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, and that’s exactly what the best PS4 action games can provide.
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 definitive action games on the PlayStation 4.
The following fifteen games are a diverse mix that proves that the PS4’s best action games can be mindless or story-driven, fast-paced or meticulous, and over-the-top or down-to-earth. Most importantly of all, they’re simply a joy to play.
NOTE: the below list is not in any ranking, just the action games on PlayStation 4 that we think deserve the most love. All of these games will also work on PS5 thanks to backwards compatibility.
The Best PS4 Action Games
1. Earth Defense Force 5
Developer: Sandlot Publisher: D3 Publisher
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.
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 PS4 action games, it’s also one of the console’s best games overall. It’s also terribly underrated, so get to it.
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 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.
An utterly compelling and challenging ride, Dead Cells is a dense and consistently evolving game that is what every budding Early Access game should aspire to become.
Developer: id Software Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Rip and tear your way through a horde of demons in this reboot of the series that helped pioneer first-person shooting. When it comes to the best PlayStation 4 action games, you don’t get much more action-packed than Doom. Well, so long as you ignore Doom 3.
The 2017 iteration is a fast-paced love song to the original, serving as the perfect update the series has needed. Equipped with an arsenal of devastating weapons designed to tear fleshy things apart, the Doom Slayer goes on a relentless killing spree across Mars and through Hell. It’s a nonstop gorefest that gives players very little breathing room between the waves upon waves of familiar demons.
Backed by a soundtrack of synthesized progressive metal, Doom doesn’t try to pretend to be some narrative-based shooter with a profound message. It even gets this point across early on when Doom Slayer impatiently smashes a screen delivering exposition.
Doom is brilliant. As a shooter it’s a breath of fresh air that, rather than being in thrall to recreating the second hand spectacle of blockbuster movies, succeeds because it wholly embraces its gaming heritage and puts the spectacle in the hands of players to create themselves.
Developer: Guerrilla Games Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Try to play Horizon Zero Dawn like a straight-up action game and you’ll die pretty quick.
It’s a subtle piece of this brilliant open world game, but it’s undeniably a big part of the overall experience. You may not be able to run and gun through a pack of Watchers, but those epic battles against Thunderjaws and Bellowbacks are action-packed.
In the wake of robotic world domination, primitive tribes are at the mercy of dinosaur-like machines. As Aloy, an outcast of the Nora tribe, players set out across the unfamiliar world armed with a bow, an array of arrows, and other gadgets. Combat requires players to be meticulous and careful with their supplies. The advanced AI of the machines makes them formidable enough to require a bit of planning to overcome.
Horizon Zero Dawn succeeds at combining a fun and unique concept with visuals that help showcase the capabilities of the PlayStation 4.
Horizon Zero Dawn boasts a stunningly realized vision of the post-post-apocalypse, accompanied by a fascinating and chilling mystery surrounding the fall of civilization and surprisingly deep and strategic combat which combine to create one of the best new IP’s in years.
8. Kingdom Hearts III
Developer: Square Enix Publisher: Square Enix
For 17 years, Square Enix has been delighting fans of Disney and Final Fantasy with the Kingdom Hearts series. The core struggle between light and dark and the central theme of the power of friendship may make it seem like a kiddy game, but plenty about it appeals to more mature fans.
That rings especially true in Kingdom Hearts III, which sees the heroic trio of Sora, Donald, and Goofy returning after the 14-year hiatus since the second entry.
The series signature combat has been tweaked a little to be more accessible, but it’s still a mix of action and strategy. Button mashing won’t get you far in this action RPG, especially as the villainous Heartless grow stronger and your enemies more relentless.
Kingdom Hearts III introduces new Disney and Pixar properties, like Frozen, Toy Story, and Monster’s, Inc. for Sora’s biggest adventure, earning it a spot as one of the best PS4 action games, even if the wait may have been a little too long. It’s also one of the only games here suitable for all ages, so make of that what you will.
Despite its flaws, Kingdom Hearts 3 provides a more than fitting ending to Sora’s chapter and its presentation will leave a lasting impression on long-time fans. With careful lessons learned from its past, Kingdom Hearts’ future has never been so bright.
