Warning: Some of the video games listed below are not suitable for younger viewers. Please use caution and check each game’s ESRB rating before allowing children to play it, especially those rated M for Mature. M-rated video games may contain content that is inappropriate for children and/or unlabeled content that exposes younger viewers to explicit messages and themes.
There’s no denying the thrill that comes with human competition. Nothing beats jumping into a game against real-life people, connected through signals and wires across the internet, all in a shared virtual space to see who is better than whom.[external_link_head]
Online first-person shooter (FPS) games deliver an adrenaline rush and millions of players log in each day to do battle to get it. Battle royales, team battles, capture the flag battles, all in an endless series of skirmishes and rounds.
There are downsides, too. Like Jean-Paul Sartre said in No Exit, “Hell is other people.” Sometimes it is frustrating to be playing against folks who take delight in ruining other people’s days.
Those so-called “Griefers” camp out in unfair spots in games, knocking out players as they respawn for cheap points, kill-stealing, being away-from-keyboard (AFK) in a squad, and just collecting experience from others’ efforts .
There’s always a trade-off of the possibility of bad-faith playing by trolling players when a game’s main design is all around pools of strangers also playing. But the first-person genre can deliver another kind of experience, too. You can get a longer, deeper game-play experience that is sometimes even more satisfying than a great round of online play: The “offline FPS.”
With the “you are there” perspective of an FPS, telling a compelling story with emotional investment can be engaging in a way that online PvP matches can’t match. Experiencing a well-designed, well-executed, well-acted, and well-balanced FPS game’s story mode is like living through a great action novel as the main character.
This is the thrill and fun of the “offline FPS,” with a single player game style that you take at your own pace, on your own time. We’ve assembled a list of 9 of the best offline FPS games available that don’t require other people playing in order to have fun.
- 1 1. Borderlands 2 by Gearbox Software
- 2 2. Titanfall 2 by Respawn Entertainment
- 3 3. Doom by id Software
- 4 4. Battlefield 1 by EA DICE
- 5 5. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided by Eidos Montréal
- 6 6. Dishonored 2 by Arkane Studios
- 7 7. BioShock by 2K Boston and 2K Australia
- 8 8. Far Cry 3 by Ubisoft
- 9 9. Fallout 3 by Bethesda Game Studios
- 10 About the Author
1. Borderlands 2 by Gearbox Software
Following up the success of Borderlands, Gearbox Software’s sequel delivers more of what made the original a success. It’s a distinct blend of silly, irreverent writing, and stylized, colorful, cel-shaded design that’s somewhere between animated cartoon and realistic models of characters and weapons that are just fun to look at.
It’s a sci-fi future where corporations strip-mine alien planets and leave the husks to get picked over by space-scavengers, soldiers of fortunes, and criminals. Think of Obi Wan’s description of the people who make up Mos Eisley: A wretched hive of villainy and scum.
This installment takes place five years after the events of Borderlands. The original saw a group of four glory-seekers on the planet Pandora, hunting through the Vaults of the advanced alien ruins that lay there. Their quest ended with the unleashing and defeat of a legendary monster named “The Destroyer,” and the sealing off of the Vault, and all of its amazing gear and weaponry.
But a new Vault has been unearthed, and a sinister criminal businessman named Handsome Jack has plans for it. It’s up to you, as a new Vault Hunter, to stop him and become a legend, with legendary loot and gear, in the process.
One of the best FPS games offline, Borderlands 2 offers a storyline that unfolds and becomes complex and intriguing, with a large number of harrowing side quests along the way that really give Pandora its own quirky, offbeat feel as a setting.
The fun is in the building out of the skill tree of your character as you progress, and in the accumulation, upgrading, and customizing of your weapons and attacks with tech you loot in the Vault. Borderlands 2 doesn’t take itself with grim and gritty seriousness, but it does play its story mode out in earnest, despite the sarcastic and funny dialogue and circumstances.
Following the main story, you can expect 15 to 25 hours of content. Adding in all the side quests and optional paths, it can be up to 40 hours of Vault-hunting.
2. Titanfall 2 by Respawn Entertainment
The original Titanfall was a gorgeous game of giant-robot combat and truly stunning visuals. It was, however, a multiplayer-only experience. Although online multiplayer is an available mode in Titanfall 2, the inclusion of the single player, offline campaign storyline mode is the real draw.[external_link offset=1]
It all seems stock sci-fi standard at first. You play the role of Jack Cooper, who is part of a small rebel band called the Frontier Militia. They oppose and fight the Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC), who, as you may imagine, is a cruel and heartless, villainous entity willing to crush anything in its path in pursuit of profit.
When Jack’s mentor dies, he bequeaths to Jack his Titan, BT-7274, a massive, sentient robot mech-suit. Gameplay is split between piloting BT and fighting as Jack, outside of the Titan mech. Think of the story as a “buddy cop” movie, with Jack and BT-7274 as partners.
Fluid controls, really smart and beautiful level design, and high-impact gameplay are at the center of the experience. As the game progresses, the story actually gets more involved and the bond between Jack and BT becomes something you truly feel emotional about.
