Dissociation as a perspective and genre has come far in the short period of time that it has been around.
Controlling a body you can see, with its own personality, emotions, moralities, and judgment is an interesting thing to consider when you also take into account that outside of scripted sequences, they are entirely your puppet to do as you wish.
Since their inception in the early 2000s, the third-person genre has only gone from strength to strength, with developers and studios giving us some of the best narrative experiences and gameplay mechanics that have formed the basis for top 3rd person shooters today.
With that in mind, here are the best third-person shooter games up until 2021.
11 Best 3rd Person Shooter Games You Can Play Right Now
“Time to hit hard and make ’em regret it.”
If ever there was a game that raised the heights of the ‘suspension of disbelief,’ it was Platinum Games’ Vanquish.
Released in 2010 for consoles and later ported to PC, this bullet hell simulator took you through all-out war, with all your classic futuristic science fiction elements including armor suits and mech battles.
Vanquish had you see through the eyes of Sam Gideon, a government agent in the future working against time to stop the Russian military government amid treachery from his own side working with the enemy.
While the plot may not be ground-breaking or the strongest suit of the game, what it excels in is achieving the perfect balance between making the player invincible and vulnerable at the same time.
With the innovative use of the largely popular bullet time mechanic and the visceral, fast-paced combat, this largely underrated classic from the developers of Metal Gear Solid: Revengeance makes it to the 11th spot on our list.
“Saint, are you forgetting which side the wheel is? Or is it just to test my faith?”
Whilst one would argue that Just Cause 3 would be a more fitting Avalanche Studios entry into this list than Mad Max, hear us out.
When the game was announced back at E3 2013, nobody really expected anything: at best, it would be a good movie tie-in, and at worst, a classic movie tie-in. So, you know we didn’t think much of the game.
Instead, what Mad Max is, is a trip down insanity lane, a story of how debilitating memories can be, and how far a man will go to keep their memories. Max, the cursed protagonist thrown into this hellhole, is much like his movie counterpart: brutal, beaten, and bitter.
From the classic Avalanche-style explosion physics to the skybox and excellent combat, to the incredibly well-crafted story, the brilliant and detailed engineering systems, Mad Max is something truly beautiful that came out of nowhere and blew us away.
Something that you should definitely go back and give a try, Mad Max is one of those concepts that makes you truly question how fragile sanity can be. 10/10. Go play it.
“I did not tell half of what I saw, for I knew I would not be believed.”
To the contemporary gamer, a surface-level analysis of every Naughty Dog game is that they are carried by the narrative, which focuses on delivering an interactive movie driven by huge set pieces and cutscenes. This accusation is levied the strongest for the Uncharted franchise.
But a deeper look at Naughty Dog’s Indiana Jones simulator will reveal that Uncharted 2’s success wasn’t based off of the narrative, in fact, it succeeded despite the plot not being as good as the later games would come to have.
But what the game lacked in the story, it made up for in the experience provided. Many in the industry, including us, chart the second installment in this long-running franchise as the absolute height of the series, focusing on not putting the player in Nathan Drake’s shoes but instead letting gamers develop their own Drake throughout the story.
Aside from that, Uncharted 2 also contains the classic Naughty Dog deliverables (we never denied it.)
The action sequences, instant quips, and memorable chemistry between Nathan and the rest of the cast are what make this an unskippable PS3 classic.
“Life is cruel, of that, I have no doubt. One can only hope that one leaves behind a lasting legacy. But so often, the legacies we leave behind…. are not the ones we intended.”
Gears of War 2 took what the original game established and cranked all of it up to 20. The story, weapons, combat, cover system, pacing, and the setting were all up there with whatever other genres had to offer, and then some.
In this visceral third-person shooter, you play as Marcus Fenix from the returning Delta Squad, continuing their fight against the Locust on behalf of the COG.
Set six months after the ending of the first game, Gears of War 2 offers a journey filled with violence, betrayal, and grief.
We still got chills when we got to the prison cages in the Hollow on our current playthrough.
A much-improved offering over the original, Gears 2 is undoubtedly the best third-person shooter that the Xbox library has on offer.
Continuing the trend of sequels leaps and bounds better than their predecessors, EA had one of the best libraries that any publisher would kill for in the mid-00s, till early 2010s.
Dead Space 2 was part of that impressive set of games, going above and beyond the first iteration of this survival horror series.
When viewed from a bird’s eye perspective, it is easy to dismiss this Visceral Games title as yet another game whose potential was crippled due to the Hollywood fetish that the publisher carried.
But one closer look at the surface will tell you that this game already had massive shoes to fill. And fill it did.
As was the nature of video games during this era, DS2 also included various changes for the better, e.g., weapon balancing and enemy variety, along with a story that saw our tragic protagonist, engineer Isaac Clarke, battle his way through yet another Necromorph outbreak on a space station orbiting Saturn.