9. Red Dead Redemption 2
Developer: Rockstar Studios Publisher: Rockstar Games
While it would have been nice for Rockstar to go the Grand Theft Auto route and feature an all-new story with no connection to its predecessor, it’s hard to criticize the decision when Red Dead Redemption 2 is every bit as good.
Red Dead Redemption 2 follows John Marston’s original gang. Rather than play as Marston, however, players control the Van der Linde lieutenant, Arthur Morgan. The Wild West setting may be similar, but Rockstar built out a new map for players to explore, and boy is it a doozy. Red Dead Redemption 2’s map is even larger than Grand Theft Auto V’s, which was 3.3 times the size of John Marston’s explorable space.
It’s up to you whether you want to be an outlaw or an honorable cowboy. Well, as honorable as you can be as the lieutenant of a gang of miscreants. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a faithful sequel with upgrades to mechanics of the prior entry that allow for more fluid gunplay. There is a solid story to enjoy, but you’re more than welcome to ride across the massive map and wreak havoc wherever you go.
One of the best PS4 action games at making you feel a lot of feelings.
Developer: SIE Santa Monica Studio Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Much has changed for Kratos since God of War III. He’s once again lived the life of a loving husband and fell into the role of a strict father. As if to mimic the personality growth of the aging warrior, the latest God of War also matured. Kratos may not be the same rage-filled Ghost of Sparta, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t still a formidable warrior.
Swapping out the frantic action of the original trilogy, combat in God of War is more intense, requiring a better grasp on timing and more focus on enemy patterns. A switch to Norse mythology pits the former Spartan and his son, Atreus, against all-new foes and aligned with characters ripped straight from classic lore.
The result is one of the best PS4 action games that lays the framework for another series of God of War games. We can’t wait.
While the changes brought around for God of War may rankle some, it feels like the natural evolution for a series that you wouldn’t believe is now seven games deep, judging by just how re-energised it feels in its latest incarnation. Kratos is back, and so too is one of PlayStation’s least heroic heroes with great aplomb.
11. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Developer: Naughty Dog Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Nathan Drake returns to the PlayStation 4 for one last adventure. Pulled from retirement by an unexpected figure from his past, the famed treasure hunter once again faces the deception of thieves, this time from a close ally.
Naughty Dog has always been a master at storytelling and A Thief’s End only solidifies that point. While maybe not as strong as its predecessor, Drake’s Deception, the fourth entry rounds out the series nicely. Featuring a semi-open world, A Thief’s End is the first to really let players explore and feel like a treasure hunter.
Combat remains largely the same, though the addition of a grappling hook makes it easier to use the large set pieces to your advantage. Uncharted 4 is Drake’s most personal journey yet, making it a fitting end to the adventurer’s story.
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Leaving behind the lands of Azeroth and the dungeons of Tristram, Blizzard turned its attention to a series of arenas set across a fictional version of Earth. Overwatch was a change of pace for Blizzard, which had been known for the slower-paced action of games like Diablo, Warcraft, and StarCraft.
It took some time and a few updates, but the team-based, first-person multiplayer shooter eventually became a well-rounded and balanced online game.
The roster of colorful characters falls into three unique classes, (Damage, Tank, and Support) each one serving distinct purposes on the battlefield. It may not be a new concept to online shooters, but Blizzard’s choice of abilities make each class equally as fun to play.
Originally launched with twelve characters, the roster has since blossomed to more than 25 heroes. It’s one of those rare instances where there truly is someone for every kind of player.
Ultimately, Overwatch is a game that can threaten to take over your life if you let it, and if you have willpower as bad as mine, it will do. Once you move past any initial head-scratching over what the hell is going on, it will have you, utterly and irrepressibly. Even though the year is still young, expect to see Overwatch at the top of GotY lists for many.
Developer: FromSoftware Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Take to the streets of Yharnam equipped with one of several weapons that fit well on a list of the best PS4 action games.
