The FPS genre has evolved quite a bit since its inception. Advances in technology allowed for better graphics, smarter enemy AI, and the introduction of narratives and new mechanics. Games such as Bioshock, Half-Life, and Halo are regarded as the best FPS titles out there, thanks in no small part to these improvements. Lately, though, […]
The FPS genre has evolved quite a bit since its inception. Advances in technology allowed for better graphics, smarter enemy AI, and the introduction of narratives and new mechanics. Games such as Bioshock, Half-Life, and Halo are regarded as the best FPS titles out there, thanks in no small part to these improvements. Lately, though, many gamers have been yearning for a simpler time, when FPS games were more about big guns and fast action and less about story and worldbuilding.
The term “boomer shooter” is used to describe a specific kind of FPS that intentionally mimics the design principles of older shooters. These include challenging enemies that force players to stay on the move, pixelated graphics, the ability to carry more than two weapons at a time, and health bars that don’t regenerate.
The origin of the term is widely debated among video game historians. The running theory is that “boomer shooter” stems from “baby boomer,” or “boomer” as it is more commonly known. “Boomers” are people born between the 1940s and 60s, which would have put them between the ages of 20 and 40 when FPS titles like Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM were released. In other words, “boomers” would have either developed the games or been their target audiences, hence why games that channel the spirit of shooters like Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM are “boomer shooters.” Another theory is that the term references the bombastic, explosive action that lets players blast enemies into little red globs of pixelated giblets. After all, you can’t get a boom any bigger than the screen-clearing BFG-9000.
Whatever the genre name’s true origin, while the market isn’t exactly saturated with boomer shooters, here are the best modern examples of the concept you can currently play.
Boomer shooters stick to several traditional game design philosophies, one of the most important of which dictates the main character’s health. In boomer shooters, players have to pick up health packs to recover. Although, who said health packs have to be items?
Ultrakill is a fast and frantic boomer shooter currently in Early Access. The game takes place in Hell (as is boomer shooter tradition) but with a twist. Ammo is unlimited, and health packs don’t exist. So how do players regain health? By literally showering in the blood of their enemies. For that to work, gamers need to gib demons at point-blank range, which introduces a novel risk vs. reward system. Add in several alternate fire modes per weapon, the ability to knock projectiles back at enemies, and a crushing difficulty, and you have a devilishly good skeleton for a boomer shooter.
14. Metal: Hellsinger
Good rhythm games will never go out of style. Players naturally to love titles that test their ability to hit notes to the beat. Usually, a rhythm game’s challenge only goes that far, which is where games like Metal: Hellsinger come in.
Metal: Hellsinger is an FPS with a musical twist. To increase damage output and survivability, players have to time their attacks and dodges to the beat of the level’s music. The better a player does, the more instruments accompany the music until a full heavy metal band blasts from TV or computer speakers. Not only is Metal: Hellsinger challenging (especially for anyone aiming for a high score), but there’s something just cathartic about hearing a shotgun unload to the beat of headbang-worthy song.
13. Project Warlock
Boomer shooters come in almost every flavor of theme. You’ve got gothic, futuristic, fantasy, and absolute badass. Usually, a game picks one theme and sticks to it, but Project Warlock tries the neapolitan ice cream approach and tosses several flavors into a single package.
In Project Warlock, players control the titular Warlock on a time-hopping mission to eradicate evil. The story is light, but the action is tight thanks to a sizable roster of weapons and a tough-yet-fair difficulty. Most importantly, Project Warlock boasts a gigantic roster of enemies. Each level has a completely different theme, ranging from ancient Egypt to a dystopian future city, and monsters from one don’t show up in another. Enemies aren’t palette swaps, either; each creature type utilizes unique tactics and abilities to ensure the challenge remains fresh from level to level. Even when players get bored of one level or enemy, new trials wait just around the corner.
12. Dread Templar
Boomer shooters set themselves apart from modern FPS titles in many ways, especially when it comes to weapons. Boomer shooters typically prefer quality over quantity. Fewer weapons, but every firearm has a purpose and sticks to it throughout the experience. However, some boomer shooters mix in more contemporary systems.
