Top 10 Best Armored Core Games Ranked

There are a lot of Armored Core games, and we're taking a look at the best in the series before Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon.

Image via PlayStation

The AC series spans more than 25 years and dozens of titles, some of them more experimental, some following a safer formula. Now, with Fires of Rubicon out on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox, we’ve looked back at all the games in the franchise to re-examine them, pinpointing the most important in the series and why they stand tall. These are the Top 10 best Armored Core games, ranked.

10. Armored Core Verdict Day

Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: September 24, 2013

The sequel to Armored Core V does a valiant job of using the earlier game’s better points and changing up what didn’t work. What emerged from that chrysalis is a hodgepodge of good ideas and some “innovations” that sometimes worked (some, admittedly, were just frustrating). That didn’t stop AC: Verdict Day from being a flawed but fun PvP romp that the community remembers as one of the series’ lower points, but still fondly enough to see it for what might have been.

9. Armored Core 5

Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: January 26, 2012

PvP was never the central draw of any Armored Core title, yet AC5 was the first in the series to put the competitive element at the game’s heart. It was a plucky and courageous effort, and despite many, many missteps, it was a sometimes-delightful mess that, like its sequel Verdict Day, isn’t recalled as a shining moment for the series, but one worth the experimentation, if only for the lessons the FromSoftware team learned for Armored Core 6.

8. Silent Line: Armored Core

Platforms: PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable (PSP)
Release Date: January 23, 2003

You’ll find Armored Core 3 much higher up in my rankings, and like Master of Arena, Silent Line was just more of the same. And you won’t hear me complaining. The core of AC3 was so solid, its systems and progression so well-tuned, that even a game that’s essentially “the same thing but more” is still great in my book. That it continued the story of the previous game was also nice, telling the story of the struggle after the struggle. There were some loose ends tied up that I didn’t think needed tying, but that’s a minor quibble.

7. Armored Core 2: Another Age

Platform: PlayStation 2
Release Date: August 21, 2001

AC2: Another Age is fantastic, and it maintains everything I love about AC2 except one choice: its mission structure. While something about it rubbed me the wrong way, now that I’ve played games like Sekiro and Armored Core 6, I can appreciate what Another Age was after. There’s a sense of “get good or die” here that, as a youngster, I wasn’t a fan of, but now I enjoy it with a certain masochistic glee. There’s also a classic RPG feel to it: one bad save can destroy an entire playthrough. Not really a “positive” feature, but one I can’t not be nostalgic about.

6. Armored Core 4

Image via FromSoftware

Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: December 21, 2006

Armored Core 4 is probably the most important game in the series, but not because of its gameplay, narrative, or mechanics. Rather, it’s the game that helped launch Hidetaka Miyazaki’s director career, and it shows his early design philosophy that forgoes established doctrine.

Armored Core 4 takes the much more grounded, slower, and heavier gameplay of the previous titles and throws it out the window. AC4 is all about speed, maneuverability, and aggression. The mechs you pilot, now called NEXTs rather than ACs, can boost for longer and faster than ever, and the mission design uses these new mechanics to their fullest. There are a few stumbles along the way — a weaker story, some wonky missions, and a muddy aesthetic — but the gameplay overhaul is well worth the rough edges.

5. Armored Core For Answer

Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: March 19, 2008

I’m breaking the rule I set up earlier a bit here because For Answer is, at its core, just better AC4. But where the likes of Silent Line and Master of Arena are only “more but better,” For Answer is “just better.” And I think that distinction matters. For Answer improves on its prequel in more than a few ways. The story is more engaging, the gameplay and mission designs are better, and it feels a bit smoother to play. It’s not any cleaner aesthetically, but the game irons out some of the roughness of AC4 while keeping what makes it great intact.

4. Armored Core

Platform: PlayStation
Release Date: October 22, 1997

You can’t go wrong with the classics, and the first AC game laid the groundwork for decades of games in the series, as well as set the bar for mech action games as a whole. I’ll grant you that it’s clunky, looks a mess, the UI is jank, and it doesn’t offer nearly the amount of customization as any of the later titles. But it’s unique in its relative simplicity. I also have a soft spot for it because it was the first Armored Core title I went to after crushing AC2 for almost a year, and seeing how far the series has come was thrilling.

3. Armored Core 2

Platform: PlayStation 2
Release Date: August 3, 2000

The first Armored Core game I ever played, and my favorite until very recently, AC2 is as imperfect as they come. It still used the wonky-ass control scheme that generated the “Armored Core” grip, had some odd mission design choices, and the AI would unabashedly cheat at the higher levels of the Arena.

What makes Armored Core 2 great is combining everything that had come before it into a single cohesive unit. The Arena is an actual gauntlet to test your skills and build. The story is solid, especially for the time, with quality voice acting and a sense of mystery and intrigue that still strikes me today. And if you don’t get shivers down your spine when you hear the intro music to Nerves Concord and the opening cinematic, I don’t know if you’re human.

2. Armored Core 3

Image via FromSoftware

Platforms: PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable (PSP)
Release Date: April 4, 2002

I don’t like AC3 nearly as much as I do AC2, but I can put aside my personal taste to understand that it’s the better game. It was the first in the series to use a proper control scheme. It has a story with more stakes that’s both easier to understand and get invested in. And the updated mechanics and mission design emerge in new and exciting ways.

It also smooths out many of AC2‘s rough patches and made me appreciate spending time messing around in the build creator. Of which, the build variety is also on point, as are all the different weapons and attachments. Just amazing.

1. Armored Core 6

Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S
Release Date: August 25, 2023

Armored Core 6 is the culmination of 26 years of design evolution. It has the weight and visceral feeling of the old games with a large touch of speed and pacing of games like AC4 and For Answer. While its story isn’t at Sekiro or Elden Ring levels, it’s one of if not the best-told ones in the series. There are some seriously emotional choices here, and you can play more than just “grizzled mercenary, callsign: Raven” this time around.

Better yet, almost every weapon in this game is incredible, though there are some that far outclass others. Add in enormous playspaces with a variety of gameplay styles and enough build crafting potential to keep even the most fastidious player satisfied for months. It is simply the best, and I love it.

The Armored Core franchise has had its ups and downs, but it is, by and large, the best mech series ever to grace the gaming world. Nothing comes close to its tenure, gameplay quality and variety, and sheer fun factor. We’ve covered plenty about the latest in the series here, and for more on Armored Core 6, check out our hub for the game.

About the author

John Schutt

John Schutt has been playing games for almost 25 years, starting with Super Mario 64 and progressing to every genre under the sun. He spent almost 4 years writing for strategy and satire site TopTierTactics under the moniker Xiant, and somehow managed to find time to get an MFA in Creative Writing in between all the gaming. His specialty is action games, but his first love will always be the RPG. Oh, and his avatar is, was, and will always be a squirrel, a trend he's carried as long as he's had a Steam account, and for some time before that.