What is an ‘Extraction Shooter’?

The genre includes Dark and Darker, Escape from Tarkov, and The Day Before.
A soldier stares at a wall packed with weapons in Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Extraction.
Image via Ubisoft

Extraction shooters have been gaining popularity in the video game industry over the last few years. It’s a hybrid genre that might be challenging to grasp, however, especially since it’s only emerging.

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It’s a subtle variation on traditional shooting games. As it’s been getting more popularity over the years, some have wondered if it could be the next big trendy genre for multiplayer online games, after battle royales flooded the video games market and are now losing some speed —outside of Fortnite‘s colossal player base.

As it’s only been rising for around five years, the genre’s definition is still quite blurry, though. All titles are bringing their own mix into the genre rather than replicating a fully-fledged formula, like more established genres such as Soulslike games.

The “Extraction shooter” genre, explained

Extraction Tag displaying Hunt: Showdown game page.
There are 25 official Extraction Shooters on Steam. Screenshot by Dot Esports

Extraction shooters refer to shooting games where your success won’t be based on your number of kills, but on the objectives you complete. Sure, some of the objectives will require you to kill enemies that come your way, but that won’t always be the focus of the mission. In most cases, you’ll have to find specific loot or rescue someone, and then escape the area alive (hence the extraction term).

Those game modes will generally mix PvP and PvE, so they are considered as PvPvE titles: You’ll face off against AI enemies and real players in the same missions. Hunt: Showdown has become one of the genre’s references. In the Soul Survivor mode, for example, you will fight other players in a battle royale setting and as AI zombies. Instead of other battle royales, however, the aim isn’t to kill everyone to be the last one standing. You’ll have to find Rifts and activate an item called the Wellspring. You’ll win by depleting it for the right amount of time.

Another famous title of the genre is the 2017-released Escape from Tarkov, which mixes battle royale and extraction elements. It’s one of the pioneers of the genre. Big industry players Activision got amongst the action with the launch of the DMZ beta with Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone, with the subsequent title Modern Warfare 3 leaning more into the PvE element of the genre with the Zombies game mode.

Extraction Shooters are still under-represented in 2023, although we can expect to see more of those titles launch over the next few years. On Steam, for example, you can only find 25 games under the “Extraction Shooter” tag, and around half of those are labeled as “Coming soon,” suggesting the speeding trend.

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Author
Eva Martinello
Eva is a Staff Writer from Paris. Her part-time job is charging into walls with Reinhardt. She has been covering League of Legends esports and other titles for six years. She still believes in a Moscow Five comeback. She also fell into the MMO pit and covers FFXIV and Genshin.