Throughout gaming history, almost every decade has been stacked with amazing action games. However, the 2000s was when the action game genre became more defined. This is especially true with the popularization of the Hack and Slash subgenre, which made a huge impact on action games.
Many of the best action titles ever made were released in the 2000s. The sixth generation of console games is highly regarded due to the sheer amount of amazing and innovative titles that have been released. It’s no wonder that many spectacular action titles were released during that time on both consoles and PC.
10/10 Serious Sam: The First Encounter
Croteam’s first major title was Serious Sam: The First Encounter, released in 2001. It had a rocky development and would never have been published if not for notable gaming site Old Man Murray praising the demo. Thankfully it did, as it’s the last great old-school fps of its time. It’s a horde shooter with tons of enemies on screen and a tendency towards deadly traps.
The game consistently spawns enemies when you pick up any type of item. While this can be frustrating early on, you quickly learn what the game does and plan accordingly. Before picking it up, equip your rocket launcher and blast that biomechanoid as soon as it spawns. It’s a good example of how traps can be used well in a game.
9/10 Max Payne
Acclaimed Finnish developer Remedy Entertainment’s second ever title was Max Payne. First, the game had a lot of style with its cartoon-like cutscenes and noir style. Second, the action gameplay was fantastic with John Woo slow-motion gunfights.
For a brief period in the early to mid-2000s, many third-person action games wanted to be like Max Payne. However, be warned that the game is not easy. A remake of the first two games is currently in the works by Remedy themselves and is worth checking out.
8/10 Devil May Cry 3
After the poorly received but commercially successful Devil May Cry 2, the future of the series was not in the brightest of lights. But all this disappeared when DMC3 hit the shelves. It was the best in the series up to that point and had so many improvements and additions. The match had four main styles to choose from, which allowed for more experimentation and options.
It also offered more varied weapons than its predecessor, such as the Nevan, a lightning guitar. The level design is phenomenal and arguably the best in the series. It can sometimes be non-linear, and reusing environments later doesn’t feel as cheap as other entries. DMC3 also offers the best and most satisfying story, along with an OST. This game is a must for everyone.
7/10 Ninja Gaiden Black
The 2004 release of Ninja Gaiden on the original Xbox was already a great action title. Its combat, interconnected world and challenging gameplay made it one of the best Xbox games. However, the developers noticed some design flaws and refined the game on the downloadable Hurricane Packs and the retail release of Ninja Gaiden Black. This is the definitive version of the game.
To give an example of the improvements are the higher difficulties. One frustrating aspect of base Ninja Gaiden is the massive amount of health for the bosses on Very Hard. They are not more difficult and end up being boring, but NGB fixed that. In Master Ninja mode, the damage is far more reasonable, and the fights themselves are more difficult with minions and extra aggression.
6/10 God’s hand
Clover Studios’ latest game, God Hand, is one of the more unique action titles on the PS2. No other brawler controls like it with its quasi-tank controls. Despite how bad it sounds on paper, it just works. The game is clearly designed around that with the levels and how enemies fight. You can customize your moveset, which is pretty cool and unique compared to other action titles at the time.
God Hand is also known to only refill your health after you die. No other time does the game refill your health for free. This means that sometimes you will die on purpose to get your health back. The game is a little short and could have used a couple of extra levels, but it is still highly recommended.
5/10 God of War (2005)
Playing the very first God of War game today is still a very enjoyable experience, and fascinating to see how far the series has come. Directed by David Jaffe, God of War tells the story of a traditional Greek tragedy. Still one of the best video game characters ever, Kratos epitomizes pear fury.
The combat still holds up, although the use of quick events can feel a bit dated now. The game is a decent length for an action title from this era and has plenty of replay value with extra costumes and multiple difficulty modes. While some of the sequels are arguably better, none of them would have ever happened if it weren’t for the original game.
4/10 Zone Of The Enders: The 2nd Runner
Even though the Zone of the Enders games are from the same team that brought us Metal Gear Solid, not many people have actually played them. Maybe it’s because Kojima only produced it or a lack of interest in mech combat. It’s a shame, as Zone of the Enders 2 in particular is one of the best mech fighting games ever made. The fast and frenetic mech action of the title is truly unique.
The best way to play is on either PC or PS4 through the remastered version. Both games are part of the Zone of the Enders HD Collection, backwards compatible on Xbox Series X. However, that version is not good, with many problems. Zone of the Enders 2 is definitely better played on the PlayStation site.
While Bayonetta released stateside in 2010, it was first released in late 2009 in Japan. The first entry in the premier franchise by PlatinumGames is one hell of an action title. The focus on melee, dodging and getting your hits in, and the witch time system was outstanding at release.
The game still holds up today, both in terms of gameplay and graphics. It actually looks better than Bayonetta 3. The campaign is also quite long, and with a lot of replay value. It doesn’t matter if you play on Easy or Infinite Climax mode, as both types of players will have a blast. The first Bayonetta is still arguably the best in the series and one of the best action titles of that generation.
2/10 Halo 2
Halo 2 is how you make a video game sequel. Almost everything is bigger and better than the first game. The campaign is longer, but more diverse. Halo CE can get very repetitive with its similar environments you blast through. In Halo 2, that’s no longer an issue, plus you play as two characters this time around.
The Arbiter is a great addition to a franchise and playing from a completely different perspective added a lot to the narrative. Halo 2 was the first entry to integrate Xbox Live, and it was game-changing. People loved it so much that some stayed on Xbox Live for weeks after the servers were shut down. A 2004 Game of the Year contender, for sure, and one of the best Halo titles.
1/10 Yakuza 2
One of the more underrated games in the Yakuza series has to be the original Yakuza 2. It was only released in America on PS2, but was remastered in Japan on PS3 and Wii U. The difference between the first two games is like night and day. Yakuza’s original PS2 release was so clumsy with the locking. It was honestly annoying and dragged the game down.
In Yakuza 2, that problem is gone, and the combat is spectacular. When you play both the original Yakuza 2 and its remake, Kiwami 2, the combat is superior to the original. Not to mention that the third area was cut from the remake. Yakuza 2 is still worth playing today and is among the best in the series.
NEXT: Best Action-Adventure Games, Ranked