This morning while watching a video of Wolfenstein 3D from 1992 and Doom (1993) I noticed that weapons don’t need to be compensated for any recoil. Then on my trip down memory lane I watched a Half Life (1998) video and there, automatic weapons at least seemed to have some form of recoil.

There must have been something happening in between that introduced this feature into the game design of FPS, that is almost ubiquitous nowadays.

Definition of recoil

For the definition of recoil, I will use the definition used in the Counter Strike wiki, which I found to be a good summary of what I thought it is:

Recoil is the backward momentum of a gun when it is discharging bullets and causes players' screens to "shake". This often causes the shooter to sway away from their intended target after the first shot due to the momentum "kicking" the shooter's aim. The higher the recoil, the more the screen will vibrate.

To which I will add a picture to illustrate (CSGO recoil pattern of AK47):

CSGO AK47 bullet spray

My question

This led me to wonder:

Which game introduced this concept of recoil when shooting and thus the compensation necessary to be accurate while shooting say, full auto or rapidly, in a FPS ?


4 Answers 4


The first shooter to display weapon recoil, that I have managed to find, is the Dirty Harry (1990) video game.

The game is a side-scroller in which players must guide Dirty Harry throughout San Francisco. He wears a blue suit, although it can be exchanged for a white suit. He wields his signature Smith & Wesson Model 29, and players have the ability to draw the weapon without actually firing it. The Smith & Wesson Model 29 also exhibits a recoil effect when fired.

To fulfill the FPS requirement, Time Crisis (1995) might be your best bet as it was an arcade game so the point of view is your own eyes. I know from personal experience that the arcade machine forced recoil.

Most sources tend to be relating this back to the police Fire Arms Training Simulator (FATS) training systems, like this article does, pg 15::

Now we use large screen TVs and soldiers stand with plastic M-16s that fire laser beams that when you hit the target on the screen, the target drops. The law enforcement community extensively uses a device known as the FATS trainer: Fire Arms Training Simulator. You hold the gun in your hand, you pull the trigger,the slide slams back, you feel the recoil, you hit the target, the target drops, you miss the target, the target shoots you. It is a very effective law enforcement training device.

But if you go to the local video arcade, you’ll find an almost identical device. A game such as Time Crisis for example, in which you’ll find that the pistol, the slide slams back, it recoils in your hand, if you hit the target the target drops, if you miss the target the target shoots you. The only difference is in the FATS trainer, if you shoot the wrong target, you’ll be reprimanded, ultimately even fired.But when the kids are playing the game there is no adult supervision, there is no standard, there is no control.

Or mass murder performed by children, as this article does:

  • Silent Scope has a mounted sniper gun with a scope. You sneak up on people and shoot ordinary people for no reason. When you kill, blood splatters everywhere. You get extra points if you shoot your victims in the head.
  • Time Crisis and Time Crisis 2--This has a realistic recoil action gun. Guns make sounds like real gun sounds. It is 3D.
  • Mortal Kombat series, Mortal Kombat Ultimate--This has joysticks. You use your fists and legs and feet. Bodies explode blood when you hit them. Mortal Kombat Ultimate says on the screen--``There is no Knowledge that is not Power.'' Does that mean that if you know how to kill someone, then you will have power?
  • 4
    I suspect Dirty Harry was just an animation that didn't affect accuracy - have you played it or seen gameplay? Time Crisis is similar - real physical recoil, but doesn't affect accuracy as OP outlined. Good answer format and sources.
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 19:34
  • 23
    I feel like the "games cause violence" argument has little relevance to this question.
    – Shadow
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 3:50
  • 5
    You start off with a good summary, but then go off on an entire tangent with the video-games-cause-murder article. Downvoted. Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 9:03
  • 3
    @quetzalcoatl: The non-bolded part does not add any relevant context though. Its value to the answer would not diminish if you remove all non-bolded text from the third quote - thus making it superfluous as Shadow is suggesting. The same applies to the second quote other than maybe the sentences directly adjacent to the bolded text. As it stands, roughly half of the entire answer is an unrelated "game violence" rhetoric that really doesn't add anything meaningful to the question at hand.
    – Flater
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 12:57
  • 4
    @quetzalcoatl: That's an exageration. There is nothing wrong with framing a quote, but that becomes hard to justify when the frame itself takes up 90% of the space and doesn't even touch on the topic at hand. A frame should be there to help make sense of the bolded part (because I do agree with you that an incomplete sentence is hard to understand), but the video game violence paragraphs do nothing of the sort.
    – Flater
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 14:48

More of an RPG with FPS elements than a pure FPS, but the original System Shock from 1994 had projectile weapon recoil.

