Looter shooter (also called loot shooter) is a subgenre of action role-playing games that incorporates shooter gameplay and procedurally generated weapons and equipment. A main goal of games in the genre is obtaining better items through grinding for random drops, typically with rarities ranging from common to legendary.[1] While it saw its genesis in the 2007 Hellgate: London, it was not popularized until the release of Borderlands in 2009. The genre went on to encompass some of the most successful AAA games on the market. It is common for looter shooters to be games as a service, but this model emphasizes that players ignore other games, and can lead to player burnout.[2]


Hellgate: London was the first to combine role-playing games with first-person shooters, also promoting itself with features equivalent to the current label of "games as a service", with developers continually providing new paid post-release content. However, the game suffered from lackluster gunplay and met with mixed reviews, not achieving significant popularity. This changed upon the release of Borderlands, which had more compelling gameplay due to Gearbox Software's experience making shooters. It created the mold of the genre despite not being its first entry. Borderlands 2 (2012), which had higher quality and sold even better than the original, expanded the genre's reach further.[3]

Warframe (2013) continued to retain popularity for numerous years, establishing the games as a service model for looter shooters, also introducing the idea of microtransactions to be able to purchase rare items with less grinding, which most subsequent such games would go on to adopt. This was followed by the release of Destiny in 2014, which also used microtransactions, and marked a shift in the genre by introducing elements of massively multiplayer online game (MMOs). Although the game called itself a "shared-world shooter" rather than an MMO, it featured raids, clans, equivalent to MMO guilds, and a central hub world. Destiny also introduced PvP modes in addition to the typical PvE experience.[3]

The Division (2016), a large commercial success for Ubisoft, had an uncommon amount of realism for a looter shooter game, although it was decried as formulaic by critics. Alienation (2016) was unique due to its isometric viewpoint and twin-stick shooter gameplay. Destiny 2 (2017) expanded on the previous game's story mode, becoming a title widely considered better than the first. Remnant: From the Ashes (2019) was notable for its soulslike gameplay, though only experiencing an average reception from critics and fans. Anthem (2019), a BioWare-developed title set on an alien planet and featuring flight-capable powered armor, was hyped as a sea change in the genre, but became a critical and commercial failure, blamed on development issues such as multiple shifts in direction and forced usage of the Frostbite Engine.[3] Electronic Arts ultimately opted to end further development and stop content updates after only two years, rather than proceed with a planned "Anthem 2.0" rework.

Outriders (2021) was notably not a live service title, releasing as a fully complete game.[3] With average reviews from critics, it is unclear if the game was profitable.


  1. ^ Stuart, Keith (2021-10-11). "Dungeon crawler or looter shooter? Nine video game genres explained". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2023-04-06.
  2. ^ Hall, Charlie (2019-11-08). "Nine new genres that defined the decade in games". Polygon. Retrieved 2023-04-06.
  3. ^ a b c d Howard, Jessica (2021-04-01). "The Evolution of the Looter-Shooter: A History of Gaming's Latest Sub-Genre". Collider. Retrieved 2023-04-06.