16 Best Action Games In 2023 That Are Like A Shot Of Adrenaline – Kotaku

Action games are often like rock music: it’s hard to pinpoint one definable essence, and most borrow liberally from other genres. That said, the genre is often at its best when you don’t have too many mechanics to memorize, and can mostly rely on your wits and your reaction time to get through each challenge.
No list of action games will be perfect, but this group of 17 is sure to have something for everyone. Some might blur the lines a bit, dipping into a bit of RPG mechanics here and there, as well as elements of other genres like survival horror. Some are fun, others are serious, but each one is a trip well worth taking.
2 / 17
If you’re looking for: Gunfights, platforming, Hollywood-esque action
Available on: PS4, PS5, PC (Only Uncharted 4 and Lost Legacy)
Uncharted’s strengths lie in letting you shut your brain off, freeing you to just have fun mashing buttons through one of gaming’s best action romps. Throughout its many releases, but particularly starting with the second entry, Among Thieves, Uncharted is a must-play series if you want to be instantly transported into real-time movie action. Epic set pieces task you with scaling impossible heights, surviving daring shootouts, and accompanying charismatic characters who may seem brash and egotistical at first but will nonetheless win you over by the end.
While you can’t really go wrong with any of these games, the second and fourth perhaps represent the series at its best. The first game feels a little primordial, and the third is a little unfocused (though packed with some great action sequences). Don’t forget to check out the spinoff, Lost Legacy, either. It’s a little on the short side, but that might work out if you’re not looking for a capital C “Campaign.”
3 / 17
If you’re looking for: RPG mechanics with kinetic action set in a beautiful post-apocalyptic world where you fight robot dinosaurs
Available on: PS4, PS5, PC (only Zero Dawn is on PC as of right now)
Horizon might stray a bit too far into RPG territory for some, but when you’re taking down the series’ signature robot dinosaurs, it easily feels as kinetic as any other action game. As a modern, prestige AAA title, Horizon is more than happy to take you on a trip through vibrant worlds, ever eager to impress with its scale and scope.
As an open-world action RPG, Horizon also has a great number of sidequests for you to get lost in, making it something you’ll want to keep coming back to over time.

4 / 17
If you’re looking for: Slow, gritty action with a heavy emphasis on narrative
Available on: PS4, PS5
While The Last of Us Part II takes us into survival-horror territory, the core gameplay itself is a very satisfying, tense third-person game that requires you to make every shot count. Also, if you are into zombie drama that’s more about human emotions and the need to survive, ala The Walking Dead, well The Last of Us will slot very nicely into that wider canon.
Part II lands on this list instead of Part I as its core gameplay is simply more fluid and dynamic. Part II lets you go prone, so stealth options for traversal are increased. Enemies are also a bit more varied and the length of the game (which might border on too long for some) means there’s no shortage of action sequences and encounters to play through. If you haven’t played the first one, however, it might be worth it to catch up on the story—plus, the PS5 remake, The Last of Us Part I, modernizes a number of gameplay elements without feeling too much like the sequel.
Be warned, though: You’ll have to kill about a dozen non-zombified dogs in this game in some pretty jarring ways—that’s in addition to several other brutally vicious scenes of gory violence.
5 / 17
If you’re looking for: Web-slinging shenanigans with very pretty graphics
Available on: PS4, PS5, PC
Marvel’s Spider-Man is such a great action game that even I, who suffers relentless anguish at the mere thought of engaging with superhero media, have found excuses to zip around Insomniac’s rendition of Manhattan.
And the fun doesn’t end once you’re down on the street. Maybe you’re helping out cops a little too often for comfort, but at least the brawls you’ll get into, be those with lower-tier goons or the franchise’s big bads, all feel solid.
6 / 17
God of War’s quasi-reboot in 2018 may have brought a number of gameplay and thematic changes to the much-celebrated PS2-era series, but none of it came at the cost of a satisfying action game. In fact, it’s arguably made the series even more impactful, with sharper, more visceral action. This year’s sequel, Ragnarok, didn’t disappoint either. In our review of the PS4 and PS5 title, Kotaku’s Zack Zwiezen noted:
Like its predecessor, Ragnarök is a third-person action-adventure; that means a lot of fights, and I mean a lot! Luckily, the killin’ is good, with combat feeling both heavy and responsive. Each swing of your axe or slice of your blades looks nice, sounds powerful, and feels satisfying. This time around you start out with both the awesome ice axe and the fiery Blades of Chaos.
This also means combat is a bit trickier from the start, with more complex engagements forcing you to switch up your weapons to counter different enemy types sooner. Eventually, you acquire a third weapon, a magical spear, that fits perfectly into the combat toolbox, but which I won’t spoil beyond that.
7 / 17
If you’re looking for: Great third-person shooting action with chainsaw guns
Available on: Xbox One, Series X/S, PC
Gears 5 (hey, developers The Coalition dropped the “Of War,” not me) is an easy recommendation if you’re into something more on the shooter side of the action genre’s multifaceted potential. While previous entries definitely fit more in the shooter genre, Gears 5’s environmental exploration lets you stretch your legs a bit and take in the scenery. But the shooting is still solid, and the cover mechanics have a satisfying feel that always seems to work well within Gears, even if it often feels derivative and uninspired when it’s copied in other games.
Perhaps one of the most impressive elements of Gears 5, however, is the wide variety of environments you’ll go through. From its beginnings in 2006, Gears of War often struggled with an inescapably dreary, muddy look typical of Xbox 360 games. But flash forward to today and you have lush, natural environments, snowy winterscapes, and the dirt, oil, and grime of abandoned machinery.

