7. Blade Symphony
Inspired by the combat of Jedi Knight II, Blade Symphony is one of the few examples of a pure 3D swordfighting game. It features multiple characters each equipped with their own unique weapon and style, weapons that remain deadly regardless of whether you are swinging them or not, and detailed blade interactions where the position of your sword, rather than a dedicated block button, determines whether or not you deflect an incoming strike.
Like Toribash, Blade Symphony is a tricky game to master, and in terms of feedback it isn't quite as satisfying as some of the other games on this list. But when it comes to detailed, dynamic swordplay, you won't find a more focussed game than Puny Human's arena dueller.
6. Chivalry: Medieval Warfare
A strange but no less effective test for the quality of a melee combat game is how funny it is. Melee combat is unpredictable by nature, which means that sometimes really stupid things happen. So it's a genuine compliment when I say that Chivalry is one of the funniest games I've played in years.
It probably shouldn't be. Aesthetically Torn Banner's game is bloody and horrible, with maps themed around besieged castles, mud-churned battlefields and burning peasant villages. Fights often end with mess decapitations or amputations, with opponents screaming and gargling on their own blood as they die.
But there's something about the grimness of this backdrop, juxtaposed with the game's freeform combat, that makes it absolutely hilarious. For every challenging, engaging duel of blades, there's just as much chance you'll rock up and get your head sliced clean off because you completely mistimed a block or a feint. Deathmatches are especially amusing, as each map descends into total chaos with duels frequently interrupted by a third party turning up and executing both fighters with a single strike.
Yet for all its incidental silliness, Chivalry remains an excellent fighting game. It's simple move-set makes it easy to pick up, while timed, directional blocks mean you need to actively defend yourself against your opponent and try to anticipate their moves. You can turn your mouse to add extra swing to your blows, and even try to swing under or over your opponent's blade by ducking or jumping. Chivalry isn't the most refined melee combat game out there, but it is one of the most enjoyable.
5. Condemned: Criminal Origins
Monolith's Hobo-Bashing Simulator is probably the strangest game on this list, not simply because it eschews the more familiar swords and shields for steam pipes and planks of wood, but because nearly all of the work in its melee combat system is done by your opponents.
The controls for Condemned's fighting are the simplest outside of Nidhogg. There are four directional attacks, a timed block, and a smattering of finishing moves. With this simple system you tussle some of the most convincing enemies you'll find in a fighting game. They weave uncertainly toward you, taunting and cursing, feigning an attack before swinging at your proper. Strike them and they'll use the momentum to spin around and thwack you back. Hit them a few times, and they'll run off and hide, leaping at you from around a darkened corner.
The complete lack of flair to any of the fighting is also strangely refreshing. It's pure survival brawling where any weapon will do, devoid of glory or fanfare. The overpowered taser unbalances things slightly, but even a decade after its release, only Shadow of Mordor has enemies you'll love to hate as much as Condemned's fearsome street-rats.