Best Hack and Slash Games
Note: This article was updated in October of 2018.
This week sees another entry into the popular and well populated genre of character action titles, or as they are also called, hack and slashers. The gameplay is relatively simple, there is one protagonist, a bunch of close combat weapons that tend to do a lot of damage, a few ranged attacks that do little damage, and usually a colorful array of thousands and thousands of enemy mooks to hack and slash through until you get to the oversized bossfight. Simple enough.
The genre has been around since the early days of video games and shows no sign of going away, and with good reason—it’s fun as hell and brings to video gaming the visceral feel that gamers often look for when they place their hands on the controller.
Recent years saw an increase in boss sizes and mook numbers, thanks to beefier hardware. It’s an all time favorite genre, and home to some of the most video game video games. It’s worth noting that these games are not ranked in a particular order as we have at times featured entire franchises.
#17 Castle Crashers
Castle Crashers is a rather older title on our list. This 2D arcade adventure can give friends countless hours of hack-and-slash gaming fun as players defend their kingdom and save the princess. Originally released back in 2008 for the Xbox 360, the game can also be found on the PC platform. Gather your friends for an incredible medieval co-op video game that has so far continued to impress gamers a whole console generation after it was first released. To make some comparisons, the gameplay plays a bit similarly to the latest indie hit, Cuphead as players will be facing against a series of bosses with a slight emphasis on timing out attacks and remembering enemy movements.
#16 DMC – Devil May Cry
This much hated reboot by Ninja Theory took the venerated Japanese Devil May Cry games and applied a sheen of western grittiness to it. Protagonist Dante received a complete overhaul together with the entire rest of the cast. Everyone is there. The fans were very negative about this game before release, some could be swayed by the tight gameplay and gorgeous visuals, others remained negative, crying foul about a lot of things. It is still a great game, though it remains up to the individual if this is actually the best entry in the saga, or even a worthy one, or a horrible failure.
#15 Bayonetta Series
Platinum Games have a knack for designing challenging yet delightfully silly titles like this one. The story about a time traveling super witch is largely forgettable, what matters is the super tight gameplay and the splendid presentation. Bayonetta is a ridiculously pretty game that bursts with style. But most importantly, the game mechanics fit as tightly as the eponymous witches leotard. Taking apart angels and demons and deities and other creatures takes a lot of skill, but once that’s mastered you’re going to have endless fun.
#14 Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Another much maligned title. Lords of Shadow was slated to be an independent release by Spanish developer Mercury Steam. It eventually was shoehorned into the Castlevania saga when it was picked up by Konami and put under the wing of none other than Hideo Kojima. The production quality is superb, the art style reminiscent of a Guillermo del Toro. On the gameplay side, things could be a bit tighter, especially the camera, but after a few hours things fall into place, all crucial powers are unlocked, and things just flow nicely in this worthy addition to the Castlevania series.
#13 Warhammer 40.000: Space Marine
Relic, the people who do everything Warhammer 40.000 these days, went and created this little, brutal gem for their own distraction, or so it seems. Space Marine is all about smashing, tearing and blowing up enemies of the Emperor. So not that different from the strategy titles, though this time it’s just you as a Space Marine, armed with a trusty chainsaw bayonet and a bolt gun. Strategy isn’t as important, this is all about keeping the flow of carnage up. The game’s mechanics are a bit sluggish in comparison, but beefy enough to stay interesting. It’s a great slasher and a must play for fans of the fictional universe in which there is Only War™.
#12 Brütal Legend
After a really bumpy production history, being dropped by the publisher and taken up by another, and years in development hell, this title already had a rough patch behind it before it even got out the door. This fun brawler SLASH real time strategy SLASH adventure-ish game featuring Jack Black in the lead had a hard time living up to expectations. It’s not a bad game by any means, yet it did fall short in some aspects. Still, it is a very entertaining package with a ton of nods to classic heavy metal music, a great sense of humor and an art style that really comes into its own.
#11 Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Revengeance was initially slated as an Xbox 360 exclusive release. Then the entire game concept was scrapped and development went over to Platinum, who crafted a high octane slasher in the vein of Bayonetta and Devil May Cry out of the material. Just as those games, MGR:R is fast paced, furious fun with an epic story told through too many too long cutscenes, as is the series mainstay. It’s great package that comes with even more awesome in the DLC that adds more playable characters.
#10 Darksiders Series
First there was War, now it’s Death’s turn. Darksiders, that Todd McFarlane inspired post biblical apocalypse universe, keeps featuring horsemen of the apocalypse in the lead. The series takes some hints from the Zelda games, while delivering a very distinct own sense of style. Death is a remarkably unique protagonist, the world is really well realized in both visuals and writing and the game itself is just a blast to play.
#9 Ninja Gaiden Series
One of the mainstays of the character action genre, and one of the allegedly hardest game series of all time, Ninja Gaiden continues to bring in some incredible installments over the years. For instance, featured above is Ninja Gaiden 3 which delivered the same overall feel of the series, but with much easier accessible gameplay, which obviously drew the ire of the fans of the original series. However, it’s been a few years now since wee last saw a new Ninja Gaiden title. The last official launch from the franchise was Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z that launched for last generation consoles and saw poor reviews due to the repetitive nature of the gameplay. However, there is no end to the rumors that seem to spread around yearly that suggest a new title is in the works and will be announced shortly. However, until that time comes, we suggest looking at the catalog of titles that spanned across several platform generations.
