ultiplayer shooters remain one of the most popular game franchises. They have been extremely popular on PC since the late 1990s, starting with games like Quake, Unreal Tournament, and Team Fortress: Classic (initially a mod for Quake). Their popularity skyrocketed on consoles during 2006-2007 with the releases of Gears of War, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas, and most of all Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The popularity has continued to grow since then.
This is one of the most badly damaged genres in gaming, having deteriorated so much that it is hard to fathom. We have an article explaining this degeneration right here. It isn’t just the games that are worse and objectively lesser, but the communities as well.
So in this article, we present our list of the fifteen greatest multiplayer shooters ever made. It was a difficult list to form, and it may very well be expanded over time to encompass 20 or more shooters. Some of the criteria we factor the most are quantity of content (maps, items/weapons, game modes), quality of content (game modes, gameplay design), dedicated server capability, and moddability. For these reasons you will noticed that some of the top rated shooters are so moddable that they are essentially many games in one.
This article will also serve both as a reminder for those who may have forgotten some of these games, and a lesson for those unaware or for those who did not take part in multiplayer shooters on PC during the 2000s—the true golden age for the genre.
Starting off our list is Rising Storm/Red Orchestra 2, which is the size two games in one. It includes all multiplayer content from Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad (which is its only content that matters, since its single player is just multiplayer matches with bots), as well as a large standalone expansion which is Rising Storm. It’s a 64-person realistic multiplayer shooter, and it is very much like a proper sequel to Battlefield 1942. It utilizes both VAC and PunkBuster, which are optional for server admins.
Rising Storm is where the Battlefield franchise could have and should have gone had it not been dumbed down for casual console gamers. The game modes will be very familiar to Battlefield players; Territory, which is its most played game mode, is a traditional attack and defend game mode except it’s wave based, to simulate reinforcements and more accurately replicate warfare. This just means respawns are slightly more limited.
Rising Storm shares conceptual similarities to Battlefield games, otherwise it just has far superior shooting and weapon mechanics. Commander mode works very much like BF1942, BF: Vietnam, BF2, and BF2142. The class based gameplay is like Battlefield, except the game limits the amount of players per class except for the grunt/infantrymen class in order to force a realistic, balanced team (while in Battlefield 4 you will often have a team of at least 90% snipers).
There’s a mod for Battlefield 2 called Project Reality that improves the game, but it still doesn’t approach the level Rising Storm is on. It is far more advanced, far more tactical, far more engaging, and far more fun, it does what other games like Battlefield do (but does so much better), and also does much more. Although there is nothing quite comparable to BF2142’s Titan mode obviously.
As a bonus, the developers constantly give out new content for free. This includes maps and sometimes game modes too. It’s also very mod friendly and the devs really endorse modding. The developers also host events, follow their Steam group for more information.
With Heroes of the West mod, Rising Storm/Red Orchestra 2 becomes a sprawling WWII shooter, covering the Eastern European front (Russia vs Germany), Pacific front (USA vs Japan), and Western Front (USA and Great Britain vs Germany).
Heroes of the West. This mod has superior gun models, animations, and sounds compared to AAA shooters.
It was a close call, but Day of Infamy takes this spot. While Rising Storm/Red Orchestra 2 has a better, more realistic damage system allowing for things like crippling, as well as incredible tank gameplay for a shooter game as well as anti-tank weapons, the reason Day of Infamy pulls ahead is because of its multitude of game modes.
Day of Infamy is infantry combat only but has a multitude of PvP and co-op game modes, inherited from Insurgency for which Day of Infamy was originally a mod for. So it can be said that Day of Infamy is a WWII version of Insurgency. We feel the mix of PvP and Co-op game modes improves longevity over Rising Storm/Red Orchestra 2’s PvP only game modes, none of which are unique; the most played one being Territory which is very much like Conquest in Battlefield, and Day of Infamy has an identical mode. This game features class-based gameplay like many other war themed shooters, and it limits the amount of players per class (with each class limiting your weapon choice) in order to force a balanced, more realistic team. This is good practice since without this, players are free to all choose one class and result in an unbalanced team that will not advance anywhere. Having teams of all snipers in Battlefield for example is painfully common.
Like the aforementioned Rising Storm/Red Orchestra 2, Day of Infamy’s mechanics have extra emphasis on realism and authenticity compared to other shooters, although slightly less emphasis here making it a bit more welcoming. Although the extra game modes do the most for making it more welcoming, along with the convenience provided by Source engine in the forms of modding, easy server hosting, and easy connectivity plus Steamworks integration.
