From in­ven­tive me­chan­ics to amaz­ing com­bat, these are the ac­tion games that de­fined Xbox’s past

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - START - Daniella Lu­cas

Over the years games have blurred the lines be­tween gen­res. You fre­quently see RPG el­e­ments in mod­ern games such as Destiny, with their loot and gear pro­gres­sion, for ex­am­ple. But it’s ac­tion ti­tles that are the orig­i­na­tors. From sim­ple stage-based brawlers, to sprawl­ing open worlds to tra­verse, they’ve changed mas­sively over the last 14 years—to the point where it’s dif­fi­cult to tell what does and doesn’t count as an ac­tion game these days.

All of the games in this list have ex­cel­lent com­bat and move­ment, be it fisticuffs, swords, or even a little gun­play—but ded­i­cated shoot­ers are out. So while games such as Gears Of War and Wolfen­stein are full of ac­tion, they’re just too gun-heavy for this list. How­ever, in­clud­ing guns as part of a hero’s reper­toire like in Bay­o­netta doesn’t rule it out. The games all have one thing in com­mon: They pro­vide the best ac­tion in Xbox’s his­tory.

01 Prince Of Per­sia: Sands Of time

Re­mem­bered for its time-bend­ing me­chanic, this ad­ven­ture lets you pull off im­pres­sive moves by slow­ing en­e­mies down or freez­ing them in time com­pletely to leave them open to your at­tacks. Al­ter­na­tively, just re­verse time, and you could undo a mis­take and pull off a bet­ter jump. It also played with cam­era an­gles to make com­bat and plat­form­ingstyle sec­tions more cin­e­matic. It feels a little quaint and rough around the edges by to­day’s stan­dards, but you can see so many of the genre’s foun­da­tions here. That same slow-mo­tion me­chanic is now an in­dus­try stan­dard when you go in for a killing blow or crit­i­cal hit, and the tra­ver­sal formed the ba­sis for As­sas­sin’s Creed. While ac­tion games may have been around long be­fore this, Sands Of Time went on to in­flu­ence the mod­ern, 3D evo­lu­tion of the genre. Dev Ubisoft Re­lease Fe­bru­ary 2004 For­mat Xbox

02 Be­yond Good & Evil

A cult clas­sic ac­tion-ad­ven­ture game that’s fi­nally get­ting the mod­ern pre­quel that ev­ery­one has been clam­or­ing for. While its con­trols are a little clunky, even for the time it was re­leased, it’s a great ex­am­ple of how weav­ing en­vi­ron­ment and story into an ac­tion ti­tle can re­ally pay off by giv­ing every move­ment a greater sense of con­text. For ex­am­ple, stealth sec­tions re­ally amp up the ten­sion be­cause you know what’s at stake, even when the con­trols aren’t great at ex­e­cut­ing it. Jade’s cam­era is also an in­valu­able tool that feeds into how you solve puz­zles and in­ter­act with the world around you. It goes to show that you don’t need flashy weapons to make a great ac­tion game. DEV Ubisoft RE­LEASE Fe­bru­ary 2004 For­mat Xbox

03 Ninja Gaiden

There’s a spe­cial kind of love-hate re­la­tion­ship with game dif­fi­culty—it’s both hor­ri­bly frus­trat­ing to run up against, but also won­der­fully re­ward­ing once you man­age to con­quer it. Ninja Gaiden was one of the first se­ries to pur­pose­fully push play­ers in this way, which made ac­tu­ally cut­ting down some of the harder bosses all the more sat­is­fy­ing. Filled with ex­ces­sive blood and strangely erotic de­mons, it cre­ated a great deal of uproar and back­lash, but be­neath all of that blus­ter lay a great com­bat sys­tem that let you string to­gether some im­pres­sive com­bos while you went about fight­ing evil and sav­ing the day. The storytelling is far from so­phis­ti­cated, but the fight­ing was so im­pres­sive for its time that it didn’t need to be. DEV Team Ninja RE­LEASE May 2004 For­mat Xbox

04 As­sas­sin’s Creed

This is the point where more mod­ern, open­world ac­tion games started to take shape— pro­vid­ing large play ar­eas full of ob­sta­cles to nav­i­gate around us­ing all the moves avail­able to you. With its wall-run­ning and rooftop gym­nas­tics in an­cient cities, you can see where As­sas­sin’s Creed im­i­tated Prince Of Per­sia, but with the new tech that the Xbox 360 pro­vided it re­ally opened things up. While there were set ob­jec­tives to fol­low, there was a new, added joy in just ex­plor­ing the city and do­ing an el­e­gant ea­gle dive off its high­est points into the safety of a bale of hay. Since that jump’s in­cep­tion it’s be­come one of the most iconic moves in gam­ing. DEV Ubisoft RE­LEASE Novem­ber 2007 For­mat Xbox

05 Bay­o­netta

Stylish, slick, and won­der­fully over the top thanks to its hero­ine non­cha­lantly strut­ting her way through stages, ef­fort­lessly slay­ing thousands of an­gels, while still find­ing time to have fun pos­ing for the cam­era and teas­ing play­ers. While stages might seem rel­a­tively small in size, there was a grand­ness to each set­ting’s scale. From an­cient city cen­ters, to fight­ing in space in or­der to take down God, Bay­o­netta takes you on one hell of a jour­ney. Thanks to the smaller are­nas there’s a much greater in­vest­ment in how you phys­i­cally move, mak­ing for some of the most pol­ished com­bat in gam­ing his­tory. DEV Plat­inumGames RE­LEASE Jan­uary 2010 For­mat Xbox 360