#8 Asura’s Wrath
There is insanity, there are over the top games, and then there is Asura’s Wrath. In the race for the biggest, craziest bossfights, this title throws entities at you that dwarf planet earth. It’s a game that’s mostly mentioned for its sheer sense of utter insanity and Japanese over-bravado. It may not have the stopping power of a Bayonetta or a Devil May Cry, but the style and the sheer craziness of it all make up for a lot. If you like character action games and the Japanese video game tropes of both these games as well as shonen anime series like Naruto and Dragon Ball, this game will be right up your alley.
#7 God of War Series
God of War is a staple name for Sony gamers as the franchise features protagonist, Kratos, in a vengeful quest prompting him to hunt down various Greek gods. Mainly the video games within the God of War franchise center around Kratos and his Blades of Chaos which are two massive bladed weapons connected to chains. With this weapon, Kratos can deliver a furry of brutal attacks with some impactful combo hits.
However, the latest installment changes things up slight. This time around Kratos has moved on to Norse mythology where he now has a son to look after. When it comes to the narrative, there is a slight change as Kratos mus attempt to reel in the madness and anger he freely let fly in the past as he attempt to show his son how to live and fend for himself. Of course with that said, there is still a massive emphasis on hack-and-slash but this time with a new mystical axe that can be tweaked and alter as you progress through the game. This is certainly one franchise that’s a must-play and exclusive to the PlayStation brand.
#6 Diablo Series
First released back in 1996 and still thriving today is the Diablo series. The series offers gamers a thrilling action RPG with hack-and-slash elements throughout. Overall, the games are set in a fantasy world where humans are on a battle against Prime Evils that has since spanned across not only on video games installments but novels and comic books as well.
This franchise currently holds a total of three main installments with the third release being available on the latest generation consoles and PC. However, over the past year, we’ve been seeing more and more rumors pop up of Blizzard Entertainment hard at work for a fourth installment. While these are only rumors, the Diablo III originally released back 2012 which could be an indicator that a fresh installment to the beloved hack-and-slash RPG title may be inbound sooner than later. At any rate, we suggest picking up Diablo III as it’s not only a great standalone single player experience but players can enjoy the multiplayer aspect both online or through local co-op.
#5 Hellblade Senuas Sacrifice
Developed under Ninja Theory, which brought out video game titles such as Heavenly Sword and DMC: Devil May Cry, comes Hellblade Senuas Sacrifice. This is a psychological horror hack-and-slash title that follows Senua, a Pict warrior, who must venture into Helheim. Seeking to rescue the soul of her deceased lover, Senua will have to battle a series of otherworldly entities, but with our protagonist suffering from psychosis, the overall world and venture into Helheim may be too much to handle.
Players can argue that the game may not be as oriented to the hack-and-slash genre but according to the developers, Ninja Theory crafted Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice to be a mixture of melee combat and a deep narrative.
#4 Attack on Titan 2
Attack on Titan 2 while a sequel to the first title, will act out the second season of the hit anime series. Just as before, players can expect a fast-paced and intense hack-and-slash experience as they maneuver around the open world fending off massive giant beasts known as titans.
If you enjoyed the first title then we suggest giving this sequel a try. The game will include additional stories that were under the supervision by Hajime Isayama with cooperative gameplay being supported across all platforms. When you complete the story the game will have a few other modes available to enjoy such as “Another Mode” which gives players challenging scout missions while taking the role of their favorite characters.
#3 Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition
From developers Omega Force and Team Ninja comes Hyrule Warriors. Gameplay shouldn’t come to a surprise seeing how these two veteran development studios who are known for their fast-paced action video game titles such as Dynasty Warriors and Ninja Gaiden have hit the marketplace for a number of years now. However, what how this game sets itself apart form those titles is that Nintendo is involved, giving the developers access to The Legend of Zelda franchise.
The game mixes Dynasty Warriors and The Legend of Zelda where the game takes place in Hyrule, though the narrative is not considered cannon to the official timeline of the Zelda franchise. Regardless, players will be battling against Ganodorf’s forces as he attempts to unite the Triforce and take over Hyrule.
While this game is available over a few different platforms, the best option is Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition on the Nintendo Switch. This will grant players access to all of the previous DLC released for the game along with new cosmetic costumes.
#2 Monster Hunter: World
The Monster Hunter franchise is consistently growing and with each new installment a number of new gamers explore the monster filled worlds development studio Capcom has crafted. Monster Hunter: World will mark as the fifth main installment to the franchise and as you can expect, there will be a number of notable updates.
For instance, Capcom has placed larger maps, a more seamless experience between zones and what’s a Monster Hunter video game without the ability to hunt with friends? Outside of the offline campaign, the game will allow a four-player online co-op opportunity.
This might not be directly an open world video game but players will still find a rather large environments to explore. Also if you’re a newcomer to the series then this will still mark as a great title to jump on but you will find that the gameplay can still be a bit advanced. However, the core gameplay mechanics are still intact for players new and old to the franchise.
Deep down, this is still a hack-and-slash style video game where players are equipping weapons in an attempt to battle against monsters. Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a game to mindlessly swing your blade at an enemy then this game may not be for you. Instead, there is an element of strategy when it comes to selecting the right equipment when going out on your hunt.
#1 Warhammer: Vermintide 2
Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is a first-person action title that follows the events of the first title, Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide. Within the game, players must band together as they fight against a Chaos army along with a race of rat-men known as Skaven. Much of the game is focused around melee action with a slew of weapons and abilities making battles fluid and action-packed.
Players will be able to select from five different characters all of which can be adjusted to match a certain class pathway resulting in different sets of skills and abilities. Currently, the game is only available on the PC and Xbox One platform. The latter of the two is free for players who own an Xbox Game Pass. You’ll find that this game is played best with friends where gameplay is mixed up between the over-the-top hack-and-slash experience with strategic planning to balance the overall waves of enemies you’ll endure during your escapades.