While Rising Storm/Red Orchestra 2 + Heroes of the West is a perfect sequel to Battlefield 1942, Day of Infamy is a perfect sequel to the multiplayer components of the WWII Call of Duty games. Forget about Call of Duty: WWII which comes out later this year. Call of Duty simply doesn’t hold a candle to Day of Infamy, which offers everything the WWII Call of Duty games offer in multiplayer and a hell of a lot more, and where there is overlap Day of Infamy trounces Call of Duty. Especially in shooting mechanics.
Day of Infamy already has all kinds of mods available, including a total conversion mod called Born To Kill: Vietnam. This mod was originally made for Insurgency but was ported over to Day of Infamy. As the name implies it is Insurgency/Day of Infamy but in Vietnam, again with superior gun models, animations, and sounds compared to AAA games. Day of Infamy makes the multiplayer component of the WWII Call of Duty games obsolete, while Born To Kill: Vietnam does the same to Call of Duty: Black Ops which, despite being set in Vietnam, is closer to modern warfare.
Squad is the game that popularized 50 vs 50 player military shooter PvP. Like many other popular multiplayer shooters both on and off this list, it stems from a user made modification – Battlefield 2: Project Reality in this case. It had about a 5 year early access phase.
This game (and by extension BF2: Project Reality) essentially pioneered a new subgenre, with other games copying its formula such as Post Scriptum, Hell Let Loose, and Beyond the Wire. It is like Battlefield 2 on steroids; a class based combined arms military shooter, but the teamwork requirement is sky high here, such that good public matches/teamwork is a rarity unfortunately. But when it all comes together, it’s one of the best PvP shooter experiences one can have.
The shooting mechanics aren’t as realistic as Tripwire’s, but class limitations are in both. The combined arms warfare includes ground vehicles, air vehicles, mortars, and of course it has a Commander. All of this shows why the teamwork requirement is so high.
Squad has several game modes, all revolving around team play. Most revolve around different forms of point capture or attack and defend. It also has a smaller scale game mode, Skirmish, for which the entirety of its large maps aren’t used.
Other standout attributes of Squad include its armor simulation which far surpasses the likes of Battlefield and puts it in the same territory as Arma and Tripwire games. No more blindly shooting rockets at tanks and blowing them up! Squad is also built on Unreal Engine 4 and is moddable, just like the good old days.
Also, the amount of content is like that of 2000s PC games rather than today’s AAA games, which means exponentially more. Battlefield 2042 for example has just 7 maps similar to its recent predecessors, while Squad which is also huge in scale has 20! Be sure to use the tutorials before playing this game, and many others on this list.
We mentioned Insurgency above. Insurgency: Sandstorm is the pinnacle of modern warfare CQB in video games, while Day of Infamy is the pinnacle of CQB in a WWII setting. The mod Born To Kill: Vietnam is as good as it gets for CQB in a Vietnam setting (his mod is available for both Insurgency and Day of Infamy).
Like Day of Infamy, Insurgency: Sandstorm (and this entire series) is designed to appeal to gun nuts and fans of hardcore shooters like Rising Storm/Red Orchestra 2 and Arma. People who like to use teamwork instead of mindlessly running around blasting people while listening to dubstep. Imagine if the multiplayer of the modern Call of Duty games was not designed for children, and was designed to have authentic shooting mechanics. That’s Insurgency in a nutshell, although it has many more PvP and Co-op modes than Call of Duty, greatly improving its longevity.
Sandstorm finally overtakes its predecessor on our list, since it finally got mod tools and its gameplay is undeniably more impressive. While its official DLC content is… subpar to say the least, thankfully many mods such as ISMC are not.
So how are Insurgency and Day of Infamy more authentic, you ask? Here is a list.
- Aiming dead zone mechanic. When not aiming down the sight, your fire is not directed towards the center of the screen.
- Aim sway and more realistic recoil simulation.
- More realistic weapon functionality, as well as functionality for various attachments like optics, sound suppressors, vertical foregrips, grenade launchers.
- Deployable bi-pods.
- Class based gameplay with limits on the number of players per class, resulting in balanced and more realistic teams. Each class limits your weapon choice.
- Sound effects, which are stellar especially on a surround sound setup.
