Beat em' ups and hack n' slash games have a lot of similar parallels with each other. They are power fantasies all about beating the snot out of hundreds of bad guys at once, making you feel like an unstoppable one-man army. The main difference being one focuses on fisticuffs, and the other focuses on swordplay. Here's our showcase of some of the best brawlers and slashers out for our roundups of best Xbox One games and best Xbox Series X, Series S games. Backward compatibility for Xbox Series X and Series S is available for all Xbox One games on this list.
The over-the-top, demon-slaying, hack n' slash series is back with Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition. The world is under siege from a horde of demons, led by the almighty demon king Urizen. It's up to demon hunters Dante and Nero, accompanied by the mysterious demon summoner known as V, to kick Urizen's butt and send his army back to hell. The Special Edition includes Turbo Mode, Legendary Dark Knight Mode, and Dante's twin brother Vergil as a playable character.
Origins of the Dragon of Dojima
Yakuza 0 is an action-adventure, beat em' up set in 1980s Japan where rival yakuza factions fight for money, property, and power. Step into the roles of two protagonists: Kiryu Kazuma, a rookie yakuza of the Tojo Clan, who is trying to clear his name after being framed for a murder he didn't commit, and Goro Majima, a cabaret owner secretly trying to re-join the Tojo Clan after he was exiled for disobeying orders.
Once more filled with rage
Streets of Rage 4 marks the long-awaited return of Sega's beloved beat em' up series. Retired police officers Axel Stone, Adam Hunter, and Blaze Fielding catch wind of a new criminal organization taking over Wood Oak City. With the police bought out by the crooks, our heroes come out of retirement to save the city themselves. Joined by the punk rocker Cherry Hunter and the wrestling cyborg Iraia Floyd, they set out to save Wood City Oak the way they know best — punching criminal scumbags in the face.
Cut what you will
Platinum Games, known for developing high-octane action games like Bayonetta and VanQuish, presents Metal Gear Rising, a hack n' slash spin-off of the traditionally stealth-focused Metal Gear series starring fan-favorite cyborg ninja Raiden. After failing to save an African prime minister's life under his protection from the private military company Desperado, he vows to track them and bring them to justice. Slice and dice your way through armies of cyborgs and giant robots to destroy Desperado and uncover a conspiracy that could engulf the world in a bloody war.
Don't mess with a witch
Bayonetta is the poster child for modern, third-person beat em' ups. Step into the gun-heels of Bayonetta, an Umbra Witch with the power to summon demons using her hair and the strength to topple monsters the size of skyscrapers. Seeking to recover her lost memories after being sealed away for 500 years, Bayonetta travels to the city of Vigrid. There she will have to contend with the angels of Paradiso.
The iconic dungeon crawl
Diablo III is the latest entry in Blizzard's top-down, action RPG, hack n' slash series where you raid dungeons for loot and fight onslaughts of magical monstrosities. Pick one of six character classes to explore the world of Sanctuary, and stop an ancient prophesy that would spell doom for the world.
Castle Crashers Remastered is a side-scrolling, hack n' slash where you play as a group of multi-colored knights out to rescue four princesses from the Dark Sorcerer. Form a party of up to four comrades-in-arms in both online and offline co-op to battle all kinds of villains and demons on your wacky quest to defeat the Dark Sorcerer.
Guacamelee! 2 is a beat em' up with a Metroidvania twist. You play as the super-powered luchador Juan Aguacate, and must traverse the fantastical Mexiverse with your repertoire of wrestling moves and suplex the evil forces plotting to erase it from existence. Uppercut bad guys alone or form a tag-team with your friends in four-player local co-op in this high-flying, mind-warping Lucha libre adventure.
High School Dropkick
River City Girls is a side-scrolling beat em' up set in the titular city, which is overrun with violent delinquents. You play as high school girls Misako and Kyoko, who catch wind that their boyfriends Kunio and Riki, the top dogs of River City High, have been kidnapped. So, they decide to break out of school and scour every corner of the city to save them, all while beating the stuffing out of any rival classmate, crook, corrupt cop, or lowlife that stands in their way. Fight your way through the city streets solo, or grab a buddy for two-player local co-op.
Martial arts mayhem
9 Monkeys of Shaolin is a side-scrolling beat em' up where you assume the role of Wei Chung, a Chinese fisherman on a quest to avenge his friends and family who were murdered by evil pirates. Master the martial arts of Shaolin monks and take to the lands of medieval China to bring down those responsible for your loved ones' demise in single player or two-player local co-op.
Shine a light
Torchlight III is a hack n' slash dungeon crawler set in the magical, steampunk world of Novastraia. Pick one of four customizable classes to raid dungeons for powerful treasure to upgrade your character's abilities and your home base into an impenetrable fortress. Defend Novastraia from those seeking to plunder it solo or in four-player co-op online.
The Battletoads are back
Battletoads (2020) is a reboot of the cult classic beat em' up series made by Rare back in the 1990s. Race across the galaxy as the titular toads, fighting to reclaim their lost fame after being locked away for 26 years by the tyrannical 'Topions'. Beat up waves of goons, blast ships in space, and tempt oblivion riding Turbo Bikes solo or in three-player co-op.
Classic brawlers in one package
Back in the day, Capcom dominated the arcades with beat em' ups ready to suck up your quarters with overwhelming numbers of enemies and challenging bosses. Now you can re-live the 1990's arcade experience with the Capcom Beat 'Em Up Bundle. This collection includes Final Fight, Captain Commando, Knights of the Round, Armored Warriors, The King of Dragons, Battle Circuit, and Warriors of Fate. All have been preserved in their original arcade forms and include both local and online cooperative play.
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There are dozens of beat em' ups and hack n' slashes game out there if you want to plow through bad guys. Here are our top picks to cut loose on.
Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition contains everything that made the standard version great and adds even more. It features a surprisingly well-written story that pays homage to the franchise's history and wraps several loose plot threads from previous entries. The combat system makes you feel like a god, being able to pull off insane, seemingly never-ending combos to bring even the most challenging demons to their knees. Not to mention there's a rocking soundtrack that dynamically changes depending on how well you're performing in combat. With the Special Edition's inclusion of the fan-favorite Vergil as a playable character, the speed-enhancing Turbo Mode, and Legendary Dark Knight, which pits against you fighting dozens of enemies, this the definitive edition of one of the greatest comebacks in gaming history.
While Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance may not have the tactical espionage of its main series brethren, it retains all the eccentric characters, political commentary, and over-the-top drama Metal Gear is known for but through a different lens. The combat system is superb, with loads of challenging enemies and memorable bosses to sink your sword into. Especially when you activate Blade Mode which allows you to hack off enemy limbs and reduce them into a satisfying pile of scrap.
Yakuza 0 is a strange and compelling beast of a game. It is a serious and dark crime drama with the over-the-top storytelling of an anime, complete with quirky, hilarious, and even heart-warming side stories. With two strong lead characters, a tight combat system, and a giant city to explore, Yakuza 0 is definitively worth visiting the dangerous streets of Kamurocho.
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Alexander Cope is a gaming veteran of 30-plus years, primarily covering PC and Xbox games here on Windows Central. Gaming since the 8-bit era, Alexander's expertise revolves around gaming guides and news, with a particular focus on Japanese titles from the likes of Elden Ring to Final Fantasy. Alexander is always on deck to help our readers conquer the industry's most difficult games — when he can pry himself away from Monster Hunter that is!