There’s a really great (and satisfying) build of a relationship. The Titan’s programmed personality is very literal and logical, and Jack is a hot-headed, Han Solo type. At different points in the game, you guide conversations between the two, and they build a sense of investment in this friendship as it develops. Think The Iron Giant meets Lethal Weapon.
Unlike a lot of FPS games with a campaign mode, there is not an emphasis on open-world, side-quest fulfilling, and sandbox style gaming. Titanfall 2 plays like starring in a movie.
All told, the whole campaign is 5 or 6 dedicated hours of gameplay. But it is very tightly constructed and so fun and rewarding to play that you will no doubt play through again once or twice, to see what different pathways and approaches you might have chosen.
3. Doom by id Software
The 1993 granddaddy of blockbuster hits and FPS gaming got a reboot and a modern rebirth in 2016. It’s no exaggeration to say that literally every FPS game on computers owes its origin to 1993’s Doom, which put action computer gaming on the map.
Doom’s universe is one where sci-fi space technology and dimension-rift-opening devices have literally unleashed Hell. Demons and devils, from a terrible dimension of pain and violence, are gated into ours and must be stopped.
Id Software had a really focused vision in its conception of Doom, the 1993 game. They imagined it as a sci-fi horror movie, where you’re always on the run from merciless monsters and only twitch-reflexes and hyper-powerful weapons that blast them to bloody bits can keep you from being ripped limb from limb.
The aesthetic of the Doom-iverse, then, is specifically hardcore blood and guts. These are demons, after all. They bring hell with them, wherever they go. And your job, as a space-marine, is to send them back there. Violently.
In its modern reboot/reimagining, Doom gives you a single-player experience in a very old-school gaming kind of way The story is the window-dressing to serve as a reason for the gameplay and the thrill of blasting bad guys and having firefights, getting from level to level until the end boss. It is a fast-paced, brutal gore-fest, but in the best way possible.
To understand the feel that Doom tries to evoke, think “what if a heavy metal album poster from the 1980s became a world you had to blast your way through?” It leans into the skulls and horns and blood and fire in a way that isn’t so much cartoony, but done in so much earnest that it is self-aware of its excesses.
Doom knows how over-the-top it is. It makes that over-the-top violence into something that becomes so stylized and quick that it stops being anything approaching “realistic.” Which is exactly what it is going for.
Make no mistake. Although there is a campaign and a story, Doom is a single-player action game made for the thrill of the kill of terrible monsters and the kind of Zen-like rhythm you find yourself in blasting through them and evading, run-and-gun style.
The levels and AI are designed for fun for one person, like it was in the old days – only now, with new and eye-popping graphics and a killer soundtrack.
4. Battlefield 1 by EA DICE
The Battlefield series has been, up until now, more about online PvP play than single-player, story-driven gameplay. In Battlefield 1, developer EA DICE changes that, giving the player a series of vignette stories to play through in a realistic World War I setting. That’s not a typo; WWI, not WWII.
At the time of its ending, World War I was thought, by way of the desperate human toll it took, to be “the war to end all wars.” But history showed that to have been an overly hopeful assumption. It would be a mere twenty-one years before the next World War broke out, overshadowing it and leaving the first to be an almost forgotten bit of history in the modern era.
Battlefield 1 gives the player a sense of the early, now-archaic, but functionally recognizable weapons and warfare that made up the battles of WWI. It does this not with an overarching story, but rather a series of tales in different theaters of the war, each with an emotional arc. But they are more like different episodes, painting an overall picture, than a whole narrative.
WWI was the first real “modern” war, with mechanized artillery and weapons and air warfare. But the kind of air warfare was propeller driven bi-planes, and the mechanized weapons were bolt-action rifles and early, version 1 style machine guns. In one of the missions, you pilot a message-carrying pigeon to deliver valuable information.
Battlefield 1 brings those kinds of realities into the first-person experience, which is an interesting take and change from the myriad WWII and modern combat simulations that make up the FPS world.
Each vignette, or episode, is told with a human touch. They give the player at once the sense of how massive and spanning the First World War was in scope, and also how it was, like all wars, made up of individual stories of individual people. Some stories are full of glory and others are full of sadness and tragedy. It’s a compelling experience and a history lesson all at once.
5. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided by Eidos Montréal
In Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, you are a cybernetically enhanced agent, in the mean streets of occupied Prague, set in a burned-out cyberpunk future of technological dystopia. You play as hyper-maneuverable, stealth and action-ready protagonist Adam Jensen. You guide Jensen through a first-person RPG-style adventure, talking to non-player characters (NPCs), gathering information that unlocks missions and advances the story along, gaining experience, and leveling up your enhancements, or “augments.”
The game succeeds in giving you a feeling of control and identity as this kind of gritty cyborg action hero. Using your “augments” as special attacks and defense (things like Titan Armor, Tesla Arm, or the wrist-mounted nano-blade launcher) feels like using a superpower.
