As obvious as the formula might sound now, there was a time when the Monster Hunter series was the only place where you could experience a truly epic fight against massive beasts. The series had been plugging along, garnering a hardcore fanbase, but finally exploded in popularity with Monster Hunter World, which brought the series back onto multiple platforms after a run of Nintendo exclusive entries. The latest game, Monster Hunter Rise, heads back into exclusivity on Nintendo Switch, leaving many new fans who played it on consoles with a monster-sized hole to fill.
As popular as the Switch is, there’s no getting around the fact that a huge number of players got hooked on the Monster Hunter formula, and were eager for more, only to be disappointed that the follow-up is exclusive to a system they don’t have access to. All is not lost, however, because this once small hunting genre has grown quite a bit, with many other games putting their own spin on the formula. Looking across all platforms, we’ve found the best games like Monster Hunter you can play right now, including some surprising picks you might not have thought of.
One of the closest imitators to Monster Hunter there is the free-to-play Dauntless. The primary differences come in the form of the more stylish and animated art style, and the fact that it is, you know, free. Being free, and not developed by a massive company, there isn’t as much diversity as its inspirations. There are just a little over 20 monsters, called behemoths in this game, and six weapon types to experiment with. Those may seem like small numbers, but Dauntless aims more for depth of content rather than width. Hunts are multi-part affairs, there’s tons of gear to craft, and an elemental armor system to manage. It is essentially a smaller-scale version of all the major elements found in Monster Hunter.
If being free wasn’t enough to encourage you to at least give Dauntless a try, add in the fact that it fully supports cross-play with every other platform. As long as you have friends with any device this game runs on, you can all boot it up and get that hunting fix together with no investment. And for anyone concerned about the microtransactions (which this game certainly needs to make money, after all) they’re nothing to worry about. All you can buy with real money are cosmetic items that don’t give any advantages or lock you out of content.
This game was originally a PS Vita title (RIP), but was thankfully also released on the PS4 and PC. If Monster Hunter were Dark Souls, then Toukiden 2 would be Nioh. By that we mean it is a more Japanese-themed version of the same formula, and boy does it work. Rather than traditional beasts that look like a mix of dinosaurs and Eastern creatures of myth, Toukiden 2 has you hunting down a varied roster of Oni. The game is also completely open-world, rather than broken up into zones, making the hunting actually feel like you’re actually tracking something down. Crafting is here, of course, and there are tons of weapons, items, and gear to create.
A possible point against Toukiden 2 is that it is a bit older, and a port of a Vita title, so isn’t the best-looking game around. It isn’t bad looking, but don’t expect World levels of fidelity. Also, there’s no cross-play between PC and PS4, only console and Vita, assuming you were able to get it before the store closure. Otherwise, this is a faster-paced take on the genre with a bigger focus on RPG elements. The biggest Oni require just as much attention and preparation as any monster would, and are just as satisfying to bring down, especially with friends. You can even play a free version to get a taste before committing.
Though far less popular, the God Eater games have always been a direct competitor to the Monster Hunter series. In terms of quality, though, God Eater has been essentially on par with the king ever since it debuted in 2010. The first game was exclusively on the PSP, and the sequel only got a port to PS4 with the second iteration called God Eater 2 Rage Burst, but we finally got an entry built fully for PS4 with 2019’s God Eater 3, and it is by far the most refined entry yet. Rather than a more even split between hunting and fighting, God Eater 3 gets you into those blood-pumping battles much quicker, using a similar zone structure to a Monster Hunter game.
Not many people come to the hunting genre for the story, and you shouldn’t expect a great one from this game either. The addictive nature of the combat, and just how deep those systems get, perfectly pair up with the tried and true formula of taking on a mission, finding the monster, killing the monster, and then return to upgrade your gear to do it all again. You can play with friends, or bring in some decent A.I. companions to help you take down Aragami, the massive beasts that skulk around the destroyed world. Aragami have breakable parts, weaknesses, and are divided up into ranks that represent the challenge and rewards you will get.
