Kick-Ass and Chew Bubblegum! The Rise of the Boomer Shooter

hello world!
Maria Kinnun
| April 14, 2022
hello world!

Before we start, no one is actually shooting boomers here… sorry… 

So what on earth is a Boomer Shooter?

A Boomer Shooter can be a classic First-Person Shooter (FPS) from the 90s or a more modern game honoring the style of a 90s shooter. They often feature multiple guns carried by the protagonist (best not imagine where they get stored). You don’t reload, and the level design isn’t a simple straight corridor, encouraging the player to explore.

A Boomer Shooter doesn’t have to meet all these conditions as long as it embodies a majority of the characteristics. 

Some great examples of classic Boomer Shooters are Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, and Quake. For more modern examples, you’ve got Prodeus, Amid Evil, Ion Fury, and Dusk. Even though these games were released within the last couple of years, their gameplay is reminiscent of those retro FPS.

So where in hellspawn did the term Boomer Shooter come from?

We old crusties (who are not Boomers) are yelling and shaking our fists that kids these days don’t know what a good FPS game is… grumble… grumble… The young things started calling our old people FPS games, Boomer Shooters. The term stuck! Now the phrase Boomer Shooter is a well-established term to describe a subgenre of FPS games, both classic and modern ones with retro qualities.

Websites such as Humble Bundle now use the term to brand their retro classic collections. 

We can’t talk about the rise of the Boomer Shooter unless we go way back and take a look at how the Boomer Shooter came to be in the first place.

The FPS community considers 1993’s Doom to be the grandfather of the FPS genre. For sure, it was the game that blasted the genre into orbit, but it wasn’t the first. There were a few games before it that helped Doom find its way to the throne.

Below are just a couple of honorable entries that caught my eye:

  • 1974’s Maze War, which is considered the first-ever maze crawling FPS. 
  • 1987’s MIDI Maze was the first FPS with visible bullets! WOAH!
  • Later down the road and more widely known is Id Software’s 1992 classic Wolfenstein 3D.

It is fascinating for me to see the development over the years!

Left: 1974 Maze War. Center: 1987 MIDI MazeRight: 1992 Wolfenstein 3D

Doom deserves all the accolades! It is a game that defined the genre, and its spirit was and still is, strong throughout boomer shooters! You may have noticed some other popular FPS games from the ’90s, such as Heretic and Hexen looked and felt very similar to Doom. That’s because they were created using the Doom engine! Doom also inspired a lot of other games too. Games such as Alien Trilogy, Duke Nukem 3D, and Quake jumped on the success of Doom and took on board some of Doom’s graphic style and gameplay mechanics to create their versions of monster blasting fun!! 

But all good things must come to an end… 

Sadly, the Boomer Shooter era was considered over once we moved into the 2000s, when FPS games became more technical and realistic. Yes, a soldier cannot carry 10 guns at once, and yes, guns do need to be reloaded… It’s realistic, I guess.

While adding these details to our games certainly does bring more realism and helps with immersion, those characteristics killed some of the untamed boom boom fun that made Boomer Shooters so damn awesome!

All went dark for Boomer Shooters until 2016, when a certain Doom Slayer came out of retirement….

Rise of the ultimate Boomer!

Rise, my pretties!

DOOM, once again from id Software, hit the mark in 2016 with both modern FPS fans and fans of the classic Doom series. Staying true to its roots, DOOM built on the firm foundations of an already well-established franchise but tweaked the gameplay and graphics to bring Doom into the new age while keeping faithful to the mechanics and lore that Doom fans love.

For newcomers to the series, DOOM 2016 was a fresh and brutal experience. The game is a full-on fury of guns, explosions, and blood! It is hard to not feel like an absolute badass when playing DOOM. You grab enemies, rip them apart with your bare hands, and have the heavy metal riffs of Mick Gordon blasting in your ears! Watch the trailer down below.

With the success of DOOM, because of how freaking cool it is, eyes started to turn to the other games in the series. Bethesda released Doom 1, 2, and Doom 64, all optimized for modern consoles with online multiplayer. Later Bethesda released the new Quake remaster in 2021. This brought even more focus on the retro FPS genre. New players and younger audiences were beginning to enjoy these classic franchises for the first time! Older fans, like myself, were now enjoying the freshly polished re-releases. Especially with the added feature of online multiplayer!

Two years after the release of Doom 2016,  New Blood Interactive released Dusk, which proved there was a viable market for new Boomer Shooters in the modern age. Dusk was the first game in a long time to have the authentic feel of a ’90s shooter but enough improvements to make it feel modern. The game sold nearly 70,000 copies in its first month, making over $1 million! Two months later the studio released Amid Evil, another throwback to a 90’s shooter which echoes the feel of the 1994 classic Heretic.

Other indie studios are taking full advantage of this new interest in Boomer Shooters! Nightdive Studios has made a career of restoring mostly boomer shooters for modern systems shooters such as Quake, Blood, Doom 64, Turok (and more). Bounding Box Software released the awesome Prodeus in 2020; which is a Doom-inspired shooter with the feel of DOOM 2016 but with a retro pixelated graphic style. Devolver Digital has made a comeback in 2020 during this Boomer Shooter resurgence after a 9-year hiatus with their newest installment, Serious Sam 4


“Believe in something. Even if it means killing everything” – Doom Slayer

Luckily for Boomer Shooter fans, there is a huge community supporting the genre and helping it grow bigger and better than ever before. There are community-made magazines, publications, podcasts, websites, and virtual conventions with panels and breaking news. I am an active member of these communities!

Doom Master Wadazine and bring us the newest developments in the Doom world, covering mods, reviews, and every technical aspect of retro Doom that you could imagine. This is a great community for Doom fans

Quakecast is a bi-monthly podcast that discusses the Quake community and games Quake has influenced and In the Keep is a bi-weekly podcast that covers everything in the world of retro FPS. 

Realms Deep is a virtual event that features panels from members of the gaming-making community, special guests, and world premieres. It is the big event for all retro FPS fans! My husband has been a panelist here a couple of times talking about making music for FPS games.

Retro Shooter Watch is a brand new website to catalog every boomer shooter in existence.

Realms Deep, E1M1, In the Keep, Doommaster Wadazine, Quad damage

Shooting games are ranked as the number one gaming genre in the world across all ages! 

While this includes all kinds of shooters, the FPS genre makes up a majority of the category. What can I say? We all like to blow shit up!

Boomer Shooters are hard, challenging games! But they are unhinged chaos and fun that helps the player feel like they can take on the world, and I think we could all do with some of that. It’s hard not to feel like the biggest badass on the planet when you can just pull an RPG out of your ass once in a while!

Do you have a favorite Boomer Shooter memory, or are you excited for a new release? Let us know in the comments below

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1 year ago

“Love it!” said the boomer.

Brian Rimer
1 year ago

Used to love playing Quake and Duke Nukem. Its amazing how fast technology changes, how easily we found joy by simple graphics and storyline of the old games. Many game developers push/focus on graphics as a selling point when they should be focusing on gameplay these says.

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