The Best Tactical Shooter Games You Need to Play
Most gamers enjoy a first-person shooter (FPS), at least occasionally. From franchise juggernauts like Call of Duty to standalone games like Overwatch, it’s hard to beat the satisfaction and intensity of FPS games.
However, not all shooter games are created equal. Tactical shooter games—which require a high level of aiming skill and teamwork—take the genre up a notch. Often simulating actual military conflicts (which the tactical gaming community has deemed milsims, or military simulations), tactical shooters truly put your FPS skills to the test.
With that in mind, here are the best tactical shooters you can play today.
1. ARMA III
ARMA III is one of the best tactical shooters available, period. This isn’t a regular shooter; it’s more akin to a warfare simulator. With small gameplay tweaks like limited running, fatigue, and even functional rear-view in vehicles, ARMA III attempts to emulate a real-world shooter scenario.
You’ll have to use everything— weaponry, clothing, and player placement—to succeed. That’s especially true for squad matches. Don’t be surprised if you spend more time calculating map cover than shooting your weapon. Furthermore, there is an extensive number of game modes to choose from.
Along with being a great standalone game, ARMA III is host to one of the most dedicated and creative modding communities around. You can delve deep into the incredible creations of the mod creators in-game, and the extensive list of options adds thousands of hours of content to ARMA III.
Buy: ARMA III for Windows (Steam—$39.99)
2. SWAT 4
SWAT 4 (and the SWAT series in general) loves thinking outside the box. More akin to a noir military simulation than a regular shooter, SWAT 4 enters players into a world of hostage situations and suspect apprehensions. Every mission briefing comes equipped with photos, maps, and information that will help you throughout your missions.
Missions range in intensity. Some border on creepy. Luckily, you’ll have a huge arsenal and a ton of SWAT-based military technology to assist you along the way. You have both lethal and non-lethal tactics to consider for this game, so weapon specificity is key.
Buy: SWAT 4 for Windows (GOG.com—$9.99)
Think of Squad as an ARMA and Battlefield homage without the backbreaking learning curve. In fact, many consider Squad the spiritual successor to the grueling Project Reality (which you can check out below).
A slightly simpler but still tactical experience, this shooter provides players with a surprisingly realistic war scenario. Additionally, there’s a reason this game is called Squad. There’s very little to no UI indicators.
If you want to know who’s shooting, you’ll have to rely on your teammates. Communication is the key, so it’s safe to say you’ll need a microphone for this one. If you don’t already have a headset, check out the best wireless gaming headsets for the PC. Alternatively, if you prefer a wired connection, check out the best wired PC gaming headsets .
As a squad leader, your job is to observe enemy team movement rather than “shoot the bad guys.” In Squad, real-time strategic maneuvering and wits outweigh firepower every time, especially given each game plays out across a 16km² map.
Buy: Squad for Windows (Early Access—$39.99)
4. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six is a hallowed franchise in the tactical shooter realm. Even though Siege released back in 2015, Rainbow Six Siege not only holds up, but it’s also risen to become one of the premier shooting games available today.
Of course, there’s a steady stream of new operators, weapons, maps, and combat tools added to the game, continually updating and refreshing content.
What makes Rainbow Six Siege so great, however, is its insistence on preserving the most important components of the tactical shooter genre.
Those willing and able to traverse a tough learning curve will wonder how all shooting games don’t support lean peak. Then there’s the added map destruction and explosives, meaning enemies can come bursting through walls at any moment.
That’s without mentioning the maps, which are designed specifically to ingrain the player in a real-world battle zone. We can’t recommend this game enough for those who want a shooter where every moment matters. Check out our Rainbow Six Siege tips for beginners for some help on getting started.
5. Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway
Brothers in Arms is a fantastic throwback to the early golden age of shooting games. With decent artificial intelligence for its time, fantastic squad gameplay, and a sincerely heartbreaking storyline, it’s easy to understand why there are some fanatics still waiting for a sequel.
If you’re into squad-based tactical gameplay which requires you to use any and all players at your disposal to complete various tasks, this game is for you.
Don’t be put off by the age of the game, either. You’ll be too busy commanding squadrons to notice.
