These action-adventure games are must plays for anyone who wants to explore some unique worlds with engaging stories.
Video games can act as many things. They can be stress relievers or even stress inducers. They can act as gateways to other perspectives that we’d never consider, allowing us to vicariously live through another and witness different experiences. But above all, video games are escapes from reality that tell amazing stories and show wondrous environments that we could only dream of.
Action-Adventure games have dominated the gaming landscape for as long as we can remember. From old classics like Banjo-Kazooie to modern gems like The Last of Us, the genre has produced incredible games. While the Action-Adventure genre could be a bit murky to identify, as long as there’s some element of exploration and discovery then you’re in for a treat. The following games are among the best of the genre, offering compelling narratives, memorable characters, and engaging environments.
Updated December 1, 2022, by Avery Feyrer: The action-adventure genre can be a fickle one to sparse through, as many games can flirt with the genre. Modern games have become so massive in scale, that nearly anything can be considered an adventure. We've updated this list to include a few more amazing games that take you to on incredible journeys.
Following his split from Konami in 2015, the industry anxiously awaited legendary director Hideo Kojima's unveiling of his first solo project. After much anticipation, Kojima Productions revealed Death Stranding at E3 2016, a game that certainly fits the criteria of Kojima’s wild imagination.
Death Stranding stars Norman Reedus (best known for his role as Daryl in The Walking Dead television series) as Sam Bridges, a deliveryman. He travels across the barren United States trying to reconnect scattered colonies. When it launched in 2019, Death Stranding was met with generally positive feedback and a director’s cut edition was created for the PlayStation 5.
While many games are set in unrealistic environments like outer space or alternate realities, some games take us to historical periods in the past. A Plague Tale: Innocence takes place in the middle of the Hundred Years' War between England and France. By controlling 15-year-old Amicia de Rune, players must stealthfully avoid enemies as Amicia and her sickened brother Hugo try to escape French soldiers and infected rats of the black plague.
A Plague Tale: Innocence launched in 2019 on all major platforms and was met with an overwhelmingly positive reception, as well as winning Best Narrative at The Game Awards that year. A Plague Tale: Requiem launched in 2022 and continued the harrowing tale of the de Rune siblings and their hopes in surviving against the Order.
As unexplored and unknown outer space seems to be, the ocean is just as frightening in its own right. Set in 1960, BioShock is an adventure unlike any other, as the game follows protagonist Jack as he explores the underwater city of Rapture.
While BioShock is primarily a first-person shooter, the 2007 game is a chilling adventure with all sorts of twists and turns. BioShock received tremendous critical acclaim and is among the highest games on Metacritic and and nominated for Game of the Year.
Monolith Productions sought to develop a cutthroat, adventurous, combat-filled Lord of the Rings game, and while they succeeded in doing that, the studio discovered an interesting game mechanic. Shadow of Mordor launched in 2014 and is an original tale set in the J.R.R. Tolkien universe. You assume the role of Talion, a captain of Gondor, who seeks revenge for the death of his family.
Shadow of Mordor received tremendous praise, especially for its Nemesis system. This mechanic centered around tracking the Uruk you'd encounter throughout the game. Ones who killed you would be promoted and you could track them down to get your revenge and also weaken Sauron's forces in the process. But enemies that kill you will get stronger themselves, so the Nemesis system essentially would act as an evolving feature in the game. Although this feature has only been used in Shadow of Mordor and its sequel, Shadow of War, many have insisted on other games adapting the mechanic.
What's an adventure if it's not exploring a galaxy far, far away? And in Lego form? Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is the ultimate collection of the beloved games, as you work your way through the nine episodes.
Don't let the Lego charm fool you; The Skywalker Saga is a masterpiece full of the wondrous magic that captivated you when you first watched these movies. With 380 total characters, The Skywalker Saga will keep you entertained for quite some time.
The latest iteration in Ubisoft's Far Cry series takes players to the war-torn country of Yara. For decades, the people of Yara have been ruled with an iron fist by the Castillo family. The current dictator, Anton Castillo, has started grooming his young son, Diego Castillo, in the ways of governing the country. Assuming the role of Dani Rojas, your mission is liberating the country and breaking free from the grasp of Castillo.
On the island, there is a multitude of firepower for Rojas to use in fighting against Castillo's forces. Whether it's machine guns, rocket launchers, or animal companions known as Amigos, Yara is your destructive playground. Even after you complete Far Cry 6, various enemy leaders will sprout up and try to claim bits of the island for themselves. Ultimately, the fighting never ceases in vying for control of Yara, so don't get comfortable.
