Ellie and Joel in a car in The Last of Us video game

The Most Action-Packed Games, Ranked

Listen kid, I’m *cough* not gonna make it. It’s up to you to save the human race now. Stop crying, of course you can. I was like you once. A wimp. Until I became part of an experimental government program that trained super soldiers by downloading the best action games into our brains.

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Lucky for you, I have some electrodes here that I can use to transfer my knowledge into your brain. Are you ready to become the greatest warrior humanity has ever known? Well GET READY. ‘Cause here we go.

15. Shadow of the Colossus

Promo image of Wander and Gaius
(Team Ico)

We’re gonna start with PHYSICAL FITNESS. And I can’t think of a better game than Shadow of The Colossus. Apparently the boys in the lab couldn’t either, so it made the cut. You play as a boy named Wander, and your job is to CLIMB GIANT MONSTERS AND STAB THEM IN THE HEAD WITH A SWORD to save your girlfriend. Romantic, right? This kid is STRONG. Strong enough to hold on when an evil-looking 100-foot-tall Fozzy Bear is trying to shake him off.

14. Borderlands 2

(Gearbox)

Good job, kid. That wasn’t easy. I’m 300 pounds of solid muscle. You basically just bench-pressed a small cow. But you’re gonna need more than strength, you’re gonna need GUNS. AND LOTS OF THEM. I don’t have time to train you on how to use every kind of gun in existence because 1). that’s impractical and 2). my insides are literally on my outsides right now. So instead, we’re gonna play Borderlands 2. That game has EVERY SINGLE KIND OF GUN IN THE UNIVERSE. You’re gonna fight truckloads of enemies on the planet Pandora, and you’re gonna stick to the asshole main villain Handsome Jack and all his corporate cronies.

13. Devil May Cry 3

Dante locks swords with Virgil in "Devil May Cry 3"
(Capcom)

And when I say “paint the town red” I mean that figuratively. You’re gonna have to get used to fighting non-human enemies there, sport. That’s where Devil May Cry 3 comes in! Look at the game’s hero, Dante! He has to fighting off a group of horrifying demons using a pool cue in the game’s opening sequence, and do it WITHOUT dropping his pizza. Not only will this combo-heavy hack and slash game teach you about slaying monsters, it’ll teach you how to do it in style.

12. Bayonetta

The witch Bayonetta holds a gun and winks while the moon glows behind her in "Bayonetta"
(Sega)

Living enemies aren’t the only thing we have to worry about. As you know, good bad guys go to bad guy heaven and come back as angels. And there’s only one person I know who’s qualified to kill angels: Bayonetta. Bayonetta is a witch from an Earth-like planet that is being invaded by evil angelic forces, and she has to wipe them all out IN HEELS. Now put on these black pumps! They each have a .357 magnum hidden in the heel. And whatever you do, don’t start praying. The angels will hear you.

11. Nier Automata

2B faces off against a massive Engels robot in "Nier Automata"
(Square Enix)

Now that you’ve cut a bloody swath through the forces of heaven AND hell, I’m sure you’re wondering what it’s all for? Are good and evil just two sides of the same coin? And if morality is a quarter, then what is a dime? Nier Automata is the PERFECT action game to help you handle this existential crisis! These hot androids have to free the Earth from the menace of machine life-forms in order to save humanity. But why are androids allowed to live while lesser machines die? What happens when the lesser machines start feeling emotions? Do what the game’s protagonist 2B does best: IGNORE IT AND KEEP KILLING.

10. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Naked Snake stands in a field of white flowers in "Metal Gear Solid 3"
(Konami)

Alright, kid. It looks like there’s a little lull in the action. We’re gonna have to do our best to conceal ourselves in order to get the drop on the enemy. If there’s any video game character who knows a thing or two about concealment, it’s Naked Snake from Metal Gear Solid 3. He was dropped into the Russian jungle during the cold war in order to thwart a Soviet nuclear threat, and had to do it all without getting detected. Just do what Snake does and rub some dirt on your face!

9. Control

(Remedy Entertainment)

Excellent work, kid. We’ll make a super soldier out of you yet. But in this new world, a well-thrown dirt clod won’t be enough to save you. You’re gonna need to start developing psychic powers, and you’re gonna need to do it fast. They’re really useful for reloading really quickly. So I’m gonna need you to crack open this game called Control and start trying to pick shit up with your mind. The game is about a woman who works for the Federal Bureau of Control, a government agency responsible for dealing with aliens. Specifically, aliens that can reach our world through psychic links to KITCHEN APPLIANCES. It’s a lot to explain. It all started—NO TIME. ENEMIES INCOMING.

8. Batman: Arkham City

Batman standing in front of Gotham in Batman: Arkham City
(Rocksteady Studios)

Amazing job, kid. That guy did not know what hit him. He literally couldn’t comprehend it on this plane of metaphysical existence. But sometimes you won’t always be able to use your psychic powers. Sometimes an enemy will get the drop on you and you’re gonna have to fight hand to hand. So you better start downloading Batman’s skills into your brain because he’s really good at it. I mean, the combat system in Batman: Arkham City redefined action-game combat systems. It’s so fluid. Like Gatorade, or my own sexuality. But there’s no time to get into that kid, because you need to PUNCH THAT GUY RIGHT BEHIND YOU.

7. Elden Ring

A warrior holding a glowing sword faces off against a towering giant with a halberd in "Elden Ring"
(FromSoftware)

What’s that, kid? You’re not strong enough yet? Sounds like you need some fiendish, god-killing strength. We need Elden Ring. This dark fantasy RPG co-created by George R.R. Martin has hundreds of combat styles to choose from, but we’re gonna need you to spend all of your hard earned Runes on your Strength stats. The strongest players in this game can wield thousand-pound Colossal Greatswords in both hands. I’m gonna need you to be able to wield 10. One for each finger. Speaking of greatswords, DUCK.

