Action-adventure games are a genre of video games that have been prevalent since the inception of the industry. Providing players with a highly octane action-packed story, along with fun engaging gameplay, action-adventure games are a favorite among people who enjoy a good adrenaline rush as well as a nice amount of critical thinking.
Looking back, these action-adventure games were some of the best sellers of the past, generally ending up being commercial hits. In the time period between 2010 and 2019, action-adventure games were similarly very popular, and captivated players for hours, until completion.
While listing them all here would take ages, not to mention long-winded, an attempt has been made here to include one popular action-adventure game from each year of the past decade. Thus, without further ado, here are 10 of the best action-adventure games from the 2010s, one for each year.
Note: This article reflects the writer's opinions.
10 action-adventure games which were popular in the 2010s
1. Alan Wake - 2010
Developed by Remedy Entertainment, Alan Wake is an action-adventure game in which players take on the role a writer looking to get over his writer’s block. This leads Wake to the town of Bright Falls, where he and his wife retire to a rented cabin.
However, things start to go awry when a mysterious force drags Alan’s wife into the resident water body known as Cauldron Lake. Wake must now figure out where his wife has been taken to while fighting off shadowy figures. Things will turn topsy-turvy more than once in this psychological horror experience of a video game.
The core gameplay in this action-adventure game is a third-person shooter style with a small caveat. Shadow creatures, who are the primary enemies in this game, first need to be stunned using a light source, like a flashlight or flare, following which the players can then shoot. Players are encouraged to use available light sources in their environment to get around many different areas.
2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - 2011
Possibly the best role-playing action-adventure game to come out in the last decade, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a game set in the fictional world of Nirn and the nation of Skyrim. A part of the Elder Scrolls series of video games that are set in the continent of Tamriel, Skyrim is located in the far north, home to the Nords, who have been taken over by Imperial rule.
Players create their very own character, dubbed the Dragonborn, who possesses the ability to use the voice of the Dragons. Brought into the world by the powers above to combat the threat of Alduin, the World Eater Dragon, players embark on an epic journey across the vast landscape, completing various quests and earning rewards.
The gameplay is told either through first-person or third-person, based on the player’s preference. Once in the open-world, the Dragonborn is free to explore the map at their leisure, despite tough enemies lurking in nooks and crannies. Players can level up through experience gained, and can choose which skills to invest in, letting them invent their very own gameplay style.
3. Mass Effect 3 - 2012
This was the last game in the story of Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect games. An action-adventure game set in space, Mass Effect 3 follows the epic journey of the player’s very own Commander Shepard. Developed by BioWare, this game brought an end to the trilogy of games which started in 2007.
A soldier in the Systems Alliance Navy, Shepard uncovers a threat to the entire galaxy, as an ancient race of mechanical aliens known as the Reapers plans to wipe out all sentient life. Mass Effect 3 sees Shepard and his allies finally combat the Reapers directly, taking down many of the colossal aliens, and finally finding a way to resolve the conflict.
Like in previous games, players can visit many different worlds, some which are critical to the main campaign, as well as others that are optional. Based on the skillset, players have chosen to play as Shepard will have access to specific weapons and abilities, while their teammates can also assist them in combat, based on their class and powers.
4. The Last of Us - 2013
Developer Naughty Dog was well known through their popular action video game series Uncharted, although they showed that they can also tell a more emotional story through The Last of Us in 2013. Set against the backdrop of a fungal zombie infection, this action-adventure game was a massive hit with players and critics alike, earning it many accolades.
The primary protagonist is Joel, a middle-aged man who lost his family when the zombie infection first hit the United States. Joel is tasked with transporting a young girl, Ellie, across the States to a research organization, as Ellie;s blood might be immune to the infection.
The game sees the two main characters start off on rocky terms, but over the course of the story, they soon mellow out and develop a father-daughter dynamic. Gameplay is in the form of third-person shooter, with many stealth sections also involved along the way. As Joel, players can command Ellie to attack a wary target, or shoot it themselves using a gun or crossbow.
5. Wolfenstein: The New Order - 2014
Developed by Machine Games and published by Bethesda, this action-adventure game serves as a reboot of the original Wolfenstein video game that originated in the 1980s. The new edition reinvented many outdated aspects of the series, although shooting N*zis was still its primary objective.
Featuring protagonist William "B.J." Blazkowicz, this action-adventure game is a first-person shooter that sees players battle through various enemies across many levels to progress through the story. Some sections offer players the option to silently take out enemies using melee attacks, while oftetimes they will be forced to engage in intense gunfights.
