Ranking The Greatest Third-Person Shooters

Highlights

  • Third-person shooters offer a unique perspective, with the camera floating behind the character’s shoulder.
  • Remnant 2 combines third-person shooting with the Soulslike genre, offering challenging gameplay in a procedurally generated world.
  • Spec Ops: The Line stands out with its thought-provoking narrative, making it a must-play for fans of the genre.

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Video games are all about transporting us to wondrous realities far different from our own. They allow us to perform abilities or fight enemies we couldn’t imagine even in our wildest dreams. The beauty of games is there are countless options out there spanning many genres, always offering something for everyone. The third-person shooter is one of the more popular genres with quite a few games that can be considered all-time greats.

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While shooting games overall tend to be very popular, there’s a major difference between first-person and third-person: the vision. First-person shooters show the camera as if you were the actual character and third-person shooters show the camera floating slightly behind the character’s shoulder. The third-person genre has been a staple in video game history but has seen vast improvements. These are the best third-person games that the genre has to offer.

Updated December 16, 2023 By Ben Jessey: The third-person shooter genre is responsible for some of the best games out there. This is because it can easily merged with other genres. You can have open-world third-person shooters and horror third-person shooters, as well as just general ones. We created this list to showcase the best games in the genre. Now, we’ve updated the piece to add a few more.

Remnant 2

Remnant 2: The Hunter Activating Their Prime Sight Ability

Remnant 2

Released
July 25, 2023

Developer(s)
Gunfire Games

Remnant 2 mixes third-person shooting action with the Soulslike genre. The inclusion of the latter means there are things like a dodge button and rest points where you will respawn if you die. Plus, enemies are generally tougher than the average shooter foe.

Another interesting aspect of the game is that it’s all procedurally generated. What worlds you visit, who you meet there, and the general story are randomized. This creates an interesting and fun dynamic. What’s also fun is the satisfying third-person shooting and varied boss fights.

Spec Ops: The Line

Screenshot of a panoramic shot of the beautiful skyscraper buildings in Spec Ops: The Line.

On the surface, Spec Ops: The Line seems like your typical third-person military shooter. After all, you’re part of a small squad called Delta Force who are sent to Dubai on a recon mission. Outside of the setting being Dubai, the setup is very generic.

Yet, as the story unfolds, you’re treated to one of the most interesting, thought-provoking, and clever narratives in the genre’s history. That alone makes the game worth playing. Yet, the combat isn’t bad, either, and the sandy Dubai is a unique setting for this sort of game.

Saints Row: The Third

Saints Row The Third: Man With Weapon Stands Before Explosion

Saints Row 3

Released
November 15, 2011

Developer(s)
Volition

The Saints Row series may have begun life as one of the best Grand Theft Auto clones, but it soon created its own identity. The third game is the perfect example of that, as it’s Saints Row at its peak. It offers wacky weapons, strange characters, plenty of explosions, and a great soundtrack.

The story is a classic Saints tale, too, as it revolves around your customizable protagonist leading the Saints against all the other gangs in Steelport and trying to take the city over. This narrative is the perfect excuse for plenty of open-world hijinks and even more violence. It’s outrageous fun.

Max Payne

max payne shooting at three guys

To what lengths would you go to solve the murder of your family? That’s a question Max Payne must face, as the NYPD detective tries to find his family’s killer. While investigating, Payne is caught in a larger conspiracy that includes information about a secret society and the United States military.

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The game used a feature called Bullet Time, which caused time to slow down. Max Payne seemed like an ordinary third-person shooter but the game receives tremendous praise for its gunplay and the overall story. The success of Max Payne resulted in two sequels and a film adaptation in 2008.

Army Of Two

army of two

Army of Two launched amid the cooperative boom on consoles of the mid-2000s. You needed to have precise teamwork to have true success in the game and ultimately, Army of Two was meant to be played with another real person, though it does have a Partner Artificial Intelligence system, so you could play solo. Certain objectives in the game are virtually impossible without the assistance of a second player or AI.

The game follows two mercenaries fighting through a political conspiracy from 1993 to 2009. Besides the main story mode, Army of Two also had online multiplayer and was one of the first games of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 era to have region-locked multiplayer. Ultimately, Army of Two was praised for the in-depth cooperative play but only if you played with an actual real person instead of the AI.

Crackdown

crackdown

One of the iconic video game series from Xbox Game Studios during the mid-2000s was Crackdown. This third-person shooter takes place in a futuristic dystopian that’s essentially a police state, governed by a law enforcement group called the Agency.

You assume the role of one of the Agency’s supersoldiers, patrolling through the city and eliminating threats as you find them, including terrorists and the occasional monster. Crackdown has a Saints Row and Grand Theft Auto vibe to it, but more in an arcade game style. Critics mainly praised the ability to create environmental damage and explore the massive world without having a linear story.

Days Gone

deacon st john fighting against freakers

Days Gone

Released
April 26, 2019

Developer(s)
Bend Studio

Exploring a post-apocalyptic world is a common setting for video games and that’s the case with Days Gone. The game follows Deacon St. John, a former outlaw who embarks on a journey to find his wife Sarah, who he thought was dead.

