There’s something to be said about the elegant simplicity of a game whose only goal is to dismember, maim and otherwise cut to smithereens every single enemy between you and your goal. The best games in the hack-and-slash genre are far from mindless button-mashing; they’re cinematic and stylish masterpieces that inject you into the action that is simultaneously gory and artful. These titles strike that delicate balance, and that earns them a reputation as the best of the best.
Cutting Your Way to Action Game Greatness
God of War
Kratos has been to Hades and back, and that’s only a fraction of the grand tour through Greek mythology that the Spartan-warrior-turned-god has hacked his way through in one of the most successful action-game trilogies of all time. The games set you on a button-mashing crusade that somehow managed to stay interesting as you learned combos and solved puzzles in one of the most seamless and cinematically satisfying gameplay-to-story constructions ever to grace our consoles.
Devil May Cry
A more acrobatic game-play style showcases itself in the quad of games from the Devil May Cry series, with Dante, the demon-hunting mercenary, dispatching devilish hordes with a couple of pistols and one big sword. The goal here is to make your fluttering, aerial attacks ever more stylistic and complex. The gothic look and sarcastic tone of the game match perfectly with the rapid-fire gameplay, and the franchise won’t be slowing down anytime soon.
Who knew you could base a videogame on a medieval poem about the nine circles of Hell? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of artistic license taken by the developers in bringing Dante Alighieri’s Inferno to life, and the bloody action pushes the over-the-top style to new limits. This isn’t a game for kids, and the game definitely earns its mature rating. Each of Hell’s levels is distinctly designed, and the animations are impressive to say the least. The almost frenetic action mimics that of God of War, as does the puzzle, but it’s still one of the best hack-and-slashers around.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance
Multiplayer superhero games are often hard to develop, but Ultimate Alliance broke the mold as a series. You get a four-person team, choose the iconic characters that you want on your team, and try to move your way through the storyline and levels. The winning part of this series is the combo abilities that you can set up between team members, most of which are designed to clear the ground around you. As you go through the game, you start earning points and upgrading. Your characters get progressively more awesome, and the gameplay scales with it.
At times, Ninja Gaiden is so difficult that you want to throw your controller at the TV. But that challenging gameplay underlies the insane skill that you develop cutting your way through one level after another of enemies bent on your destruction. The game is all about speed and gore, letting you unlock a ton of different weapons, letting you get a depth out of the game that a lot of hack-and-slashers just gloss over in favor of combo after combo. This franchise continues to break the rules of action games and digs deeper than most.
Laura Frazier is battling carpel tunnel syndrome from all the button-mashing she’s been doing lately. When you can pry her aching fingers from a game controller, you’ll find her writing about gaming and other topics at TopListsOnline.com