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LONG BLOG

Cedi's Favorite Action Games By Subgenre

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I had a lot more fun writing my blog last month where I listed and explained my favorite games by genre than I expected to have. But my guidelines for which genres I’d discuss and how I’d group them up left a lot of favorites still untouched. Today, I’m delivering on my promise to follow-up with some of the subgenres of larger genres covered by that blog, and where better could I start than with Action games! I love gameplay that emphasizes putting you in the moment and in control with a moderately fast pace. Action games are easily my favorite genre overall, but there are so many different ways to interpret an action-based game. Is the action all about movement? Fighting? Exploration? Not dying of starvation?

Again, for the purpose of this list, I’m using this Wikipedia entry as an outline of which types of Action games I’m covering; Platformers, Shooters, Fighting games, Beat ‘Em Ups, Stealth games, and Survival games. I’m also cheating a little and I’m making two separate entries for Shooters or Shmups at the expense of listing a Fighting Game, because Reasons (I'll talk about a Fighting Game eventually!). As a reminder, this isn’t a “I think these are the objectively best games” list, but a personal favorites list. Also, I’m omitting my original list’s favorite Action game pick, Rayman Legends, just to get a little more mileage! That everything? Then put up your dukes and get your jumping shoes on!

 

Platformer -- Super Mario Sunshine

Super Mario Sunshine promo art.

Hnnnnggg… I love too many platformers. I mean, not really, I grew up on so many of them and I couldn’t be happier I did, but now I feel like I’m picking a favorite child. After the first one I chose already moved out for college. I love running and jumping around with all sorts of fluid moves and skillful acrobatics. However, when I reflect on which ones I’ve played the most, and which ones model themselves as the epitome of what I love from the genre, the best example to come after Rayman Legends is Mario’s first trip to the Nintendo Gamecube that doesn't involve an excellent mansion.

Yes, 100%ing this game is a nightmare. I tried. I never did 100% it. And that’s okay, because this game is a blast to Whatever% instead! Mario’s running and jumping moveset packs many new tricks, from the whirling spin jump to the slippery water slide. Even though he sacrifices the wonderful long jump, I found that the new moves I had in its stead, when added together, make a much greater toolset to play with… especially when FLUDD is factored in. Mario’s mechanical buddy is possibly the best new powerup he ever got.

A light press of the nozzle allows you to attack in bursts or streams even while running about. Hovering allows you to glide distances far greater than your jump, empowered further when you learn how to toy with momentum to your advantage. Turbo dashing lets you sprint fast enough to give Sonic a run for his money. And rocket jumping lets you leap over skyscrapers in a single bound. This new mechanic, as gimmicky as it was, gave Mario so many new abilities to explore and play with everywhere you please. Much like how I’d screw around with random animations in Rayman Legends years later, I’d spend hours in Delfino Plaza just romping around with my favorite nozzles, completionism be fudged. This moveset is simply a joy to play with, and I can’t ask for much better out of a platformer. Except maybe a less annoying collectible system. Looking at you, Blue Coins.

 

Shooter -- Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3 multiplayer promo screenshot.

I know what you might be thinking, and if you are, you’re right; Mass Effect is as much of an RPG series as it is a shooter series, if not more. We could ramble on for hours about how great the original trilogy is, or… well, I’ve not played Andromeda yet, so I got nothing to say there. The second game’s writing was the strongest in the series by far, and it’s such a finely tuned work overall I strongly agree with the notion that Mass Effect 2 is the best game in the series. But to be honest? I personally enjoyed the third game more, if only for the even further refined TPS gameplay and the opportunity for online co-op.

Sprinting in and out of cover feels great. Shooting feels great. Melee attacks feel great. Special abilities feel great. The action is quick and snappy, the sound effects are gratifying yet clear, the visual effects are flashy but not obnoxiously so. Everything is just consistently fun to play, barring one or two set pieces. And to top it all off, I dove into the action with a bunch of friends to share the fun with. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had with third person shooter gameplay. I usually don’t bat an eye at cover-based shooters, but Mass Effect’s creative sci-fi setting and visceral gameplay have managed to pull me in for hours and hours, and 3 takes the cake in the TPS half of its design.

Splatoon 2's Salmon Run, as depicted from the mode's reveal footage.

Also, honorable mentions go out to Splatoon and Splatoon 2. They’re even more creative and fantastic in so many ways! I just have a harder time getting invested into the team-based PvP out of personal preferences. The story mode is great, but also insubstantial relative to the rest of the game. And Salmon Run still isn’t available 24/7 yet. Whhhhhhhhhhhhyyyy

 

Shmup -- Jamestown

The second stage boss of Jamestown, with a full party of 4 players.

