The 20 Hardest FPS Games Ever Made, Ranked

First-person shooters are a tough genre to get into if someone has never played them before. Mastering moving and aiming simultaneously can be a lot to take in. Shooters have since expanded this concept with tons of new mechanics while improving the feedback weapons give.

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For many FPS fanatics, the genre might appear stale with how many games have copied Halo or Call of Duty. It is certainly a problem, but there are plenty of challenging FPS titles that will give the most experienced gamers a challenge. From competitive multiplayer games to one-life single-player campaigns, here are the 15 hardest FPS games anyone can play today.

Updated on August 12, 2021 by Ritwik Mitra: First-person shooters are one of the most classic genres in gaming. The act of roaming through levels with a massive arsenal and taking care of any enemies that might cross the player's path is infinitely satisfying, especially when the title doesn't make any compromises when it comes to difficulty. Players who want a challenging FPS title that will test all their skills need only take a look at the following titles, which rank among the hardest ever made.

20 DOOM

Why it's difficult: Demons don't stop inflicting pain every step of the way.

The reboot of DOOM was a source of great happiness amongst fans. However, these gamers were also rather skeptical about how id Software would be able to make the formula of DOOM work in a modern gaming environment.

Thankfully, the developers managed to strike a perfect balance between classic FPS gameplay and modern gaming nuances. This made for a rich first-person shooting experience that was tough as nails as well. It's easy to see why most people can't get enough of DOOM nowadays.

19 F.E.A.R

Why it's difficult: Challenging AI coupled with an oppressive atmosphere.

At the time when it came out, most people considered F.E.A.R to be one of the hardest FPS games ever made. This was mainly achieved through a combination of unforgiving gameplay, and smart enemy AI that could flank and surprise the player at every step.

Of course, one has to admit that the constant fear of Alma and the other horrors present in F.E.A.R also contributed to the overall difficulty. After all, it would be hard for players to focus on the game's shooting when they're too busy trying to avoid any scares in the game.

18 Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Why it's difficult: Nonstop action and a health handicap near the start of the game.

MachineGames is a name that most fans of the Wolfenstein series would be familiar with. After all, this company is responsible for ushering in the modern era of Wolfenstein. This game is full to the brim with excellent combat and a story of immense quality. Most most players were surprised to see a story of this caliber in Wolfenstein.z

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Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is easily the hardest game out of all the titles in the series. The initial handicap that BJ suffers in terms of a low heath pool is detrimental enough as is. Furthermore, the game never lets up with its fair share of massive challenges that will keep the player occupied for quite some time.

17 Valorant

Why it's difficult: Twitch reflexes that need to be combined with the knowledge of agent abilities.

Most people describe Valorant as a mix of Counter-Strike and Overwatch. While this might be an accurate description of the title, such a simple explanation doesn't do justice to the excellent gameplay of Valorant.

Each competitive match in this title becomes a struggle to tactically manage encounters, while simultaneously making the most of each agent's abilities. It's easy to see why most gamers consider Valorant to be one of the hardest FPS games currently around.

16 Bulletstorm

Why it's difficult: Combining stylish kills with health management can be quite a pain.

At a glance, Bulletstorm might sound like an odd pick for this list. After all, the game prides itself on giving players cannon fodder to work with as they rack up a bunch of stylish kills.

However, higher difficulty and the challenge of chaining multiple special kills can be quite difficult for many gamers. Most players need to ensure that they don't get so carried away in showing off their style that they end up receiving a completely avoidable death blow.

15 Devil Daggers

Why it's difficult: Demands mastery of simple gameplay systems.

Devil Daggers is incredibly difficult due to its simplicity. Players only have to worry about the enemies around them and taking them down by firing a flurry of daggers at them.

Playing Devil Daggers looks much easier than it truly is. The whole point is to achieve as high a score as possible before death. Games get more hectic as the timer continues, eventually overwhelming the players with hundreds of enemies on screen. Speed, accuracy, and critical thinking are all required to survive the ever-increasing onslaught of demons.

14 Deus Ex

Why it's difficult: Reliance on RPG systems and scarce resources.

The original Deus Ex was a marvel of imaginative cyberpunk storytelling and some elite RPG elements married to an FPS framework. It was also bloody hard due to its reliance on tactics instead of running and gunning. Indeed, soldiering in was not a viable option.

Deus Ex is also difficult for many other reasons, most notably its overabundance of skills. Players had to understand how their skill points would affect the gameplay, which meant determining their preferred playstyle from the outset. To make matters worse, resources are scarce in Deus Ex to encourage players to thoroughly explore every level. Expertly-crafted levels and a plethora of choices make Deus Ex the PC classic fans know it for. It just so happens that a byproduct of this was a rather unforgiving combat system.

