There’s certainly an undeniable charm in the looter-shooter genre, although the real successful games are the ones that make the grind an interesting part of the gameplay. Unfortunately, developers aren’t always that successful, and there are simply tons of games with tiresome grinding that doesn’t feel worth it. I can’t really blame them, grinding is not an easy thing to make interesting.
Thankfully, there are some really awesome games in the genre, with great gameplay, combat, and loot for you to spend hundreds of hours on, and some of them are even free!
#1 The Division 2
If you played and liked the first Division game, then you’re going to love this one. While it’s more of the same, the sequel has really managed to make pretty much every aspect of the game better.
Probably the first thing on anybody’s mind is the combat/shooter aspect of The Division 2, and I have to say, it’s much more enjoyable than the previous game. One big gripe that people had was how bullet spongy enemies were, and while this is still the case, they don’t feel like that, due to the visual changes that make them bulkier. Not only that, but the enemy variety is much more interesting this time around, and with each enemy corresponding in difficulty to their visual look, and there’s a lot of satisfaction in slowly destroying the heavy armor of a mob.
As for the looter aspect, that’s also been massively improved, with even more weapons, gear, and items for you to loot your heart out. This time around they’ve even managed to make all those things much more interesting than before, as some of the higher-end ones have perks that offer both positives and negatives. As such, while the level cap of an item’s score is 450, you’ll still be min/maxing past that as you get the best set of complimenting perks that fit your playstyle.
In terms of story, The Division 2 essentially picks up from where the first game dropped off, but now in Washington D.C. instead. The story campaign is relatively long enough at around 15-20 hours, and if you add sub-missions and things of that nature, it can probably bump up to around 30 hours. Unfortunately, the story itself is retreading the ground of the previous game, so it’s not as impactful, which is a shame considering the setting.
Actually, speaking of the setting, The Division 2 is incredibly gorgeous and Ubisoft has definitely bumped their graphical game up. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve just stopped to look around, or gone out of my way to explore things I really didn’t have to. In fact, one especially amazing moment for me happened when I was randomly running around the world and came across a guy playing the harmonica. That’s it, it was just so down to earth and amazing that I sat around for a few minutes and enjoyed the simplicity (and absurdity) of life in a post-apocalyptic hell.
The Division 2 is easily one of the best looter shooter games out there, and with constant updates and new things to do, you’re not likely to get bored quickly.
#2 Risk of Rain 2
Risk of Rain 2 is the type of game that exists to be in service to itself, and while that is generally a bad thing when it comes to looter shooters, it’s actually pretty good. In fact, we put the first Risk of Rain in our list of best roguelike games.
For the most part, the core gameplay loop is the majority of the game, namely that you go out and kill things so that you can get stuff to go out and kill more things. There’s absolutely tons of stuff for you to run after, and each one offers increasingly more absurd and powerful benefits (such as a 100% crit chance). In a way, the looter-shooter aspect is more about adding more and more ridiculous loot than it is about min/maxing specific loadouts.
Of course, no looter-shooter is complete without great enemies to fight, and thankfully Risk of Rain 2 does an excellent job of it. When you first land on a planet, the enemies seem pretty weak and don’t offer up much resistance, but when you progress more they start to become quite bothersome. What keeps the game fresh and interesting though is the randomization of enemies, so while the environments stay the same for the most part, the enemies you fight will always change and be different, so you never know what to expect.
Since we’re talking about enemies, I’d also mention that the combat is really excellent, and it’s more than just the loot you pick up. There are currently 6 different classes for you to pick from, with each class offering it’s own uniques skills and playstyles. For example, you have your jack of all trade class called ‘Commander’ and your mage-type class in the ‘Artificer’. Each class also has its own unique weapons, abilities, and mobility that you have to get accustomed to, which in and of itself helps add more replayability to the game.
I should mention though that this game is a roguelike, so that means if you die, that’s it, the run is over and you have to start from the beginning of the level. That being said, there is some form of continuity between playthroughs in the form of the moon currency, which is a persistent currency you can use to buy things before you start your next playthrough. As such, it isn’t a progression system per se, but at least it’s something.
