Monster Hunter is one part role playing game, one part action game, one part MMORPG, and two parts adventure game, cooked by a pack of anthropomorphic cats and lifted from the flames the second it turns a delicious bronze hue, all to the sound of a surprisingly cheerful jingle. So tasty!
Developed and published by Capcom for the PlayStation 2, the original game wasn't as big a success in the United States as it was in Japan, where it still did all right enough to get an expansion. However, the portable version of the game went on to become a Killer App for the PSP in Japan, and the portable sequel versions went on to define the Japanese PSP userbase, even as subsequent sequels also got released on the Wii, Wii U, and Nintendo 3DS (the latter of which finally eclipsed the PSP for a time as the series' main platform).
Monster Hunter is a unique experience. Playing as a hunter assembled from a list of faces, voices, etc., you try to make a name for yourself battling an array of increasingly bigger and nastier creatures that can kick your ass shockingly fast if you're unprepared and/or rush them head-on as if they're Mooks. Each Monster not only has a variety of attacks, but a number of both subtle and overt visual and audio cues to each action, as well as its own status. Recognition of these cues is crucial to properly defeating them. A typical Monster Hunter battle has a graceful Zen-like quality to it, like a bullfight with a 7-ton gorilla (or wyvern, or dragon, or Giant Enemy Crab) should.
The weapons and armor store is pretty weak, and everything they sell will be out of date only a few hours from starting the game. To get better equipment, the player has to assemble their own equipment from parts of fallen monsters as well as activities like combining, mining, fishing and bug collecting.
Players can hunt by themselves, and when doing so in more modern games they can bring along up to two CPU-controlled support characters who perform actions like attacking monsters and performing healing and buffing abilities. In console games, players can go online to hunt together in parties, while portable games have historically eschewed online support in favor of local wireless multiplayer, the idea being that you actually meet with your hunting buddies in person to do quests with them. This changed with Monster Hunter 4, the first portable game to feature online multiplayer and the first game in the entire series to offer both flavors.
Also spawned a manga adaption, called Monster Hunter Orage, written by Mashima Hiro of Fairy Tail and Rave Master fame. A second Manga adaptation called Monster Hunter: Senkou no Kariudo trans is currently being published, written by Keiichi Hikami and illustrated by Shin Yamamoto.
How popular is it? Portable 3rd for the PSP sold over four million copies in Japan alone in a mere two months, which is more than enough to tell. Also, 4 sold two million copies in a mere FOUR DAYS. Cha-ching!. World on the other hand, sold five million in three days, and gradually went on to be Capcom's best selling game of all time at sixteen million copies. The series currently stands as Capcom's third-best selling franchise at 64 million units sold as of June 2020, bested only by Resident Evil, but beating Street Fighter and Mega Man. World specifically is Capcom's current best selling game of all time. In 2017, a female Monster Hunter was added as a DLC character to Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, with her moveset containing many weapons and items from the series. Also, its iconic monster, the Rathalos, has made appearances in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walkernote , Final Fantasy XIVnote , Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Dragalia Lost.
The number of games released are classified under "generations". Here's the list of the main series and spin-offs:
- Monster Hunter (PS2, 2004-2005): The original, and one of the few games to utilize the PS2 Online functions (although the international and Japanese servers were shut down in 2008 and 2011 respectively). The international release also included the Dual Blades weapon class. Its flagship monster (Mascot Mook) is Rathalos, which would to an extent become the most recognizable monster outside the series.
- Monster Hunter G (PS2, 2004; Wii, 2009, Japan only): An Updated Re-release of Monster Hunter with added monster variants and the Dual Blades weapon class from Monster Hunter's international version. It marked the first time subspecies were seen, with one of them (Azure Rathalos) serving as the flagship monster. The PS2 servers were closed in 2011, while the Wii servers closed in 2014 with the shutdown of Nintendo WiFi Connection.
- Monster Hunter Freedom (PSP, 2005-2006): Known as Monster Hunter Portable in Japan, and an almost direct port of Monster Hunter G with two key changes: the introduction of the Gathering Hall multiplayer hub and a Farm, allowing you to grow gathering materials. As in the original, Rathalos is the flagship monster. Also the first game to allow ad-hoc multiplayer via wireless... which is what really led to the game becoming a Killer App.
- Monster Hunter 2 (dos) (PS2, 2006, Japan only): A sequel to Monster Hunter, with all-new monsters based on new classes, plus a larger presence of Elder Dragons (among which Kushala Daora serves as the flagship monster). It primary novelty is the season system, which determines what areas can be explored and which quests can be accepted (the seasons are Hot, Cold, and Breeding). The servers were closed down in 2011.
- Monster Hunter Freedom 2 (PSP, 2007): A sequel to Freedom, known as Monster Hunter Portable 2nd in Japan. Unlike Monster Hunter's relationship to Freedom, it is not simply a portable version of Monster Hunter 2 — although it features almost all monsters, it features different quests and a different village. Its flagship monster is Tigrex.
