The Best Arena Shooters Of All Time


GoldenEye, Halo 2, and Unreal Tournament 2004.

The arena shooter category is one of the most popular shooter subgenres. Whether first-person or third-person, the fast-paced emphasis of arena shooters provides an unmatched thrill. You’ll find a plethora of skill jumps, overpowered weapons, and objective-based modes packed into enclosed maps.

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Arena shooters force you to fight. They make it so you won’t get very far without an engagement. Nonstop action and high-octane gameplay are what make arena shooters so intense. Since the introduction of FPS titles, like Wolfenstein 3D, arena shooters have been at the forefront. Some of the best multiplayer games ever created have the arena shooter label attached to them.


8 Halo 2

Halo 2 is easily one of the most iconic games of all time. It strayed away from the typical arena shooter style and ushered in the modern era of the subgenre. Tactical gameplay was mixed in with the rapid pacing of past arena shooter titles.

You could argue that the first Halo entry is what changed the subgenre, but it left a lot to be desired with its multiplayer compared to the sequel. Halo 2 was all about reaching the power weapons before your opponent, stopping them in their tracks, and holding the objective to win.

7 Overwatch

Tracer of Overwatch zooms on a walkway with her pistols at aimed while drones chase her.

Overwatch is a part of the modern arena shooter style. The maps are much bigger because of the progression-based objectives throughout some of them, but there’s no doubt that it definitely falls under the category.

There’s hardly a moment for you to catch your breath during a game of Overwatch. The speed at which you must siege objectives or attack your opponents is true to the core for an arena shooter. It just decided to spruce things up a bit with ability-based characters.

6 Unreal Tournament 2004

A soldier rushes into battle with two tanks behind him in Unreal Tournament 2004.

Unreal Tournament 2004 is the third game in the Unreal Tournament series. It is considered one of the best overall shooters from the start of the century. It took the Unreal Tournament formula and made it bigger.

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Not only did graphical improvements occur, but there was a near-complete overhaul of gameplay mechanics. Vehicles were added, large-scale battles were made possible, and the movement was more skillful than ever before. This made it easy to traverse any of the 100-plus maps in the game.

5 Perfect Dark

Joanna of Perfect Dark hides behind a pillar as she waits for an enemy to pass.

Many thought Perfect Dark was Rare’s attempt at striking gold once again, as it did with GoldenEye 007. Well, it wasn’t as iconic as the James Bond outing, but it was certainly an arena shooter to remember.

The opening of a multiplayer match in Perfect Dark sees you unarmed. You have to race to weapons and ammunition around the arena in hopes of getting off to a good start. The game lets you customize matches and create your own arena shooter experience within its confines.

4 Doom

The player shoots a monster with a shotgun in the original Doom.

The original Doom arrived in 1993 and set the stage for the entirety of the first-person shooter genre. You take on the role of Doomguy and battle demons from hell. It’s a classic, but many people aren’t aware of its multiplayer capabilities.

There is a co-op mode where players can simply move through the main campaign together or a deathmatch mode. That turns it into an arena shooter where up to four players look to accumulate the most kills to win. It’s a close-quarters, speedy mode that many consider the grandfather of other popular arena shooters.

3 GoldenEye 007

James Bond stands in a doorway with a silenced pistol in GoldenEye 007.

GoldenEye 007 is one of the first console titles to explore multiplayer deathmatch modes. It is often called one of the greatest games to ever exist. Outside of its lengthy campaign that mirrored the movie, it delivered a wonderful multiplayer experience.

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It offered several modes, such as License to Kill, which makes everyone weapon a one-shot gun, or You Only Live Twice, which only allows you two lives before you’re eliminated. It doesn’t contain the same pace as the likes of Unreal or Quake, but its impact cannot be understated.

2 Unreal Tournament

A soldier runs from the tower on the Facing Worlds map of Unreal Tournament.

Long before Fortnite became its most successful creation, Epic Games was making the Unreal series. In that series is the original Unreal Tournament, released in 1999. The title focused heavily on head-to-head multiplayer. Even the single-player was just its arena matches, but with bots in a bid to become the Grand Champion.

Unreal Tournament delivered incredible movement capabilities, a variety of weapons, and a lot of maps that you need to master if you want to be the best. This is one of the arena shooters where you need to stay on your toes at all times. It’s quick and unforgiving.

1 Quake 3 Arena

A player fires from the top walkway of a castle in Quake 3 Arena.

Quake 3 Arena was the first game in the Quake series to release without a single-player campaign. Instead, its single-player mode simply pits you against bots, and as you win, you move on to other maps against tougher opponents. The focus shifted from a solo experience to multiplayer battles.

The game truly puts the ‘arena’ in ‘arena shooter.’ Strafing, rocket-jumping, and complex map designs make for a high-speed duel between players and teams. The quickness of each match allows you to get through many in a single session, preventing you from getting burnt out from one of the best games ever.

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