Do you like old-school first-person shooters but not outdated PCs? Do you also like oxymorons? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered!
We tend to appreciate the art and media that we grew up with. For those of us who grew up in the 80s-90s, the games from those times don’t seem ‘outdated’ as much as ‘beloved relics of a simpler age of gaming’. For those of us who grew up in the 2000-2010 era of gaming, modern games don’t seem ‘overly complex and ridiculously over-monetised’ as much as ‘just how things are’.
This is probably why when I try to show my younger buddies some of the older games, they’re not really interested. No doubt to them the graphics are blocky, the sounds are harsh, the gunplay is a little too basic, and the inventory management system is a joke.
I think there are a lot of great modern games out there, but I yearn for the times when gaming was less of a hassle. When you could just play a game without having to have 10 different accounts with various companies. When you could play a single-player game without having to be online.
When I want to recharge my mental energies and play games then I want to play games – not faff around with logging in to a server which may or may not be up, over a connection which may or may not be working.
How incredibly fortunate for me that ‘modern 90’s first-person shooters’ are an actual genre now. And have been for some time – I wish I’d known that sooner!
Please remember: This isn’t a top 4 list or anything like that. It’s just a list of some games in order of how 90s-ish they are.
One more thing before we start: All these games have amazing music, so just imagine I said ‘Oh yeah, and it has a banging soundtrack too‘ at the end of all the entries. Cheers!
I only came across Dusk recently, and I fell in love with it so hard that it immediately accused me of simping for it before we’d even met in person.
I cannot stress how much that it’s practically indistinguishable from actual 90s FPS games.
It answers the question ‘What would Blood look like if it had used the Quake engine?’ before I’d even thought to ask it.
It’s a love letter to the 90s in all the right ways.
You don’t need to reload your weapons. The graphics are so chunky that they make Minecraft look like Doom (2016). The sound effects are so harshly abrasive (in all the right ways) that they make – uh – Minecraft sound like Doom (2016).
The map/chapter system is lifted directly from the original Doom as well – Three chapters with a set number of maps each, and you don’t need to complete the first chapter to play the other two.
And just to be clear: This isn’t a paid article – I’m just putting links to the games in the article for your convenience because I’m awesome and so are you.
But maybe don’t pull your credit card out just yet – because you can also buy Dusk in a bundle with…
I actually came across Dusk because it was bundled with Amid Evil on Steam.
If Dusk is the answer to the question ‘What would Blood look like if it had used the Quake engine?’ (which it is), then Amid Evil is the answer to ‘What would Hexen look like if had used the Quake III engine?’
It uses a similar ammo system to Heretic and Hexen, where the ammo goes by the colour of the different magic energies (aptly named ‘mana’) instead of the ammo types (pistol, shotgun etc.). It also uses a hub system for entrance to the maps, just like the Hexen series.
I love Amid Evil because it’s literally the game I imagined when I heard that Hexen II would be done in the Quake engine.
Unlike the Hexen series, Amid Evil uses actual logic instead of ‘Pull-the-lever-in-this-random-spot-to-unlock-a-door-in-another-random-spot-so-you can-use-the-giant-platform-to-I’m-already-bored-but-you-get-the-point-I’m-sure’ logic. So, you know – it’s actually FUN.
Sometimes I just want to shoot things with a sword, and that wasn’t a typo.
Amid Evil allows this. Neither Hexen nor its sequel does. To be clear: The Hexen series does let you shoot things with a sword – it’s just that the level design is about solving obtuse puzzles and not about shooting things.
That’s a good reminder of why modern 90s first-person shooter games are usually more fun than actual 90s first-person shooter games – because 90s first-person shooter games puzzles sucked total arse.
I SAID IT.
Or if you’re so inclined you can pick up the Amid Evil + Dusk bundle here on Steam.
You can also buy the Amid Evil + Dusk pack on Good Old Games but you’ll need to go to the site, click on one of the games, scroll about halfway down the page, and then find the ‘Buy series’ section.
Strafe is so visually close to Quake that Quake often has to remind Strafe that personal space is a thing which exists. Did that joke scan? Whatever, you get my point.
Strafe is also the first game on this list which has a 90s aesthetic but not a 90s design philosophy. For instance, it has a tutorial (which includes a few hilarious videos satirising corporate culture) and also unlockable game modifiers.
There are also 3 game modes, and to top it all off – the game knows you’ll die many times, and is designed around that fact.
Oh, and the levels are procedurally-generated (which is a fancy way of saying ‘the maps are different every time’ – just in case you’re not a nerd).
It’s kind of a weird beast, because you start the game and you get to pick up one weapon (out of a possible three) and then you use that weapon for the whole game, which means ‘for about 15 minutes’ because hot damn is Strafe old-school tough.
You can pick up other weapons but you can’t pick up ammo for them. Along the way you can upgrade your main weapon, which is cool – but because the maps are randomised you can’t guarantee you’ll run across an upgrade machine every run.
It’s more fun than it sounds, believe me – just like Amid Evil, it’s a great mix of old school vibes and modern game design.
If Strafe is a weird beast (and it is) then Hypergun is a fantastic beast and where to find them. Did that pop culture reference land? Did it scan?
Speaking of scanning, I’ll tell you something that scans every time: The gun-component-collecting simulation known as Hypergun, that’s what.
The game itself takes place in a simulation, is what I’m saying. I’m saying it scans the player before they enter the- you know what? Never mind.
You choose from one of four playable characters/classes (although you only start with one unlocked) who all have a unique set of abilities. You play through the various map areas which are akin to battle arenas. You walk into a room, the room locks and you can’t leave until you’ve defeated all the enemies.
The enemies sometimes drop random items, and sometimes that random item is a gun component. When you die you get to keep all the components you’ve collected. The point of the game is to collect all of the gun components in the entire game.
There are also other ways to collect the gun components too, but if that interests you then you should consider checking the game out.
It’s pretty polished and in many ways it kind of feels like a modern game.
In fact, I could probably be convinced it doesn’t really qualify as a modern 90s style shooter – but there’s one thing that pushed it into that category for me: You can choose to pixelate the game in the video options. I really wish more games gave us that option.
Mainly I just wanted to let people know about this game because I think it’s awesome.
Fair warning though: This game has more grind than a twerking piece of sandpaper.
The Serious Sam series: I chose not to include it here for two reasons. Because it’s already pretty close to being an actual 90s first-person shooter, and also because it’s not actually obscure – it’s more of a cult classic. Sidenote: Serious Sam Double D has what might just be literally the best video game advert ever made.
The Painkiller Series: Same as above, but without the part about the advert.
Dead Effect 2: It definitely belongs on this list, but I already wrote a whole article about it.
Hellbound: It’s not out yet, but the playable demo on Steam tells me it’s going to be just the type of game I love.
Have you played any of these games? Are there any other games like these ones that I don’t know about? Feel free to let me know in the comments!