All of this applies to both Day of Infamy and Insurgency, though Sandstorm has more going for it as the video above demonstrates. Forget the awful Call of Duty: Modern Warfare games after Call of Duty 4 which are poison to the industry. Insurgency does the same things but better, and a heck of a lot more on top of it, all for a much lower cost.
No More Room in Hell is the next game on our list. Like the previous entry, this is a PC exclusive co-op survival horror game.
It emphasizes teamwork even more than Killing Floor. It has an objective based mode, very much like Left 4 Dead except more hardcore and with a more realistic pace. It also has a wave based survival mode, not unlike Killing Floor. Gunplay is excellent, you can get infected and turn into a zombie, level design is very intelligent, and it’s very mod friendly. In fact, it started out as a Source mod, but now it’s a free standalone release on Steam. So there’s no excuse for fans of the genre to not give this game a try. It constantly receives new, free content, and as of 2017 has many maps and weapons, far more than what most AAA games provide.
This entry belongs to Enemy Territory: Quake Wars from 2007. It followed the trend of complex, large scale, mixed warfare, more strategic game modes also seen in Battlefield 2142 (Titan mode), Unreal Tournament 2004 (Onslaught mode), and Crysis (Power Struggle mode). We are big fans of this type of game due to the ambition and brilliance that goes into them, and this game is no exception. It isn’t as content rich as some of the other games on this list, and it’s too bad it’s totally dead now and impossible to play. Just another classic that can only live on in memory.
Next we have Serious Sam Fusion 2017. If you buy it alone without owning any other Serious Sam games, then it includes Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter ported to the latest version of Serious Engine, which includes Vulkan API and all the lovely options of The Talos Principle. If you also own Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter and Serious Sam 3: BFE on Steam, then those are added to the game as well, also ported to the latest Serious Engine letting you play all three games seamlessly. This is three PC exclusive co-op shooters in one, highly moddable and with lots of content. The amount of weapons, levels, and enemy variety are hard to match, let alone how ridiculously awesome all of these things are. The Second Encounter in particular showcases some of the coolest level design of all time, you never know what challenge you’ll face.
The game features destructible environments too, as well as lots of hidden secrets on every level and many other unique quirks. It is a blast to play, currently in beta but constantly being updated. Croteam’s support is not even questionable, it is the best ever, rivaled only by Frictional Games.
As the name implies, these are actually remakes (not mere remasters) of Serious Sam: The First Encounter and Serious Sam: The Second Encounter respectively.
Lion’s Roar is a total conversion mod for Battlefield 2. Everyone knows of Project Reality, and many know of Forgotten Hope 2 and Nations at War. Those are all incredible mods that deserve to be known, but not enough know of Lion’s Roar. It takes combined arms PvP gameplay to another level via fully operable capital ships and submarines. The classic Battlefield games are some of the only ones to explore this type of gameplay – it is also done well in Forgotten Hope: Secret Weapon for BF1942.
This mod would rank higher on this list if it were more fleshed out via more maps and a more objective focused game mode, and if it were more polished. The ultimate variation of this game mode would be something like Battlefield 4 Carrier Assault on steroids: maps designed for 50 vs 50, others for 100 vs 100, and others for 150 vs 150, and the objective should be to destroy the enemy’s aircraft carrier which serves as the HQ. The carrier should be fully operable, as should surrounding capital ships and submarines which protect the waters, and aircraft that can land on the carrier or capital ships. Armored and mechanized infantry should be deployed from these ships (as in Lion’s Roar) and advance on land to capture spawn points and fixed artillery units; the former to help control the map and the latter to help defeat enemy vehicles and the carrier itself. This is quite clearly the ultimate combined arms PvP game mode, and someone with some funding needs to do it. Ideally, such a game mode would be available both with and without respawns (including vehicle respawns).
Star Wars: Battlefront II is an amazing game, a large scale shooter with far more diversity than most of the ones you see today. Unfortunately, it died with Gamespy although you can still get it on Steam and play single player.
What separates Battlefront II from other PvP shooters are the seamless space battles, and even a turn-based strategy mode called Galactic Conquest. It is like multiple games in one while the recent Star Wars: Battlefront (2015) is just a Battlefield 4 knockoff with Sci-Fi skins. Not remotely in the same league, as illustrated below.
Next up is Battlefield 2142, a Sci-Fi Battlefield game with incredible level design, awesome vehicles, and awesome guns. At its core, it is very much like the other Battlefield games, being most like the other PC exclusive titles. It is highly moddable, has free dedicated servers with great customization and control, superior level design compared to today’s Battlefields, and a more in-depth commander mode.
