Technically, any game is eligible to be considered an “action” game. After, action is about movement and thrills. About danger and kinetic replies. But with gaming, action maybe takes on a different meaning. Which is probably why our list this year focused on those games that kept us moving and grooving to the beat of bullets and bombs.
So which game handled action best in 2016? Well the winner is…
Wait, how is a game where you methodically plot and plan your every move the very best action title of the year? You may be asking that very question, presumably while hammering away at your keyboard to tell me I’m wrong, but listen here: Hitman is sublime. Yes, it is the kind of game with an emphasis on stealth, cunning and strategy. Also, double-yes, I am wearing a “Come at me bro” T-shirt right now.
But those are all elements which align perfectly for that one moment when actions genuinely do speak louder than words. The art of the kill, the split-second of judgement needed to capitilise on all that preparation and watch events unfold like dominos being knocked over. It’s magnificent, it works beautifully and weekly content drops ensure that Hitman feels consistently fresh. Not only that, but Hitman also proved that episodic gaming can work, when done properly. Or as we still described it:
Agent 47 is back and better than ever. The first season of Hitman has produced the definitive Agent 47 experience in a world of intrigue, espionage and murder. Not only the best Hitman game ever made, but also one of the top contenders for game of the year.
Hitman is your best action game of the year. And if I have my way, it’ll also soon win an award for the best use of explosive rubber duckies. And maybe even best song for the use of 47 secret herbs and spices.
Runner-Up: Uncharted 4
It’s better to burn out, than to fade away! Or is it? That’s the question behind Uncharted 4, as the beloved Naughty Dog series saw Nathan Drake suit up for one last round of archeological anarchy. Tense, gripping and oozing charm with a cast of characters that players had gotten to know over the better part of the last decade, Uncharted 4 wasn’t just one of the best games of 2016, but also a fitting end to a legendary series and hero.
Dishonored 2 may be the only action game on this list that could be completed without the need to off any of your targets. But the setup for the return to a world of steam and sorcery was magical. More polished than ever before and with players split on how to approach any scenario with a myriad of options available to them, Dishonored 2 was an intricate and layered approach to a story that you were firmly in control of.
Watch Dogs 2
The first Watch Dogs game was…it was alright. If you were looking to play yet another drab sandbox as a grim defender who was out for revenge, then Watch Dogs the first was perfectly serviceable. But Ubisoft has a talent for sequels, as they infused Watch Dogs 2 with a certain joi de vive and set budding hacktivists loose on the streets of San Francisco to cause some merry havoc.
Not only a tonal leap forward for the series, Watch Dogs 2 polished and tweaked every aspect of the original game until it shined, while never forgetting that games are meant to be fun. A pure joy to play from start to finish, Watch Dogs 2 is a hell of an improvement over its predecessor.
Rise of the Tomb Raider 20th Anniversary Edition
If there’s one entry on this list that didn’t need much tweaking however, it’s Crystal Dynamics’ return to the world of Lara Croft. Finally free to explore other platforms this year, Lara Croft was back and renewed with a new sense of purpose thanks to the groundbreaking work set in the 2013 reboot. Rise Of The Tomb Raider was more of the same, but just somehow even better in its execution.
A love letter to 20 years of tomb plundering and twin pistol action, Rise Of The Tomb Raider is a perfect example of just how far this genre has come, setting a new benchmark for the next two decades that Miss Croft will certainly be a part of.