There’s no better feeling in video games than watching as your constant button-mashing gets converted into chains of overpowered attacks on-screen.
Whether it’s juggling enemies with Dante’s iconic Ebony and Ivory pistols or ripping foes to shreds with Kratos’ Blades of Chaos, it’s easy to love these stylish and satisfying hack and slash games.
In this list, we’ll be sharing our top picks for the best hack and slash games to play in 2021 across all major platforms.
While this list focuses on more recent releases, it would be a shame not to include a couple of classics. Make sure to check again in a while, as we will continue to update this list in the future.
And while you’re here, consider reading through our other curated lists:
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Developer: Team Ninja
This year saw the release of a follow-up to Team Ninja’s samurai RPG Nioh. This commercial success is often regarded as one of the best PlayStation exclusives of its generation.
Set during the late 1500s in the Sengoku Era in Japan, Nioh 2 serves as a precursor to the events of the original game and sees you taking on the role of Hide, a half-spirit, half-samurai being. This time, there’s an even wider selection of traditional Japanese weapons to wield, including odachi, kusarigama, and even dual katanas.
They all fall into different playstyle categories and have their quirks, but they’re all very effective at ripping into enemies, human and non-human alike. In addition to a massive 50-hour story campaign, Nioh 2 features a new online co-op mode where up to three players can fight side by side as they try to take down suped-up yokai bosses.
Skul: The Hero Slayer
Developer: SouthPAW Games
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of all the 2D rogue-like platformer games that have recently come out. However, if we had to recommend one, it would be Skul: The Hero Slayer, which has a lot in common with Hollow Knight in terms of atmosphere.
What sets Skul apart is the ability to change playstyle on the fly by equipping different skulls to the titular hero’s head. As his name and boney body suggest, Skul is a skeleton, and therefore has a unique approach to combat. In addition to wielding weapons, he’s able to wear and swap between multiple skulls at any given time.
As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock new skulls that affect your damage, attack range, and speed, as well as introducing new unique powers.
This system adds a lot of variety to the game’s combat as you’ll be able to combine and experiment with any combination of skulls you’ve acquired until you find an enjoyable playstyle.
Developer: Airship Syndicate
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
You may already be familiar with the action-adventure series Darksiders, which has been around since 2010 and is comprised of three main games and a spin-off. The series sees you entangled in a war between heaven and hell told from the perspective of different members of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
The reason we’re highlighting Darksiders Genesis is because of how much it benefits from a shift in POV while advancing the story, casting you as the fourth and final horseman, Strife.
The series is traditionally played in third-person. In Genesis, instead, the camera is placed above your player character, offering a top-down perspective reminiscent of classic dungeon crawlers like Diablo. Fans of hack and slash games already know how great it is to be able to see as much of the battlefield as possible.
While it may not be as polished as its numbered predecessors, Genesis delivers the same satisfying combat and progression mechanics that fans have come to expect from the series.
Devil May Cry 5
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Set five years after the events of DMC 4, Devil May Cry 5 tells a brand new story from the perspective of three playable characters. The series’ staple protagonist Dante is joined by the returning demon hunter Nero, and V, one of Dante’s clients, who possesses the ability to conjure familiars by casting spells.
The trio set off on an adventure to defeat the Demon King Urizen before he destroys the mortal realm. While veteran players will appreciate the return of Dante and Nero’s sophisticated fighting styles, newcomer V offers an exciting alternative approach to combat.
Of course, this is still Devil May Cry, so expect to be rated on your hack and slash abilities via a style meter that fills the longer you keep your combo going. This shouldn’t be too hard, considering that the game features an expansive arsenal of demon-killing blades, guns, and gadgets that are just as ridiculous and over-the-top as the characters who wield them.
God of War
Developer: Sony Santa Monica
2018’s God of War focuses more on storytelling while still delivering the exciting, hack and slash inspired combat of the original trilogy. The game sees you stepping into the shoes of the Kratos – aka the Ghost of Sparta – as he explores yet again a massive open-world inspired by Norse mythology.
This time around, he’s accompanied by his young son Atreus, as the pair sets out to mourn the death of their wife and mother by spreading her ashes at the highest peak of the nine realms. Having rid himself of the cursed Blades of Chaos, Kratos wields the magical Leviathan ax during most of the game.
Reminiscent of Thor’s hammer Mjölnir, this ax can be recalled after being thrown and combined with Krato’s other abilities to turn enemies into mincemeat.
