Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture Publisher: Marvelous Entertainment/Ubisoft/Rising Star Games
Thanks to Killer7 and the original No More Heroes, we already knew the development team of Grasshopper Manufacture was known for its zany gameplay and unique means of telling a story. No More Heroes 2 happens to be one of its best efforts, exceeding the expectations set by its predecessor.
Though it swaps out swords with the beam katana, it’s a clear-cut hack and slash game, which was a relatively new genre for the Nintendo Wii. The second adventure of Travis Touchdown (yes, that’s a name) still had the potential to fall flat on its face, but it winds up being a ton of fun that improves upon the combat and mechanics of No More Heroes. It doesn’t hurt that Travis dual-wields beam blades, which automatically makes anything better.
9. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal Publisher: Ubisoft
The original Prince of Persia was a far cry from the visually stunning 3D adventure Ubisoft Montreal wound up giving gamers in 2003. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was a mingling of platforming and hack and slash, a pairing that works really well. The prince is an acrobatic character, allowing players to vault off of walls to add some style to the combat.
There is much to like about Sands of Time, from plenty of adventurous exploration to fighting mechanics that have stood the test of time. There’s a bit of strategy involved and button mashing attacks will surely get you killed, but the prince puts his sword to good use quite often. The game’s biggest selling point has to be the time-manipulation, which lets you rewind time to solve puzzles and rectify missteps in fights.
8. Onimusha: Warlords
Developer: Capcom Publisher: Capcom
After astonishing players with the Resident Evil series, Capcom moved on to a faster pace with Onimusha: Warlords, a game that features elements of the popular survival horror trilogy. Rather than slowly exploring the narrow halls of mansions and police stations, Onimusha’s sword-wielding protagonist, Samanosuke Akechi, is a bit more hurried in his battle against demons in Feudal Japan.
Equipped with a variety of upgradable swords and ranged weapons, Akechi cuts through a host of monsters in another Capcom success. Combat is solid and there’s nothing quite like wielding a katana like a trained samurai. Warlords went on to spawn a series of sequels, but nothing quite captured the essence of the original.
It’s no surprise that Bayonetta 2 comes from the same developer responsible for turning Metal Gear into a fast-paced hack and slash game.
PlatinumGames once again delivers on an exquisite experience featuring some of the strangest combat you may ever get your hands on. Bayonetta, the shapeshifting witch, runs headfirst into battle against hordes of demons using her sidearms, a sturdy pair of heels, and her hair. Yes, her hair. Equipped with magic and her flowing locks, Bayonetta summons an array of brutal weapons and towering figures that lay waste to whoever or whatever blocks her path.
Some may try to peg this as a Devil May Cry clone, but Bayonetta 2 is its own creature, even stepping ahead of its predecessor in many ways. Visually, it’s utterly fascinating to watch and the combat is nothing short of varied, stylish, and engaging.
6. NieR: Automata
Developer: PlatinumGames Publisher: Square Enix
It seems like PlatinumGames may know the secret formula for making successful and thoroughly enjoyable hack and slash games. Automata is not the first NieR game, but it’s by far the best and is accessible to anyone that didn’t even know the series existed.
Playing as YoRHa No. 2 Model B (2B) and 9S, players wield short and long swords, spears, and bracers in fast-paced and often chaotic combat. The seamless transition from side-scrolling to a 3D open world gives players plenty of chances to admire the gorgeous and detailed world. That is when they’re not too busy performing a series of crushing attacks on robotic enemies.
Automata’s open world gameplay gives players a lot to do for an in-depth experience that rarely lets up.
“I encourage you to try Nier: Automata. It’s unique and quirky, dark and exciting. It’s a challenge but not one so hard to put you off trying one last time.”
5. Ninja Gaiden Black
Developer: Team Ninja Publisher: Tecmo
Ninja Gaiden has come a long way since its debut on the NES. One thing that hasn’t really changed is the difficulty level. Much like how the 90s original was frustratingly hard, Ninja Gaiden Black punishes players that think they can breeze through without giving strategy any thought.
Though the game may be laborious, especially when it comes to boss battles, that doesn’t ultimately take away from how good Ninja Gaiden Black is. It’s not hard just for the sake of being so, however. Team Ninja clearly wants players to take their time and plan out each fight to get the most out of the solid mechanics. Those that take great care in mastering Ryu Hayabusa’s abilities and swordplay are treated to a solid hack and slash title that has plenty to offer.
4. Devil May Cry
Developer: Capcom Publisher: Capcom
Devil May Cry never took itself too seriously, but the original entry had the perfect tone for the series, coupling Dante’s no-nonsense attitude with a gothic ambience. Coupled with gameplay that’s still a blast to immerse yourself in today and a fun story, it’s hard not to love the original over its three successors. No, we don’t talk about that one.
Devil May Cry may look like the kind of game you can aimlessly mash the “attack” button through, but even the lower-level baddies require some attention to attack animations and patterns. Things only get more complex later on, providing players with some intricate hack and slash action.
Initially, it was a tough call between Devil May Cry and the latest entry, but seeing as how Dante doesn’t do a Michael Jackson impersonation in the original, the choice became clear.
Developer: Blizzard North Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Having to choose between Diablo, Diablo II, and Diablo III is almost as painful as shoving a Soulstone into your forehead. While sequels can often trump their predecessors in the gaming industry, when it comes to Blizzard’s hack and slash dungeon crawler, we have to pay respects to where it all started.
Diablo II may have had a greater variety of weapons and enemies and Diablo III may have been a fantastic multiplayer experience, but the original point-and-click adventure is overall more enjoyable. There is no trumping the first time you face off against The Butcher, come up against the Skeleton King, and go toe-to-toe with the Lord of Terror himself. Diablo also benefited from a much tighter story and moodier atmospheres than its sequels.
2. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance
Developer: Snowblind Studios Publisher: Black Isle Studios
How do you create a top-down hack and slash game and not find it lumped in as nothing more than a “Diablo clone?” Snowblind Studios may have received some negativity for developing a game that looks like Diablo, but that’s just shallow criticism that ignores so much about Dark Alliance.
At its heart, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance is so much more than a Diablo clone. For starters, it has deeper gameplay and a flashier style that’s more accessible to casual players. Sure, you traverse a 3D world in a top-down view, battle an assortment of enemies, and pick up loot along the way, but that’s where the similarities pretty much stop.
Dark Alliance is powered by the aptly titled Dark Alliance Engine, which results in smooth character animations, detailed levels, and impressive lighting effects.
1. God of War III
Developer: SCE Santa Monica Studio Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
By the time God of War III released, Kratos’ rage had already guided him through two critically acclaimed games. It was entirely possible for the third title in the series to show some wear, but SCE Santa Monica Studio knew exactly what to tweak to keep players engaged in the adventures of the frenzied Spartan.
Everything received a little polish when it came to God of War III, so it felt similar to its predecessor but definitely with some improvements. Even the story remains fresh despite still focusing primarily on the antagonistic relationship between Kratos and Zeus by introducing the Titans, who also happen to serve as some of the series’ best set pieces.
If you enjoyed ripping apart your foe in God of War and God of War II, then you’ll love what God of War III has to offer. A revamped magic system and tighter controls enhance the experience of battling through a robust rogue’s gallery of monsters and notable Grecian figures.
God of War III wraps up the story nicely but gives us the ending needed for SCE to move ahead with the equally-as-stellar God of War for PS4. In fact, had it had retained the series fast-paced combat, the latest entry may have taken this spot.