Not quite an RPG, not quite an action game, but something worthy of being on our list of the 10 Best Action Adventure Games. The action adventure was blurring the lines of the genre itself since the original release of The Legend of Zelda for the NES. Of course, Zelda isn’t the only action adventure game on the market. Plenty of games focus on puzzles, dungeons, combat, and interesting use of an ever expanding inventory. Here are out choices for the 10 Best Action Adventure Games.
There weren’t a whole lot of action adventures in the PS1 era. In fact, the most notable one was Brave Fencer Musashi, which took an old Japanese myth and made it as cartoony as possible. In this way, the game can be seen as a precursor to Okami, which we will get to later on our list. Even having the tiniest of ties to Okami makes Brave Fencer Musashi a worthy candidate for one of the 10 Best Action Adventures.
Soul Blazer was one of the games in the SNES Quintent trilogy that was most like an action adventure. Battles were real time, your progress was largely determined by solving puzzles, and gaining new abilities let you progress onward. It still had its fair share of RPG elements, as did it’s brothers Illusion of Gaia and Terranigma, but it was the most “Zelda-Like” game the trilogy had to offer.
Anodyne may look like a 16-bit retro game, but it’s actually a brand new indie title that is trying to follow in Zelda’s footsteps. The game takes place in a dream world, which also kind of makes it feel like Yume Nikki without all the horror. Anodyne was released for the PC first, but now has found its way onto mobile platforms, where it has found its widest audience.
The other great PS1 action adventure game, besides Brave Fencer Musashi, was Alundra. Whereas Musashi used prototypical 3D graphics, Alundra decided to stick with 2D sprites. As a result, this game feels a lot like A Link to the Past. Alundra also used dreams as its central mechanic, as the main character could enter other people’s dreams and explore. Dreams are actually a surprisingly common theme in action adventure games.
Beyond Good and Evil was a dark action adventure made by Ubisoft. Unlike a lot of other action adventures, this game had a deep focus on stealth and combat. Beyond Good and Evil has a huge fanbase for a cult classic, and fans are still signing petitions and sending Ubisoft letters asking for a Beyond Good and Evil 2. Maybe we will finally see it on next generation consoles.
3D Dot Game Heroes is a love-letter to the original Zelda in every way shape and form. It takes place in a 3D world, but this world is made out of three dimensional pixel cubes. Everything else plays exactly like a 2D action adventure, right down to the suddenly appearing forward facing sword. It’s basically a parody of true action adventure games, and somehow that makes it one of the 10 Best Action Adventures to ever have been released.
One of the key elements of action adventure games is the dungeon. Your goal is to always find cool items to help you get across the dungeons puzzles until you find a key and take on a boss. This is basically all The Binding of Isaac was: procedurally generated action adventure dungeons, and it was awesome.
If you liked The Legend of Zelda but you are a huge fan of '90s comics, then Darksiders is the game for you. The game played out almost identically to Zelda, right down to the hook shot. The only difference is, you get to play a musclebound horseman of the apocalypse instead of link. Oh, and the bad guy was voice by Mark Hamill. That should be more than enough to make anyone buy a game.
Okami was a brilliant game that was as fun as it was artistic. This retelling of classic Japanese myth used a cell shading style of graphics that made the entire game look like an oil painting. This was only enhanced by the interesting “draw on the screen” mechanic for using your special abilities. Okami would easily have made the top of our list, if not for a certain franchise that defined the genre.
It’s impossible to choose just one Legend of Zelda game as the Best Action Adventure game of all time, and so we are putting the whole franchise in the #1 slot on our list. You have heard us compare many of the other games on our list to Zelda, and that’s because Zelda defined the genre. Zelda games were full of firsts, from being one of the first games with a save feature, to being one of the first games to utilize rotation sensing along with accelerometers. We have played through Link’s quest to save the princess time and time again, and it’s unlikely that we will ever stop as long as Nintendo is around.