In the last few years, we’ve seen an increase in story-based games that wowed audiences with their in-depth character development, world-building, and gameplay mechanics. It’s safe to say that the sudden flood of multiplayer-specific titles that saturated the market left gamers longing for strong story and characters that they could connect to. That’s not to say that multiplayer should take a backseat, but keeping single-player adventures on the forefront of the industry will always keep passionate game enthusiasts happy.
With that in mind, here’s a compiled list of some of the greatest adventure games that are both contemporary and classic.
The 10 Best Action Adventure Games
We want everyone—from those new to the genre and those that are diehard fans—to be able to find the next single player adventure they can immerse themselves in. The following games are in no particular order.
Batman: Arkham City (2011)
This one might be a given, but it had to make the list regardless. Over the years there have been numerous Batman titles, but none that quite captured the feeling and the scope of the caped crusader. Rocksteady Studios took everything that they know about the character, Gotham, and the character’s villains, and created one of the greatest superhero fantasy games of all time.
The second installment in the Arkham franchise, Arkham City was the first title to be an open sandbox adventure. This allowed players to glide around the skyscrapers of the city, scale buildings, beat up criminals, and use the character’s signature gadgets to solve puzzles and gain the advantage over the enemies of the Dark Knight. On top of that, the story was real and authentic to what fans love about the character. Many gamers and fans also recognized the voice work of Mark Hamill (The Joker) and Kevin Conroy (Batman) who returned to their respective roles from the animated cartoon show. The game is filled with endless fun and hours of content.
God of War (2018)
One of the most influential adventure titles to date, the most recent entry in the God of War franchise surprised longtime fans and newcomers alike, treating players to a new type of story for the rage-filled Spartan named Kratos. Originally a God-Killer, Kratos finally calmed down and retired his blades for a normal life, opting to live in a Nordic land with a wife and their son, Atreus. The game starts after Kratos’ wife has passed, and now it’s up to father and son to take her ashes to the highest peak in the land, according to her last request. This of course, does not go as easily as planned. There are other gods in the Nordic land, seeking to find out who Kratos is and what his place in the world might be.
Within the first 30 minutes of gameplay, I couldn’t help but be in awe of the game’s graphics, mechanics, and combat controls. Even if players haven’t touched a God of War title before, the controls are easily accessible and the combat adaptable. It won’t be long before gamers have a command of the weapon and shield combinations that make the game so much fun. That’s not to say that the adventure isn’t without challenges. There are plenty of boss fights that left me wondering how much about the combat system I didn’t know and what could be learned. On top of the controls, the upgrade system is streamlined, allowing the player to change out not only Kratos’ armor but Atreus’ as well. This also includes various combat and magical abilities for both characters.
Tomb Raider (2013)
Not all franchises are lucky enough to see a successful reboot, but that’s not the case for Crystal Dynamic’s Tomb Raider. This isn’t just a reboot of the character’s story, but a reimagining of the gaming mechanics and style that attracted gamers of all ages, even the original fans of the first Lara Croft adventure in the ‘90s. The game introduces us to a young and enthusiastic Lara Croft in search of a lost and ancient kingdom called Yamatai. Things don’t go as planned, though. She and the crew are shipwrecked on a remote island after a disastrous storm. From there, she must take what she knows about survival to save her friends and stop an evil cult from fulfilling a ritual. Lara’s choices throughout the first game plant the seeds for her arcing story through the next couple of titles. If you want character development and story, this is where you’ll find it.
One of the stronger qualities outside of story is the combat system and mechanics, allowing Lara to upgrade her weaponry with a fast and addictive upgrade system. There’s also a variety of weapons to choose from throughout, keeping the combat and gameplay fresh and new with each turn. Although this is a title from 2013, it has aged quite well and is worth checking out.
Uncharted Series (2007-2017)
Although it’s a few steps from actually being an Indiana Jones game, the Uncharted game series is as close as it gets. With quippy dialogue, fast-paced action, treasure hunting, and plenty of bad guys to fight, Naughty Dogs’ adventure franchise is not to be missed. Putting you in the shoes of Nathan Drake, each entry in the series is worth a shoutout on the list. From the first game’s origin to the last game’s emotional climax, the series has given us a tremendous arcing story and charming characters that will be memorable for years to come.
The gameplay of Uncharted is next to none, giving us great combat mechanics, challenging puzzles, and tomb exploration. There are plenty of collectibles and things to do, which encourages exploration of the game’s beautiful and exotic locales. If you’re interested in a series that offers hours of gaming, then look no further.
Red Dead Redemption (2010)
There isn’t much to say about Red Dead Redemption that hasn’t been said before, but it had to make the list of greatest adventure games because it is one of the greatest. Not only is it one of the few titles in the Western genre, but it’s innovative in storytelling, character development, combat, horseback riding, and free roam. The story takes place a few years before the first World War in the midwest, where outlaws and gunslingers are nearly extinct, and the law has finally had its day. The game puts you in the spurred boots of John Marston; a former outlaw-turned-informant forced to hunt down his previous gang members. There’s much to learn about John Marston and his past affairs as well as his current desire to be free of all that. The story is an exciting and emotional ride that will stick with gamers for years.
