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The Greatest Video Game Weapon of All Time

VO: Daniel Paradis WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
The Greatest Video Game Weapon of All Time What is the best video game weapon of all time? Video games are full of all kinds of cool gadgets, powers and of course, black powder combustion tools that dish out enough hot lead to bring demons to their knees. We looked at all the weapons throughout gaming history, from Doom's arsenal and Call of Duty's unlocks and even considered things like Link's Master Sword and Mario's feet, to bring you our pick for the greatest, most iconic and most fun video game weapon ever. Written by Caitlin Johnson

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The Greatest Video Game Weapon of All Time: The Doom Shotgun

In pretty much 95% of video games, your arsenal of weapons is your bread and butter. You’re in hostile environments with hundreds of enemies, and you’re often spoiled for choice when it comes to what to use to kill them. But across all of gaming, there’s one weapon you’re always inclined to reach for: the trusty shotgun. Whether you’re fighting a swarm of flesh-eating zombies or in a one-on-one battle with a powerful boss, the shotgun is always going to be there for you in nearly any game you play.

As a piece of virtual hardware so ingrained in the fabric of the first person shooter genre, it makes sense that the most important game to feature it also doubles as the most important FPS. While Doom is not considered the very first of the first person shooter genre – that honor goes to Wolfenstein 3D – it is the game that set the tone for the pretty much everything that followed. Doom was a game that literally threw hell at you, and you rose to meet it with an arsenal of weapons that truly conveyed the power. But I’d argue it was the somewhat humble shotty that best conveyed that power to the player, while also laying the groudwork for years to come

In Doom, assuming you aren’t a master gamer who knows allllll the secrets and could circumvent the item order, chances are the shotgun was the second weapon you aquired (not counting your fists, of course). The pistol you begin the game with is a week little thing, deliberately stinging enemies to death with feable little pops. Trying to take on one of the more powerful Imps with a pistol was never fun; they could soak up an enormous amount of shots. But then, you upgrade, and it is dramatic improvement. The first time you blast an IMP with the shotgun it goes down INTANTLY, careening across the floor before it has even fallen over into the inevitable bloody heap. Then your character wracks the slide in all of it’s digitized glory, and you know you’ve got something really powerful in your hands. It is now clear: your shotgun is amazing, and your pistol fricken sucks.

As cool as this was, it’s not just for the sake of cool itself. This contrast between the weak pistol and the ludicrously strong shotgun is a key part of language of Doom and shooters in general as it sets up a concept that would reign supreme in shooters to this day: the weapon hierarchy. Weapons aren’t just different, some are straight up better, and the order you receive them in often lines up with how powerful each one is.

But as you soon learn, it’s also slow. That beautiful animation may look damn cool for 1993 standards – more on that in a second – but it slows down your rate of fire to about 1 second per round. As the player will learn later in the game, that slow rate of fire can be a killer if you get caught in the wrong situation, so maybe you’ll want to swap it out for the chaingun when you’re completely surrounded. Plus, the spread of a shotgun makes it much more effective at shorter range – and although this wasn’t quite as dramatic in Doom (you could sometimes snipe guys with it) it was a rule that would still carry over.

So, with just a few short minutes of shooting and experimentation, the game has taught you 2 essential rules about HOW to play it: some weapons are objectively more powerful AND no one weapon is good for every situation. In Wolfenstien 3D, once you get the machine gun you can forget your pistol, and the same goes for the chaingun once you grab that – no need to go back, just keep upgrading. Doom changed that formula and set the standard; these are rules that didn’t just work for Doom, they work for pretty much every shooter that followed. Doom – and it’s shotgun – didn’t just introduce the world to the genre, it taught us all how to play it.

There’s also one last detail that really helped the Doom shotgun in particular emerse the player in the gameworld – and another detail that would carry over to other games – the rack-slide animation, the infamous PUMP of the pump action shotgun. In doom, the weapons don’t look all that impressive. Sitting in the middle of your screen, it’s hard to get a good look at most of your weapons. The rocket launcher looks like a soup can and the pistol…I actually don’t know what that looks like. But man, when you fire the shotgun and Doomguy pumps it, you get a full view of the side of the weapon, watch the gloved hand move up and down before lowering it to fire again. This is a detail that I don’t think should be overlooked because it’s a steady reminder that your character is not a tank with a gun sticking out of his chest; he’s a big hairy guy and the guns are in his hands. Thus, the animation not only helps kill the time between shots with some eye candy, it also helps connect the player to the world he’s engaging (um, by shooting). It also emphasizes just how powerful your blast has been.

I mean, if there was ever ANY doubt as to how important the shotgun was, the developers put that to rest when they released DOOM 2 a year later, with the only new weapon they added being the “super shotgun” which doubled down on all the things we just mentioned. There’s no super chaingun, definitely no super pistol :P

And thus by teaching players how to play, helping to immerse them into the world AND by delivering that crucial sense of power so important to the genre – and by looking freaking bad ass while doing it – it’s with confidence that we can say that the Doom Shotgun is the Greatest Video Game Weapon of All Time.


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