One of the best things as gamers that we can do is think about the impact video games have on us as people. We may all love certain gaming titles but it seems that a good action-adventure video game can make us really love gaming. They suck us in, not only for the fun action & adventure involved but also for an amazing story that’s often thrilling.
Usually, we’re given a great main story along with side quests. Yet even without side quests, there are still awesome achievements one can go after.
Take Sniper Elite 4 where you can earn the “Better Than The Best” achievement. To do so, you have to complete the entire game on the incredibly hard Authentic Plus Level. You cannot manually save, and they even take away your radar, HUD, and on-screen notifications. Enemies on high alert and if they hear you, they’ll keep coming.
It’s insanely hard to do, yet we play for this small achievement. It’s essentially nothing to some yet everything to the player.
A great action-adventure video game simply makes you care. As a result, several franchises have popped up in this field. Most have been incredible too.
For our list, we defined the action-adventure game as a game that involves one or more players in an interactive, long-form story. There needs to be fighting and/or weapons implemented as the game progresses. They can be A to B or Open-World but cannot be considered an RPG.
Of course, that leaves out games like Final Fantasy, the Elder Scrolls Series, Fallout, etc. We also were careful to not just throw First-Person Shooters into this unless they had fantastic stories with substance behind them. Plus, they needed to be known mostly for being Action-Adventure.
That said, let’s take this to the next level!
Donkey KongIt has been on like Donkey Kong since 1981.
Shigeru Miyamoto debuted the beloved gorilla for the Atari 2600 as an arcade game.
The player’s goal was to make it up the series of ladders and platforms until he could reach the princess. According to an old article in the Nintendo Press Room, Donkey Kong is one of the best-selling game franchises of all-time.
He’s stood the test of time as Nintendo continues to push out new Donkey Kong titles. Most-recently, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze debuted on the Nintendo Switch in 2018. For over three decades that span several different genres, this action-adventure video game franchise powerhouse broadened horizons for platform developers.
Donkey Kong’s journey through time in this genre is very similar to another name on this list that you can see further down.
HitmanEven though the Hitman series is defined as a stealth game, that doesn’t mean Agent 47 doesn’t fit the role of an action-adventure video game title.
Since the year 2000, several small Hitman projects came out. IO Interactive appeared to bring out a new project every two years with titles like Hitman: Codename 47, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, and Hitman: Contracts to name a few.
The video game series has captured millions of fans’ hearts since its inception. 16 years after the original game came out, the biggest launch came from Square Enix, as Hitman debuted for PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One. It sold incredibly well and even achieved a great score from Metacritic, coasting at a solid 84.
Hitman 2 ended up coming out in 2018 with IO Interactive back in the saddle. It nearly achieved the same score as its predecessor by Metacritic, with an 82.
DestinyAfter having so many years of success with Halo, Bungie set out to create a new IP in 2014 that pushed the limits of how we define an action-adventure video game. They included a massive-multiplayer-online concept into this along with the first-person-shooter mentality.
Destiny debuted in the Fall of 2014 with loads of momentum in the video game space. Hardcore fans remember how Destiny began as a launch title. With limited events to take part in and lack of an end-game, Destiny fizzled out quickly.
That lull in activity did not last long. Bungie began to curate content towards massive DLC’s, which led towards the launch of Destiny 2 in 2018. Bungie’s biggest project has won numerous game awards and isn’t stopping anytime soon.
One can argue Destiny spans across multiple game genres. As a player who put in over 1,000 hours, this writer can tell you it’s certainly an adventure throughout the solar system.
Super MarioRemember earlier when we talked about mentioning a very similar name to Donkey Kong?
The Super Mario series speaks for itself. In fact, just typing out sentences wouldn’t put Mario’s impact on the gaming space into the proper aura. Per an article from Forbes, “Super Nintendo World,” with Mario front-and-center, is coming to Universal Studios in Orlando in 2023.
Mario also began as a basic platformer. In true 8-bit style, the Mario games had one goal in mind, to save Princess Peach from Bowser in his castle. Years of success evolved into three titles that are arguably the biggest action-adventure games in modern history.
