For fans of the cooperative tactical shooter genre, we’re in something of a renaissance with numerous exceptional titles hitting the market. Here are the five best tactical shooters your friend group should be playing.
The Tactical Shooters You Should Play
I’m a massive fan of tactical shooters. So much so, in fact, that I took part in milsim operations and joined a gaming “unit” back in the day for Arma 2: Operation Arrowhead. These days, I enjoy small, close-quarters operations, like what we see in Ground Branch and Ready or Not, alongside my wife.
But if you have a sizable friend group with at least four active players, you can clear hostile engagements and sweep rooms with ease. But first, you need the right game.
Ready or Not
When it comes to production quality, too few tactical shooters compare to the scale and scope of Ready or Not. It’s a hard-hitting cooperative shooter that places you and your pals in the boots of a SWAT team responding to high-profile situations in a fictional city.
You will rescue hostages, take down active shooters, and raid compounds, postal offices, and hospitals in an effort to save civilians and stop gangs and terrorists from ruining lives.
To accomplish this task, Ready or Not provides us with a large selection of highly customizable weapons, including submachine guns, shotguns, and handguns. You can add suppressors, lights, lasers, grips, and more to truly make the weapon platform you desire.
The only downside to Ready or Not is, unfortunately, the slow development. It has been many months since the last update, as of this writing, and the AI is rather bonkers presently.
Despite its reputation for slow development times, Ground Branch, which was released into Steam Early Access in 2018, has enjoyed numerous major updates that add in additional maps/operations, equipment, and customization, alongside the usual bug fixes and tweaks.
In Ground Branch, unlike the previous SWAT simulator, you don’t have to worry about arresting anyone or collecting evidence. Your goal is simple here. You come fully equipped with powerful weapons that have some of the best sound designs in the genre, and then you take down foes with extreme prejudice in both close- and mid-range operations.
It’s my go-to for a more relaxing cooperative shooter, as my partner and I can take our time clearing every room on every floor in Compound. Or, alternatively, we can use speed and precision to clear a jet plane in an all-out assault.
The developers, who hail from Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon studios, clearly have a lot of love for the genre. It shows!
Six Days in Fallujah
As one of the newest entries in the tactical shooter genre, Six Days in Fallujah, while expensive for the amount of content available, is unparalleled in its realism, authenticity, and commitment to sheer terror along with trial and error gameplay. You will absolutely make mistakes that cost you and the entire team. Thankfully, the exceptional in-game voice comms make for the most immersive and enjoyable experience in the genre.
You might remember Six Days in Fallujah, as it went through development hell for countless years, being delayed and canceled, before finally seeing a release on Steam Early Access in June of 2023.
Anyway, Six Days in Fallujah boasts one of the best small-unit, close-quarters battle experiences in the tactical shooter genre. You and up to three friends/random players will deploy in an extremely hostile, claustrophobic, procedurally generated map that varies in layout, complexity, and enemy density. The objectives typically remain the same, however. You must find weapon caches and clear compounds. But the enemy knows you’re coming, and they often have the high ground to ambush you.
It’s a tense and occasionally overwhelming experience that is not for the lighthearted or those brand-new to the genre.
The Arma franchise is one of the pioneers of the tactical shooter genre, though it’s more simulation than action-oriented game these days. That said, Arma 3 is something of a platform with limitless potential and possibilities, so long as the community can dream up new scenarios.
You can fly World War 2 fighter planes and tanks, ambush Marines in Vietnam, or take part in modern-day combat scenarios using real-world technology while assaulting a facility using an RHIB. A single player can change up the scenario on the fly, acting as a sort of Dungeon Master, to throw curveballs at the team.
I still fondly remember one scenario in which a group of forty-something milsilm players and I stormed the beach just down the path from a backwoods airport in the dead of night, taking the main facility and using it as a FOB to drop artillery down on the enemies in the hills. We sat around waiting for a counterattack for approximately one real-time hour, until dawn in-game, before a helicopter picked us up off the roof amidst gunfire and mortars dropping from the hills.
If that’s the type of gameplay and experience you enjoy, then nothing compares to the scale and possibilities available in Arma 3.
And lastly, we have something different. SCP 5K isn’t your typical tactical shooter, as it incorporates the horrific world of SCP into the mix. You and your pals will infiltrate an SCP facility in an effort to uncover a conspiracy and save the world. But along the way, between customizing exquisitely detailed weapons and using small-unit tactics to clear rooms, you’ll face off against genuine terrors.
From the iconic Peanut to zombies wearing party hats, SCP 5K features truly horrific monsters that barrel through doorways and down hallways with your flesh and blood in mind. If you can withstand the anxiety and fear long enough to hold your ground and unleash hellfire, you may survive the facility.
That said, this isn’t one for the lighthearted. It’s truly scary at times, and that can feel overwhelming while trying to adhere to tactical shooter basics.
The tactical shooter genre is absolutely booming with high-profile and exceptional games, with so many new ones on the horizon. Whether you’re new to the genre, looking for the next big game, or want to dip your toes into a unique cooperative experience, these five provide an excellent starting point!