For someone who dedicates so much time to making Monster Hunter build guides, you’d think I’d actually be a veteran of the series. While I wouldn’t exactly call myself a greenhorn (I’ve technically been playing since Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate), I haven’t really been a fan of the series until recently.
I usually prefer more story-based RPGs, and grinding for the sake of the grind wasn’t my cup of tea. I enjoyed the game in general, but the process of adding up skill points and unlocking passives felt like checking boxes on some sprawling, invisible spreadsheet — I barely understand math on a good day, let alone when I’m trying to focus on killing dragons.
Monster Hunter World changed everything. It became the game I wanted Monster Hunter to be (having a clear albeit simple plot made a huge difference on its own), but also the game I needed it to be. It reframed the concepts I had trouble grasping just enough that they finally clicked into place, and the numbers that once seemed like algebra homework were now a fun little puzzle that could make me a beefcake if I solved it right.
Overall, it helped me understand the appeal of more traditional Monster Hunter games to the point that I was actively excited for Generations Ultimate and now eagerly await Rise. Since Rise sounds like it’s going to blend the mechanics of World with those of earlier Monster Hunter titles, now seems like a great time to sit back and talk about the best Monster Hunter games ranked.
The 8 Best Monster Hunter Games Ranked
To be clear, I won’t be ranking all of the Monster Hunter games during this discussion. If you’re not familiar with the series, each new generation Monster Hunter title is typically followed by an improved, expanded version of the game (usually as a port to handheld systems).
Since Western audiences don’t always see the original versions of the game (and since the expanded versions are generally better than the originals), we’re going to be basing our ranking of the main series titles on their ultimate versions.
We’ll also check out the spin-off titles released in the US, making this a definitive ranking of the best Monster Hunter games on the market. Let’s get to it!
8. Monster Hunter Dynamic Hunting
- Platform(s): Mobile
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Date: June 1, 2011
At the start of our list of Monster Hunter games ranked is Monster Hunter Dynamic Hunting, a mobile game based on a watered-down version of classic Monster Hunter gameplay. You choose a pre-made hunter from a list of options and dive into one-on-one fights with different monsters from the series.
For a mobile game, Dynamic Hunting offers a pretty decent range of combat mechanics. The camera is always centered directly behind your hunter, and you can use a variety of touchscreen commands to move, attack, dodge, and block throughout the fight. Perform well during your hunt, and you’ll be rewarded with items and bonuses you can use to upgrade your weapons and armor.
I’ll admit it’s nothing special, but it’s arguably decent for an almost ten-year-old mobile version of Monster Hunter. It even supports two-player hunts via Bluetooth connection if you’re looking for a quick bout with friends. Still, if you’re looking for a way to take Monster Hunter on the go, you’re much better off with Generations Ultimate on the Switch or one of the more recent 3DS titles.
7. Monster Hunter Stories
- Platform(s): 3DS, Mobile
- Developer: Capcom, Marvelous
- Release Date: September 8, 2017
Monster Hunter Stories is a JRPG spin-off of the main Monster Hunter series that focuses on befriending monsters over fighting them. As the customizable Rider, you’ll steal and hatch monster eggs on your quest to purify the Black Blight, a mysterious corruption that turns monsters violent.
The gameplay is about what you’d expect from a JRPG version of Monster Hunter. Overworld exploration involves running around and collecting resources similar to gathering quests in main series titles, though more emphasis is placed on stealing monster eggs from nests. The rest of it is pretty standard JRPG stuff. Combat is turn-based, with you and your team of companion monsters using your special abilities and making clever use of the attack triangle (think rock-paper-scissors) to take down enemies.
It’s a pretty charming game that does a good job of translating Monster Hunter to a new genre. If you’re already a fan of the world and are looking for a new way to experience it, Stories is a great option for you!
6. Monster Hunter Freedom
- Platform(s): PSP
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Date: May 23, 2006
Monster Hunter Freedom was the second main series game to release in the US, porting the original Monster Hunter to the PSP with a few extra bells and whistles. Released as Monster Hunter G in Japan, Freedom expands on its predecessor by adding a new weapon (Dual Blades) and a new level called “G-rank” that includes a series of more difficult quests and challenging variations of monsters branded as “subspecies.”
Monster Hunter established the traditional gameplay formula for the series, with Freedom serving as a promise of the changes and improvements fans could expect with future installments. You have the choice of seven different weapons (Sword and Shield, Dual Blades, Great Sword, Lance, Hammer, and Light and Heavy Bowguns) to take on your quests. Weapon in hand, you’ll venture out on individual quests to fight the monsters plaguing your village, using rewards to improve your weapons and armor and better your chances against harder foes as you climb the ranks to HR5.
5. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
- Platform(s): 3DS, WiiU
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Date: March 19, 2013
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate was my first introduction to the Monster Hunter series and number five on our list Monster Hunter games ranked. Released as an expanded version of Monster Hunter Tri, 3U incorporates the new environments and improved AI of Tri with a few additions to round out the gameplay.
New to Tri and 3U is the Switch Axe, a weapon that swaps between an axe and a powerful sword that deals extra damage to monsters. 3U also reintroduces the Gunlance, Bow, Hunting Horn, and Dual Swords, which were absent from Tri when it came out.