06 Red Dead Re­demp­tion

Set in a huge Wild West open world over sev­eral ar­eas, this makes our list be­cause of how good it feels to travel around and get into all kinds of cow­boy mis­chief. Its brawl­ing and gun­play feel raw and grimy, just like you’d ex­pect from out­laws in the Wild West, which only adds to the feel­ing of the de­clin­ing fron­tier set­ting. Ev­ery­thing you do has a pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive ef­fect on your rep­u­ta­tion, so you have to be care­ful about how much trou­ble you’re will­ing to get into. But our fa­vorite thing is the way it feels to ride a horse through the coun­try­side—it just feels like such a nat­u­ral part of that world and some­thing we would spend hours do­ing. The plot can wait. DEV Rock­star RE­LEASE May 2010 FOR­MAT Xbox 360

07 Dark Souls II

Souls quickly estab­lished it­self as a cult fa­vorite thanks to its chal­leng­ing com­bat, but the sec­ond en­try in the se­ries is where it re­ally came into its own—and its pop­u­lar­ity started ex­plod­ing. The bleak world was full of in­sanely tough en­e­mies and un­for­giv­ing fights that could see you los­ing all of your progress. It may have been too much for some, but con­quer­ing its harsh bosses has be­come a badge of honor among gamers across the globe. There’s noth­ing quite like fi­nally de­feat­ing those blasted gar­goyles and scratch­ing down a com­ment on the stone floor for oth­ers to see. “I did it!” DEV FromSoft­ware Re­lease March 2014 For­mat Xbox 360, Xbox One

08 Bat­man: Arkham Knight

The fi­nal en­try in the Bat­man Arkham se­ries is the finest of them all when it comes to ac­tion. Build­ing on ev­ery­thing that came be­fore it, this presents the ul­ti­mate ver­sion of the se­ries’ su­per-slick re­ac­tive com­bat. The fight­ing style of deal­ing out blows with but­ton-prompts to re­act to in­com­ing hits has since in­flu­enced other games—you can see a very sim­i­lar ver­sion in Mid­dle-earth: Shadow Of War. You also can’t beat the mo­tion of Bat­man glid­ing around the city, his cape glis­ten­ing in the night sky as he dips and grap­ples his way from build­ing to build­ing. The sense of move­ment is fan­tas­tic; it set a bar for the feel­ing of flight that other games will need to work hard to beat. DEV Gear­box Soft­ware RE­LEASE June 2015 For­mat Xbox One

09 Rise Of The Tomb Raider

One of the most fa­mous ac­tion se­ries of our time re­ceived a com­plete makeover back in 2013, ce­ment­ing it as one of the faces of Xbox. This fol­low-up came two years later, tweak­ing on the lessons learned from the first ti­tle and giv­ing us one of the best ac­tion ti­tles of the last ten years. There’s a pretty even split be­tween com­bat and ex­plo­ration, which feels very in keep­ing with Lara’s char­ac­ter—fights are of­ten messy and fran­tic rather than the pol­ished moves of a fight­ing vet­eran, and you can al­most feel the fear when she leaps across a large gap, des­per­ately clasp­ing at the edge with a grunt of pain as she holds her­self. The sub­tlety of how she moves is as much of a char­ac­ter-builder as her story is. DEV Crys­tal Dy­nam­ics RE­LEASE Novem­ber 2015 For­mat Xbox One

10 Dis­hon­ored 2

The best re­cent ex­am­ple of the ac­tion genre, Dis­hon­ored 2 fol­lows on from the story of the first, let­ting you play as ei­ther Emily or Corvo as they at­tempt to re­claim the throne af­ter a bloody coup. With its steam­punkesque set­ting and mul­ti­ple end­ings, there’s a vast ar­ray of ways for play­ers to ap­proach its chal­lenges. It ex­cels thanks to the sheer depth of abil­i­ties, and thanks to com­bat that lets you play in any way you like, al­low­ing you to be cre­ative with how you link var­i­ous skills to­gether. There’s also enough scope to ad­just to your pre­ferred play style—whether you pre­fer to sneak around ar­eas un­seen or slaugh­ter ev­ery­one in sight, both op­tions are vi­able. From a range of weapons in­clud­ing swords and cross­bows, to su­per­nat­u­ral abil­i­ties that let you tele­port across huge gaps or sum­mon a swarm of rats to dis­pose of dead bod­ies for you, the game is flex­i­ble enough to sup­port any com­bi­na­tion you choose. You can even re­ject pow­ers com­pletely to give your­self a dif­fer­ent kind of chal­lenge if you wish.

Dis­hon­ored 2 rep­re­sents the mod­ern pin­na­cle of ac­tion games, tak­ing lessons from ev­ery­thing that has come be­fore it and pro­vid­ing its own end­lessly flex­i­ble and cre­ative take on the genre, with a set­ting that gives depth and pur­pose to your ac­tions. It’s amaz­ing to see just how far the ac­tion genre has come on Xbox. Here’s to a fu­ture packed with more as­ton­ish­ing ac­tion. DEV Arkane Stu­dios RE­LEASE Novem­ber 2016 For­mat Xbox One

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