6. Uncharted 2: Honor Among Thieves

uncharted
(Naughty Dog)

That was a close one, kid. You got lucky. You won’t always be that lucky. BUT WE CAN FIX THAT. You just need the impeccable luck of Uncharted 2‘s Nathan Drake. I don’t know what sort of mystical contract he has with the universe that allows him fall out of planes and be okay but you’re gonna need to draft up one of your own. You’re gonna accomplish ungodly feats of luck in this game. You’ll climb up trains that are hanging off the sides of cliffs, but they won’t tumble off until you can just barely jump to safety. You’ll escape all sorts of grisly deaths through the sheer power of your unbreakable plot armor. And you’ll do it while cracking one-liners the whole time. By the way … is that A GRENADE AT YOUR FEET?

5. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of The Patriots

(Konami)

Are we dead? How are we not dead? The grenade … didn’t go off? YOU DID IT, KID. THAT’S EXACTLY THE KIND OF ONE IN A MILLION PLOT ARMOR THAT WE NEED. But listen, I don’t want to rely on luck all the time, because doing so makes me very uncomfortable. So I think it’s better if we start avoiding the enemy all together. And Metal Gear Solid 4 is the perfect game to teach you how to do that. It takes place in the future, where the hero Solid Snake has an adaptive camouflage bodysuit that lets him blend into anything. Like an octopus! You’re gonna spend most of this game with your heart in your throat, narrowly avoiding enemies who are right next to you but don’t know you’re there. It’s a thrill ride. But it’s not all stealth, you also get to fight with GIANT ROBOTS. Now if only we could find a giant robot of our own to—HIDE.

4. Grand Theft Auto V

(Rockstar)

Kid, that was brilliant. I don’t know if that was a stroke of tactical genius, or you just passed out from fear, but hiding in plain sight by pretending to be a dead guy WORKED. I thought for sure you’d break when that guy kicked you in the neck. That must have really pissed you off. Well, I have a game that can help you channel that anger into raw destructive power. We’re gonna play Grand Theft Auto V, and you’re gonna watch very closely how Trevor handles his anger. HE DOESN’T. HE LETS IT GO AND HE KILLS EVERYONE IN A THREE-MILE RADIUS. IT’S NOT AT ALL TACTICALLY SOUND, BUT GOD IS IT FUN. Sure you’ll spend the game doing sneaky heists and driving getaway cars, but the best part of the game is where you get to go apeshit and DECLARE WAR ON EVERYTHING WITH A PULSE. Speaking of which, get your guns ready.

3. Red Dead Redemption 2

(Rockstar)

Kid, that was some shooting. You managed to kill all of them. But sometimes, you don’t exactly want to mow down everyone in your path. You’re gonna wanna use a little finesse. That’s where Red Dead Redemption 2 comes in. Listen, before you start playing, take this tissue, because this game aims straight for your heart and really bangs that hammer until you’re an emotional puddle on the floor. RDR 2 is basically an HBO series that you play. You will cry. But first, I’m gonna need you to watch how the greatest video game character of all time, Arthur Morgan, handles that shootin’ iron. You’re gonna need to be precise in your shooting, because—not to freak you out—there’s another enemy incoming, and this time he has a hostage.

2. God Of War

Kratos and Atreus facing each other in God of War Ragnarök
(Rockstar)

Well done, kid. You brained that guy. Clean. Right between the eyes. The hostage is fine. I mean, he’s traumatized for life because I’m pretty sure a little bit of brain got in his mouth, but physically he’s fine. At this point, you’re gonna be physically fine yourself. But I’m gonna need you to start being spiritually fine as well. Basically what I’m saying is, you need to become a god. But don’t worry! I know a guy who did it. His name is Kratos, and he’s the hero of God of War. He fights gods all the time. He kills, like, three of them in this game alone! And he’s gonna kill way more. You’re gonna want to hang on to those tissues though, kid. This game is a tearjerker, too. But it’ll make you cry happy tears because of how goddamn sweet the ending is. God of War is a story about a father and son. A father teaching his son to be an adult. You know kid, I feel a little bit like a father figure to you. If you wanna call me Dad you—SHOULD PREPARE YOURSELF BECAUSE MOLGOTH JUST AWAKENED FROM HIS THOUSAND-YEAR SLUMBER. GO KILL HIM.

1. The Last of Us series

Tess and Joel in the Last of Us
(Naughty Dog)

You did it, kid. You killed a god. I didn’t think that it could be done. But you did it. The world should be safe, but not everyone made it out alive.

Listen, kid. What I’m gonna teach you now is the hardest lesson of all to learn. The ability to move on. And I can’t think of a better game to show you how to do that than The Last of Us. In the opening of the game, the main protagonist Joel watches his own daughter die in a zombie apocalypse. The game then jumps into the future, and Joel has moved on as best as he can. In a way, he finds a new daughter—a girl named Ellie, who happens to be immune to the virus. Ellie has buried people too, including her adorable lesbian girlfriend. It’s a game that’s fundamentally about loss, and the ability to keep on going even when your heart is about to give out. So promise me this, kid. You’ll cry for me, but only once. I loved you like your were my own child, and I’m pretty sure you loved me like a father. No—go, leave me. Don’t look back. I will always love you, and I will always be with you.

Don’t ever … stop … fighting…

(featured image: Rockstar)


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Author
Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.