You could argue that every video game is an action, and you’d be right! For this award though, we’re looking at those games whose inherent activity that you have agency over is just so gosh dang good that you can ignore everything else about it. The games whose ability to rock you like a hurricane more than makes up for a silly story, occasional glitches or even a lack of ambition.
These are the games who excel in one department, and give players either a revolutionary new angle to play a tried and trusted genre entry from or manage to add a layer of polish to an established formula that goes above and beyond what we expect from them. These, are the best action games of the year.
My Friend Pedro
Bullets, bombs and bananas! My Friend Pedro promised a healthy dose of potassium with lead, and it didn’t disappoint in that department! What followed was a madcap series of gunplay with escalating threats, oceans of cannon fodder henchmen that you could work your way through as you pirouetted your way through mobs like some sort of homicidal Mikhail Baryshnikov.
It was good fun, a formula that encouraged endless experimentation as you used the environment to your slow-motion advantage and set up glorious massacres along the way. My Friend Pedro was a long time coming, but its arrival proved to be more than worth the wait when it finally landed with a ballroom blitzkrieg of action.
If Gears of War had proven one thing, it was that developer The Coalition had the chops to handle Microsoft’s premier VREEEEEEEEEEM franchise. Gears 5 then was a confident return to form, proof that the series was in good hands now that The Coalition could add a few new ideas to the pot. What was dished out by the studio, was a deliciously meaty campaign of carnage. Blood, gore and gibbs flowed, the more organic action between hunkering down for cover was further developed and the options to pick Locust heads apart in glorious splatters was unrivalled in 2019.
Devil May Cry 5
After years of being derided for poor business decisions, increasingly crappy games and a grab at the monetisation cashgrab that would put 2K Games to shame, the real Capcom proved that it was indeed back and ready to rock in 2019. Resident Evil 2 Remake may have grabbed all the headlines (and rightfully so!), but it was Devil May Cry that helped the Japanese publisher rid itself of the Crapcom title once and for all.
Years in the making, this was the Devl May Cry game that fans had been thirsting after. Beyond the fact that it looked bloody gorgeous, had the silliest moments yet within its story and tied up several loose narrative ends, it also played like a devil-slaying powerhouse. This was Devil May Cry, turned up to 11 and featuring not one but two distinct styles of play with which to melt your face off.
Whether you were after precision brutality as Nero or enjoyed mixing up your options on the fly in the way that only Dante could offer, Devil May Cry 5 hadn’t skipped a beat in the years between Devil May Cry 4’s release and the torturous wait for this entry. Stylish, superb and proper fun, Devil May Cry 5 is an S-rank masterclass in action.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Going back to the drawing board this year, Call of Duty wanted to create a different kind of warfare in 2019. Taking its engine apart and rebuilding it with fancy new technology, there’s no denying that Modern Warfare in 2019 was a more thoughtful and methodical beast when compared to previous chapters in the series. Slower and forcing you to meditate on every bullet fired, this helped create a more atmospheric Call of Duty experience where every shot fired did indeed count.
On the multiplayer side, it was business as usual with tight-paced gameplay that used established systems to build up its annual slice of online action. That created a game with two very different styles of play, but it’s hard to deny that either of them aren’t well good mate. They’re polished to the extreme, tour de force salvos of a Hollywood blockbuster with a gung-ho attitude that shines bright like a diamond no matter which mode you play in.
If there’s one thing you can say about Astral Chain, it’s that it may just be the most stylish action game on the block. Admittedly complex to wrap your head around at first, Platinum Games’ topsy turvy tale of fighting back against the apocalypse by using tethered phantoms to defend humanity is a mouthful but one that is amazing to see in action when a master gets their hands on the controls.
Astral Chain is a visual slobberknocker, but that spectacle feels every bit as good as it looks and then some. Consistently fun and one of the best new IPs since Nintendo decided to give guns to squid kids, Astral Chain never stops being a balls to the wall blast of energy that’ll leave you hungry for more by the time the end credits have rolled.
After Max Payne introduced bullet time to gamers, Alan Wake turned torchlights into the deadliest weapon with which to fight back against the dark and Quantum Break broke time itself, Control feels like the sum total of every game that Remedy Entertainment has had a hand in developing since they first set foot in the gaming industry so many years ago. An explosion of traditional gunplay and exotic new abilities that players could customise, Control at its best is a challenging mix of ideas that throws surreal sci-fi at your face as you fire back with a gung-ho attitude.
And the winner is…Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Was there any doubt? One of the rare 10/10 games on this site, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a love letter to action and mystery, one that makes the most of From Software’s ability to make every strike feel deadly and possibly the last swing of your sword that you’ll ever unleash against increasingly deadly odds.
It is brutal yet never unfairly punishing, smooth yet rough in the blood that you drown the sand in. Sekiro is simply a stylised mix of stealth and action that gel together in a way that is obscenely magnificent and rewards cunning with a geyser of crimson and a feeling of satisfaction that no game in 2019 could even begin to fathom, let alone equal.
The wildest of rides punctuated by amazing design, tense boss fights and an invitation to be the skilled wolf in the night who decimates opponents with true skill when cornered, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice will easily sink its fangs into you and never let go.
Last Updated: December 2, 2019