The Greatest Video Game Action Sequences

There are plenty of video games that don’t need a good action sequence to get their story or intention across but that’s not why we’re here today. Today we’re here to talk, in the words of a great man, about “Babes, bullets and bombs!” Well maybe not babes and maybe Duke Nukem was never that great of a man but I digress. Let’s talk action. Let’s talk shooters. Let’s talk swords and sorcery, shooters, sprites and the Souls series. These are the greatest video game action sequences ever.

Doing the Worm – Gears of War 2

Gears of War never shirked away from the violent side of its action oriented gameplay. Shotgun blasts turned your Locust enemies into sides of raw beef. A well-placed sniper bullet could sever limbs. Your main assault rifle came with a chainsaw bayonet. But nowhere else was Gears of War’s gratuitous violence more present than in the belly of a giant worm. The Riftworm is being used by the subterranean Locust to sink Jacinto, the last human city on the planet Harvest. Playing as granite voiced beefcake Marcus Fenix players must lead Delta Squad into the belly of the beast and kill it from the inside.

This sequence is not without its casualties as Benjamin Carmine – brother to Anthony Carmine from the original Gears of War – dies after being attacked by the Riftworm’s intestinal parasites. The sequence has you dodge digestive juices, the aforementioned parasites as well as run from a blood flood. The action sequence is not just the most memorable in Gears of War 2 but one of the best of the entire series.

Death from Above – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

On-rails sections are becoming an increasing rarity in video games these days. Before then it was just as rare to find a good one but Modern Warfare’s AC-130 gunship mission is one for the ages. Playing as an unnamed thermal imaging operator players are tasked with protecting Soap, Captain Price and Ghost from advancing Russian insurgents midway through the campaign. It’s a stark mission not just because of the limited controls and monochrome thermal imaging but because of how closely it skews toward actual modern warfare.


The days of pitched battles and massive cavalry charges are mostly over. Instead we have small strike teams, drawn out invasions and city levelling airstrikes. For as much as we play as Soap and Sergeant Paul Jackson in Modern Warfare their kind of warfare isn’t really what modern warfare looks like. It’s bombing bases and city blocks into oblivion before the likes of Soap and Jackson are sent in. As that unnamed operator we kill tens of white dots running across a map. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare may as well have been propaganda but never before has a game come so close to dissecting the inhumanity of modern warfare.

The Assault on Truth – Halo 3

As confusing and awkwardly political the first Halo trilogy’s story was those games knew how to pull off action sequences. Whether it was giving the Covenant back their bomb, tracking down heathen splinter cells as the Arbiter or taking down a Scarab the Halo series knew how to deliver thrills. Halo 3 was no exception and its high point was an all-out assault on the Citadel guarding the Prophet of Truth. The culmination of the alliance between the human UNSC and the Covenant Separatists as well as the biggest and best battle in the first trilogy this action sequence is as well known for its open-ended design as it is for its scale.

Facing off against not one but two Scarab walkers as well as a horde of Brutes, Grunts, Jackals and Hunters players, as series stalwart Master Chief, must take all of these down before moving on. This battle comes at the end of one of the trilogies longest levels and it leaves it up to you as to how you want to tackle it. Players can take to the skies in a hornet and shoot out the Scarabs legs while being accosted by Banshees. Alternatively you can go in by Warthog or by foot and fight your way viciously to where you need to go. It’s a pulse-pounding, visceral action sequence only complimented by Halo 3’s incredible graphics and bombastic score.

The Ice Planet Hoth – Star Wars Battlefront II

No not that Star Wars Battlefront II. The other one without the loot boxes and with decent gameplay. Yes I’m old. The old mid-00s Star Wars games might be relics of another age but the likes of KOTOR, Republic Commando and the two Battlefront games are the best Star Wars games to have ever been made. As much as KOTOR and Republic Commando endeavored to tell their own very good stories the Battlefront games were always a bigger draw. Being able to fight not only on Tatooine, Bespin and Hoth but in space as well was a huge treat for any Star Wars fan. Still it was the surface battle on Hoth that was the real showstopper.

Hoth had the feel of a World War I battle but supplanted with lasers, star fighters and walking tanks. Whether you were a rebel trooper deep in the trenches or a pilot flying around the legs of an AT-AT it felt like you were right in the middle of it all with Han, Luke and Leia. The best part of the Battlefront games was that they gave you the chance to fight as the bad guys and so assaulting the hangar base as a snow trooper or ploughing across ice fields in an AT-AT felt just as good as aiding in the Rebellion’s escape did. It’s Star Wars in a nutshell and without the micro-transaction.

Iudex Gundyr – Dark Souls III

The tutorial of Dark Souls III is relatively short compared to its predecessor. The basics of combat and movement are introduced and so are the vital crystal lizards if you have an eye for secrets. One thing the opening moments of the Souls games have never succeeded at are their first bosses. Yeah the appearance of the Asylum Demon in Dark Souls is relatively surprising and Dark Souls II’s open-ended starting areas was a good change of pace but neither ever set the stage for their crowning jewels: the bosses.

Iudex Gundyr, roll with the name, at first appears to be a stationary suit of armour with a massive coiled sword thrust through it. Upon removing the sword – a necessity for lighting the bonfire in Firelink Shrine – the suit comes to life. Cursed to constantly test those wishing to link the flames in Lordran Iudex is an agile, large and capable fighter. The fight with him is an excellent introduction to Dark Souls III as it sets the stage for one of the things the series is known best for: creative and challenging boss fights.

The Climb – God of War III

No other game will let you slice through the exposed tendons in Mother Earth’s (or Gaia for the nerds out there) hand and watch her topple into the ocean from the slopes of Mt. Olympus. God of War III is one of a kind because in that same level you put out Poseidon’s eyes, snap his neck and dump him into the roiling waters below too. From disemboweling Hades to impaling Hephaestus on his own anvil to using the sun god Helios’ head as a lamp God of War III goes from extreme to extreme like it’s nothing.

It’s opening is what sets up the rest of the game to follow though. Kratos – eternal troll to the Greek pantheon – slaughters his way through an army of skeletons, harpies and a giant seahorse with crabs legs just to kill dear old dad Zeus. The Ghost of Sparta’s commitment to bloodshed is admirable even if his attitudes to his supposed allies are not. Still if you want to make an omelette (or topple the gods) you have to break a few eggs.

Checking In – Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Story-wise the train sequence in Uncharted 2 is probably the one to put in here but the fight (and flight) through a Nepalese city is a masterpiece of game direction and design. In pursuit of the legendary Cintamani Stone explorer Nathan Drake catches up to Serbian war criminal Zoran Lazarevi? and his mercenary army in Nepal. Drake fights his way through the crumbling streets of the city through to a hotel that is rapidly being ripped apart by Lazarevi?’s helicopter gunship.

As the camera circles hotel following Drake’s ascent crucial pieces of the hotel’s facade fall away allowing players to see exactly where Drake is and directing him exactly where he needs to go. Water pipes spout and snap giving Drake convenient handholds to launch himself off of even as they fall away seconds later. The action sequence feels like a level in Mario where the screen is moving almost as fast as the player. A second too late or too early means death. Uncharted 2 is all about timing knowing when to shoot, when to jump and when to dodge. It’s why the Uncharted series is considered the best adventure franchise since Indiana Jones.

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