Unfortunately, the game is still in Early Access, so there’s no story mode really other than ‘You crash-landed on a planet and need to escape by killing things’. That’s not a bad thing, mind you, but if you’re looking for a proper story mode, you might have to wait a while. Thankfully, the game as it is now is really excellent and worth the purchase price, and you can even bring 3 friends to join you.
#3 Destiny 2
You probably aren’t surprised to see Destiny 2 on this list, considering it’s widely considered as one of the best looter-shooters out there, including one of the best PS4 games. Actually, Destiny 2 is a bit of a departure from the first Destiny game, but in a good way.
One big change is that the game has now started to focus a bit more on the RPG and customization elements rather than the pure looter shooter ones. This is a nice contrast to a game like Destiny 2, where the main focus is on the gunplay, rather than anything else. Not to say that either game is bad, they just approach the genre differently.
Another part where this philosophical change can be seen is the way that Destiny 2 approaches its story, with a much more expansive focus on the narrative than before. A lot of that plays into the actual mechanics of the game as well, with boss-fights being a bit more complex than ‘go here and shoot this until it does’. In a way, it reminds me a lot of WoW’s boss battles, that often required quite a bit of tactical and strategic thinking so that you didn’t end up killing yourself (and your whole group).
All that being said, the gunplay is still awesome, and while there’s not a large variety of weapon types, there are tons of mods and items for you to grind. Weapons are also more iterative in their power, rather than being completely new, game-changing weapons, and that’s OK. A lot of the fun in Destiny 2’s combat is the actual combat itself, rather than the weapons, and you’ll always appreciate having that extra little bit of gear to play with.
What’s especially awesome though, is the recent addition of free-to-play content to Destiny 2, called ‘A New Light’. This actually constitutes a whole new campaign based off of the first Destiny’s maps and locations, so it’s a nice little introduction into the world without needing to have played the previous game. A New Light also constitutes at least a few dozen hours worth of completely free content for you to play, and if you want more, well you can always purchase Destiny 2 or one of its many expansions/DLCs.
At its core, Destiny 2 tries to recreate the golden days of both Bungie and MMOs as a whole, and with the recent split from Activision, it seems that we might actually get to see that come to fruition. Until then, it’s an awesome looter-shooter with a great focus on your character, the story and the world, so it’s perfect for those who want a bit of added narrative. Plus, there’s a form of free-to-play now, so you can always just check it out before spending your cash.
Related: Best Games Like Destiny
#4 Shadow Warrior 2
Shadow Warrior 2 is basically what you get when you take the characters and low-brow humor from Duke Nukem’ and combine it with the fast-paced, intense gunplay of Doom 2016.
If you’ve played the first game in the series, then you’re going to be pretty familiar with Shadow Warrior 2, which does pretty much the same with some additions here and there. For example, the visual Asian/cyberpunk look and feel of the world are really spot on, and all the neon lights and fluids really give you the cyberpunk vibe. This is similarly extended to the weapons, both ranged and melee, so they each have this really awesome and distinct look.
Speaking of weapons, while there’s not a ton of variety, there’s still a lot of equipment and mods to grind for. While gunplay remains a big part of Shadow Warrior 2, melee combat has taken a step up and ironically for a shooter, you can just as easily play the whole game with melee weapons as you do with guns. Most of the time though, you’ll likely find yourself switching between the two, as their deep customizations and different types of damage means you have to use both.
Of course, the combat is absolutely tons of fun, and it certainly deserves comparisons to Doom’s fast-paced combat. The dash button that’s been added really helps keep the pace fast and up-tempo, with the freedom of movement meaning you can be anywhere you feel like being. You can even jump off an enemy’s head if you feel like or just avoid a non-consequential group of enemies if you can’t be bothered.
As for the human, you probably know what that’s like if I’m comparing it to Duke Nukem’. This can be a bit hit and miss depending on the kind of person you are, and the truth sometimes the game can take it a bit too far, but overall it’s pretty entertaining. The main character and characters, in general, don’t seem to take themselves too seriously, so they always take the opportunity to throw in a pun or innuendo.
As for the story mission, you can finish it in about 15 hours if you don’t do much exploration or extra stuff. Unlike the first game, Shadow Warrior 2 has a hub-based system, from which you can launch story-based and non-story based missions. The latter is actually quite a bit of fun as there’s some form of basic procedural generation, as well as a bunch of monetary rewards you get that you can then spend in the hub world.
