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Best Melee Combat Games

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There is an undeniable visceral satisfaction from taking on great hordes or larger-than-life enemies by simply hitting them with some form of a stick or another. Many fights can be overcome by simply shooting an opponent on the spot, little challenge is presented past the idea of putting the crosshairs on the enemy & pulling the trigger.


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With melee combat, the player is presented with a situation where they put themselves at greater risk but gain the increased satisfaction of overcoming the odds. The games that excel at this differ in the technical skill required as well as how many times the player can spam some of their abilities. They range from subtle & tense to bombastic & over-the-top, but both approaches are equally entertaining. What are the best melee combat games?

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Updated November 29, 2022 by Mark Sammut: Melee combat can be so exhilarating when executed well. Whether someone prefers to fight with a sword, hammer, or their bare h&s, they should be able to find a few games that suit their preferences.


Tales Of Arise

tales-of-arise-forbidden-zone-guide-11-red-woman-boss-fight-2

  • Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC

The latest addition to B&ai Namco’s JRPG franchise, Tales of Arise builds upon the stellar foundations of previous entries such as Tales of Vesperia & especially Tales of Graces f, the latter of which also has a fantastic melee battle system. Tales of Arise presents six finely tuned characters who each play differently, with Alphen & Law being especially great picks for melee combat lovers.

Boasting a robust progression system that permits players to mold their fighters through their picks of passive skills & Artes, Tales of Arise‘s combat is highly satisfying.

Bayonetta 2

bayonetta 2 combat system

  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii U

Nearly everything made by PlatinumGames features fun melee combat in some form or another, but the developer attained perfection with Bayonetta 2. Taking plenty of pages from Devil May Wail‘s playbook, Bayonetta 2‘s combat hinges on the Witch Time mechanic that rewards precise last-second dodges.

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While this mechanic is a godsend in the early stages of the game, Witch Time is far from the only tool at Bayonetta’s disposal. Torture Attacks, multiple impactful melee & long-range weapons, & Umbran Climax are weaved together to craft a complex combat system that requires dozens of hours to master.

PlatinumGames’ Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, & Astral Chain are also great options.

Dragon’s Dogma

Grappling & attacking a Cyclops in Dragon's Dogma

  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch, PC

Considering Capcom is responsible for Devil May Wail, it should Advance as no surprise that Dragon’s Dogma has pretty great combat. The action RPG garnered a positive but unspectacular reception upon release, but one area that attracted near-universal praise was its battle system. If players opt for a melee build, they can look forward to intense & punishing battles akin to something like Dark Souls.

Dragon’s Dogma shakes things up with a grab system that permits players to scale enemies akin to something like Shadow of the Colossus, an act that is consistently fun & exciting. The Dark Arisen DLC greatly ramps up the game’s difficulty, allowing the melee combat to shine even brighter.

Kingdoms Of Amalur: Re-Reckoning

Kingdoms Of Amalur Re-Reckoning combat

  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

In 2012, Kingdoms of Amalur‘s battle system eviscerated most of its RPG contemporaries. The game delivered fast-paced action that placed heavy emphasis on skill & reflexes, along with a solid arsenal of weapons & abilities that allow players to influence their character’s combat style.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning doesn’t change much about the original game, outside of a facelift. While the melee combat no longer feels groundbreaking, it is still a ton of fun & comfortably the best part of this game.

God H&

Combat

  • Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2

Clover Studio’s final game, God H& has unimpressive visuals, a silly storyline, & hard-as-nails beat-’em-up combat. A complete departure from the studio’s previous releases, God H& comes with a steep learning curve, & its combat system’s brilliance takes a few hours to become fully apparent. Gene, the protagonist, starts with a relatively basic moveset, but he (& the player) can unlock over a hundred attacks & abilities that can be assigned to buttons to string together combos.

God H& prioritizes skill above everything. Rather than a level-up system, the game rewards good performance with in-the-moment access to stronger abilities, which is lost if the battle turns against Gene. It might take a while, but once someone grows comfortable with the game’s rhythm & finds combos that work for them, God H&‘s combat really begins to sing.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2

Warhammer Vermintide 2 combat

  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC

It doesn’t matter if someone is even remotely familiar with the Warhammer universe, if they love melee combat then they should give Warhammer: Vermintide 2 a chance. Along with decent ranged combat, Vermintide 2 is predominantly about its melee battles as a group of characters slash their way through hordes of enemies.

