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The best Activision games of all time

While most people may only associate Activision with the Call of Duty franchise, this developer turned publishing juggernaut has a much more varied and far-reaching history than the insanely popular first-person shooter franchise that dominates sales year after year. The name Activision has been around nearly as long as home console gaming has, and in fact, it was the very first third-party studio to ever exist in the games industry. If you go back to the old Atari consoles, you’ll find its name on plenty of old and crunchy titles. Throughout the decades, this company has undergone many changes, taken on new studios, and grown to be one of the most successful businesses in all of gaming.

Having such a storied history across the decades of gaming as a publisher, Activision has brought us hundreds of excellent titles. Sure, it has been a little single-minded lately with how many Call of Duty games it is making compared to everything else, but it’s worth remembering all the variety it once gave us and hope that Activision might branch out again in the future. The one thing that doesn’t change is the fact that Activision knows how to publish great games, and we’ve gone back through its catalog to share the best Activision games of all time. This list won’t include any Blizzard games even though the two companies fall under the same roof, and we’ll also limit one game per series to cut down on repeating Call of Duty games.

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Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
91 %
M
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Google Stadia
Genre Hack and slash/Beat 'em up, Adventure
Developer FromSoftware
Publisher Activision
Release March 22, 2019
FromSoftware has been known to jump around a bit with publishers, dealing with Sony for a couple exclusives, but it was Activision that published the latest game of the year winner, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. This was perhaps its most anticipated game, though also very different from its usual output in terms of setting and mechanics. It has a strong tendency, outside the core Souls series, to spice up the tried and true formula to make sure its hardcore fans always get a fresh challenge. With the new ancient Japanese and samurai-focused story, world, and character, plus strict focus on a parry and posture system, the hype was at an all-time high for this game from a studio that was finally getting the recognition it always deserved. Even though the Nioh games gave us a Souls-like game set in a Japanese setting, fans were still more than eager to get FromSoftware’s take on the setting. Not only that, but this game immediately set itself apart from the main Souls trilogy, — and even Bloodborne — by showing off far more dynamic, fast, and varied movement options including jumping and a grappling hook. There were also new stealth elements and a near-complete removal of RPG mechanics. The story was also far more direct, though not without plenty of ambiguous elements and item descriptions to sift through. Gameplay proved to be king, however, as Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice proved to be both a critical and commercial smash hit.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - Gameplay Walkthrough | PS Underground
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
84 %
M
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Mac
Genre Shooter, Simulator
Developer Infinity Ward, n-Space, Treyarch
Publisher Activision
Release November 05, 2007
If we could only pick one title from the Call of Duty franchise, we have to go with the one that really kicked this series into the blockbuster status it has become. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was a massive leap for the series in just about every regard. Not only did it take players out of the tried and true World War 2 setting that the series had been built off of, but it completely revolutionized the cinematic, roller-coaster style campaigns that basically every future game would attempt to outdo. The modern setting was a breath of fresh air, and at the time wasn’t nearly as saturated, and allowed for far more interesting and varied gameplay when not limited to the weapons and technology of the 1940s. Multiplayer was an even bigger smash hit. Again, this sounds unremarkable today, but Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was really the first FPS title to integrate RPG style progression in a meaningful way. You had ranks, unlocks, perks, and loadouts to make, plus a prestige system to keep the grind going as long as you wanted. The maps were iconic, and the killstreak system rewarded smart play and teamwork. It remains a high point for the entire franchise, even to the point where the game was remastered and released again, and rebooted with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare a few years ago. The template this game set for the series put it on a strong track for the following years.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Trailer
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2
88 %
T
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S
Genre Simulator, Sport
Developer Vicarious Visions
Publisher Activision
Release September 04, 2020
Sure, this is a pair of remasters, but the quality of these games has held up surprisingly well. On its own, the Tony Hawk games did for the skateboarding genre what John Madden did for football, only going in a more arcade-style direction rather than strict simulation. And it turned out amazing. Skateboarding itself wasn’t that popular of a sport at the time, but everyone who touched these games became addicted to the high-flying tricks, insane grinding, and completing level-based objectives that were all set to the perfect licensed soundtrack for the era. Even today many people associate those early 2000s songs with Tony Hawk more than anything else. Bringing these games back felt like a nearly impossible task due to all the licensing issues it would present, but somehow Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2 was made a reality and, with a few minor differences, is the ideal way to revisit these iconic games. Obviously, the graphics are leagues above the originals, but the core mechanics are almost exactly as they were back in the day. It also managed to get a huge chunk of that original soundtrack back, plus managed to add a few new tracks that feel right at home. With the franchise being essentially dead and gone for over a generation now, especially with how disappointing Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 ended up being Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2 is a perfect reminder of what a fun, arcade-style, high score based game should be.