- Monster Hunter Freedom Unite: (PSP, 2008-2009; iOS, 2014): Known as Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G in Japan. An Updated Re-release of Freedom 2 featuring some new monsters (including Nargacuga which is the flagship) as well as subspecies of monsters that debuted in 2; it is also the first game to introduce the Palico partner, as well as the (in)famous Epic/Marathon quests. Another unique trait is that two of the introduced monsters, as well as one of the new hunting areas, were imported from the Frontier lineage. Also available on the PS Vita as a digital download via the Playstation Network. The game was eventually ported to iOS, receiving updated graphics, a reworked touch screen control scheme, and the addition of later functions such as the Target Cam from 3 Ultimate and WiFi-based online multiplayer. The iOS port was pulled from the store in 2015 due to the game being incompatible with iOS 9, but was re-uploaded on July 13, 2016.
- Monster Hunter 3 (tri-) (Wii, 2009-2010): The third main game. Introduced more three-dimensional movement via underwater areas and battles and a new weapon type (the Switch Axe) and changes to the Bowguns, while removing Dual Blades, Gunlances, Hunting Horns, and Bows. Bowguns were changed to be much more customizable: component parts determine the gun's weight class, which now also includes the Medium Bowgun. Many new monsters were added, as were two all-new monster classes, but only three old ones (Rathian, Rathalos and Diablos) return. The aquatic Lagiacrus serves as the flagship monster. The servers were closed in 2013.
- Monster Hunter Portable 3rd (PSP, 2010; PS3, 2011; Japan only): A sequel to Freedom 2—and like Freedom 2, this is not a port of Monster Hunter 3 but a separate game using its assets. Underwater combat has been removed, which also led to the absence of all water-dwelling monsters except Royal Ludroth, but the game makes up for this by adding several new monsters (including terrestrial equivalents of the absent ones), another new class (its sole member is Zinogre, the game's flagship monster), new subspecies, and several monsters from older generations as well.
- Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate: (3DS, 2011; Wii U, 2013): An Updated Re-release of Monster Hunter 3, known in Japan as Monster Hunter 3 G, with several new monsters (mostly sub- and rare species) and touch screen features. Brachydios serves as the flagship monster. This release keeps the Switch Axe and underwater combat added in the original Tri, re-adds the missing weapon types, and removes the Bowgun customization and Medium Bowgun weight class. Released on the Nintendo 3DS and the Wii U with the ability to transfer save files between the two systems and online capabilities for the Wii U version. The 3DS version was originally limited to local multiplayer, but a free app on the Wii U e-Shop lets the 3DS version use the servers for the Wii U version.
- Monster Hunter 4 (3DS, 2013, Japan only): The fourth main game. Introduces two new weapon types (Charge Blade and Insect Glaive) and monsters from new classes; while Monster Hunter 3's underwater combat is once again removed (and has yet to return to the series), there is still an emphasis on vertical movement, now in the form of tall hunting areas in which hunters can attempt to mount monsters to knock them down. The game also has a more involved storyline revolving about the origin of a virus which is infecting hunters and monsters (the virus is later shown to come from Gore Magala, the game's flagship moneter); as a result, there are also multiple playable towns as opposed to only one or two. Online functionality is also greatly improved and does not require any additional hardware or software. Also implemented is a quest maker, from which the player can upload Guild Quests for other players to complete. Taking the place of the third generations's Free Hunts are Expeditions, which occur in the randomly generated Everwood. Lastly, though many monsters from previous games (especially from the second and third generations) are absent, their related items and parts can be obtained by trading those of the present monsters, thus allowing hunters to craft weapons and armor based on them.
- Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (3DS, 2014-2015): An Updated Re-release of Monster Hunter 4, named Monster Hunter 4 G in Japan. Vertical movement is again improved; players can now launch allies using the knockback from their own weapons. G-Rank was revamped for this game, divided into multiple sub-ranks. Per tradition from expanded versions, a High Rank village campaign was added, this time by bringing back the online town of Monster Hunter 2 (which also means it's possible to unlock and hear songs in that town's Assembly). Another addition is the ability to tune weapons, to further strengthen them even after the last regular upgrade. The flagship monster is Seregios, and is accompained by a wide array of new subspecies and variants exclusive to G Rank.
- Monster Hunter Generations (3DS, 2015-2016): Titled Monster Hunter X (Cross) in Japan. Generations is a spinoff that acts as a crossover-esque game celebrating the history of the series and features a wide selection of monsters from the entire series along with four new flagship monsters, the Fated Four (Astalos, Gammoth, Mizutsune and Glavenus). Brings back the same weapon selection as 4 and retains its newfound emphasis on three-dimensional combat, but replaces Frenzied and Apex Monsters with Hyper and Deviant Monsters. Introduces Hunter Arts, powerful Limit Breaks, and Hunting Styles, a Character Class System that augments a Hunter's abilities in exchange for certain weapon moves. Introduces Prowler Mode, where players take control of the Series Mascot, the Felynes, and hunt alongside other Felynes or regular Hunters. Upgrading equipment has been changed a bit: armor requires monster materials in addition to armorspheres for certain upgrade levels, while weapons require "group" materials such as ore and insects in addition to specific materials.
- Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate (Switch and 3DS [Japan only], 2017-2018): Titled Monster Hunter XX (Double Cross) in Japan. The Updated Re-release of Generations. In addition to adding G-Rank, using the tiering system first introduced in 4U, and a High-Rank village campaign, GU adds several upgrades to the gameplay, including the Valor and Alchemist Hunting Styles, new moves for Prowler, brand-new Hunting Arts, a variety of Anti-Frustration Features, and the long-awaited "Armor Synthesis" mechanic. The monster list has also expanded, introducing two new flagship monsters (Valstrax and Bloodbath Diablos) alongside new Deviant varieties of the Fated Four and other monsters, as well as bringing back Variants that originally appeared in 4U. There is also an Old Save Bonus packed in that enables Generations players to import their Hunter from the original game. Currently holds the highest number of monsters of the main series, with 127 (93 large, 34 small). Like Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, there is save file and cross-play compatibility between the two Nintendo platforms.
- Monster Hunter: World (PS4, XB1, PC, 2018): The fifth main game, focused on open-world exploration. Boasts one of the biggest overhauls in the series yet, featuring modern graphics, retooled mechanics, and a huge swath of Anti-Frustration Features. The single player and multiplayer modes are no longer separate, with all quests featuring Drop-In-Drop-Out Multiplayer. DLC quests are now timed global events rather than permanent downloads. In-game squads are a new feature, functioning as a set online session for up to 50 friends, with players being able to join 8 individual squads on a character-by-character basis. While having a noticeably smaller roster of monsters to hunt (despite most of them being new), Capcom have announced that they would extend the life of the game by gradually patching in new monsters after release, starting with Deviljho in March 2018. World is also the first game in the series to have paid DLC, although Capcom went on record amid the late-2017 pay-to-win loot box controversies and stated that said DLC would be cosmetic-only items that had no impact on the gameplay. Notable for also being the first game in the franchise to be announced at a Western event (E3) as opposed to a Japanese one. Its flagship monster is Nergigante.
- Monster Hunter: World: Iceborne (PS4, XB1, 2019; PC, 2020): Basically the "Ultimate" version of World. However, instead of being an Updated Re-release like in previous generations, Capcom instead released Iceborne as an Expansion Pack for World - a first for the main series. It adds a new village, two new areas, and a new main quest line. It greatly expands the roster of monsters, bringing back almost every flagship monster on top of adding new monsters (among which Velkhana is the flagship). G-Rank also returns, this time renamed Master Rank.
- Monster Hunter: Rise (Switch, 2021): A title made specifically for the Switch adding elements from Monster Hunter: World. The "rise" in the title refers to emphasis on verticality with the new Wirebug tool. The player also gets new companions with the addition of the Palamutes, large canines who focus on attacking alongside the hunter. It will feature compatibility with Monster Hunter Stories 2, and its flagship monster is Magnamalo. It is developed by the team behind the Freedom/Portable games and Generations, but this game is considered to be a mainline entry by the developers, making this generation the first with two mainline titles instead of one title and a spinoff.
- Monster Hunter Frontier (PC, 2007; 360, 2010; PS3, 2013; Wii U, 2013; PS Vita, 2014): Japan, China, and Korea only, but region free. An MMO spin-off (earlier simply a PC port of the multiplayer from Freedom 2) of sorts that hosts a massive number of exclusive monsters (a tiny handful of which found their way into the main series). Also has exclusive weapon classes: the Tonfa and the Magnet Spike. Major updates repeatedly changed the title to (in order): Monster Hunter Frontier Forward, Monster Hunter Frontier G, Monster Hunter Frontier G Genuine, Monster Hunter Frontier Z, and Monster Hunter Frontier Z Zenith. After 12 long years, Frontier closed its doors in December 2019.
- Monster Hunter Diaries series (PSP, mobile phones, 3DS) Japan-only spin-offs focused solely on Felynes.
- Monster Hunter Dynamic Hunting (iOS, 2011): Released internationally for the Apple iPhone. Still available on the App Store, but cites compatibility problems with iOS 8.
- Monster Hunter Online (PC, 2013-2019): A second MH MMO spin-off developed by Tencent using Crytek's CryEngine 3 and officially backed by Capcom. China only, although the game was region free. The servers shut down at the end of 2019.
- Monster Hunter: Stories (3DS, 2016-2017; iOS and Android, 2017-2018): A story-oriented Role-Playing Game that focuses on "Riders" who befriend and ride monsters instead of hunting them. Features a vastly different art style based around Cel Shading.
- Monster Hunter Stories Ride On: An anime adaptation aimed towards kids that premiered in Japan's Fall 2016 anime season. Ride On has an official English subbed simulcast on Crunchyroll and an English simuldub on Funimation.
- There's also a line of amiibo figures that can be scanned by the game to unlock the anime versions of the monsters.
- Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin (Switch, 2021): A sequel to the first Stories. Will feature compatibility with Monster Hunter Rise.
- Monster Hunter Riders (iOS and Android, 2020): A free-to-play mobile title scheduled for release in Japan in 2020. Its gameplay isn't known, but the art style and basic conceit of featuring Riders and not Hunters is similar to Stories.