The Top Five Hack and Slash Heroes
The hack and slash videogame has to be one of the best go-to genres for catharsis – nothing is better than picking up a sword or and just laying into a group of dumbasses.
Its wish-fulfillment, it’s stress release – and sometimes we get a good story out of it too. The best in the genre are those with the finest protagonists, the ones with well-rounded stories – or at the very least, the ones who are the most entertaining. Check out the list and tell us if you agree!
Raiden – Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Dante – DmC (new continuity)
Ryu Hayabusa – Ninja Gaiden
Samanosuke Akechi – Onimusha
Kratos (God of War)
“If all those on Olympus would deny me my vengeance, then all of Olympus will die.”
One of the biggest badasses in gaming, Kratos made a name for himself by tearing through virtually the entire Greek Pantheon, eventually culminating in a showdown with the mighty Zeus. Kratos, himself named after a minor god of strength, also beat down several heroes, such as Theseus and the mighty Herakles, and even managed to take down the one being who – in mythology at least – was actually stronger than all of the Olympians – the primeval god of death, Thanatos – the guy who was, essentially, the ancient Greek Grim Reaper.
Kratos himself became relatively one-dimensional over the course of his games – the gods became the reason we played – we wanted to see the spectacle of the gods and the titans, and of course, to BE Kratos as he roars and tear them apart, but the sympathetic nature this badass anti-hero had wore away about halfway through God of War II. It isn’t that much of a stretch to see Kratos as the playable VILLAIN in the third and final game… although that’s rather fun, too.
Death (Darksiders II)
Crowfather: “Your sarcasm is unwelcome here, Horseman.”
Death: “Pity. It seems determined to follow me everywhere.”
The sequel to the acclaimed Darksiders, Darksiders II puts players into the shoes of the mightiest of the four horsemen, Death. The game, from a storyline perspective, is less of a sequel and more of an “interquel”, the game’s events taking place at around the same time as the events of the first game – we periodically receive word of War’s actions, reflecting more or less what he was doing in the first game. It’s an interesting take, certainly, and we get to see the immediate consequences of the first game’s actions. Death as a character is arguably better written than the always gruff and serious War from the first game (though War has his moments). Death is quite possibly one of the snarkiest characters in gaming, able to beat the living hell out of anything he comes across and then exchange sarcastic quips with most powerful entities in the universe like a champ.
The game itself is far more beautiful than its predecessor, leaving behind the ravaged and war-torn earth and blazing across several plains of creation, across expansive levels that really requires you to call upon your horse. Sometimes these traversals take a tad too long, until you take a moment to realize, as you’re tearing across the beautiful verdant calm lands, that you’re the frickin leader of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, and it’s a hell of a sight to see him, scythe in hand, upon his horse Despair.
I reckon the sight is enough to make anything – angel, demon or otherwise – call for their brown pants.
3) Bayonetta (Bayonetta)
“Don’t fuck with a witch!”
Bayonetta stands out in the hack-and-slash market for being one of the few games in the genre to actively feature a female protagonist – just about every other game in this genre features a male protagonist.
The first game’s tale revealed a history presided over by two magical factions – the Lumen Sages and the Umbra Witches. Five hundred years ago, the clans erupted into a civil war that ended in the annihilation of the Sages. Not having enough time to recover from the battle, the Witches were quickly hunted to their own extinction by the angelic laguna and the crazed townspeople of earth. Twenty years ago, Bayonetta, one of the last of the Umbra witches, woke from a magical coma and was immediately set upon by the laguna. Thankfully, her pacts with the the demons of the Inferno still stand, and she uses her power to hunt them down.
She is confident, assertive and undeniably powerful. As a result of this – in addition to the shameless fanservice, and her antiheroic tendencies, the Umbra Witch Bayonetta is considered one of the most important female figures in gaming, right up there with Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft and Metroid‘s Samus.
2) Galen Mark/Starkiller/The Secret Apprentice (The Force Unleashed)
“I bring Darth Vader’s enemies to justice.”
The Force Unleashed was a flawed but fun game that introduced several interesting elements into what was then the Star Wars canon – elements okayed by George Lucas himself. The premise was that Order 66 – the Great Jedi Purge – did not, as we had first assumed, go off without a hitch, and there were several Jedi still in hiding throughout the galaxy. Darth Vader personally hunted these remnants down, and in the process found a child, strong in the force, on the Wookie homeworld of Kashyyyk. Vader adopted the boy and trained him as his secret apprentice, with all of his missions and training geared towards a single goal – to assassinate the Emperor.
Galen Marek, codenamed ‘Starkiller’ (which Lucasart reveals was the first draft of the name ‘Skywalker’) embarked on missions of assassination, proceeding to hunt down the Jedi who escaped Order 66. His fighting style was dynamic and unique – a lightsaber held in reverse grip in the Sith Shien style, and it carried him to victory against three Jedi, including defeating a former member of the Jedi Council. Starkiller’s path, however, was not as simple as Vader would have him believe, and all seemed lost when the Emperor discovered their plans. However Vader set a new course for Starkiller – to begin a rebellion, formed of an alliance of the Empire’s enemies.
A Rebel Alliance, as it were.
With Disney taking the helm of the Star Wars franchise, it’s unclear if the Force Unleashed’s canonicity is still valid, but the game is still memorable for reintroducing some old faces, and giving us a look at what it might have been like if Luke Skywalker had been raised by Darth Vader.
Also, you get to pull a Star Destroyer out of the sky with the force. Nuff said.
1) Dante (Devil May Cry – Original Continuity)
“This party’s gettin’ crazy! Let’s rock!”
The Devil May Cry Franchise has its ups and downs, but most agree that the hero is a definite UP throughout the series. Dante owns a demon-exterminating business, taking on contracts for exterminating demons for money (which he almost never gets). Frequently cracking wise and backing up his snark with masterful swordsmanship and epic gunplay, Dante was irreverent, uncouth, and unquestionably cool. He was also heroic, which, given his demonic heritage, was a lucky break for mankind.
The high point of the series is widely considered to be Devil May Cry 3, lauded for its difficulty and for the many, many hidden mechanics that made discovery an absolute joy. Devil May Cry 3 also showed us what it would have been like if Dante had embraced his demonic heritage by introducing us to his twin brother, Vergil – the aloof, cold, and superior elder brother, who had his own code of honour and his own style of doing things – and who would go to any lengths to gain more power.
The battle the brothers had over the course of the game showcases Dante’s growth – first Dante gets absolutely destroyed by his brother, then Dante manages to fight him to a draw, until finally squeaking a victory out at the end. Dante’s relationship with his brother is highlighted in this game, and considering what happens later, it’s rather sad to see.
Devil May Cry has very many shout-outs to the epic poem Inferno, by Dante Alighieri, many of them cleverly and subtly done, from the devils named after the seven deadly sins, to the mere fact that Vergil is evil. In the poem, Virgil is the one who leads Dante in his journey through hell, but Virgil himself is condemned to to remain in hell, being of the virtuous, but unfortunate to not know the grace of God. Dante affirms himself as a hero in his series by continuing to value his own humanity, as opposed to his brother, who hates it.
Devil May Cry 4 introduces us to a new generation – Nero emerges as the new demon-hunting hero, but he runs into Dante, who, once again, steals the show.
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