Best Action Games On Nintendo Switch – Nintendo Life

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Hacking and slashing
What better way to unwind after a long day at work, school, or wherever than throwing yourself into some intense hack-and-slash action? Or, better yet, why not take the action with you?
Well, thank goodness for the Switch, which has become a quiet little home for some of the best action games of the generation. From classics from the PlayStation 2 era to being the home of the Umbra Witch herself, the Switch lets you sink your teeth into some tough-as-nails action games that combine different mechanics, enemies, and visual styles to create enthralling, palm-sweating experiences. These aren’t action-RPGs — RPGs that contain hack-and-slash combat such as NieR: Automata — and we have a handy list for the best action-RPGs on Switch too.
Instead, you’ll be chopping up foes one moment, or running around to find some hidden collectibles or secrets the next — and while often these game’s stories embrace their over-the-top action, sometimes you might get a bit of a surprise.
So, we’ve rounded up the cream of the action crop here for you on the Switch. And with developers like PlatinumGames, Capcom, and indie studios like Heart Machine making a name for themselves in the genre, there’s an ever-expanding crowd of action titles available. Flex your fingers and sharpen your blade — let’s rock!
With its amazing visuals, fantastic presentation, varied gameplay and deep, rewarding combat, Astral Chain is one of PlatinumGames’ most accomplished tiles. It mixes detective work with exhilarating battle sequences that are inventive, challenging and – perhaps most importantly – breathtakingly cool. The complexity of the game’s myriad systems may prove intimidating for some players, but the inclusion of a co-op play and the ability to automate many of the mechanics via the ‘Unchained’ mode means that even complete newcomers can still enjoy the ride. Astral Chain is absolutely one of the best action games available on the Switch, cementing PlatinumGames’ status in the genre.
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Hades‘ sublime mix of satisfyingly gritty and flexible combat, wonderfully vibrant art style, and genuinely fun and engaging narrative make a pretty much perfect action-packed package. Supergiant Games has an excellent track record thus far but this really does feel like its finest hour, a rip-roaring rampage through the underworld that’s arrived here on Switch. Even if you’re yet to be swayed by the admittedly repetitive ebb and flow of the hack-and-slash roguelike genre, we passionately urge you to at least give this one a try; for fans of the genre or anyone even remotely interested, this is one heavenly vision of hell that we highly recommend you sacrifice yourself to.
Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is a great time-sink game, featuring mindless but fun action gameplay that offers up the potential for dozens – if not hundreds – of hours of content. Though it certainly feels like a game that’s too bloated in places, it manages to balance the Zelda and Dynasty Warriors elements well. Group all of that with stellar presentation and impressive portable gameplay, and you’ve got a game that does a great job of doing something new (and weird) with a classic Nintendo property. We’d give this one a recommendation, especially to fans of the Zelda series who have always wanted there to be some sort of ‘anniversary’ game. Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition may not have a ton of depth, but it’s frantic hack-and-slash fun in the Zelda universe, and you’d be missing out by not picking up this complete edition.
To have Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice on Switch in this form is a blessing that you shouldn’t miss out on. The game itself is a psychological sensory experience that we thoroughly recommend, but the fact that it’s been translated to Switch in such a complete fashion is the true surprise here. It doesn’t feel like a downgrade at all and it stands proudly alongside the other ‘miracle’ ports on the system, arguably surpassing them in some ways. This goes beyond just being an engrossing action game — it’s also an incredible port and a deeply enthralling, haunting story.
This faithful port of the original Darksiders is a great way to get into the series. Darksiders: Warmastered Edition brings every slash of Chaoseaster and every bloody execution to Nintendo Switch in all its glory. While still inferior to some later entries, this first outing is still a robust action-platformer full of satisfying melee combos, open-ended levels and a suitably over-the-top story. Easily one of the most underrated franchises to appear in the previous generation, this port finally unleashes the Apocalypse in handheld form.
Following its fantastic release on Wii U, Bayonetta 2 shines brightest on Nintendo Switch. It runs without a hitch at 60fps, looks incredible in both TV and tabletop modes, and offers an addictive free-flowing combat formula that sprinkles in platforming, light exploration and a ridiculous story to create something that you simply need to experience. If you’ve never played it before, you’re in for a treat. If you’ve already played it, it’s even more bewitching as a handheld gem.
