We've been playing the MGR: Revengeance demo on repeat for the last week, and it made us think back to some of the other stellar hack and slash titles that the 3D era has gifted us. Time was when hack'n'slash referred to dungeon crawlers, but now it tends to encapsulate action titles fundamentally built around combat against multiple enemies at once. Here we shall find the industry's premier button mashers, reams of combo lists, and bushels of fast-paced, impossibly balletic, ego-boosting action...
10. Dynasty Warriors 4
Tecmo Koei will be pumping out Dynasty Warriors games for years to come, and that's fine. They're never going to be the finest games, nor titles with the most finesse. But for lazy weekends, spent catching up with friends, when talk was perhaps more important than teamwork, when instead of wracking your brains for button combos you simply wanted to dispatch hundreds of soldiers in the name of sheer badassery, Dynasty Warriors was perfect.
We revelled in its silliness, we cared not for its historical inaccuracies. We just wanted to deploy our superior Musou and watch the bodies fly.
What a fantastic premise for a hack 'n' slash title: you have a sword that needs to feast on souls. If it doesn't get fed, it'll start to snack on you.
We loved the original Shinobi back in the days of side-scrolling, bastard-hard action platformers. But the 2002 PS2 reboot brought with it super-slick 3D swordplay, a cracking protagonist in Hotsuma, and it still managed to be deliciously difficult.
8. Heavenly Sword
Ninja Theory have answered their critics emphatically with DmC, but we'll get to that franchise in good time. Capcom fanatics might have been frothing at their mouths at the very thought of the UK dev getting their hands on Devil May Cry, but early PS3 adopters were more easily persuaded, thanks to Heavenly Sword. Acrobatic action, a great storyline, and Andy Serkis' mocap expertise made it a must have.
7. Onimusha 3
Onimusha has featured in a number of calls from our community regarding franchises we'd love to see make a return, and it's easy to see why. Feudal Japan, demon battling, soul absorption, oh...and the boss battles were utterly brilliant.
Smooth yet weighty combat? Check. Outstanding production values? You bet. Occasionally breathtaking Shadow of the Colossus-esque moments? Yep. The rich tones of Patrick Stewart providing the narration? Oh go on then.
No wonder Konami are making a sequel.
Lollipop Chainsaw might be a little more colourful and come with a greater flair for the comedic, but Travis Touchdown makes the list ahead of Juliet Starling on account of No More Heroes' combat being slicker, smoother, more responsive, more intuitive, and for helping to make the Wii a more attractive destination for hardcore gamers.
The logic was simple - boss battles are the best bit of these sorts of games. So why not make a game that consists predominantly of increasingly insane showdowns? Oustanding.
4. Ninja Gaiden
Sometimes we gamers are gluttons for punishment, just look at the love Dark Souls gets. But before Dark Souls, and before Team Ninja managed to screw it up, there was Ninja Gaiden. This was the series you picked up when you wanted to separate the hardcore gamers from the enthusiasts. Ninja Gaiden didn't care if you'd having a bad day at work, or if your cat had died, it would rip you a new one all the same. This was hack and slash in the most literal sense - especially when NG2 introduced dismemberment as a crucial mechanism. You had to wath your back here more so than in any other series, but the satisfaction...oh the satisfaction if you made it through. You'd have to mainline Skittles for an endorphin hit that big.
It was cheesy and nonsensical and campy and we loved it. To be honest, we love the new one too, and that's because Devil May Cry, no matter what it looks like, will always be about ridiculous combos, juggling enemies with multiple weapons, dodging like a frog in traffic, and dispatching enemies in a really cool fashion. It was truly groundbreaking, taking 3D action to a whole new level and letting us live out our power fantasies.
If Capcom and Platinum take the crown for pure mechanics, then Sony Santa Monica ticks the boxes pretty much everywhere else. The enemy variety was expansive, the boss fights were titanic showdowns, and (especially when it came to God of War 3) the series excelled at delivering truly empowering-yet-challenging combat that felt forceful, on a scale that few other games could match. That it spawned so many imitations is a testament to its greatness.
Hack and slash games, at least in terms of the modern definition of the genre, are exemplified by their combat systems and this is why Bayonetta sits at the top of the list. It epitomises outstanding creativity combined with technical perfection to provide the most undeniably compelling combat the genre has seen. It rewards skill without hampering the player, constantly challenging and amazing in equal measure...not to mention occasionally startling us every once in a while.
It is frenetic, fluid, and dazzlingly fun, and it wipes the floor in terms of pure gameplay mechanics with absolutely every other pretender on this list. One second you're slapping an angel out of the sky, the next you've switched to your guns, then you're cartwheeling around, and suddenly you're forming an enormous stilettoed heel with your hair and smacking enemies to kingdom come. The only reason more people haven't copied it is because they simply don't know how.