Out of many genres that exist today, to me the action genre has only gotten stronger through the times. There have been plenty of actions games from the early days of video games. Final Fight, Streets of Rage, Double Dragon, and Battletoads were the big ones during that time. Things had to change though for the world of 3D graphics. Sadly, this just meant the death for many of these franchises. Now they still get their time in the light as Double Dragon had the amazing Double Dragon Neon title and Battletoads is getting a bit of a revival thanks to Microsoft adding them to existing franchises like Killer Instinct. The big reason why these franchises did stay in the ground though was because they could not translate to 3D well and while I think they do not need to be because again look at Double Dragon Neon, but either way Capcom tried 3D with Final Fight and that did not work at all, possibly making one of the worst action games to date. So, the action genre got turned completely on its head as we got many new names enter in the action genre. To this day, the company known as Platinum Games is becoming much larger that they are working with Square Enix to make the new Nier title and Scalebound is still on many radars. Now I will not be limiting this list to one per franchise because there are clearly new kings of this genre and they need their representation.
10. Killer is Dead
First off is a title that I felt got panned for the wrong reasons. To me this was Suda 51 getting back to something closer to No More Heroes. Now the big changes compared to No More Heroes was the skill tree and combo system the game had. The game is short and some of the mini games or side missions can be boring, but the main fighting in general is great. The system to me feels fluid and fast thanks to dodging and blocking in the game. A perfect dodge gets you a chance to give your foes a barrage of slices and such getting you a better combo. What was great with combos in Killer is Dead is that it makes your attacks faster and stronger. Stringing combos was strong in the game and it is possible to get these stronger attacks against boss characters if you know how to read them. Then just like No More Heroes, the boss fights were all around great. We had some unique ones with Alice becoming a giant insect like creature crawling on the wall, to David being an incredibly fast and aggressive fighter just like the main character, and my favorite being Hamada-Yama with being a near brick wall at first and learning how to block and counter attack and quickly needing to change strategies when he goes berserk. Overall as a full package, Killer is Dead does lack with some side content, but the main content including the story is nonsensical fun.
I am also a big fan of the many art styles in the game.
This is not going to be the first time we hear of Platinum in this list. The same goes for Grasshopper and Capcom, but that is for later. Platinum Games’ first title was quite impressive that even today it is argued which was better, Madworld or No More Heroes and Desperate Struggle. For me the answer is quite obvious, but Madworld still has ton to offer that No More Heroes did not have. The style of the game is gorgeous. I love the black and white Sin City look this game had. Just showing that unique art styles still hold up to this day compared to hyper realistic graphics. Now Madworld is not a fast action game compared to other titles, but the level design was strong all around. There were many things to do in each of the stages and while some mini games were hard to do, they were still fun and silly. I always have trouble doing the seltzer mini game, but the imagery of it never gets old. Shoving a bottle down someone’s throat and sending them flying into spikes on cardboard pin up girls, yea this game can be quite insane. That is some of the fun in the game, you can find unique weapons in the levels and use them to create more mayhem. You can even use signs, trash cans, spiked fences, and much more ways to kill your prey. There are even fun secrets in the game where my favorite levels are from the Asian Town sections. Now this game does have some bad to it as well. The majority of the Halloween sections are awful! I did enjoy the first level with the fun golf game, but the boss in that level is the worst and has a function that barely even works. The entire Frankenstein Monster’s level and boss fight is horrible with a small level and the fight being cheap and boring. Now the Elise boss fight was great though and it is somewhat thanks to… well let me just use this quote to explain it, “Awesome rack on her though!” Reminding me the announcers Greg Props and John DiMaggio have some of the best lines like “Awesome rack on her though!” Oh, I used that one before. Either way the game has a huge sense of humor with both the dialogue and presentation. Madworld may falter with some levels and a few of the boss fights, but the level design and overall fun combat saves the title. There is also the Black Baron, he alone makes this a great game.
The soundtrack is strong too and I am not usually a fan of this type of music.
