What makes an action game? Is it a bounty of explosions? Awesome firearms? Quippy protagonists? Massive set pieces? Maybe it’s all of those things, rolled up into a neat, entertaining package.
While the definition of “action video game” can be broad and encompass different subgenres, that didn’t stop us from filtering through the more than 200 applicable titles to find you the best action games on the PlayStation 4.
The following fifteen games are a diverse mix that proves that the best PS4 action games can be mindless or story-driven, fast-paced or meticulous, and over-the-top or down-to-earth.
We know by now to expect the zaniest things to come from Japanese developers, and the Earth Defense Force series has always been a prime example of how strange things can get. As a member of the Earth Defense Force, you battle endless waves of giant insects and robots. That’s it. There’s a story built in there somewhere, but it doesn’t matter. That’s how the series started, and by the fifth entry on the PlayStation 4, that’s where it remains.
There have been minor changes to gameplay since the series first premiered on the PS2, but the core has always been about battling giant ants and spiders, humanoid robots, and UFOs in urban, country, and underground environments. By Earth Defense Force 5, there’s a hefty arsenal of weapons to toy around with, each one featuring its own perks and disadvantages.
It’s the type of game you can mindlessly play for hours, regardless of how little changes between earlier and later levels. Let a friend join in and it’s even easier not to realize you’ve been blasting bugs for hours on end.
Earth Defense Force 5 is the kind of game you can play for hours on end and still be entertained. Co-op remains fun as ever (though in local you’re stuck with an ugly vertical split-screen), and the faster pace and variation from the previous games makes this the most engaging EDF yet. Add to that the higher difficulties offering improved Weapons and Armor and there is no lack of replayability. The quirks of the series are an acquired taste to be sure, but this has proven itself as a great EDF game for veterans and newcomers alike.
2. Titanfall 2
Developer: Respawn Entertainment Publisher: Electronic Arts
Expanding upon the concept of its less-than-stellar predecessor, Titanfall 2 winds up being a shining example of fixing past mistakes. Respawn clearly listened to player complaints regarding Titanfall and used them to put forth a well-rounded action title that works in both online and offline settings.
It’s true that Titanfall 2 shines as a multiplayer game, but solo payers will still have their chance at controlling the mechanical Titans. The development team did double down on the multiplayer experience, however, and released the game with 11 different multiplayer modes. Among them are a team deathmatch where you can’t summon Titans and a one-on-one competitive battle.
Of course, the best part about the Titanfall series is piloting the different Titans, but Titanfall 2 made playing as the pilots a more enjoyable experience.
It may have been rather unfairly wedged between the two biggest games of the year in the release schedule, but Titanfall cannot and should not be considered an also-ran. At the risk of getting hyperbolic, it’s an incredible experience from the ground up that should be played by anyone who loves a first-person shooter with ambition and heart. It’s on another level to its predecessor and almost all of its rivals.
3. Gravity Rush 2
Developer: SIE Japan Studio’s Team Gravity Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Visually, Gravity Rush 2 is beautiful. The award nominated design is an effective use of cel-shading, but Gravity Rush 2 doesn’t just rely on being visually pleasing. Team Gravity expands upon the gravity-based controls of its predecessor, introducing three gravity styles for more in-depth and varied gameplay.
Players take control of Kat, who returns from the original Gravity Rush. Taking place immediately after the first game, Gravity Rush 2 returns to familiar locations and expands upon the universe with a map that’s 2.5 times larger. Players have plenty to explore as Kat, using her gravity skills to defend herself against the Nevi, solve puzzles, and access the floating districts.
Not only is Gravity Rush 2 one of the best action games on the PlayStation 4, it’s also one of the console’s best games overall.
Just when we started to grow tired of slaughtering Nazis, MachineGames reminded us why they’ve become a staple video game enemy. In Wolfenstein II, William B.J. Blazkowicz makes his triumphant return, battling through his deadliest and bloodiest mission yet.
The American hero finds himself facing off against Frau Irene Engel, returning antagonist from The New Order. Engel is ruthless, cutting down Blazkowicz allies in some of the most unsettling scenes in the Wolfenstein franchise. Thanks to Engel, there are many unforgettable moments in Wolfenstein II, making it the most impactful of the series.
The New Colossus may be very over-the-top, but MachineGames uses the tone to its advantage to carve out an experience that amplifies what we’ve come to expect from the Wolfenstein series.
Despite some occasional issues with abrupt tonal shifts and some frustrating elements of combat and difficulty, Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus continues New Order’s deft combination of smooth, exhilarating gunfights and a story and setting with surprising depth and character that effectively tackles some dark and heavy themes while ultimately remaining fun and hopeful.
5. Dead Cells
Developer: Motion Twin Publisher: Motion Twin
Motion Twin’s Dead Cells is the ideal hybrid of Roguelite and MetroidVania gameplay. Players battle through a procedurally-generated castle filled with horrors waiting to be cut down with an array of weapons and special attacks.
Dead Cells emphasizes upgrading skills and weapons, which open up different areas of the ever-changing world. You’ll have to master your arsenal to uncover secret rooms and hidden passages and take on a horde of unique enemies. Dead Cells launched with more than ninety different weapons and skills, four special abilities, and the promise of the occasional rage-quit.
There’s a significant learning curve as all thirteen levels and four bosses can be punishing, especially since Motion Twin decided to challenge players with permadeath.