First-person shooters are the second most popular videogame genre. AAA titles like Call of Duty and Halo sell well each time a new game is released, and Overwatch and Counter Strike: Global Offensive are some of the most popular esports of 2019. However, while AAA games are often well-polished and fun to play, larger studios are often hesitant to experiment. The stakes are just too high when a game costs millions of dollars to develop. That’s why, if you’re seeking something enjoyable but also unique and fresh, indie games are where it’s at. In no particular order, here are some of the best indie FPS games, as of 2019:
Superhot is an FPS where time only moves when you move. Each level is part battle and part puzzle. The game is a challenge, at times, but the fact that a new strategy can change the outcome of a battle makes it consistently exciting from beginning to end. The original version released in early 2016 is a lot of fun, but the controls sometimes feel a bit clunky or imprecise. You can’t duck, for example, which makes the game feel a bit less three-dimensional.
I recommend Superhot VR over the original. Where Superhot feels clunky and imprecise, the VR version feels smooth and elegant. You aren’t bound to movement just using the WASD keys – you can dodge through storms of bullets in any Matrix-style pose you can contort yourself into, shoot guns around corners, hide behind tables, you name it. Superhot VR is a much more refined version of the game, and if you have the equipment, it’s absolutely worth playing.
This game is a ton of fun, but it has little in common with typical FPS game. In fact, it markets itself as a “first-person shooter gun ballet.” The difference is obvious even at a glance – rather than gritty, realistic, bloody gun-battles with demons or enemy soldiers on war-torn battlefields, Lovely Planet places players in a bright, non-threatening pastel environment. However, that doesn’t mean that the game is safe or easy. Scowling, cube-like enemies spit bullets, and the game’s levels are precarious platforming courses across floating islands. It starts out simple, but builds gradually in complexity and challenge. At the end of each level, a scoreboard is displayed that shows other players’ records for fastest runs. It’s a good game overall, and a great game for speed runners.
Heavy Bullets is a unique game – a rogue-like FPS that sends you crawling through a randomly-generated neon maze with the goal of resetting a security mainframe on the dungeon’s 8th floor. On top of that, there’s a catch: your gun only holds six bullets, and you’ll have to pick them up from wherever they land and reuse them. Death is permanent, and sends players back to the first floor to start over. It can get frustrating, but the challenge is rewarding, and the randomized levels stop the game interesting.
This is another dungeon-crawling first person shooter, but with more RPG influence. On each attempt to climb the ziggurat, you’ll collect experience points to level up, but you’ll also collect perks. Usually, these come with a trade off: you may get increased speed, but reduced HP, or be forced to choose between increased EXP drops and passive health regeneration. This introduces an element of strategy, but Ziggurat avoids getting bogged down on planning or menus. There’s no inventory to manage, and you won’t ever have to stop the running and gunning to compare two nearly identical weapons. All you have to do is choose your weapon type and start shooting your way through the hordes of enemies that await.
This game is ridiculous, and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s an over-the-top first-person bullet hell game, with what may be the most intense gun customization of any FPS game. MOTHERGUNSHIP allows the player to build guns from scratch – any gun you want, from a handheld Gatling gun to a full rack of bazookas that no actual human could be expected to lift. It’s chaotic, flashy, fast-paced, and satisfying. It’s definitely worth playing.
“Welcome to DUSK. Things have gone wrong. Better kill everything.” These are the only words that appear in one of DUSK’s trailers on Steam. If that was all there was to the game, that would be just fine. The game is designed to adhere to the style of 90’s shooters like Doom and Quake, both in terms of gameplay and aesthetic. The world is made up of dim light, low-res textures, blood, and sharp polygonal models, and it looks great. However, there’s more to the game than just equipping a huge arsenal of guns and turning armies of enemies into ground beef – there’s also a suitably dark story and campaign mode revolving around cultists, possessions, and Lovecraftian horrors. If that’s not enough to convince you to give this game a try, DUSK also features an unlocked y-axis for aiming. That means you can do front flips and backflips.
Back when console split-screen multiplayer was the only kind of multiplayer, it was often frowned upon to “screen cheat” – look at someone else’s corner of the TV too figure out where they are, giving yourself an unfair advantage. In Screencheat, though, this is a necessity. In each match, you’ll face off against three other players, and you’ll all be invisible. Watching your opponents’ screens is the only way to locate them. It’s very difficult at first, but map designs are memorable and full of landmarks. Once you become familiar with those (don’t worry, it doesn’t take too long) the game is a lot of fun.
All the games on this list are excellent, but the list is certainly not exhaustive. Keep your eyes open for new releases and support indie developers!