Tue. Mar 5th, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Boomer shooters are a genre of first-person shooter games from the 90s, focused on shooting waves of enemies and completing levels quickly.
  • The term “boomer” probably comes from “OK, boomer,” which refers to Baby Boomers, though Generation X players were the main audience for these games.
  • Modern boomer shooters have made a comeback, offering simple, addictive fun and employing a visual style reminiscent of classic 90s shooters. They are worth playing for those who enjoy fast-paced, challenging gameplay.

“Boomer shooters” represent both an era and a genre of first-person shooter video games, and although this term for them is fairly recent, you’ve probably always known a boomer shooter when you saw one. Let’s look at what boomer shooters are.

What Is a Boomer Shooter?

Pioneering first-person shooters such as Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM, Duke Nukem, and myriad other similar games were more like arcade titles than other games of the time, and these are the archetype of what the term “boomer shooter” evokes today.

The focus is on shooting massive waves of enemies, completing a level in as little time as possible, and for some titles, racking up a high score as well. In other words, boomer shooters are almost completely about the gameplay experience, and everything else is just thin set dressing.

Boomer shooters are largely shooters from the 90s, from before the first Half-Life game. Half-Life was revolutionary thanks to its focus on narrative strictly told from a first-person perspective. Up to that point, story had largely been a distant afterthought in first-person shooter games, but following Half-Life this became much less common.

For some time, the boomer shooter style of game was downright unfashionable, but these days those classic games are undergoing a renaissance. Here’s my portable collection of boomer shooters on the Nintendo Switch for some more examples.

Boomer Shooter Collection on the Nintendo Switch Including several DOOM games, Serieous Sam, Duke Nukem, Turok, Quake, and more.

Why “Boomer”?

It’s not entirely clear who first called these games “boomer” shooters, as often happens with the internet zeitgeist. However, it’s most likely related to “OK, boomer,” which became a catch-all term for younger generations to aim at older generations as a sort of verbal eye-roll.

Strangely (or perhaps as some form of deliberate irony), this term has mainly been directed towards Generation X folks, since actual “Baby Boomers” are a much older generation and unlikely to have been the people playing 90s classic shooters. In other words, the term just means “old people shooters.”

Modern Boomer Shooters

As with all things, the popularity of certain styles of media comes and goes in cycles. Whether it is Millennials who yearn for the shooter games of their youth or a modern audience who have discovered this particular type of simple addictive fun, there’s always an audience for what boomer shooters offer.

Titles like Ion Fury, Warhammer 40K Boltgun, Prodeus, Amid Evil, and many more have resurrected the boomer shooter style of gameplay, with a few minor modern concessions in some cases. More than that, these games also employ the visual style of first-person shooter games from the 90s, often to brilliant effect.

However, to be a boomer shooter does not require that a game have retro graphics. DOOM (2016) and DOOM Eternal are both emphatically boomer shooters, but have cutting-edge graphics. There are plenty of so-called double-A titles (such as the Shadow Warrior remake) that have modern graphics, but the heart of a boomer shooter under a shiny coat of paint. Although it may sound like boomer shooters are old-fashioned and even “obsolete,” there is no such thing as an expiry date on a game design. We’re still playing chess thousands of years after it was invented, and one of the best games of 2023 (Baldur’s Gate 3) turned out to be a turn-based role-playing game that simulates tabletop gaming.

Are Boomer Shooters Worth Playing?

If you like video games for the “game” part of the experience, more than the story, then boomer shooters are absolutely worth a look. Modern video games are often very dilute when it comes to actual gameplay. Some titles are first and foremost interactive movies, and in extreme cases some titles aren’t games at all, but linear interactive movies with no pretense of being games.

As for the particular gameplay of boomer shooters, it has plenty of merits to set it apart from other gameplay-focused games. Boomer shooters are one of the best ways to experience the much-vaunted “flow state” athletes and psychologists often mention.

That’s not to say they are mindless! Often, each level, with its enemy and item placement, is essentially a visceral puzzle and requires both sound strategy and tactics to make it through. Boomer shooters are easy to learn, but challenging to master.

So if you’re tired of first-person shooters that are more than 50% walking and talking simulators, it’s never a bad time load up a good boomer shooter. You can even bring some friends.

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By John P.

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