Admittedly, I was never too attached to shmups that stuck in my memory during my childhood, nor have I played many in recent years. But I’m confident in crowning Jamestown as my favorite among them because it’s just that good.

It kept pulling me back in months and months later just because I want to enjoy one more Gauntlet. There are more mechanics than your typical old school shmups, which can be quite overwhelming for someone who’s been on hiatus from the genre as long as I was. Thankfully, there’s plenty of difficulty settings in escalating difficulty to ease you into the stages and the mechanics… unless you want the endgame stages. Then I had to git gud! And boy is it fun to git gud at this game, because the Vaunt mechanic rewards playing cool and risky with points, double damage, and protection from the hellfire of bullets swarming you. Jamestown is great at easing players into its thrilling mechanics and overwhelming endgame.

There’s a ton of playable ships with unique shot patterns and quirks. The spritework is phenomenal. The music is gorgeous. The colonial style is charming. Farce mode is pretty fudging amusing. The challenge mode is so frustrating yet I keep on wanting to push on farther and farther because this entire game is just so much fun. This is the game that reminded me the true potential of short, arcadey shmups, and I’d love to dive into many more thanks to it. Or I can just play more Jamestown. That also works.

 

Fighting -- Super Smash Bros Brawl

Super Smash Bros Brawl screenshot, used to showcase online play.

While I’ve played and enjoyed a handful of fighting games, the Super Smash Bros series will always be close to my heart for not only introducing me to the concept of them, but for innovating atop them in such a creative way. Melding my long-time love of platforming with a unique control scheme and 4-player chaos was a dream come true. I must’ve poured hundreds of hours into Super Smash Bros Melee from the day I got my Gamecube to the day I gave it to a friend. But there was one thing holding Melee back from being my favorite…

I didn’t have any local friends who liked video games. A multiplayer game can only come so close to its full potential without multiple players.

Lo and behold, my problem would finally be solved… mostly… by the Wii sequel, Brawl. Sure, a lot was different about the game, different in ways a lot of players dislike, but that didn’t matter to me. I simply loved having more single player content to play through. I simply loved the expanded roster of characters, including oddballs like Sonic and Snake. And most of all, I simply loved the opportunity to play online. Sometimes. We all know how that early Nintendo Wi-Fi turned out to be. But that didn’t mean enough to dampen my excitement too much, because at long last, I was able to play games with friends from the Internet. I enjoyed the thrill of competition against my stronger peers. We shared laughs and thrills together. I finally understood the joy of experiencing versus multiplayer. That experience, plus Subspace Emissary, is why Brawl will always be my favorite Smash Bros game. Thus far. But please rest for your health, Sakurai, your body isn’t ready.

 

Beat ‘Em Up -- Bayonetta 2

I’ve never played a game of Bayonetta’s style before, in aesthetics or gameplay, so I was rather hesitant. I’m a guy who strongly dislikes egregious lewds, and Bayonetta has a lot to make me less than comfortable. But I place fun gameplay first, and I always heard that Bayonetta was a masterpiece of a spectacle fighting action game… so, what’s the harm in playing the Wii U duology? Nothing. No harm was had. Bayonetta 1 for Wii U wasn’t only fun, it pushed the limits of fun. Intricate, lightning-fast combos were a spectacle to behold and perform. Thrilling set pieces threw me off guard and overwhelmed my senses with awesome. Loads of enemies gave me plenty of challenge and catharsis combined.

And the sequel? Pretty much all of that and even more.

A story that does a little exploration of the consequences of Bayonetta’s background as a witch, and how she’s just Bayonetta enough to deal with them anyway. Even more ridiculous weapons to brandish and monsters to destroy in fountains of blood and metal. A fantastic new rival who pushes your boundaries. The new Umbran Climax power which I found infinitely more fun to use than Torture Attacks. And the best part? You can do it with a friend from across the world. Yep. Online co-op. In an action game of this insane caliber. Because why the mess not? Bayonetta 2 is “Bayonetta, but even more Bayonetta” and that’s all it needs to be in order to be my favorite game of its genre I’ve ever played.

 

Stealth -- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

Okay, before I dive into this one, I should be transparent. If my preferences towards games as described in my blogs are any indication, I mostly enjoy fast-paced and over-the-top games that make you feel powerful and in control. Stealth games are very slow and make you very vulnerable for the kind of gameplay they aim to convey, barring outlandish examples such as the Sly Cooper series (and IMO, that example really plays more like a platformer). That’s not a knock against the genre. I love the fact that this genre exists to provide a very unique type of game. But after I tried to play Metal Gear Solid 3 in the series’ HD collection and constantly blundering without the Soliton Radar, I can confidently say the core of what defines this genre just doesn’t mesh well with what I look for in gaming, not usually. Yes, I was that bad at it. Probably could have gitten gud if I spent enough time doing so, but I had other games I wanted to play much more at the time and still do today. It doesn't help I already know about 90% of the big spoilers from that game through random Internet binging beforehand.

