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.
Yet not all shooter games are created equal. Tactical shooter games — shooters which require a high level of aiming dexterity 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!
Here are seven of the best you can play today.
1. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege
Rainbow Six is a hallowed franchise in the tactical shooter realm. Even though Siege released back in 2015, make no mistake. Rainbow Six Siege not only holds up, it’s risen to become one of the premiere shooting games available today. Of course, there’s a steady stream of new operators, weapons, maps, and combat tools added continually to the game.
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 our beginner tips for some help on getting started.
2. ARMA III
ARMA III is a highly-praised shooter game, and for good reason. 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 at this game. That’s especially true for squad matches. Don’t be surprised if you’re spending more time calculating map cover than shooting your weapon. Furthermore, there’s so many 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.
Like the other games in this list, don’t fret about the learning curve you’ll experience in this game. Most FPS games allow users proficiency fairly quickly, but ARMA III wants you to earn your stripes.
Buy: ARMA III for PC ($39.99)
3. 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 whole world of hostage situations and suspect apprehensions. Every mission briefing comes equipped with photos, maps, and information that will help you throughout your missions.
The missions range in intensity, and 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 PC ($9.99)
4. 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 game play, requiring 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.
5. 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 in particular. Not only does starting up Rainbow Six 3 provide serious nostalgia flashbacks for who those who’ve played it before, but playing it again only adds to the impressiveness of the game.
Much of what makes the Rainbow Six franchise so successful hit its stride 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 PC ($9.99)
Think of Squad as an ARMA homage without the backbreaking learning curve. A simpler, 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 key, so it’s safe to say you’ll need a mic for this one.
As 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.
Buy: Squad for PC ($9.99, Early Access)
Insurgency is all about accuracy. That means if you’re looking for an FPS with all the modern bells and whistles — such as kill-cam, minimap, and weapon perks — you’re out of luck. What you do get is several single and co-op game modes to test all your FPS prowess.
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, over time, actually get fatigued and guns become harder to shoot.
Insurgency provides more than entertaining barebones gameplay. Its true appeal is in the details. If you’re annoyed by shooters with constant background noise, and prefer the slow, tactical gameplay of an ARMA-type game, Insurgency will be right up your alley.
Buy: Insurgency for PC ($39.99)
Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive, and Dodge!
Are you tired of the overtly loud, simplistic shooter games? Arcade mode shooters getting you down? Try any one of these intense tactical shooters out for yourself. Soon enough, you’ll realize why — with so many fancy shooting games on the market these days — these are considered some of the best shooter games out there! With most of these games priced under $10, what do you have to lose?
Have a tactical shooter we missed? Have fond memories of those we didn’t? Let us know in the comments below!