To continue with my mediocre game-loving frenzy, with yet another list full of obscurity: here are some 3rd person action (adventure) games, generally speaking. As usual by now, most come from Japan. I’ve also skipped titles like God of War, for example. Basically AAA titles that really need not have their reputations tarnished by being clumped together with the likes of these “peasants“.
NOTE: For many, hack ‘n slash is synonymous with titles like Diablo, i.e. isometric dungeon crawlers with strong RPG elements. You won’t find any of the likes here though.
Viking: Battle of Asgard
This is developed by a company mostly known for producing large-scale real-time strategy games, which may seem like a red flag. In reality it’s a neat little title in a viking setting and a true call-back to the ye olde days of classical action-adventure games. These have practically died out or morphed into Action-Shooter-RPG hybrids in open-worlds, with micro-transactions.
Dynasty Warriors 8
A polarizing series with a cult following. Some absolutely love it while many see it as a joke at best. Narrative-vise it centers around ancient China and is comprised of large-scale battles with some visually fantastic combat thrown into the mix. If you happen to own a Wii U, be sure to pick out its spiritual spin-off that is one of the best games on that particular system.
The Force Unleashed series
Here’s a couple of generic Star Wars-themed hack ‘n slash games that bombed in the sales. Before the release of the first one, the game actually showed lots of promise and was hyped tremendously but in the end there just wasn’t enough bang for your buck. That doesn’t mean that neither of them are bad, they’re juts very… average. If you’re a SW fan, you should check it out as it’s meant as filler between the 3rd and 4th film.
Here’s another extremely generic-looking game but this time it’s just oozing this silly Japanese B-movie quirkiness which is unbelievably glorious. A somewhat of a Ninja Gaiden clone that’s a bit less difficult, which makes it the perfect game if you just want to turn off your brain and enjoy all the fun half-hearted nonsense.
A very good sequel to an already great game. Sadly for most, it’s a Wii U exclusive but lucky for those few Wii U owners, it’s one of the must-haves! At it’s core, this fairly new series is the true spiritual successor to the Devil May Cry franchise and this particular title just made it a whole lot better, both mechanically and visually. God, I just love these zany Japanese games!
When first released, Heavenly Sword was often cited as being a game where you play as the female Kratos and while there are some obvious similarities in the presentation, the bulk of the game is quite different. It is an overall underrated title and should be experienced by anyone who’s a fan of the modern hack ‘n slash genre. Fun fact: Believe it or not but a full-feature CG movie was released back in 2014 and was pretty much the retelling of the game.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
A project that was originally canceled and then re-emerged with some changes, this is a fantastic fast-paced hack ‘n slash title that while not long, is quite challenging, particularly the boss battles. While it had little to no input from series creator Kojima, the game still retains the craziness of the Metal Gear franchise and this was the first game where people didn’t mind playing as the metro-sexual Raiden.
It got slack for being a God of War clone but this isn’t a bad thing. After all GoW is a great series both in story and gameplay and this title surely mimics those aspects well. What it really butchers is the source material of the 14th century epic poem. But unless you’re a die-hard fan of the canonical literary work, you won’t mind the artistic changes that were made in order to bring us this overall fantastic action game.
Another series that went the way of the dodo too soon, BloodRayne 2 was a good game in most regards but does feel a bit dated these days. However, if you’re looking for some retro action from a time when vampires didn’t glitter and female objectification in video games was still a taboo subject, then you’ll get a whole lot of fun out of this fun quite bloody game.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
If games could speak, then this one would probably say something on the lines of: “You misunderestimated me!” And the game wouldn’t be lying. Another title that was wrongly accused of losing its mojo for going from side-scrolling to full on 3D. All in all, it’s a good action game, though at times it does take it self too seriously… Whatever that means. And the sequel is of a similar caliber.