Bloodborne may require players to be meticulous with their actions, but that they wield a weapon that can transform mid-combat is as cool as it gets. Imagine thwarting a plagued citizen of the Gothic city with a sword, then turning it into a serrated whip on-the-fly to keep a hellbeast at bay.
Bloodborne may have been bred from the Dark Souls series, but it stands on its own with a setting and story that appeals more to horror fans. As a nameless Hunter in search of the Paleblood, players square off against a host of monstrosities, from Wolf Beasts to oversized trolls.
Standing in your way is a series of horrifying bosses that either test your patience or your skill as a hunter.
14. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Developer: Ubisoft Quebec Publisher: Ubisoft
After finally taking players and long-time fans of the series back to the beginning of the Brotherhood, Ubisoft rewound the clock even more to the 5th century. The story further expands upon the lore of the Assassin’s Creed series through modern and historical segments.
Odyssey took the new combat of Origins and tailored it to fit in the Grecian setting. As Misthios, one of two Spartan siblings cast off a cliff, players explore the sprawling map of Greece, partaking in a variety of missions along the way. As with all Assassin’s Creed games, the core story is based in a fictional version of history that winds up being intertwined with supernatural elements.
The Misthios wields an array of pointy and sharp-edged weapons used to cut through enemies and targets on their quest to restore their family. Paralleling the historical segments are moments of exploration in modern times as Layla Hassan, the Abstergo Industries researcher first introduced in Origins.
15. Grand Theft Auto V
Developer: Rockstar North Publisher: Rockstar Games
Rockstar is known for its ambition, but Grand Theft Auto V was – and remains – its most ambitious title to date. Though Red Dead Redemption 2 was larger, the combined regions of San Andreas and Los Santos are brimming with life, life that you can ignore completely or snub out in true Grand Theft Auto fashion.
Possibly the best part of Grand Theft Auto V, beyond the mindless violence, is the three intertwining narratives. As three very different characters, players unravel a story ripe with betrayal, redemption, and, of course, the occasional psychopath.
Though Grand Theft Auto V has a mission structure that leads to a clear ending, whether you make it to that point is totally up to you. Like with any other entry in the series, it’s far too easy to get sucked into hours-long murder sprees.
16. Marvel’s Spider-Man
Developer: Insomniac Games Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Step aside Tom Holland and every other Spider-Man actor. It’s time for Yuri Lowenthal to stand in as everyone’s favorite wall-crawling superhero.
In Insomniac’s epic version of good ‘ole Spidey, we join Peter Parker much later in his career as Manhattan’s protector. He has an in with the NYPD and already put many of his worst enemies behind bars. Most importantly, though, he’s still a complete mess when it comes to balancing his work, personal, and Spider-Man lives.
Marvel’s Spider-Man may be one of the most faithful representations of the web-slinger. I love Holland, MacGuire, and Garfield for distinct reasons, but Lowenthal delivers an emotional, multifaceted performance that drives the game’s deep and tragic story both in and out of his spandex-wearing persona.
Borrowing elements of gameplay from Batman’s Arkham series, Spider-Man is the smoothest experience we’ve had as the web-head and one of the most enjoyable games of 2018. Sure, the difficulty could have been kicked up a notch, but it hardly takes away from the bigger picture.
“With all the freedom it gives you to web-sling through New York City and stick goons to walls, Spider-Man for PS4 is the best Spider-Story I’ve had the pleasure to experience, and even on its own is a brilliant game.”
17. DOOM Eternal
Developer: id Software Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Rip and tear. What more is there to say about Bethesda’s DOOM series?
Eternal picks up shortly after the events of the 2016 reboot, with Doomguy hellbent on exacting gory revenge on the demonic forces that invaded Earth. id Software knew it didn’t have to change the formula too much for the 2020 sequel, but it did make a few tweaks to flesh out a more complex adventure for the demon slayer.
Manning an arsenal that would make an Imp weep, Doomguy arrives on Earth to cut, punch, smash, and shoot his way through hordes of mushy foe. He has a few new tricks up his sleeve, such as a Predator-like shoulder-mounted grenade launcher and a Predator-like wrist blade. Hey, if you’re going to pull inspiration from anywhere, Predator is a great place to start.
