Codex Gamicus

Hack & slash video games
Basic Information

Hack & slash video games are associate with beat 'em up video games with intense weapon-based combat and a deeper focus on story, and a supposedly natural evolution of the genre as it evolved with the advent of 3D gaming. The 3D hack & slash games also assimilate a variety of Action-Adventure mechanics, with puzzle solving and a story driven plot. The genre was started by games like Golden Axe.


Golden Axe (1989) was acclaimed for its visceral hack & slash action and cooperative mode, and was influential through its selection of multiple protagonists with distinct fighting styles.[1] It was considered one of the strongest beat 'em up titles for its fantasy elements, distinguishing it from the urban settings seen in other beat 'em ups at the time.[2] Other 2D examples include Knights of the Round, The King of Dragons, Dungeons & Dragons Collection, Guardian Heroes and Pirates of the Dark Water. Different games applyed and experimented with three-dimensional third-person combat including Getsu Fuuma Den in 1987, Crossed Swords in 1990, Bushido Blade in 1997, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in 1998, but Rising Zan: The Samurai Gunman in 1999 is the closest to the first 3D example of a melee sword oriented combat focused game.

The Dynasty Warriors series, beginning with Dynasty Warriors 2 in 2000, offered beat 'em up action on large 3D battlefields, displaying dozens of characters on the screen at a time.[3][4] The series to date spans 14 games (including expansions) which players in the West view as overly similar, although the games' creators claim their large audience in Japan appreciates the subtle differences between the titles.[5][6] While critics saw Dynasty Warriors 2 as innovative and technically impressive,[5][3] they held a mixed opinion of later titles. These later games received praise for simple, enjoyable gameplay but were simultaneously derided as overly simplistic and repetitive.[5][7]

On the 2000s, the beat 'em up genre saw a revival in the form of popular 3D hack & slash games in the style of Devil May Cry (2001 onwards), including Ninja Gaiden (2004 onwards), God of War (2005 onwards), Heavenly Sword (2006), Afro Samurai (2009),[8] and Bayonetta (2009).[9] Action role-playing games such as Odin Sphere (2007), Nier: Automata (2017), Kingdom Hearts III (2019), Honkai Impact 3rd (2016), Tales of Xillia 2 (2012) and Dragon's Dogma (2012) employ third-person hack & slash combat systems.


  1. Kasavin, Greg, Golden Axe Review, GameSpot, Dec 1, 2006, Accessed Mar 19, 2009
  2. Cassidy, William, Hall of Fame: Golden Axe, GameSpy, June 8, 2003. Retrieved March 24, 2009.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Sato, Ike, Dynasty Warriors 2 Review, GameSpot, Aug 17, 2000, Accessed Mar 19, 2009
  4. Villoria, Gerald, Dynasty Warriors 3 Review, GameSpot, Dec 18, 2001, Accessed Mar 19, 2009
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Fitch, Andy, Dynasty Warriors 6 (Xbox 360), 1UP, Mar 7, 2008, Accessed Mar 19, 2009
  6. Nutt, Christian, Interview: How Koei Aims For Western Audiences, GamaSutra, Dec 8, 2008, Mar 19, 2009
  7. Ramsey, Randolph, Dynasty Warriors 6 Review, GameSpot, Mar 28, 2008, Accessed Mar 18, 2009
  8. Arnold Katayev (2009-01-31). Afro Samurai Review. PSX Extreme. Retrieved on 2011-02-26
  9. Jeff Bakalar, Scott Stein and Dan Ackerman (January 4, 2010). Bad hair day: Bayonetta hands-on. Retrieved on 2011-02-26