Deus Ex’s finely tuned system of energy-costs for their use makes the combat balanced, but gives the player a sense of purpose when they’re employed correctly. They’re stunning and spectacular to see in action.
As the pot-boiler plot becomes more intricate, and your choices in how you interact with the characters lead to different paths and missions, you discover that you can approach game objectives from a variety of different ways: parkour-like movement through the alleys and rooftops of Prague, hacking security systems and grids, or brute force attacks and assaults.
It’s a very interesting moment-to-moment experience as a game. Eidos Montreal has made it a fluid mix of RPG dialogue choices, action, and stealth. The only complaint from those who have played through its previous installation might be that the game unfolds in much the same way. But it improves on almost every aspect of gameplay and polishes the interface and controls in doing it, so “more of the same, but better” is the verdict.[external_link offset=2]
6. Dishonored 2 by Arkane Studios
Action adventure game Dishonored 2 from developer Arkane has done the sequel correctly: by doubling down. Dishonored had a “play your way” philosophy and design, allowing the user to approach the story and objectives with very different gameplay styles.
Choose stealth and avoidance or straight-up action, or a mix anywhere in between. Dishonored 2 takes this approach even further. No two games played by any two players, or even played through twice by the same player, will be identical.
In Dishonored 2, you play as either Empress Emily Kaldwin or her royal protector and father, Corvo Attano. You make this choice at the beginning of the game and it is the most consequential decision to make.
Although the same story is told from beginning to end, the subtle differences in each avatar’s abilities will influence how you end up playing. And the shift in point of view changes your experience as to who the story is really “about.”
Dishonored 2 takes place in a steam-punk, technology-and-magic setting of palace intrigue. The city is Dunwall, in the fictional Empire of the Isles, and Emily’s wicked aunt, a powerful witch, has designs on the throne.
If the set up to the story seems generic, the action and gameplay is anything but. There’s a massive story to explore and tease out, all set in mission-based chapters, in a sandbox-style gameplay of an open city, where magic and technology meet. Expect to play 12 to 16 hours as either Emily or Corvo, and expect to want to play again as the other to explore different choices and paths when you do.
7. BioShock by 2K Boston and 2K Australia
Since it was released in 2007, you’d think playing through BioShock today might make it seem dated. You’d be happily wrong, though. BioShock shook up the gaming world when it was released.
It took the FPS engine and gameplay and used it to tell a kind of story that really isn’t accessible from any other kind of media. It’s part interactive novel, part philosophy and morality test, and part actioner, all in rolled into one. It isn’t the first FPS to integrate roleplaying and stealth to deliver a kind of “interactive story” experience, but it is one of the first to do it in such a revolutionary way.
Plot wise, it’s a sci-fi epic set in a fictional 1960. Industrialist and scientist wunderkind Andrew Ryan, influenced by the Objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand, has built an underwater city called Rapture, where he has opted out of society to rebuild it anew as a shining Utopia.
As you can imagine, things don’t work out that way. Genetic experiments, class divisions, and hubris all make this new-Atlantis into more of a dystopia than anything else. The game’s innovative use of a morality engine in gauging the player’s choices leads to different stories being ultimately told in the play-through.
Most of the games on this list so far owe a lot to BioShock’s inventions. If you’ve somehow missed it, it’s definitely worth discovering.
8. Far Cry 3 by Ubisoft
2012 saw developer Ubisoft release Far Cry 3 and up the ante for the series, improving and expanding on its unique point of view. The Far Cry series is not a shared universe, exactly, but rather a shared approach to gameplay and game design.
Named after the code-base game engine developed using CryEngine, the games are all open-world environments in which a single player finds him or herself alone in a vast and unforgiving wilderness of one kind or another.
In Far Cry 3, it is an island with evil pirates and slavers and survival is a moment-to-moment affair as a giant plot spells itself out. It still holds up as one of the best in the series.
9. Fallout 3 by Bethesda Game Studios
Fallout 3 is the third in the Fallout series of games, but the first developed by legendary game studio Bethesda, after it bought out the series from its original developers, Interplay. It is a post-apocalyptic action RPG, and although it is technically a “part 3,” you can think of it more as the first in new series and style.
The previous games have been third person, overhead, 2D isometric graphic presentations. In Fallout 3, Bethesda took the franchise into the FPS genre, and delivered a more immersive experience and really began the modern franchise as it is today.
The 1950s art-style character-building interface/game guide of the Pip-Boy 3000 has become a recognizable icon in the gaming world. Even if you’ve never played a moment of Fallout, you’ve probably seen his cherubic, smiling face and jet-age era cartoon smile on merchandise and T-shirts in a GameStop store.
There’s a reason why the Fallout brand is everywhere in merchandise and little novelty desk-personality items. The game is really just that good. If you’ve never played it, you’re in for a treat, and a history lesson in how fun surviving the apocalypse can be.
Related gaming articles:
About the Author
Jolene Dobbin is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Jolene is an East Coast-based writer with experience creating strategic messaging, marketing, and sales content for companies in the high-tech industry.