This is where the list starts to move away from the direct imitators, regardless of how good they are, and into some other titles not often associated or compared to the Monster Hunter games. Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is split a little heavier on the RPG side than the hunting side, but is possibly more exciting because of it. The one thing it does share with hunting games is the lackluster story that is better off ignored. Combat, on the other hand, is where Dragon’s Dogma really shines, especially when facing a large creature. You have multiple classes to pick from, and can even spec into multiple classes, with different stats and preferences. This is a single-player-only experience, though, so your only company will be your NPC companions.
By now you’re probably wondering how the monster battles actually feel, and again, this is the game’s claim to fame. Monsters are deadly here. They won’t go down easy, and are a refreshing mix of action combat and Shadow of the Colossus style mounting. Sure, on average the monsters you’ll fight in this game are far smaller than the towering hulks of a Monster Hunter proper, but when you climb on a troll’s back, desperately hanging on as you try to sink your blade in while it attempts to throw you off, they feel anything but small.
Read our full Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen review
This game probably needs little introduction, but if you happened to miss Horizon Zero Dawn when it was a PS4 exclusive, it has now at least come to PC as well to make it easier to pick up. Unlike most hunting games, you play as a set character in Horizon, Aloy. She is a skilled hunter, using primarily bows and ranged weapons, in an open world filled with robotic creatures resembling massive dinosaurs. The smaller prey goes down easy enough, but most of the varied enemy types have deep health pools, strengths, resistances, and components you can target to disable moves or use against them. Just like Monster Hunter, you need to have a plan going in before starting a fight with one of these colossal machines.
Unlike a Monster Hunter title, Horizon Zero Dawn is quite story-focused. There are plenty of cutscenes, quests, and side quests to take on as you level up, purchase new armor and weapons, and unlock new skills. The gear system is, at least in comparison to something like Monster Hunter, quite lacking, so don’t expect to be constantly getting, or crafting, new weapons or armor. The variety it does have is at least distinct, with use cases for every type of arrow, bow, and tool you get. It’s perfect for a taste of hunting monsters, only without the long commitment.
Read our full Horizon Zero Dawn review
Shadow of the Colossus Remake is what you get if you boiled down Monster Hunter into the absolute bare minimum of mechanics. There’s no gear to unlock, no levels to gain, ranks to rise through, items to craft, or anything like that. All you have is your sword, bow, horse, and 16 colossi to hunt down one at a time. And it is amazing. By now just about everyone has heard critics and players alike sing the praises of this outstanding game, especially the remake, and for once the hype is warranted. If you don’t get anything else from this symbolically deep experience, it is impossible not to feel the thrill of toppling some of the biggest foes in gaming.
This is by far the shortest game on the list, and compared to any other proper Monster Hunter title, is downright puny. What makes that a benefit is how Shadow of the Colossus cuts out any superfluous elements to make the tightest experience possible. There are no levels, no other objectives, or even other enemies to fight. It’s just you, 16 colossi, and the same gear you start with from beginning to end. You can dive into some bonus modes, like time trials, for some extras, but this game banks everything on how awe-inspiring the core fights are.
Read our full Shadow of the Colossus Remake review
Whether you’re a fan of the anime or not, Attack on Titan 2 is a high-energy, fast-paced, and intense action game pitting you against dozens of giant foes. Titans are your main prey, and mostly appear as massive people, yet are distinctly non-human. Your character is equipped with the iconic omnidirectional gear from the show, essentially giving you the mobility of Spider-Man to zip around environments and reach the angles necessary to bring down a titan with your blades. This is sort of a reverse muso game, where you’re the fragile mobs to the enemies. With your enhanced mobility, though, you can turn the tides and bring down beasts ten times your size.