All in all, Shadow Warrior 2 is a great sequel from the previous game, keeping the same fun combat while added a bunch of new stuff to keep you interested.
#5 Borderlands Franchise
While in the broad sense you’re probably going to want to go for Borderlands 3, the overall franchise is probably one of the most famous looter-shooter games out there. Not only that, but the story is just amazing all around, with on-point writing and voice acting, and the humor is one of the best you’ll find in games.
Of course, the really big standout in Borderland games is the massive amount of loot that you can get. The games achieve this with a pretty insane procedurally generated system with modular gun parts that can be combined in millions of millions of different versions. That means that you can easily loot weapons for months without seeing everything, and while not all combinations are going to work for you, they’re always fun to try out and play with.
On top of that you, of course, have special weapons with their own unique traits, such as one weapon which constantly berates you every time you hit or reload, or another weapon that screams every time you use it. It’s that kind of fun and awesome variety that Borderlands bring to the looter-shooter genre, and it definitely helps to give the franchise an insane amount of replayability. Honestly, even though Borderlands 3 is already out, I’d certainly suggest you try out Borderlands 2, and even the very first game in the franchise if you feel like it.
As for the combat, it’s incredibly fun, as you’d expect from a game that has millions of potential weapons for you to pick from. The general enemies are great for mindless violence, with the main bosses offering interesting challenges for you to strategize around. Really though, what you’re going to enjoy the most is trying out different weapon types and seeing what works best for you, and you can easily spend dozens of hours going out and enjoying the semi-open world.
Thankfully, the franchise is not only about its gunplay and gun variation, but it also manages to have a pretty epic narrative. I don’t really want to spoil anything, and it’s pretty long since it spans several games, but suffice to say that you really get a kick out of the hero’s journey it sends you. You’re going to be romping about all around Pandora, fighting pretty much everything, while at the same time trying to make cash and find out what the heck is going on with this planet.
I honestly can’t recommend the Borderlands franchise enough, especially if you’re looking for a more zany and fun looter-shooter that doesn’t take itself to seriously. There’s also a big bonus in playing any of the games with friends, and while I’d suggest doing the first playthrough on your own, there’s still lots of fun in experiencing the story the first time with friends.
There aren’t a ton of really good twin-stick looter shooters, but Alienation manages to add a ton to the genre. Actually, the quality is not surprising considering the developers, who are both awesome and made a similar game called Dead nation, which has zombies instead of aliens.
For the most part, though, the game is relatively simple; you can pick between one of four classes, you load into a map, and you just exterminate everything that you come up against. This is complicated by the fact that there are tons of enemies everywhere, and the massive amount of particle effects and visuals can make things a little bit confusing (in a fun way). Similarly, each class has its own unique abilities that change up the gameplay style, and you’ll probably find yourself sticking to the class type you like the most.
Of course, the looter part is equally awesome with tons of different weapons and mods, and while there’s not as much variety as Borderlands, it’s very similar to Destiny. On top of that, you can actually reroll weapon stats using materials, something you don’t really see in a lot of games, and it certainly makes your progression much more enjoyable. Weapon slots also have their own unique system, where you can match a slot’s color with a mod of the same color to stack some beneficial buffs.
Now, while you can play the game solo, the real fun is playing with three other people in a group, as that’s where a lot of the enjoyment comes from. Unfortunately, there is this weird snap-back mechanic where one player acts as the anchor point you can’t get far away from, and it can be a bit jarring at times. This is the reason why you’ll definitely want to play with some friends, as coordination is key in Alienation. After all, you don’t want to be pushing through enemy lines and find yourself cut off from the rest of the group.
There’s really not much more to say about Alienation, and it’s a game that you really need to experience to actually get. The combat is tons of fun, and the variety in classes, weapons, mods, and stats really keeps the game going in terms of replayability. Most importantly, this is a great looter-shooter to play with friends, on-par with something like Borderlands, so definitely think about picking up a copy or four.
Warframe is probably the ultimate looter game besides Borderlands, and there’s always something new to grind. Not only that, but it’s a really fun game to play with friends, so much so that we put it in our own article on the best co-op games.
