Monster Hunter turns 17 – remembering where it all started

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Video game anniversaries are a funny thing and none hit harder than those marking the birth of long-running series that have not only shaped our lives but also the entertainment industry at large.

Few modern gaming franchises have quite the same clout as Capcom’s Monster Hunter, which is now 17 years old. Watching Monster Hunter grow from an incredibly niche action RPG to a world-beating champion of the genre has been immensely satisfying, especially as one of those early fans who stumbled upon that original game almost two decades ago.

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Monster Hunter on PlayStation 2 was a revelation, though you wouldn’t have thought it at the time, given the lukewarm reception it got from critics and reviewers. As fans will know, it’s a tough series to get your head around; revisiting those first Monster Hunter games is agonising, even if you’ve pumped hundreds of hours in Monster Hunter: World.

Where the original Monster Hunter really shined was multiplayer. I still remember having to borrow a battle-scarred ethernet cable from a friend, dropping into my first hunt on a primitive broadband connection. What stood out in particular was how helpful the Monster Hunter community were, guiding me through perilous quests and grinding monsters they didn’t really need to hunt just so I could carve them up to upgrade my own weapons and armour.

It was Monster Hunter Freedom – the PSP port – that saw Capcom’s new RPG blow up. Grouping together with three friends over a local network soon became the default way for players to experience Monster Hunter in Japan. This is part of the reason why it took so long for the series to build an audience overseas. It wasn’t until Monster Hunter 4 launched exclusively on the 3DS in 2015 that Capcom offered fully integrated online multiplayer.

That transition from the PSP to Nintendo systems was particularly frustrating as a long-time fan. Following the rampant success of Monster Hunter Freedom 2, a meatier PS3 sequel seemed like a guarantee, right up until the project was canned due to disputes between Sony and Capcom. Although Monster Hunter continued to flourish on the Nintendo Wii, Wii U, and 3DS, it was Monster Hunter: World that finally let the series really capture the audience it has deserved. A landmark success for Capcom, the multiplatform Monster Hunter has sold more than 16.4 million copies.

Of course, this is only a very brief look at the full picture. A nostalgic wander down memory lane as we gear up for the imminent launch of Monster Hunter Rise.

Once again Capcom are flexing their ingenuity with the Monster Hunter formula. Although Rise inherits much of its core DNA from World, there are loads of clever refinements and additions to keep it feeling fresh along with an ever-expanding bestiary of creatures to slay. Needless to say, if you have some free time this weekend, make sure you try the Monster Hunter Rise demo.

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Written by
Senior Editor bursting with lukewarm takes and useless gaming trivia. May as well surgically attach my DualSense at this point.