Action-adventure remains one of gaming’s most popular and celebrated genres, blending fine-tuned moment-to-moment gameplay with strong exploration, puzzle-solving, and narrative.
There were several worthy additions to the genre’s vast library this year, yet five games stood above the rest. These are our picks for the best action-adventure games of 2021.
The Best Action-Adventure Game of 2021
In a lot of ways, Hitman 3 is more of the same, but considering the incredibly high bar set by the first two entries in IO interactive’s World of Assasination trilogy, that’s by no means a bad thing. Couple that with the fact that early 2021 absolutely sucked for travel of any kind, and getting to look over Agent 47’s shoulder as he explored exotic new locales was especially welcome. In a year of social distancing, virtually attending a packed Berlin rave, wine tasting in Argentina, and schmoozing atop a Dubai skyscraper was a nice consolation price for being stuck on the couch – and obviously, y’know, doing slapstick murders and whatnot was fun too. Better still, Hitman 3 would’ve made an impressive showcase of next-gen consoles on its own, but IO went above and beyond and overhauled the first two Hitman games so they looked and played with the same fidelity. It’s bittersweet to see this trilogy come to an end, but it certainly went out with a bang, possibly caused by an exploding rubber duck. – Max Scoville
For more, check out IGN’s Hitman 3 review.
It Takes Two
It Takes Two tells the story of a married couple on the precipice of separation – admittedly a strange setup for an action adventure game – who are magically whisked away into a whimsical and treacherous world they’re forced to cooperate to escape. The catch that makes It Takes Two so great, though, is that it can only be played in two player co-op, meaning you and your real life co-op partner will be forced to team up, argue, communicate, and ultimately work together to traverse large levels full of traps, chasms, and hilarious boss fights. It’s a bold new take on couple’s therapy that will probably tear your relationship apart (and bring it together) in ways a video game never has before. – Brian Altano
For more, check out IGN’s It Takes Two review.
19 years is a long time to wait for anything. And yet, that’s how long Metroid fans waited for a brand new 2D Metroid game. Fortunately, Metroid Dread met those sky high expectations that came along with that 19 year wait and then some. Metroid Dread checks all of the boxes one would expect in a 2D Metroid game: stellar map design, an excellent progression of powers and abilities, and rewarding exploration. But on top of that, it also delivered some of the best boss battles of the entire series, tense encounters against the dreaded E.M.M.I. robots that were unlike anything else Samus had ever seen before, and the thrilling conclusion of a story 35 years in the making. – Mitchell Saltzman
For more, check out IGN’s Metroid Dread review.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart
As the first “classic” PlayStation characters to arrive on the PS5, Ratchet & Clank had to walk a rather precarious tightrope to meet expectations for both longtime fans and the new console hardware. Rift Apart manages this with ease, sending the plucky heroes on an adventure that not only looks and plays spectacularly well but provides new takes on familiar characters and introduces new ones who feel right at home in its strange sci-fi world. Its zany arsenal of explosive – sometimes reality-altering – weapons allow for constant changeups in its fast-paced combat encounters, and there’s plenty of secrets and collectibles to discover when exploring off the beaten path. It’s an (inter)stellar combination of smart writing, gorgeous designs, and satisfying action that will keep this adventure on the PS5’s “must play” list for a long time to come. – Jon Ryan
For more, check out IGN’s Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart review.
Resident Evil Village
Resident Evil is one of the best action game series going today, but it’s not quite Call of Duty yet, with plenty of adventure (and horror!) elements keeping it fun and totally unique. Resident Evil Village alternates between arcade-like shooting gallery scenes, giant boss fights with elaborate patterns to identify, and twitchy escape sequences from invincible enemies, all building to a surprisingly explosive ending that might actually fit snugly in a Call of Duty campaign. But despite all of these high intensity moments, when you do catch your breath, Resident Evil Village is captivating and smart. Set in a medieval castle town with Metroid-like, interconnected paths, you’ll have to leave some puzzles for later — which is hard to do, since ammo and supplies are vanishingly scarce. It’s the moments of exploration, prep for your next battle, and just taking in the gorgeous sights where Resident Evil 8 shines. – Samuel Claiborn
For more, check out IGN’s Resident Evil Village review.
All IGN Best Of 2021 Gaming Categories
IGN’s Best of 2021 Awards were designed by:
Lead Design + Art Direction: Julia Rago
Motion Graphics: Will Batchelor