SOME SPOILERS AHEAD!
For a title with such entertaining gameplay, it sure had a terrible plot. The story of Mirror’s Edge centers around Faith as she attempts to clear her sister’s name after she was framed for a high-profile murder. Along the way, Faith is hunted by the totalitarian government as they crack down on her and her gang of runners, a group of city-scaling parkour athletes who deliver messages intended to avoid the government surveillance net.
All of this provides the perfect excuse for you to run to your hearts content, in a first person perspective. You’ll sprint across rooftops, constantly scanning the area for shortcuts and ways to pick up speed. You’ll run along walls and look down over the metropolis which is never named, further emphasizing that this game is all about the thrill of the run. This adventure may be short but it’s a blast from beginning to end.
Just Cause 3
Every game in this series is absurd and they all deserve to be on this list but Just Cause 3 gets to take the cake for being so damn good at what it does. You are Rico Rodriguez and you return to your na- oh who are we kidding. There’s really no reason to hear what the story to this game is about because it’s clear to everyone what this truly is: it is but an ode to the majestic beauty of utter chaos.
It’s as though the guiding principles behind the game were: take Grand Theft Auto, shave all the storytelling, crank the absurdity to 1,000, and just watch the world burn. Why drive around and gun strangers down when you could get into a jet and make indiscriminate bombing runs over the city? How about calling in an airdropped vehicle… in the middle of traffic? Still , nothing competes with watching a man, attached to an explosive barrel by grappling hook fly off into the stratosphere. It’s the simple things.
For many, Destiny is the go-to sci-fi shooter. Offering players a variety of ways to grind hours away in search of better loot, the game’s tight controls, super simple matchmaking, and pleasing visuals make it the easiest way to unwind after a long day. As for story, yes, there is a story, it’s shallow and underdeveloped at best. The plot is revealed to players through a collection of brief conversations with quest givers, dialogue between NPCs over radio chatter and short intelligence briefs delivered while the game loads maps.
The plot boils down to something about an encroaching darkness which you, the Guardians, must prepare for and learn about before it arrives. But really, who cares? Players just wanna jump on their Sparrow bikes with their mates and zip around the planets of our solar system, stopping occasionally to mow down hordes of shrieking aliens. They’ll give you a run for your money, so be prepared. Or maybe PvP is more your pace. The age old tradition of competition is refined to a science here, with weapons, classes, and maps balanced to near perfection. Either way, this game’s got you covered. It may be shallow, but it sure is pretty. And fun.
The members of the elite S.T.A.R.S. unit are dispatched to investigate a series of grizzly murders and find themselves trapped in an abandoned mansion. They’ll soon discover a virus outbreak has turned people into zombies and their only hope for survival is to gun their way through them. A great set up for a survival horror classic. Unlike the bad dialogue and terrible voice acting, unworthy of even smutty, low-budget 4am TV.
The gameplay was tense and methodical. Jill and Chris controlled like tanks, having to face the direction they wanted to run before going anywhere. This made for some terrifying close encounters as watched your hero swivel a 180 degrees before dashing away from the zombie dogs leaping through the windows. Ammo was limited to a punishing extent, forcing you to treasure every round you find. This classic will have you on the edge of your seat as you try to uncover its mysteries, and rolling around your living room floor in laughter at what the characters have to say throughout it all.
If Grand Theft Auto is sane by comparison to Just Cause then Watch Dogs is a well-groomed, docile house cat. Taking the best aspects of the GTA formula and gameplay, it grounded the whole experience closer to reality. Watch Dogs was a fun game at its core. Too bad the story did nothing but get in the way of it all. Aiden Pierce’s hacking skills were the center of it all, offering players some really entertaining options when dealing with deadly foes.
