The Graphical History of First Person Shooters – 1992-2012

If you’re a fan of the first person shooter genre like I am, then I’m sure you’ve seen or played some of the latest and greatest shooters, like Battlefield 3. After all, I write about the damn things often enough. But what if we go back a few years to the time of the original Half-Life, or further back yet to say, Quake 2? Way back… deeper and deeper.

If you think about it for a moment, first person shooters haven’t been around all that long. It wasn’t so very long ago that the term was just a twinkle in John Carmack‘s eye. But my oh my how the genre has changed since the days of the original Wolfenstein and Doom. The gameplay is more varied, the sound is better and yes, the graphics have come a long way too. 

cyberdemon in doom
John Carmack’s Doom franchise was the start of something great.

In fact, if you were to go back through the years, well… you might just think to yourself, man, I used to think THAT looked good? So let’s go ahead and do that with a little tour Dr. Loser likes to call…

Graphical evolution of First Person Shooters: 1992-2012

Let me warn you up front: if you’re a nostalgic sort of person, then I recommend watching this at home. The whole thing is so touching that you’ll be all choked up… you may even shed a tear. It’s best you watch this in the privacy of your own home.

YouTube player

Okay, so we saw about 17 different first person shooters there, and I can confidently say that I’ve played all of them, save one – Metro 2033. In any case, here’s a list of the entire collection by year, and then I’ve got a question I would like to ask you.

First Person Shooters Master List

Here they are in order, with the missing years removed for easier viewing. I’ve bolded a few of my favorites. You’ll notice a bit of a gap in the recent years… curious.

  • 1992 – Wolfenstein 3d (id Software)
  • 1993 – Doom (id Software)
  • 1995 – Dark Forces (LucasArts)
  • 1996 – Quake (id Software)
  • 1997 – Quake 2 (id Software)
  • 1998 – Half-Life (Valve Software)
  • 1999 – Quake 3 (id Software)
  • 2000 – Project I.G.I. (Innerloop Studios)
  • 2001 – Return to Castle Wolfenstein (id Software/Grey Matter/Splash Damage)
  • 2002 – Battlefield 1942 (Digital Illusions Creative Entertainment aka DICE)
  • 2003 – Deus Ex: Invisible War (Ion Storm)
  • 2004 – Doom 3 (id Software)
  • 2005 – Battlefield 2 (DICE)
  • 2007 – Crysis (Crytek)
  • 2009 – Arma 2 (Bohemia Interactive)
  • 2010 – Metro 2033 4A (Games)
  • 2011 – Battlefield 3 (DICE)

Out of all these games, I played Half-Life the most by a long shot. I played the shit out of the single player campaign and the multiplayer, and after that I started playing the popular mods like Team Fortress Classic and Day of Defeat. Those were the days… at least for me.

Day of Defeat, a true classic.
Day of Defeat, a true classic.

So my question is, what’s your favorite game(s) from this list, and what games do you think Dr. Loser missed? You’ll notice that some of the big players like Halo and Call of Duty are completely absent. Personally I’m quite happy with that, but perhaps you’ll disagree.

Either way, tell me about it in the comments below!




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I'm a co-founder and writer here at Unfinished Man. I write, manage the look and feel of the website, and make sure that nothing breaks. I also reply to the vast majority of our emails, so if you're sending one through, I suggest you be nice. Everyone says I'm the least offensive of our writers, so they gave the email jockey task to me. When I'm not improving the site, I write about fashion, video games, politics, and anything related to science and technology.

7 comments on “The Graphical History of First Person Shooters – 1992-2012”

  1. I just finished far cry 3 and I realised that in the days of doom you couldn’t look up or down and everything was square but it was perfect. Now that the games are so realistic i can’t help but notice that I have blinders on.

    I can’t wait until peripheral vision is introduced. Cause I tell you what…. running around a beautiful tropical island shooting at pirates is pretty hard to beat.

    • I know, again, hard to believe just how recently that was… no mouse look at all! Far Cry 3 is an excellent game and I agree, having some sort of peripheral vision is going to be killer. Have you seen the Oculus Rift?

      • I have now. It’s kind of like robotics. The parts are out there but very much still in development.

        They were selling a latency measuring gizmo so I recon putting a set of them on will be quite nauseating.

        • That’s what I’ve heard, yes. I’ll be interested to see how they deal with that. I’ve got a friend who has a pair on the way via Kickstarter.

  2. To tell the true that I am glad that I was born in the modern age with all the newest first person shooting games, I love to play those game on first person but you forgot to mention crysis 3 is the new modern graphic first person shooting game. Thanks for your post.

    • The funny thing about graphics is that we usually think they look great at the time of release, and then about a year later we go “man, how did I ever play that?”. Crysis 3 looks great for now, but will quickly be overshadowed. 😛


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