Those are the infamous: Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Odyssey.
All three games are critically-acclaimed by peers in the industry. Hopefully, Nintendo is hard at work with the series’ next big hit. If it’s anything like the aforementioned games, it will not disappoint.
Batman: The Arkham SeriesDuring a time where DC Comics was dominated by the hype train that is Marvel Studios, DC Comics won in a category that cannot be ignored, the video game world.
Batman: Arkham Asylum debuted in 2009 by WB Games and Rocksteady Studios. This was the first Batman game introduced on the PS3 and Xbox 360. Not only were its mechanics fluid, but the storyline created by the developers was spectacular.
This linear-storyline masterpiece evolved into one of the better titles, in its decade, Batman: Arkham City. In 2011, this title took everything it learned from the first game and stunned players. The combat, specifically, was top-notch. Lastly, Batman: Arkham Knight launched in 2016.
Batman: Arkham Knight scored an 87 by Metacritic, the worst of the series. Meanwhile, Arkham City received a 96 and Arkham Asylum scored a 91. If your worst score is an 87, that just tells you how great of a job you did.
We’d say WB Games did something right with this series.
Kingdom HeartsMickey Mouse helped push the Kingdom Hearts series into the top-10 of action-adventure video game titles in our book. No, Disney is not paying this publication to include it.
Disney does not own everything, you know. (though we’d totally work with them if they asked)
The best way to describe Kingdom Hearts is the combination of Final Fantasy and Disney. The protagonist, Sora, is attempting to help his friend and better-half, Kairi, from the darkness. It’s much easier to spare everyone the details about its lore and story.
Needless to say, even the hardcore fans aren’t exactly sure of the story up to this point.
After the success of the first Square Enix developed a tremendous sequel that people loved. Yet they wanted to get in on this current generation before it was gone. Thus, in 2019 the people at Square Enix delivered the absolutely stunning Kingdom Hearts 3.
It combines what Kingdom Hearts and its sequel did correctly. From buttery-smooth graphics and combat to an emotional storyline with Disney’s finest characters, it’s a beautiful cacophony of adventure and style.
Tomb RaiderHorizon Zero Dawn is still a very youthful series, but many feel it proved itself as better than the original Tomb Raider at points. Many agree and with the franchises being so similar, had this gaming franchise been two or three games deep, it may have toppled this franchise on our list.
Yet Square Enix & Crystal Dynamics wanted to deliver something impactful when they rebooted the franchise. Not only did they do that, but they are making it much harder for those Horizon types now.
The story used in the overall franchise but particularly in the reboot was tremendous. They changed the look of Lara Croft and truly gave us a fun and fluid game, with smooth mechanics throughout. In addition, we saw a new story with Croft that kept us on the edge of our seats.
Funny enough, this franchise has been around for quite a while now.
Not many people know Tomb raider is going to turn 30 in 2026.
Its first installment came in 1996 and was made for the Sega Saturn, Playstation, and MS-DOS. Over its 24 years of development and more than 15 games, Tomb Raider is a symbol of consistency. On the development side, the franchise never took more than three years off.
Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider celebrate the success of this franchise and were able to utilize current-day graphics to its advantage. To this day, Tomb Raider instills beautiful aesthetics worthy of note on every action-adventure video game franchise listing.
UnchartedSpeaking of very similar franchises, Naughty Dog did exactly what they do best with the adventures of Nathan Drake. All four Uncharted titles follow Drake on a treasure hunt in different parts of the world. Of course, it’s not just treasures that Drake seems to find himself searching for.
At certain points, there is a magical or possessive relic involved too. Perhaps the search may not be able this but he may come across them on the way. This is along with a few literal puzzles he has to solve too.
What separates Uncharted and Tomb Raider often comes down to what the two seemed to most connected to. For Lara Croft, there was always a hidden mystery and organization she was trying to stop. For Nathan Drake, there was this drive to be an explorer like his ancestor along with his addiction to puzzles and being the first to discover something.