The only reason this game doesn’t rank higher is its underwater combat. This criticism shows my personal bias a bit — I can acknowledge that it’s an interesting new mechanic that adds dimension and atmosphere to the game, but it’s way too frustrating to deal with in practice. I played 3U on the 3DS, and navigating the underwater controls with a tiny D-pad while actively fighting a giant electric sea monster is not my idea of a good time.
Now, it’s worth noting that the game also came out on the WiiU. If you played on this system or invested in a Circle Pad Pro for your 3DS, you might feel differently about this mechanic. I would argue that there’s a reason Capcom decided to pull the mechanic out of future installments — as it stands, the Switch Axe is the only lasting change that 3U offers the series.
4. Monster Hunter Freedom Unite
- Platform(s): PSP, PS Vita, Mobile
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Date: June 22, 2009
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite brought second-generation Monster Hunter to the US, and introduced a number of soon-to-be series staples with it. The Nargacuga is added as a flagship monster, four new weapons (Bow, Gunlance, Hunting Horn, and Long Sword) are added, and multi-monster quests appear as an added challenge.
Arguably the best new addition is the Felyne Comrade, the predecessor to Palicos and Rise’s upcoming Palomutes. The Felyne Comrade joins you on your hunts to deal added damage, offer healing and other buffs, and help you collect extra monster pieces. This is an especially welcome addition for solo hunters, who previously had no support during hunts without playing online multiplayer.
3. Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate
- Platform(s): Switch
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Date: August 28, 2018
Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is a celebration of everything the Monster Hunter series has to offer. The original game, called Monster Hunter X (pronounced Cross) in Japan, was released as the franchise’s tenth-anniversary game and was intended to act as a “cross” between traditional Monster Hunter and newer gameplay elements. Generations Ultimate is the expanded Switch port of the game, which includes cross-platform play and the ability to transfer save files from the 3DS.
A ton of flagship monsters from earlier games appear alongside four new signature monsters and a handful of new gameplay elements. Among the new mechanics are Hunting Styles, which introduce four new attack styles for each of the fourteen weapons, and Hunting Arts, which are special moves that can be used during combat. The game also introduces Prowlers (playable Felynes that can go solo into the field), four new signature monsters alongside previous flagships, and Deviant monsters (mutated versions of existing monsters that are more difficult to fight).
Generations Ultimate came to the switch after World had already been released and was still largely in its prime, so many fans overlooked it. That said, if you’re looking to familiarize yourself with the Monster Hunter series before World changed up the formula, Generations Ultimate is a good title to seek out.
2. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
- Platform(s): 3DS
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Date: February 13, 2015
Taking our number two spot on the list of Monster Hunter games ranked is Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, another expansion released to Western audiences without its non-ultimate counterpart. In Monster Hunter 4U, you once again take on the role of a fledgling Hunter trying to save their village from the threat of violent monsters. Your weapon arsenal is larger than ever, including all of the weapons that previously appeared in the series, along with the new Insect Glaive and Charge Blade.
The new weapons (especially the Insect Glaive) add a new element of three-dimensional play to the game. Although there had always been some level of aerial combat in earlier installments, it was generally limited to jumping off of ledges or utilizing climbable surfaces. While those two aspects are made easier in 4U, the biggest difference is the new vaulting ability offered by the Insect Glaive. More frequent aerial attacks mean greater chances to mount the monster — 4U capitalizes on this by giving monsters environmental awareness. They’ll do their best to shake you off if you land a mount, even slamming into nearby walls to knock you away.
1. Monster Hunter World: Iceborne
- Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Date: September 6, 2019
At the top of our list of Monster Hunter games ranked is Monster Hunter World: Iceborne, the most recent addition to the Monster Hunter series. Unlike the other ultimate versions on this list, Iceborne isn’t a standalone game — it’s a true expansion and can only be played once you’ve completed the core content of World.
Although the basic Monster Hunter formula is still present in World and Iceborne, there are some notable changes that make it more accessible to general audiences. The UI is more intuitive, and the monsters’ physics and AI are easier to follow. There’s also a greater emphasis placed on the story and NPCs, making the game feel more adventure-driven.
Iceborne adds to the vanilla game by introducing two new hunting areas (the Hoarfrost Reach and the Guiding Lands), new monsters and subspecies (including some returning monsters from earlier titles), and the Clutch Claw. The latter adds a handful of new mechanics — since it works like a grappling hook of sorts, you can now hook directly onto monsters and wound parts of them. You can also use the grapple to execute special moves unique to your weapon or use the environment to your advantage and slam monsters into walls for increased knockdown and a chance at extra rewards.
Though it is a departure from traditional Monster Hunter, it’s well-deserving of our top spot. The series feels larger and more lived-in with the New World and its inhabitants, and the new creative direction bodes well for future installments.
Thanks for checking out our list of the best Monster Hunter games ranked! With the demo for Rise slated to hit the Switch in January, we’ll soon have a better idea of what’s in store for the series as it continues to develop.
I hope you’ll join us as we venture further into the world of Monster Hunter with this new title — until then, stay tuned to High Ground for more Iceborne build guides, and feel free to tell us about your favorite Monster Hunter game in the comments!