Tony Hawk’s™ Pro Skater™ 1 and 2 Announcement Trailer
Guitar Hero 5
Guitar Hero 5
72 %
T
Platforms Wii, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre Music
Developer Neversoft Entertainment
Publisher Activision
Release September 01, 2009
If you didn’t live through it, it is hard to explain just how prevalent and big the Guitar Hero, and later Rock Band, games were. This was the absolute highest level of mainstream success any rhythm games ever reached, and haven’t matched it since then. There was nothing too revolutionary about the mechanics. In fact, Guitar Hero 5, and the entire series leading up to it, all followed the same basic formula the genre had been using for years. What was revolutionary was the control method. Instead of just hitting buttons on your controller in time to the song, you now held a peripheral guitar-shaped controller with buttons for frets that mimicked the motions of playing a real guitar. It was Guitar Hero’s main claim to success that would ultimately lead to the entire genre’s downfall, however. Those plastic instruments were expensive and started to take up a lot of space as the games started including other instruments like drums. Guitar Hero 5 came right before the over-saturation set in and technically doesn’t do anything to make it all that different from the previous games except that it has way more songs. It came with 85 songs by default but was the first in the series to allow players to import songs from older titles for free, making it the definitive version to get. It was also available on just about everything, making it a classic game to pull out at parties.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time
Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time
82 %
E10
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S
Genre Platform
Developer Toys for Bob
Publisher Activision
Release October 02, 2020
Crash has had a hard life. This odd marsupial was studio Naughty Dog’s first major hit, and debut on the original PlayStation. That first game was during the mascot craze, and while Crash didn’t get the same level of popularity as Mario’s main rival, Sonic, his unique spin on 3D platforming was much better than the blue blur’s. The original trilogy all followed the same basic format of a low-angle perspective either following Crash or having him race towards the camera, jumping on boxes, collecting fruit, and spin attacking enemies. After a very successful run, Naughty Dog left its iconic character behind to focus on a new platforming IP, leaving Crash to languish in subpar sequels and spinoffs for years. Fast forward a few years and Crash made a major resurgence thanks to remakes of his kart racer and all three of his original games. With proof that there was still an audience for this unique, but difficult, style of platformer gave the green light to a proper sequel to those PS1 classics, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. The title, a very clever double entendre, refers to a new time-based mechanic added to the core platforming. This game is tough as nails, perhaps the hardest in the series, but also so satisfying and rewarding. The new mechanics feel right at home for the classic series, and the presentation and direction could probably fool most people into thinking it was made by the original team.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy
Spyro Reignited Trilogy
86 %
E10
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Genre Platform, Adventure
Developer Toys for Bob
Publisher Activision
Release November 13, 2018
Speaking of dead, or nearly dead, franchises, Spyro the dragon was another early 3D platformer that tried to make his mark as PlayStation’s mascot. Just like Crash, we got three highly beloved games with the little purple dragon before things went downhill. The series took a major hiatus, but, again exactly like Crash, was reinvigorated with a complete remake of all three mainline titles in one package. Spyro Reignited Trilogy took full advantage of the power advancements made between the PS1 and PS4 to make a game that looked on par with most CGI animated feature films. Just looking at this game, in motion or in stills, will immediately make anyone want to jump in and explore this vibrant, joyful world. Again, the Spyro Reignited Trilogy are remakes of three older titles. However, because of how long this series has been dormant, excluding the Skylander games that just kind of have the character in them, they feel as fresh and modern as any new game on the market. The platforming is tight, the story and characters charming and whimsical, and the graphics just adorable. Unlike Crash, either the remakes or Crash 4, Spyro Reignited Trilogy isn’t going to test a seasoned gamer too much. These games are great for all ages, and will hopefully lead to a brand new entry in the series just like we got with Crash.
Transformers: War for Cybertron
Transformers: War for Cybertron
73 %
T
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre Shooter, Adventure
Developer High Moon Studios
Publisher Activision
Release June 22, 2010
Activision has handled tons of different licenses over the years, from X-Men to The Legend of Kora. License games almost always had a bad reception due to the fact that … well, they were mostly bad. More often than not they were made on a very tight deadline and with a limited budget to get the game out to coincide with a film release. However, on the rare occasion that teams were allowed to break free from being beholden to such constraints, we got games like Batman: Arkham Asylum and Transformers: War for Cybertron. This Transformers title explores the civil war on Cybertron, the home planet of the Transformers, before the heroes and villains made their way to Earth. The result was a dark, serious, and fresh take on the series that only hinted at such themes. Transformers: War for Cybertron is a third-person shooter that allows you to play two campaigns: One as the Autobots and another as the evil Decepticons, with each one having multiple familiar characters to play as. As you would expect, you can swap between their more humanoid forms, where you play like a traditional third-person shooter, and their vehicle forms on the fly. The gameplay is very tight, brutal, and features a ton of variety across this mostly unexplored part of the Transformer’s mythos. The only negative might be the somewhat repetitive environments of Cybertron itself, but that’s a minor complaint. Transformers: War for Cybertron did get one sequel, but this first one set the bar and was a very welcome surprise in a world full of cheap licensed titles.