13 Prey (2017)

Why it's difficult: A brutal early-game and Immersive Sim elements.

Immersive Sims masterfully blend player choice into their core gameplay rhythm, typically utilizing complex levels and tough enemies to encourage players to explore. As was the case in Deus Ex, the 2017 reboot of Prey is a brutal experience for newcomers to this style of game.

Prey fans can likely remember their first playthrough as sluggish and painful in the opening hours. Morgan Yu, the game's protagonist, is incredibly weak in the opening hours. Until players get their hands on a few Neuromods, taking on even Prey's weakest enemies is quite the ordeal. Scavenging for supplies and sticking to the shadows is key to survival. For those that are used to Immersive Sims, this shouldn't be much of a surprise. However, those new to the genre were in for a tough time.

12 Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 (Terrorist Hunt)

Why it's difficult: Terrorist Hunt on Realistic difficulty has brutal AI.

Cooperative game modes can't get much harder than Rainbow Six: Vegas 2's Terrorist Hunt mode. This game's PvE activities were borderline masochistic with the way AI was handled.

Harder difficulties would cause enemies to have perfect accuracy and use tactical equipment much more often. Worse, the player's friendly AI was detrimental to the experience as they would sometimes refuse to listen to orders. While easier in co-op with real players, this game's learning curve and instant-deaths on higher difficulties definitely tested the patience of most gamers.

11 S.T.A.L.K.E.R. — Shadow Of Chernobyl

Why it's difficult: Unforgiving mechanics.

The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games are renowned for their punishing gameplay, especially when gamers first start off. The wasteland is a dangerous one with horrors just waiting to pop out from the cover of darkness and kill. As such, it's difficult for many gamers to get their bearings.

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Naturally, a combination of practice and character progression helps mitigate many of these issues, but that doesn't make the game any less forgiving. Hazards and horrors lurk around every corner, and run-and-gun techniques simply aren't going to cut it as they would in a game like Call of Duty.

10 Serious Sam: The Second Encounter

Why it's difficult: Brutal combat encounters.

Serious difficulty in the Serious Sam games is the ultimate challenge. Enemies have much more health while Sam is much more susceptible to damage. Every Serious Sam game is challenging on this difficulty, but none are harder to beat than Serious Sam: The Second Encounter.

Croteam dramatically increased the number of enemies in each encounter in this installment. Levels are much larger, the weapon roster has expanded in smart ways, and the enemy roster is highly varied. These major improvements in most difficulties become a burden on higher difficulties where making two mistakes can be disastrous. It gets worse when the game decides to place the player in a small room filled with hundreds of enemies.

9 Doom Eternal

Why it's difficult: Demands absolute mastery of gameplay mechanics.

Despite Doom Eternal's young age, it has made a big impact on the FPS genre. This game will force players to enter a rhythm while demon-slaying to earn their black belt in destroying the forces of Hell.

It does a fantastic job at this, even on the lower difficulties, but this game is at its most adrenaline-fueled on Ultra Nightmare. A single mistake doesn't just cost players their life; it ends the current playthrough. Perfection is mandatory if anyone wants to beat this game on its hardest difficulty, but few games can improve someone's aiming and positioning skills quite like Doom Eternal.

8 ARMA 3

Why it's difficult: Simulation elements.

The ARMA series was designed to be as realistic as possible, which is no surprise given that the developer created software used to train the U.S. military. It's not quite the same thing, but ARMA 3 is no less unforgiving. In fact, it's downright difficult for many gamers to get into.

Part of the reason is the play mechanics. Single-shot deaths are plenty, there are no duck-and-cover health regen options, and virtually nothing about the game plays like a commercial FPS title. ARMA 3 is to FPS players what hardcore flight simulators are to aviation enthusiasts.

7 Rainbow Six: Siege

Why it's difficult: One-shot headshots and huge learning curve.

Rainbow Six: Siege is Ubisoft's latest entry in the tactical shooter series. Instead of focusing on single-player missions or Terrorist Hunt as Rainbow Six: Vegas did, Siege opted to double-down on its multiplayer systems.

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It paid off in spades. Siege is one of the largest competitive games in the world thanks to its large Operator roster and destructible maps. The number of strategies players can develop are nearly endless, making it a daunting game to get into. Instant-kill headshots further exasperate this problem by leaving most newcomers in the dust against veteran Siege players who know every angle to pixel-peak from.

6 Far Cry

Why it's difficult: Overpowered enemies introduced halfway through the campaign.

