Image showing a selection of action gamesAs the video game industry continues to grow and evolve, so do the variety of experiences it has to offer. One of the most popular categories out there is the action genre with titles that will test your skills. The high-octane genre spans over quite a few subcategories from fighting games to survival experiences. We’ll explore some of the best action games out currently and take a look at what’s coming soon.

Let’s dive into one of the largest gaming genres out there and find an experience that’s right for you!

image of four of the most popular action gamesFighting games

Nothing says action like a knock-down-drag-out fighter that depends hair trigger reflexes to emerge victorious. The classic two player showdown first established itself in arcades across the globe in the 1980’s. Now all of these brawlers are available on a home console near you. Fighting games boil down to combat between two or more opponents that attack and defend. Using various combos and other offensive tactics you chip away at each other’s health bar until someone reaches zero and is KO’d.

This formula has created some legendary showdowns in classic franchises like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Soulcalibur and Tekken. Sport fighters like EA’s UFC offer ultra-realistic graphics and authentic moves to give you a taste of action in the octagon.

A modern fighter that puts a focus on multiplayer is Super Smash Bros Ultimate and it enjoys a massive following. It’s definitely worth checking out as it’s a great party game and features classic characters like Mario, Link, Banjo-Kazooie and more.

Whether you are a fan of 1v1 or 4v4 there is a ton of fighting action available for both beginners and veterans alike.

Upcoming fighting games

My Hero One’s Justice 2

Platformers

Some of the most iconic characters and games ever created have come from the platforming genre. Legendary names like Donkey Kong, Super Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man hopped, skipped and jumped their way into stardom.

The general formula for these titles has you controlling characters who traverse platforms and other obstacles while facing off against enemies. Modern titles are still reinventing themselves decades later with incredible graphics, mind bending storylines and challenging levels. Must play games like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon and Ori and The Blind Forest  showcase the incredible experiences platformers have to offer.

Upcoming platformers

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga

Music games

Action Games - Music Games

If you enjoy music and are no stranger to singing or dancing along to a song, rhythm games could be a perfect fit. These titles are all about carefully timing button presses, or matching movements on screen to sync with a musical beat.

Rhythm games come in forms like the 1996 classic PaRappa the Rapper where you follow along with a loose storyline and jam with out with characters by pressing buttons. There are also peripheral based experiences like Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Each comes with their own hardware like a dance mat, guitar controller and full band kit. These games prompt you to hit drumbeats, guitar frets or vocal notes with included hardware.

The most popular rhythm games are currently Just Dance 2020 and virtual reality smash hit Beat Saber. Just Dance is wildly entertaining fun either solo or at a party.

Shooters

The biggest and most popular part of the gaming industry as a whole are shooters. These games range from military style conflicts to run and gun side scrollers (and everything in between). The commonality between all these titles is a player-controlled character with a fireable weapon. The perspective in which these games are played come in multiple forms; from the first-person perspective, over the shoulder 3rd person perspective to hero, and tactical shooters. 

First person shooters

Doom-Eternal

First person shooters (FPS) give you the in-game character’s field of vision while playing. This places you in the shoes of the protagonist adding to the game’s immersion. Some of the legendary pillars that make-up the FPS experience are games like Bioshock, Battlefield, Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, Doom, Half-Life, Halo, Quake, TitanFall and Wolfenstein.

Third person shooters

Action Games Uncharted 3rd Person

Third person shooters give you a full body view of your character with “over the shoulder” aiming mechanics. They create immersion through the shared experience between you and the on-screen avatars. Some of these games follow a linear path like the Tomb Raider series while others have a more open world approach like Grand Theft Auto V.

Must play titles in the 3rd person shooter category are Devil May Cry 5Gears of War, Red Dead Redemption 2, and the Uncharted series.

Not all shooters are necessarily for mature audiences, Nintendo’s Splatoon 2 is available for some family friendly, light-hearted fun.