The plot was heavy handed and the voice acting felt more forced than dramatic. It constantly tried to make you care when all you wanted to do was to get back to cruising the streets calmly at night on the lookout for punks and crooks and dishing out vigilante justice. And, should things get hairy and you end up with the 5-0 on your tail, you can always raise a bridge and watch them all swerve off it and into the sea through your rear view mirrors.
Far Cry 4
You are Ajay Ghale. You’ve flown to your homeland to scatter the ashes of your mother, as per her final wishes. Of course things are never that simple and you soon find yourself trapped on the island by a tyrannical king. Which is bad news for Ajay, but stellar news for you, the player.
You are now free to roam the countryside, hunting ferocious wild game, raiding the Royal Army’s bases and outposts on elephant back, or just scaling the highest peak you can find for a fantastic view then wingsuiting your way back down to ground level. There’s really no shortage of things to do in the fictional land of Kyrat and with it’s beautiful geography and breathtaking vistas, it’s a vacation you never want to end.
The evil FizzCo corporation has bypassed health regulations and released its latest carbonated abomination, OverCharge Delirium XT (OCD), on the general population untested. Suddenly, everyone starts turning into mutated zomboids and it’s your job, an employee of the FizzCo sanitation division, to get things under control.
You’ll dash around this highly stylized, colorful world putting the mutants down with well placed shots from your bowling ball gatling gun, explosive teddy-bear launcher, and good old fashioned pummeling them to death. The gameplay emphasizes fun and freedom over tactics, making this adventure a blast from start to finish, never slowing down or asking you to sit still to listen to too much blabbering. Keep that trigger finger ready, the action here is unapologetic and frantic.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
The series isn’t exactly known for having tame, reasonable plots but this one was just had players scratching their heads. So let’s get this straight: you, an undercover CIA operative are shot and left for dead by the game’s antagonist after participating in a bloody massacre of civilians in a Russian airport. The Russian authorities then blame you and the USA for the act when the very security footage in-game shows Makarov’s face clearly, as he opted not to put on a mask before the attack.
A paper thin plot riddled with plot holes to be certain, but one with exponential payouts. With every mission the action gets wilder and wilder. One minute you’re on you’re snow-mobile chasing villains riding off-course down the mountain side at break-neck speeds, the next you’re in a gun ship raining down hell on enemy convoys. The campaign is brief and absolutely bonkers but it’s the multiplayer that keeps players glued to their screens for hours on end, promising themselves that the next match will be the last. With gameplay this smooth, it never is.
Metal Gear Solid 5
Don’t panic yet. It’s not what you think. Most of the games on this list suffer from bad plots but have good, sometimes phenomenal gameplay. Metal Gear Solid doesn’t suffer from a bad plot, per se, but it has certainly earned itself a reputation for the way in which it gets that narrative across to the player. It also features incredible gameplay.
More open and expansive than ever, Metal Gear Solid 5 allows players the freedom to roam the Afghan desert and decide where they want to go and what they want to do. You can infiltrate a base and silently assassinate every soldier stationed there, then airlift all the valuable supplies you want back to your Mother Base. Not keen on creeping around? Drive your car through the front gates and unload on those fools. No one is stopping you from playing the way you want to in this open world, convoluted political drama. Finally, a game as sprawling and never-ending as the text blocks the series is known for. Balance in everything.
You are Frank West and you are trapped in a mall, surrounded by an army of zombies with nothing to protect yourself with. Well, except for literally anything around you that you can get your hands on. Bats, benches, axes, hunks of meat, chainsaws, skateboards, water guns, gumball machines, you name it and it’s probably something you can use to clobber the dead into a smelly soup.
The visceral response you get from every weapon is a joy unto itself and finding new ones to use floods you with a rush of giddy joy. You’re supposed to be investigating the quarantine or something, but honestly, most people have long forgotten what Dead Rising is even about and are happy to remember it as the game that let them push a lawnmower over hundreds of zombies.
What games do you think could have done with less story and more action? Any favorites of yours not make the cut? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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This post was originally authored by Ahmed Khattab.