The success of first-person shooters in the '90s created a momentum that propelled the genre well into the 2000s. The prior millennium's last decade saw classics like Doom and Half-Life, while the aughts saw incredible releases like Call of Duty, Medal of Honor: Frontline, and Half-Life 2.
This list won't talk about the titans of shooters, however. Instead, it will dwell on titles equally deserving of such praise that never got the same amount of love. For one reason or another, these underrated classics drew the short straw when it came to either sales or critical reception. It's never too late to revisit these hidden gems, however.
Human Head Studios' Prey was an early Xbox 360 game about Domasi Tawodi (or Tommy), a Cherokee veteran of the US Army, fighting an alien invasion. What makes this game stand out is its use of Cherokee mythology in the story and gameplay.
Tommy is fed up with his life on the reservation and ashamed of his culture, only to discover a newfound pride in his heritage through these events. A sequel was deep in development but ended up canceled. Arkane Studios' Prey resembled the game in name only, meaning Tommy's story will likely never continue.
9 Cold Winter
This spy drama removes all the glitzy and glamorous tropes of the genre, leaving only a hard-boiled narrative about a cynical secret agent doing his best to save the world from nuclear annihilation. The story is top-notch, especially for the era, but the gameplay shines too.
Much of the environment is destructible and dismemberment is on full display. The multiplayer component is worthwhile as well. Even though the online functionality no longer works, split-screen is still a blast.
8 No One Lives Forever
Why are people constantly hankering for a female James Bond when No One Lives Forever already exist? This homage to the beloved franchise and others of its ilk from the '60s is brimming with character in every level.
Cate Archer has more than just guns at her disposal because no spy would be worth their weight if they didn't have trusty gadgets disguised as innocuous everyday items. This game is tougher to find these days, and a remaster has been held up due to confusion over which company actually holds the rights.
Several shooters got lost in the early days of the PS3 and Xbox 360. At worst, they sabotaged their studio. At best, they became cult classics. TimeShift relied on an innovative time manipulation mechanic allowing players to stop and rewind gameplay to their advantage.
Saber Interactive struggled in the years following the game's lackluster reception but has recently made a strong comeback with the team-based cooperative shooter World War Z. Maybe their renewed success will garner a new TimeShift.
6 Project Snowblind
Project Snowblind started as a spin-off of Deus Ex, the classic shooter designed by Ion Storm. Like most video games, the final product turned out radically different than its initial plan. The game is a new IP, but thematic and aesthetic similarities are present between the two.
One thing it didn't manage to replicate from its sibling series was the success and longstanding legacy. It makes sense, as augmentation and freedom in player progression were all already done in Deus Ex, but it doesn't mean people should sleep on Project Snowblind.
5 The Darkness
The Darkness' gimmick was the demonic monsters at the side of the screen assisting the character in combat while also taunting him and reveling in all of the grotesque violence on display. These creatures, called The Darkness, are voiced by Mike Patton, lead singer of Faith No More.
The game's dark humor and atmosphere garnered enough success to warrant a sequel, but not a single peep has come out of the series since 2012. Mike Patton is still a hardworking musician and voice actor, so why not add a third game to his resume?
This shooter's cel-shaded art style is meant to mimic a comic book; fitting, considering it is based on a Belgian comic series. The story starts off similar to The Bourne Identity, with the protagonist washing up on a beach with no memory of who he is, but quickly becomes its own unique narrative.
It was rough around the edges and had some frustrating stealth segments, but it more than made up for its shortcomings with its story, varied locations, and art direction. A remake is currently in development, slated for a 2020 release.
3 Battlefield: Bad Company
The spin-off of the wildly successful Battlefield series did reasonably well when it first came out, but it has since been lost to time. It's a shame since the game's nonchalant attitude and goofball characters would be a perfect counterpoint to the genre's cliched gritty plots.
Bad Company 2 still played well, but lost much of its personality, feeling more like a typical military shooter than a black comedy. The open levels let players take control of tanks and vehicles at their leisure during the campaign.
2 Urban Chaos: Riot Response
Before Rocksteady Studios became a household name with their Batman games, they released a little known title called Urban Chaos: Riot Response. A city is under siege by a vicious gang and it is up to the player to put them down and restore order.
What makes this game interesting is the variety of optional challenges in each level and the upgrades rewarded for completing them, encouraging players to replay levels several times over. Its lack of success is mostly due to it coming out late in the PS2 and Xbox's life. Fortunately, Rocksteady found immense fortune afterward.
The first TimeSplitters ushered in the PS2 with a bang. Its haphazard gameplay was a joy to behold, both in single-player and with friends. The sequel was equally as enjoyable, and the third game was the best one yet. It retained the hectic nature but added a comedic storyline connecting all the time eras represented in the levels.
The franchise is notable for its wealth of characters, most of which shine through their own unique personalities. Sgt. Cortez and friends have been dormant since 2005, but recent mutterings hint at a possible future for the franchise.