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Best action games ever

1. Batman: Arkham Asylum (Rocksteady Studios, 2009)

London-based developer Rocksteady studios redefined the superhero action game with this suitably grim, gothic adventure, written by regular Batman scribe Paul Dini. The Dark Knight is imbued with incredible stealth and melee combat skills as well as a clever detective mode allowing the almost supernatural investigation of every grim shadowy location.

Batman: Arkham Asylum
 Batman: Arkham Asylum Photograph: Warner Bros

2. Spider-Man (Neversoft, 2000)

Based on the same engine as Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, Neversoft's thrilling action adventure was the first Spider-Man title to really give you a feel for the character's vertiginous traversal skills, allowing you to scale walls and swing freely between skyscrapers. It also boasts a huge roster of classic friends and foes including Dr Octopus, Venom, Rhino and Daredevil. The sequel, by Call of Duty developer Treyarch, was great too.

 Spider-Man Photograph: Activision

3. Marvel vs Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes (Capcom, 2000)

The fourth title in the Vs series featured an improved tag team combat system, beautiful environments and an incredibly large range of fighters representing both sides of the divide. If you wanted to find out who would win in a fight between Juggernaut and Zangief, this is where those battles were fought.

4. Viewtiful Joe (Team Viewtiful, 2003)

Another idiosyncratic super hero adventure from Hideki Kamiya, is a raucous side-scrolling beat-'em-up with a then on-trend cell-shaded graphical style. The eponymous crime fighter boasts a unique power: the ability to use cinematic special effects against his many enemies. Imaginative and unforgiving it was one of the must-have titles of the GameCube era.

Viewtiful Joe
 Viewtiful Joe Photograph: Capcom

5. X-Men (Konami, 1992)

During the early 1990s Konami produced a string of entertaining multiplayer arcade brawlers based around popular TV, film and comic licenses. And alongside The Simpsons and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, there was X-Men. Set in a brash scrolling landscape, you simply punch, kick and blast your way through waves of Magneto's minions, just trying to stay alive. Although there were decent home console ports, the giant six-player coin-op is the true experience.

an (Ocean Software, 1986)

Legendary 1980s publisher Ocean was famed for its truly appalling tie-ins, but this was definitely an exception. Using neat isometric visuals, a huge Bat Cave environment and lots of clever puzzles, the game took the gameplay style popularised by classic title Knightlore and made it work for the caped crusader and his world. Through its reincarnation stones, it was also one of the first games to offer rudimentary check points.

7. The Wonderful 101 (Platinum Games, 2013)

Another squad-based superhero oddity, this time pitting a whole crowd of teeny heroes against an alien invasion in a bright isometric world. A Wii U exclusive, the game (produced by Resident Evil and Devil May Cry veteran Hideki Kamiya) makes clever use of the GamePad screen to organise your team's formation. It is criminally overlooked, thanks to the poor sales of the console.

Wonderful 101
8. City of Heroes (Cryptic Studios, 2004)

A truly revolutionary MMORPG (massively multiplayer role-playing game), City of Heroes gave players the chance to create their own super heroes then team up with other participant to explore Paragon City and attempt various villain-smashing missions. Beating enemies earned XP which could be used to level up and unlock new powers, creating a self-contained comic book universe of admirable, emergent depth. It's been defunct since 2012, but a current generation console revival would be amazing.

City of Heroes
Marvel Super Heroes (Traveller's Tales, 2013)

Yet another witty, compelling action adventure, pitting Marvel's finest against Doctor Doom, Sandman and dozens of other classic foes. The large, open environment – a Lego reimagining of New York – provides an exciting playground for the block-building, puzzle-solving fun, and the script is genuinely hilarious at times.

Lego Marvel Superheroes
 Boy: Omega Factor (Treasure, 2003)

There have been a few decent superhero games on handheld platforms, but this GameBoy Advance title is our favourite. Created by shoot-'em-up specialist Treasure, this is a slick side-scrolling action shooter pitting Osamu Tezuka against waves of enemies, armed with a graceful melee combat system and powerful special attacks. Very much in the style of the classic Contra series it's a timeless gem.

Astro Boy: Omega Factorel: Ultimate Alliance (Raven Software, 2006)

Essentially Gauntlet but with superheroes, Ultimate Alliance gave you 25 Marvel characters to choose from, then got you to build a team of four to take on an endless army of villains and henchmen. The co-op mode was a blast – even if the endless brawling action got repetitive after a while.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance
 Marvel Ultimate Alliance Photograph: Activision

12. Freedom Force (Irrational Games, 2002)

An early outing for the developer that would go on to make the Bioshock titles, Freedom Force is a squad-based tactical adventure, which works like a cross between Baldur's Gate and XCOM. Players send a squad of heroes into a series of strategic skirmishes, using the environment and their own powers to get the upper hand. The characters were designed by artist Robb Waters, who went on to create Bioshock's haunting Little Sisters.

Freedom Force
 Freedom Force Photograph: Electronic Arts

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