From cyberpunk fantasies to expansive open worlds, these games stood out the most.
Looking back on the year past and remembering all of the video games that left their mark is never easy. But this year was especially difficult when it came to the Best Action-Adventure category. The sheer range of experiences, from open worlds and platformers to hack and slash titles, was impressive. Who walks away with the top prize though? Let’s take a look at the nominees. Mild spoilers for some titles so be warned.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
The Last of Us Part 2
We always knew it wouldn’t be for the faint of heart but Naught Dog’s The Last of Us Part 2 hit us in many ways. Ellie’s story of revenge and Abbey seeking some kind of redemption complemented and conflicted well with each other against the backdrop of an unforgiving world. With strong improvements to the gameplay, incredible visuals and unrelenting brutality, The Last of Us Part 2 will leave you reeling.
Ghost of Tsushima
Sucker Punch’s samurai epic could have become yet another revenge story on the PS4. Instead, it explores the conflict of Jin Sakai, a warrior at odds with his ideals. The production values are incredible all around, whether it’s the sweeping plains of Tsushima or its perilous peaks, and the precise combat made every encounter a joy. Add in some engaging side content via Tales and you have an action adventure game that delivered on its massive hype.
Paper Mario: The Origami King
The puzzle-based battle mechanics may not have been for everyone in Paper Mario: The Origami King. However, the charm and aesthetic, accentuated by the title’s excellent humor, is still great. Between adventuring, puzzle solving and platforming, players will visit cafes, fill in the world with confetti, drive shoes and battle stationary. It’s a quirky and ultimately fun time for any Mario fan.
Hades catches your attention with its eye-popping aesthetic, whether it’s the environments or character designs. But over time, we’re once again exposed to the studio’s brilliant story-telling as the tale of Zagreus, his family and the Greek Pantheon unfolds over numerous runs. Combat is also a joy, feeling impressively responsive and offering numerous ways to play while the rogue-lite elements fuel run after run.
Cyberpunk 2077 (PC)
Even if the role-playing elements didn’t satisfy you and the bugs need to be ironed out, Cyberpunk 2077 on PC still presents a strong story with great voice-acting and pacing. Gunplay is fairly meaty; Cyberware offers all kinds of technical and destructive possibilities; and the overall visuals are sharp, presenting Night City as the gorgeous dystopia of tomorrow. Again, improvements need to be made but as an action adventure experience, Cyberpunk 2077 stood out this year.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Five years after the launch of Ori and the Blind Forest, Moon Studios returned with Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Since its reveal, its gorgeous visuals have been the highlight but the gameplay also offered several improvements in terms of feel and progression. Whether you’re taking in the sights, battling any number of awesome bosses or becoming attached to the lovable cast, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a stellar Metroidvania experience.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
While not a full-fledged sequel in its own right, it was still great to return to Insomniac’s Spider-verse and take on the role of Miles Morales. As the new Spider-Man, Miles’ inner conflict made for a brief but memorable journey with excellent characters, stunning production values and fun combat mechanics on top of the already great web-slinging. What comes next is anyone’s guess but Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is yet another excellent open world action adventure in Insomniac’s catalog.
Do you want a more fast-paced, challenging cyberpunk experience? One that features split-second combat, grappling, dashing, wall-running and bullet time? Ghostrunner from One More Level and Slipgate Ironworks is the ticket. As Jack, a ghostrunner, you navigate complex levels and survive against one-shot kills. With incredibly responsive controls and well designed obstacles that flow together seamlessly, Ghostrunner embraced both the action adventure enthusiast and speed runner in all of us.
Giant Squid’s open world foray didn’t one-up Breath of the Wild’s design but The Pathless still delivered stunning aesthetics and mesmerizing environments. As a hunter venturing to a cursed island, players would battle bosses and solve puzzles, with movement tied rhythmically shooting crystals for speed boosts. Despite its short run-time, The Pathless offered a fast-paced and emotional adventure.
Watch Dogs: Legion
Story-telling has been hit-or-miss in previous Watch Dogs titles so Watch Dogs: Legion upends that by challenging you to create your own memorable tales. Recruit anyone to join DedSec, infiltrating Albion and Clan Kelley strongholds to liberate London. Or go on a joy-ride in the marvelous, near-future city, discovering illegal fighting rings and shopping for wacky clothes while building a ragtag group of rebels. The choice is ultimately yours and it worked pretty well.
Immortals Fenyx Rising
Ubisoft’s latest open world title leans into the Greek mythology of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey while “borrowing” the stamina, climbing and exploration of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The comedy may be hit or miss for some but there’s no denying the strong combat or the well-designed puzzles and challenges. It won’t win points for originality but Immortals Fenyx Rising is still enjoyable.
Destroy All Humans Remake
In a year of good remakes and bad, Destroy All Humans’ remake ultimately stuck to what made the original work. Its B-grade humor and premise are largely intact, and the sheer joy of obliterating humans with alien weaponry remains appealing. Yes, it’s technically limited and also kind of repetitive but in living up to its core premise, Destroy All Humans shone once more.
Mafia Definitive Edition
After the disappointments that were Mafia 2 and 3 Definitive Edition, concerns grew over Mafia Definitive Edition. Thankfully, as a full-fledged remake, it offers greatly improved visuals, providing more dramatic weight to the original story’s events. With additional sequences, revamped cutscenes and changes to the overall open world flow, Mafia Definitive Edition actually makes it worth revisiting the 1930s.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
Time travel? Time travel. But in the case of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as players experience events from before the Great Calamity. As a Musou title, combat is more intricate with various playable characters – including Zelda – having different combos, special attacks and runes to obliterate foes with. Breath of the Wild 2 may be a ways off but Age of Calamity is still a great holdover till its release.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Moon Studios’ latest isn’t just a sequel – it’s a labor of love, one borne from thousands of iterations and years of obsessive polish, which can be seen in the backgrounds and integration of 3D characters. The series’ theme of love and loss is still effective while the platforming and combat remain as responsive and rewarding as ever. The world design, boss fights, soundtrack and story-telling all combine seamlessly into a masterful experience. To that end, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is our pick for the Best Action-Adventure Game of 2020.