The Best Video Game Flamethrowers

The Best Video Game Flamethrowers

Is there any video game gun more awe-inspiring than a flamethrower? Most shoot bullets, but the flamethrower? It blasts enemies with giant gouts of flame, searing them like a juicy steak. A good flamethrower will give you some of the best moments in video games, whether it’s a close save from an otherwise unassailable foe or the amusing side effects of burning a pot farm.

How Flamethrowers Work

A flamethrower consists of three basic components: the fuel, the propellant, and the ignition. When the operator pulls the trigger, the propellant sends the fuel through the ignition, where the fuel ignites, turning into a long stream of flame.

There are two kinds of flamethrowers: napalm and gas. Military applications tend to use an ignitable jelly, such as napalm, which shoots further and lasts longer. Napalm is effective for clearing out structures like concrete bunkers, because it can bounce off walls and burns longer. Civilian flamethrowers, such as the ones used by moviemakers and farmers, tend to ignite a gas instead, which creates a more familiar flame effect like the one you see in movies. It may look more impressive, but it shoots at shorter range and is therefore be less potent.

The best video games rely heavily on feedback, the response players feel when they perform an action. When you shoot a monster with a shotgun, for instance, it explodes into little bits and pieces, confirming that you have, in fact, killed the monster.

With flamethrowers, it’s easy for that to go wrong. A lot of video game flamethrowers are intended for combat, but they’re based on movie flamethrowers, which are intended to be spectacular but don’t seem dangerous. What you get, as a result, is a jet of flame that looks amazing but hits like a feather. Real flamethrowers have ranges that can last over hundreds of feet and can destroy anything; the average video game flamethrower has almost no range and is best against small enemies.

This is why so many video game flamethrowers are bad — they’re so busy emulating movies that they don’t seem very effective. As a result, players move on to other guns.

The best video game flamethrowers have an effect that is immediate. When a monster gets hit, it howls in agony. Enemy soldiers come running out of cover. The range is phenomenal. Structures catch on fire, plants start burning, and before you know it, the entire world is ablaze.

Here are a few gaming flamethrowers that do it right.

The Flamethrower Hall of Fame

1. Flamethrower, Alien: Isolation

In Alien: Isolation, the flamethrower is simultaneously a liability and a comfort while you’re hiding from the game’s lethal alien enemy. The weapon’s raw power makes the gameplay more dynamic by allowing the player to do more than simply hide until the alien leaves. It lets the player be a little more aggressive and experimental, which opens up a lot of interesting opportunities. This is great, but having the flamethrower also makes the game scarier.

At one point, the game actually takes the flamethrower from you. Most players have grown dependent on it by that point, and losing the flamethrower creates some wonderful tension. Second, the scarcity of fuel throughout the game adds a new dimension of terror, because the player must constantly seek out more. Alien: Isolation wouldn’t be scary without the flamethrower: the game would simply involve sitting still whenever the alien’s around. The flamethrower puts you in more risky situations and adds new sources of anxiety. It’s the perfect weapon for the perfect horror game.

2. LTB-P Thermite Gun, Syndicate

Syndicate was one of those games that deserved way more love than it got. Most of the hate came from people who had never played it and objected to the reinterpretation of a game in a different genre. As a result, they missed out on one of the most interesting shooters of the past few years. A big part of that was the flamethrower level, where you, playing the bad guy, charged through hordes of anti-corporate resistance fighters, torching them to death.

This is one of those flamethrowers that makes you realise why they have been banned by so many world governments. The LTB-P is a cruel weapon built by an evil corporation for use by a monstrous agent. It’s a gun that works great not just because it’s effective, but because it’s the perfect weapon for the kind of person you’re supposed to be as an employee of the Eurocorp Syndicate.

3. LPO-50, Far Cry 2

One of my favourite moments in the Far Cry series is from the third game, when the player, as Jason Brody, is tasked with burning a field of marijuana while Skrillex’s ‘Make It Bun Dem’ plays in the background. It’s a great single mission, but beyond that, there’s little reason to use Far Cry 3‘s flamethrower.

Far Cry 2, on the other hand, was all about the fire propagation, which constantly managed to surprise and excite me. The game is set in Africa, much of it in dry areas. Anything and everything will catch fire, which means that massive fires are common. Far Cry 2’s marketing was all about the fire propagation, and with good reason. I’ve stopped tons of mercs with my strategic fire placement. I’ve been killed by my own fire. I’ve seen fires that torched cars and set off ammo crates I didn’t even know were present.

The LPO-50 is a wonderful gun because of the surprises it has in store for the player. What happens when it’s used is only partially under the player’s control; the rest is up to nature.

4. M2 Flamethrower, Call of Duty: World at War

If you want a flamethrower that just feels like a rock-solid flamethrower, there’s always the M2 from World at War. Based on a real-life flamethrower that was in use by the US Military from 1943 to 1978, the M2 is one of those few guns that just feels right to use. I was given plenty of opportunities to use other guns in World at War, but I never wanted to let go of the M2 when I had it. It’s effective, the range is nice, and it regenerates fuel, so you can just walk around, shooting things, and feeling great about using it. That’s the way a flamethrower should be, at the absolute, fundamental level.