Golden Axe: Beast Rider
A bad game from a good franchise, this titles saving grace in my eyes is the mechanic that’s also in the title: beast riding! You play a scantily clad Amazonian redhead who mounts gigantic beasts… The game follows a classic 80’s Conan the Barbarian style plot in that there’s a big bad guy who want’s to take over the world. That or destroy it, and you have to get a hold of some magical super-weapon, in this case the golden axe, in order to defeat the big bad guy.
Genji: Days of the Blade
Considering it was a PS3 release title, this is actually a really impressing game. It’s a samurai-themed hack ‘n slash whose roots hail from the PS2 era. While the combat is kinda redundant, it does offer four playable characters. However it is quite short, which actually plays to the games advantage as there’s nothing much going on other than blatant button smashing.
Killer is Dead
A typical Suda51 game with stylized graphics and a out-of-this-world narrative that wasn’t very popular in the states but was highly praised in Europe. Again, a bonkers game that is entertaining nonetheless, maybe even more so thanks to the weirdness. While the console versions were nice and stable, the PC port was quite broken in that it required a 4-core CPU just to run, even though technically a good enough 2-core processor would have done the job just fine. Mark it down for shoddy Japanese PC porting, as usual.
A cult series, that had quite the following back in the PS2’s heyday. It’s a PS3 exclusive and a prequel to the whole series. The plot is something of a, well… I won’t even get into it, but let’s just say it is very unconventional, at least for us Westerners. Plain and simple, it’s a game about murder with little to no justification. To its credit, it is very beautiful, with good visuals overall.
Blades of Time
A horrible game that’s trying to pull off the blonde pigtail hairstyle sporting bimbo-ish Lara Croft-esque strong female character. So, it’s from Russia of all places and outright bad BUT still at least a little fun, especially if you go in not expecting much… Don’t expect anything at all, really. A sort-of prototype was also released for it, titled X-Blades. Huh, original.
Here’s something for the gore lovers. An underrated little gem that gets right to the point, which is to murder all the little and big demonic mutants coming your way, and make it look cool as fudge while doing so. The dialog between the player character and the magic demon mask is also good for a few laughs and is portrayed really nicely. This is essentially a remake of the original arcade game from 1988.
Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition
For those purists that start foaming from the mouth when Dante is turned from a silver-haired hunk to a black-haired emo, I give you the Special Edition of DMC4, also known as ‘that last good Devil May Cry game.’ This one has new playable characters, a somewhat smoothed-out combat system and new battle modes. All great features for the super hard-core out there.
Platinum Games’ version of Super Smash. It’s a beat’em up with mostly an unknown cast and some weird aesthetic choices. An arena styled game that is best experienced in online multiplayer which offers some fun mayhem. I lied about it being like Smash though. It’s a 3D brawler, which is more on the lines of MGR: R or the likes. Still, it has some cool gameplay modes.
At its core, it is a difficult but fair fighting game. At its shell it’s a homoerotic game where you get to spank people, mostly men. Don’t get me wrong though, it is a very good game. It’s just that it is again from Japan see. And it focuses on the parts and ONLY the parts that make the up the core experience. What this means is the brawling is excellent, while everything else doesn’t necessarily suffer because there isn’t anything else… just homoerotic humor and buttocks spanking.
I frigging love Asura’s Wrath but the big issue is that there’s actually not a lot of game here. It all boils down to a series of short interludes, coupled with cutscenes drowning in QTE’s and the occasional fight-section thrown in here and there. What’s more, almost 1/5 of the game must be bought as separate DLC and the sad part is, it’s really good. So you’re going to need that in order to get the full experience. Nonetheless, I love the ancient Indian mythos-inspired lore that the game is meshed in with some ‘a long time ago’ styled futuristic tech thrown into the mix.
Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage
You play as a killer martial-artist sporting a serious-looking mullet in a post-apocalyptic world. The game is based on a manga series from the 80’s. With its beautiful characters and glorious combat, it’s a fun title to pick up even if you’re not familiar with the source material. This one is developed by the people behind the Dynasty Warriors series. So if you like those, this one is a no-brainer.