And, of course, we have to recommend the original Bayonetta, too, even if that one’s showing its age a little more. The series’ beginnings are still oh-so-brilliant, and the whole trilogy is now together on Switch. Voilá!
Thanks to a handful of truly impactful changes, Onimusha: Warlords lives again on Switch. The tank controls are lighter to the touch and the improvements to the visuals help take the edge off those clunky PS2-era looks, which allow the game’s deep combat to shine. The updated soundtrack might be a little inferior, but even it brings an extra layer of authenticity to a game that draws from Japan’s rich history of warfare. Hopefully, the rest of the series will get the same treatment because this classic swashbuckling adventure (with the occasional moment of horror) has re-sharpened its blade and is ready for action once again.
While God Eater 3 took a bit of a knock in the visuals department on Switch, it’s a sacrifice that’s more than worth it for mostly consistent performance and a steady frame rate. The inclusion of local co-op is a real boon for Switch owners, allowing you to partner up with friends to take down huge beasts together. With all past content updates and patches included, you’re getting a version as good as — if not arguably better than — those on PC and PS4. If you’re longing for an alternative to Monster Hunter, this is your next port of call.
Even so many years after its 2005 debut, Devil May Cry 3 remains one of the very best action games ever made. It may have aged in places, but that turbo-charged, combo-heavy action feels as fresh today as it did back in the mid-noughties. The new Freestyle mode – which lets players swap combat styles on the fly at any point during the action – is a genuinely excellent addition to the package, and the ability to play Bloody Palace in local co-op is the cherry on top of a Switch port that should appeal to anyone interested in sampling the devilish delights of this all-time classic.
We want to give a shout-out to the original Devil May Cry, too. While it may be feeling its age even more than this one, it’s still a brilliant blend of action and atmosphere.
About Alana Hagues
Alana Hagues
RPG lover first and Nintendo fan second, Alana is often found overthinking battle strategies, characters, and stories. Fortunately, she’s also easily pleased by anything Yoshi-related, creepy-but-cute Pokémon, and SEGA air pirates.
Comments (51)
Paraka
Darksiders and Astral Chain are on the list.
All is good.
shgamer
Darksiders Warmastered Edition and God Eater 3 are both excellent action games in my opinion.
Dom_31
Did you guys forget Monster Hunter exists or…?
Magician
Lots of twin-stick shooters I’d put in here. Blazing Beaks, Hotline Miami, The Hong Kong Massacre, Nuclear Throne, Enter the Gungeon, etc.
CRASH64
How can anyone in their right mind recommend Ultimate Alliance 3 to anyone?
Magician
@CRASH64 It’s a solid action/rpg game. If you’re a Marvel fan, it’s sort of slim pickings on Switch. It’s either MUA3 or one of the Lego games, lol.
ComfyAko
Great list, I’d add Okami – one of my favorite games of all times. If you count action/adventure as an action game (which is a rather broad term in itself)
sketchturner
Shouldn’t Dark Souls count? Lots of action in that one.
OldManHermit
Nice to see Onimusha on here. It’s an oldie, but a goodie.
I think RE4 deserves to be here too. It’s a horror game, but also very much an action game as well.
RR529
No Ninja Gaiden Master Collection on this list is a crime. Samurai Jack is probably a pretty competent licensed game, but no way it’s on the same level.
Also, I enjoy a Warriors game from time to time so don’t take this as a slight, but they’re sort of like the junk food of the hack ‘n slash genre (which this list is seemingly centered around), and in no way should there be three of them on a list when Ninja Gaiden is left out.
EDIT: Just so I don’t sound too overly negative, good shouts to Astral Chain, Onimusha Warlords, & DMC though.
Bizzyb
Great list, anything by Platinum/ Capcom is a must!
earbox
@Dom_31 I love Monster Hunter (I have three-digit playtimes in both GU and Rise), but it’s probably a bit too methodical to land on a list like this.