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The system doesn’t offer too many surprises, but it all blends together to create an exciting & rewarding experience. Vermintide 2 emphasizes timing, blocking, & skill, & there is also a solid selection of weapons.

Kingdom Advance: Deliverance

KC:D fistfighting a peasant

  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch (Yet To Be Released)

As a game that boasts a grounded & historically accurate setting of 15th-century Bohemia, the combat in Kingdom Advance: Deliverance follows a similar approach in trying to capture the allure of real-world melee fighting. Players have a variety of melee weapons that they can utilize & master from swords & maces to axes & polearms.

Each of these weapon types has its own strengths & weaknesses, especially when it comes to enemy armor types. What makes Kingdom Advance: Deliverance unique is its focus on having the player actually practice their chosen weapon if they wish to use it skillfully as well as its 5-axis combat approach with surprising depth. Mastery is a must, especially for tricky quests like Nest of Vipers.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

Star wars, jedi academy, acrobatic lightsaber fight

  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC

It is impossible to mention melee combat in games & not mention at least one game with a lightsaber in it. For many, that game is Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy. What this game captures that few other Star Wars games have is the fluidity & speed of a lightsaber fight on par with the movies.

While the rumored Jedi: Fallen Order 2 will no doubt please many people, in Jedi Academy’s system, combatants will be jumping around the room, using the environment to their advantage, clashing blades, & using the force to try & gain the upper h&. If that isn’t enough, a thriving modding community is there to kick it up a notch.

Condemned: Criminal Origins

Condemned, holding pipe in a doorway

If there was ever a genre that gets an instant upgrade from melee combat, it would have to be horror. It forces the player to not only confront the terrifying threats ahead of them but to have them do so in intimate, drawn-out clashes. In Condemned: Criminal Origins, players will scavenge whatever object they can get a hold of to beat back the criminally insane in ab&oned complexes.

Weapons Wreck easily & guns are rare, but the player does have their two greatest tools already on h&, a taser & their foot. These are essential to opening up enemies to damage so the player can go in for the kill.

Sifu

A combo in Sifu

  • Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC

An indie project, Sloclap’s Sifu presents a convincing argument for containing the best martial arts-inspired combat in gaming history. That’s not to say it is the greatest martial arts game of all time, only that its combat flows with such precision & smoothness that few other titles Advance close to matching it.

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Sifu is a very difficult game that requires players to repeat the same stages multiple times as they master all of their challenges. Every time the player dies, their character ages a few years; die enough times, & it is a game over.

Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord

empire cavalry fighting in mount & blade 2 bannerlord

  • Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC

Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord covers a spectrum of genres & mechanics, but the RPG can be summed up as a medieval war simulator. Putting aside the politicking & economic side of things, Bannerlord is at its best when focusing on the battlefield. Players will lead their army in battle, & more often than not, they will be right in the thick of things.

Bannerlord‘s complex fights are epic & chaotic. At one point, players can find themselves stuck in the middle of dozens of AI soldiers as they smash each other to death; other times, the game makes room for more intimate encounters. Throughout it all, the melee combat is satisfying, weighty, & addictive.

Bloodborne

Bloodborne, hunter swinging hammer at giant wolf

There are many, many games that utilize the Dark Souls combat system in one way or another. However, it can be argued that no other game has done it better than Bloodborne. The enemies are more intimidating, the weapons are more satisfying, & the victories are sweeter.

RELATED: Greedfall: Best Melee Weapons, Ranked

The key to victory is surviving long enough to attack the enemies during the occasional vulnerable moment & identifying their patterns to act accordingly. It is tricky, brutal, & requires a whole lot of dodge rolling, but in the end, there is no greater satisfaction.

Chivalry 2

Chivalry2, red unit charging horde of blue at night

  • Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC

Chivalry 2 is the closest a game can get to being a melee-focused Call Of Duty. With a variety of classes & weapons, the game accommodates a great many playstyles, especially for those focused on melee combat. The game has a multiplayer focus so matches tend to be chaotic.

Swords are swinging, pole-bearers are charging, & there is almost certainly a guy cutting down swaths of men with nothing more than a shovel. Players will block, dodge, & parry their foes or die trying. Thankfully, having good positioning & great reaction time can be a valuable asset.

