Updated with Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. Remember that this is a dynamic reader-ranked list that re-orders automatically depending on each game's rating in our database. Three Hopes is a new title, but having thoroughly enjoyed it (as you can read about in our review), we imagine it will rise through the ranks pretty quickly as more people play and rate it.
In order to rate any of the games on the list below out of 10, logged-in Nintendo Life users can simply tap the 'star' and assign each game a personal rating. Enjoy!
The Warriors series might have taken its time taking off in the West, but over the past few years there's been a mainstream Musou explosion, with more gamers than ever before discovering the delights of hacking-and-slashing hundreds of foes at once, slicing your way around a map controlling crowds while capturing and holding forts, and generally commanding the playfield while dealing colossal amounts of pain to wave upon wave of grunts.
Developer Omega Force's birthed the Musou genre with the Warriors franchise — comprised not only of the original Dynasty Warriors line (itself a spin-off from Koei's Romance of the Three Kingdoms) with its Xtreme Legends and Empires expansions, but also Samurai Warriors and Warriors Orochi (the latter a Dynasty X Samurai crossover series), plus the many 'guest' IPs that have enjoyed Warriors 'crossover' outings and ushered in a new era of mainstream popularity for the genre. The One Piece: Pirate Warriors series, for instance, has four entries at the time of writing (two on Switch), and Nintendo-wise we've seen two Zelda-based Hyrule Warriors games and a brilliant Fire Emblem, too. No, two!
We recently asked Nintendo Life users to rate the Warriors games they had played, and the ranking below is the result. Remember: this list is not set in stone. Registered Nintendo Life users can still click on the stars below and rate the games out of 10, and watch as the ranking alters in real-time according to each game's score in our games database — so even if you missed the 'voting' stage, your scores will still count and can potentially influence the order below.
Other studios besides Omega Force have taken on the Musou mantle, too, and we decided to add Marvelous' Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star and Fate/Extella Link into the mix below; they may not be Omega Force-developed Warriors games — much like Persona 5 Strikers — but they're both fine exemplars of the Musou experience. Don't think they should be there? Just mentally remove them from the list and the order remains just as valid.
Okay, ready to go? Let the battle commence!
Note. We've only included Musou games released in the West, so no Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada, Samurai Warriors 4 DX, Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires, Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate, or the Japanese Switch launch game Dragon Quest Heroes.
Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires is a poor Switch port of a disappointing entry in the long-running spin-off series. This is a hugely downgraded version of the game, with seriously dialled-back visuals failing to put a stop to consistent frame rate issues during the heat of battle. With a lack of gameplay modes, zero multiplayer options, terrible AI and cosmetic customisation options gone AWOL at launch — Koei Tecmo choosing instead to go the DLC route — this is a truly lacklustre package, a bargain bin affair with a premium price tag, and a Dynasty Warriors game you can feel quite comfortable skipping entirely.
Touken Ranbu Warriors is a game best suited for players with little experience with the Dynasty Warriors series in general. If this is meant to appeal primarily to fans of the free-to-play games – with far lower expectations when it comes to action games – as a great big slice of Touken Danshi fan service, this will be a great addition to their collection. For players less versed in the world of Touken Ranbu, this is a much harder sell, offering a rote, repetitive game loop that does little to slake your thirst for a more meaningful, evolving game experience. This criticism could arguably apply to all of the Warriors games, of course, but where the bigger license-based games add to the formula, Touken Ranbu Warriors feels like a distillation. In a lot of ways and for certain audiences this is perfectly fine. The Dynasty Warriors machine churns out a well-oiled, refined and polite product; the video game equivalent of a Honda Civic. But even with a well-loved product as reliable as that, there comes a point when it's just time to get with the times.
It’s not for everyone, but Warriors Orochi 4’s multitudinous hordes can be pleasurable to sweep through, despite the game feeling by-the-numbers in many ways. This is simply more, and while fans might be able to forgive the bland presentation, we’d wager that non-devotees would have a much better time with the Zelda or Fire Emblem spin-offs – with the characters, settings and accoutrement you know and love helping to temper the monotony when you’re not quite ‘in the zone’.
While it might seem odd that in 2018 Omega Force opted to port the then five-year-old Dynasty Warriors 8 over Dynasty Warriors 9, it was the right decision for Nintendo Switch owners. Not only was Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition the best version since Dynasty Warriors 5, it came to the hybrid platform offering more stable performance than the versions that once graced PS3 and Xbox 360. Even when its frame rate takes a knock when playing co-op, it’s a remarkably robust port boasting an obscene amount of content fresh out of the box.
Warriors Orochi 4 was a solid, if uninspired, Musou game and this 'Ultimate' edition fleshes things out with some new characters and modes, significantly beefs up the story and tweaks the central gameplay here and there. However, the additions that have been made sometimes feel like the least amount of effort that was possible. The new playable characters, although fun, are pretty much slapped in without any fanfare, new weapons don't even have unique skins and Infinity Mode feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. Warriors Orochi 4 Ultimate is definitely an improvement over the vanilla version of the game – and absolutely the way to go if you're keen but have yet to pick it up – but it's also a rather disappointingly small one that comes at a pretty steep price for loyal fans who are forking out to upgrade from the base version.
The nature of the genre makes it pretty tough to do a Musou game wrong, but it’s also rather difficult to do one that’s truly right, providing an experience that’s capable of rising above the repetition and relatively easy difficulty. Coming from Xseed and developer Marvelous (not Koei Tecmo and Omega Force), Fate/Extella Link manages to do just that, including all of the trappings of a Musou outing while sprinkling in a handful of fun, engaging, or creative changes to the overarching design and style to escalate this release a bit above the competition (and certainly above its predecessor). If you’ve never much been a fan of mindless hack ‘n’ slash games, this is a great way to test whether this genre is for you. If you consider yourself to be a Musou nut, this is one of the best distillations of the concept we’ve yet seen.
A real treat for anime-action fans, Fate/EXTELLA is a lovably frantic affair with a feeling all its own. Developer Marvelous created appealing characters and an irresistible sense of style draw you into its world, plus addictive, satisfying gameplay and excellent writing to keep things exciting throughout. It suffers from some common ailments of the Musou genre, like minimal enemy variety and subpar AI, and it’s far from a technical showcase for the system, but if you’re looking for a fun, fast-paced slash-‘em-up — or to seriously complicate your relationship with one of Rome’s most infamous sons — Fate is a perfect choice.
Samurai Warriors 5 takes the long-running franchise, gives it a wonderfully vibrant lick of paint, throws in some excellent new combat mechanics and fills its story mode with well-directed cutscenes, resulting in a slick and stylish addition to the series that's sure to please fans and newcomers alike. Yes, it makes a few fumbles here and there - we aren't fond of its grindy system of upgrading your Dojo and Blacksmith, it limits your character choices at times in the campaign and that stripped back roster is sure to irk some - but, overall, what's here is a fine addition to the Switch's line-up of Musou titles. This is a fast-paced, flashy hack and slash effort that looks and plays fantastically well and, most importantly, performs almost perfectly whilst doing so.