Transformers: War for Cybertron - Full Trailer
Blur
Blur
76 %
E10
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre Racing, Sport, Arcade
Developer Bizarre Creations
Publisher Activision Blizzard
Release May 25, 2010
For our racing pick, we had to go with Blur. This game had the terrible fate of being released just days away from another similar arcade racer called Split/Second which led to some confusion, but worst of all splitting the audience between the two games. This was terrible for both games because they were actually both great in their own rights. While mechanically different enough to justify each one existing, it is understandable how people could confuse the two just by looking at them. The worst part about this release window for Blur was that it ultimately lead to the studio’s closure less than a year later, despite positive reviews. There were even plans to create a sequel, but those obviously went unfulfilled. Blur as an arcade racer featured a career mode and multiplayer modes. Races, despite featuring realistic and real-world cars, also incorporated power-ups, stunts, and car upgrades. Multiplayer races could have up to 20 racers on a single track, and it had custom races where players could set all the rules and even power up placements on the map. Even though it sounds like an odd fit on paper to see realistic cars collecting power-ups, the way they’re integrated and how the cars all handle keeps you glued to the action. Blur is fast, frenetic, and deep enough to sink hours into tuning your car to perfection. Now that racing games are regaining popularity, this is one that deserves a second chance.
Prototype 2
Prototype 2
70 %
M
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre Platform, Hack and slash/Beat 'em up, Adventure
Developer Radical Entertainment, FUN Labs
Publisher Activision
Release April 24, 2012
We already mentioned how Activision did a ton of licensed games back in the day. Many of these were superhero-related in nature, but one team decided it wanted to create its own superhero-style game, only instead of the hero, you played as the villain. That was more true of the first Prototype than the second, but Prototype 2 still gives you the option to go wild with your powers and wreak havoc on the citizens of the open-world New York City. The sequel took all the fun aspects of the first game, namely the insane freedom of movement, brutal combat, and addicting upgrade systems, and mutated them into an even more smooth and satisfying sequel. The story is serviceable, much like the first, but this was still in a time where open-world games let you make your own stories and fun, and Prototype 2 excels in that department. Prototype 2 puts you in a unique role where your main character is seeking revenge for actions your previous protagonist from the first game took. Infected with the Blacklight virus, you unlock a wide range of different abilities from shapeshifting into other characters and absorbing people’s memories to infiltrate areas like military bases, or more bombastic powers like super speed, strength, gliding, and the iconic tendrils. These can be used as blades, blunt objects for smashing, and for grappling onto vehicles to hijack them. By the time you’re decently powered up in Prototype 2, you feel like an unstoppable force of destruction.
Prototype 2: Trailer
Rome: Total War
Rome: Total War
82 %
T
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), Mac, iOS
Genre Real Time Strategy (RTS), Simulator, Strategy, Turn-based strategy (TBS), Tactical
Developer The Creative Assembly
Publisher Activision, Sega, Feral Interactive
Release September 22, 2004
On a brighter note compare to most entries, both the team and Total War series still exist today, although no longer under Activision. Still, we have a soft spot for the original RTS that really showed that developer Creative Assembly was a master of the genre. This studio was one of the few that attempted to make a full-scale, accurate, but also fun, RTS set in a historic time period rather than in a fantastic or sci-fi setting. The game was a huge hit at launch, but even all these years later is still considered not only one of the best RTS games of all time but one of the best games of any genre. That might be taking things a little too far, but if you have even a passing interest in the RTS genre, Rome: Total War is the definitive starting point. Set between 270 BC and 14 AD, Rome: Total War’s campaign leads you through the real-world history of the Republican period and imperial periods of Rome. Taking the role of one of three Roman families, you will build armies, manage your cities and towns, make diplomatic decisions, and, of course, wage war. Aside from the campaign, you can also play shorter custom battles representing different battles from history. Of course, there are also competitive multiplayer modes as well, and two expansions that let you play as European barbarians and Alexander the Great in their respective time periods. Not only is this one of the best RTS games you can play, but you might also learn a bit of history as a side effect.
Rome: Total War - E3-2004 Trailer
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions
85 %
E
Platforms Linux, PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Mac, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre Shooter, Arcade
Developer Lucid Games
Publisher Sierra
Release November 25, 2014
Most people credit games like Braid, Super Meat Boy, and Castle Crashers with really kicking off the indie scene on consoles, but one game managed to make a big splash all on its own before any of those. Geometry Wars was a simple twin-stick shooter, but with a graphical style and gameplay loop that made it incredibly addicting. By the time we get to Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions, which is technically the sixth game in the series, the formula has been tuned to perfection. It does have the unfortunate mark of being the only one not made by the original developers, who were unfortunately shut down, but Lucid Games proved it knew what made this arcade classic such a hit. Piloting a crescent-shaped ship, your goal in Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions, just like prior games, is to shoot down waves of polygonal enemies swarming the screen. This is exactly the kind of game you would expect to see in your local arcade (when those existed anyway), where high scores ruled the day. Extra lives and power-ups were rewarded for hitting point milestones, encouraging you to get further and further. The neon art, warping environments, and mesmerizing lights feel like a modern vision of Tron. Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions also added in 3D grids, battle modes, and co-op and competitive multiplayer options. This game may sound simple, but the longer you go on, the more it will make you sweat.

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