Old-school shooters, retro shooters, boomer shooters. Whatever you call them, first-person shooters inspired by the 90s have been making a comeback in the last few years. Some of these are revivals of classics like Doom and Wolfenstein with fancy graphics and a modernized feel, while many others like Dusk, Amid Evil, and Project Warlock emulate the low-poly/pixelated visual style of those days.
While it’s hard to say how long the trend will last, the old-school FPS resurgence certainly doesn’t seem to be stopping yet. If you’re after some fast-paced retro-flavoured shooting, here are 13 upcoming games to lock your crosshairs on:
Note: This list includes a good number of games that are currently in Early Access; these are marked with an asterisk beside their title.
Developer: Trigger Happy Interactive
Release Date: 2022
Platform: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Sliding is one of the coolest features to have been introduced to the FPS genre, and Turbo Overkill makes it even better. How? By giving the player a chainsaw leg that makes a terrific mess of enemies.
The owner of said chainsaw leg is Johnny Turbo, a mercenary who, desperate for money, returns to his “Blade Runner-meets-DOOM”-looking hometown of Paradise to take down a rogue AI called Syn. Aside from his magnificent enemy-shredding limb, Johnny has guns like the Telefragger sniper rifle – which “teleports Johnny inside an enemy before they explode from within” – and lock-on-capable Twin Magnums and to help him take down Syn and its army, If that wasn’t enough, the merc can dash, use a slow-motion ability called Hero Time, and receive buffs via weapon upgrades, a talent tree, and augments.
Turbo Overkill is also promising wall-running, bonus arena stages, collectables that unlock modifiers, “car-surfing”, and a grappling hook. Additionally, the announcement trailer indicates that we’ll get the chance to drive the game’s Blade Runner-like flying cars, which I’m totally down for.
Amid Evil: The Black Labyrinth
Release date: “Soon”
Announced in September 2020, Amid Evil: The Black Labyrinth is a “full prequel expansion” to 2019’s fantasy FPS Amid Evil. There isn’t a whole lot of info just yet, but we do know that there’ll be new weapons (including an intriguing purple-bladed sycthe), new enemies, and, of course, new levels and environments to explore.
As the gameplay trailer from August reveals, the base game’s arsenal will still be around, so fans of weapons like the spiky Star of Torment or the planet-lobbing Celestial Claw can look forward to using them again. Also making a return is composer Andrew Hulshult, who has contributed to a variety of other old-school shooters including Quake Champions, Doom Eternal, and Dusk.
Wrath: Aeon of Ruin*
Release date: 2022 (Released on PC in Early Access on November 23, 2019)
Platform: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Another game with Andrew Hulshult music, Wrath: Aeon of Ruin is a horror-fantasy shooter powered by the Quake engine. Placed in the shoes of the Outlander, players are tasked by the Shepherd of Wayward Souls to take down the fallen Guardians of the Old World.
In this dark fantasy setting, players will have to deploy Soul Tethers or find Shrines to save progress. On the combat side, there are firearms that range from revolvers and shotguns to fancier weapons like the Fang Spitter and Slag Cannon, as well as the awesomely named Ruination Blade. The Outlander can also make use of Artifacts; one of these items provides invincibility at the cost of health, while another causes enemies to fight each other.
Wrath: Aeon of Ruin was supposed to leave Early Access on February 25, but the game was delayed to the summer after some of the dev team were infected with COVID-19. It was later delayed again to 2022. Upon the game’s full release, there will be three non-linear hub worlds and 15 levels to explore.
Developer: Jasozz Games
Release Date: 2022
Platform: PC, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
Developed by solo developer Jason Smith, Cultic is a horror-themed FPS that sees a disgraced detective investigating a cult in mid-century Northwest America. Players will have to make their way through “caves, rotting woods, ancient temples, and even stranger places” as they battle both cultists and inhuman enemies.
I played Cultic’s demo recently and really enjoyed the feeling of blasting creepy cultists with a double-barrelled shotgun, sometimes after sliding up to them. The combat involves a variety of era-appropriate firearms like STEN submachine guns as well as some good old dynamite, but players can also grab and throw objects or get physical by kicking. On the down side, the cultists seem to blend in with the environment all-too-easily, so here’s hoping that the colour palette gets some tweaks before launch.