LikelySatan
I could take this list seriously if musuo games were not on here. Those things are just embarrassing.
Dom_31
@earbox ???
It’s an action game series, this is a list about action games on switch, it doesn’t matter how many systems something has or how "methodical" (LMAO) the games are.
Anti-Matter
ARMS is my choice. 👍
Andy_Witmyer
Is it weird that in my 35 years of gaming, I’ve never played a modern (non-platforming) 3D action game?
Being a huge fan of RPGs, I’ve always been on unsure about whether or not I should take a dip. The most I’ve gotten into the genre is through action-RPGs, but even with those games, there’s usually at some enphasis put upon stat-driven progression – something which I worry that a purely action type of game will be missing, to a fault. Plus, the best action games tend to be glitzy and high budget, and thus – unless you can jump in during some kind of major sale – are usually kind of an expensive proposition, with a high price of entry.
TL:DR – As a fan of RPGs who’s never played a pure action game, are there any high quality, critically acclaimed action games that still have (small-but-nevertheless-notable) RPG-like aspects that might be appealing to someone like me? Would be curious what the good folks here in comments section might recommend.
earbox
@Dom_31 I mean, I think it’s probably a bit closer to action than it is to RPG, which doesn’t stop people from primarily classifying it as an RPG.
earbox
@Andy_Witmyer Astral Chain might be up your alley here–in addition to pure action, there’s a skill tree and a lot of non-action content. (plus unlimited immediate continues!)
Or better yet, now that it’s on Switch, Nier Automata, which is utterly brilliant.
Polvasti
Glad to see Hades there among the more big budget titles, it’s easily among my top 5 games of all time. Everything about it is so creative and so lovingly made; not just the gameplay and the visual design, but also the characterisation, the voice acting and the plotting. It’s rare for such a game to have both an incredibly addictive roguelite gameplay loop and a deep, touching story.
Andy_Witmyer
@earbox I think a fleshed out Skill Tree would definitely might scratch the RPG itch, for sure. I’m guessing with the action games like Astral Chain, you don’t have to grind a lot to open up the tree? Is there an XP system, or is the acquisition of skills mostly tied to things like story progression, exploration, etc?
MythTgr
@RR529 The real crime is the resolution of this game, specially Sigma 2 that seems to run at 240p sometimes.
russell-marlow
Feels like "action" is a catch-all term.
MythTgr
Fire Emblem Warriors 1 and Three Hopes are great Hack And Slash/Musou titles. But Astral Chain and Bayonetta are the absolute best in the genre.
Baler
Hellblade one of the worst games I’ve ever played. I wouldn’t call it an action game
Anachronism
@Dom_31 It says right at the top of the page that they have a separate list for action rpgs. Though looking at both of them, I’d say there are a lot of games that could go on either list.
Dom_31
@Anachronism Monster Hunter isn’t and never has been an RPG
Fizza
Action games are a genre I feel like I’d like (I certainly adore watching them) but have never actually bit the bullet and grabbed one of them funnily enough. DmC has always been the one that’s piqued my interest the most (big shocker: the Capcom fanboy likes Capcom games) but I’ve always been debating whether the Switch versions of the original games would be the best way to start them. I’ll probably make a decision once Pokemon comes out though.
Anachronism
@Dom_31 I disagree. Any game where you have Attack/Defense/etc. stats, and kill things to get bigger stats so you can kill bigger things to get even bigger stats, is an rpg.
Ryu_Niiyama
Glad to see MUA3 on here. I’m still happily grinding away.
Bizzyb
@Andy_Witmyer You really should, 3D action games can be some of the best, "in-the-zone" cathartic games ever. If you liked BOTW maybe try Age of Calamity (easy mode at first) and see what you think…👍✌️
FishyS
Action is a very broad category since it contains everything from Castlevania to Mega Man. Even BotW is tagged action on this site.
As a fun test I sorted the eshop by best sellers in category action. The top of the 3,913-long list gives overwatch, fortnite, Bayonetta, Minecraft (?!), Splatoon, resident evil, cult of the lamb, Pokemon Arceus, metroid dread, Luigi’s mansion, etc.
