ID Software is the definition of legendary. What they have achieved, and what they continue to achieve, is so far beyond that of most development studios, that it's hard to imagine how one studio could have done so much for the industry. Yet do they did, and the games they made are some of the best of all time.
Their forte has (nearly) always been FPS, and rightfully so. They more-or-less created the genre, innovated upon their creation, and then continued to make bounding strides until the genre is what we see today. Everything from the humble shotgun, to rocket jumping, to labyrinths, to fast-paced action stems from them. It’s time to rank their best work.
10 Wolfenstein 3D
Wolfenstein 3D is old. Very old. In fact, it’s three decades old and counting. Despite that age, Wolfenstein 3D’s importance to the greater video game industry cannot be overstated. 4 years before games became truly 3D with the likes of Mario 64, Wolfenstein 3D used all kinds of technical wizardry to display a 3D world on hardware that struggled to effectively run NES software.
Not only that, but Wolfenstein 3D was the first FPS to ever exist as we know it. Without this game, the genre may never have taken off. You can see strands of its DNA in every FPS that followed, and that alone demands respect. The best part? Wolfenstein is still pretty fun to play to this day. Sure it gets a bit mazey after Episode One, but that’s why you pretend the game ended there.
Rage is an unfortunate game that, whilst still good (hence why it’s on this list), really struggles to stand out from the crowd. We mean this not just in the wider FPS genre, but also when stacked up against just about any other game ID Software has ever come up with. It’s clear this game was meant to be more of a tech demo for a new engine that, unfortunately, didn’t impress anyone.
All of that aside, Rage still delivers a decent FPS experience. The act of pulling the trigger and mowing down enemies feels as good as it ever has, with animations and sound design pulling extra shifts to sell the brutality of each thunderous round. Outside of that, the game does flounder due to a mostly empty open world, a lack of enemy variety, and an almost heinous inclusion of regenerating health.
8 Doom 3
Doom 3 gets a lot of flack by the greater gaming community. This is mostly because it commits a cardinal sin – it made the shotgun bad. When we say bad, we mean truly atrocious. Considering ID’s history of making shotguns the most satisfying thing you can get your hands on, this is enough to put most people off.
Throw in a new focus on horror, and Doom 3 doesn’t really feel like a Doom game. That being said, Doom 3 is not a bad game by any stretch. The game still feels great to play, it has a phenomenal expansion called Resurrection Of Evil, and gunning down demons and zombies is timeless. If you don’t play the BFG edition of the game, you are also treated to some staggeringly good dynamic lighting that shouldn’t have been possible in 2004.
7 Quake 2
Quake 2 is a sequel in name alone, as it has nothing to do with the original. Quake 2 is the springboard that catapulted the current Quake experience, and it did a banging job, even if it isn’t as fondly remembered. Quake 2, as is usually the case with ID Software, is rocking a new engine that still holds up today, but unlike Rage, it doesn’t sacrifice everything to be a walking, talking advert.
No, Quake 2 carries over the fantastic gunplay ID Software is known for, and arguably pushes it even further with the inclusion of new weapons like the Railgun. This is elevated to new heights thanks to the grungy, metallic, and industrial soundtrack courtesy of Sonic Mayhem, which makes every shotgun blast or rocket fired feel that much more impactful. It’s just a shame Quake 2 has pretty bland level design. It all tends to meld together into an amalgamate blob of featureless corridors and arenas. At least there are more gibs than you can shake a stick at.
6 Quake 3 Arena
Quake 3 Arena is one of the mostnfluential games of all time. This will be a common trend when talking about ID Software from now on. Quake 3 wasn’t the first online multiplayer FPS. No, Quake 1 and 2 both did that first – heck, Doom did it way back in 93. What Quake 3 did was refine the genre to a mirror sheen.
Quake 3 Arena is, to this day, one of the best Arena shooters to ever be created. No game before it compares, and very few that have come since have held the genre in such a tight grip. It’s fast, frenetic, explosive, and unbelievably competitive. Take all of that and put it to one side, and from a technical level, Quake 3 is built with code that has been studied for over 15 years – it’s just that good. Impossible good even.
5 Doom 2
What can be said about Doom 2 that hasn’t been said before? Doom 2 is a refinement of a formula the studio had already created and innovated upon once before. Doom 2 is bigger, it has a larger roster of enemies, and it introduced the world to the greatest shotgun of all time – the Super Shotgun. Many games have tried to imitate this masterpiece, but none have surpassed it.
Doom 2 pushes the Doom Engine to the extreme with large, hilariously janky city levels, interesting combat encounters, and a greater emphasis on delivering new experiences. This is not just a rehash of Doom. This is not just a mere expansion pack. Doom 2 is one of the best games ever made, and considering it is this low on the list is a testament to how good the following games are.
4 Doom 2016
ID Software was in a bit of a slump for a while. Doom 3 and Quake 4 were not massively well received. Rage took seven years to develop and, again, didn’t set the world on fire. Leaks of Doom 4 were thrashed by just about everyone, and the future of ID Software was up in the air. The final potential nail? The FPS genre had moved on. Military shooters were in, and ID’s brand of mayhem was long out.
Then Doom 2016 (otherwise known as Doom) hit store shelves and lit the world on fire. Doom 2016 injected the genre with new life – life it hadn’t seen in over a decade. Gore was dialed to 11, the music is some of the best ever, and the gunplay? There hadn’t been gunplay this good. Doom 2016 refined everything ID had ever done, and brought it to a new audience, in a new era. A masterpiece that promised a new age of FPS.
Like with many ID Software games, it's pretty damn impossible to quantify just how impactful they were. The term X-Killer first started with Quake. Everyone from Valve to Epic was trying to make a Quake-Killer. The concept of a fully realized, 3D FPS was born from Quake. Esports as we know it stems directly from Quake. Speedrunning became a global phenomenon because of Quake.
How many games can list that many accolades? Not many. The thing is, Quake is still an outstanding game years after its release. Picking up and playing Quake nowadays is a blast. A trip through time, space, dimensions, and cosmic horror. Visually there is nothing quite like it – a product of a troubled development cycle. But none of that matters when you pick up a Quad Damage powerup (another Quake first…) and go on a rocket-fuelled rampage. There’s even a modern remaster that puts just about every other remaster ever squirted onto store shelves to shame – just to flex one last time.
Wolfenstein 3D might have been the first, but Doom – the original 93’ classic – is the game that launched the genre into the stratosphere. It brought gore, action, heavy metal, demons, and the simple joy of killing to the world. Doom is the Super Mario of murder, and unlike Wolfenstein, is endlessly replayable to this day.
Doom is slick, satisfying, and designed to near perfection. The first episode, Knee Deep In The Dead, is arguably the greatest string of levels to ever be developed by mortal men (or man since it was largely done by John Romero). Doom even created the concept of Deathmatch and online FPS gameplay. In 1993. Did we mention that there are thousands of Mods and Total Conversions for this game making it endlessly replayable?
1 Doom Eternal
Had this list been written earlier, then Doom would comfortably be on the throne of ID’s greatest achievements. Alas, time ticked, and Doom Eternal exists. Where Doom 2016 revitalized a stagnant genre, Doom Eternal pushed the genre in a whole new direction – a direction that can’t be ignored. The closer we get to the heat-death of the universe, the more games that are released that take direct inspiration from Doom Eternal.
Eternal is so slick, so masterfully put together, that it’s difficult to imagine a game with better gunplay – with design so honed to perfection. Eternal manages to meld some of the most difficult, high-stakes, frenetic gameplay the world has ever seen, with an accessibility curve that allows just about anyone to pick it up and feel like a shotgun god.
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