We Ranked Every ‘Doom’, From Middling To Face-Melting
Remember 'Doom Pinball'? We sure do.
The Doom formula is gloriously uncomplicated: give players a mountain of guns that are deeply satisfying to shoot, and then put them in increasingly complicated and twisty rooms full of things to shoot at. Simple.
Indeed, unlike other franchises that have assumed that getting bigger means getting better, the Doom games have never really strayed from their sulphur-stinking path. 2016’s Doom might look very different from 1993’s Doom, but such differences are refreshingly superficial; at the end of the day, both games are about loading up a shotgun, moving through an alien landscape, and shooting the fuck out of waves of pig-faced nasties.
Even Doom Eternal, the forthcoming iteration of the franchise announced out of E3 (which, for the record, looks ecstatic and beautiful and insane and everything you’d want such a shooter to be) seemingly hasn’t upset the cart of rotten apples.
Mind you, that doesn’t mean that the quality of the series has necessarily stayed totally steadfast over the years, and not all Doom games were made equal under God (or the Devil, probably).
To that end, and in honour of the forthcoming release of Eternal, here is our comprehensive ranking of the games, their badassdom empirically measured on a scale that starts with Dad Wearing A Leather Jacket and moves all the way up to Suckling Liquid Barbiturates From The Pronged Teat Of Satan Himself.
8. Doom RPG / Doom RPG II
Maybe it’s a little unfair to include Doom RPG and its sequel on this list at all, given that the mobile-only games are usually regarded as spin-offs rather than part of the strict canon. But they’re both so egregious – so downright heretical – that they deserve at least something of a mention.
Taking everything that is special about the series – i.e. running in circles and blowing shit up – and slowing it down to fit a turn-based combat mechanic is a little like setting a speed limit on a Sonic game, and the whole RPG series has all the verve and grit of a sedate game of Bingo.
Worse still, the games ham-fistedly try to expand Doom lore. Which is cute and all, but the series has gotten on just fine while boasting the emotional and intellectual maturity of an ’80s hair metal album cover, thank you very much.
7. Doom Pinball
To be honest, this one is something of a hidden gem – an impactful and powerful gaming experience that will challenge what you know about player agency, morality, and the future of technology.
Just kidding. It’s pinball with some devil sprites. Don’t know what more there is to say, really.
6. Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil
Now we’re really cooking with gas. A delightfully bare bones expansion pack enlivened by the appearance of a gravity gun called The Grabber and a slow-motion mode, Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil doesn’t make the mistake of messing with the formula.
In fact, the game is even more stripped-down that its immediate predecessor, both in terms of plot and gameplay — rather than a host of squabbling and terrified scientists, Resurrection of Evil spotlights one, the underrated Elizabeth McNeil, and instead of an ever-shifting set of goals, it keeps the player motivated by only a simple aim: to fuck over as many demons as humanly possible.
Of course, it’s only an expansion pack, so it’s rather short, and that it never tries to reinvent the wheel might make it feel like an entrée rather than the main course. But hey, even over such a brief running time, it packs one helluva cranium-shattering punch.
5. Doom 64
Don’t be fooled – Doom 64 is a port, basically, with very little to separate it from the first two instalments in the franchise. But hey, no matter how many times you photocopy the Mona Lisa, a rendering of a masterpiece is still a masterpiece, and 64 is a perfect, self-contained FPS experience.
More than that, 64 was the gateway drug for so many fans of the franchise – the game that they stayed up all night playing, fingers creaking, eyes blurry from the glow of the television. It’s hard not to have a special place in your heart for such a crude, beautifully demented little object.
4. Doom 3
Love or loathe modern, jumpscare-saturated horror video games, but there’s no denying the place so many of them sprang from – Doom 3. Using revolutionary audio technology to totally alter the way that games sounded, the third instalment took immersion to a new level, forcing players to use their ears as well as their eyes to locate the source of their blood-thirsty foes.
After all, how many of us have never been the same since we first experienced that groaning pleasure of stepping into a dark room, gun in hand, only to hear a low rumble coming from a corner of the shadows?
3. Doom II (1994)
Sure, the second instalment in the franchise doesn’t have the bells and whistles that define the later entries, nor does it have the state-of-the-art graphics that modern shooters now boast. But it’s proof that games don’t really need either.
Instead, Doom II leans heavily into player satisfaction. The guns look good; they sound good when they go off. The enemies are challenging, but never in a way that feels like the game is cheating you with artificial difficulty levels. And the game mechanics unfurl slowly: as players gain more skills, they have more opportunities to test them. Basically, it is one of the Gold Standards for the modern shooter; proof that innovation should never trump simple, uncomplicated pleasure.
2. Doom (2016)
Credit to old mates over at id Software – they sure do know how to give Doom fans what they want. Within the first five minutes of loading up their 2016 instalment of the franchise, the player traverses a burning, ruined laboratory, collects a nasty-looking shotgun, and gets forcefed pretty much the entirety of the plot over the course of a single audio log.
Oh, and they get to shoot a veritable fuck-tonne of demons, establishing a breakneck pace that the game never once back down from.
Indeed, if this 2016 shooter has any sister mastwerwork, it’s George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road. Like that film, Doom 2016 never gets bogged down in overly complicated plots or distracting character arcs. It has all the immediacy of a shiv; all the brutal intensity of a literal stroll through hell. For this critic’s mind, it’s one of the best shooters of the last five years — a stinking, vicious masterpiece, as gleefully and determinedly entertaining as this kind of mayhem can get.
Nostalgia can tend to scramble lists like this, sending old childhood favourites to spots higher than they deserve. But in the case of Doom, it’s not simply their rose-coloured glasses that give an entire generation of gamers the warm and fuzzies when they think back to the title that started it all; the blood-drenched digital ruckus that kicked off a revolution not just in shooters, but in pop culture generally.
No, Doom’s place in the gaming canon has not been cemented by rosy listicles, but instead by its simple, uncomplicated replayability. Don’t agree that it’s as much as a masterpiece now as it ever was? Then simply load it up and play it. Still unconvinced? Sit back down and play it again.
Each time there’s something new to uncover; each time there’s that old thrill again, as arresting as the day your six-year-old eyes first clapped upon the blood orange cover at the video store. And each time it seems a little clearer that horror shooters might have peaked, all the way back in 1993.
Joseph Earp is a critic and journalist who writes about horror movies, weird fiction, metal and video games. He can be found at @Joe_O_Earp.