Best Action Games Three Split
Image: Nintendo Life

What better way to unwind after a long day at work, school, or wherever than throwing yourself into some intense hack-and-slash action? Or, better yet, why not take the action with you?

Well, thank goodness for the Switch, which has become a quiet little home for some of the best action games of the generation. From classics from the PlayStation 2 era to being the home of the Umbra Witch herself, the Switch lets you sink your teeth into some tough-as-nails action games that combine different mechanics, enemies, and visual styles to create enthralling, palm-sweating experiences. These aren't action-RPGs — RPGs that contain hack-and-slash combat such as NieR: Automata — and we have a handy list for the best action-RPGs on Switch too.

Instead, you'll be chopping up foes one moment, or running around to find some hidden collectibles or secrets the next — and while often these game's stories embrace their over-the-top action, sometimes you might get a bit of a surprise.

So, we've rounded up the cream of the action crop here for you on the Switch. And with developers like PlatinumGames, Capcom, and indie studios like Heart Machine making a name for themselves in the genre, there's an ever-expanding crowd of action titles available. Flex your fingers and sharpen your blade — let's rock!

Astral Chain (Switch)

With its amazing visuals, fantastic presentation, varied gameplay and deep, rewarding combat, Astral Chain is one of PlatinumGames' most accomplished tiles. It mixes detective work with exhilarating battle sequences that are inventive, challenging and – perhaps most importantly – breathtakingly cool. The complexity of the game's myriad systems may prove intimidating for some players, but the inclusion of a co-op play and the ability to automate many of the mechanics via the 'Unchained' mode means that even complete newcomers can still enjoy the ride. Astral Chain is absolutely one of the best action games available on the Switch, cementing PlatinumGames' status in the genre.

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Hades (Switch eShop)

Hades' sublime mix of satisfyingly gritty and flexible combat, wonderfully vibrant art style, and genuinely fun and engaging narrative make a pretty much perfect action-packed package. Supergiant Games has an excellent track record thus far but this really does feel like its finest hour, a rip-roaring rampage through the underworld that's arrived here on Switch. Even if you're yet to be swayed by the admittedly repetitive ebb and flow of the hack-and-slash roguelike genre, we passionately urge you to at least give this one a try; for fans of the genre or anyone even remotely interested, this is one heavenly vision of hell that we highly recommend you sacrifice yourself to.

Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (Switch)

Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is a great time-sink game, featuring mindless but fun action gameplay that offers up the potential for dozens - if not hundreds - of hours of content. Though it certainly feels like a game that’s too bloated in places, it manages to balance the Zelda and Dynasty Warriors elements well. Group all of that with stellar presentation and impressive portable gameplay, and you’ve got a game that does a great job of doing something new (and weird) with a classic Nintendo property. We’d give this one a recommendation, especially to fans of the Zelda series who have always wanted there to be some sort of 'anniversary' game. Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition may not have a ton of depth, but it’s frantic hack-and-slash fun in the Zelda universe, and you’d be missing out by not picking up this complete edition.

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice (Switch eShop)

To have Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice on Switch in this form is a blessing that you shouldn’t miss out on. The game itself is a psychological sensory experience that we thoroughly recommend, but the fact that it’s been translated to Switch in such a complete fashion is the true surprise here. It doesn’t feel like a downgrade at all and it stands proudly alongside the other ‘miracle’ ports on the system, arguably surpassing them in some ways. This goes beyond just being an engrossing action game — it's also an incredible port and a deeply enthralling, haunting story.

Darksiders: Warmastered Edition (Switch)

This faithful port of the original Darksiders is a great way to get into the series. Darksiders: Warmastered Edition brings every slash of Chaoseaster and every bloody execution to Nintendo Switch in all its glory. While still inferior to some later entries, this first outing is still a robust action-platformer full of satisfying melee combos, open-ended levels and a suitably over-the-top story. Easily one of the most underrated franchises to appear in the previous generation, this port finally unleashes the Apocalypse in handheld form.

Bayonetta 2 (Switch)

Following its fantastic release on Wii U, Bayonetta 2 shines brightest on Nintendo Switch. It runs without a hitch at 60fps, looks incredible in both TV and tabletop modes, and offers an addictive free-flowing combat formula that sprinkles in platforming, light exploration and a ridiculous story to create something that you simply need to experience. If you’ve never played it before, you’re in for a treat. If you’ve already played it, it’s even more bewitching as a handheld gem.

And, of course, we have to recommend the original Bayonetta, too, even if that one's showing its age a little more. The series' beginnings are still oh-so-brilliant, and the whole trilogy is now together on Switch. Voilá!

Onimusha: Warlords (Switch eShop)

Thanks to a handful of truly impactful changes, Onimusha: Warlords lives again on Switch. The tank controls are lighter to the touch and the improvements to the visuals help take the edge off those clunky PS2-era looks, which allow the game's deep combat to shine. The updated soundtrack might be a little inferior, but even it brings an extra layer of authenticity to a game that draws from Japan’s rich history of warfare. Hopefully, the rest of the series will get the same treatment because this classic swashbuckling adventure (with the occasional moment of horror) has re-sharpened its blade and is ready for action once again.

God Eater 3 (Switch)

While God Eater 3 took a bit of a knock in the visuals department on Switch, it’s a sacrifice that’s more than worth it for mostly consistent performance and a steady frame rate. The inclusion of local co-op is a real boon for Switch owners, allowing you to partner up with friends to take down huge beasts together. With all past content updates and patches included, you’re getting a version as good as — if not arguably better than — those on PC and PS4. If you’re longing for an alternative to Monster Hunter, this is your next port of call.

Devil May Cry 3 Special Edition (Switch eShop)

Even so many years after its 2005 debut, Devil May Cry 3 remains one of the very best action games ever made. It may have aged in places, but that turbo-charged, combo-heavy action feels as fresh today as it did back in the mid-noughties. The new Freestyle mode – which lets players swap combat styles on the fly at any point during the action – is a genuinely excellent addition to the package, and the ability to play Bloody Palace in local co-op is the cherry on top of a Switch port that should appeal to anyone interested in sampling the devilish delights of this all-time classic.

We want to give a shout-out to the original Devil May Cry, too. While it may be feeling its age even more than this one, it's still a brilliant blend of action and atmosphere.