6. Escape from Tarkov
Escape from Tarkov is a hardcore, massively multiple tactical survival shooter requiring teamwork, communication, and a bit of luck to “escape.” You’re dropped into one of Escape from Tarkov’s large maps. Your team task is to reach the extraction point, usually on the opposite side of the map, far in the distance.
Between you and your extraction are other online players, as well as AI-controlled characters known as “Scavs” (short for scavengers). You must find the best loot, tool up your team, and get ready for the inevitable gun battles that suddenly blast into your locale, be that PVP or PVE.
The beauty of Escape from Tarkov is the depth and immersion you can quickly build. There are flea markets where you can buy, sell, and barter for weapons. There are special contracts you can take in-game to earn more currency or other special loot.
You can join the game as a Scav with a generic set of gear and attempt to earn and find more loot for your main character, a mode that allows you to explore maps without fear of losing your entire arsenal.
Plus, there is more to come from Escape from Tarkov. The game is still running its closed beta phase, with new features, weapons, bug fixes, and optimizations rolling out all of the time. Joining during the closed beta phase gives you a bunch of extra equipment to start your character with, too.
Buy: Escape from Tarkov for Windows ($45)
7. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield
While I’ve praised Rainbow Six above, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Rainbow Six 3 specifically. Not only does starting up Rainbow Six 3 provide serious nostalgia flashbacks for those who have played it before, but playing Raven Shield again only adds to the impressiveness of the game.
Much of what makes the Rainbow Six franchise so successful is present in Rainbow Six 3. The weapon customization, methodical gameplay, and one-shot kills all contribute to making Rainbow Six 3 the tactical shooter prototype.
Buy: Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield for Windows (Steam—$9.99)
8. Insurgency: Sandstorm
The follow up to the 2014 original, Insurgency: Sandstorm picks up and runs with the title. Still featuring hardcore tactical gunplay and extremely lethal weapons, Insurgency: Sandstorm puts an emphasis on moving slowly, silently, and most of all, working as a team. Break off from your squad, and all too often, you’ll be regularly decreasing the respawn count.
You won’t find a kill cam, mini-map, or weapons perks in Insurgency: Sandstorm. The HUD is basic, with no health or armor bar. You can play as a military force or as the insurgents in a fictional war based in the Middle East.
Oh, and you will die. A lot. In continuing with the general realism of the game, it’s frightfully easy to get one-shotted. That’s not to mention that players become fatigued and guns become harder to shoot.
Sandstorm is meant to be slightly less hardcore than the original Insurgency, looking for a blend of hardcore tactical FPS and the more action arcade approach of Call of Duty and other similar titles. The result is engrossing gameplay, incredible sound design (seriously, Sandstorm sounds phenomenal), and one of the best tactical shooters around.
Unfortunately, Insurgency: Sandstorm is currently unavailable on consoles. However, that situation will change in the latter stages of 2020, when Insurgency: Sandstorm hits the PS4 and Xbox One.
Buy: Insurgency: Sandstorm for Windows (Steam—$29.99)
9. Project Reality
Project Reality is a classic hardcore tactical shooter that started life as a mod for Battlefield 2, but is now a standalone game. As mentioned above, Squad is the spiritual successor to Project Reality. Once you take Project Reality for a spin, you’ll understand why.
One major difference between Project Reality and other hardcore shooters is how respawning operates. You cannot respawn on your squad leader, only at permanent spawn points such as the main base or a Forward Operating Base.
In that, the Forward Operating Base is vital for progression in Project Reality as it allows your team to spawn closer to the frontline, rather than having to trek across massive maps, or even from an aircraft carrier or other offshore installation.
Although Project Reality is starting to look a little dated, especially versus more recent hardcore tactical shooters, you’ll find the minimal HUD, easy squad creation, and battlefield deployments worth your time.
And the best part? Project Reality is completely free to play. If you download and play Project Reality, please consider donating to the developers to keep this realistic shooter alive.
Download: Project Reality for Windows (Free)
What Is the Best Tactical Shooter Game Available?
Are you tired of the overtly loud, simplistic first-person shooters? Are arcade mode shooters getting you down?
Then you should try any one of these intense tactical shooters out for yourself. Soon enough, you’ll realize why these are considered some of the best shooter games out there.
However, if you want something with more of an arcade focus, try one of these awesome PC shooters priced under $10 .