As video games change and evolve, we see new genres pop up all the time.
Some of these new gaming genres spawn from technological innovations as developers take advantage of new capabilities to create unique experiences. For example, open-world games were immensely difficult to create before hardware improved.
Other gaming genres come from spinning a popular genre and approaching it from a new perspective. This is the type of genre shift that twisted RTSes into MOBAs, and it's this same evolution that gave us the boomer shooter: a modern take on retro first-person shooters.
What Is a Boomer Shooter? Explained
Regardless of what you think of the name, boomer shooter is quickly becoming the accepted name for a genre of games that owe everything to id Software's DOOM (1993) and Quake (1996).
Boomer shooters take inspiration from the blocky, pixel-heavy look of those earlier games and use it to create something that's almost nostalgic but still very much its own type of modern game.
While some use the term "boomer shooter" to refer to those older shooters that pioneered the genre, that's a bit murky. More often, the term is reserved for modern games that combine modern gameplay sensibilities with the aesthetics of those older games.
What can you expect when you pick up a boomer shooter? Plenty of guns, lots of pixelated blood, and usually a game title written in ALL CAPS.
7. DUSK (2018)
While there were retro-inspired shooters hitting the market well before DUSK, this was one of the games that kicked off the retro shooter craze that wasn't yet popular at the time.
While DUSK might not look as flashy as some other modern retro shooters, its level design recalls the best of over-the-top 90s shooters.
When it comes to gameplay, the campaign has three episodes in a nod to the classic shooters that inspired it. You also get an endless survival mode for more replayability, plus multiplayer fun.
6. Ion Fury (2019)
Whereas many of the games in this article look to id Software for inspiration, Ion Fury instead pays homage to Duke Nukem 3D and the Build engine that powered it.
In fact, Ion Fury itself uses an updated Build engine, and it's actually published by Duke Nukem publisher 3D Realms.
Perhaps it's because of the publisher, but while some of the other games we're covering feel like developers making their mark on a genre, Ion Fury feels like a Doom II-style sequel to those old Build engine games. That's either a plus or a minus, depending on what you're looking for.
5. ULTRAKILL (2020)
Here's a game that's still in Early Access as of this writing. ULTRAKILL is bright, brash, and unapologetically violent. You're not fighting humans—because humanity is long gone. Instead, you're fighting robots powered by blood. The trick is, you also heal with blood.
ULTRAKILL almost brings a Devil May Cry aspect to the boomer shooter realm, rating your style (sorry, we mean SSStyle, according to the game) as you fight your way through the hordes of enemies.
4. Into the Pit (2021)
Into the Pit takes a different approach to usual boomer shooters. Not only does it opt for a roguelite approach, but instead of the traditional grays, browns, and reds that make up many boomer shooter titles, it splashes its procedurally generated levels with neon colors.
Unfortunately, as great as this game looks, you'll see everything it has to offer rather quickly. It's still a fun game absolutely worth experiencing, especially because it's relatively cheap (even when not on sale). You can even play it on Xbox Game Pass if you're a subscriber.
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3. STRAFE (2017)
One of the older boomer shooters on this list, STRAFE first released in 2017. This game also incorporates roguelite elements, but the difficulty feels cranked up much higher than Into the Pit.
STRAFE has plenty of good times to offer, with a touch of humor to keep things fun. Just don't expect it to make things easy for you.
Early on, players went into this expecting a simple throwback shooter and were subsequently put off by the roguelike elements. In retrospect, it's a great design choice that keeps the game replayable.
You may not want to replay STRAFE over and over and over, but it's definitely fun to come back to from time to time.
2. AMID EVIL (2019)
Instead of pulling inspiration from the likes of DOOM and Quake, AMID EVIL turns to their lesser-known occult cousins, Heretic and Hexen.
What does that mean? Well, instead of bullets, you're shooting spells. And instead of fighting demons, you're... well, you're still fighting demons, but at least they look really cool and different.
AMID EVIL surpassed its inspiration as far as aesthetics are concerned, and we're not just talking about the technical achievement of ray tracing. This game is built with Unreal Engine 4, which allows level designs you'd never see in those old games running on the DOOM engine.
1. Prodeus (2020)
Prodeus is definitely one of the most fun and best-looking boomer shooters currently available, even if it's technically still in Early Access.
This game takes the level geometry of games like Quake and uses modern rendering techniques to give the graphics a brilliant sheen. But it's not just about looks. Despite the game's Early Access status, it has rock-solid gameplay and a lengthy campaign.
When you finish the campaign, you can either turn to the built-in map browser to find some new levels to play, or use the level editor to built your own levels—perhaps even to share with friends.