8 / 17
If you’re looking for: an action-platforming adventure with wonderful characters and positive vibes
Available on: Xbox One, Series X/S, and PC
Psychonauts 2 sure took a long time to arrive, with the original having launched all the way back in 2005. Tons of trends in gaming have come and gone since then, and Psychonauts 2 arrived in 2021 with solid writing, platforming, and far better combat action than its beloved but uneven predecessor. In our review of Psychonauts 2, Zack Zwiezen had this to say regarding the combat’s more successful treatment in the sequel:
You can now freely map any four powers to the triggers and shoulder buttons, which is very useful for areas that rely on specific abilities. For example, you might need both the ability to slow time and the power to zip around thought bubbles to get through a gauntlet of spinning blades over pits of death. But after that, you may want psi-blast back, to take out some tiny enemies spawning in waves. So you just quickly swap out your powers; nothing is locked away behind too many menus. Being able to quickly map powers to whatever buttons you prefer keeps you immersed in the action and does away with some of the first game’s unnecessary frustration.
Psychonauts 2 also manages to cover some rough topics concerning mental health and personal struggles, but it always does so with a caring and cautious approach.

9 / 17
If you’re looking for: Wild third-person shooting with exciting powers in a mysterious industrial setting
Available on: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X/S, PC
Control is an absolute trip. It feels like someone tossed The X-Files, various David Lynch works, and Max Payne into a blender just to see what would come out. The result? It’s a wonderfully engaging action shooter that mixes things up with various telekinetic abilities, and the power to fly.

The game is filled with some imposing environments too. Set in a building inspired by an actual skyscraper in Manhattan (that is equally mysterious in person), the game is a treat on powerful hardware.

10 / 17
If you’re looking for: Shark action where you play as the shark
Available on: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X/S, PC, Nintendo Switch
As one of the sillier games on this list, you might be tempted to gloss over Maneater. It’s hardly a game to take seriously…but that’s kind of what makes it so great. The premise is simple: You’re a shark, go ruin people’s day. But that kind of mindless action is sometimes a reprieve from games with lofty themes or narratives filled with tragedy and trauma.
Because you play as a shark, you’ll be spending a good deal of your time underwater (it’s kind of a weird trip to resist the urge to go up for air like you often need to in other games). Because of the way you glide through the sea, Maneater almost feels like a combat-focused flight sim. Mash your bite button, whip your tail around, jump out of the water and terrorize folks on the beach. It’s a fun time.

11 / 17
If you’re looking for: Speedy, first-person action and sexy characters
Available on: PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, PC
While first-person shooters are arguably their own genre entirely, Neon White pulls in enough elements from other genres to make it a unique game that defies easy classification. As you navigate its brisk, bite-sized levels in which, sure, you need to kill everything in your way, you must also make use of movement-based abilities to leap and propel yourself toward the finish line as quickly as possible. The game keeps things moving along so fast that learning the layout of each stage and finding opportunities to exploit it to shave seconds off your time becomes a compulsive pursuit that’s immensely rewarding. It’s a fun rush with an awesome soundtrack to boot.

