My Top-10 Action-Adventure Titles which are not Zelda-games
I’ve been revisiting some action-adventure titles from my past and come to realise that the action-adventure genre is fairly vast and all-encompassing. Therefore, I decided it might be fun to make a list of some of my favourite action-adventure titles. However, because I wanted to avoid giving Zelda too much prevalence, since it’s pretty much the gold-standard of all action-adventure titles, I decided to challenge myself and not include any Zelda-titles on the list.
I will note here, right off the bat, though that “action-adventure” is a very nebulous concept. All that is really required of an action-adventure are that it a.) has a story-line which drives the game along and b.) most of the game is comprised of action-sequences of some-sort. With such a loose definition though, it’s easy to see that several games of other more specific genres will easily fall under the umbrella of this title and I’ve decided to be fairly inclusive in that regard. The main criteria for a game being on this list is that I a.) loved the story and b.) enjoyed the action. (That said, you’ll not be seeing many FPS or RPG titles here.)
Some honourable mentions here go to Mirror’s Edge which is a bizarre title to begin with where I really enjoyed the gameplay although the story was a little weird. Similarly, I enjoyed Remember Me a lot for its story but it’s biggest weaknesses were with the gameplay. I also contemplated including Manhunt 2, but I really need to replay it before I can say for sure that it deserved to be on the list. Also, Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy is another title that would probably deserve a mention here but I think the gameplay kind of outshines the story of that instalment. And I’d be kidding if I didn’t remember to include Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes here as well.
There’s probably more that I’m forgetting, but let’s get on with the list now…
Yes, the original. For whatever reason, I’ve never been really keen on the sequels to this Ubisoft series dealing with conflict between mind-controlling Templars and the heroic Hashiashin uncovering alien technology or some-such. However, I did feel that the first instalment had a lot of cool stuff in it and I really loved the Middle-Eastern setting. Altaïr was a cool protagonist and the gameplay in all its simplicity was quite awesome.
Also, Altaïr’s story was very interesting with an excellent finale which capped off an interesting character-arc. Desmond Miles’s story seemed to have been kind of secondary to everything from the very get-go, though another reason I can’t really get into the later instalments is because he was killed off (the other being all the unnecessary crap added to the sequels).
All that said, Assassin’s Creed does have one flaw and that’s the fact that a lot of the things you do in the game are the same basic tasks. There is some variety with the three different cities having very different cityscapes which makes escaping challenging and each of the assassination missions are quite interesting. However, whether you’re defending the citizenry, pick-pocketing or beating people for information, your tasks are all quite similar which can lead to some monotony.
That’s also the only reason why AssCreed only makes it to the number-10 spot, but I still enjoyed the game a lot.
Some might be surprised by the low position of this game on the list, however, there is a good reason for it I assure you. L.A. Noire is an excellent adventure title where you control officer Cole Phelps in the Los Angeles of the 1950s. You start as a street cop and work your way up to homicide solving difficult cases, gathering evidence and questioning suspects. Every once in a while you also have to do a car chase or end up in a gun-fight. The action-scenes are fairly straightforward but a little bit of flavour to what is mostly a plot and exploration driven game.
Considering L.A. Noire made number-1 on my Xbox 360 games list, you may be wondering why it’s so low on this list. Don’t get me wrong in the very least, L.A. Noire is an awesome game and I thoroughly enjoyed it. However, my enjoyment was due to the investigation and questioning aspects of the game as well as the really strong and dark storyline which drove the game. Conversely, the action-sequences weren’t perhaps nearly as much fun, reminding me a lot of GTA but not executed nearly as well. These honestly felt like slapped on parts to what was essentially a really cool “adventure game” and it’s indeed by the virtue of these “action”-sequences why I’m even able to call this an action-adventure title in the first place.
That doesn’t change the fact that it is a stand-out game and highly recommended regardless.
Rareware’s swan song title for the Nintendo home consoles sees Fox McCloud and company venture to a world of dinosaurs to take down an evil dictator and save a sexy fox-girl named Krystal from a giant… err, well, crystal. You explore a variety of colourful locations, solve Zelda-esque puzzles and encounter many cartoony characters along the way.