Days Gone takes place in Oregon roughly two years after a pandemic transformed a multitude of humans into zombie creatures called Freakers. Days Gone received mixed reviews because of its story and mission design but was praised for its artificial intelligence and graphics. Although Days Gone sold better compared to other games that Bend Studio developed, Sony elected against making a sequel.

The Evil Within

the evil within protagonist aiming at an enemy

The Evil Within

Released
October 14, 2014

Developer(s)
Tango Gameworks

The Evil Within treads the line of being a third-person shooter, but we include it because, well, the camera is in third-person and you shoot guns. This survival horror follows Detective Sebastian Castellanos investigating a mass murder at a mental hospital. However, Castellanos stumbles upon an evil that blows his reality.

Developed by Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda, The Evil Within received tremendous praise for the gameplay, but the overall story was a bit more mixed. The Evil Within tends to fall into the same category as Resident Evil, so if you’re a fan of those horror shooters then The Evil Within is sure to please.

Destroy All Humans 2 Reprobed

Destroy All Humans 2: Reprobed - The Zap-O-Matic Shocking A KGB Agent

Ever wanted to experience an alien invasion, but instead of fighting against the extraterrestrials, you played as one? Destroy All Humans 2 Reprobed is a remake of the same original PS2 game and the first entry in the series since 2008. The remake features the same story following the Furon alien Crypto.

Crypto has a small arsenal of nine weapons in his pursuit of world domination. Everything from your standard disintegrator ray to something slightly less violent in the Free Love goggles, Destroy All Humans 2 Reprobed has plenty of firepower to torment humans.

Mafia

Mafia screenshot of characters by a car

The original Mafia game in 2002 was an early testament to what this series would be. Set in 1930, Mafia follows the rise and subsequent fall of Tommy Angelo, a taxi driver who turned mobster. Although compared plenty to Grand Theft Auto, Mafia managed to establish itself as a successful series in the genre.

Mafia received tremendous praise for the story and, at the time, featured one of the largest cities to explore. The gameplay is similar to Grand Theft Auto and most other third-person shooters but is considered one of the best games in 2002. Now, with a remake available, there’s no reason not to give it a go.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Uncharted 2 screenshot of nathan drake holding a gun

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Released
October 13, 2009

Taking place two years after the first game of the series, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is considered by many to be the best of the series. The story continues to follow Nathan Drake, who’s in search of the Cintamani Stone and Shambhala with Chloe Frazer and Elena Fisher.

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The gameplay follows the same formula as its predecessor with Drake being able to jump, climb, and hide behind cover in firefights. Shooting mechanics were drastically improved from the first game, as well as having a competitive and cooperative multiplayer mode. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves received high praise and multiple Game of the Year awards in 2009. To this day, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is still considered one of the best PS3 games of all time.

Alan Wake

alan wake using flashlight on darkness corrupted person

Alan Wake

Released
February 16, 2012

Developed by Remedy, Alan Wake isn’t your typical third-person shooter. While there is some gunplay involved, Remedy’s 2010 classic is more of a psychological thriller that could be compared to the hit television show X-Files. The game follows best-selling writer Alan Wake trying to solve the mystery of his wife’s disappearance, with the kicker being that the events of the game are frighteningly similar to the events of his best-selling novel.

While exploring the small town of Bright Falls, Washington, you’ll encounter various people who are becoming corrupted by a mysterious darkness. Alan Wake features traditional gunplay with standard handheld weapons and a special flashlight that’s used to destroy darkness as well. A remastered version of the game launched in 2021 that saw updated graphics and enhanced controls for a better experience.

Star Wars: Battlefront 2

A screenshot showing gameplay in Star Wars Battlefront 2

For over four decades, Star Wars has remained one of the biggest and most popular properties in pop culture. People have pretended to wield lightsabers, use the Force, and talk backward like Yoda. There have been plenty of iconic Star Wars video games for fans of all genres, including one of the best shooters in Star Wars: Battlefront 2. Despite receiving negative attention for microtransactions and excessive grinding, Battlefront 2 is the pinnacle of shooting games set in the Star Wars universe.

Players drop into one of the fourteen different Star Wars locations and not only fight their way to victory but also toward more powerful characters. If you perform well in battle, you’ll have the option to temporarily upgrade your character to a special Star Wars fighter like Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader. These characters have the power to drastically turn the tide of any battle. Although the game received plenty of negative criticism for some of the business decisions, Star Wars Battlefront 2 offers superb gunplay and is deserving among the top of this genre.

Dead Space

isaac aiming weapon toward enemy

During the PS3/Xbox 360 era, there were a few prominent horror shooter games that hit the market, including Dead Space. Developed by Visceral Games and published by EA, Dead Space is a mash of science-fiction and horror elements that culminate in one of the better third-person shooter experiences.

