The Absolute Best PlayStation 3 Action Games of All Time

The Sony PlayStation 3 home video game console, released in 2006, arrived at an opportune transitional period in gaming history. The increasingly powerful HD graphical capabilities of the PS3 opened the door for far more immersive, cinematic and visually striking games than seen in previous generations.

This processing muscle, combined with Blu-Ray storage space and increasingly clever game design, enabled titles with unprecedented scope, detail and visceral realism. Nowhere was this more apparent than with the console’s stable of tremendous, heart-pounding action games.

The PS3 era saw franchises cement themselves as cultural icons with bold new iterations, alongside completely original intellectual properties that went on to become classics. These games set new standards with their slick presentation, visceral combat systems and propulsive pacing amplified by Hollywood-level scripts, acting and direction.

Let’s spotlight the definitive selection of must-play PlayStation 3 action games and what made them so special.

1. The Last of Us

The Last of Us PS3 Game Cover

Release Year: 2013
Developer: Naughty Dog
Genre: Action-Adventure/Survival Horror

No game better demonstrates the emotional power possible with PlayStation 3 visuals and mechanics than Naughty Dog’s grim post-apocalyptic masterpiece.

The Last of Us throws players into a United States decimated by a brain-infecting fungi strain that turns citizens into mindless cannibals. Players control Joel, a bitter survivor tasked with escorting teenager Ellie cross-country in hopes her immunity could lead to a cure.

The duo’s tense, year-long journey explores the depths of human depravity once societal order crumbles. From cities overgrown with vegetation to quarantine zones falling to riots to hidden wilderness encampments, the world building is unprecedentedly stark and detailed.

The game introduced PlayStation fans to a new level of character investment through brilliant performance capture and writing. Supporting stars like Joel’s smuggling partner Tess and younger brother Tommy all feel multidimensional. Scenes with profound emotional honesty routinely deliver gut punches.

Gamplay equally impresses by interweaving survival horror, shooter and stealth/action elements. Players face moral dilemmas in managing limited ammunition, weapons parts and health packs. Intelligent enemies flank and rush your position so battles feel frantic yet strategic. The ambient world design rewards patient exploration but no area ever feels fully safe.

Everything about The Last of Us foreshadowed gaming’s cinematic turn. Its gripping narrative layers, nuanced characters and grounded yet frightening world rightfully elevated it as an all-time classic.

2. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves PS3 Game Cover

Release Year: 2009
Developer: Naughty Dog
Genre: Action-Adventure/Third Person Shooter

Before crafting The Last of Us, developer Naughty Dog propelled themselves onto the A-list with their archaeology-themed action franchise Uncharted. Protagonist Nathan Drake’s second sequential adventure blew away expectations and remains a PS3 showpiece.

Uncharted 2 again depicts everyman hero Drake globetrotting to mythical locales in search of lost treasure while dodging bloodthirsty warlords. Fans adored Drake’s roguish charm, with actor Nolan North’s quippy yet sincere performance raising the game’s narrative. Supporting stars like Drake’s old flame Elena and new companion Chloe add depth as the story jumps between flashbacks and present day.

The globe-trotting story significantly upped the ante from the first entry. Our journey spans Istanbul museums, remote Tibetan villages, lush Bornean jungles and the towering Himalayas. Each intricate level seamlessly transitions from exploration puzzles to pulse-racing platforming and shootouts with handsomely modeled weapons. Cut scenes expertly mimic Hollywood blockbusters through angle choices, editing and music-driven emotional cues.

Lush foreign landscapes stylishly cope with new hardware thanks to richer textures, detailed backdrops and impressive lighting that made the game truly shine in 1080p. Additionally, multiplayer competitive and co-op modes extended replay value tremendously for series fans. Gamers today still consider Uncharted 2 one of PlayStation’s most attractive titles ever designed.

3. Red Dead Redemption

Red Dead Redemption PS3 Game Cover

Release Year: 2010
Developer: Rockstar San Diego
Genre: Western Action-Adventure

Rockstar Games aimed to evolve the industry’s open world design philosophy for its first Western setting. The resulting opus Red Dead Redemption served as a poignant farewell tribute to the American frontier nearing its close at the dawn of the 20th Century.

Former outlaw John Marston remains one of Rockstar’s most complex protagonists (outside Grand Theft Auto’s grisly antiheroes). Battling big oil interests and an evolving government, he sets out to capture his old gang members in hopes of securing his family’s safety. Along his redemption journey, John encounters a parade of colorful characters representing America’s last glimpse of uncharted freedom.

Red Dead Redemption’s moody atmosphere burns iconic Western landscapes into our memories, from sun-baked desert towns to rolling grassy plains to civil war ruins frozen in time. Players explore dense marshlands, towering mesas, isolated lumber mills and ramshackle forts on horseback or by early motorcar. Gunfights treat players to satisfying slow-motion “dead eye” targeting and lifelike rag-doll reactions that never get old.

Nuanced side activities deepened the world-building like card games, horse training, cattle rustling, bounty hunting, foraging for plants/animal skins and stagecoach robberies. Rockstar’s impeccable writing and technical prowess across the board made us truly feel transported to the gritty yet gorgeous American frontier from a bygone era.

4. Batman: Arkham City

Batman Arkham City PS3 Game Cover

Release Year: 2011
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Genre: Superhero Action-Adventure

Rocksteady Studios modernized the superhero game blueprint with 2009’s acclaimed Batman: Arkham Asylum. Their 2011 sequel Batman: Arkham City amplified everything fans loved across a sprawling open-world Gotham City slum.