Developer: Acid Man Games, Fire Plant Games
Release date: Late 2022 (Released on PC in Early Access on May 21, 2021)
What lengths will you go to in order to afford an engagement ring? For mercenary Caroline, the answer involves going to space to take down a warlock with a hefty bounty. Standing in the way is a small army, but, no big deal, right?
As I discovered from playing the Steam Game Festival demo earlier this year, Viscerafest is a very fast-paced affair. Caroline is capable of traversing rooms in a flash via bunny-hopping and dashing – useful for both avoiding attacks and getting up close to punch enemies. The initial enemies come in the form of alien troops from The United Scientific Conglomerate, but later parts of the game will introduce “monsters beyond your ability to comprehend” like the Soul Hunters (which explains the game’s “Sci-Fi Fantasy” description).
The full release will also provide complete functionality for the hub space, where players will be able to get level modifiers and cheat codes or relax by reading browsing the game’s lore or bestiary.
Developer: Redact Games
Release date: Full release unknown, Early Access starts in 2022
One of the more intriguing titles on this list, Effigy is a retro shooter-seach-action-game hybrid (ala Metroid Prime), set on a prison moon where the prisoners have taken over and now worship something called the Umbral. The player is sent to investigate the situation, only to end up trapped.
The premise is interesting, and so is the game’s promise of a “huge, mysterious interconnected world” with regions and quest givers. As is expected of a
Metroidvania search action game, abilities and items that you discover will result in exploration opportunities opening up. On the shooting side, the guns include a mining laser that can shoot around corners, the rocket-deflecting Pulse Buckler, and other “wild weapons”.
Like many modern indie old-school shooters, Effigy will first launch as an Early Access title. The game will have “three episodic content drops” in EA, with each episode adding new regions, weapons, and items.
Forgive Me Father*
Developer: Byte Barrel
Release date: First half of 2022 (Released on PC in Early Access on October 26, 2021)
This Lovecraftian FPS casts players as the last sane person in the world, forced to deal with possessed people and eldritch enemies with abilities, upgradeable guns, and items like a crucifix and an aspergillum. A recent Early Access release, Forgive Me Father currently allows players to play as a priest, but a journalist character with their own progression tree will be included in the full version.
The Lovecraftian theme and the opportunity to play as a badass shotgun-toting priest both sound great, but they aren’t the only things this game has going for it. Forgive Me Father sports a comic book-like hand-drawn aesthetic with text pop ups for headshots and explosions, and boasts a madness level mechanic that causes both audio-visual and gameplay changes. A “surprise feature” is also planned, and the full release will include a New game+ mode.
Release date: Unknown (Released on PC in Early Access on January 29, 2021)
A solo developer effort, Hrot takes you to 1986 Czechoslovakia, where an unspecified disaster has occurred. As they make their way through the socialist country, players will find themselves facing strange enemies like humanoids in biohazard suits and horses with gas masks. To kill them, you’ll have basic guns like SMGs and shotguns, as well as special fares like the ball lightning launcher and lightning gun (which you definitely shouldn’t use underwater).
Hrot combines its setting, a “brown retro aesthetic”, and “unfiltered textures and polygon jitter” to craft a palpable and distinct atmosphere. The levels are said to be inspired by real locations “with an emphasis on historical details”, such as socialist paraphernalia from the time period.
As unsettling as the enemies are, the game also has a sense of fun. There’s an idle animation where the protagonist makes a hammer and sickle symbol (although melee is sickle-only) and a motorcycle that players can take for a spin, while the Steam page happily lists flushable toilets as a feature.
Shadow Warrior 3
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Release date: 2022
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
After adapting loot-shooter elements and open level design with the second game, the Shadow Warrior reboot series is changing course again with its third instalment. This time, the game feels a bit like Doom Eternal, with the promotional material emphasizing frenetic arena battles and previewing enemy executions.
