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The best tactical shooters you can play right now

Best tactical shooters

The video gamesphere is absolutely brimming with shooters in one form or another, but they’re not all made equally. Some favour balls-to-the-wall action; others are silly, more comedic affairs. Then there are those that are a little more realistic but still come with gamified features and skills to make things more approachable. But what if you want a shooter as realistic as possible? You’ll want to seek out the best tactical shooters, and lucky for you, we’ve rounded some of them up right here.

A tactical shooter game can be played from either a first or third-person perspective, but emphasis is placed on realism. Tactical shooters require players to think carefully about their plan of attack: these aren’t the type of games in which you can simply spray bullets around the battlefield. You’ll need to evaluate all courses of action before carrying one out, and if you’re playing in co-op — as tactical shooters are often best enjoyed — you’ll want to work together and properly co-ordinate your moves.

In rounding up the best tactical shooters, we’ve chosen games that are easily playable on PC, PlayStation or Xbox consoles. We’ve chosen a range of first and third-person games, as well as games that can be played solo or co-op. So, no matter what you’re looking for, hopefully you’ll find a game to suit here.

1. Insurgency: Sandstorm

Insurgency Sandstorm screenshot
Image: New World Interactive/Focus Entertainment
  • Release date: December 2018
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S

One of the best tactical shooters in recent years, Insurgency: Sandstorm is a team-based first-person shooter that places you in the middle of a battle in the Middle East. It’s of course a fictional war, but one that’s very grounded in reality, placing you in tight quarters where every move you make matters.

Like most good tactical shooters, this isn’t the type of game where you can take several shots and still survive. Death comes easy, and so you’ll need to consider every single move you make, cover your teammates and get them to cover you. With a vast range of weapons to get to grips with, including attack vehicles and mounted machine guns, every match in Insurgency: Sandstorm is unique, thrilling and utterly tense.

2. Sniper Elite 5

Sniper Elite 5
Image: Rebellion
  • Release date: May 2022
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S

The Sniper Elite series is a long-running one, putting players in the shoes of elite sniper Karl Fairburne. It’s unlike some of the other tactical shooters on this list that you’re not exactly in the thick of war, then. Rather, as a sniper, it’s your job to stay in the shadows, taking out enemies from a distance without being seen.

Shots need to be thought-out and considered: land one just right and you’ll be treated to Sniper Elite’s signature gnarly “kill cam”. Although Sniper Elite 5 is a fictional tale, it’s set during World War II and features many real-world locations, carefully recreated using photogrammetry. It makes this shooter an immersive one, then. You’ll be on the edge of your start from start to finish.

Read our full review of Sniper Elite 5

3. Counter-Strike 2

Counter Strike 2
Image: Valve
  • Release date: August 2012
  • Platforms: PC

Starting out life as CS:GO, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include Counter-Strike 2 on our list of best tactical shooters. It’s perhaps the ultimate tactical shooter for fans of the genre, offering competitive, challenging battles across a range of environments. The best part? Anyone can jump in, because it’s free to play.

Counter-Strike 2 offers up a team-based player-versus-player experience, where your team will be pit directly against another team of real players. Different modes are available, mixing up the experience somewhat, but no matter whether you’re playing Competitive or Wingman, the goal is to survive, think strategically, and take out the other team before they can take you out.

4. Aliens: Fireteam Elite

Aliens Fireteam Elite 1 (1)
Cold Iron Studios
  • Release date: August 2021
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch

Tactical shooters are normally realistic, and, well… shooting aliens in space isn’t exactly the most realistic thing you can be doing, is it? But we’ve chosen Aliens: Fireteam Elite to be part of our round-up of the best tactical shooters for two reasons. One, it offers something a little different. And two, despite the subject matter, its focus is on considered, careful teamwork where survival is all that matters.

Four campaigns make up Aliens: Fireteam Elite, each one tasking you and your teammates to explore the wonders (and dangers) of planet LV-895. You’ll never be sure what awaits around each corner, so you’ll always have to be prepared, making sure you have the best possible equipment, your team has the most strategic formation, and you’re always ready to take down the enemy threat.