As a game that’s been in active development for well over 6 years now, Warframe has a ton of content to catch up on if you’re a new player. Spanning across all the planets of the solar system, each planet itself holds a dozen or so replayable missions which function as a linear progression from one planet to the next. On top of that, you have your archwing combat, which generally puts you out in space, as well as an open-world like the area that you can play in and explore.
The main way you get around the place is the eponymous Warframes, which act sort of a mechanical suit for your ‘soul’ since you don’t necessarily inhibit a body yourself . . . at least as far as I can tell. With over 40 of these frames to unlock and max, you can easily spend dozens of hours on that alone, and their unique abilities and skills just make it that much more fun to try and unlock everything. For example, you have your typical elemental frames, but then you have the slightly weirder ones that can teleport enemies to other dimensions.
Add to that another whole bunch of guns and melee weapons, each with their own 30 levels to max, and you’re now coming up on hundreds of hours of gameplay. Again, much like the warframes, the weapons are incredibly fun, with a surprising amount of variety among them, such as guns with different fire rates, or throwable melee weapons. Really, when you take into account all the stuff you could potentially level, it can seem like a gargantuan task.
Thankfully the game keeps it interesting with 12 story-arcs for you to play through with some really great writing and voice acting as you get to the most recently released stuff. There’s also a variety of dynamic events such as invasions, missions or just ‘kill x amount of y’ type modes which can be a nice bit of mindless fun. On top of that, there’s also faction you can grind, each of which giving unique items and buffs to your frame, although the rewards might not always be worth the effort.
Probably the biggest stumbling block though is all the stuff you have to learn, and you should feel comfortable with having to go to the wiki often. While it’s admittedly pretty annoying and frustrating to have to resort to a wiki, it’s also a testament to the massive depth of the game. That being said, you can always just do your own thing and enjoy yourself if you don’t care about min/maxing, especially since the majority of the game is PvE.
Overall, Warframe is the type of game that can give you hundreds of hours of looter-shooter fun with basically no end in sight. With the game being constantly added to, you can feel bogged down at the lack of end-game, although if you can get over that, the game is a peach. Oh, and the best part? The game is absolutely free.
#8 Diablo III
It’s pretty much impossible to have a list of looter-shooters without a Diablo game, especially considering how seminal it has been in the game industry.
Truth be told, the story of Diablo III is pretty cliche and you probably won’t find anything there that you haven’t seen before. For the most part, you become a central part of the fight between good and evil, with a journey that spans several hours and locations. It’s a bit of a shame that the story isn’t as great as the previous games, but it’s mostly just there as a backdrop for the gameplay.
Thankfully, said the gameplay is pretty awesome, and Diablo III has some of the best combat you’ll see in a dungeon crawler. The game loves to throw waves of smaller and easier enemies at you then interspace that with slightly more difficult mobs that take much more effort to kill. In fact, there’s much more focus on strategy and the tactics of fighting in Diablo III than other dungeon crawler games that mostly just have you spamming attacks until you win.
Speaking of attacks, you get to choose one of five different classes, each with its own unique abilities and playstyles. Since you can only equip a few abilities, you really have to sit and think about how they play with each other and what you actually want to use. The system itself is even set up to avoid frustration and boredom since changing up your abilities to try new things is something easily done at any point during your playthrough.
Of course, another thing that Diablo III is known for is the massive amounts of loot you can get, and certainly finding that one awesome piece is incredibly satisfying. The game also has a robust crafting system that now only allows you to make stuff, but to also upgrade the current weapons you have. This gives you more reason to hold on to things and push you closer and closer to the hoarder cliff-edge.
Now, I’m sure you’re worried about the age of the game since it came out in 2012, but the game has gotten constant updates, as well as an ‘ultimate evil’ edition, which essentially a sort of definitive edition. The game itself is also set up for procedural generation, and while some of the areas and assets might be recycled, they remain new enough to keep you interested, and the same applies to the enemies that spawn. On top of that, there’s also the on-going season which offers their own benefits and challenges, which certainly helps with the longevity of the game.
While Diablo III isn’t a traditional ‘shooter’’ in the looter-shooter genre, it still fits in well and is awesome all around. The best part though is that Diablo IV is right around the corner, so if you’re interested in that, it’s a good time to pick up Diablo III to familiarize yourself with the franchise.