Following the failed experiment known as Marvel's Avengers, Square Enix decided to take a different approach. Instead of a live-service experience, the publisher sought the expertise of Eidos-Montreal and produced Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. This game would be the standard linear experience associated with most single-player games, and better received critically than Avengers.
By controlling Star-Lord, the Guardians of the Galaxy are investigating a mysterious cult that's calling themselves the Universal Church of Truth. Their leader, the Grand Unifier Raker, tries to justify his motives, but ultimately they're the same as every other villain: complete domination. Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is a contained adventure that takes you to many iconic locations and crosses paths with many iconic characters.
For nearly 40 years, Pokemon has remained one of the most popular IPs in entertainment. From trading cards to shows and games, Nintendo and Game Freak continue to churn out pocket monster content, and we continue to eat it up. But eventually, no matter how successful you are, change is always needed. And so, Pokemon Legends: Arceus was created.
Unlike the vast majority of the previous games, Arceus focuses more on exploring the various environments and capturing Pokemon. There is still a battle element in the game, but you won't be tasked with collecting gym badges and defeating the Elite Four. Arceus is all about searching new areas, discovering new Pokemon, and experiencing a new way to catch them all.
Naughty Dog rose to fame through its creation of Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter for the early PlayStation consoles. The developer continued its masterclass of game development with the Uncharted series. The first of the series, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, introduced us to the treasure hunter Nathan Drake.
Drake’s personality and obsessive desire for exploration led many to compare him to another legendary adventurer, Indiana Jones. It’s been reported that the gameplay of the first Uncharted game was heavily inspired by Gears of War, enough so that the game was delayed until the Xbox title launched. Rumors have circulated since early 2021 that another Uncharted game was in the works, but nothing concrete has been revealed.
Since acquiring the exclusive rights from Disney to develop Star Wars games in 2013, it’s been a bit hit or miss for Electronic Arts. The company struggled mightily with microtransactions that frustrated its player base, particularly with Star Wars Battlefront 2, but seemingly learned from its mistakes with Jedi: Fallen Order.
This new adventure took place after the Empire’s rise, about five years after the events of the Revenge of the Sith. The game introduced us to a new, young Jedi hiding from the growing Empire named Cal Kestis. After revealing his Force powers, Cal is hunted down by Imperial Inquisitors who were trained by Darth Vader himself. Jedi: Fallen Order contains numerous environments that reward you for deep exploration. In August 2021, EA confirmed that the studio would continue to invest in the world created in Jedi: Fallen Order.
In the early console days, it was pretty normal to get superhero games that were based on the current movies at the time. Some classics, like Spider-Man 2, are still considered amazing action-adventure games to this day. But in 2009, Rocksteady elevated the superhero adventure genre to new heights with Batman: Arkham Asylum.
The first title in the Arkham series introduced the cape crusader in a darker setting, as Batman tried to contain the escaped inmates at Arkham Asylum. The sequel expanded the environment to include all of Gotham in Arkham City and Arkham Knight, creating one of the most immersive game worlds to date. Already one of the most popular superheroes in history, the Arkham series boosted Batman’s popularity even more, as the series received widespread critical acclaim and success.
When ranking the best PlayStation 2 games, it'll be difficult to find a list without Shadow of the Colossus. Known as the spiritual sequel to the classic Ico, Shadow of the Colossus follows a young man named Wander on a quest to bring a girl named Mono back to life. Wander must travel throughout the Forbidden Land to slay gigantic creatures to obtain the power to revive Mono.
Many look to Shadow of the Colossus as being a monumental game in terms of innovative gameplay, the setting as a whole, and the high emotions accompanied by the story. Since its original launch in 2005, Shadow of the Colossus was remastered on the PlayStation 3 in 2011 and then received the full remake treatment in 2018.
Among the long-running Assassin’s Creed series, Odyssey was the first to introduce the choice of a male or female character. Hopefully, you chose Kassandra, as she became not only one of the best characters of the series, but her actions showed that she is one of the best role models in games. On top of a memorable protagonist, Odyssey’s setting is arguably the most stunning of the series.
The eleventh installment of the series, Odyssey was the first of the series not to follow the traditional struggle for power between the Assassin Brotherhood and the Templar Order. Instead, Odyssey followed the tale of a young warrior fighting in the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. Although its predecessor was called Origins, Odyssey is technically the first game of the series chronologically, taking place in 431 BC. Odyssey also featured a deeper focus on RPG elements with expanded dialogue and upgrade options.
Immediately following the critical success of Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar Games began work on developing the next in the series. Over eight years of development later, Red Dead Redemption 2 launched to outstanding praise. The game is among the highest-rated on Metacritic and many pegged it as their Game of the Year in 2018.