Aside from the setting, what separates BF2142 most from the rest of the franchise is the Titan game mode. This is the most tactical game mode in Battlefield history, best explained in the video below.
As with many other games on this list, it also demonstrates superior sound effects due to the 3D sound processing, hardware acceleration support, and fantastic use of EAX 5, allowing for so many simultaneous sound environments, 128 voice channels processed via hardware, and much more.
Battlefield 2142 is one of many games that suffered from the Gamespy shutdown, but a workaround exists and it still has up to a few hundred players per day. To play it, visit the site below, register, and then download the client. Chances are you will only get to play Conquest with other players (in which the goal is to drain the opposing team’s stocks by killing them and holding the majority of points on the map), but it supports bots as well.
SWAT 4 is one of the best co-op shooters ever made, and recently it has been made available for purchase once again on GOG. It is a 2005 PC exclusive tactical FPS in which players take on the role of a SWAT team dispatched to disarm intense, hostile situations with hostages. This is not a story driven game but a series of unconnected scenarios (missions), and each one has a randomized number of enemies and civilian hostages, with random spawn locations so that it’s never the same. You can even quickly make your own custom missions.
You fail a mission if you kill a hostage/civilian or if your team is wiped out. Although in single player, if you die then you immediately fail. SWAT 4 has distinct gameplay elements thanks to its quantity of tools and gadgets. It is also one of the best multiplayer shooters for trolling, as utter hilarity can arise from playing this game with others.
The video above is actually single-player, but co-op plays the same only you can replace AI with real people (who are usually worse at following orders and not shooting civilians which instantly fails the mission).
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3 Gold is next on our list. While it shares similarities with the SWAT franchise, in Rainbow Six you play as an international counter-terrorism unit, rather than a local police force. The missions are bigger, the gameplay encompasses much more and is more complex.
If all you’ve played of this franchise are Rainbow Six: Siege and/or the Rainbow Six: Vegas games, then you don’t know Rainbow Six. Those games are just tiny slivers of the first three. Vegas only has three advantages and those are improved outfit customization, the presence of a “snake cam” to look under doors, and the inclusion of riot shields. Siege has a bigger advantage with its destructive environments.
But the list of benefits for Rainbow Six 3 is much bigger and truly staggering.
To play multiplayer, you must download and install this community patch.
A full fledged debriefing which the SWAT games also have, although there are more elements in Rainbow Six.
Roster menu. You are limited to 8 soldiers per mission in single player, 16 in multiplayer. You distribute these soldiers among up to three teams (it was four in Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear) although you are not required to use more than one team. Each soldier has unique stats and belong to a different category like Assault, Recon, Sniper, with skills appropriate to the name. This is also where you outfit your soldiers; the outfit variety is large by any standard, and the weapon variety surpasses the Rainbow Six: Vegas games and mods exist to add much more. Also present is the ability to choose FMJ or JHP ammo, with realistic properties for both. The descriptions of the weapons and ammo also emphasize realism, something that the franchise has since abandoned.
The legendary pre-mission planning system of Rainbow Six. Unlike the SWAT games, you must spend at least 30 minutes debriefing and planning if you want to succeed on your first attempt with minimal to no friendly casualties. This system allows you to set waypoints for your teams, and they may execute or wait for specific commands at special waypoints that you set. The screen on the top left shows the map in real time, although it doesn’t show enemies or civilians/hostages. After creating a plan (and every mission has a default, sound plan) you can even execute the mission in “Observer mode” which is akin to you (the commander) watching the mission through cameras. Mechanically it is like any spectator mode except you can still give out some orders. The AI does all the fighting, following your plan.
The enemy and civilian spawns are randomized on every mission, something SWAT also has but Rainbow Six: Vegas series doesn’t have.
The first three Rainbow Six games are hands down the most intense shooters ever made, in my opinion. They are tactical like no other shooters. You don’t even control a single character; if you die, you immediately switch to another. You can also switch to any soldier on any other team you sent on the mission. You fail your game if all soldiers on your roster die. Guns are extremely lethal in this game. It also includes a real time contextual squad command system (a bit more limited than SWAT 4’s), the ability to choose between three rules of engagement which applies to all soldiers (Assault, Recon, and Infiltrate), and some awesome and rarely seen gameplay mechanics like prone position, the ability to gradually open/close doors (the only other games I’ve seen with this ability are all of those from Frictional Games), and much more.