Additionally, Atreus lends a hand in the battle with his trustworthy bow and arrow, providing more opportunities to stun enemies before Kratos jumps in to finish the job. With rumors suggesting God of War 5 may currently be in development, this is the perfect time to experience one of the best PlayStation exclusives of all time.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Nier: Automata is a bizarrely wonderful action RPG that features lightning-fast combat and that special PlatinumGames touch that fans have come to expect.
Presented as a sequel to the 2010’s Nier, which belongs to the Drakengard series, Automata sees you taking on the role of a combat android named 2B along with her companion 9S. The two set off to complete a series of combat missions amid a proxy war between human-made androids and alien machines, which quickly escalates.
There are a lot of parts of this game that are hard to get into without spoiling it, since it requires multiple playthroughs to experience the story fully. Along the way, you’ll get to see specific events play out from the perspective of different characters and you’ll encounter gameplay mechanics beyond your standard hack and slash affair.
It’s definitely the weirdest game on this list but it’s well worth the effort if you’ve grown tired of traditional action RPGs and want something different.
Developer: Supergiant Games
Supergiant Games is known for crafting memorable games with great atmospheres, appealing protagonists, and engaging gameplay. Joining the likes of Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre is Hades, a rogue-lite hack and slash game that manages to live up to the studio’s stellar reputation while standing on its own.
The game’s awesome reviews are mainly due to an all-star cast of fully-voiced characters inspired by Greek mythology, including the main protagonist Zagreus, the Prince of Darkness.
Following a rogue-lite structure, the game sees Zagreus on a quest to escape his father, Hades, by navigating the ever-changing depths of the Underworld. Along the way, you’ll encounter a variety of vile foes and mythological deities who can enhance your powers with special gifts.
The game offers a surprising amount of flexibility when it comes to honing in on your preferred playstyle, including supporting different builds and carrying over any upgrades you’ve unlocked between runs.
The central and most satisfying aspect of Mordhau is its realistic, free-form melee and ranged combat, which offers total control over your character’s movement during battle. This will allow you to experiment and discover new approaches to combat while keeping opponents guessing.
The game features an extensive amount of customization options when it comes to tailoring weapons and armor to your liking. This includes light, medium, and heavy options for protecting each part of your character’s body.
Additionally, you’ll be able to access and unlock a variety of one and two-handed melee weapons such as broadswords and axes, along with an arsenal of long-range options like bows and throwing knives.
Don’t expect the most realistic depiction of medieval combat, considering that hack and slash games are designed to make you feel ridiculously powerful.
Developer: Motion Twin
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Android, iOS
Dead Cells is a 2D platformer rogue-lite that revolves around exploring procedurally-generated dungeons in search of blueprints used to craft better gear. However, finding these schematics is no easy task, due to mobs of tough-as-nails enemies that wander the dungeon’s sprawling levels.
Following each death, the game transports you right back to the start, only this time, with a little more resources than in the previous run.
At the heart of Dead Cells, you’ll find a challenging Dark Souls-inspired combat system that rewards you for learning enemy attack patterns and how to respond accordingly.
These features are complemented by a wide selection of craftable weapons and unlockable perks designed to help you keep pushing forward. Dead Cell’s addictive gameplay loop will see you risking it all just to see how far you can make it without dying.
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Originally released back in 2012, the game sees you playing as one of seven possible character classes before setting off on a quest to defeat the Lord of Terror himself, Diablo. Along the way, you’ll encounter and defeat droves of enemies and bosses while increasing your power.
Most will already be familiar with the series’ iconic gameplay loop: explore procedurally generated levels, defeat waves of enemies, and pray till your hands are sore for god-tier loot drops.
Diablo III greatly benefited from a host of improvements made over the years, along with two expansion – Rise of the Necromancer and Reaper of Souls, both of which come bundled with various editions of the game.
Developer: Crate Entertainment
Platforms: Xbox One, PC
Last but not least, we have 2016’s Grim Dawn. This action RPG owes a lot to Diablo in regards to gameplay structure and presentation.
Taking place in a dark fantasy setting inspired by the Victorian era, the game casts you as a member of a resistance caught between two rival supernatural forces. Your journey sees you attempting to rebuild civilization by rescuing survivors and collaborating with other rebels.
There are two aspects of Grim Dawn that help set it apart, and that led us to include it on this list.
For one, the game features a dual-class system that allows you to combine skills from six distinct archetypes to create a more personalized playstyle. Secondly, Grim Dawn’s quest structure takes on a more immersive role-playing approach, presenting you with varied outcomes based on your interactions with different factions.