ByAna Valens, writer at
Writer and games critic. As seen at the Daily Dot, Waypoint, Kill Screen, Bitch Media, and ZEAL.
Ana Valens

is Ana Valens’ weekly column introducing new players and non-gamers to essential gaming franchises.

Doom is one of those video game series that has a special, bloody place in virtually every gamer's heart. For some of us, the original 1993 Doom was our first exposure to the world of first-person shooting. For others, 2016's Doom reboot introduced new gamers to the sheer thrill of shooting, tearing, and exploding your way through a demonic infestation on a Mars colony.

The game was released shortly after id Software's Wolfenstein 3D, which already shook up PC gaming by showing players that first-person shooters could be intense, fast, and graphically sophisticated. Doom took the genre to the next level, showing off how first-person shooters can pile on the action through reflex-, skill-, and intuition-based level design.

But if you've never played Doom, you might not realize exactly what's so special about this bona fide classic series. Doom is one of those franchises that every single video game fan, new and old alike, should pick up at some point.

Here's our guide to the series if you're a beginner.

Building A Legacy

1993's 'Doom' [Source: Doom Wiki]
1993's 'Doom' [Source: Doom Wiki]

Development for the original Doom began in late 1992, shortly after the Wolfenstein 3D prequel Spear of Destiny was released. id Software developer John Carmack was experimenting with a more advanced engine that could portray graphically enhanced lighting physics. Ideas quickly churned at the company, and after the team kicked around creating a licensed Aliens video game, the team decided to create an original first-person shooter where players fought through dark mazes slaughtering monsters.

Doom released in 1993, and it performed well for a variety of reasons. The game's shareware platform allowed fans to download and redistribute a lengthy demo to newcomers, giving the game substantial exposure across college servers and internet communities. Plus, word of mouth espoused that Doom was fast, badass, and gory: three things that quickly brought about the game's popularity for computer users that had never played video games before.

And you could mod Doom, too. There was an endless amount of content to create.

Doom cemented the first-person shooter genre early on. Following up on their success, id Software released Doom II in 1994, introducing more intricate levels with superior graphical capabilities, along with the Final Doom standalone level pack in 1996 and the Doom 64 Nintendo 64 release in 1997. Each release was a success in its own right, and the Doom community continued to thrive.

Bringing Doom Into The 21st Century

'Doom 3: BFG Edition' [Source: Steam]
'Doom 3: BFG Edition' [Source: Steam]

Time passed. Doom fans wanted more Doom. And as it turned out, id Software wanted to create more Doom.


Back in mid-2000, an internal rift arose at id Software. Some developers thought id was stagnating and returning to the same concepts over and over again, while others wanted to recreate Doom for then-modern technology.

An ultimatum emerged: let pro-remake id Software developers create a Doom remake, or fire the developers that wanted to create it. Thanks in part to Return to Castle Wolfenstein's success, id's higher-ups agreed to let the project begin, and Doom 3 was well underway. The game would later be released in 2004 to major critical and commercial acclaim.

Doom 3 changed up the Doom gameplay formula, but not to an extreme extent. The classic elements remained: players navigate through flawlessly designed levels, shooting demonic enemies while moving from Point A to Point B.

But a couple changes were introduced for the better. For one, Doom 3 presented a more cohesive story, allowing players to interact with NPCs while undergoing in-game objectives. Doom 3 also toned down the light-hearted run-and-gun approach from earlier games, and served as more of a horror game. To do so, id used dynamic lighting to bring in more shadows, darkness, and an all-around darker color palette to the game.

With less light and more darkness, Doom 3 became a bit less of an FPS, and a bit more of a survival horror title. It worked. And to this day, Doom 3 is still considered one of the best Doom titles out there.

'Doom 4' Becomes 'Doom'

2016's 'Doom' [Source: Bethesda]
2016's 'Doom' [Source: Bethesda]

Doom 4's history is somewhat murky. The game was in heavy development by the time ZeniMax, Bethesda Softworks' parent company, picked up id in 2009. But a Kotaku article revealed that Doom 4 wasn't in great shape. The game was mismanaged and more cinematic in nature, moving away from the classic Doom formula into something more like Call of Duty. Fans weren't pleased, and the game was soon cancelled.


Soon after, id Software refocused. Doom was being reworked. This game would be more of a reimagined origin story, returning to the original Mars base and exploring the demonic infestation all over again. Gone was the overemphasis on story. Gone was the serious tone. The new Doom became a sleek, fun, and light-hearted romp through a world of violence. It is very, very gory.

Doom released in May 2016 to screaming praise from both fans and critics, with many feeling that the game truly returned the series to its roots while modernizing the run-and-gun action gameplay for a modern audience. Simply put, Doom felt like the 1993 game reimagined for a 2017 audience. And to this day, it's still the fan-favorite.

Get Started With Your Killing Spree

2016's 'Doom' [Source: Bethesda]
2016's 'Doom' [Source: Bethesda]

Enough talking. Let's jump into the fray and figure out which Doom game you should be playing.

The good thing about Doom is that practically every major release is solid. From 1993's Doom all the way up to 2016's reboot, there's fun to be had in every game. Your first choice largely comes down to personal preference.

If you want something sleek, fast-paced, contemporary, and graphically beautiful, stick with 2016's Doom. This game bridges the best of the classic series with the highlights of Doom 3 and an assortment of beautiful, gory kills. The 2016 reboot is very accessible for newcomers, too: even first-time gamers can start getting to work massacring demons within seconds. Doom regularly goes on sale for as low as $15, so it's worth picking up the game if you have some spare lunch money to spend.

Kicking It Old School

1993's 'Doom' [Source: Doom Wiki]
1993's 'Doom' [Source: Doom Wiki]

Meanwhile, if you want something that feels relatively modern but with a horror approach, check out 2004's Doom 3. The game still holds up today as a solid sequel to the original series, and it's often cited by fans as the ultimate Doom game. While the game's graphics and gameplay have aged a bit over time, Doom 3 is still highly enjoyable over 13 years later.

Lastly, if you want to experience Doom from the very beginning, or if you want to check out what the classic series was like, start with 1993's Doom and move onto Doom II afterwards. Yes, the original game is 24 years old, but it still feels fun, sleek, and addicting in 2017.

Before jumping in though, we highly recommend hooking up your copy of Doom and Doom 2 with an open-source port platform, like ZDoom. Doom has aged a bit poorly over recent years, and ZDoom improves the original games' graphics while cutting out the awkward control scheme from the early '90s.

Get Started On Ripping And Tearing

If you're ready to rip and tear, here's where you should start:

1993's Doom and 1994's Doom II

  • Play if: You want to experience that classic, rich Doom series gameplay that revolutionized the gaming industry.
  • But generally: Remember to use an open-source port with your copy of the first two games. Sadly, the classics' controls and graphics haven't aged well.

2004's Doom 3

  • Play if: You want a modern horror-take on the Doom series that bridges the classic games into early 2000's gaming.
  • Also play if: You want to play through one of the most beloved Doom releases in the entire franchise.

2016's Doom

  • Play if: You want a contemporary take on the Doom franchise that sticks to the classic series' run-and-gun gameplay, but revamps the game design and graphics for a modern audience.
  • Also play if: You're looking for an easy, approachable title to jump into the series.

That's our guide to Doom. What's your favorite Doom game? Share yours in the comments below.


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