These new tools and revamped versions of his classic weapons rip through enemies with ease, and they’ll need to considering how much id Software throws at our hero in one of the best PS4 action games for leaving you breathless.
The firefights are frantic and put a greater emphasis on the “push-forward” combat introduced in 2016. Surviving the demon-infested Earth often becomes a song-and-dance of dodging, chainsawing, and grappling with inhuman forces.
“DOOM Eternal is everything you could ever want from a DOOM game. It is the natural evolution of the successful 2016 reboot, a magnificent upping of stakes that is almost peerless in giving power to the player with plenty of content to keep coming back to. If it’s pure escapism you want from your video games, DOOM Eternal is the dictionary definition of that.”
18. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Developer: FromSoftware Publisher: Activision
We bet you saw “FromSoftware” and let out an exasperated sigh.
See, the problem is, FromSoftware’s games can be incredibly difficult. However, they’re also visual and technical masterpieces that belong on everyone’s “must play” list. Sekiro may be a tad different than Dark Souls and Bloodborne, but it still has the developer’s penchant for meticulous combat.
After the titular Sekiro loses his arm, he’s outfitted with a Shinobi Prosthetic that’s much more than just a decorative piece to fill the void. The customizable prosthetic provides Sekiro with some nifty powers and skills, such as teleportation and a metallic umbrella that doubles as a shield. It’s a unique touch that helps enhance the gameplay, much like the Trick Weapons of Bloodborne.
Shadows Die Twice is set in a fictional 16th-century Japan, and every aspect of it is wonderfully designed. It’s easy to get immersed in the world surrounding you, which can be problematic considering you’re rarely far from a deadly foe. With the right timing, the perfect loadout, and plenty of patience, you’ll be able to successfully guide Sekiro on his quest for revenge.
“Sekiro is a tremendously fun and difficult game — everything from the combat to the world itself is crafted in a masterful way.”
19. Yakuza 0
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio Publisher: Sega
There are few video game series that shine ever brighter with each new release. Even after eight canonical entries, Sega’s Yakuza continues to earn praise. While every entry should be played, especially if you want to follow the core story, for the PS4, you may want to hone in on Yakuza 0. Not only is it a prequel to the original PS2 game, but it also happens to be one of the best in the series.
I could spend a lot of time talking about the combat and how much fun it is to toss around and beat up your foe, but Yakuza 0 is so much more than a mindless action game.
The series has always been favored for its unique side quests and mini-games, and this entry doesn’t deviate from what fans have come to love. From Karaoke challenges to fishing to slot car racing, Yakuza 0 keeps things fresh. If you somehow get tired of the staple action, you can step away to engage in a telephone dating mini-game.
Yes, I’m 100% serious.
Amidst the expected zaniness, Yakuza 0 features an engaging story that sets up the events that follow in the rest of the series.
20. Days Gone
Developer: SIE Bend Studio Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Just when you thought you were tired of zombie games, SIE Bend Studio delivers Days Gone.
This story-driven action-adventure drops players in the post-apocalyptic Northwest United States, which, like much of the world, has been overrun by Freakers. These infected humans have an insatiable rage and travel in overwhelming packs, providing not only one of the best PS4 action games, but also one of the most intense.
As drifter Deacon St. John, players explore the vast open world to guide the former outlaw and his friend Boomer away from the madness spread across Oregon. Unfortunately, fate has other plans for the pair, and their world starts to get much bigger and far deadlier.
Days Gone works pretty hard to avoid following the stereotypical zombie tropes, with its most prominent deviation being Deacon’s transportation. Players can hoof it across Oregon on foot, which may be a quieter option, but Deacon loves his motorcycle. The roar of the engine can be problematic when trying to sneak past Freakers, but there’s a certain charm to a hero that loves to cruise despite the danger it poses.
The Freakers are fast and vicious, and players will need to use everything at their disposal to survive this apocalypse. Thankfully, Deacon can man an array of firearms, craft explosives and distractions, and can hold his own with blunt and sharp melee weapons.
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