First Person Shooters, games filled with such splendid jokes as the BFG, and a genre that's sort of eclipsed most other forms of video games. This is its history. (Well, not all of it of course and it only makes it to DOOM, but ... err... it's got nice pictures)
Spasim (1974), short for space simulation, is arguably (and that's a strong and 500$ argument) the first multi-player virtual reality game ever and the grandaddy of the FPS, unless of course it's not. The game was played by up to 32 players on the PLATO network. It looked like this and more info is available here.
Then again, Maze War, might have been developed a bit earlier than Spasim, and was -one way or another- the first 3D game to feature an avatar and a map. Digibarn has more details.
Battlezone (1980) was a major arcade jaw-dropper, that cunningly used a green and red overlay over a pretty smart vector showing monitor. See the following picture, learn more or get another history lesson.
3-Demon (1983). A 3d PacMan clone really, but it's all wireframe. MobyGames knows more.
Aliens (1986) was obviously based on the excellent Aliens movies. And it definitely was a very close to our silly-but-contemporary FPS ideal. Really. See for yourselves. Play the C64 version. Also got a nice MobyGames entry.
Now, better ignore Operation Wolf and move on to Driller (1987), a.k.a. Space Station Oblivion, the very first, very real, quite proper looking FPS by Incentive Software. The game has you shooting and puzzling enemies to oblivion, and Wikipedia has a ridiculously long entry on it.
Hovertank 3D (1991), a direct predecessor to classic Wolfenstein, was created by none other than John Romero and John Carmack. Id is still proud of this little gem, that created its first truly important graphics engine, one combining scalable sprites with nice big flat vectors.
Catacomb 3D (1991) evolved Hovertank by adding textures, a fantasy setting and a visible avatar's hand. Find out more.
Wolfenstein 3D (1992) was a shareware game. Yes. An indy gimmicky little thing, that actually changed the history of video games. Oh, you killed Nazis and Nazi-zombies, but guess you know that. No? Oh, dear...
Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss (1992). The best fantasy RPG ever to grace the PC (MobyGames entry), and the game that showed Deus Ex and System Shock the way. Created by Richard Garriot's Origin, it featured a fully 3d world and even gave the players the amazing ability to look up and down.
DOOM (1993). No need to say a damn thing, really. This juggernaut of a game evolved so many ideas and managed to create such a tense gameplay experience it simply bought each and every one of its creators a big red Ferrari (almost). It also started the whole modding and multiplayer game craze.
The rest, as they (they?) say, is history. Then again, so is Sierra...
Related @ Gnome's Lair: SEGA Mega Anser, a mouse in 1963, sick and sick video games, Mario...
Related Tags: FPS, FPS History, Video game history, First Person Shooters, Game, Games, Feature, Spasim, Retro, Vintafe, Old games, retro gaming, DOOM, Wolfenstein, Aliens, Ultima, Sierra, Origin, Driller