Check out the multiplayer customization options. Once upon a time, this was the norm.
Also present in the game is the ability to make your own custom missions within the game, using whatever levels you have. It also has a full fledged SDK, and like many other games on this list it supports hardware accelerated 3D sound and EAX (Advanced HD) for superior sound that we hardly ever get in modern games.
It is unfortunate that Rainbow Six 3 was the last of its kind. Nothing since has been remotely close to it. It has a much wider variety of multiplayer game modes than most games today: my favorite is playing campaign missions in co-op, but in addition to this there’s Pilot (ViP) and Intruder which are some of the most fun PvP game modes ever created, Capture the Enemy and Double Bluff are nice additions, Gas Alert and Kamikaze are amusing crazy game modes, and then there’s the overrated Terrorist Hunt which is just players vs AI with no objectives besides exterminating the AI.
Unreal Tournament was a revolutionary FPS. It would become the integral part of Epic Games’ success for the better part of a decade. The year prior, they released one of the very best single player FPS games of all time, and here they did the same for multiplayer. The late 1990s was perhaps the strongest time period for multiplayer shooters, 1999 in particular containing the releases of Unreal Tournament, Quake III: Arena, Counter-Strike (mod for Half-Life), and the official version of Team Fortress. Of all these, we chose Unreal Tournament as our winner, but each has their own niche and stand-out attributes.
Counter-Strike had its simpler competitive nature, Team Fortress had its class-based gameplay, Quake III had its close quarters high skill curve gameplay, Unreal Tournament had arguably the most genius arsenal in FPS history (adopted from Unreal) and very diverse game modes. All of these games were seriously competitive. Unreal Tournament also had some amusing character customization, and the most diverse set of official content of the bunch with a staggering amount of maps. The level design in all of these games demonstrated superb attention to detail and creativity on all maps, the polar opposite of today’s Call of Duty and EA games.
Then there was the moddability, which was a strength for all of these games but the mutator system made mod usage arguably more modular and convenient. Mods were a key ingredient to the successes of all of these games, resulting in not only custom game modes, but total conversions branching into new genres. Compare that to the Battle Royale exclusivity of today, and it’s clear that times have changed for the worse.
Unreal Tournament 2004 is the next game on our list. It is one of the finest PvP shooters ever made, and really demonstrates how much better multiplayer shooters are on PC than on console. This game has much more gameplay variety, content, and maps than every other Unreal Tournament game, including many different types of vehicle gameplay, fundamentally different maps, and much more.
We always found it odd that the first Unreal Tournament from 1999 tends to rank higher than this one on peoples’ all time great lists, considering the fact that Unreal Tournament 2004 contains all of its content, all of UT2003’s content (or launch content at least), mutators to make the mechanics behave more like in both of those games, and a lot more of its own content including many new game modes, not to mention that this game elevates the Assault game mode – in Unreal Tournament, it is merely a simplistic attack and defend. In Unreal Tournament 2004, each map has unique and multiple objectives, as Assault is meant to simulate an actual battle in Unreal lore.
Unreal Tournament 2004 also brings more elaborate, complex, and diverse level design to each game mode (something Unreal Tournament 2003 also introduced over the original), while retaining plenty of the simpler levels including all the ones from the earlier games. This game is truly the best of all worlds and one of the all time best sequels, in all the ways that matter most. Really the only reason people rank the first game higher is because they prefer its movement feel, which is entirely subjective. The same goes for sound and visual art style – some prefer the weapons occupying a larger portion of your screen in the first game (not ideal for a competitive arena FPS though), I find the first game’s gunshot sounds to mostly be more pleasing, and I much prefer the design of the weapon models in the first game, especially due to their built in ammo counters. But none of that can make up for UT2004’s objective superiority.
Many things separate Unreal Tournament 2004 from other PvP shooters, most prominently the following:
- Moddability. It has got to be within the top 5 most modded games of all time, along with the likes of Garry’s Mod, Half-Life, Half-Life 2, and Warcraft III. See its ModDB page.
