We seem to be in the midst of a mini hack and slash revival as Bayonetta found its way to Xbox One and PS4 last week and Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition landed on Switch. Here's our favourite games in the, often overlooked, genre.
It looks rather dated now, much as it did upon release.
Liam | Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles: Turtles in Time
It turns out hack and slash is an overlooked genre (in my house, at least) as I drew an absolute blank when it came to picking one for this week’s topic.
The only title I could think of was Darksiders II, which I bought on a whim after reading Sam’s review of the Deathinitive Edition back in 2016, but gave up on it less than halfway through after finding the in-game camera more of a challenge than the Corruption-ridden creatures roaming the Forge Lands.
The game I did want to pick, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles: Turtles in Time, is, according to the internet, a side scrolling beat ‘em up, but it’s got sharp weapons in it that players use to hack and slash at enemies, so I’m counting it.
It also had a great campaign in which Leonardo and the gang fought their way through all the choice eras of time– the wild west, pirate, prehistoric, neon future – on their quest to beat u… I mean, hack and slash, the Statue of Liberty stealing Shredder into submission.
But wait! It turns out there is a Turtles hack and slash game; the much-maligned Mutants in Manhattan, made by none other than genre specialists, PlatinumGames. Probably one they hope remains overlooked.
Mutants in Manhattan was not their best work.
Sam | Devil May Cry V
There are just a couple of viable options when it comes to crowning the greatest hack and slash game for me. I wouldn’t generally count myself as a fan of the genre, rather someone that very occasionally dabbles, but on two specific occasions I’ve been forced to sit up and take notice.
Playing the original God of War back in the day was something special; I’d never found any game to be more brutal or empowering. From there on out I tried several other games that fit the somewhat loose parameters of the hack and slash genre, only to find that a majority of it was mere mindless dreck.
I ignored pretty much any and everything that didn’t have God of War in the title thereafter - until I decided to give Devil May Cry V a shot last year, that is. It blew me away. The three protagonists all play distinctly and in terms of their mechanics could easily have carried individual games. In fact, Dante alone has so much going on that his massive skill set could’ve been introduced piecemeal over several different titles comprising a new series.
Throughout the entire DMCV campaign you never stop learning and developing as a player. It’s one of the few examples of true mechanical skill progression in gaming, feeling more akin to gaining proficiency at Guitar Hero than just memorising combos like in most other hack and slash games.
This is hack and slash done properly.
James | No More Heroes
If I hadn't brought it up before I might talk about DmC: Devil May Cry (which is excellent, for the record), but instead I'll go back further to the Wii era with No More Heroes.
While not dark and visceral like a Devil May Cry or a Dark Souls, this arcadey, cel-shaded take on doing people in with a beam katana – not a lightsaber, technically – brought me hours of fun in between fraught attempts to complete Resident Evil 4, so it served as quite the palette cleanser.
Series protagonist Travis Touchdown had an irreverent nature and plenty of Deadpool-esque, fourth wall-breaking commentary which lifted the fairly straightforward hack and slash element with the presentation and tone of the entire world.
Combat being a simple series of button presses, rather than the sort of complexity bordering on a fighting game, was definitely the right call for No More Heroes at the time, though it might have been nice to see a bit more variety. When you look as good as Travis did in his red leather jacket though, spawning a raft of dressing up in the process, it's hard to be too critical.
Throw in some… interesting… use of motion controls, which saw you vigorously shake the wiimote back and forth to keep your katana charged, and you've got yourself a unique experience which hasn't been touched since, even in its misguided sequel. Hopefully when he returns (again), Travis will bring us something new and keep this more "casual" take on the genre alive.
Be sure to let us know your favourite hack and slash game.