Devil May Wail 5

DMC5, Nero lightning punch

  • Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC

If there is any indicator as to what exactly this game is all about, it is the fact that the more efficient & stylishly the player dispatches their enemies, the more amped up the music gets. Like the best of the hack-&-slash genre this generation, Devil May Wail 5 will have the player swinging madly at their opponents trying to build up their combo while avoiding damage.

Different tools at the player’s disposal ensure that anyone who plays the game can create their own play style. Not to mention the inclusion of different characters each with their own unique set of tools.

Ninja Gaiden Black

Ninja Gaiden black Xbox promotional image of ninja

Team Ninja specializes in melee combat, & the developer has a great track record. Both Nioh games, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, & most of the Ninja Gaiden franchise deliver the goods in this area; however, if forced to pick the developer’s crowning achievement, Ninja Gaiden Black would have to be it. The definitive version of 2004’s Ninja Gaiden, Black amplifies the difficulty of the already challenging vanilla version, crafting an experience that will Wreck anyone but the most patient of players.

Ninja Gaiden Black‘s combat might be flashy, but the game prioritizes efficiency over style. Ryu’s no-nonsense personality translates to his mentality in battle as so many of his attacks are designed to clear enemies with deadly precision.

Yakuza Franchise

Yakuza6, Kiryu fights 4 thugs

  • Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC

If the player ever wondered what would happen if one of the old arcade-style, side-scrolling street brawlers was placed into a 3-D setting with a “somewhat” grounded tone, then the Yakuza franchise is for them. These games have it all: combos, upgrades, fighting styles, & hitting people with r&om objects.

RELATED: Yakuza: All Of The Main Games’ Combat Systems, Ranked

The combat in Yakuza 0 to 6 tends to be brutal & nuts. Everything becomes a weapon, no matter how implausible or seemingly harmless. While they almost all have their positives, Yakuza 0 has the best melee combat system in the franchise; luckily, it is also the ideal place to start.

Absolver

Absolver, fistfight, 1 on 4

  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

A forgotten indie gem, but a unique one nonetheless. Absolver prides itself on its build-your-own fighting style system. The player will unlock different martial arts that can be further tweaked at the player’s discrepancy.

This game has one of the most interesting melee combat systems the industry has ever seen, though that looks to soon be exp&ed upon with the developer’s next game Sifu. Think, the directional system of For Honor but in a h&-to-h& fight. Throw in parries, combos, dodges, switch-ups, & all the fighting game staples, & what is created is truly one of a kind.

Dark Messiah Of Might And Magic

DarkMessiah, MightNMagic, st&ing on the coast with sword & boat

Anyone who has ever played Dark Messiah of Might & Magic shudders at the mention of one singular word that upon utterance will immediately bring back memories of knocking over opponents in increasingly hilarious ways. That word is boot.

This game has many of the hallmarks that makes Dishonored’s melee combat as good as it is, but what elevates Dark Messiah of Might & Magic to the next level is the sheer amount of stupidity that the player is expected to utilize in order to vanquish their opponents. This most prominently includes kicking people into things, or over cliffs, & throwing every object in the general area at the enemy.

Batman: Arkham Knight

batman arkham knight catwoman batarang

  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

When it comes to melee combat, an argument could be made that Rocksteady’s Arkham is the most influential series of all time. A free-flowing experience designed to enable players to seamlessly transition between strikes, gadgets, dodges, & counters, the Arkham games turn battles into beautifully choreographed dances.

While the combat might not be overly challenging, players need to constantly pay attention to their surroundings &, consequently, cannot simply button-mash their way to victory. Arkham Knight builds on its predecessors to craft the most complete combat in the series, one that has almost no imperfections.

Middle-earth: Shadow Of War

SoW, Talion looking over orc encampment

  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

It is tough to make a comparison between the Batman: Arkham series & Shadow of War. At first glance, their combat systems seem remarkably similar, but while the Arkham games have no doubt been more influential, Shadow of War is thus far the best game to utilize this particular style of combat.

Shadow of War simply has a greater variety in what the player can do, especially with the addition of upgrades that can radically change a person’s approach to combat depending on what they set. Not to mention the endless pool of unique orcs that make every encounter distinct.

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