This full-sized combat rifle is based on the 2064 Interlocutor KR-5. It's not quite as powerful as it sounds, and it produces a big recoil and thus has a longer recovery time than the other weapons. Still, it's handy to have around, and can dispatch most enemies with a couple of shots. Penetrator ammo is very scarce, but highly effective.

enter image description here

  • 10
    Why do you believe it's the first one? Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 17:07
  • 4
    I'm not sure that answers to this question will need much explanation. This answer provides a link to proof that the game had recoil, which seems good to me.
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 18:42
  • 2
    Neuro-Reflex Dampening was a power from System Shock 2, which came out in 1999. I haven't played the original System Shock so I can't comment on that either way. Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 18:57
  • 2
    @codebreaker, the linked page does list it as a "System Shock 2 Psionic Disciplines", so sounds like 1999 is a better date for this.
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 19:29
  • 5
    @Wrigglenite: Answers to "What is [superlative]?" questions cannot be universally verified in every case. How would you prove it's the earliest, if not by process of exhaustive elimination (which is an impossible quality standard). If it were easily verifiable, the question itself would be moot as the answer could be definitively found using the verification process (which suggest it's easily googleable). For example, we shouldn't downvote this answer with a '94 reference just because someone else found a valid answer from '90 (after this answer was posted).
    – Flater
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 13:03

According to Phoenix: The Rise & Fall of Video Games, 3rd edition :

In 1989 :

Konix developed other controllers for the system. One was a light gun that had attachments to turn it into a light rifle. It even had a recoil when it fired to make it realistic.

According to wikipedia, the system with recoil was first demonstrated in February 1989 at Earls Court Exhibition Center in London.

(but this was physical recoil, not animated recoil)

In the March 1984 issue of Crash: Micro Games Action, page 25, the game "The Pyramid" is reviewed and the review says:

there is even a recoil effect on the laser

enter image description here

(also if you consider military simulators, already by World War II there were recoil simulators for automatic weapon training)

  • This is interesting, but I think the question is looking for which animated game first had impacting recoil. Based off of that line describing the animation as good, I doubt they meant more than it was neat to see recoil vs it actually recoiling and impacting gameplay. Unless someone can prove it had actual game-impacting recoil.
    – n_plum
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 16:00
  • 2
    @n_plum For the 1989 system, since the gun is being physically affected, it would affect the game play. For the 1984 game, I don't know if it affected game play. I don't remember the game at all.
    – DavePhD
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 16:14
  • 1
    This answers the title's 'concept' perfectly, however "the project ultimately went under when Konix ran out of cash without a completed system ever being released." - so the only reason this wouldn't be a good answer is if the title said What was the first game [that you could play]...
    – Mazura
    Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 1:52
  • 2
    Notably: "Some people, including Holloway, contend that this was due to major international competitors leaning on Konix's suppliers and financiers to prevent the project reaching the market" - thanks a lot Nintendo... this thing would've been awesome.
    – Mazura
    Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 1:53

Quite frankly, I think you answered your own question by posting CS:GO's AK spray pattern. Counter strike 1.6 was released in 2000 and was a mod for half-life even before it's 2000 release. Most certainly the first game to implement a mechanic for compensating recoil(not recoil itself, but compensating for it) that was an absolute must know for playing. There may be other earlier games using some form of recoil before Wolf 3D, unfortunately, I don't know them.

As for Wolfenstein and Doom, both engines used auto aim, as the keyboard isn't that accurate for aiming. The chaingun from Doom had some kind of spray pattern when fired, as such, it was better to tap fire a maximum of 2 bullets to keep the aim straight on far away targets. Firing any more than 2 would offset the bullets in a increasingly more inaccurate spray. Super good at close range, not so on far away targets. In a sense, even Doom had a primitive form of recoil.

Most FPS game engines from the 90s where fairly arcade in essence and not simulating actual recoil. We are talking : Id Tech 1(doom),Build Engine(Duke Nukem),Unreal Engine(Unreal Tournament), Id Tech 2(Quake2), Id Tech 3(Quake 3). Any other engine with better recoil mechanics are basically forks of these. Even Half-life's engine is a heavily modified version of the Quake 1 engine.

So as far as I know, the omnipresent mechanic we know today without going too far away in the past is taken from games like Counter Strike, Call of Duty and Rainbow Six.

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