There are video games that make us feel good (dating simulations, anyone?), and then there are games that make us question our worth, make us acknowledge our sadistic side, and improve how we play. These are action games.
So Bioshock and Dark Souls aside, here is a countdown of the best action games ever:
10 best action games for your bucket list
10. Def Jam: Fight for NY
You wouldn’t think that a title based on hip-hop would make it to the best that the action game genre has to offer, but Def Jam: Fight for NY proves us wrong. This game features some of the best rap artists during the time of its release, like Snoop Dogg, T.I., and Busta Rhymes, and makes them duke it out with each other – not with words, but with fists.
The second game in the franchise, Def Jam: Fight for NY features a unique fighting engine that includes interactive environments with rowdy spectators, weapons, and surrounding objects that can be used to cause damage to your opponent. The five new fighting styles can also be used in a combination to create dozens of hybrid fighting styles, but the best part is that no two fighters have the same moves, even though they might seem to be a little similar.
9. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag was a trailblazer for the Assassin’s Creed series, and for a good reason. It carried forward what Assassin’s Creed II and Brotherhood did well. The main story is set in the 18th century and follows Edward Kenway, a Welsh pirate who also happens to be the grandfather of the protagonist from Assassin’s Creed III. One of the most striking aspects of this game is that unlike previous installments, it focuses on ship-based exploration while staying true to its original combat style.
While emphasizing on both freedom and fun, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag adopts a much lighter tone, entertaining you as you explore the Caribbean islands and fight your way through the open seas. The gameplay is expansive as it is fun with multiple action-packed missions move the story forward.
8. Batman: Arkham City
Batman: Arkham City was released during a time when superhero games were nothing more than tie-ins into movies. RockSteady decided to go with a different and more original approach in which they made you feel like you were Batman. From the fluid combat to the bat-gliding over Gotham, this game provided further improvements on an already stellar action-based gameplay system.
Replacing Arkham Asylum with the entirety of Arkham City, filled with more rogues and several supervillains who have formed their own gangs, you’ll have your hands full as Batman in this installment. Attackers in armored outfits armed with stun rods, broken bottles, etc., all have to be dealt with in their own specific ways, and you will have to assess your threat before engaging them. Additionally, the gameplay is very challenging, and the side missions will keep you as occupied as the core storyline, giving you a plethora of obstacles to overcome as you try to save Arkham City.
7. Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
The Lord of the Rings franchise has released some pretty impressive forms of entertainment so far, and Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is one of them. In this open-world, action-adventure video game, you play as Talion, a Ranger, who bonds with the wraith of the Elf Lord Celebrimbor, as you set out to avenge the deaths of those you held dear.
Shadow of Mordor earns props for tricky gameplay since the enemies are unpredictable thanks to a “Nemesis System.” This system enables the AI of NPCs to remember the initial interaction with your character, along with any deaths, and react accordingly in future confrontations.
6. Grand Theft Auto V
The seventh, main installment in the Grand Theft Auto series has an interesting plot: A terrifying psychopath, a young street hustler, and a retired bank robber find themselves entangled with the most twisted elements of the criminal underworld and must carry out a series of heists to survive. They can’t trust anybody – even each other.
Grand Theft Auto Online was also introduced in GTA V, enabling gamers to play the game and carry out heists with other players online. GTA V and GTA Online offer a massive game world filled with countless activities, quests, interactions, and secrets.
5. Half-Life 2
The story takes place a few years after the events of Half-Life. You play as a scientist, Gordon Freeman, who wakes up to find that the world has been overrun by the Combine, a dominant alien force that has subjugated humanity in Gordon’s absence. In your struggle to survive this hostile environment, you are joined by your former Black Mesa colleagues, the Vortigaunts, and the oppressed citizens of City 17.
Initially released in 2004, Half-Life 2 has won several Game of the Year awards and has frequently been cited for the use of physical manipulation in the gameplay. For example, you can use a gravity gun to manipulate objects by using them as improvised weapons or to solve environmental puzzles.
4. Halo 2
The Halo series put Xbox on the map, and Halo 2 is one of its best installments. The first-person shooter was considered the champion of multiplayer mode at the time of its release and is still setting the bar for the category today. Stunning landscapes, a fantastic soundtrack, and a gripping storyline are what make Halo 2 one of the best games of its genre.
In Halo 2, you play as both the Master Chief and a troubled Covenant elite, ‘the Arbiter,’ in a linear series of episodes. Aside from the amazing multiplayer mode and improved graphics, the game’s story is a bit different from its predecessor, as it dives deeper into the Covenant.
Additionally, the single-player mode is complemented by a redesigned multiplayer mode that allows up to 16 players through the Xbox Live.
3. God of War 3
This installment in the God of War series follows Kratos’s final journey of revenge and concludes a trilogy that consists of some of the best action games ever. What worked for the previous installments has also done the trick for God of War 3, regarding gameplay and design, but on a scale that is far larger. Boss battles are more intense than ever, with more brutal scenes and gore all around, as you go on a rampage to kill every god in Olympus.
Playable sequences can take place on creatures the size of skyscrapers. The earlier editions allowed us to battle a few gods and mythological creatures, but this time around, we bring Olympus down in its entirety.
The game is also often touted as having the most epic story in gaming history. The portrayal of Greek mythology is also at its very best; God of War 3 captures every detail in surreal fashion, keeping you glued to the screen for consistent action.
2. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is considered the most awarded game in history. In this action RPG, you play as the Witcher, Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter in search of his missing adopted daughter. She is on the run from the Wild Hunt – a force that is determined to capture and use her powers.
This game has the classic RPG hook – you fight monsters and gain experience to be strong enough to defeat tougher monsters. However, it has other substantial features going for it, as well. Well-scripted quests and intelligent gameplay; like a fear gauge for your faithful steed that limits its effectiveness in battle, a detailed open world, and some of the best monster designs in gaming history, make this game a strong contender for one of the greatest games of all time.
1. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Even though it was released almost seven years ago, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim remains relevant to this day. In this open–world, action RPG, you can play as a lizard-like creature, a few variations of humans, an orc, three different types of elves, or an anthropomorphic cat in a quest to defeat Alduin, the World Eater – a dragon prophesied to destroy the world.
However, this storyline is just one of seven main storylines – not counting the fifteen Daedric quests or the hundreds of side quests that you can complete. You can have a bounty on your head or complete bounties for towns, slay dragons, giants, or civilians, travel to different dimensions, or simply explore the world of Skyrim as you see fit.
The storylines, given the Elder Scrolls series, has endless lore and its own history of the universe, intrigue all your senses and have you hooked to the game for hours on end. Additionally, the massive open world map and attention to detail are what make Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim the best game ever.
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