The original Counter-Strike mod is 25 years old, Valve calls it 'the greatest videogame ever made'

 Two players posing with their guns in the original Counter-Strike.
Credit: Valve software

The official Counter-Strike account has posted to celebrate 25 years since the release of the mod that changed the competitive FPS forever.

"Happy 25th birthday to the greatest videogame ever made, Counter-Strike," says the contemporary Counter-Strike 2 team. "A Half-Life mod which has spawned communities, created memories, and established the greatest esport of them all. We're grateful to have the most passionate players in gaming.

"Here's to 25 more!"

Counter-Strike was a Half-Life mod developed initially by Minh "Gooseman" Le, who was finishing up at university and wanted to make a game project that would help with his career prospects. Le had previously built various mods for Quake but with this wanted to branch-out and hit upon Valve's GoldSrc engine. Le has said in the past that once Valve had made the GoldSrc software development kit available, it took him around a month and a half to program "beta one" of Counter-Strike, by which time co-creator Jess "Cliffe" Cliffe had joined the project to work on various elements including the maps.

Counter-Strike's theming was inspired by Le's own interest in special military units, as well as videogames like 1998's Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six. The first beta was released on June 19, 1999, with others following at a rapid pace before, by the time of the fifth beta, interest in the project had become so great that Valve made an approach to the pair. Valve bought the Counter-Strike IP and employed both of its creators before, in September 2000, releasing the first retail version of the game.

Since then, Counter-Strike has seen various iterations: Counter-Strike: Condition Zero (2004); Counter-Strike: Source (2004); Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (2012); and Counter-Strike 2 (2023). But whatever version is your particular poison, there's a reason Counter-Strike has shown such longevity. The game is and always has been just great fun.

Getting beta

Funnily enough, some players' memories of the game's early days are bound-up with PC Gamer magazine, which back in the day included the game's beta versions on various cover disks. "Still remember playing it in first beta on LAN from CD you got with PC magazine," writes spirr3 with a smiley emoji, "I guess it means I'm old."

"I have the PC Gamer DVD with Beta 5 on it, along with the first PCG review written by Chris Auty," writes F_A_F. "It's from April 2000 but worth sharing this week [...] PC Gamer magazine used to have a DVD or CD on the front cover for demos, updates, mods etc. This was before the days of widespread DSL coverage so buying a magazine for file updates was really popular."

"Times like this I wish I kept all those old PC Gamer magazines," writes No_Reindeer_5543. "My dad got the first copy when it came out and a subscription from then on. I remember when they first started sending out 3.5" disks with them. Then I think about how many times I've moved and am happy I didn't." Tell your old man he has taste, No_Reindeer_5543.

Counter-Strike, in the form of most recently CS:GO and then CS2, is the most popular competitive FPS in the world, consistently the most-played game on Steam, and per the official website has just under 28 million monthly players. Not bad for a project that Minh Le thought might help him land a job.

Counter-Strike 2's launch saw it carrying over everything from CS:GO though also replacing it, and the game feels in a good place. Since launch Valve has been slowly adding quality-of-life features that players want ("fine"), and promises significant additions like new weapons will come. If you want an idea of what the future might hold, PC Gamer spoke exclusively to Valve's Counter-Strike 2 team shortly after the game's release.

That's one side of Counter-Strike, but the wider competitive community also has its own life and just keeps throwing up wild stories: like this guy who somehow managed to get banned for life, twice, and blamed the ganja. Every so often a skin sells for ludicrous amounts of money. "Door Stuck!" is probably my favourite-ever silly gaming video.

And you can always rely on what Valve calls "the most passionate players in gaming" for some good jokes. LeEasy celebrates 25 years of Counter-Strike with this thought: "Damn, Leonardo DiCaprio gonna quit playing this game."