- Game modes. This is not your run of the mill arena shooter like Unreal Tournament III is. It has your usual Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag, as well as a wave based survival mode called Invasion. It also emulates common sports goals in two of its game modes; Double Domination, which is essentially American Football with guns, and Bombing Run, which is a spin off of a Basketball inspired concept. Then there is Assault, which is a truly objective based mode in which each Assault map is its own story and has unique gameplay (recreating historical battles within the Unreal universe), Onslaught which is a more advanced and team-based counterpart to Battlefield’s Conquest new to this game, closer to Power Struggle from Crysis if anything. Vehicle gameplay is a huge part of Onslaught. Then there is Mutant mode which begins as Deathmatch but after the first kill occurs, the killer becomes a Mutant and players must team up to destroy it. And so many more.
- Weapon design. The Unreal franchise is famous for having some of the most awesome weaponry ever designed, and this masterpiece is no exception.
- Amount of content. In addition to all the game modes, weapons, and vehicles mentioned above, this game has 79 maps, or 109 if you count all map variations for different game modes.
And of course, it was also industry leading technologically at the time, along with the likes of Doom 3, Half-Life 2, and Far Cry in other areas.
This game is endlessly moddable, having many total conversions that are both single player and multiplayer, some of which belong to totally different genres! Killing Floor and Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45 are two famous PC games that were initially UT2004 mods, but there are hundreds of others, from top down shooters to third person shooters, strategy games, horror games, even sports games (there is a Tennis mod for it).
UT2004’s modding capability doesn’t only result in total conversion mods though. There are hundreds of custom maps using the base gameplay, server tools, new weapons and vehicles, and so much more. Server admin capability in this game is outstanding, thanks to the game’s design and its modding capability.
As a bonus, UT2004 was a technological powerhouse in its day and still demonstrates far superior sound effects to today’s games, thanks to its 3D sound processing and use of EAX, like many other games on this list.
The Gamespy shutdown did not kill off this game. It is still easy to find populated servers today because this game has absolutely no competition.
The next game on our list is Natural Selection 2. It’s a 32-player hybrid shooter and strategy game, and a really brilliant one at that. It was the winner of our 2012 Best Multiplayer Game of the Year award. The game features two distinct teams; marines and aliens. Each one is very different, and each one has several completely different roles leading to more gameplay diversity than virtually any other multiplayer shooter. The goal is simple: destroy the enemy HQ. But accomplishing this goal is very complex and will require many steps, leadership, and an abundance of teamwork.
One player starts off a match assuming a top-down view, controlling the battlefield for their team just like an RTS game. It’s up to the team to determine who is the commander. It’s their job to manage resources and place constructs (though the infantry must build these constructs). Every construct is unique and serves some kind of important purpose, designed to help you control the battlefield and destroy the enemy HQ. This game really stands head and shoulders above almost every other PvP shooter due to its strategic nature and tactical complexity. Like many other games on this list, it’s an experience that’s totally unique to PC gaming.
Natural Selection 2 uses VAC.
Fun fact: the original Natural Selection was originally a mod for Half Life. It is not the only popular shooter series to originate from a mod; Counter-Strike, Team Fortress, the Red Orchestra franchise (which includes Rising Storm), Killing Floor, and No More Room in Hell, all stem from user made modifications.
For more information on the game and how it works, watch the tutorials which are available in-game as well.
Starting off our top five is Crysis. Known primarily for its revolutionary graphics engine, the multiplayer portion of Crysis didn’t get the attention it deserved. Crysis does include a run-of-the-mill deathmatch mode, with perfect level design and a steeper learning curve than the likes of Quake, Unreal Tournament, and Counter-Strike. But the main reasons it ranks highly on our list are the modding capability, and of course the innovative Power Struggle game mode.
Crysis is more than just a shooter, as Power Struggle adds a strategic layer. It is game modes like this and Natural Selection 2’s that cause these games to be ranked higher than other elite multiplayer shooters that also take advantage of PC gaming (although to be clear, Power Struggle most closely resembles Onslaught from Unreal Tournament 2004). Power Struggle really emphasizes teamwork (it supports 32 players by default, but modded servers may support more), and it’s a very long lasting game mode, with matches usually lasting 90-180 minutes. The Power Struggle levels are also very well designed, and mod support is second to none.
Crysis has some of the best third party server tools in the business; the amount of control and customization given to admins is unrivaled. It uses PunkBuster plus its own anti-cheat, and the unofficial Server Side Mod which I just described also includes its own anti-cheat, which is the best in the business.
Similar to #5, Crysis Wars makes our list. It is the multiplayer portion of Crysis Warhead; a separate install. From this perspective, it’s a slightly improved version of Crysis. They added more maps, more vehicles, new weapons, and an automatic map downloader for servers playing on custom maps. It’s also rebalanced compared to Crysis.