8. Devil May Cry
The beginning of Devil May Cry and first time we get to see the incredible Dante. I will not lie; Devil May Cry is up there as one of my favorite franchises. There are really only two games that hurt the series a bit and that would-be Devil May Cry 2 which was just awful in many ways. Then DmC with some terrible design ideas in terms of the levels designs, combat choices, and the overall look and feel of that title. Now with the original Devil May Cry it was originally Resident Evil 4, but was changed to Devil May Cry because it was a bit too action orientated, quite funny seeing how Resident Evil 5 and 6 were intense action shooter games. This was the game that Hideki Kamiya worked on as he also worked on Viewtiful Joe during his time with Capcom. Kamiya knew how to make a complete package with the first game and I will not lie, even some of the future titles do not share that with the original. Now the reason why I am going to put 3 and 4 higher is because of the combat engines they had. It does feel a bit harsh doing this because the original game was well the first so just putting the other games higher having one of the reasons be the combat just seems a bit unfair to me. I do have some reasons though why I do prefer the later titles though. First is how Dante feels, Dante still did have his cool personality to him, but I personally enjoy the big goof ball he later became in 3 and 4. I also like the boss battles more in 3 and 4 which I will get to later. Now that is not to say the original has bad boss fights, that is so not true. Personally, I feel this game has one of the best in the entire series with the fights against Nelo Angelo. I will say though the variety during the time did not help this game in terms of the fights, but Kamiya soon fixed that with another franchise. Overall the original Devil May Cry still holds up to this day as a high pinnacle of 3D action games and it being one of the first still says a lot.
7. Wonderful 101
Back to Kamiya already, this game you can clearly tell was inspired by Viewtiful Joe and so be it, he created that franchise too so he can use similar feels to it mostly because he cannot even do Joe anymore… Anyways, Wonderful 101 came out for the Wii U and this game made me impressed on the technology the system had. Kamiya found out how to work with the gamepad for many new functions and hence these little mini games were perfectly tied in with the main game. Some of these things were little puzzles using both screens and even using the other screen to aim. What is also great about this title is that you can switch your view between gamepad and television so if you did not want to use it, go right ahead. I love it when games work with gimmicks that do not halt a game at all. The flow of this title is near perfect and this is easily the best story Platinum ever had. Wonderful 101 is a heavy homage to superheroes everywhere. The Sentai roots are extremely clear and I think there is even some Carranger inspired jokes in the game. Now some faults with the game is that some of the levels can go a bit too long. I do get bored with some certain levels and if I am playing it again, I would most likely just select the levels I want. Then to be honest I would just play the boss fights for the majority of the time. Then with the main combat, it can have some trouble with when you are flooded with foes and things can get overwhelming. Now there are great things about the combat, the amount of skills and moves are amazing and being able to mix and match leaves things on how you want to play. Then with forming Unite Morphs is extremely easy with any set of controls. I will say the only one I get small problem with is Hammer, but I just have to get used to it and I got it down after a few tries. This game even includes some amazing boss fights with all of them being top contenders. Now the final battle is clearly the best, but the fights with Vorrken are extremely great as well. I can also never forget about the Punch-Out inspired robot fights in the game. Then with the story, it just dragged me in so easily thanks to the comedy and dramatic moments. Overall this was great game with some little gameplay sections holding it back, but most of it does have to do with your depth perception at times.
6. Devil May Cry 4
Here we go now boys and girls, Devil May Cry had one great title to be on hiatus on for the main series and seeing how it got a Special Edition proves how things can be improved because I am basing this on the original product still. Now one thing that I love about this title was the overall design. The levels looked gorgeous with the rustic feel to everything. This title even got a bit classy with the introduction and great music choice. This game has one of the best introductions of all games with that lovely piano and operatic song and seeing Nero dish out some monsters. There is something special when an action game can pull off a slow and beautiful song without it hindering the feel of the action. Now I will admit some of the backtracking can get a bit annoying and repeating some of the levels was not an overall good choice either. Now going back to the levels did have some ups though. First you got to play as Dante and there were some changes, but repeating boss fights was a bit sad. At least the boss fights were strong enough to permit a repeat fight though. Then playing as Nero is really amazing. He has a great grapple function and there are many animations with it that never get old to see. I also love Nero’s sword where you can charge it up for better damage. Playing as Dante was extremely fun and unlike Devil May Cry 3 where you were limited to two weapons you equipped per level, this time you have full access to all the weapons! It was not hindering at all too because switching weapons was so easy and if you had any trouble during the fights, the good old pause method still works fine. This is also my favorite Dante to date in terms of design. In the fourth game Dante has the silly yet cool look at the same time. It just speaks true to his character a complete badass who can be extremely goofy as well. I even love how Dante is portrayed in this game, this is after the original game and no one comes close to Mundus’ level so Dante is just shaking everyone off with ease. It just creates this strong image for the character as Dante to me is one of the strongest characters in fiction. Overall, Devil May Cry 4 is extremely beautiful and badass at the same time and that combination can be quite rare at times.
I am so used to Dante that this is pretty much normal to me.