5. Flamethrower, Return to Castle Wolfenstein

Out of all the flamethrowers on this list, Return to Castle Wolfenstein’s is the most like a napalm-based military flamethrower. Its range is massive compared to most video game flamethrowers, and the damage is high and fast. The cone of fire is much narrower than a traditional video game as well. If that weren’t enough, you’re often asked to use them against zombies, which just feel like a natural fit to use.

The gun has its downsides, but those downsides are part of what makes it so awesome. If you’re too close to an enemy, the backdraft can actually hurt you. Enemies have their own flamethrowers, which means that they’re just as likely to use its awesome power against you. Still, it’s a blast to use because it feels so lethal against any foe, no matter how tough.

The Unsung Hero

The flamethrower is the gun that few developers seem to know what to do with. The weapon is often pigeonholed into a role as “tiny little monster killer,” used for killing swarms of things and looking amazing doing it. Games from Dead Space to Halo are all about this sort of thing. That’s not a bad role to occupy, but real flamethrowers are much more powerful and impressive. They’re downright terrifying to their enemies, and hazardous as much to their operators as their targets.

A great video game flamethrower is one that makes you feel incredible using it, instead of an impressive-looking hairdryer. It’s a versatile, capable weapon with great range, with sound and fury that signifies something.

GB Burford is a freelance journalist and indie game developer who just can’t get enough of exploring why games work. You can reach him on Twitter at @ForgetAmnesia or on his blog. You can support him and even suggest games to write about over at his Patreon.


  • 5. Flamethrower, Return to Castle Wolfenstein
    This is the one that stuck out for me, was a great game at the time.

    • Yeah, I never actually played the game, but I read reviews and the aspect that stuck in my mind most was that it supposedly had the best flamethrower ever.

      • Was a pretty good break from Counterstrike and Day of Defeat at the time… probably played it for around a year, good times. I think I was mainly the medic.

  • I loved the one in the original Syndicate way back in the day. Watching the little people running around screaming on fire… good times.

  • Tf2 for being able to skewer snipers with their own arrows.

    Killing people with their own weapons is the most fun you can have in that game, and it’s already pretty good.

  • I’ve been waiting for this particular subject to come up just so I could throw ” Return to castle Wolfenstiein” out there.
    Of all of the flamethrowers and flame effects I’ve seen in games, particularly flamethrowers, RTCW did it best for me , looking dated now obviously though.
    It was one of those weapons where I could just look at the flames and think ” wow, look at how they’ve done that”

  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein is always the one I think of first when it comes to video game flame throwers.
    Serious Sam: The Second Encounter would get an honourable mention from me.

  • Hey, did you know that using a flamethrower on someone in real life is a war crime? You’re suppose to use it to deprive a bunker of oxygen.

    • im trying to think when it actually became a war crime because they were used by both sides as weapons of terror in WW1 and in WW2 and in korea and Veitnam they where used for tunnel clearence.

      Its one those rules where its a crime, but it has quiet a few loopholes because as you say, you can roast a guy with a flame thrower, but there defenately soldiers in that bunker/tunnel that using the flame thrower on. its the same with Splintex tank rounds and cluster bombs

      • I could also be one of those Hague conventions that no one actually agrees to…

        From memory, there are a few (like specifying certain types of bullets can’t be used) that some of the member states haven’t signed off on.

  • I loved the flamethrowers in Company of Heroes. Partly because they’re devastating, and cause so much visual destruction (even having the capacity to explode jeeps), but also because after the first expansion was released, a stray shot could potentially cause the wielder’s tank to explode, setting himself and all those around him on fire.

    The flamethrower in the Last of Us was alright; didn’t feel like it had a real impact at times, but that said it could take out infected quite easily, and proper strategic use with bloaters (keeping them alight so that they cannot attack you) made it invaluable on Grounded difficulty.

    I also didn’t mind the flamethrower in Killzone 2, felt pretty neat. The flamethrower in Dead Space is one of my least favourites; felt like it had no real spread to it, despite the misleading animation.

  • Killzone 2 had a pretty decent flamethrower which appeared to be napalm based if I recall correctly. You only got it for a level or so, but it was bloody murder on the one multiplayer map it was included in.

  • Honestly, I can’t say I’ve used too many flamethrowers in games. They are a rare opportunity. My favourite was Halo 3, just for searing reanimated fleshy flood.

  • My friend decided to use a flamethrower on me on Worms Clan Wars the other night. Ended up toasting himself and only did minimal damage to me! lol!

  • my favourite has to be one you can create in fallout 4, the plasma flamer. which is simply a plasma rifle with a flamer barrel. as for how lethal it is, well it will kill someone from full health in power armour in a couple of seconds

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!