Crytek knows how to make graphically demanding games. Most know them for the original Crysis that still runs less than stellar, but they were also the original creators of Far Cry.

Earlier levels encouraged players to scout out enemy encampments and plan out a method of approach. This made for a great gameplay loop that Ubisoft's Far Cry games would later build upon. That is until the second half of the game. In typical Crytek fashion, the standard human enemies are replaced with enemies that would fit better in another game. In Far Cry's case, mutants overtake the island and take entire magazines to kill. Mutants can also three-shot the player with full health and armor, single-handedly souring the entirety of Far Cry's otherwise stellar campaign.

5 Call Of Duty: World At War (Campaign)

Why it's difficult: Enemies spawn infinitely and throw unlimited grenades on Veteran difficulty.

Call of Duty: World at War's campaign is a memorable experience gamers won't soon forget, if only for its absurdly hard campaign. Beating World at War on Veteran is a serious test of one's patience.

Enemies will spawn infinitely until the player completes certain objectives, all the while they're throwing half a dozen grenades every couple of seconds. A handful of bullets will down the player, forcing them to restart from a checkpoint. World at War's later levels where players fight alongside Victor Resnov really show how broken this game's single-player is on Veteran.

4 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Why it's difficult: A massive learning curve that never ends.

Competitive shooters are some of the hardest games to become great at. These games require players to master the weapon sandbox, movement, maps, and have great communication with others.

No competitive shooter does this better than Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Valve's constant updates turned this game into an Esports juggernaut in the industry. It wouldn't be possible without the game's immense skill ceiling. CS:GO is easy enough to learn, but mastering it is something professionals spend thousands of hours doing. CS:GO matches can range from casual shootouts to some of the most stress-inducing firefights in the genre.

3 Quake 3 Arena

Why it's difficult: An immense skill gap that few ever reach.

Most competitive shooters have shifted towards abilities and synergies in their design. Games like Overwatch and Valorant are great examples of this, but there was a time when a player's movement and gun skill were the only things standing between victory and defeat.

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If one game captures that essence the best, it's Quake 3 Arena. While Unreal Tournament focuses more on team-oriented objective modes, Quake has always been about fragging out on others in Deathmatch or Capture the Flag. No perks, killstreaks, or vehicles could assist a player in winning. If they couldn't master Quake's arsenal of weapons, defeat was certain. This unforgiving learning curve was made even larger by the game's expertly-crafted labyrinthian maps. Players that could push through these difficulties were left with one of the best arena shooters the genre has seen and likely ever will see.

Why Not Unreal Tournament?

Unreal Tournament is another well-known arena shooter renowned for its unique weapon sandbox, excellent maps, and phenomenal team-based game types. As hard as UT could get, players could usually rely on their team to score victory. Since most Quake players gravitate towards Deathmatch, the onus was on each player to bring their best. While a controversial pick for some, we feel that Quake 3 just narrowly edges out Unreal Tournament 1999 and Unreal Tournament 2004 for this spot.

2 Halo 2 (Campaign)

Why it's difficult: Frustrating Legendary campaign made worse with Skull modifiers.

Mentioning the hardest FPS games ever created wouldn't be complete without mentioning Halo 2's Legendary campaign. This difficulty was not thoroughly tested by Bungie before the game was released, resulting in a perplexing mess that leaves players frustrated by its obsession with instantly killing them.

Jackal snipers one-shot. Hunters one-shot the player. Certain missions such as Gravemind rely on enemy AI RNG to beat. Halo: The Master Chief Collection also requires players to complete a full Legendary playthrough in less than 3 hours for a certain achievement. Sadly, the campaign can get even harder. Halo 2 also introduced hidden Skulls in levels that add modifiers such as doubling enemy health points. Hardcore Halo fans will sometimes play through this campaign on Legendary with every Skull active, otherwise known as a LASO run. Anyone who's completed a LASO run of Halo 2 has completed the hardest campaign in FPS history.

1 Escape From Tarkov

Why it's difficult: Permadeath, immense learning curve, and survival elements.

Combine the original Ghost Recon titles with survival shooters like DayZ, and the result is Escape From Tarkov. No shooter on the market can get the heart pounding quite like this one.

Players get one life in each match to scavenge what they can and take on fellow PMCs and Scavs that patrol each map. Death can be from a headshot from hundreds of meters away or hemorrhaging blood after a nasty gunfight. The stakes are high in Tarkov, and a single error can have massive consequences. Should players narrowly win a gunfight, they'll have to make their way towards extraction while suffering from crippling wounds. Risk and reward are the glue that holds Tarkov together so well. Stick past its daunting difficulty, and players will find one of the most satisfying and memorable experiences a first-person shooter can provide.

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