Looter shooters remain to be one of the most interesting and divisive subgenres within the gaming industry. Their ability to get players to grind and grind in hopes of finding that one, perfect ‘god roll’ piece of armor or weapon stems from iconic titles like the Diablo games and World of Warcraft, which borrowed many of the same concepts from classic tabletop RPGs. Early iterations of what we now call ‘looter shooters’ can be traced as far back as 2007 with games like Hellgate: London and Tabula Rasa.
And while those games never rose to fame like Borderlands or Warframe, they were still an essential step in improving this genre of gaming enjoyed by millions. Today, looter shooters still face a lot of criticism for having predatory microtransactions or being releasing in an unfinished state, such as with Anthem just this year.
The ‘looter shooter’ subgenre still has a ways to go and we’re confident it’ll get there if players continue to support those games that are truly fun and rewarding to play while voicing their concerns when a developer or publisher puts out a bad product. That being said, today we’re here to highlight the best looter shooters that are worth your time and money. Make sure to check back as we’ll be updating this list in the future.
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The Division 2
The Division 2’s launch couldn’t have been more perfectly timed, as Anthem had left a bad taste in the mouths of looter shooter fans after weeks of bugs and glitches. The sequel is a culmination of everything developer Massive Entertainment has learned from player feedback regarding the first game, containing a lot more content at launch as well as end-game activities to keep players busy.
The game takes place in Washington D.C. seven months after the events of the original and places you in the middle of a civil war between survivors and deadly enemy factions. Players can team-up in four-player squads and take on missions or engage in PvP combat in the game’s multiple ‘Dark Zones’.
For six years, Warframe has consistently delivered a polished and rewarding gameplay experience to players with no cost barrier for entry. Digital Extremes’ free-to-play, third-person shooter features a robust and unique class and weapon crafting system that allows players to create powerful builds without sinking in any real-world money.
Of course, this all comes at the cost of time, meaning players looking forgo purchasing any in-game platinum can expect a lot of grinding. Additionally, the game’s recent Plains of Eidolon update makes some significant changes to one of the game’s open-world locations, adding a new threat and a host of technical improvements.
Risk of Rain 2
Risk of Rain 2 is an Early Access Steam title that’s been making big waves due to its shift from a side-scrolling 2D platformer to a 3D third-person shooter. However, the sequel has maintained the series frenetic single and multiplayer combat as well as its Roguelike mechanics, making it appealing for both established fans and newcomers.
The game has you fighting your way through hordes of alien monsters, unlocking new loot as you try and find a way to escape a hostile planet. There are currently six different character classes with unique playstyles, which developer Hopoo Games plans to expand on and add more content in the future.
The popularity of battle royales has lead several developers to throw their hat in the race and offer their take on the genre. The latest and most impressive contender is Apex Legends, a free-to-play game that launched completely out of nowhere and quickly built a following of fans.
The game is all about collecting loot as you search containers and enemies’ bodies for that next great weapon, attachment, ammo, or armor to keep yourself alive long enough to be the last player standing. Developer Respawn is off to a strong start, frequently adding new characters and rewards for players to earn.
Monster Hunter: World
This one requires us to broaden the definition of ‘looter shooter’ just a bit, although there’s still plenty of shooting to be done in Monster Hunter: World if you choose to use Heavy or Light Bowguns. The Monster Hunter series is well-known for its ability to motivate players to grind for armor that not only makes you feel more powerful but looks badass too, which we’d argue is just as important if not more.
The game features a large number of streamlined mechanics and systems to appeal to a wider audience and is successful in most regards. This is a great game to come back to every few months as Capcom is always adding new monster variations and events. While its outdated multiplayer system can sometimes be a headache, hunting down giant dragons for their body parts has never felt this fun.
Borderlands 2 solidified the looter shooter genre as we know it today. Gearbox’s over-the-top comedic first-person shooter serves as a benchmark in the evolution of the genre, offering hundreds of hours of fun for squads of up to four friends as they explore Pandora and all its post-apocalyptic wonders.
Although the dialogue hasn’t particularly aged well, the game’s unique cel-shaded art style still holds up in 2020 and has recently been updated to support 4K graphics. And even though the original Borderlands wasn’t too shabby, we prefer Borderlands 2 simply because it has more environment variables in addition to a plethora of quality of life improvements.
The Destiny franchise has been under a lot of scrutiny throughout its two games, with multiple controversies regarding its RNG-heavy loot system as well as its consistent lack of endgame content. And even though Destiny 2 launched with many of the same issues as the first, Bungie has spent a lot of time listening to fans and making improvements to the game.
This is evident with the most recent Forsaken expansion, which added a bunch of new story-based content as well as refinements to gameplay based on player feedback. Now that Bungie fully owns the Destiny license, we’re hoping the series is back on track and they’ll continue to listen to their dedicated playerbase.
Shadow Warrior 2
Shadow Warrior 2 chronicles the latest misadventures of Lo Wang, a fierce mercenary capable of dishing out pain with a combination of guns, blades, magic, and bad puns. The game features up to four-player co-op, allowing you and your friends to team up and destroy demon armies.
Aside from highly rewarding loot and upgrade systems, Shadow Warrior 2 has some of the most satisfying combat mechanics, full of flashy kills that feel reminiscent of Doom. Additionally, developer Flying Wild Hog has gone on to release three expansion packs for the game, offering plenty of content for players to sink their teeth into.
Alienation is an isometric twin-stick shooter that has up to four players defending themselves from an alien invasion on Earth. The game features three classes and has teams exploring sprawling levels, packed with a variety of hostile alien species.
Aside from leveling up your character, Alienation features random weapon drops during missions and allows you to upgrade several aspects of your guns like rate of fire, clip size, damage, etc. When replaying missions, bosses are spawned with random modifiers that make each encounter feel different, adding to the game’s replayability.