Here we have another Suda51 title, this time around with zombies! You play as a high school cheerleader who also just happens to be a zombie-hunter. At this point I’m not even surprised. In fact, it might even be one of the more milder games to come out of Japan as far as the plot goes. It’s got decent combat, a great soundtrack and surprisingly good voice acting.
Lords of the Fallen
“Dark Souls for babies” is how the hard-core gamer‘s describe this game, which is why it is just the perfect fit for a guy like me. Plus it’s a superbly beautiful game with some decent story-telling. So if you’re into dungeon crawlers, this is a good place to start, as it’s not super-challenging.
Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams
The last of the series, that took a bit of a leap of faith with changing some of the core mechanics, specifically the combat but it paid off – it was en excellent title and a nice send-off for the PS2. It also really pushed the console to its limits, hailing some beautiful graphics for the time. It didn’t sell too well however. Fun fact: it was another one of those games that received a movie adaption some time later. Overall, the entire series was universally well-praised, so in reality, picking up any title should guarantee a well-worth experience.
A Japanese take on certain German historical elements, namely the witch hunts from a few hundred years back that was all the rage for a while. You play as a big burly guy who’s basically from start to finish on an escort mission but that isn’t really a problem. The real problem is the lack of any extra content aside from the basic hacking and slashing but if that’s all you’re interested in, it’s an okay title.
The odd ones of this particular bunch. Used to be a platform series, now’s a beat’em up. All though there is some jumping involved, for the most part you mount these big enemies and guide them to kill all the other big enemies. Rinse-repeat, it works, it’s fun, don’t think too much into it. Naughty Dog’s Crash is dead. Let’s all move on and just be grateful that this former Sony mascot hasn’t become a side-character like Spyro in the god-awful Skylander series.
A 2014 remake of the 1989 arcade game. You play as a deadly ninja and have to battle your way through a futuristic Russian city, while battling all sorts of robots and the such’s. It’s a fun, fast-paced hack ‘n slash with a side-scrolling world but with fully realized 3D models and backgrounds. A visually stunning game with a fantastic musical score.
Hunted: The Demon’s Forge
A range and melee combat filled game with a strong emphasis on co-op, meaning you’ll get the most out of it if you play with someone. This of course doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable alone but as it sorta has this Gears of War vibe going, it’s still much better played with a real live person instead of the AI.
A sequel in little more than name to the 2010 Drakengard spin-off open-world hack ‘n slash title. But while the predecessor was almost unknown to the western market, this Platinum Games masterpiece is guaranteed to tug on your feel strings both with its overall melancholic narrative and its superbly tight combat.
A 2007 game that’s not a tie-in to any movie, thank god. A decent game overall but visually is quite weak-looking, even back when it was released. So again, the plot is very similar to that of Golden Axe: acquire item A, B and C in order to be able to take on baddies D with the help of busty side-character E. This game is called out for being violent but whoever has said that hasn’t played enough Japanese games, as there are at least half a dozen titles on this list alone that are a lot more violent and a lot more gorier.
Ninja Gaiden series
This franchise dates back to the NES era but as far as the contemporary titles go, I just couldn’t pick one. So I decided to go with all the three main entries. These are again quite difficult games, with mainly serving the needs of the hard-core crowd. Regardless, they are still fun games that while challenging, feel rewarding once you get past a particularly hard spot.
Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom
It’s a great looking game and a no-brainer to the fans of the anime and while the combat and overall gameplay is great, it tends to get a bit repetitive and the latter part seems to steer off, story-wise. However, if you go into it expecting just some fun action, then this is the title for you.
Rise of the Argonauts
Well, the game does have a hefty bag of bugs and an overall sub par presentation but I’d still call it a little underrated gem because the plot is still quite solid and the combat isn’t half bad. Greek mythology geeks be warned though, the game strays quite far from the source material.
HONORABLE MENTIONS(FIGHTERS): Soul Calibur III, Tekken 5, Street Fighter X Tekken, Street Fighter Alpha 2, PlayStation All-Star, Final Fight