Hack and slash action is ostensibly melee-orientated, with close combat gameplay invariably utilising an arsenal of blades, swords, axes, and bludgeoning blunt objects in rapid fire action which generally requires less strategy and more a focus on hyper violence. In this feature, we are going to take a look at 10 horror games which have hack and slash elements.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human
Techland’s sequel to 2015 sleeper hit Dying Light 2 Stay Human is rightly praised for its freewheeling first-person parkour, but its melee heavy combat is uber-satisfying too. In the spirit of post-apocalyptic societal collapse, surviving face-to-face encounters with bands of ravaging zombies requires utilising whatever object comes to hand – bats and batons to bludgeon, machetes to slice, axes to dice. The brutality of Dying Light 2 Stay Human’s combat is ravishing, with parkour skills in the form of flying kicks upping the fun factor.
Dead Island 2
Deep Silver’s zombie sequel delivers heaps of ridiculous hack and slash action, done so hilariously over the top the blood-soaked brawling on the streets of a zombie-ravaged Los Angeles feels slapstick or cartoonish. And on Dead Island 2’s streets are a mass of improvised weaponry – pipe wrenches and pool cues, meat cleavers and makeshift swords, with an endless supply of craft-able upgrades to boost limb damage, or burn, maim, and shred the undead into gloriously gory bits and pieces.
Dead Rising 2
To survive the hordes of hungry zombies in Dead Rising 2 – sometimes congregating in gangs thousands strong – player character Chuck Greene can combine everyday objects to create ludicrous improvised weaponry. Duct taping a machete to a toy helicopter creates the Heliblade, the Auger attaches a drill motor to a pitchfork, the brutal bat axe Defiler combines a sledgehammer and a fire axe. Even makeshift vehicles make an appearance such as the battery-fied electric wheelchair, which, to push things even more sadistically can be combined with a merc assault rifle to craft the Blitzkrieg, the perfect killing machine to masochistically roll through crowds of zombies.
State of Decay 2: Juggernaut Edition
Open world zombie survival sim State of Decay 2: Juggernaut Edition focuses most on the grim reality of life after a zombie outbreak levels society. Scavenging for food, cobbling resources with other survivors, building a community, and fortifying a home base are the flesh on State of Decay 2’s bones, but with a smattering of zombies stalking the countryside there arises opportunity for hacking and slashing too. Now, ranged weaponry is the usually the safest option, but with a huge list of melee weapons at each survivors’ disposal, it’s much more satisfyingly savage to whack a zombie on the cranium with a nail puller, or get up close and savour every gory detail with a rusty screwdriver.
There’s a lot to love in Deacon St. John’s odyssey through zombie-ravaged Oregon in Days Gone. Principally, the strategic funnelling of hordes of infected freakers through carefully laid traps to eliminate their numbers en masse in sheer joyous desperation is a seriously well implemented gameplay loop that’s still relatively unique amongst video games some four years after release. This being a post-apocalypse, there are of course plenty of blunt objects dotted around with which to bash freakers over the head with. Crafting recipes unlock even grislier concoctions too: 2×4’s can be stuffed with a box of nails, baseball bats can be made much more durable with a little bit of scrap metal and pipework; even a stool leg can be combined with a saw blade to rip faces off.
The Last of Us Part I
Featuring much more intense hand-to-hand combat brought over from 2020’s The Last of Us Part II, last year’s The Last of Us remake improved character animations, made enemy AI smarter and more tactically astute, and rejuvenated stealth encounters. Of course, encounters can be stealthily skipped, but an aggressive approach to combat is always ultra-satisfying. Whilst it’s a shame Part II’s dodge ability wasn’t included in Part I, the melee weapon-based action remained and with it the brutal satisfaction in decking runners in the skull with a brick or shanking a clicker in the back with a shiv blade.
Killing Floor 2
Killing Floor 2 is dripping in visceral guts and gore, with limbs and entrails constantly flung across the screen. The game’s raft of melee weapons provides multiple satisfying ways in which to rip enemy ZEDs apart too, from conventional slashing katanas and swords, to more unusual items such as the bruising bone crusher, the combination sledgehammer shotgun known as the pulveriser, and the buzz saw spewing eviscerator. One of the best melee weapons in the entire game though is the medieval sword zweihandler. It isn’t especially expensive, but once paired with the massacre perk will transform players into an unstoppable slicing, dicing tornado of death.
Grasshopper Manufacture’s mindless Lollipop Chainsaw, in which players arm cheerleader zombie hunter Juliet Starling with a bedazzled chainsaw before slicing her way through a zombie infested high school, is perhaps the game made for this rundown. Juliet’s knack for pirouetting in kaleidoscopic rays of rainbow and blood is endlessly fun, and that chainsaw in question features tons of humorous, schlocky upgrades: adding an engine and exhaust pipes grants Juliet power to dodge, an 8 rocket cartridge transforms the bedazzled chainsaw into an explosive long-range grenade launcher, and possibly most sadistic of all is the Nick Popper, a speaker phone type attachment capable of launching jock boyfriend Nick Carlyle’s detached head as a projectile.
Zombie Army 4: Dead War
Ostensibly a shooter set within an alternate history where humankind is locked in endless battle against Hitler’s undead Armageddon, Zombie Army 4: Dead War also features its fair share of glorious hack and slash elements. The sadistic X-ray kill cam from developer Rebellion’s Sniper Elite series makes an appearance here too alongside some seriously killer melee combat, with powerful close-quarter combat weaponry accompanying the brutal fisticuffs. The electric fist, for instance, is a powerful knuckleduster which stuns enemies with a supercharged electrical current; divine blast knocks multiple opponents down with a very useful shockwave; the machete smash blade slices through enemies like a hot knife through butter; and last but not least, the incendiary modified hatchet sets anything within range on fire as well as simultaneously cutting chunks off zombie soldiers withered bodies.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
This isn’t your typical horror; Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice instead chills players to the bone by way of its psychosis laden trauma dripping in existential dread, bringing Ninja Theory’s action adventure close to the realms of the best psychological horror games. Of course, it’s hack and slash combat can be exciting to pull off too, with spritely dodge ability and precise parry systems bringing an element of skill to the button mashing sword swings. Rudimentary combos are also possible with light and heavy attacks that can be chained together to a spectacular stab and launch-kick finishing move.