Dread Templar is a novel fusion of modern and retro FPS game design. Combat is fast and fluid, whereas levels are open and focus on exploration and backtracking (in a good way). Moreover, the game boasts an armory worth of guns, enough to satisfy any modern FPS fan, while also divvying them up into classic boomer shooter weapon categories. Dread Templar also features a skill tree that changes how many guns work. If you ever wanted a game that lets you transform dual SMGs into miniguns, look no further.
11. Hedon Bloodrite
As previously mentioned, Selaco runs on the GZDoom engine. If it weren’t for that program, the game wouldn’t feel half as good to play as it does. The same is also true for Hedon Bloodrite.
The world of Hedon is nothing if not unique. The game takes place in an underground realm that mixes magic and technology. This fusion is on full display via the weapons, which all fit into the tried and true categories of boomer shooter firearms while also sporting novel alternate fire modes. Unlike most boomer shooters, Hedon Bloodrite has a decently fleshed-out world and story (much of which is hidden in collectible notes), as well as puzzles that will test many players. Oh, and did I mention that all major characters, especially the protagonist, are some form of sexy orc or goblin? You might want to consider that before playing the game in front of children.
10. Forgive Me Father
Most modern boomer shooters typically come in two flavors. They are either in full 3D or they place 2D enemy and weapon sprites in 3D levels. Forgive Me Father features 2D assets stalking 3D worlds, but instead of going the sprite route, the game stands out by making everything 2D look like a moving comic book image.
Forgive Me Father takes a page out of Lovecraftian horror to provide an experience unlike other boomer shooters. Not only do enemies look grotesque, but many sport unique gimmicks and players must constantly balance the protagonist’s sanity. The more insane they get, the stronger they become, but their senses become less trustworthy. Forgive Me Father also implements an upgrade system that can improve a weapon’s stats or even morph it into a different kind of firearm. Here’s hoping Forgive Me Father 2 measures up when it exits Early Access.
9. Nightmare Reaper
Most boomer shooters are just straight-up FPS games that focus on gunplay and survival, but hybridization can produce amazing results. Nightmare Reaper is one of the few hybrid boomer shooters out there, but it’s also one of the best.
Nightmare Reaper is a combination of boomer shooter, looter shooter, and rogue-lite. Gamers have to run, jump, and shoot their way through unforgiving hordes of disgusting enemies. However, players can only use the weapons they pick up, many of which have random and insane enchantments. Nightmare Reaper also boasts excellent pacing thanks to story sections that split up the action, are genuinely creepy, and 100% optional. If you ever wanted to play a game where you can randomly pick up a rocket launcher that shoots black holes, give Nightmare Reaper a try.
Depending on where you purchase your games online, you might have heard of Humble Bundle. This site tends to sell games in bundles at steep discounts, but it also publishes its own titles. Well, one of Humble Bundle’s proprietary programs is this fantastic boomer shooter.
Prodeus can be best summed as a bloody good time, with the emphasis on “bloody.” The game is all about running and gunning through sci-fi levels, all while gibbing demons into a fine red mist. Action is frantic and rarely slows down, and difficulty is up there with some of the boomer shooter genre’s best. Unlike most boomer shooters, though, players don’t just pick up new weapons as they progress. Instead, gamers have to unlock them by finding currency scattered throughout the level. Levels might be short, but Prodeus uses that to encourage players to try again to beat their high score and locate more secrets. Prodeus is just plain fun.
7. Ion Fury
Duke Nukem 3D is one game in the holy FPS pantheon alongside DOOM, Wolfenstein 3D, Blood, Quake, and Shadow Warrior. In 2016, 3D Realms published an isometric spiritual successor to Duke Nukem, Bombshell, which true to its name bombed. The company took a different approach to their spitirual revival efforts in 2019 with better results.
Ion Fury is, at its core, Duke Nukem with a new coat of paint. We don’t just mean it feels like Duke Nukem; Ion Fury uses the same game engine, which gives it all the slickness and speed of the original Duke Nukem 3D. Plus, Ion Fury boasts a ton of personality, from the ludicrous weapons of the protagonist to her veritable encyclopedia of one-liners. The game isn’t just a quality boomer shooter; it’s a love letter to the games that inspired the genre.
6. AMID EVIL
Most boomer shooters involve the use of guns. After all, you can’t exactly shoot someone with a sword. Well…I suppose you can if it’s a magic sword, which is the point of AMID EVIL.