I realize the article specifies over-the-top action which definitely rules out Luigi’s mansion. The only game I own off this article’s list is Hades; I think action games which are too ‘busy’ turn me off a bit even though I really enjoy many other action games.
Takoda
Still don’t get all the praise no more heroes gets, the game didn’t do much for me. Thankfully there’s plenty of action games that do flow my boat.
EriXz
Does anyone knows if Hellblade’s any good?
DarrenWarrenV
So Samurai Jack’s there but no Ninja Gaiden? What is this and who made the list? Does that person know that there are three Ninja Gaiden installments released in the Ninja Gaiden Master Collection pack or not really? Best action games my ***.
Anachronism
@EriXz Can’t speak from personal experience, but a ton of people were singing its praises when it came out. It’s more a story that involves hitting things than a pure hack-n-slash like most of the list. If I remember correctly, digital foundry said the Switch version has the usual cut-backs, but otherwise plays well.
EriXz
@Anachronism
Thank you, have seen it a few times on sale, maybe ill bite next time
Anachronism
No one who bothered to look at this list should sleep on Astral Chain or Bayonetta. The people at Platinum are absolutely brilliant when it comes to pure action games. The original Hyrule Warriors is also a great time, and the only Warriors game I’ve really been able to get into. I’ll also throw out an honorable mention for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. Its gameplay is as fresh and fun as its visuals are dated and ugly.
larryisaman
No Death’s Door? Seriously?
Rykdrew
The only game mentioned in this article’s list i like is Hades.
Still, my favorites action-games are:
Okay, these 3 games are twin-stick shooters, not Hack’n Slash (a genre that doesn’t amuse me)
roboshort
@RR529 I found Fire Emblem Warriors to be more interesting in terms of strategy than action. I haven’t played any of the other games so don’t know about them.
But I also like junk food in moderation so I don’t think it’s slight against them to call them that.
Deady
@Andy_Witmyer Almost everything has skill trees at least now. For example, the Devil May Cry series has unlockable skills for each weapon/fighting style plus traversal skills and extendable life/magic bars by accruing and spending different colored orbs you get from defeating enemies and finding secret areas.
Bluntly, even God of War, the most actiony action game series these days, now not only has skill trees but upgradeable armor, weapons, and pure exp levels.
I think pure straight up action where you have everything from the start and it’s up to you to use it is pretty much left to indies pining for the early 90s and, oddly, Mario and Zelda. I’m also extremely tired and writing this as I go to bed so I’m probably not offering a very cogent argument. Nonetheless, play some action games.
Tempestryke
@FishyS Well said.
earbox
@Andy_Witmyer it’s been a couple of years since I played it (I keep meaning to go back for the post-game), but IIRC there’s little to no grinding–points for the skill trees are largely assigned based on tasks done in the missions and performance in combat segments. You can return to missions to improve your performance and get more points, but getting the same grade won’t earn you extra.
Ralizah
Monster Hunter Rise should be at the top of this list.
MrSeitaro
Man, I just couldn’t get into Bayonetta 3, the ridiculous ammount of cutscenes that look awful for being cutscenes (they look like PS3-era) is just too much, not to mention how long most of the cutscenes are and at least I never found a way to skip them. A 5 minute cutscene to tell me that the shop is now open is just too much.
LUIGITORNADO
Bayonetta 2 and Astral Chain are the tops for me.
LUIGITORNADO
@MrSeitaro i think they look fine. It’s the frame rate and resolution dragging it down. Superficially in he prologue. I feel like I’m using a flip book to render them.
Polvasti
@DarrenWarrenV Nintendo Life gave the Ninja Maiden Master Collection a fairly scathing review because of its performance and technical issues on Switch, so presumably that’s why it’s not on the list:
https://www.nintendolife.com/reviews/switch-eshop/ninja_gaiden_master_collection
OwenGamer22
Persona 5 Strikers should be on this list
scannerdarkly7
Hellblade and action in the same sentence? All I remember is fiddling around aligning objects. Couldn’t stand it.
CRASH64
@Magician I feel the first Lego Marvel Super Heroes game is better than Ultimate Alliance 3.
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