Arkham City’s atmosphere excels at making players feel like Batman. Gliding between skyscrapers to survey crime scenes gets easer thanks to flexible camera positioning. New gadgets like smoke bombs and freeze grenades expand stealth and combat tactics against dozens of thugs. The compelling 12-hour campaign features memorable face-offs with fan-favorite villains like The Penguin, Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy with killer voice work.

Gotham itself becomes a derelict playground filled with visual nods to Batman lore from across media. Environments like a defunct steel mill, predatory museum and deteriorating hotel each offer memorable missions. Arkham City’s expanded scope over Asylum provided wonderful risk/reward incentive to explore and hunt collectibles like Riddler trophies peppered everywhere.

Every brawl chains bone-crunching combos like a high-budget action flick. Going silent to string up henchmen upside down equally empowers the steely Detective side of Batman’s persona. Rocksteady nailed the larger-than-life essence of Batman with a deeply satisfying core combat/movement vocabulary enmeshed with a conspiratorial mystery perfect for this complex hero.

5. Borderlands 2

Borderlands 2 PS3 Game Cover

Release Year: 2012
Developer: Gearbox Software
Genre: Sci-Fi First-Person Shooter/RPG

2009’s cult hit Borderlands pioneered the “loot shooter” merging first-person gunplay with role-playing upgrade systems. Its acclaimed sequel Borderlands 2 added a hearty dose of anarchic humor while expanding gameplay possibilities tremendously.

Set on backwater planet Pandora, four exploratory “vault hunters” embark on an intergalactic treasure hunt while battling bandits, beasts and the weapon manufacturer Hyperion‘s private army. Comic book-inspired outlines and shading aesthetically distinguish locales like arctic tundras, desolate badlands and wasteland shantytowns.

Controlling any of six distinct classes with unique abilities Offense, sniping or stealth playstyles all work thanks to refined shooter mechanics. RPG growth unlocks optional skills that dramatically alter how you approach battles. But the biggest draw remains randomly generated weaponry numbering literally billions making every session exciting.

Beyond sheer volume, outlandish weapon behavior feels amusingly unpredictable. Shotguns that launch acid spray or grenade launchers that sprout legs and chase enemies add delightful chaos. Humor defines this fever-dream of a storyline featuring endearingly bizarre NPCs and absurd quests that never take themselves too seriously.

Borderlands 2 represents the pinnacle of genre fusion by providing Herculean depth tailored to all appetites. More importantly, the game boasts a pitch-perfect anarchic charm throughout sure to plaster a smile across your face.

6. God of War 3

God of War 3 PS3 Game Cover

Release Year: 2010
Developer: Sony Santa Monica Studio
Genre: Mythological Hack n’ Slash

Sony’s gruesome mythology trilogy capped off with incredible grandeur exclusively on PS3. Epic conclusion God of War 3 remains the gold standard in graphical fidelity and action spectacle almost 15 years later.

Our antihero Kratos seeks revenge against Zeus and Olympus in conclusively gory fashion. The camera rarely cuts from his perspective across fluid combo-driven battles spanning Greek mythos landmarks from Hades to Zeus’ throne room on Mount Olympus. Titanic foes require strategic dismemberment using whip blades, gauntlets, soul-stealing swords and other divine weaponry.

Santa Monica nailed the visual scale to convincingly depict gods battling hundred-foot titans amidst crumbling ancient architecture and angry seas. Each mythical beast and lore character appears instantly recognizable despite uncanny proportions. Lush real-time lighting glimmers across every scene without sacrificing fluid combat animations.

The Greek tragedy on display evokes heavy emotions giventied to protagonist Kratos’ morally grey motivations we witness through constant inner turmoil. Stupendous orchestral themes and metal guitars fittingly match each locale and boss fight. Visceral sights like ripping out Cyclops eyes and slaying the god Helios sell the gratuitous-yet-poetic nature of sacrificing everything for vengeance.

God of War as a franchise always aimed over-the-top, but its creators reached full maturity harnessing PS3 capabilities for their magnum opus. God of War 3 must be played to understand Sony’s capabilities nurturing leading creative talent capable of mainstream masterpieces.

7. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Metal Gear Solid 4 PS3 Game Cover

Release Year: 2008
Developer: Kojima Productions
Genre: Stealth Action/Tactical Espionage

Hideo Kojima’s prophetic Metal Gear military franchise concluded an epic saga with PS3 exclusive Guns of the Patriots. Series icon Solid Snake returns for one last mission in a cyberpunk future navigating the consequences of digital manipulation, PMC warmongering and nanotechnological horror.

Our stealth savant has aged prematurely due to cloned DNA, adding ticking clock tension navigating battlefields and military installations. Close-quarters brawling feels heavier yet flexible switching between first-person and third-person aiming. Snake utilizes camouflage, custom weaponry and gadgets to manipulate adversaries for silent infiltration or noisy showdowns.

Series commentary matures contemplating technology’s dehumanizing impact. Boss battles incorporate enough fan service for devotees while attracting newcomers. Set piece moments like tailing resistance leader Big Mama, defending sidewalks from snipers or the epic showdown against metal gear inventor Liquid Ocelot feel expertly choreographed.

Visually, Guns of the Patriots scales beyond prior franchise entries thanks to PS3 optimization. We witness a frighteningly plausible future society dependent on perpetual battlefield economies and viral nanomachine research twisting ethics, beautifully rendered on realistic facial animations. Kojima’s swan song as Metal Gear director delivered by showcasing Snake’s compelling twilight and the many consequences of endless proxy wars.

That covers our curated list spotlighting the very best PlayStation 3 action titles that still hold immense entertainment value even today. We tried capturing many beloved genres and series, but please share your own favorites in the comments!

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