Okay. Before I begin I want to make something clear: this list is objectively, unequivocally correct. If you disagree with any of the entries, this isn’t because we are completely different people with different tastes and experiences, it’s because you’re obviously a philistine who’s too dim to understand why everything I endorse is the best. Now that that’s done with, let’s begin with the countdown.
Since Demon’s Souls‘ release in 2009, From Software have been honing a battle system that perfectly combines strategic and reflex-based action. By forcing players to carefully observe enemy attacks, enemy placement, their own attack timing and range, how much damage each strike will deal and how much stamina each action costs to perform, as well as giving them the opportunity to overcome difficulty through perfectly timed parries and rolls, this relatively simple system has riveted an entire generation of gamers. From Software proved that even the most basic combat can be the most entertaining.
The ‘Tales of’ Series
The Tales of team have been producing superb multiplayer ARPGs for over twenty years. Titles like Tales of Symphonia, Tales of the Abyss, Tales of Vesperia, Tales of Graces F, Tales of Xillia and Tales of Xillia 2 are relatively peripheral in the west, but to those who have had the pleasure of discovering them, they’re some of the most exhilarating games ever made.
Firstly I’d like to mention the visuals, because the animations and the visual effects used in videogame combat are instrumental to the overall feel, and this is an area in which the Tales games particularly shine. Playing Tales of Graces F isn’t like playing just another JRPG with a colourful art style, at times it’s like stepping into a neon audio visualizer. Every attack disgorges a stream of colour across the screen causing battles to look incredibly striking besides being fun to play.
The ‘Tales Of’ combat system has become increasingly sophisticated over the years, allowing for more and more absurd levels of experimentation and creativity with each new entry. Numerous games slap the word combo on the screen like that alone constitutes a seamless combat system, yet so few capture the sensation of piecing together abilities at great speed. Playing a Tales game is one of those rare chances to enjoy what that feels like.
Dragon Nest is a free to play MMORPG that puts the genre to shame. If you like games with fast, twitchy combat, impressive animations, and tight, responsive controls, go and download Dragon Nest. And not only because it’s free. Download it because it’s truly one of the best games around. If the Tales Of games expect the player to link techniques rapidly together, Dragon Nest expects them to simultaneously take into account the technique-linking abilities of opposing players while also keeping track of the cooldowns.
Dragon Nest‘s PVP is the most impressive real-time competitive combat I’ve ever taken part in, and I say that being comparatively awful at the game. The amount of skill it takes to master the mechanics has me reeling with admiration every time I play it, even though I spend most of my time bouncing around the arena like a helpless rag doll. If you feel as though you can handle a challenge of mental speed and dexterity, this is the game for you.
Batman: Arkham Series
Almost every gamer has experienced the Freeflow battle system pioneered by (and since shamelessly stolen from) Rocksteady, and it’s not as though this is purely because everyone on the planet is really into superheroes. The combat in Arkham Asylum and its successors is slick, brutal, dynamic and immensely satisfying. The combination of counters, throws, stuns, flips, specials, gadget attacks and ground pounds available to players is enough to make sure every roomful of ne’er-do-wells is fun to clear out, and the necessity to switch up your tactics in order to deal with any uniquely difficult baddies ensures that each new encounter is unpredictable and challenging.
Devil May Cry
The Devil May Cry series is pure adrenaline-thumping, sword-swinging, pistol-spinning, J-pop-ponce-flipping – shameful, really quite shameful – fun. It’s a series that prides itself on not only asking the player to beat the game, but to beat it in style, and it’s never been afraid to let you know just how boring you are at the end of every level.
Each game in the series spoils you with new skills to play with then agreeably fills the streets with fodder; level after level of pummeling demons into currency blobs so that you can upgrade your arsenal before returning to pulverise them some more. It’s the sadist’s nirvana.
If you surrender all knowledge of yourself as an adult who’s filled out tax forms, conversed with bigots at parties, said or ever heard the word symposium, and can allow yourself to simply enjoy the illusion of launching misshapen minions into the air to volley them with bullets, there’s a lot of fun to be had with Devil May Cry. Just try not to let any non-gamers walk in during a cutscene; they’ll never understand.