Set in an alternate timeline where the N*zis ultimately win World War II, this game sees Blazkowicz make an important decision in the prologue of the game, where he is forced to choose either of his two compatriots to be given as a experiment to the antagonist of the game Wilhelm "Deathshead" Strasse. The characters in the story change based on this decision, and so does the final enemy of the game.
6. Bloodborne - 2015
Arguably FromSoftware’s best video game in the Soulsborne series, Bloodborne is an action-adventure game and possibly the most distinct product in their catalogue. Set in a Victorian setting and featuring Lovecraftian horror elements, the game takes place in the fictional city of Yharnam. The player character finds themselves in this city in search of a cure for a disease, but is conscripted into the service of the Moon Presence to become a Hunter.
Players are then let loose in this open-world inhabited by blood-drunk citizens, large monstrous trolls, and all manner of beasts. As with many FromSoftware games, players generally need to attack anything that moves and proceed through unexplored areas to find a path throughout the game.
Various weapons with different abilities and outfits that grant stat bonuses can be found around the world.
Boss fights are the most reliable way for players to know that they are moving in the right direction, with most bosses being necessary to be defeated to complete the story. A hub world known as the Hunter’s Dream exists, where players can upgrade their weapons and equip runes which grant various bonuses, while lanterns exist in the main world as respawn points.
7. Hitman - 2016
After the debacle that was Hitman: Absolution, developer IO Interactive went a long way to bring the series back to its roots with their new game Hitman (no subtitles) in 2016. This was a stealth action-adventure game, which was played through various levels, as Agent 47 was sent to various locations across the world in a bid to complete contracts given by a mysterious party.
This game set the precedent for the series moving forward, as it was all that the fans wanted in a Hitman, delivered with spectacular execution and great graphics. Playing from a third-person perspective, Hitman allowed players to approach each target in a level in a variety of ways, suiting their own playstyle.
The game also featured an overarching story, which also spanned the next two games, involving a shadow government organization, 47’s handler Diana Burnwood, and 47's past. The later two installments expanded on this action-adventure game’s formula, with Hitman 3 giving players access to the content of all three games for a small price.
8. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - 2017
This was, and still is, the newest Zelda game in terms of an original story, although a sequel has been announced and will debut in 2023. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was available to play on the Nintendo Switch and Wii U, and was the first proper open-world Zelda game in history.
Featuring Hyrule in all its glory, this role-playing action-adventure game sees princess Zelda being captured and held hostage inside Hyrule castle by Ganondorf, who has assumed a new form known as Calamity Ganon. The hero of Hyrule, Link, awakens after a long deep sleep, and is entrusted with the duty to free Zelda as well as defeat Calamity Ganon.
From the very beginning of the game, players are allowed to move anywhere they wish in the wide open map, even try to tackle the final boss. But they are encouraged to first level up, acquire some powerful weapons, and a larger health pool.
The players are required to explore the open world, complete various quests, mainline, as well as optional, until they are ready to take on Calamity Ganon himself.
9. Red Dead Redemption 2 - 2018
Rockstar Games released the prequel to Red Dead Red Redemption in 2018, this time focusing on John Marston’s old gang, led by Dutch van der Linde. The protagonist, however, is not John Marston, as players take control of a new character called Arthur Morgan. As an action-adventure game set in the Wild West, players can simulate their dreams of living as a gunslinger or cowboy.
This is mainly due to Red Dead Redemption 2’s dedication to realism, which is balanced well enough with video game elements that it becomes the best Wild West simulator ever to exist. Players can play Arthur Morgan any way they wish, performing criminal deeds whenever they see fit, or helping out NPCs in need.
In-game physics are also pretty realistic, with horse riding, gunplay, movement and collisions feeling quite believable. The game’s dynamic weather system requires players to clothe Arthur accordingly or suffer in the extreme conditions. Filled to the brim with side activities and optional quests, players will get lost in the world of RDR2 for hours on end.
10. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order - 2019
Respawn Entertainment gave Star Wars fans what they had been waiting for - a single-player focused video game, unhampered by any microtransactions. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is an action-adventure game with the plot set between the events of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.
Following Cal Kestis' story, the video game sees him being forced out of hiding as the Inquisitors arrive on the scene. Meeting a couple of individuals who are also on the run from the Empire, Cal must decide whether or not he is ready to trust other people once again.
The main story of the game is set across a handful of planets, which serve as different levels, as well as locations to explore. Featuring Metroidvania-like elements, Cal is able to traverse previously inaccessible areas by using newly unlocked Force abilities and gadgets. This game also heavily relies on the Soulsborne formula in its combat and checkpointing mechanics.
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