Wccftech’s Best Action Games of 2021 – Scintillating Sequels
2021 was a somewhat thin year in a lot of categories due to COVID-inflicted delays, but action fans still had a fair amount to sink their teeth into. Switch owners were treated to a pair of long-awaited series revivals in Metroid Dread and No More Heroes III, while on the multiplatform front, games like Hitman 3 and Resident Evil Village delivered well-polished genre thrills. None of this year’s action games really broke the mold, but they provided some reliably-entertaining thumb workouts, so limber up and get ready to battle through Wccftech’s Best Action Games of 2021!
Note: Games that put a particularly heavy emphasis on roleplaying (beyond the standard action-adventure skill trees) will be reserved for our Best RPGs of 2021 list. Games that require more serious shooting skills are reserved for, you guessed it, our Best Shooters of 2021 list (we’re filing RE Village with its very generous aim assist under action).
Is No More Heroes III a bit rough around the edges? Sure. Doesn’t it strain against the limits of the Switch hardware? Definitely. That said, Suda 51’s latest remains a hugely entertaining ride that’s completely bonkers in all the right ways. It’s also probably the best game of the year for fans of hardcore Japanese action games like Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, as it features a fluid, fun combat system and a lot of room to ramp up the challenge to suit your tastes. Here are my final thoughts from my full review…
No More Heroes III is a glorious, gory mess, bursting with excitement and creativity from beginning to end. The game’s intensity does shift down a gear when exploring its dated open world, but its best moments shine bright enough to keep your heart and beam katana pumping through the slower bits. Suda51 has scored another bloody Touchdown.
Metroid Dread is a hard one to classify. Is it a platformer? Is it an adventure game? The franchise mixes a lot of different things together into a unique brew, but for our purposes, action is probably the best category to file it under. Classification aside, Metroid Dread is a rock-solid return to form for the beloved series, featuring silky smooth controls and some of the most surprisingly-intense boss battles of year. Wccftech’s Rosh Kelly found Metroid Dread to a be a fresh-feeling adventure, even if newer Metroidvanias now exceed the series in some ways…
Metroid Dread is a fantastic game, filled with old-school Metroidvania fun and some new exciting inclusions as well. Metroid Dread proves that the franchise is still ready to innovate the genre it helped build with exciting new ideas. While it hasn't taken to heart all the lessons from newcomers that have filled in during its absence, it doesn't feel like an outsider looking in.
It seems the Yakuza series will be sticking to the RPG genre going forward, but Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s action legacy will thankfully live on via the Judgment series. This year’s Lost Judgment took everything about the first game in the series and improved it – bigger world, more varied investigations, a story that gets both darker and wackier than its predecessor. Perhaps most improved is the combat, which allows players to freely switch between three fighting styles, opening up more strategic depth. Wccftech’s Francesco De Meo was certainly wowed by the game…
With its excellent detective story, extremely likable characters, and welcome improvements to combat and investigation mechanics, Lost Judgment won't disappoint any fan of the original Judgment, the Yakuza series, or anyone looking for a mature story. The game doesn't try to shake up the original formula, which may put some players off, but this is hardly a problem when quality is as high as it is in Ryu Ga Gotuku Studio’s latest.
The folks at IO Interactive further refine their stealth formula with each new game they release, and Hitman 3 may be the most satisfying game they’ve released to date. Each of the game’s murder playgrounds has its own unique atmosphere and style of play, with no obvious duds amongst them. Interestingly, the game’s final stage – a more linear challenge set on a runaway train – may hint at what IO is cooking up for their anticipated Bond game. Hitman 3 was one of the first big releases of 2021, but it still ranks as one of my favorites…
Hitman 3 is the definitive case for careful refinement over needless reinvention. While not that fundamentally different from its predecessors, Hitman 3 has been polished to a high sheen, offering up fantastic frictionless stealth gameplay and an eye-catching array of unique, exciting stages. At times it's felt like luck was against this trilogy, but Agent 47 would be proud of how IO Interactive’s well-laid plans have come together in the end.
Resident Evil Village throws a lot at the wall – sometimes it’s an atmospheric horror game, sometimes it’s an adventure game, but perhaps most of all, it’s an action game. When it’s at its most intense, RE Village is the biggest, most bombastic game of the year. From hordes of werewolves to a boss fought from inside a giant mech suit, Capcom’s latest is an assault on the senses (in a good way). I’ve played every major Resident Evil game and found Village to be one of the best…
Resident Evil Village is a wild, thrilling ride across seemingly every horror genre and idea that happened to pass through the mad minds at Capcom. Not every aspect of the game is perfect, but its highs are very high and solid core mechanics and excellent presentation hold the grisly patchwork together. You may survive Resident Evil Village, but your thoughts will linger there long after you’ve escaped.
As always, defining the limits of the action genre is a challenge, and some games you might have been hoping for will show up on other lists – expect Deathloop and Returnal on Wccftech’s shooter list, and Monster Hunter Rise amongst the RPGs. Beyond that, there were a number of solidly-entertaining games that didn’t quite make this list like Guardians of the Galaxy, Persona 5 Strikers, and Kena: Bridge of Spirits. There are also a number of indies action-fiends ought to check out, including Death’s Door and Aragami 2.
So yeah, 2021 wasn’t quite a blow away year for action, but the lineup was still pretty impressive considering the state the industry (and world in general). Any good action games I missed? Don’t agree with Wccftech’s top five? Hit the comments and hash out your own action favorites and make sure to cast your ballot below.
Vote for your favorite Action game of 2021!
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