Starting humbly as a hidden gem from Japan, Monster Hunter has slowly grown in popularity since its success on the 3DS and Wii U, only bolstered by the release of Monster Hunter: World, which brought a whole new crowd to what was once a niche grind-em-up boss bananza.
For a lot of players, World is their first encounter with the series, while others have been around since the 3DS days with YouTube’s Game Grumps Present: Hunting Monsters, and some even longer with the archaic Playstation releases and PSP breakouts. Regardless of where players fit in, there’s a lot to love about the franchise, and a pretty big backlog of under-the-radar games that deserve a lot more love than they found on initial release.
11 Monster Hunter (68)
The original beast was obviously a bit of a hard sell for new audiences, seeing as this is the first installment in a famously hard-to-master series.
With its intense gameplay loop, often clunky controls, and big-time-grind, it’s no surprise that the first entry has its fair share of quirks to work out. Nonetheless, the game has an undeniable charm, and revolutionary mechanics and animations for something of its era.
10 Monster Hunter Freedom (71)
Monster Hunter Freedom was the series’ first port to a handheld console, which made a huge difference when it came to the games’ most core components, multiplayer. The series is known for highlighting fellowship over all else, bringing players together to hunt the seismic beasts with unadulterated cooperation and team chemistry.
The handheld aspect was a huge proponent for this concept, allowing players to bring their consoles with them to group up with friends on the go, without needing to configure complex servers or LAN parties.
9 Monster Hunter Freedom 2 (72)
The sequel to the handheld classic only proved to enhance the experience of the original, bringing more content to the game’s classic formula. The PSP game builds on the PS2’s Japanese exclusive version, adding over 50% more content, with 100% of the addictive gameplay the series was becoming known for.
While still relatively low on the critics’ list, the Freedom games remain fan favorites, some still finding ways to play with friends over emulators and ad hoc servers.
8 Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (79)
The first of the Ultimate era, MH3U was also the first game to return to the handheld formula, releasing on the 3DS and Wii U and continuing the series’ Nintendo exclusivity.
3U had an interesting islander charm, challenging pro players and Tri returners with new underwater monsters, swimming mechanics, and a bigger-than-ever roster of beautifully designed monsters and weapons in the new coastal-themed environment. 3U was a first for a lot of players who maybe didn’t know about the series until its new advertising campaigns and more accessible appearance.
7 Monster Hunter Stories (79)
Stories was a point of tension for a lot of players, seeing as how absolutely different it is from the rest of the franchise. The series, while cute in its own moments, was never known for being particularly vivid in its presentation.
What came out of this venture, however, surprised quite a few of us, providing an adorable simplified look into the universe, somewhat more akin to Pokemon rather than the traditional dragon-slayer style. Stories is still regarded by many as one of the best games on the 3DS, if not in the franchise as a whole.
6 Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate (80)
MHGU, while being a bit of a disappointment for Switch owners who wanted a new title, is still a fantastic addition to the series, bringing the cross-generational effort to the big screen (as well as an easier-to-control handheld one).
Though it’s more or less a direct port of the 3DS version, and the graphics took a toll for it, a lot of players’ biggest gripe with this entry is that it wasn’t World. Classic fans regard this as a Switch favorite for its accessibility and gameplay enhancements, an equal amount found themselves frustrated with the differences in difficulty between this and World, expecting it to be a bit more pandering to Western newcomers and PC pro gamers.
5 Monster Hunter Freedom Unite (81)
One of the best in the series, as well as one of the best games on the PSP, MHFU was a fantastically addictive enhancement to the former games. Hitting right at the peak of handheld multiplayer gaming, Freedom Unite was the last to debut on the Playstation, transitioning with its next entry onto the Wii only a year later.
Freedom Unite boasts over 500 hours of gameplay, the biggest so far, and brings out a cast of new monsters and environments to challenge players, as well as new weapons and equipment to optimize stats for any situation.
4 Monster Hunter Tri (84)
The first on Nintendo consoles, Monster Hunter Tri released on the Wii in 2010, the first since the original to launch exclusively on home consoles. Tri brings players a living, breathing coastal ecosystem, with new creatures and mechanics to challenge hunters with their AI companion, Cha-Cha, the predecessor to the felyne companions we’re familiar with today.
Between hunting and trapping, players can join with a friend for split-screen couch co-op, or up to three others online through Nintendo’s servers as they confront some of the most creative and crafty monsters yet.
3 Monster Hunter Generations (85)
The 3DS counterpart to Gen Ultimate, the two of which perfectly sandwiched the release of World on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. As previously discussed, a lot of players and critics unfamiliar with the series expected the Switch port of Gen Ultimate to be a continuation of World’s more accessible mechanics, meaning Gen Ultimate got much less positive reviews than Generations on the 3DS, as audiences expected something much different than the classic MonHun formula refurbished for Nintendo’s next-generation console.
In reality, fans accept MHGU as being a superior game to MHG, seeing as the 3DS’ control scheme is infamously difficult, and the Switch added a new level of ease when it came to camera controls and movement.
2 Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (86)
This was the point where Monster Hunter was starting to get increasingly interesting, taking hold of its classic campy charm and bringing in several fun collaborative efforts to try and appeal to new audiences.
With the much-anticipated addition of new weapons and a more vivid visual style than Tri, 4 brought players into a more fun and fast-paced version of the world, replacing the verticality of the previous games’ swimming mechanics with an aerial fighting style with the Insect Glaive. Between 4 and Generations, Monster Hunter was really finding its stride, and brought in quite a few new Western players before World hit the US by storm.
1 Monster Hunter: World (88)
Everybody knows the story of Monster Hunter: World’s success. It’s one of the biggest games of the generation, and popularized the previously niche franchise with a bigger game than ever before, simplifying and adapting a lot of the games’ core mechanics to make the game easier on new players, and bringing the series back to its roots on the Playstation, with the addition of Xbox and PC ports.
Obviously, World is a fantastic game. Not only one of the best in the series, but one of the best games of all time, World stands as a top-tier example of bringing a franchise to new audiences and next-generations. However, the classic games still deserve a solid look, and with the release of Rise on the Switch later this month, now’s the best time to take a look at some of the series’ best, whether that’s alone or with guildmates.