StarFox Adventures took a lot of crap from fans back in the day for not being a schmup. And although it would have been nice to have more flying segments, I honestly think they’re the least interesting part of the game. The exploration and the lush cartoony surroundings really made this into an excellent experience. Apart from the beautiful graphics, the soundtrack was beautiful and I felt every dungeon (as they were) was challenging and fun. Sure, the story is quite straight-forward but it kept me reasonably motivated through the game.
I will be the first one to admit that the game has some glaring flaws. The voice-acting is very hit-and-miss with some characters having good voice-performances, others having really weak ones and some of the weirder ones being actually very entertaining because of it. The combat system really could have been much better as it’s basically reduced to a single button.
However, it’s still a really fun game and one of my personal favourites for the GameCube.
Metroid is a series not typically known for good story-telling, but this finally changed with Other M. The game has Samus Aran investigating a disturbance on a research station, coming to grips with her past and dealing with a mysterious threat. What I really loved about Other M is how much it fleshed out Samus as a character and actually made her somewhat relatable as opposed to prior games where she was kind of an emotionless block. Add to this the typically awesome visuals and haunting atmosphere of the Metroid-series and you had a game that was just really awesome to dig into.
The action-gameplay was also a lot of fun, harkening back slightly to the 2D originals but still with a distinctly 3D touch. However, just as with a lot of other games on this half of the list, Other M’s few flaws did have to do with its gameplay. While on the over-all, the gameplay was solid and quite fun, any section that required you to use rockets was a pain in the ass because you had to flip the Wiimote to face the TV in order to aim. This along with those occasionally tedious first-person view sections (if you didn’t know what you were supposed to be looking at) bogged the game down a bit.
However, the game was still a lot of fun and one of my personal favourite titles for the Wii. Sure, Metroid Prime 3 had way better controls (and used the Wii’s controller way better) but Other M really felt like an adventure.
The second game of the Darksiders series sees you take control of Death on a quest to prove the innocence of his brother War (the protagonist of the first game) and to bring an end to a strange corruption that threatens very existence itself. Darksiders 2 is a bizarre and, at times, hammy quest through bizarre worlds of rather peculiar characters. Giants, angels, demons and more wait around every corner to either help or try to kill you.
Darksiders is technically an action-RPG, but since the levelling up is so secondary to everything you do in the game, the emphasis is on action and thus the game never really holds you up by requiring you to level-grind. Which a-okay in my book. The dungeons are varied and interesting and frequently require you to use your noggin to solve tricky puzzles Zelda-style. This game resembles Zelda in many subtler ways and that combined with the considerably more action-packed gameplay just makes this into a really solid experience.
The plot maybe drifts off towards the game’s end, but while it lasts is actually really a lot of fun as is the overly dramatic voice-acting. Gameplay is solid for the most part, though killing enemies begins to feel like chore at times. And the shooter section was pretty terrible (but thankfully very short). This is a really enjoyable game but it did have enough small annoyances for me to not want to put it higher.
In Beyond Good and Evil, you control a woman named Jade trying to uncover a web of corruption on an alien world while trying to protect the innocent from hostile alien attacks. She’s helped by her fart-weaponizing literal pig for an uncle Pey’j. The sci-fi-ish world of Beyond Good and Evil is filled with cool locations and Rastafarian rhinos.
The game puts a heavy emphasis on stealth but also combat and puzzle solving. There’s vehicle sections as well as general racing and running away from giant boss-enemies. What I love is the strong story-line backed by cartoony and lovable supporting characters. Even so, the story isn’t afraid to get dark at times which is what really keeps the game interesting.
That said, Beyond Good and Evil has a few hiccups. Some of the stealth-sections are really annoying, especially towards the end where you can die from being caught. Some of the dialogue is a little silly and awkward (due to the game being originally in French) and the flight-section near the end really comes out of nowhere. However, none of the game’s flaws are so bad that they would make you want to stop playing. Beyond Good and Evil does so many things right it’s actually really impressive for it.
Another stealth-title, but Batman: Arkham Asylum was easily one of the best games to have come out for the Xbox 360. The fact that it was a Batman game was even more impressive. The premise has Joker take over Arkham Asylum after being caught by the dark knight. You traverse Arkham, gathering bat-gear and taking on classic Batman villains like the Scarecrow, Killer Croc and Poison Ivy.
