With huge new titles such as Elden Ring incorporating hack-and-slash elements and many more titles out designed to fulfill the power fantasy of taking on powerful enemies in melee combat, there is an enduring popularity to the gameplay style. For a lot of players, nothing can beat button-mashing, close-quarters fighting.
As a result, there is a wide range of hugely popular hack-and-slash titles, some being all-out traditional hack-and-slash games, and others infusing the style with other genres. Players on Ranker collectively voted on which of these games stand above all others as the most popular.
10 Devil May Cry 5 (2019)
The latest mainline installment in the titan of hack-and-slash games that is the Devil May Cry series, Devil May Cry 5 only brings more polish and slickness to a combat system that always puts the emphasis on style. Just by bringing back Dante and Nero as playable characters, the new title won over fans but there are plenty of other great things about Devil May Cry 5.
While the hack-and-slash gameplay that tasks the player with combining abilities for style points is very familiar, the different playable characters in the game with different weapons and combat styles keep things feeling fresh. DMC 5 may not have achieved the same iconic status as earlier games in the series but it still became an instant genre classic.
9 God Of War (2005)
Though it may get overlooked more often these days in light of the recent franchise reboot that focused slightly less on hack-and-slash melee combat, the original God of War from 2005 is still one of the most popular titles for hack-and-slash fans. Putting the player in the shoes of Kratos, God of War pits the player against some of the most formidable beings from Greek mythology.
Initially armed with his Blades of Chaos, twin blades attached to Kratos by chains on his wrists, the player gets to have all their power fantasies of laying waste to monumental enemies with fast combo-based attacks. With God of War: Ragnorok coming this year, now is also a great time to revisit the very first God of War game.
8 Ninja Gaiden II (2008)
The second 3D title in the long-running video game series, Ninja Gaiden II stepped everything up from its predecessor with more all-out violence and gore than ever before. Whilst some titles lean more towards RPG or action-adventure genre elements, Ninja Gaiden II is a game with an almost single-minded focus on destroying enemies, big and small.
That doesn’t mean the game doesn’t have an engaging plot, however, which takes its master ninja protagonist Ryu Hayabusa across continents and into the underworld in his efforts to stop the resurrection of the Archfiend Vazdah. A stalwart of the genre, many fans will be pleased to see a Ninja Gaiden title still amongst the most popular hack-and-slash games.
7 Diablo II (2000)
Having already created an ARPG classic in the form of the first Diablo game, Blizzard North followed up with a sequel that ramped up the intensity. Whilst there are plenty of games like the Diablo titles now, players who wanted some fast-paced melee action along with a dark fantasy plotline couldn’t do much better than Diablo II in the late 90s and early 2000s.
Diablo II brought satisfying hack-and-slash combat to an enthralling ARPG story but there was a depth to the gameplay that means the player doesn’t just have to thoughtlessly button mash, though there are opportunities for that. A remaster came last year in the form of Diablo II: Resurrected, but the original experience still wins out with a lot of fans.
6 Bayonetta 2 (2014)
Whilst many of the other most popular hack-and-slash games have had the chance to stand the test of time, Bayonetta 2 is a relatively recent follow-up to the absurdly over-the-top Bayonetta. Mixing stylish combat against a variety of enemies with epic cutscenes that couldn’t belong to any other game series, Bayonetta 2 is the perfect sequel.
The titular protagonist is now one of the most iconic hack-and-slash heroes and also happens to be one of the most fun to be in control of with addictive combos and iconic moves that allow the player to feel exceptionally powerful. It’s no surprise that a third Bayonetta game is on the way this year that may well also become a classic.
5 Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition (2015)
Devil May Cry 4 puts the player in the role of both Dante and a new character, Nero, who is on a mission to stop the franchise’s main character, and this unique premise led to one of the series’ best and most polished experiences. In DMC 4, Nero uses his powerful Devil Bringer arm to fight, meaning new mechanics for hack-and-slash fans to sink their teeth into.
In 2015, the Special Edition was released that signified not just a remaster but a massive overhaul of the game. As if the original wasn’t already one of the best entries in the series, the new edition brought an insane amount of new additions and improvements, including three new playable characters.
4 Bayonetta (2009)
The game that introduced the world to Bayonetta, a powerful witch who skillfully wields her pistols in memorable combat that still feels fresh today, this title has a special place in the pantheon of hack-and-slash greats. Bayonetta was created by Hideki Kamiya who, having also directed the original Devil May Cry, had a track record with great, stylish combat.
Kamiya and the team delivered more than anyone could have expected with Bayonetta and, whether using her guns to effortlessly dispatch her enemies or summoning demons to do the work for her, the gameplay is nearly always exhilarating. With an enhanced Windows port in 2017, the game secured its place as one of the most popular games in the genre.
3 Devil May Cry (2001)
With 5 mainline titles and an upcoming TV show based on the video game series on the way, it’s fair to say that the first Devil May Cry game started a phenomenon in the early 2000s. Though the game itself has aged somewhat, it is still clear to see why Devil May Cry won over so many fans to its incredibly stylish gameplay concept.
Whilst plenty of games had included slick combat, Devil May Cry put it front and center, awarding the player with style points for pulling off ambitious combos. The game set a trend that has been at the heart of many hack-and-slash games ever since and that’s part of the reason why it remains one of the most popular more than two decades later.
2 God Of War II (2007)
God of War is arguably the best hack-and-slash series and, for many fans, it peaked with the release of God of War II in 2007. Everything that made the first game great is amped up to 11 in this follow-up title, with even more cinematic violence and insane combo chains to pull off on formidable enemies.
In God of War II, Santa Monica Studios produced a hack-and-slash game that even non-action fans couldn’t dislike, and the game is a beautiful-looking ode to over-the-top combat with an enjoyably liberal approach to the mythology it draws from. Even compared to the ambitious reboot, God of War II holds up excellently.
1 Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening (2005)
A prequel to the first Devil May Cry, the third mainline game in the series explains some of the origins of the series’ main character and his infamous shop. Whilst that doesn’t necessarily sound like the most interesting setup to an action game, Devil May Cry 3 is a masterpiece of hack-and-slash gameplay, only improving on the previous titles in the series.
Switching between combat styles as Dante is as satisfying as ever and the game almost demands the player to aim for the best ranks. Devil May Cry 3 represents not just the peak of the Devil May Cry series but also the peak of hack-and-slash games, remaining the most popular choice for the best game in the genre more 15 years after its release.
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