Hack and slash

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Hack and slash, also known as hack and slay (H&S or HnS) or slash 'em up, [1] [2] refers to a type of gameplay that emphasizes combat with melee-based weapons (such as swords or blades). They may also feature projectile-based weapons as well (such as guns) as secondary weapons. It is a sub-genre of beat 'em up games, which focuses on melee combat, usually with swords. Hack-and-slash action games are sometimes known as character action games.


The term "hack and slash" was originally used to describe a play style in tabletop role-playing games, carrying over from there to MUDs, massively multiplayer online role-playing games, and role-playing video games. In arcade and console style action video games, the term has an entirely different usage, specifically referring to action games with a focus on real-time combat with hand-to-hand weapons as opposed to guns or fists. The two types of hack-and-slash games are largely unrelated, though action role-playing games may combine elements of both.

Types of hack-and-slash games

Action video games

In the context of action video games, the terms "hack and slash" or "slash 'em up" [1] [2] refer to melee weapon-based action games that are a sub-genre of beat 'em ups. Traditional 2D side-scrolling examples include Taito's The Legend of Kage (1985) [2] and Rastan (1987), [1] [3] Sega's arcade video game series Shinobi (1987 debut) [1] [4] and Golden Axe (1989 debut), [5] [6] Data East's arcade game Captain Silver (1987), [1] Tecmo's early Ninja Gaiden (Shadow Warriors) 2D games (1988 debut), [1] Capcom's Strider (1989), [2] [7] the Sega Master System game Danan: The Jungle Fighter (1990), [1] Taito's Saint Sword (1991), [1] Vivid Image's home computer game First Samurai (1991), [2] and Vanillaware's Dragon's Crown (2013). [4] The term "hack-and-slash" in reference to action-adventure games dates back to 1987, when Computer Entertainer reviewed The Legend of Zelda and said it had "more to offer than the typical hack-and-slash" epics. [8]

In the early 21st century, journalists covering the video game industry often use the term "hack and slash" to refer to a distinct genre of 3D, third-person, weapon-based, melee action games. Examples include Capcom's Devil May Cry , Onimusha , and Sengoku Basara [9] franchises, Koei Tecmo's Dynasty Warriors and 3D Ninja Gaiden games, Sony's Genji: Dawn of the Samurai and God of War , as well as Bayonetta , Darksiders , Dante's Inferno , [10] [11] [12] and No More Heroes . The genre is sometimes known as "character action" games, and represent a modern evolution of traditional arcade action games. This subgenre of games was largely defined by Hideki Kamiya, creator of Devil May Cry and Bayonetta. [13] In turn, Devil May Cry (2001) was influenced by earlier hack-and-slash games, including Onimusha: Warlords (2001) [14] and Strider. [15] [16]

Role-playing games

The term "hack and slash" itself has roots in "pen and paper" role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), denoting campaigns of violence with no other plot elements or significant goal. The term itself dates at least as far back as 1980, as shown in a Dragon article by Jean Wells and Kim Mohan which includes the following statement: "There is great potential for more than hacking and slashing in D&D or AD&D; there is the possibility of intrigue, mystery and romance involving both sexes, to the benefit of all characters in a campaign." [17]

Hack and slash made the transition from the tabletop to role-playing video games, usually starting in D&D-like worlds. [18] This form of gameplay influenced a wide range of action role-playing games, including games such as Xanadu , [19] and Diablo . [20]

See also

Related Research Articles

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Player character</span> Character controlled by a game player

A player character is a fictional character in a video game or tabletop role-playing game whose actions are controlled by a player rather than the rules of the game. The characters that are not controlled by a player are called non-player characters (NPCs). The actions of non-player characters are typically handled by the game itself in video games, or according to rules followed by a gamemaster refereeing tabletop role-playing games. The player character functions as a fictional, alternate body for the player controlling the character.

<i>Shinobi</i> (1987 video game) 1987 video game

Shinobi (忍) is a side-scrolling hack and slash video game produced by Sega, originally released for arcades on the Sega System 16 board in 1987. The player controls ninja Joe Musashi, to stop the Zeed terrorist organization from kidnapping students of his clan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Action game</span> Video game genre

An action game is a video game genre that emphasizes physical challenges, including hand–eye coordination and reaction time. The genre includes a large variety of sub-genres, such as fighting games, beat 'em ups, shooter games, and platform games. Multiplayer online battle arena and some real-time strategy games are also considered action games.

Dante (<i>Devil May Cry</i>) Fictional character in the Devil May Cry series

Dante, also known under the alias of Tony Redgrave, is a character and the main protagonist in Devil May Cry, an action-adventure hack and slash video game series by Japanese developer and publisher Capcom. Introduced as the protagonist of the 2001 game with the same name, Dante is a devil hunter dedicated to exterminating them and other supernatural foes in revenge for losing his mother Eva and having his twin brother, Vergil, lost. He is the son of Sparda, inheriting demonic powers which he uses with a variety of weapons in the games. After returning to the Demon World, he along with his brother Vergil are the current undisputed rulers of demon world. The character also appears in several Devil May Cry novels and manga volumes and is featured in the 2007 anime television series. Dante has also made multiple guest appearances in crossover games. Since 2005, he has been portrayed in voice acting and motion capture by Reuben Langdon.