Set in the distant future, Dead Space follows Isaac Clarke, an engineer who battles a horde of mutated enemies called Necromorphs aboard the ship USG Ishimura. While Clarke must fight against these undead foes, the main adversaries are a group of fanatics who follow the religion of Unitology. They believe the Earth’s government has suppressed an alien artifact called the Maker and they wish to use this artifact to invoke some sort of unification process. Dead Space is regarded as one of the greatest games of all time for its gunplay and the proper mix of science-fiction and horror elements.

Rise Of The Tomb Raider

rise of the tomb raider lara crouching

The sequel to the 2013 Tomb Raider game, Rise of the Tomb Raider followed Lara Croft on her journey to discover the city of Kitezh. Along the way, Croft fights against the militaristic organization Trinity, as they vie for the city’s powers of immortality. Rise of the Tomb Raider succeeded in elevating Croft’s story to the next level, while also providing amazing gameplay. Its success led to another sequel in Shadow of the Tomb Raider in 2018.

Many of the features in Rise of the Tomb Raider were existing ones from the previous game but improved upon in various ways. In an attempt to make the game feel more like survival, Crystal Dynamics expanded upon the hunting system but also made leveling up Croft’s skills and abilities easier this time around. The number of quick-time events was also reduced which gave fresh life to the world of Siberia around her.

Tom Clancy’s The Division

A Operative From The Division Stands In Front Of Some Christmas Lights

Fans of competitive shooters are quite familiar with Tom Clancy games. The Rainbow Six series has remained a staple among that community for what seems like forever, so there was much anticipation when Ubisoft announced a live-service Tom Clancy experience. Set in snowy New York City, a deadly virus has spread throughout the city and the streets have become a war zone. Known as the Green Poison, the virus was transmitted through the handling of money. So, naturally, with everyone shopping on Black Friday, it was the boiling point for the virus to erupt and run ramped through the city.

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Although Tom Clancy’s The Division plays like a third-person shooter, it mixes in RPG elements, as well. In what many would describe as “spongy enemies,” the enemies you fight in The Division have larger health bars that require a bit more firepower to take down. On the multiplayer side, The Division featured various raids and harder missions in areas called Dark Zones, while also adding more online modes like Survival, Resistance, and Skirmish.

Splatoon 3

splatoon 3 inkling firing a shot

Splatoon 3

Released
September 9, 2022

Developer(s)
Nintendo

Platform(s)
Switch

Splatoon 3 launched in 2022 and immediately started racking up sales. The third entry of the Splatoon series sold over ten million copies within the first three months and was one of the best-selling games on the Nintendo Switch.

Splatoon 3 introduced new challenges, more customization options, and a compelling story. But what makes Splatoon 3 special is the multiple aspect of the game. There are 16 different multiple stages, giving you plenty of different landscapes to learn to be successful. Many critics praised Splatoon 3’s multiplayer and highlighted the variety of weapons and maps in the game.

Control

faden control box cover art

If there’s one thing that entertainment has taught us about governments, it’s that they can’t be trusted. Developed by Remedy Entertainment, Control follows the new head of the Federal Bureau of Control, Jesse Faden. This highly secretive United States agency studies extraordinary phenomena, but in the process, unleashed a deadly, otherworldly enemy called the Hiss. On the brink of universal destruction, Faden must gain new abilities from Objects of Power to defeat the Hiss.

Faden wields a special pistol that can be modified throughout the game to have different uses and forms. For example, in the Charge form, Faden’s weapon operates as a rocket launcher that deals explosive damage, while in the Pierce form, her weapon mirrors a sniper rifle. In addition to the unique gunplay, Faden acquires psychic abilities from Objects of Power that allow her to lift and throw things at her enemies.

Returnal

selene shooting alien creature

One of the few exclusive next-gen games, Returnal is a third-person roguelike experience that follows the astronaut Selene Vassos, as she searches for a mysterious signal on the planet Atropos. On top of exploring an unknown alien world, Vassos is stuck in a time loop, resurrecting each time after she dies at a certain point to begin again.

Returnal is split into two main halves, with each half having three biomes to complete. If Vassos dies before completing a full half, she’ll respawn at the beginning and will have to fight through the biomes again. Vassos has a wide arsenal at her disposal, anything from a standard pistol to the Electropylon Driver, considered to be the deadliest weapon in the game.

Red Dead Redemption 2

arthur morgan on a horse over the sunset
via Rockstar

For anyone looking to scratch that Western itch, look no further than Red Dead Redemption 2. The sequel of Red Dead Redemption, this game is actually a predecessor in terms of the plot, as players control the outlaw, Arthur Morgan. While the overarching objective is to complete the required story missions, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a borderline Western sandbox that you can truly lose yourself. You can ride your horse through the wide-open wilderness, fish by a relaxing lake, or hunt legendary beasts.

Similar to Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption 2’s shooting mechanics might not appeal to all players, but the realism of the game and its environment make it a special one. Rockstar pours considerable amounts of time and energy into providing an unmatched Western experience that’s truly authentic.

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