12 / 17
If you’re looking for: Old-school action action
Available on: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X/S, PC
Perhaps you’d like an action game that’ll take you back to a simpler time. Have open worlds, endless fetch quests, needless crafting systems, and perpetual loot grinds burnt you out? Well, if you’re down with killing vampires in a suitable getup, check out Evil West. As Kotaku’s Zack Zwizen described the game in his review:
…what really helped me fall in love with Evil West isn’t the heavy, solid combat. Nor was it the horror-infused western vistas and locations, though those are nice, too. No, what I love about Evil West is that it’s just a (Hank Hill voice) simple, honest-to-god, linear and fun, goddamn video game. There’s no battle pass or microtransactions. No crafting and no loot to collect, upgrade or trade. No MMO-lite features or other players running around doing things. No copy-paste side quests or giant, but empty open worlds. It’s a 16-mission linear action game with some simple skill trees to make your character better and that’s it.
13 / 17
If you’re looking for: Hack ‘n slash fun
Available on: Nintendo Switch
While Bayonetta 3’s story failed to impress us in our review of the Nintendo Switch-exclusive third entry in the beloved Bayonetta franchise, the series’ combat remains some of the most dynamic, skill-based hack ‘n slash action available. On the gameplay itself, Kotaku’s Isaiah Colbert had this to say:
Combat-wise, Bayonetta 3 is arguably the best the series has ever been, a pure platinum sparkly statue of the witch herself, if you were to grade it on the game’s combat results scale. One new gimmick in Bayonetta 3 lets you take control of demons on the battlefield. However, doing so makes Bayonetta immobile, so you’ll need to be cognizant of where she’s positioned so your combos aren’t unceremoniously interrupted by an attacking enemy.
Another, Demon Masquerade, allows Bayonetta to fuse with her weapons, take on their form, and unleash a flurry of demonic combos at the cost of magic power. My favorite Demon Masquerades were Dead End Express and Ribbit Libido-BZ55l, which transformed Bayonetta into a demonic train and turned her singing voice into a weapon, respectively.
14 / 17
If you’re looking for: Action-oriented survival horror
Available: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X/S, PC
Like The Last of Us, the remake of Resident Evil 3 is a survival horror game, but the shorter runtime and sequences that are more heavy on shooting definitely make it feel more action-oriented than the remake of Resident Evil 2, which hewed closer to the series’ horror roots.
While the game isn’t without its tense moments, particularly when you’re facing off against the Nemesis, it doesn’t drag the antagonist out as a perpetual stalking machine like 2 does with Mr. X or Alien Isolation does with that terrifying xenomorph. There are some puzzles, sure, and you’ll need to be more cautious with ammo and item use than in many other action games, but the overall theme of needing to flee Raccoon City makes for way more action without sacrificing too much of the Resident Evil feel.

15 / 17
If you’re looking for: Well-written crime drama set in an open world
Available: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X/S, PC
Yakuza games hearken back to the great beat-‘em-ups of old like Final Fight and Streets of Rage 2 as you prowl the streets, frequently clobbering the living daylights out of a broad assortment of ne’er-do-wells in immensely satisfying, over-the-top bare-knuckle combat. The games are also packed with excellent writing, soulful characters, a slew of side activities, and vividly realized Japanese locales. With the exception of Like a Dragon, which uses turn-based RPG-style combat, Yakuza games offer a nice level of freedom in their fisticuffs, giving you a host of wild moves to perform and letting you smash foes senseless with whatever objects you might find lying around. It’s all part of the series’ signature fiery personality that has kept fans coming back for several entries now. In Kotaku’s review for 2021’s Lost Judgment (a Yakuza spin-off), Luke Plunkett had this to say about the series:

Yakuza games have never been renowned for how precise their fights were, but by God, they were fun. Being reminded of that while playing Lost Judgment, after Like a Dragon’s tedious grind, was like going back in time to the Good Old Days, a sharp reminder that, yeah, while the writing and exploration and attention to detail in convenience stores will always be Yakuza hallmarks, there’s nothing that really sums up the series quite like smashing a bike into a man’s face.

16 / 17
If you’re looking for: An ambitious title inspired by Shadow of the Colossus
Available: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X/S, PC
Praey for the Gods attempts many things with the formula first established by Shadow of the Colossus. It’s no straightforward imitation, though, adding survival elements as well as wrinkles to the combat and exploration that help keep the game feeling fresh. It still feels like something you’d dig out of a sixth generation time capsule, though, and I mean that in the best way. Boss fights feel as epic as they ought to, and the expansive environment offers a welcome change of pace from the more sparse spaces of Shadow of the Colossus.
17 / 17

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