Read our review of Aliens: Fireteam Elite

5. Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2

Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 screenshot
Image: CI Games/Underdog Studio
  • Release date: June 2021
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S

Like Sniper Elite, Sniper Ghost Warrior is a long-running series focusing on sniping. The latest game in the series, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2, sees you play as Raven, a contracted sniper sent to take out a series of targets in the Middle East. The setting is perhaps one of our favourite things about Contracts 2: filled with deserts, beautiful oasis areas and ancient temples, you’ll want to take it all in. But this isn’t the type of game for admiring the scenery. You’ll need to keep your wits about you all the time, ready to take out any incoming threats.

While your sniper rifle is your weapon of choice here, there are also opportunities for close-quarters combat where you might need to pull out a different gun or your tactical knife. If you prefer single player experiences but still want something that scratches the itch of one of the best tactical shooters, you can’t go wrong with Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2.

Read our review of Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2

6. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction

Rainbow Six Extraction screenshot
Image: Ubisoft
  • Release date: January 2022
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S

The latest game in the long-running Rainbow Six series is, arguably, not the best of the bunch. Extraction is a spin-off of Rainbow Six Siege, which is still going strong almost nine years after its release. But we think Rainbow Six Extraction offers a good entry point to people who perhaps aren’t as well-versed in tactical shooters. At the same time, it still requires thought, planning and careful consideration of your environment — and it rewards good teamwork.

Rainbow Six Extraction could be considered a roguelike. With the odds stacked against you, failure is never the end, with the game offering steady rewards and encouraging you to keep on trying until you get your mission just right. Sometimes, you’ll simply need to eliminate the enemy. Other times you’ll have to recover information, set up traps, and more. Packed with close-quarters combat and some exhilarating missions, this is a tactical shooter that offers plenty of thrills.

Read our review of Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction

7. Ready or Not

Ready or Not screenshot
Image: VOID Interactive
  • Release date: December 2023
  • Platforms: PC

Ready or Not initially launched on PC in 2021 in Early Access before getting a full release in December 2023, making it one of the newest games on this list. This time, you’re not at war: you’ll play the role of a SWAT team, taking down crime in the modern-day city of Los Sueños. You’ll be involved in robberies, hostage situations, bomb threats and more, with your goal being to minimise civilian loss of life and ensure you survive yourself.

The different setting of Ready or Not makes it instantly exciting, and you’ll need to think like a real SWAT member, approaching each situation with caution and tactics. Putting a good plan into action will be the difference between life and death here, and so every single movement you make will need to be fully considered, whether you’re playing by yourself or with others.

8. Hell Let Loose

Hell Let Loose 4 (1)
Image: Team17
  • Release date: July 2021
  • Platforms: PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X

The last game on our list of the best tactical shooters is Team17’s Hell Let Loose, a realistic WWII shooter which puts up to 100 players on a battlefield. It’s not a battle royale, though: one team of 50 faces off against another team of 50, resulting in realistic, deadly, tense firefights designed to replicate the real horror of war. You’ll even play in real-world locations such as Omaha Beach and Stalingrad. This isn’t a game for the faint of heart, then, but if you want realistic warfare, look no further.

You can choose one of fourteen roles before you jump into Hell Let Loose, each with their own specific skills whether it be medic, spotter, tank commander or officer. You’ll need to utilise your role to go head-to-head with the opposing team or protect your own team the best you can. And with vehicles thrown into the mix, such as huge tanks, you’ll always need to be prepared. Battles can be thrilling, and no two will ever be the same, so you’ll need to carefully plan and prepare every time you jump into a new match.

Editor in chief // Kim's been into video games since playing Dizzy on her brother's Commodore 64 as a nipper. She'll give just about anything a go, but she's got a particular soft spot for indie adventures. If she's not gaming, she'll be building Lego, reading a thriller, watching something spooky or... asleep. She does love to sleep.