Those that played Grand Theft Auto IV will find the combat and controls to be somewhat similar, as it runs on the same engine. There are some differences though, including the Dead Eye ability which allows John to slow down time, paint his targets, then shoot them before they have a chance to draw their pistols and rifles. There’s plenty to do and see in the world outside of the main story. Do you want to stop at a saloon and play poker? Have at it. Do you want to go out into the prairies and forests and hunt big game? Nothing’s stopping you. Although this is an older title—2010—it’s worth checking out, especially with the new installment that released last year.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)
There are only a few words that can describe the scope and innovation of the newest installment of the Legend of Zelda franchise. In many ways, it’s not just a game, but an experience that will change the way that free roam storytelling is executed. Taking place in a reality where Hyrule has fallen, Link suffered a loss against Ganon, and Princess Zelda has been captured, Breath of the Wild has you playing like a lost and wandering Link who suffers from severe memory loss. As you progress through the story, Link learns of the past events and why Hyrule fell so drastically. The story stitches together piece-by-piece as you come across various characters along the way, making for an intriguing experience from beginning to end.
Being my first and only experience with a Legend of Zelda game, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but within the first few minutes of gameplay, I was blown away. There’s a short introduction to the controls at the very beginning, but as soon as the world opens up, that’s it. Good luck. The thing that impressed me is the game’s restraint at giving the player all the answers, allowing for you to solve problems creatively. Many of the puzzles in the game can be solved in various ways, but don’t expect a hand to hold you along the way. Breath of the Wild is a challenging but satisfying experience.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003)
This one had to make the list, not only because it serves as a great adventure game, but also because it’s one of the greatest Star Wars video game titles in history. With much of the same gameplay mechanics, this title is a precursor to the Mass Effect franchise which was also developed by BioWare, so in many ways, the game laid the groundwork for future titles that we know and loved today. Knights of the Old Republic takes you to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but even further back than the movies’ timelines. Taking place thousands of years before the Empire, a sith lord named Darth Malak takes an offensive against the Republic. It’s up to the Jedi to stop Darth Malak in his tracks before it’s too late.
The game sparked great interest in the ancient era of Star Wars, allowing for various mediums like books and comics to follow the game’s footsteps. Although this is a much older title, it is worth playing for fans of the franchise and for those that want a strong story and fun gameplay.
Horizon: Zero Dawn (2018)
The entertainment world is saturated with stories set in a post-apocalyptic world, but Guerilla Games found a way to keep that setting exciting and fresh with Horizon: Zero Dawn. It take place years after the apocalyptic event, where hostile and sentient machines shaped like large creatures killed off a majority of the human population. The game places you in the life of Aloy, a young woman of a tribe of people just trying to survive in the now machine-ruled world. As the story develops, Aloy learns of pieces of her past, lineage, and where the machines came from, meeting interesting characters along the way, both good and bad.
The aesthetic of the game is one of the most memorable qualities, mixing primitive tribes with futuristic technology. The game design is both innovative and groundbreaking. The mechanics of combat are also something hardly seen before, giving players the ability to use various weapons of numerous types, including bows, traps, and other projectile armaments to bring down a unique array of enemies and robotic creatures throughout the land. This allows for challenging and creative gameplay that never ceases to amaze and never gets old.
Bioshock Infinite (2013)
The third installment of the Bioshock franchise took the series in a direction that no one expected. With the first two games, audiences grew familiar with the underwater city of Rapture, but in Infinite, Irrational Games threw gamers into a floating city above the clouds called Columbia. The story follows Booker DeWitt and his journey to free a girl named Elizabeth from the authorities of the city. With many twists and turns, the game keeps players on the edge of their seats all the way to the mind-blowing climax. It’s an ending that kept me awake for days afterward, thinking about the realities of the game’s story and what it all meant.
Infinite takes the successful and beloved gameplay of the previous games and pushes it further to make for one of the most fun experiences in gaming history. Having been a casual fan of the first Bioshock, I quickly placed the third installment in my top adventure games list. If you want big story moments and epic action sequences, then this is the game waiting for you.
Super Mario Odyssey (2017)
Always a fan-favorite, Mario isn’t hard to speak highly of, but when it comes to the famous plumber’s newest adventure, I had to place it in the top adventure games list. Although the plot is familiar to longtime Mario fans, with Peach getting kidnapped by Bowser, the execution of the story elements and how Mario interacts with the varying levels is a whole new step for Nintendo. There are even tropes of the franchise that are flipped on their head to keep the players surprised at various turning points. The story takes you across numerous locales that include cities with real looking people and villages run by eating utensils. There’s no limit to the creativity of the game’s design.
Odyssey also introduces Mario’s ghost hat, which can possess certain characters, giving the player control of them for a short while. This changes the way that the game can be played, whether you need some goombas to stack on top of each other so you can reach a collectible or you need to take control of a realistic-looking T-Rex to bash your enemies and bust through obstacles. For those considering a Nintendo Switch, this game is a great reason to purchase the console.