Apart from the stealth and exploration, what makes Batman a lot of fun are the fighting sections. You don’t get very far with mindless button-mashing and instead have to learn the individual thug-types’ weaknesses. Of course, the more gadgets you get, the easier the game gets, but there is still a considerable amount of skill required and the game even gives you a lot freedom choosing how to take down certain enemies.
The boss battles are also mostly pretty excellent and I even really liked the hallucination levels with Scarecrow. As the story progresses, it perhaps goes down a very predictable track, but I really loved the atmosphere, gameplay and fun-factor in this first instalment way more than in the butchered sequel. Perhaps one of the later Bat-games can peak my interest one of these days, but the first game is a definite gem.
This is an underrated gem for the PlayStation and Nintendo 64. In this semi-post-apocalyptic take on Mega Man, you control cyborg hero battling the goofy air-pirate family called the Bonnes, who keep attacking a peace-loving island in search of hidden treasure. You have to take on ancient robots, explore dark caverns and also beat the stuffings out of the Bonnes’ adorable army of Serv-Bots.
Mega Man Legends offers a lot of customisation with weapons and gear. It maybe suffers from slightly clunky controls but has a lovely cartoony look for such an early 3D era title. Exploration and combat is fun once you get used to it and the game has a really lovable atmosphere. Apart from the goofy characters, the cutscenes look awesome and the adorable voice-acting really makes it feel like an anime.
While there are things you could easily nit-pick about, my only genuine complaint is that most of the dungeons are very similar underground locations. Sure, there’s decent enemy variety and cool boss-fights to keep you entertained, but also maybe just a slight lack of polish. However, as a game over-all, it’s aged extremely well and is just a joy to play.
In GTA: San Andreas, you’re Carl Johnson. As CJ you have to help the Grove Street Families climb the ladder of success in Los Santos, free your brother Sweet from jail, expose the corrupt antics of the villainous Officer Tenpenny and do about a dozen crazy and violent things in the name justice. San Andreas was easily the vastest and most colourful of the GTA-titles when it first came out, but unlike its successors, didn’t lose that charming juvenile sense of humour that made GTA3 and Vice City so likeable.
The gameplay is excellent and I also love how much you can alter CJ’s appearance. The world is vast and full of interesting locations. I really dig the early-90s setting (perhaps even more than, surprisingly, Vice City’s) and the in-game radio stations’ track-lists are easily the best heard in any GTA game to date. Not only that, there’s just lots and lots of interesting missions to go on and that’s just if you want to complete the game. There are side-missions’ a-plenty for those who enjoy that aspect of the game.
What makes San Andreas stand out for me best is that it retained the comedy of the its predecessors while also having easily the best story-line of the games and that’s still what makes this title stand out amongst the rest in my mind. GTA5 has more shit to do (too much in fact) and GTA3 is a lot more straight-forward, but San Andreas has the most heart and that’s why it’s my favourite.
In this game, you guide a hung over squirrel called Conker on a quest… to go home and have a nap. However, your plans are complicated by pissy gargoyles, violent dung-beetles, singing mountains of shit, hard-partying cavemen and evil weasel scientists. Your sexy girlfriend, Berry gets wrapped up in the action and Conker has to face constant turmoil just so he can go home peacefully.
I’ve given Conker a lot of love on my blog, especially on the Top-10 Nintendo 64 games list. The reason is that Conker is truly unlike any other game I’ve ever played. It’s charming and has juvenile sense of humour. Conker constantly breaks the fourth wall in the most delightful ways. The voice-acting is a blast with a strong tint of British comedy oozing through. The locations are vast an interesting. And for a game that seems entirely puerile and simple on the off-set, the story delves into some pretty dark territory.
There are definitely flaws and nit-picks but it’s simply put, the most ambitious and awe-inspiring 3D platformer. In fact, it transcends being just a platformer into being a solid adventure filled with all types of goofy action. Sure, some parts (like the war-segments) can be really frustrating – but completing the game is so worth-while it honestly doesn’t faze me.
Top notch game all the way!