The PS2 has a number of beloved hack-and-slash games, many of which are classics that endure as franchises to this day. Whether it’s demon juggling devil may crythe army killed Dynasty Warriorsor the brutal destruction of ancient Greece seen in god of warPS2 has many variations of running into a room full of enemies and ripping them apart.
However, these were not the only titles from that era. As the genre grew in popularity, a number of developers wanted in on the action, but their efforts weren’t quite as successful. Many hack and slash games remain forgotten, whether due to lack of re-releases or modern attention, and it might be worth looking back at some of these forgotten titles.
9/9 Rygar: The Legendary Adventure
Originally an arcade side scroller from the 80s, the original Rygar saw players control a legendary Greco-Roman warrior wielding a chain weapon with a shield on the end as he fought his way through hordes of evil creatures. The Legendary adventure was an attempt to revive the series on the PS2, switching the action to a 3D hack-and-slash style.
A cursory look at Rygar may indicate that it was trying to cash in on the success of god of war, with its Greek mythology-inspired locations and a retractable chain weapon. However, it was released three years before Sony’s game, but failed to capture the same kind of attention at the time. It received a remake for the Wii, but it was poorly received and the game quickly disappeared.
8/9 Chaos Legion
devil may cry is one of the PS2’s most beloved hack and slash titles, arguably the one that started the entire genre, and one that inspired many copycats along with its own many sequels. One of these similar games, oddly enough, came from Capcom itself.
Chaos Legion is a similar gothic combo-heavy action game where the goal is to fight hordes of demons. But where it differs significantly from devil may cry is in the game’s use of titular legions, creatures that can be summoned to fight alongside the player to even out the numbers. However, this was not enough to stop the game from receiving a mixed reception and the game would fall into obscurity.
7/9 Bujingai: The Abandoned City
Imagine if devil may cry replaced Dante with a Japanese pop idol and former Malice Mizer member Gackt. That seems to be the promise made by Bujingai, a hack and slash game set in a demon-infested Chinese city with a story that combined sci-fi and classic martial arts films. Gackt played Lau Wong, a demon hunter with magical powers defending the last bastion of humanity in a post-apocalyptic world.
It featured stylish animation, interesting environments, and a solid combo system that saw it receive a decent reception upon launch. There was even talk of a sequel and even an MMO based on the IP, but none of these materialized.
6/9 van Helsing
With all these devil may cry clones floating around, it was inevitable that one of these would be a licensed tie-in game. van Helsing is effectively fair DMC but replaced Dante with a poorly rendered Hugh Jackman in a trench coat, as the game was based on the 2004 film of the same name. Naturally, the main character is the monster hunter Van Helsing as he travels the world in search of a series of supernatural targets.
While others DMC clones made an attempt to differentiate van Helsing the game did not, with suspiciously similar animations, a combination of sword and gun as primary weapons, and similar gothic environments. This worked in its favor, but while reviews were mixed, a few considered it a decent game to fill the gap before DMC3 was released, and many reviewers considered it an improvement on the film it was based on.
5/9 Genji: Dawn Of The Samurai
Sony’s 2006 E3 conference is infamous for many reasons, but one of the main sources of ridicule was the demo of Genji: Days of the Blade, which famously featured a “giant enemy crab” in historical battles “that actually took place in ancient Japan.” For better or for worse, this is the game’s legacy, notorious for a meme while few seem to know much about the quality of the game itself.
What’s even less known about it is that it’s actually a sequel to a PS2 hack and slash called Dawn of the Samurai, based on a traditional Japanese epic. It’s also a decent samurai game with combo-heavy combat and a decent helping of magical abilities. It’s just a shame it’s been overshadowed by the sequel’s poor E3 presentation.
4/9 The mark of Kri
god of war was a brilliant PS2 hack and slash, one that won over fans with its brutal combat and Greek mythology stylings, to the point where it soon became one of Sony’s biggest franchises. However, it wasn’t the first attempt by a first-party PlayStation studio to create a solid hack and slash. That honor goes to The mark of Kri from Sony’s San Diego Studio, which was released three years prior.
A much more methodical game than god of war, The mark of Kri featured a complex combat system, incredible Disney-influenced animation, and a Polynesian-inspired visual style that stood out. It did well enough to get a sequel, Rise of the Kasaibut beyond that, it has since been overshadowed by its first-party peer.
Vampires were a big deal in the early 2000s, so it was inevitable that someone would have a hack and slash about hacking through vampire hordes before too long. Bloodrayne played a vampire hunter trying to track down his vampire father while fighting Nazis.
It did reasonably well at the time, but its visual design and writing were very much of the time, and it hasn’t had much lasting influence. However, it is notable for being the first major role for video game voice acting legend Laura Bailey.
2/9 Night shadow
Every studio in the 80s had a ninja game. While Tecmo had their massive Ninja Gaiden franchise, Sega brought its strong contender, Shinobi. It was a great series that had a lot of success on the Master System and Genesis, but then disappeared for most of the 90s. It returned in 2002, but with the simple title Shinobiwhich received rave reviews.
Less well remembered, however, is its immediate follow-up, Night shadow. Featuring a female counterpart to the main character in the previous game, Night shadow continued with similar gameplay and story, but failed to attract the same attention as its immediate predecessor. Since then, the series has made few appearances, with the PS2 games not receiving remasters even while the earlier games appear on retro compilations constantly.
Most of the games on this list have been forgotten due to an initially poor critical and commercial reception, but Onimusha is different. An early hack and slash for the PS2, Onimusha was initially a hit, and spawned three sequels, one of which managed to find popular French actor Jean Reno as a second playable character.
Set in feudal Japan, the player fights demons as a samurai, and sometimes as a female ninja assistant. The series was acclaimed at the time, but has gradually faded in importance over time as Capcom has focused its attention on other franchises. Based on the reception at the time, a reboot or revival might be worth looking into on modern systems.
MORE: Underrated Take-Two games that have been forgotten