AMID EVIL is a mechanically simple FPS that tasks players with wandering halls of various fantasy realms. Some levels are straightforward, while others feature unique gimmicks, but they are all wonderfully twisted. Moreover, AMID EVIL sports some of the most novel weapons in any FPS, boomer shooter or otherwise. Plus, each weapon can receive a temporary power boost by infusing it with the souls of slain enemies. Most boomer shooters have a rocket launcher, AMID EVIL has a staff that chucks planets. ‘Nuff said.
5. Warhammer 40K Boltgun
The Warhammer 40K franchise is known for many things, but its video games are not among them. Aside from Mechanicus, Space Marine, and Dawn of War, you’d be hard-pressed to find a good Warhammer 40K video game. Thankfully, you can add Warhammer 40K Boltgun to that small list.
Boltgun plays like a modded version of the original DOOM in the best way possible. The graphics are a glorious mix of 3D levels and 2D sprite work. Gameplay, meanwhile, is as simple as collecting guns and health/armor pickups, slaughtering legions of Chaos Space Marines and their daemon cohorts, and repeating until the hero either dies or wins. Warhammer 40K Boltgun is intentionally old school, and while the game doesn’t do anything new, it does what it does decidedly well. Once you start playing, you’ll start screaming “For the Emperor!” in no time.
4. DOOM Eternal
In 2016, id Software and Bethesda Softworks published the DOOM reboot, which revitalized both the franchise and an interest in boomer shooters. When Id teased a sequel, DOOM Eternal, audiences wondered if it could ever measure up to DOOM. It didn’t; instead, it surpassed it.
DOOM Eternal is everything DOOM is but bigger and more bad-ass. The action is faster and gorier, and DOOM Eternal boasts an even larger roster of enemies and weapons to gib them. Most importantly, DOOM Eternal boosts the difficulty up to 11. If players want to survive to meet the final boss, let alone win, they need to master the game’s mechanics. And of course, the game still provides an absolutely metal soundtrack and gives its main character tons of personality without making him utter a word. Even if you don’t buy the DLC, DOOM Eternal is a complete package.
Because many boomer shooters begin life as Early Access titles, they are generally piecemeal experiences. Players purchase the game, experience the first chapter, and have to wait for Chapter 2. But even with this business model, many boomer shooters provide more bang for your buck than other modern FPS titles.
In Cultic, players control a protagonist who wages a one-man war against a cult with nothing but his pistol, dynamite, and whatever else he picks up. On the surface, Cultic looks like an homage to the cult classic shooter Blood, but it has more in common with survival horror titles. Item pickups are semi-random, and Cultic sports an intentionally expensive weapon upgrade system. Currently, gamers can only play the first chapter of Cultic, but that still gives them a good eight hours of cultist-slaughtering action.
2. Turbo Overkill
Nine times out of ten, boomer shooters focus on movement since staying means staying alive. Players are encouraged to strafe and bunny hop across levels, but few boomer shooters dial the movement up to 11 quite like Turbo Overkill.
In Turbo Overkill, the goal is to destroy a rogue AI that is waging war against humanity as if it were the second coming of Skynet. To survive, players have to dash and wall-run across gorgeous neon-lit levels, which adds a healthy heaping of style to the presentation. In fact, almost every aspect of Turbo Overkill overflows with style, from the devastating weapons to the dialogue. Even the protagonist’s right leg is stylish because that’s where he keeps his pop-out chainsaw. Turbo Overkill is style incarnate strapped to a neon minigun and a must-play for anyone who loves treating gravity and physics as a suggestion.
Boomer shooters come in almost every flavor of theme. You’ve got gothic, futuristic, fantasy, and absolute badass. Plenty of games in this genre feature enemies that are disturbing and disgusting, but they rarely turn the shooter into a full-on horror experience. DUSK is a scarily amazing exception to the rule.
DUSK is one big homage to the original Quake. Enemies are shuffling polygonal masses of pain and suffering, and gunplay is some of the smoothest around. While DUSK features a small roster of weapons, each firearm is perfectly balanced, and players will use them all before the adventure ends. While DUSK shows its horror-themed hand early with cultits and demonic cows, the game saves its best scares for later and does a great job at keeping players on edge. Trust me when I say every time you think you’ve seen all DUSK has to offer, the game throws something new at you, usually something screaming.