10. TowerFall: Ascension
TowerFall has this feature where the arrows, when fired, will home in on their assumed target just a little. With this, arrows will bend around corners, duck under platforms, and otherwise nail targets who would have been missed. You can turn it off but won’t: it’s simply another rule in this competitive and cooperative arrow shooter, and it allows for the most spectacular moments of skill to be performed by even the most fat-fingered players.
You’ll leap through the bottom of the screen, exploiting the screenwrap to appear back at the top, and fire an arrow directly down and into the head of an enemy that just a moment ago seemed to be pursuing you. You’ll be leaping through the air when an arrow is about to hit you, and you’ll perform a dash move, not to dodge it, but to catch and steal that arrow in mid-air for yourself. You’ll fire it back at your opponent and use it to pin them to a wall. You’ll perform these actions with a mixture of panic and intent, your fingers leading your brain by a couple of seconds as the cramped levels shrink smaller as the time limit approaches.
Or you’ll work together with friends in the fabulous cooperative campaign, in which you fight through progressively more difficult waves of enemies in progressively more difficult levels. The same satisfying combat carries over and enemy movements and AI are a fair replacement for most humans, but what’s new is that you and your friend(s) will naturally take roles within each challenge: one person handling the top of the screen, the other handling the bottom; or both sticking close together, covering each other’s backs and trying not to fall victim to friendly fire.
In whatever mode you play, TowerFall is a delight. It’s an action game that makes you feel precise even when you’re a fool like us, and that alone is a marvel.
What else should I be playing: Samurai Gunn trades bows for swords and though it has less nuance it does a similarly good job in one-on-one competitive drama.
9. Resident Evil 2 (2019)
When Capcom gave the first Resident Evil a fresh lick of paint back in 2015, a lot of its old survival DNA was left in tact. We assumed they’d do the same when it came to re-animating the dead corpse of Resident Evil 2, but this 2019 remake ended up being far more substantial – and was all the better for it. Instead of sticking doggedly to its ageing source material, Capcom had the guts to completely turn everything on its head, merely using the events of the game as a stage for its own, fresh brand of horror.
It’s still the same game underneath, of course, but the 2019 remake is just so damn good at being scary. Zombies that were once a bit of a joke back in the day are now bitey, gnashing menaces that gave us the heebie jeebies. A lot of this is down to the game’s new perspective. Instead of fixed cameras, the game hugs the backs of Leon and Claire like Resident Evil 7. Tight corners can now hide nasty surprises more organically, and that in turn is far scarier than it was before. The puzzles may be a relic of their time, but when you’re being pursued by Mr. X – a hulking giant of a monster man who likes to forcefully introduce his fists to faces – they’re a welcome respite.
Resident Evil 2 didn’t have to be as ambitious as it was, but the end result has clearly paid off – so much so that Capcom are giving their upcoming Resident Evil 3 remake the same treatment. Only time will tell which one gives worse nightmares.
What else should I be playing: If you absolutely cannot wait for Resident Evil 3 remake, then Resident Evil 7 will likely creep you out just as much. Those looking for horror outside of Capcom games should check out Alien: Isolation, as it is one of the scariest games ever devised, thanks to a rather determined Xenomorph. If you just want to shoot zombie heads in a city, look no further than Left 4 Dead.
It may seem a little dated by today’s standards, but Vanquish remains the definitive third-person shooter on PC. Made by the action wizards over at PlatinumGames, Vanquish might look like your average sci-fi cover shooter on the surface, but underneath it’s an athletic, bumsliding rollercoaster of a game that makes moving through its striking space station environments just as important as lining up your reticule. Yes, you have the option of playing it like a Gears Of War-style cover-shooter, but to do so would mean missing out on all the fun, because when Vanquish gets down to business, it really goes all-in.
It’s all down to those beautiful bumslides, too. Sliding underneath a wall of bullets at the speed of a fighter jet, those bumslides give Vanquish a forward sense of momentum like no other, allowing you to ping-pong from enemy to enemy like a cybernetic ninja, smashing them to pieces in gorgeous slow-motion. What’s more, it’s the mastery of said bumsliding that gives the game its sense of challenge, too. Instead of relying on ever fancier weapons or late-game special powers, Vanquish is all about engaging with the systems at hand (or should that be butt?) to really make it sing. You may begin the game as a cautious, cover-hugging novice, but by the end of it you’ll be a full throttle, bumsliding master.
What else should I be playing: Max Payne 2 (found elsewhere on this list) is another leap-and-slow-mo shooting classic, but if you’re after something a bit more traditional in the cover-shooter genre, then play Gears 5.
7. Monster Hunter World
Monster Hunter: World is part action game, part dinosaur hat-making sim. Or should that be monster pants-crafting sim, or scaley kneepad-assembler? Whatever bit of gear you’ve got your eye on, all of it involves tracking down gargantuan beasts through huge open jungles, whacking them with swords, hammers, axes and rudimentary guns before feasting upon their corpses for bones, teeth and scales so you can craft even stronger, more fashionable bits of kit and do it all over again, only this time so you can hunt down the fire-breathing T-Rex instead of the poison-belching lizard rhino.
It’s by far the most spectacular entry in the series yet, opening up its previously cordoned-off playpens into dense, sprawling locales that really let you hunt, chase and corner your prey in dramatic fashion. Best of all, its 14 different weapon types allow you to radically change the way you play from hunt to hunt, giving you plenty to master if you ever feel like its constant gear-chasing is getting a bit stale. It gets even better when you team up with a pal, too, as its breadth of playstyles opens up even more possibilities for strategic takedowns and co-ordinated capture battles. With Capcom delivering fresh quests all the time, too, this is one action adventure that will keep you coming back for months and months.
What else should I be playing: Dauntless is a very similar free-to-play hunt ‘em up, but if you’d rather stalk and kill non-fantasy animals for some reason, then try the aptly-named hunter-sim TheHunter.
6. Devil May Cry 5
Nobody is as good at swords as Dante. Nor are they as good at spikey gloves, boots, motorcycle maces or hats that fire XP. He’s one of the most versatile fighters to ever grace a video game, and his appearance in Devil May Cry 5 is one of his best. You could celebrate the world of Devil May Cry, with its outlandish demons and plot points that revolve around people turning into swords. It’s how you use those swords that really matters, though. The cutscenes are a chance to down popcorn between fights.
You’re given so much to think about at once. As Dante, you flow between four different stances, chaining teleports into blocks into gun-tricks into extra-snazzy strikes. Survival is secondary to your score, a giant blazing grade that gets bigger and fierier with every blow. It’s a performance, an arena where your enemies are set up to fall, and your job is to ensure they fall with style. It’s a bit contrived to compare combat to dancing, but Dante leaves me no choice. He channels disco with every strike. So do the two other characters, though they’re never quite as vibrant. You’ll enjoy yourself until the halfway mark in DMC 5, but when Dante appears you’ll want to sing.
What else should I be playing: The Devil May Cry reboot was underrated, and Devil May Cry 3 still packs a punch. If you like your demon-slaying with a side of slow-motion, check out Bayonetta.