10 Old-School Shooters To Play While Waiting For Doom

by Tim Turi on Jul 21, 2014 at 01:30 PM

Lucky QuakeCon attendees got a sneak peek of the latest Doom in action. The newest entry in the influential first-person shooter series refocuses on old school genre pillars like fast movement, gory gunplay, and taking down large packs of enemies. The news has our blood pumping, so we've pulled together a list of awesome old school first-person shooters that you can play while enduring the long wait for id's new Doom.

For this list we excluded obvious bets like Doom, Wolfenstein, and Duke Nukem 3D to highlight some lesser-known gems. We also limited it to games that feature 2D sprites in 3D environments, so no Quake, Half-Life, or Serious Sam. Those are awesome shooters, but not exactly the old-school vibe we're talking about here.

Catacomb 3-D
Year: 1991
Developer: id Software

Wolfenstein 3D is heralded as the granddaddy of first-person shooters, but Catacomb 3-D at least deserves an asterisk. Similar to Wolfenstein, John Carmack and John Romero's Catacomb series began as a 2D adventure with a top-down perspective before making the leap to 3D, first-person dungeon crawling. Players shoot fireballs at orcs, spiders, spear-toting tribesmen, and all sorts of fantasy tropes. The groundwork for Wolf 3D is present in spades, including secret passages, bloody deaths, and a character portrait that morphs into a skull as players take damage. It's an important piece of gaming history for anyone with an interest in the popular genre's roots.

Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold
Year: 1993
Developer: JAM Productions

This sci-fi shooter looks like Wolfenstein in space, which makes sense since it's operating on a modified version of id's foundational engine. The titular hero blasts aliens and enemy soldiers with a recharging pistol, resulting bloody deaths as they cry out "medic!" in their tinny voices. All the weapons look like slightly more futuristic versions of Wolfenstein's standard pistols and machine guns, making this title's differences from its predecessor mostly aesthetic. But it's hard to argue with a game that includes a robotic boss with chainguns for arms and a head that's just a brain in a tank.

Rise of the Triad
Year: 1994
Developer: Apogee Software

Originally destined as an expansion for Wolfenstein, this early '90s FPS literally took the genre to new heights by introduced increased verticality to both the campaign and multiplayer maps. Floating platforms and elevators offer players a new vantage point for destruction. A host of deadly weapons further the carnage against the cultists and military forces. Dual-wielded pistols and a trusty MP40 offer basic firepower, but a healthy selection of bazookas send limbs and eyeballs flying. One launcher lets loose a salvo of drunken missiles, filling the periphery with explosions and giblets. Rise of the Triad was recently remade by Interceptor Entertainment, but the original's 2D sprites and ambitious MIDI soundtrack secure its place in our hearts.

Year: 1994
Developer: Bungie Software

Long before Master Chief suited up for Halo: Combat Evolved, Bungie began telling first-person stories with Marathon. The series – one of the genre's rare Mac exclusives – combines 2D characters with detailed 3D environments. The hallmarks of the developer are in place here with colorful, unique enemy design, consistent interfacing with in-game tech, and audio that's well ahead of its time. The protagonist's hand is even a dead ringer for an armored Spartan glove. Checking out this classic is a must for fans of Microsoft's lauded FPS series.

Year: 1994
Developer: Raven Software

Raven Software's Return to Castle Wolfenstein is one of the genre's best, complete with a globetrotting campaign and intense multiplayer mode. The studio made a splash working with id Software even before Return with Heretic, a game that runs on a modified version of the Doom engine. Heretic swaps out Doom's sci-fi corridors for a dark fantasy world filled with flying monsters and giants. The pistol is replaced with a magic staff, and the shotgun is now a powerful crossbow. If you love the idea of experiencing the core gameplay of Doom with a completely new aesthetic, Heretic delivers.

Up next: Becoming a friend of the Rebel Alliance and an unexpected part of a well-balanced breakfast...

Star Wars: Dark Forces
Year: 1995
Developer: LucasArts

For years, any game about shooting enemies from the first-person was called a "Doom clone." The Star Wars universe is no stranger to clones, and LucasArts tried its hand at the FPS genre to great results in 1995. Starring mercenary Kyle Katarn, Dark Forces begins with the brave hero stealing the fateful Death Star plans. Wasting storm troopers and Gamorrean guards with blasters, concussion rifles, and thermal detonators with a dream come true for Star Wars fans. Stand out sequences include a showdown with Boba Fett in the Galactic City of Coruscant and battling around full scale TIE fighters in an Imperial hanger. It also laid the groundwork for the terrific Jedi Knight series.

Chex Quest
Year: 1996
Developer: Digital Café

Many gamers likely stopped chomping their breakfast cereal mid-bite when they stumbled upon this disc in their box. Chex Quest is a FPS running on id's Doom engine, featuring a sci-fi theme starring a laser-toting Chex Warrior with Chex-shaped armor. Players shoot through waves of green enemies called Flemoids that roam the planet of Bazoik. Chex branding is plastered across the walls, and healthy pick-ups like water and well-balanced breakfasts are scattered through the levels. Chex Quest is an oddity in the history of early shooters, but a surprisingly fun one.

Year: 1997
Developer: Monolith Productions

Long before Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and F.E.A.R., Monolith got its hands bloody with this moody shooter. Players control a resurrected, trench-coated badass whose wife has been kidnapped by a bunch of cultists with Tommy Guns. The tone is all over the place, shifting from a creepy funeral home crawling with zombies to a bizarre carnival with references to The Evil Dead and the classic "one of us" chant from Freaks. The protagonist can even blast a frozen Jack Nicholson lookalike in a snowy hedge maze while growling "Heeeeere's Johnny." The gory kills and creative weaponry are the real stars here. A flare gun immolates foes in seconds, a hairspray/lighter combo makes a thrifty flamethrower, and you can indirectly kill enemies by stabbing a voodoo doll. Each weapon also has a unique secondary fire, like charging your Tesla gun's blast or unloading both shotgun barrels. It's a violent, fun throwback with a good sense of humor and creative level design that helps it age well.

Shadow Warrior
Year: 1997
Developer: 3D Realms

Shredding demons with chainsaws was a blast in the original Doom, but Shadow Warrior lets players slice and dice with a katana instead. Starring the ill-named Lo Wang, this 3D Realms title takes the developer's excellent level design in a unique new direction. Wang (ugh...) can also collect shurikens to toss at enemies while spitting out one-liners that make Duke Nukem sound downright clever. The original game was recently given a visual update, along with a 2013 sequel that ups the gore ante with grisly blade takedowns.

Redneck Rampage
Year: 1997
Developer: Xatrix Entertainment

First-person shooters of the '90s traditionally adhered to clichéd game setting like sci-fi or fantasy. Redneck Rampage throws all that out the window, swapping out demons with potty-mouthed trailer park residents. Double-barreled shotguns, pistols, and dynamite are the effective tools for cleaning up a variety of trashy enemies that are just as eager to shoot you as you are them. You can even take potshots at pigs to send them into a frenzy, or drink some moonshine for a drunken visual effect. It's a goofy entry in the genre that's packed with secrets and over-the-top humor.


What are some of your favorite old school first-person shooters?