They also added Team Deathmatch, but this doesn’t really have any impact on its position on this list. It continues in the footsteps of Crysis, making small but needed improvements.
Starting off our top 3 is Arma 2: Combined Operations. This is almost like two games in one. It includes Arma 2 and its expansion Operation Arrowhead. Each one of those individually has more content than pretty much any other shooter, so the two of them together… endless.
Arma 2 isn’t a typical shooter, it’s more of a mil-sim. It’s very similar to a product made from the same studio, known as Virtual Battlespace, which is indeed simulation software used by the US Armed Forces for training. ArmA 2 is made on the same engine.
The main multiplayer mode in Arma 2 is co-op. You can play the dozens of included missions cooperatively, or use its legendary mission editor to make your own. But public multiplayer is inadvisable, since you won’t find the teamwork necessary to succeed when playing with random people. All simulation aspects go out the window in public multiplayer. Private co-op is the best way to play, preferably on custom missions. You and/or one of your friends should learn to use the editor. But even if you don’t, there are hundreds or thousands of custom missions waiting to be downloaded on Armaholic.com.
There’s an unlimited variety of missions, when looking at user-made ones and when making your own. The Arma franchise is known for their divergent and limitless gameplay, so when it comes to replay value in multiplayer shooters, Arma is unrivaled.
Runner up on our list of greatest multiplayer shooters of all time is Arma 3. It’s essentially a fine tuned version of Arma 2.
What Arma 3 was at launch is totally different than what it has become as of 2017, four years later. It is one of the best supported games of all time. At launch, it had no groundbreaking features for the franchise, but since then it has received two: a fully functional 3D editor, and the Zeus DLC. With the Apex expansion, it has copious amounts of content much like Arma 2 plus Operation Arrowhead expansion. It dwarfs any other FPS outside the franchise in content.
Make your own scenarios and play them, play the default campaigns and scenarios, download Dynamic Universal War System – Rebirth to procedurally generate your own randomized campaigns on whichever maps you desire. Use all maps and equipment and props from the previous Arma games in your scenarios. Play public multiplayer on all sorts of game modes, join a clan and stick to mil-sim gameplay, do whatever you want.
The number one entry on our list is the multiplayer shooter with the most flexible, creative, encompassing gameplay, and perhaps the most content as well. It is Garry’s Mod, and like many other games on this list began as a user made modification (in this case for Half-Life 2).
This is not your typical multiplayer shooter. Garry’s Mod is its own genre, and different game modes within it are their own separate genres. This is an infinite amount of games in one. It is a Source engine sandbox real-time editor that can connect to most Source games, letting you take their content and splice your own games together in real-time using whatever elements you want from whatever Source games you have installed and connected to Garry’s Mod. The servers you’ll mostly find today might not be great, but the potential and past awesomeness of Garry’s Mod are undeniable.
Here is Customizable Weaponry 2.0, a mod for Garry’s Mod which includes bar none objectively the most weapon customization of any shooter game/mod. This will only be challenged by another upcoming mod, based off released footage that is, and that mod is GUNSLINGER for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.Call of Pripyat.
By default, Garry’s Mod just includes the editor and Half-Life 2, and of course all the mods you can find on Steam Workshop which is an unlimited number really. Some of the most popular game modes in Garry’s Mod are the sandbox game mode in which players use the editor (using whatever the server allows and no more) to do whatever they want, Synergy which is Half-Life 2 co-op, SCP Breach and SCP RP which is a horror game mode based on SCP Containment Breach (players can play as class D personnel inmates, MTF guards, science researchers, Chaos Insurgents, or the SCPs themselves), Theater mode in which players watch videos together in a theater like setting, Murder, Star Wars role-playing, and so many others. You can easily find Fallout role-playing servers, Hogwarts role-playing servers, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. role-playing servers, and more, and if what you want doesn’t exist then you can make it.
Because this game has the least limits and the most diverse content, on top of an awesome platform that is Source engine, it should be clear why it is ranked number one.
So that completes our list. Feel free to leave any comments, criticisms, questions, and anything in between in the comment section below. Also keep in mind that some of us here at GND-Tech actively play the games listed here, and we’re always ready to accept gamers who are interested in private co-op and teamwork. Register for an account and post in the forums if you are interested in joining our mature, yet lighthearted gaming community.