Attack on Titan 2 has a lot of content packed in. You have a story mode that covers the first two seasons of the show, only featuring your own custom character, Another Mode which allows you to play specific missions as the main cast, Inferno Mode which just amps up the difficulty after completing the story, and Town Life which lets you interact with characters, take on challenge missions, craft new gear. You can also play a few competitive multiplayer modes, as well as cooperatively with friends. Attack on Titan 2 is fast, brutal, and an all-around great time.
Witchers are, by their own definition, monster hunters for hire. So it would only make sense that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt would satisfy at least some of what players want out of a monster-hunting experience. However, that is not this game’s primary goal. The story and lore of this world and characters take center stage here, with dozens or even hundreds of hours of questing and exploring to do. The open world is one of the most realized and engrossing fictional locations ever brought to life in games. Geralt himself, despite allowing some player input, is also a fully fleshed out and compelling protagonist.
So, how is this action RPG fit in with other monster hunting games? Well, hunting monsters is certainly a part of the experience. Some main quests will pit you against the most exciting and large monsters, though nothing unreasonably big, but hunting side quests are Geralt’s specialty. In each case you will need to learn about your prey, what they are, what weaknesses you can exploit, and then prepare yourself with the appropriate signs, or spells, oils, weapons, potions, and armor. Most need to be tracked down using your Witcher sense too, which is also very similar to how tracking works in Monster Hunter World. If you enjoy seeing all your prep work come to fruition in a hunt, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will give you that satisfaction in spades.
Read our full Witcher 3: Wild Hunt review
Hang on, hear us out on this one. Yes, Destiny 2 is a shooter. No, there are no traditional “monsters” as you would expect, but mechanically this online shooter probably has more in common with the monster hunter formula than you might expect. First up, and the biggest similarity, is the loot grind. Destiny 2 is all about getting better loot, whether it be weapons or armor, to slowly increase your overall power so you can take on tougher missions. Sound familiar? Just replace your swords, spears, hammers, and bows with assault rifles, snipers, shotguns, and pistols. Throw in the unique character classes and abilities, and of course the rock-solid gameplay, and you have a time sink just as deep as any Monster Hunter.
Then there are all the end game activities, such as raids. While not hunts in a traditional sense, they are long, coordinated gauntlets of puzzles, combat, and boss fights against some massive enemies at the end. These are just as intricate and require as much smart play, teamwork, and knowledge as the best hunts. Plus, Bungie is fantastic about providing regular updates and tweaks to the game. New content, events, quests, and expansions are released regularly so you’ll always have a reason to come back. Oh, and you can do most of it completely free.
Read our full Destiny 2 review
Dragalia Lost lets you take your monster hunting experience wherever you go on your smartphone of choice. It has a simple, yet cute, art style and isn’t very deep in terms of gameplay mechanics, but serves perfectly well for the platform it’s on. You are brought into the land of Alberia, where dragons roam the world. As a member of the royal family, you have the special ability to form a pact with dragons to transform yourself into a dragon during combat. The protagonist, Euden, is one such person and the game’s plot follows him on his quest to complete his Dragon Selection Trial. The setup is simple enough and spans 14 chapters. Combat, again, relies on just a few touch controls to get the job done but would only be frustrating if it tried to pack in too many moves or mechanics.
The gameplay is broken up into individual missions, each of which you and your party of three companions will fight your way through a dungeon and ultimately face off against a boss at the end. You can control each member of your party, swapping at any time, and utilize their unique special moves including the ability to become a massive dragon temporarily. Your party can be A.I. controlled, or you can team up with real people online. It might sound like just another mobile RPG, but Draglia Lost is close enough to Monster Hunter that the game had an official crossover collaboration called Primal Crisis. This introduced the ability to form a pact with Rathalos, earn weapons based on the Rathalos set, and two characters wearing the Kirin and Rathalos armor sets.
- The best shows to binge-watch on Netflix right now
- Best cheap PS Plus deals for August 2021
- Best cheap Xbox One controller deals for August 2021
- Monster Hunter Rise is getting a surprise Okami crossover
- What is Affinity in Monster Hunter Rise?