#9 Monster Hunter: World
Monster Hunter: World is what happens if you took out everything besides boss battles and in a genre where developers like to throw wave after wave of nameless enemies at you, it’s nice to have this little one on ones.
As you might have guessed, the stars of MH: W are the monsters themselves and boy is there a massive variety of them for you to murder, kill and destroy. What’s great though, is that each monster is incredibly unique, not only in its abilities but also in the way it acts. For example, you might have an enemy that prefers to flee the battle often, meaning that you’re going to have to traipse across the world to kill it.
It’s that dynamic aspect of the game that makes it really enjoyable since you’re never really playing it in a vacuum. Monsters themselves add to that, since some are very territorial, and you may very well see two different monsters fighting each other as you’re out and about in the world. This really helps keep the game fresh and makes you feel as if you’re in a real living world, rather than a pre-baked one that the developers have made for you.
Of course, what adds to the complexity is the whopping 14 different types of weapon classes you can pick from, each with their own playstyle. Some weapons are great for stabbing, others are great for slashing, and yet others are perfect for pounding, and really it all depends on the type of gameplay you enjoy the most. There’s also a pretty complex upgrade tree for each weapon, so there’s absolutely tons of loot to grind and equip.
Most of your quests start off in the main city hub, which is where you’ll be doing all your upgrading and quest getting. That includes things like crafting weapons and armor, mods, and even your companion the Pelico, which is a cat-like being that works alongside you in solo or duo mode to make your life easier. Honestly, the large number of things that can be bought, crafted or upgraded can be quite mind-boggling.
Thankfully the learning curve isn’t too steep, and there is an arena mode that allows you to fight particular monsters with a particular setup, which is a nice way to introduce you to different builds. There’s also a sort of in-game wiki which gets updated every time you kill a monster, so there’s always something new you’re learning about them and how to beat them. You can also play with up to three more players, which is pretty handy since some of the monsters can be incredibly hard to beat.
Monster Hunter: World is a great looter-shooter that really captures the feel of being a hunter in a dangerous world. Granted, the story is essentially non-existent, but the game isn’t really so much about the narrative as it is about combat. If you enjoy challenging boss-fights in the same vein as Dark Souls, then Monster Hunter: World will probably be right up your alley.
#10 Apex Legends/Fortnite/PUBG
I was a little bit hesitant adding battle royale games into the article since there isn’t much progression outside of each match, and so I wasn’t so sure if I should include them as traditional ‘looter-shooters’. That being said, they do have the looter-shooter core loop, just compressed into smaller matches, and I can’t really fault them for that.
PUBG is the original BR game that really set everything into motion, and it’s not hard to see why. Being a pretty intensive military simulator, strategy and efficiency play a big part in success, and that includes the loot itself. There is, of course, a massive variety of weapons for you to pick from, including mods, and overall you have to really think about what equipment you use since a balanced loadout can be essential.
Fortnite is equally famous, being the most popular BR game, and for good reason. It’s more simplified and cartoony style makes it more approachable, and the focus isn’t so much on weapon efficiency or any one particular thing. The building also adds another interesting aspect into the traditional BR mix, making for a game that is challenging, but not so much so that you don’t want to play it.
Finally, you have Apex Legends, which sort of sits somewhere in the middle of PUBG and Fortnite. While there’s still tons of weapons and gear to loot, there’s much more emphasis on mobility and spatial awareness, and if you’re a really good player, you can get away with using the majority of weapons. Apex Legends also stands out in that it has classes, as opposed to the other two BRs, so if you want a more tailored or pre-baked approach to the gameplay, this is a good option.
Whichever battle royale you go for, there’s pretty much something for everybody, and they’re a great option if you’re looking for shorter game bites rather than sessions that last several hours. If you think battle royales might for you, check out our article on the best battle royale games.
Going into this article, I wasn’t really aware of the massive variety of looter-shooter games out there. There really is a little bit of something for everybody out there whether you want space ninjas, fantasy hunters, or modern-day spec-ops.
Whichever one you go for though, I hope you the best of luck in your looter-shooter grind. Oh, and try not to hoard too much.