Headshot: A visual history of first-person shooters

Many of us are familiar with the first-person shooter (FPS) creation myth—that it materialized fully formed in the minds of id Software founders John Carmack and John Romero shortly before they developed Wolfenstein 3D. Afterward, it was pushed forward only by id until Valve's Half-Life came along.

But the reality behind FPS evolution is messier. Innovations came from multiple sources and often took years to catch on.Even Wolfenstein 3D had numerous predecessors within and without id. And like the genres we've previously explored—a list including city builders, graphic adventures, kart histories, and simulation games—there have been many high and low points throughout this long, violent, gory history.

Minus '90s cult favorite Descent's (because I personally consider it a flight combat shooter), these are the shooters that pushed the genre forward or held it back. Many of us encountered at least one that truly spoke to us, but together, these titles made it cool to shoot pixel-rendered dudes, dudettes, mutants, and weird alien creatures in the face.

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