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Not to mention, keep certain world-changing stuff away from the bad guys. Of course, both liked guns but Lara seemed to find her best niche with a bow and arrow and other minimalist tools. The bigger the gun or the lounder the boom, Drake wanted to use it the most.
Drake’s saga began in 2007 on the Playstation 3. Naughty Dog finished its last title in 2016. Between the nine years, they kept the attention of players with ease.
There’s a reason why the Uncharted series is still making money. The Nathan Drake Collection on Playstation 4 still goes for $30 at most retail stores.
Assassin’s CreedDid we do either our high school or college history papers using Assassin’s Creed material? Let’s just answer that by saying that it’s safe to say mentioning Ezio on a certain Renaissance Period Paper was a bad idea.
Altair, Ezio Auditore, Connor, Desmond Miles. The list goes on and on with this series.
Of course, those four are in the conversation for the best protagonist in an action-adventure video game. Ubisoft hit several grand slams with Assassin’s Creed. 11 games in 11 years define their ability to stay relevant for so long.
It’s truly amazing how the same series was able to change so much since its inception in 2007. Not only were time periods switched, but locations and even gameplay altered so the series didn’t fall into a state of stale gameplay.
From hunting wild animals to epic naval battles, and even stretching to the RPG elements in the new titles Ubisoft has not stopped creating epic tales from new time periods and cultures.
When they noticed fans were not responding well to games they put out, they took a year off and came back even better than before. They are still doing this to make sure they get things right, with 2019 not producing another game in the saga while 2020 is expected to see one.
The games are quality-driven to make fans want to play them any time they can.
God of WarThe 2018 Game of the Year award winner nearly cracked our list of best action-adventure video game franchises easily. Sony Interactive Entertainment created a masterpiece in 2018 that is worthy of every accolade in the book. “BOY!” was it a phenomenal game.
One of Sony’s best works, God of War started in 2005 with the original release. In 10 years, Sony pushed out 11 titles that spanned over two console cycles. The God of War Collection was even released for the PS Vita, which doesn’t hold up among its handheld peers.
The originals were a beast for their time. Kratos hacked-and-slashed his way to the hears of millions who just wanted to release frustration on greek Gods all over the world. They were successful, but the 2018 release solidified this franchise’s spot on our list..
Tom Clancy’s… Well… It’s A TieLet’s disregard the very misleading header above, Tom Clancy games are an institution in gaming and it would be very difficult to put just one series on our list. Thus, our decision to keep it vague works well with how successful the franchise became.
Just by going down the list, Tom Clancy has a multitude of series that could fit. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six series continues to impress in the competitive gaming circuit. Alongside Counter-Strike, League of Legends and now Fortnite, eSports took Tom Clancy’s latest installment, Rainbow Six Seige, to new heights.
The Ghost Recon series also deserves a lot of credit for keeping the game going when the series appeared to be stale. Ghost Recon: Wildlands was a success at launch in 2017. The development team even brought out its successor, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, in 2019. It is the 11th installment of the Ghost Recon series and certainly won’t be the last.
The Division only has two games but did very well in the looter-shooter category. The original Division title did very well in a crowded genre, alongside Destiny and Borderlands. Although, while Division 2 had a lot of hype at launch, it’s fizzled as of late.
Nothing compares to Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell series in terms of the action-adventure genre. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is one of the highest-rated games of all-time on Metacritic, edging out millions of titles with a 93. It was the series’ third installment that packed a great story with successful multiplayer modes as well.
Grand Theft AutoHave you ever wanted to get lost in a realistic world that allowed you to carjack somebody, get in a pursuit with police, and drive your vehicle off of a cliff with no consequence?
The Grand Theft Auto or GTA series allowed you to do that, and then some.
Rockstar Games has nearly turned GTA into Americana for gamers. The series is widely considered one of the best of all-time with a possible sixth game around the corner (like the next two-to-three years).
GTA 3 seemed to be when the series truly broke out in the gaming community. In 2002 when Grand Theft Auto: Vice City debuted, it created a monster in the action-adventure video game genre.
