What is the best single button press in video games?
It’s all about the parries, baby.
This is what instantly came to mind because generally speaking there isn’t an action in a videogame that feels better to me than landing a very timing-dependant high risk and high reward move that completely negates what the enemy was doing and also opens a window for you to lash out.
There are parries and counters for every taste in videogames, and a good amount of them are exactly one very well timed button press. My favorite type of counter/parry are the ones that instead of having a dedicated button, are recontextualized button presses. That is to say, a button that generally speaking is dedicated to a different action, but becomes the counterattack button in certain very specific contexts. The most famous parry of them all, the Street Fighter 3 one, does exactly this by turning the button you use to move towards the enemy into the counter button. It’s a genius decision design-wise because moving towards your enemy is something you want to do very carefully due to it being a very punishable action in the game, but it’s also brilliant because the parry button is exactly the opposite to your general defense button, which is pushing backwards to defend and cover from enemy attacks.
The counter/parry in the first Bayonetta, enabled by obtaining the Moon of Mahaa-Kalaa (in game item) works very similarly to SF3’s parry, but translated to 3D movement. It performs amazingly well, and it’s the main reason Bayonetta is one of my favourite action games ever, even while I generally don’t like the weapons or movesets in the game (they leaned too hard onto the stripper/dancing thing imo).
One of my favorites in recent times came with Sekiro, the Mikiri Counter. A move that allows you to deflect incoming piercing attacks by decisively stepping on the enemy’s weapon to leave them open. It is performed by dashing towards the enemy, something very risky you never want to do by mistake, but that transforms into one of the most powerful moves in the game if timed correctly.
Dariusburst is a game with a ZUNTATA soundtrack which allows you to counter the most powerful attack of every boss with a dedicated button press, need I say more?
Yakuza also has a phenomenal counter move, the Komaki Tiger Drop. A very sudden and well choreographed punch to the chest that sends your opponents flying.
Speaking of Yakuza, mashing that triangle button with your heat bar fully loaded onto a domestic abuser or some random dude who was about to hit a kid or something, that’s a good button press right there as well!