<i>Strider</i> (1989 arcade game) 1989 platforming video game

Strider, released in Japan as Strider Hiryū, is a hack-and-slash platform game released in arcades in 1989 by Capcom. Strider is set in a dystopian future with a wide range of settings that affect gameplay. The game resulted from cooperation between Capcom and manga publisher Moto Kikaku. It marked the video game debut of Strider Hiryu, after the character was introduced in the 1988 manga Strider Hiryu.

<i>Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara</i> 1996 arcade game

Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara is an arcade game developed and published by Capcom in 1996 as a sequel to Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom. The game is set in the Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting of Mystara.

<i>Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom</i> 1994 arcade game

Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom, published in 1994, is the first of two arcade games created by Capcom based on the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop role-playing game and set in the Mystara campaign setting. It is a side scrolling beat 'em up with some role-playing video game elements for one to four players. The game was also released on the Sega Saturn, packaged with its sequel, Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara, under the title Dungeons & Dragons Collection, although the Saturn version limited the gameplay to only two players. In 2013, both games were re-released for modern platforms as Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Beat 'em up</span> Video game genre

The beat 'em up is a video game genre featuring hand-to-hand combat against a large number of opponents. Traditional beat 'em ups take place in scrolling, two-dimensional (2D) levels, while a number of modern games feature more open three-dimensional (3D) environments with yet larger numbers of enemies. The gameplay tends to follow arcade genre conventions, such as being simple to learn but difficult to master, and the combat system tends to be more highly developed than other side-scrolling action games. Two-player cooperative gameplay and multiple player characters are also hallmarks of the genre. Most of these games take place in urban settings and feature crime-fighting and revenge-based plots, though some games may employ historical, science fiction or fantasy themes.

<i>Knights of the Round</i> (video game) 1991 video game

Knights of the Round is an arcade game released by Capcom in 1991. A side-scrolling beat 'em up based loosely on the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, the game features an action role-playing video game-like level advancement system, with fighters automatically being upgraded to new weapons and armor as they advance through the game. In September 13, 2018, Capcom announced Capcom Beat 'Em Up Bundle with Knights of the Round being one of seven titles and being released digitally for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows on September 18, 2018.

<i>Magic Sword</i> (video game) 1990 video game

Magic Sword, fully titled as Magic Sword: Heroic Fantasy, is a side-scrolling fantasy hack-and-slash game released by Capcom for arcades in 1990. The game casts the player as a hero who must fight his way through a mystical tower in order to save the world. The player can use a sword, axe or magic, and can also rescue and recruit potential allies of various character classes, each of which has its own special abilities. Three years earlier, Capcom had released the similar Black Tiger.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Side-scrolling video game</span> Video game genre

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<i>The Punisher</i> (1993 video game) 1993 arcade game

The Punisher is a 1993 beat 'em up arcade game developed and released by Capcom. It stars the Marvel Comics' antihero the Punisher and co-stars S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury as the second player's character as they embark on a mission to kill the crime lord the Kingpin and bring down his organization. While following the same general formula as Capcom's previous beat 'em ups, the game has a range of usable weapons and a comics-style presentation.

Hideki Kamiya is a Japanese video game designer and director who is the vice-president of PlatinumGames. He began his career in 1994 with Capcom, where he directed Resident Evil 2 (1998), Devil May Cry (2001), Viewtiful Joe (2003), and Ōkami (2006). From 2004 to 2006, he worked for the Capcom subsidiary Clover Studio. After leaving Capcom, Kamiya and other former staff members founded PlatinumGames in 2006, where he has served as vice-president since 2017. His projects with PlatinumGames include Bayonetta (2009) and The Wonderful 101 (2013).

Devil May Cry is an action-adventure game franchise created by Hideki Kamiya. It is primarily developed and published by Capcom. The series centers on the demon hunter Dante and his efforts to thwart various demon invasions of Earth. Its gameplay consists of combat scenes in which the player must attempt to extend long chains of attacks, avoiding damage and exhibiting stylized combat by varying their attacks; this combat, along with time and the number of items collected and used, are considered in grading the player's performance. Across the series, new characters with unique skills are available.

<i>Devil May Cry</i> (video game) 2001 video game

Devil May Cry is a 2001 action-adventure game developed and published by Capcom. Released from August to December, originally for the PlayStation 2, it is the first installment in the Devil May Cry series. Set in modern times on the fictional Mallet Island, the story centers on Dante, a demon hunter who uses his business to carry out a lifelong vendetta against all demons. He meets a woman named Trish who takes him on a journey to defeat the demon lord Mundus, who is responsible for the deaths of Dante's brother and mother. The story is told primarily through a mixture of cutscenes, which use the game engine and several pre-rendered full motion videos. The game is very loosely based on the Italian poem Divine Comedy by the use of allusions, including the game's protagonist Dante and other characters like Trish and Vergil (Virgil).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Strider Hiryu</span> Fictional character

Strider Hiryu is a fictional character jointly owned by Capcom and Moto Kikaku. Although primarily known as a game character, Hiryu debuted in 1988 as the protagonist of a Japan-exclusive manga titled Strider Hiryu, published by Kadokawa Shoten.

<i>Rastan</i> (video game) 1987 videogame

Rastan Saga, known as Rastan in North America, is a side-scrolling hack and slash video game released by Taito for arcades in 1987. It was a critical and commercial success and was ported to home platforms.


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