Devil May Cry was released back in 2001. That was 19 years go. What started out as the original incarnation of Resident Evil 4 morphed into its own franchise that was just recently revived with its fifth entry.
Inspired by the poem Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, Devil May Cry stood out with its gothic aesthetics and grotesque demon enemies. The main protagonist, Dante, was also stylish and cool, and the game’s mechanics made sure players could achieve the same level of style outside of cutscenes.
To achieve this, the game employed a combo-heavy battle system that was similar to a fighting game; Dante’s juggling ability was just as great as any Tekken character’s. The game did keep Resident Evil’s signature fixed camera perspective and penchant for puzzles, but it definitely provided more anime-like panache compared to the B-movie flavour Resident Evil offered.
This new style of action games was a great departure from previous attempts at making fast-paced action games in 3D, which were essentially clunky beat-em-ups. Devil May Cry’s innovative game style was so well executed by Capcom that a number of subsequent games took heavy inspiration from it. Here are ten games that wouldn’t have been the same without DMC:
God of War
The PlayStation 2’s killer app in 2005 was definitely a Western take on the Devil May Cry formula, with an emphasis on Greek mythology and a much angrier and manly protagonist. Kratos was the exact opposite of Dante: he was bald, muscular, hunched over, and definitely didn’t have the same sex appeal that Capcom’s half-demon possessed. That said, both characters were really good at beating out red orbs from monsters, which Kratos did for a long time until the God of War reboot changed the game’s battle mechanics.
With Hideki Kamiya being the director of both Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe, it’s no wonder both games share many similarities, especially with Dante himself making a cameo appearance in Viewtiful Joe and its sequels. Nonetheless, Viewtiful Joe can definitely be seen as a “two steps forward and one step back” approach to the formula introduced in Devil May Cry. While it was still a stylish and combo-heavy, the shift to a side-scrolling perspective definitely hampered some gameplay elements, though it does prove that this game style definitely still works in 2D.
This hidden gem from the PS2 was also developed by Capcom and took many cues from Devil May Cry. What made Chaos Legion stand out from its predecessor was that an AI “Legion” partner would accompany the player, and help them wipe out waves of enemies. This distinction was enough to make Chaos Legion memorable after all these years, though its concept of “Legion” partners would be revived as a sort of spiritual successor in Platinum Games’ Astral Chain.
Ninja Gaiden started out as one of the hallmarks of the NES, featuring brutal action-platforming gameplay, and popularised the use of stylish cutscenes to convey a game’s story. The original trilogy didn’t make the cut in the 16- and 32-bit eras but was thankfully revived in 2004 with a new Devil May Cry-style entry. But one thing that Ninja Gaiden kept from its previous iterations was its brutal difficulty, which made the game a lot harder to master than Devil May Cry and a lot more rewarding for players seeking a challenge.
In its original review of the first Darksiders game, IGN compared it to The Legend of Zelda, God of War, and of course, Devil May Cry. The game also drew heavy inspiration from the Biblical depictions of armageddon, especially with players taking the role of one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, War. Just like Dante, War was clad in red and was armed with swords and guns, though he lacks Dante’s more nimble controls. Subsequent games in the Darksiders series would shy away from the Devil May Cry influence in favour of more contemporary games like Dark Souls.
Nicholas Cage’s first run as the Ghost Rider may have been a forgettable movie for comic book fans, but it did spawn a pretty fun video game adaptation, only because it copied Devil May Cry as much as possible. It’s a rare movie game that may not be remarkable, but it did well by making a fun game with its source material, with Ghost Rider being a pretty fitting choice as a playable character. Ghost Rider’s whip-focused combat mechanics would definitely see a spiritual successor with the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow games in 2010 onwards.
The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie’s Revenge
Marvel Comics wasn’t the only company that was keen on having a Devil May Cry clone as its future parent company, Disney, also had their own hack-and-slash game with The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie’s Revenge. It’s an oddly fitting choice as the Nightmare Before Christmas has never been one of Disney’s biggest hits, and yet it made for a fun and accessible Devil May Cry clone for kids. It was also a sequel of sorts to the film, making it an extra treat for fans of the original, stop-motion film.
If one game took the whole cloning Devil May Cry concept too far, it would be Dante’s Inferno. Dante’s name is literally in the title and the entire game is based on the Divine Comedy, but this incarnation of Dante was instead a crusader going through the depths of hell to save his lover and guided by Vergil throughout the whole adventure. Dante’s Inferno definitely pushed the button a bit too far though, with its wanton violence and depiction of Christian faith drawing flak from many religious groups all over the world. That’s a level Capcom’s Dante would never stoop to.
Nier started out as a spin-off of Drakengard, a game that was a combination of Ace Combat’s shoot-em-up mechanics and Dynasty Warriors 2’s beat-em-up gameplay. Nier cut out the flying dragon mechanics and focused on an on-foot fantasy adventure, which takes inspiration from Devil May Cry’s sword- and gun-based gameplay. Nier’s silver-haired protagonists also seemed to pay homage to Dante himself. This was, of course, reiterated even further in the game’s sequel, Nier: Automata, which wouldn’t have existed without…
The studio established by Hideki Kamiya and Shinji Mikami after they left Capcom. The games they produce seem to be a bigger and better spiritual successor to the entire Devil May Cry franchise, each featuring new mechanics that push the boundaries of the hack-and-slash genre. Bayonetta is the studio’s signature game and is a perfect example of what the original Devil May Cry team wanted to achieve. The aforementioned Nier: Automata added an existential story seeped into its gameplay, while PlatinumGames has shown that the formula they made can be melded with other intellectual properties as well, like Avatar: The Legend of Korra, Transformers, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.