2023 was yet another solid year for fans of shooty-shooty-bang-bang video games. While the Golden Era of shooters might be slowing down as the year wraps up, we still got some dang good ones, both in first-person and third-person variants, over these past 12 months.
As before, this list is split into two sections. First, we’ll look at seven fantastic new shooters that arrived this year. Then, we’ll look at a few older shooters that received updates and continued support in 2023. Let’s begin!
—The NEW STUFF —
El Paso, Elsewhere
I feel like I’ve been singing the praises of this game quite a bit as we wrap up 2023, but I’m happy to do it one more time. El Paso, Elsewhere is a third-person shooter that feels like playing a fan port of Max Payne on the PS1 that’s been modded with weird monsters and creepy angels. In other words: It’s really good, and one of my favorite games of 2023.
In recent years I’ve lost interest in most online shooters as they seem too focused on realism or battle royale/extraction gameplay. The Finals was a nice and refreshing reminder that fun, colorful, and destructive first-person action is still viable these days, even if there’s no ring to outrun or 99 players to take out. I especially enjoyed the game show theme, presenting the money-grabbing gameplay as some odd broadcast I might be watching in a few years.
Warhammer 40k: Boltgun
Boomer shooters. Retro FPSes. Whatever you prefer to call these throwbacks, they’ve become a popular video game sub-genre. And one of my favorites in 2023 was Warhammer 40k: Boltgun. I’m not a big W40k guy, but I can’t deny that the pixelated combat and chainsaw killing in Boltgun is a blast. Oh, and the shotgun in this game is *chef’s kiss emoji.* In past years this would have ended up on my top 10 list but 2023 was just too stacked.
When I first caught sight of Sprawl by way of a random Reddit post, I couldn’t run to Steam fast enough to download it—and boy was I not friggin’ disappointed. Not only does this game deliver a certain Killzone-meets-Ghost in the Shell aesthetic that I just love to death, but it also combines wall-running with bullet-time in a fantastically satisfying way.
I happily devoured Sprawl on Steam Deck and not only did it wow me with the gravity- and time-defying challenges it threw my way, but it also served as a fantastic reminder of how wonderful a straightforward linear shooter experience can be when it’s focused on delivering tight action in wonderful environments. The retro stylings of its graphics remind you of a simpler time when you could just lose yourself to an engaging shooter for a few hours, and then later, after you’d beaten it, get that itch to go back and try it again at a harder difficulty. — Claire Jackson
I liked the first Remnant game, but fell off and never finished it, so I wasn’t sure if I’d dig the sequel. But I’m glad I checked it out this year. Remnant II plays a lot like the first one—with its splendid mix of third-person melee combat, responsive gunplay, and Dark Souls-like progression—but everything feels, looks, and sounds better.
It reminds me of the first Assassin’s Creed and its sequel. The first game was good, but in retrospect felt like a prototype for the sequel. I’m excited to play more Remnant II and any future entries in the series.
It might look like something from Roblox, but Battlebit Remastered is one of the best Battlefield games around in 2023, even if it’s officially not part of that franchise. Like EA’s Battlefield, Battlebit is a first-person military shooter built around big maps, huge player counts, and wild action.
But while Battlefield has struggled to be everything to everyone and lost focus on delivering solid FPS combat and chaos, Battlebit is here to pick up the reins and offer a low-res spin on the bombastic but simple combat that made the Battlefield games so good back in the day.
The first F.E.A.R. was cool. The rest…well, uh, anyway, that first game was awesome. Trepang 2 is a lot like F.E.A.R., featuring smart AI, heavy guns that sound dangerous, and lots of mundane spaces to riddle with bullet holes. But thanks to a decade-plus of evolution, Trepang 2 feels faster, snappier, and looks far more impressive while delivering a kick-ass FPS that makes you feel like what (I assume) John Wick feels like during his cinematic shootouts.
— THE OLD STUFF —
It will never be 2007 again, but at least Halo Infinite has finally arrived at a reliable and versatile state in 2023. Infinite sure impressed early on with its tight gameplay, but the multiplayer just always felt lacking in maps and variety. That is no longer the case as the game continues to get some healthy updates that make it deserving of gathering your friends together for Halo nights once more.
This year didn’t just give Halo more maps and modes, however. The inclusion of Forge AI means that you can regularly find neat little experimental mini-campaigns in the custom games browser, or just jump into the thrill of Firefight. And if you fashion yourself a competitive player, the inclusion of the Bandit Evo in the game’s last update provides a satisfyingly accurate alternative to the Battle Rifle and, I think, makes mouse and keyboard a bit more approachable with its single-shot semi-automatic firing mode.
Halo Infinite is healthier than it has ever been and the future looks wonderfully bright for this classic series.
Wait a minute, Quake II is really old. Why is it on here? Well, that’s because the sci-fi FPS from the makers of Doom got a fancy remastered release in 2023, and it’s splendid. Seriously, if you’ve never played Quake II–-which is likely considering the game launched in 1997—and you have an Xbox and Game Pass subscription, go grab this new version and enjoy. The fast-paced combat still holds up beautifully in 2023.
Plus, this new port comes with online crossplay and a large mission pack featuring new content developed by MachineGames. What a wonderful way to experience (or replay) a classic id shooter.
This might be the last year Fortnite graces this list, not because the game is getting worse, but because Epic is expanding it more and more. This year I played more Fortnite than I’ve ever played, but I’ve not put much time into the battle royale action the game became famous for. Instead, I’ve spent the last few weeks putting a ton of hours into Lego Fortnite, Rocket Racing, and Fortnite Festival aka Rock Band but on a controller. These are all fun, but they ain’t shooters.
The main reason Fortnite remains on this list is because Epic continues to tune and improve the main battle royale modes in the game with each update, adding more parkour options and weapons frequently. So it’s still a damn fine shooter in 2023. But it’s becoming so much more that it’s increasingly odd to keep placing it here as if it isn’t a giant sandbox filled with other games.
My House.wad / Doom Infinite
It’s impressive that 30 years after its release, Doom and its sequel are still getting new community-developed content. Even more impressive, this content is incredible and delivers truly memorable experiences that are comparable to new games launched in 2023. And people say old dogs can’t learn new tricks.
MyHouse.wad, for example, might be the best horror game of the year. And it’s a Doom II map. Well, it’s a lot more than that, with its many secrets and creepy hidden areas. But I don’t want to spoil too much. Instead, buy Doom II on Steam and go play MyHouse.wad. (Or if you are too afraid, you can read more about it here.)
Also released this year was Doom Infinite, a roguelike mod for Doom II that uses the original levels as its base, but layers on new weapons, randomly generated loot, magic, and modified enemies to provide a shooter experience that everyone—not just Doom vets—will enjoy. But if you have played a lot of Doom and Doom II, Infinite is a great way to revisit the game and experience it in a whole new way.