The execution system here isn’t quite the same as the new Doom games, however, with the rewards for executing Shadow Warrior 3’s yokai-inspired enemies taking the form of Gore Weapons. Executing the bloated Gassy Obariyon, for instance, lets you try out its twin miniguns, while the Seeking Shōkera leaves you with the Seeking Eye, which is a sentient eye with rotating blades around it.
Like previous games, quippy protagonist Lo Wang has a katana and various firearms, but the third game is also adding grappling hooks, wall-running, and environmental hazards. In other words, it sounds fun as heck.
Developer: Bounding Box Software Inc.
Release date: Unknown (Released on PC in Early Access on November 10, 2020)
Platform: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Prodeus is probably the most “normal” game on this list, as it keeps the focus on guns and simply has monster enemies in a sci-fi setting. That doesn’t mean the game seems boring though – the gunplay looks very satisfying, and the amount of blood that spews out of enemies is beyond impressive, even considering the fact that almost every other game in this list is also incredibly bloody. The Steam page sure wasn’t joking with the “Get ready to paint the walls red” line.
Outside of the campaign, players will also be able to mess around with the level editor and/or tackle community-made content. If that doesn’t sound sweet enough, the devs are also working on co-op for the game. Other features to take note of include a “mix of high-quality 3D art and retro rendering techniques”, the option to have 3D enemies instead of sprites, and music from none other than Andrew Hulshult.
Developer: Blazing Bit Games
Release date: Unknown (Released on PC in Early Access on July 17, 2019)
80. That’s how many weapons that Nightmare Reaper will have when its third Chapter releases, with shotguns, chainsaws, magic staves, and spellbooks included in the mix.
The big numbers don’t stop there either, with the game also boasting a planned 30 weapon modifiers and 174 fire modes. There are weapon stats too, so you can continue to be impressed by numbers in-game.
The weapon count alone is impressive, but Nightmare Reaper also distinguishes itself with its premise, which has the player controlling an asylum patient who battles monsters and traverses procedurally generated landscapes in her nightmares. Combat is a mix of retro and modern, with elements like aiming-down-sights and reloading being present, and there is a minigame that allows for upgrades and ability customization. Oh, and this is yet another game with Andrew Hulshult music.
Project Warlock 2
Developer: Buckshot Software
Release date: Full release unknown, Early Access starts in early 2022
Project Warlock 2 is one of those sequels that seem almost completely different from their predecessor. While the first Project Warlock featured flat mazes and 2D-sprite enemies, this follow-up has “8-sided” sprites, jumping, and non-linear levels with verticality and bigger sizes. Apart from that, magic spells now operate on cooldown instead of using mana, quicksaves and manual saves exist, and there are different characters – one for each of the three episodes – with their own set of upgradeable weapons and skills (combat magic, pyromancy, and dark arts are listed).
There’s a lot to look forward to, basically, and an interview with PC Gamer also mentions a “stress” mechanic that affects monster behaviour. While the demo has affected my anticipation a bit due to the rather headache-inducing level design. Thankfully, a late October Kickstarter update says that “pretty significant changes” have been made. With that said, Project Warlock 2 is still worth keeping an eye on at the moment.
Developer: Arsi “Hakita” Patala
Release date: 2022 (Released on PC in Early Access on September 4, 2020)
Ultrakill is what you get if you dropped Devil May Cry’s Stylish Rank system into a shooter. The score-keeping entices you to do more than just shoot at torsos in order to hit the coveted Ultrakill rank, so it’s a good thing that the weapons – which include pistols, shotguns, and nailguns – have alternate-fire modes and variations to help with that. There are also arm types with different capabilities (like parrying projectiles or providing a grappling hook) and a ground slam ability to play around with too.
Mobility is another weapon in the player’s arsenal, with dashing, sliding, and a pretty high jump at their disposal. This range of movement isn’t just good for maintaining distance from enemies, as the player’s character is a machine that heals up by damaging enemies and soaking their blood up-close. It’s not the reason why I’ve wishlisted Ultrakill, but I sure love how it’s a game where bathing in the blood of your enemies is the way to regenerate health.
Are there other upcoming retro shooters that deserve to be on gamers’ radars? Let us know in the comments below!