Nobody can hear you scream in space. Grab this one today.
“I started to wonder if my luck was about to run out, when I realized, it had a long time ago.”
If Mad Max was the journey into insanity, Max Payne 2 is the abyss that is at the beginning of that journey.
Remedy Entertainment outdid themselves with this one, and Sam Lake truly came into his own with the script for this project.
You play as the titular Max Payne, a guilt-ridden, painkiller-addicted, bitter, and unstable cop en route to figuring out a violent and disturbing conspiracy, with nobody to trust, not even his own nightmares.
Before Rockstar took over and made the series their own with the third installment, Remedy showed what they could really achieve with proper backing from the former; an award-worthy score, the staple bullet-time mechanics, gunplay, and a brilliant narrative pacing.
The Fall of Max Payne is a lesson in crippling grief, and what it can make of even the best of us.
“We have to give everything, even if that means our lives. We will stop at nothing. We will fight for the lost.”
Largely recognized as the best game that the series has to offer, Mass Effect 2 is a combination of three of the most significant mechanics that third-person games are known for, specifically Bioware; combat, the relationship between the cast, and exploration.
The sequel to the first game had the EA-owned studio make improvements across the board, from the presentation, the combat, storylines, to the sound and game design.
Mass Effect 2 sees you as Commander Shepard on course to stop the Collectors from invading human colonies.
This suicide mission is helped on its way through the heightened tension and stellar setting, a brand-new Normandy, and a brilliant supporting cast.
Seen as one of the absolute best games of all time, the remastered version of Mass Effect 2 as part of the Legendary Edition trilogy is now available on multiple platforms for newer generations to experience.
“The world calls for wet work, and we answered. No greater good. No just cause.”
The genius of Hideo Kojima lies in how unpredictable he is, and Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain is a solid example of that statement.
Set around the events before the original game, which was released in 1995, this massive prequel makes the player step into the shoes of Venom Snake, a medic who was enlisted in the Diamond Dogs and then later cloned to be a lookalike of the Big Boss, or Naked Snake.
“Look, you wake up one day and your legs, they just give, and you just can’t run anymore.”
If there is one thing that Rockstar Games does well, it’s in creating massive, sprawling, living, and breathing worlds with interconnected characters bound together by chemistry and an asymmetry of sorts, all set up on an award-winning satire.
The fact that GTA V is still one of the best-selling games even today, more than 8 years after its release, is a testament to how close the game is to perfection.
This is the game that birthed the absurdly high expectations that we have today from the studio, and rightly so.
GTA V is the magnum opus of the series, everything that it houses is gold.
The sheer number of things to do, plotlines to explore, characters to interact with, and items to find, including the number of conspiracy theories that took players years to unravel, makes the fifth installment in this long-running series truly great.
And that also includes being one of the best third-person shooters, with excellent gunplay and the capacity for visceral fun.
Words can’t do it justice. GTA V is a must-play no matter what platform you’re on.
“It takes a strong man to deny what’s in front of him. And if the truth is undeniable, you create your own.”
War. It’s real. The people fighting, praying for another day, and dying are real.
Video games over the years have been afforded the luxury of numbing the trauma and the consequences of the violence of man.
There is a reason why most of the top-selling video games condone violence, on an almost unprecedented level.
But Spec Ops: The Line isn’t most games. Even with the good core gameplay, this is more a contemporary commentary on the nature of war and what it does to the human psyche.
The story along with the main protagonist, Captain Walker, is just a vehicle, and you’re the passenger.
This underrated gem forces you to understand the consequences of actions that seem fictional, and the dystopian Dubai that it presents as the setting starts getting more real as the game progresses, coming to a head with the infamous white phosphorus segment.
With the meta-narrative, the various clues unraveling the multiple harrowing layers of the story, to the criticism of the player agency, this game pulls no punches. Spec Ops: The Line is a journey through hell.
“We’re thieves in a world that don’t want us no more.”
If there’s any video game that defines the work that goes into making one, toiling day and night to perfect even the littlest of things such as an encounter that can only be had once at a particular time and a particular place, it is this Rockstar epic.
The best sequel to exist for any game, RDR2 is an experience, a masterful web of lies, deceit, faith, family, and of course, the old West.
At the turn of the century, Arthur Morgan is part of a band that represents a time gone by. This prequel to the original delivers in more ways than we could have never expected, with a giant world to explore, people to interact within numerous ways, and beliefs to fight for, and against.
There is a reason why the team over at Rockstar takes so much trying to craft all of their offerings. When they do, they end up with something like this, a tale for the ages, both in its narrative and gameplay.
The perfect setup for John Marston to take over and an unparalleled, timeless classic in its own right. The best third-person shooter and one of the best games of all time.
The shooter subgenre is a lot more than just the FPS. Its third-person cousin has more than its fair share on offer. Make sure you check all of these out and let us know what you would include in your list!