The best action games for a rip-roaring good time

Boom, pow, crash
Supergiant Games

What the best action game is for you depends on what kind of action you’re after. Of all the video game genres, “action” is one of the most broad. There’s super gory action like Doom and Dying Light, more traditional hack-’n’-slash like we see in modern Assassin’s Creed, and even whip-smart strategic action where every move counts. Whatever the case, our definition of an action game as one that puts the focus on high-adrenaline situations where you’ll be thinking on your feet with fast-paced combat and loads of intense moments. Explosions, blood, and guns should be everywhere for a truly great action experience.

We’ve listed our picks for the 10 best action games below, in no particular order.

1. Doom and Doom Eternal

The Doom Slayer standing on a mountain of bodies
Can't get more action-y than Doom / iD Software

If you like your action on the intense side, you can’t go wrong with Doom. The initial reboot in 2016 and the sequel, Doom Eternal, from 2020 perfectly capture the power fantasy of being an unstoppable super-soldier. The denizens of hell don’t stand a chance as you rip and tear through fire, brimstone, and demon flesh. You’ll build up a big arsenal of weapons that are all useful in different ways and constantly switching between them all as you systematically take out all the enemies that are trying to end your killing spree.

Sure, it's mostly mindless, but that's hardly a bad thing.

2. Hotline Miami

Hotline Miami hero standing in an office with several enemies
2D it may be, but Hotline Miami is no stranger to blood and violence / Dennaton Games

Hotline Miami is arguably just as brutal as Doom, despite the top-down, 2D perspective reducing how much gore flies around.  Working out how to infiltrate a mansion stuffed to the brim with armed guards is a rewarding experience, but this is no stealth game. You’ll be kicking down the door – likely bludgeoning someone with it as you do – grabbing the nearest weapon and unleashing hell upon anyone who heard the commotion.

3. Dying Light 2

Dying Light 2's Aiden carrying a flamethrower in a crowd of zombies
With Guns Edition / Techland

Zombie games are the perfect action experience, as they almost inevitably drop you in the middle of an ocean of undead monsters prone to exploding. The whole point of a zombie horde is lots of weak enemies overwhelming you with numbers, which is always going to get the blood pumping, and few do it better than Dying Light 2 - especially if you get caught out at night. Techland's open-world zombie game is even better several years after launch thanks to some extensive updates, including the Firearms Update.

4. Katana Zero

A Katana Zero character standing near a truck
Katana Zero demands your full attention / Askiisoft

This 2D samurai simulator will make you feel like a badass of the highest proportions. Clever layouts and enemy patterns mean you need to plan your slices and dices carefully, and it requires a lot of quick reactions and last-second clutches. If that’s not appealing enough, there’s even a dedicated slow-motion button – a feature every action game needs – where you can rebound bullets at your attackers simply by hitting them with your sword.

5. Just Cause 3

Just Cause 3's hero being pulled along by a helicopter
Wheeee / Avalanche Studios

Any game that gives you a dedicated “chaos” score has to be a pretty fun action game, and Just Cause 3 certainly is. Sometimes you just want a massive playground that lets you blow stuff up, and that’s exactly what Just Cause 3 gives you. With a near-endless amount of destructive toys, your imagination is the only thing limiting what you can do while flying around a military base blowing up anything and everything in sight.

6. Hades

Zagreus fighting three enemies at once
They'll be fine. You can't die in the underworld / Supergiant Games

Hades always pushes you to try something new, with a bunch of different weapons and all sorts of weird and wonderful abilities at your disposal. The “something new” in question always involves bashing your way through the monsters of the underworld, but like the best roguelike games, no two runs through the lord of death’s domain are the same. Hades’ combat system is so refined that every hit you land feels satisfying, plus you have almost complete control over how challenging you want it to be.

7. Devil May Cry 5

DMC 5's three main characters walking along a street
Buncha nerds / Capcom

Doom may be a demon-hunting gorefest too, but everyone knows that swords are cooler than guns. Well, maybe not everyone, but that’s what we think anyway. Back to the point, Devil May Cry 5 is about as smooth and stylish as hack-and-slashes get where just about every combat enough is memorable for one reason or another. Plus, with three characters – all of whom play differently – you’ll constantly be mixing up your playstyle so the action never feels samey.

8. Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Ivor fighting three enemies at once with a flail
Why stealth when you can smash / Ubisoft

Ever since Ubisoft turned Assassin’s Creed turned into a full RPG series, the stealthy tactics of old have become far less important, and we see that most clearly with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. You, a raging and looting Viking, are far from sneaky, The word isn’t even in your vocabulary. That’s ok though because it turns out it’s just as fun to charge into a castle, dual-wielding battleaxes, and Viking-ing your way through an entire English army.

9. Towerfall Ascension

A Towerfall Ascension stage with a king sitting in the center on his throne
Fun with friends / Maddy Makes Games

If you’re looking for multiplayer game action then Towerfall Ascension is one of the most intense, skillful, and overall exciting games you’ll ever play. While only having local multiplayer is annoying, it’s worth getting a few friends all in the same room to play it, because you’ll be shouting and hollering at each other with excitement in no time. The nature of archery-based combat makes for so many near-misses and clutch plays in the space of rounds that are usually less than a minute long

10. GTA 5 and GTA Online

GTA 5's trio of main characters
Of course they had to show up / Rockstar

GTA 5 and GTA Online have stuck around for such a long time for a reason. The single-player mode is still an expansive playground that lets you have all sorts of chaotic adventures, despite taking place in a more grounded setting compared to something like Doom. Meanwhile, the multiplayer is easily one of the best of all time provided you can get a good session. Whether you want races, minigames, or an all-out war between your fellow players, GTA 5 is happy to provide.

Josh Broadwell