toting chest-mounted keyboards instead of automatic weaponry. Words appear above the monsters heads, and you need to type 'em as quickly and accurately as possible to kill the beasts. It makes no sense on paper. It makes perfect sense in practice, and doesn't lose any of the tension and danger of action games despite the absurdity.

The Typing of Dead

4. Max Payne 2:  The Fall of Max Payne

Why it's great: It's tricky to pick the highest watermark of the slow-diving New York City cop's three odysseys of violence, but the hyper-noirish second game just about takes it despite the first being a fresher breath of air and the third being a graphical and dialogue tour de force. Like so many of the best shooters, it's about atmosphere as much as it action, with tortured hero Max pursued by demons as he pursues criminals. Stylish, dark, and just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek with it.

5. Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter

Why it's great: For a series that officially only reached number 3 last year, there sure are an awful lot of Serious Sams to choose from. It's this 2009 spit'n'polished remake of the very first that's the clear highlight, however. 'Serious' is taking the mickey, as this is about as far departed from reality as you can get, but in a sense it's accurate - this is very, very serious about action. Action that involves constantly running at ludicrous speeds, battling enough on-screen enemies to fill at least a dozen IMAXes, and boss fights against city-sized monsters. Wonderful. Stupid. Stupidly wonderful.

6. Portal / Portal 2

Why it's great: Stretching the definition of shooter perhaps, but hey, you carry a gun at all times and you kill robots. It's just that the gun fires physics-bending portals rather than bullets, and the robot killing happens indirectly as a result of said portalling. It's an action-puzzle game about navigating through tricksy environments by creating teleporting pathways, and it has sharp, tragi-comic dialogue to die for. The first is arguably the better game in terms of the challenge it offers, but the second is longer and has the edge in terms of gags and characters (see Portal 2 review).

7. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat

Why it's great: STALKER is one of the most important shooters of all time, yet one that far too few people have played. Partly that's because it has something of a reputation for bugginess, and partly because it probably looks too odd, slow and maudlin by half to folk looking for a quick action fix. That's such a shame. The bugs are by and large fixed, and the sheer sense of place - an alternate-universe, mutant-infested but nonetheless faithfully-recreated Chernobyl and its environs - is all but unbettered. Creepy, alive and surprising - plus the shooting has a survivalist, every bullet matters mentality rather than the usual 80s action movie style. Third game Call of Pripyat is a more polished, but first game Shadow of Chernobyl has more to offer if you can bear the rougher edges.

STALKER call of Pripyat

8. Battlefield 3

Why it's great: There's a very good argument for what's in fact the seventh Battlefield game not being in this list, and that is that its singleplayer mode is a load of tedious, uninspired nothing. That's bad news for anyone who bought it for singleplayer, but Battlefield 3 is really about its large-scale, wide-open multiplayer battles. Huge armies going at each other with vehicles and aircraft as well as a wide selection of guns: it's got spectacle and strategy that its arch-rival Call of Duty does not. The relentless focus on levelling up and unlock perhaps dilutes the essential appeal of Battlefields past, but if you want an instant war, here's where to go.

9. Halo: Combat Evolved

Why it's great: 'Which is the best Halo?' is the kind of argument you never want to get into the pub unless you want to die of boredom. Anyway, the answer is the first one. A strikingly otherwordly and vast setting (well, until the sadly claustrophobic last missions), the seamless use of land and air vehicles in wide-open levels and the clear sense of being just one part of a larger war. Later Halos devolved into the Arnie experience and took away the freedom of movement, though in their favour they're much greater multiplayer accomplishments. The recent Xbox Live Halo 1 re-release is well worth picking up as it adds online multiplayer to the old dear, and even if it doesn't have as much variety and the video-making tools of Halo 3, there's something to be said for its no-fuss simplicity (see also Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary review).

10. Left 4 Dead 2

Why it's great: Believe it or not, when the first Left 4 Dead was released back in 2008 there was an incredible amount of excitement about the concept of co-operative zombie-shooting game. Now every videogame in the whole wide world has zombies in it and it's harder to see the appeal, but L4D - and particularly its more fleshed-out-sequel - makes the battle against the undead feel fresh to this day. The danger of death and with it crushing defeat is ever-present, the horde are innumerable and resources forever in short supply. For all that, it's high-speed, breathless action that's more than capable of taking you by surprise, not some fearful trudge.

NEXT: SWAT 4 and Spec Ops: the Line >>

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