With that said, I proudly admit that Metal Gear Solid 2 is amazing enough to be worth that HD collection purchase alone, even though I already knew just about as many spoilers going into it.

Snake crawling under a laser detector in MGS2.

What can I say about this game that hasn’t been said already? The stealth mechanics are brilliantly nuanced, asking you to consider problems with more realistic logic than even many modern games of its type. The conspiracy-stuffed and drama-oozing plot is insane and somehow even more culturally relevant today than it was when the game released. The bosses are over-the-top and fun to fight. Oh, and the bit at the end cutscene where the controller rumbles ever so slightly as {REDACTED FOR SPOILERS}? I was shocked. Shocked by the tiniest controller rumble I’ve ever felt. That’s just the kind of storyteller Hideo Kojima is. He will forever have my respect for this game and it's ugly, beautiful ending.

 

Survival -- Dragon Quest Builders

Promotional screenshot for Dragon Quest Builders, depicting a gorgeous player-built town.

Yeah, this game is extremely different from your typical survival/builder/etc game, but that's probably a part of why I was able to get into it as much as I have. Plus, I'm a huge fan of Dragon Quest games. Their whimsical charm and simple yet captivating writing and gameplay have roped me in every since I played Dragon Quest Swords. And yet… of all games, the Minecraft-inspired spin-off is one of the most somber-toned entries in the series. A post-apocalypse setting where the hero destined to save the world bartered it into the hands of its destroyer. A dying populace who constantly struggle and take losses. A civilization barely remembered by its own people. What other survival builder game goes as far as to literally ask you the question, what’s the point of building in a world like this?

And despite all of that, your protagonist keeps smiling on the boxart. Why? Because he sees something fun beyond that oppressive atmosphere. He finds joy in putting his skills to use to benefit the townsfolk as well as to flex his own creative muscles, because he knows building stuff in this game is worth it. Not just for story reasons, but because you’ll have fun doing it too. Tons of quality-of-life features not seen in other survival builders make even the most convoluted of building chores feel quick and rewarding. Your options for construction, destruction, exploration, and combat constantly expand, even after you start over with a new town. If you ever wanted more direction in your Survival games, DQB has you covered. If you prefer freeform building and survival, the free mode you unlock through the story mode also can get you that fix. The only thing it’s missing is online multiplayer.

… Wait, what? The sequel is already confirmed to add that? Is… is it t-too late to change my favorite Survival game to DQB2? T-Too early? W-what is time?

 

Truth be told, the prospect of making favorites lists has always intimidated me a lot before I attempted actually doing it here. I love a lot of games for a lot of different reasons, and sometimes I don't know why other than "just because". Picking a single favorite above its peers felt a little arbitrary to me. But doing it for blogs, it dawned on me that I repeatedly ask myself the same questions; what is it I love about this genre? And what games have I played that represent the things I love most? I was gradually realizing that this prospect wasn’t so spoopy as I first thought it was. It’s a lot of fun, actually! It’s the perfect opportunity to reflect on my tastes. To explore my experiences across games. To examine what it is I really love about games. Sharing what I love about games is one my biggest reasons for choosing to blog, and these genre-favorites-blogs are an excellent way to do fulfill that goal. It's my pleasure to share these, and I look forward to sharing my favorite Adventure games next time!

Seriously, though. There actually is a tiny controller rumble in the MGS2 ending. Just, don’t just take my word for it. Hold the controller through the whole thing. The thing will happen. It does.

- Thanks for reading, and don't implode!


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About Chris Hovermaleone of us since 8:03 PM on 07.31.2017

I'm a new Contributor who used to go by the screen name Cedi! Obligatory disclaimer; I backed Kirbopher/Chris Niosi's TOME RPG on Kickstarter.

My favorite games are Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, Rayman Legends, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Bayonetta 2, Jamestown+, Phantasy Star Portable 2, Hyrule Warriors, and Guacamelee: STCE.

I’m a longtime gamer who enjoys to write, to entertain, to inform, and to overanalyze the little things. Transparency and honesty are my foremost virtues in anything I do. I joined the Destructoid team to pursue work applying the skills I love to practice for a hobby I love to explore.

As far as social media is concerned, you can find me on my professional Twitter account, or my personal Twitter account! Fair advice, you can expect to see a lot more of the big blue character in my banner if you check out my personal Twitter. Whether that's a recommendation or a warning depends. By the way, that banner is a commission by Twitter user @kaizer33226.