In fact, players still find a way to plug their PS2 or Xbox in and play the original version of the game. Fast-forward to current-day and content creators continue to push out new videos on YouTube or Twitch for GTA V.
Remember, GTA V came out in 2013. That’s now 7 years ago! Talk about an impact!
It only took two titles for Grand Theft Auto to put a stranglehold on its demographic. San Andreas was the best-selling game of all-time in 2008. At the time, it had sold over 9.5 million copies. Vice City only sold a measly 7.3-million copies,
There’s no doubt that when Rockstar Games comes out with Grand Theft Auto VI, the money will pour in like continuous running water.
Metal Gear SolidMetal Gear Solid was not on my playlist during my childhood, but millions of others would disagree. Originally known simply as Metal Gear, the franchise truly began back in 1987, more than 30 years ago!
However, they wanted it to be much more. However, it took them nearly a decade for technology to catch up with their aspirations for the franchise.
By 1998, Hideo Kojima & Konami finally had their technology allowing them to create Metal Gear Solid. This began a series of action-adventure stealth video games that still rank as some of the best in history.
The first video game’s popularity in the series spread like wildfire, which led to multiple new titles as the years passed. Kojima’s original title, Metal Gear Solid, scored a 94 on Metacritic. It’s easily one of the most revered games in history. At that time, players did not have many options in in-depth storyline games. Thus, he started a movement that changed gaming for the better.
Developers didn’t have the resources in 1998 as they do now. However, Konami was able to create incredible projects.
Metal Gear Solid 3 is still a favorite among action-adventure enthusiasts.
Kojima’s home-run of a franchise is a star-studded tale that spanned over one generation. Sadly, when Hideo Kojima left Konami, the studio attempted to further the franchise without his vision or gaming genius. Each time failing miserably. Metal Gear Solid games may no longer be coming out like hotcakes, but the Kojima titles are the stuff of legend!
PokemonI know what you’re thinking.
Yes. Pokemon deserves to be here.
Alongside the Mario franchise, Pokemon is one of the biggest gaming series of all-time. Writing down a list of their accolades would take too much time. Not even Scrooge McDuck could dive into a cash pit the size of Pokemon’s lifetime earnings.
This all began in 1996. Pocket Monsters Red and Green came out and destroyed. An anime was developed one year later. Trading cards were developed alongside the popular franchise that took on a life of its own. 1998 was clearly a big year for gaming. Pokemon Yellow, Red and Blue made its worldwide debut and the rest was history.
They’re currently in Generation 8, which includes the Pokemon Sword and Shield series. The formula for 22 years hasn’t strayed too far from its inception. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
That being said, this amazing action-adventure video game franchise tried new things and went above and beyond to find a narrow pathway into the new generation of Pokemon players.
The Legend of ZeldaAt the beginning of Nintendo’s 2017 adaptation of this franchise called, Breath of the Wild, the player is once again controlling Link as he makes his way out of a desolate cave. Link awakens and goes up a few steps and appears to be on top of a hill. The game then takes control of the view and all the players can see is a gorgeous canvas of Hyrule in the distance.
That is just one of the hundreds of reasons why the Legend of Zelda ranks as one of the greatest action-adventure video game series of all-time.
There are many games that each bring a different personality to the table. From A Link to the Past, Link’s Awakening, Majora’s Mask, Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker, The Minish Cap, Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword, A Link Between Worlds to Breath of the Wild, Nintendo has entertained the masses since 1991.
One quote from The Ringer suggests that its 1998 iteration is among history’s giants.
The Ringer’s gaming enthusiasts will be paying tribute to the legendary titles turning 20 in 2018 by replaying them for the umpteenth time or playing them for the first time, talking to the people who made them, and analyzing both what made them great and how they made later games greater. Our series continues today with a look at The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which may (or may not) be the greatest game of all time.
In fact, Nintendo has two of Metacritic’s highest-rated games of all-time. Breath of the Wild earned a score of 97 in 2017. Nearly 20 years prior, Nintendo published Ocarina of Time on November 23rd, 1993. It scored a 99, a perfect score.
As one reviewer puts it, “it’s a masterpiece.”