Since Medic recently covered her 5 favorite bows in Warframe, I was inspired to do something similar, but for gaming as a whole. I’ve often found myself gravitating to bows when available, in part due to their uniqueness in a modern setting. They often play wholly differently to regular firearms, with arcs and draw times and often extra ammo types. The general trend is “rewarding if you learn how to use it,” and I love standing out through mastering the intricacies of an unusual weapon or gadget.
One last note before we begin that crossbows are also eligible for this list. So, without further ado:
1. Crusader’s Crossbow from Team Fortress 2
Of course the top slot would have to go to my favorite weapon from my favorite multiplayer shooter. I’ve written countless articles on this bad boy, and it’s still one of the primary reasons I still boot up TF2 to mess around with all these years later. With its reverse-powered damage, it adds a long-range healing (and sniping) element to Medic’s playstyle, which dramatically increases your sphere of influence and utility on the battlefield. And the squelching noise on hit means you can spycheck with it too!
2. Plainsrider Bow from Payday 2
Here’s another weapon I’ve discussed many times before. The bows in Payday 2 are among the most versatile primaries in the game thanks to their explosive ammo. It comes with all the upsides of grenade launchers with none of the downsides, making them amazing for crowd control and single-target DPS. The Light Crossbow is the prevailing community favorite, but I prefer the Plainsrider because Swan Song lets you dry-fire infinite arrows to replenish your supply, negating the ammo bag weakness that’s usually the primary weakness to the playstyle.
3. The Longbow from Tomb Raider (2013)
Here’s the only weapon on this list that every player has to use, due to Lara’s longbow being the first weapon she finds, as well as mandatory for most of the puzzle-solving throughout her adventures on the island. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t incredibly satisfying to use, with its swathe of utility features and various ammo types. Fire arrows never go out of style, and regular arrows are great for silent kills before you can craft silencers. Even into the endgame, I found most of my preferred upgrades and combat strategies revolved around the bow rather than her various firearms.
4. Glass Bow of the Stag Prince from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Like everyone, I fell in love with Skyrim on release and played it on-and-off all the years since. And also like everyone, I inevitably wound up as a stealth archer. So it was important I found a bow that really clicked with me, for all those hours I was crouched in a bush clicking heads. And in the end, the Glass Bow of the Stag Prince became my 2nd-most sentimental weapon (behind my ride-or-die, Mehrunes’ Razor) because of its unique enchantment. By killing animals with this bow, you gain passive health and stamina boosts that never go away while it’s equipped. This was great for survivability once you farmed that buff up, and led to me often quick-switching to it while running in terror for my life when picking a fight with the wrong wilderness denizen. Sure, I eventually found stronger bows, but the “health boost on command” ensured I never completely threw it away.
5. Hunter Crossbow from Planetside 2
Last but not least comes my swiss-army knife of a secondary from Planetside 2. The Hunter QCX with explosive bolts does everything my primary rifle can’t; damage vehicles, counter MAXes, fire silently, and its 6x scope doubles as a binoculars. (I also threw a flashlight on mine for nighttime or tracking cloaked infiltrators.) Since the time-to-kill is so bloody fast in PS2, I never saw a need for a regular sidearm, and always tend to regret when I foolishly de-equip my crossbow and inevitably find myself in a situation where I needed it.
Bonus #6. Wookie Bowcaster from the original Battlefront II (2005)
I’ve never really talked about this game, but the original Battlefront I and II were my drugs of choice in high school, and I spent countless hours playing it with my friends and younger brother Jake. I still think Battlefront II is one of the greatest games ever made. And while I was an engineer/jet trooper main, Jake was an absolute beast as a Wookie Warrior. Their bowcasters fired a ray of six perfectly-accurate bolts handcrafted for multi-kills, or you could charge up your shot to fire a single devastating bolt that was usually a one-hit KO. On many occasions I’d see him go toe-to-toe with a hero unit or entire squad and win through sheer grit and skill. (And god help you if he got the chance to play Chewbacca…)
There’s just something so thrilling about wading into battle with such a primal weapon. The humble bow & arrow predates history, a relic of a bygone era, so it just feels badass to equip one anyway and show your gun-wielding enemies that a true warrior doesn’t need cutting-edge tech to hold their own. As Xbox Ahoy says, bows are elegant, effective, and eternal. And I’m glad there are so many different games that let me experience their timelessness for myself.