Hero shooters

Based in an online arena, players square off to overcome an opposing team by optimizing each character’s individual strengths. Each character, or “hero” has unique weapons or attributes that when combined with their teammates’ abilities make them an extremely powerful force. This style of shooter depends heavily on teamwork, communication and strategy. Many of these titles have also reached the biggest stages in esports, especially the likes of the wildly popular Overwatch.

Tactical shooters

rainbow 6 siegeIf you are looking for more a realistic, strategic experience in a shooter you might want to go tactical. These games avoid the common tropes of arcadey-style action shooters, instead taking a more methodical approach to combat. Tactical shooters require you to carefully plan movement, provide limited health and rely heavily on your squad mates. A pinnacle of the squad-based experience is Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six series, offering challenging combat and thrilling “breach and clear” moments. The current game in the series, Rainbow Six Siege features tense multiplayer moments and a big focus on team-based strategy. The Ghost Recon series is also dependant on tactical gameplay, allowing players to utilize the environment, vehicles and squad mates to overcome foes.

Upcoming shooters

Doom Eternal

Watch Dogs Legion

Predator Hunting Grounds

Survival games

Action Genre Survival GamesThis part of the action genre will leave you on the edge of your seat as you fight tooth and nail for your own life. From battle royales, sims to survival horror, there is an adrenaline filled experience that will keep you entertained for hours. Buckle up, the survival category isn’t for the faint of heart, but will definitely leave you with a few stories to tell!

Battle royale

The battle royale experience has taken the gaming industry by storm over the last half of the decade. These games follow a formula of dropping 80-100 players into an area unarmed, forcing them loot for weapons and duke it out until one champion remains.

action games PUBGThis sub-genre began in earnest with Arma III mods that later evolved into their own game in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. The popularity and growth of the battle royale category has been explosive ever since. Following PUBG’smassive success Fortnite appeared on the scene, transcending the game industry to become a pop culture phenomenon. Everyone from professional athletes to A-list celebrities were getting in on the action.

In early 2019, developer Respawn introduced Apex Legends based in the TitanFall universe. It brought its own unique spin to the battle royale landscape introducing hero-style mechanics into the mix.

action games apex legendsMany other cornerstone shooters like the Call of Duty series got in on the action releasing their own battle royale modes within their games. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has its own battle royale mode called Blackout and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has Warzone rumored to be on the horizon.

Survival simulators

action games dont starveThe gist of survival sims is to channel your inner Bear Grylls and live off of your surroundings. You are left with minimal resources in a hostile environment, it’s up to you to figure out the rest. Mojang’s Minecraft is a great jumping off point if you are interested in this subgenre with its block-style procedurally generated worlds. Other titles in the same vein are Don’t Starve where you are left alone to fend for yourself in a monster riddled environment. The harrowing experience in This War of Mine  has players trying to survive  war as a civilian.

Survival horror

The survival horror genre is about trying to live through a terrifying environment filled with nightmarish enemies. Think zombie apocalypse or escaping a haunted insane asylum and you start to get the idea of the terrifying thrills this subgenre offers. Some of my most memorable moments with video games have come with classic horror titles. The “must play” horror games offer experiences that stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Hollywood’s most terrifying films. Alien: Isolation, The Last of Us and Resident Evil 2, are stories that offer as many thrills as chills.

Upcoming survival horror games

Resident Evil 3

The Last of Us Part II

Dying Light 2

High octane action

The action genre is the gaming industry’s biggest by far, offering a wide range of adrenaline pumping experiences. If you are looking for a game that will entertain and put your skills to the test, you’ll surely find an unforgettable title in this category. With dozens of subgenres, award winning titles like Bioshock, Uncharted, Red Dead Redemption 2 and more you’ll find multiple games that rival any Hollywood action experience. Try a title from each category above and see which is the best fit for you!

Let us know what your favourite action game is in the comments below!

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Matthew Rondina
Matthew has been involved in all things tech related since the start of the digital era. He shares his passion for technology in his day job as a teacher and via multiple media platforms. As a long-time veteran of the video game and tech industry, he's covered interactive entertainment and esports on the web, in video series, podcasts, and on international television. You can follow Matthew's tech-venture filled lifestyle on twitter and instagram @dapper_tux

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