Despite having the number two in the title, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a prequel to the events of its predecessor. It follows the story of Arthur Morgan, a long-time member of the Van der Linde gang. Throughout the game, you eventually encounter John Marston, the protagonist from Red Dead Redemption. The game features an incredible open world with plenty of activities to satisfy your dreams of roaming the wild west.
Many fans of The Last of Us might’ve been satisfied with how the game ended, but Naughty Dog was determined to keep the story going. Set five years after the events of the first game, The Last of Us Part 2 continued Ellie and Joel’s story as the two tried to come to terms with the consequences of Joel’s decision at the end of the first game.
The Last of Us Part 2 expanded the amazing world of its predecessor, while also bringing the gameplay elements to modern standards. The enhanced combat mecha, polished graphics, and emotional story were enough for The Last of Us Part 2 to win Game of the Year honors in 2020.
Arguably the greatest superhero ever created, Spider-Man has forever been a beacon of hope and an inspiration to do the right thing. The story of Peter Parker obtaining great power, and with it, great responsibility, has lived with many fans for quite some time. Insomniac tackled the web-slinger with an amazing adventure that pitted Spider-Man against an assortment of villains, most notably Wilson Fisk, Mister Negative, and Otto Octavius. Insomniac's first game ended with Peter taking young Miles Morales under his wing and teaching him the ropes of becoming Spider-Man.
While many fans expected Miles to get his own full-fledged sequel, Spider-Man: Miles Morales acted as a semi-sequel with Miles protecting the city with Peter on vacation. It's an extension of the world previously established in the first game, so you'll be familiar with characters and locations. Both games are excellent for superhero aficionados and action-adventure fans alike.
From Spyro the Dragon to Sunset Overdrive, Insomniac has been responsible for developing incredible games since the late '90s. Among those games are the Ratchet and Clank series, a buddy cop-type adventure through space with a cool-talking Lombax and his trusty robot companion. The latest adventure for the two, Rift Apart, is described as being one of the best early exclusive games for the PlayStation 5.
It's known that Ratchet is the only Lombax in the universe, so Clank builds a device called the Dimensionator. This tool rips open a portal to access other dimensions, which will allow Ratchet to potentially find more of his kind. However, Dr. Nefarious steals the device and a wild adventure ensues with Ratchet and Clank traveling through dimensions to protect all of the realities. Rift Apart also introduces Rivet, another Lombax that Clank encounters who, quite frankly, steals the entire show.
One of the biggest surprises of 2017 was Guerrilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn. The original story introduced an instant fan favorite in Aloy, a young hunter trying to survive in an apocalyptic world infested with robotic dinosaurs. Horizon Zero Dawn was the developer’s first game since Killzone 3.
Overall, Horizon Zero Dawn received positive feedback for its beautiful open world and engrossing story. The success of Horizon Zero Dawn led to an expansion in the same launch year called The Frozen Wilds, and a sequel, Horizon Forbidden West, which launched in early 2022.
Not only did It Takes Two take-home Game of the Year honors, but it's also one of the best action-adventure games ever. When a young girl wishes for her always arguing parents to once again be friends, the pair find themselves transported to a magical world: their daughter's imagination. Cody and May have to navigate through their home as homemade figures to try and find a way to return to normal.
It Takes Two is an eye-opening adventure through the point of view of a child struggling through the early stages of a possible divorce and the rekindling of dying love. The game is meant to be played with a partner, not only through the game's mechanics and features but also by the message it sends. Sometimes, getting through life is too much for one person, and we have to allow ourselves to accept the fact that we need the help of another.
The slayer of gods is also the slayer of games. Voted to be one of the greatest games of all time, God of War reintroduces us to the forgotten savagery of Kratos. Admittingly, Kratos is a bit more chill this time around, as he and his son, Atreus, traverse through the realms of Norse mythology. But even though Kratos attempts to be a respectable father figure to Atreus, he soon realizes that sometimes violence is the only answer.
Compared to the previous installments in the series, Santa Monica swapped out Kratos’ signature Blades of Chaos for the Leviathan Axe. The game also featured plenty of RPG elements, such as combat upgrades that would affect varying playstyles. Santa Monica received tremendous praise and awards for God of War and being able to revive the series.
Avery Feyrer earned a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He experienced working as a Web Content Editor at the local sports radio station in Arizona, before realizing his true passions were in games. Avery began writing game reviews for his website (coffeescorner.com) before becoming a regular contributor to MP1st, and now, a Staff Writer for TheGamer. You can find Avery on Twitter @CoffeeBlack_910.
These action-adventure games are must plays for anyone who wants to explore some unique worlds with engaging stories.