The Best Retro-Inspired FPS Games

The early ’90s were a special time in the evolution of video games. A new genre was born, and unlike anything gamers had seen before. The first-person shooter was popularized from the groundbreaking 1992 launch of Wolfenstein 3D. This developer would also go on to create the Doom series, which is still popular today.

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While shooters have advanced, many gamers still return to titles like Heretic and Quake. But, after replaying these games many times, fans of the genre were hungry for something new. Fortunately, several retro-inspired shooters have emerged that offer a fresh but familiar experience.

8 Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun

Caedo running down blue horrors of tzeentch chaos demons in Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun.

In this game set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, you play a tough-as-nails Marine. The developer, Auroch Digital, lovingly crafted this game as an homage to ’90s shooters, displaying ultrafast gunplay where you leave a trail of pixelated blood and gore as you take on enemies across space.

Old-school shooter fans will experience narrow corridors, 2D sprites, and even a button specifically for taunts. But rather than the stiff movement found in some FPS games from way back, you’ll notice fluid movement more akin to modern titles.

7 UltraKill

Battling enemy called the filth in a corridor in Ultrakill.

As the name implies, Ultrakill is a violent shooter featuring showers of pixelated red, where the movement is fast and you have many unique weapons, some of which you can duel-wield. This game doesn’t take its visual inspiration from Doom, instead taking after Quake as it features a polygonal look.

Sharp angles, lots of metallic surfaces, and dark corridors give it a nostalgic feel, and the heavy metal soundtrack is also reminiscent of the classic FPS era that emphasizes an aggressive playstyle. Like Quake, Ultrakill also offers open areas where you can maneuver around enemies.

6 Dusk

Firing a machine gun at enemy over flowing lava in Dusk.

Inspired by the legendary Quake series, Dusk mixes a shooter with the supernatural, with environments and enemies that feature dark fantasy and medieval elements, but retain the simple charm of twentieth-century design. This game also includes horror elements like jump scares that may catch you off-guard.

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The fast gunplay of Dusk pairs well with the distortion guitar-infused soundtrack that drives the action forward. Another familiar old-school element is exploring the nooks and crannies of the levels for secrets and Easter eggs, so remember to check for secret passages like that section of the wall that looks slightly different.

5 Ion Fury

Shelly reloading her revolver in flynns arcade Ion Fury

Ion Fury offers classic gameplay from developer Voidpoint and is published by 3D Realms, using the same engine as Duke Nukem 3D, which is excellent to see in action after all these years. You play as Shelly Harrison, who is after a mad scientist who unleashes havoc into the city and taunts enemies with quippy one-liners just before she delivers pixelated justice.

You’ll notice quick gunplay and fast-moving vehicle sections as you navigate the varied environments, and the explosions look almost digitized and straight out of Duke Nukem 3D. Voidpoint acknowledges the genre has seen improvements, so Ion Fury features headshots, better physics, and auto saves.

4 Cultic

Exploring the ship yard in Cultic

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to fight your way out of a murderous cult? With Cultic, you get to use a variety of guns and even dynamite to blast through enemies. The graphics feature pixeled action that combines with contemporary lighting and physics.

Some surfaces provide impressive detail, while others are clearly comprised of squares in various shades, but the simplified textures don’t diminish the experience, and instead enhance it. After all, this genre isn’t striving for photorealism but staying true to what was possible three decades ago, with a visual style that includes detail and a moody, dark, and foreboding environment.

3 Project Warlock

Setting enemies onfire with a flame thrower in Project Warlock.

The story of Project Warlock might sound familiar, but the game offers its own experience as you play as a Warlock who must battle demons who have begun wreaking chaos on Earth. Remember the days of dozens upon dozens of levels you had to work through to fight the final boss? In Project Warlock, you fight across an impressive 60 levels that’ll test your skill.

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Similar to the boomer shooters of years past, you’ll need to constantly stay on the move to prevent being overwhelmed by enemies, and the graphics have a clean look but show heavy pixelation up close. The enemies are two-dimensional and include just enough detail to make them unique. Think Wolfenstein 3D but with more detailed and varied environments.

2 Hedon Bloodrite

Fighting a winged demon in Hedon Bloodrite.

Combining Hedon and Hedon 2, Hedon Bloodrite is a throwback with Doom, Thief, and Hexen elements. Along with intense gunfights, you can explore the handcrafted levels and solve puzzles, and some areas include RPG elements with quests and character interactions.

The game prides itself on its no-hand-holding design, with challenging non-linear environments, so expect your foes to fly apart in gory explosions of red pixels with an armory of weapons at your disposal. If you love the dark mystical themes of Hexen, Hedon Bloodrite looks and plays like a sequel, where you’ll explore huge maps and look for keys following the trope of classic FPS-level design.

1 Forgive Me Father

Fighting a liquidator in Forgive Me Father.

Inspired by the late 20th-century FPS greats, Forgive Me Father opts for a cell-shaded comic book look, with horror elements inspired by H.P. Lovecraft to have you exploring unsettling places. Watch your character’s madness level, which is affected by what you see and hear during the game.

The visuals have that novel effect of your character’s hands and weapons feeling layered on top of the environment, and many of the original FPS games also exhibited this graphical phenomenon. The soundtrack includes a mix of heavy crunching guitars and synthesizers that create building tension, and the visceral combat, varied enemies, and creepy levels make for a great old-style shooter.

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