It’s totally possible to play Monster Hunter Rise solo. You can make it through all the main storyline without jumping into an online lobby at all. Kill this, capture that, go out and carve the other. It’s a simple enough through line, even for a complete beginner (you just might get the wind knocked out of you by a couple of horns and claws en route).
But that’s not how Monster Hunter is best experienced. Much less, Monster Hunter Rise – the latest game in the long-running series from Capcom. Originally launching on the Nintendo Switch, then PC, and now all the other consoles, Monster Hunter Rise is a fascinating entry in the esteemed action-RPG series. It’s the first game to come after Monster Hunter World; the game that dragged the franchise into the mainstream. Rise isn’t like World: it’s easier, more readable, more ‘arcade-y’.
Hunting in Rise is fast, fun, and frenetic. With the aid of your Palico and Palamtue (that’s a cat and a dog, in Monster Hunter language), you can ride into battle, locate your quarry, and set about bringing it down. Break its body parts, slice off all the bits it needs to attack you, and chip away at its defenses, and eventually you’ll kill it – or capture it. Congratulations; you and your pets have bagged a monster. Now, carve it up and see what you can make out of it.
That core gameplay loop is what Monster Hunter lives and dies on. If you’re not won over by the rhythmic way the game forces you to engage with its monsters, you’re probably better off looking for kicks elsewhere. But once it gets its hooks – or claws – into you, there really is no other game like Monster Hunter. It’s the sort of game you can play for five hours without really noticing, or for just 20 minutes ‘so you can nab one more Rathalos’ because you want the attack boost bonus from wearing the full set of the dragon’s armour.
I was lucky enough to get introduced to Monster Hunter by a dear friend in the early days of my career. Ever the enabler, he managed to wrangle me a copy of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on 3DS. A greasy takeaway, a crate of beers, and a night without sleep later, I was hooked. My sherpa had deduced that a Tetsucabra armour set would see me through the early game with ease, so we killed about 20 of the rock-loving frogs towards the start of the game as I got to grips with the slippery controls of the Insect Glaive. I had practiced my moves, figured out how to compliment his hammer playstyle, and got myself some nice gear.
“This is Monster Hunter,” he smirked at me as we crossed the threshold from Low Rank to High Rank together, “and you’ve not even scratched the surface.” He was right. I put another 200 hours, minimum, into the game on 3DS, my thumb blistering and then callusing from rubbing up against the hateful rubber nubbin on the New 3DS model. I hunted Elder Dragons, tiger/dragon hybrids seemingly made of gunpowder, proud lion beasts with magma claws and manes of fire. I was obsessed.
I’ve played every Monster Hunter game and expansion since. But I don’t think I would have if it hadn’t been for an eager friend showing me the (admittedly convoluted) ropes. I wouldn’t be on my third playthrough of Monster Hunter Rise, now, if it hadn’t been for my patient buddy letting me cart – again – as I learned how aggressive a Devilhjo really is at High Rank. I wouldn’t be breezing through the story of Kamura Village if I hadn’t been shown how armour set bonuses work, or why getting the right gems in your gear is essential if you want to see those blue critical hit flashes come up consistently.
That’s why Monster Hunter Rise coming to Xbox Game Pass is the best thing to ever happen to the series. Capcom has put the series on the service before – Monster Hunter World was a big selling point for it, some years ago – but the game was old, at that point. It’d seen its day in the sun, and the people that chase the new, shiny games had already moved on to Outriders or Destiny 2’s latest expansion, or something.
Monster Hunter Rise was added to Game Pass last week, the very same day the game arrived on consoles other than Nintendo Switch. Already, I’ve seen internet forums and social media posts exclaiming at how good it is – and I couldn’t be happier. This might be the best entry point into the series there is; there are incredible tutorials, myriad quality of life improvements, improved mobility and traversal options, and some of the best new monster fights the series has seen in ages (the Magnamalo fight, in particular, is a highlight).
With Xbox Game Pass, the barrier to entry has been all but removed: Capcom isn’t asking you to shell out £40+ for a game that may not be for you. All you need is a free evening and a little bit of space on your console storage, and you may find your next gaming obsession – and for nothing more than the cost of your monthly Game Pass subscription.
Better yet, the game’s arrival on the service finally gives tiresome bores like me carte blanche to get my mates in on the secret that is gaming’s best action-RPG series. I don’t have to convince holdouts to drop cash on it, and I don’t have to convince them to join a complicated MMO-like service (sorry, Monster Hunter World, but you became quite inaccessible and top-heavy by the end). “Come to Kamura Village,” I can say instead, “the weather is mild, and we have some great tutorials to teach you how to use that Switch Axe you’ve always liked the look of.”
With wirebug techniques, auto map-marking, a refined hints system, and more besides, Monster Hunter Rise makes the onboarding system a breeze. The earliest hunts you’ll do might be some of the easiest in the entire series, and the game’s overall difficulty has been lowered a touch to appeal to a broader audience. There are even simple combos you can prod into your controller to make you feel adept: a simple knowledge of dodge-rolling, blocking, or iframes will easily get you into the end game of Rise. Any Elden Ring or Dark Souls player will feel right at home here, and the doors are wide open.
We’ve yet to see the impact of Monster Hunter Rise’s arrival on the service, but I’m excited: Monster Hunter was already massive, but after being kept from Xbox and PlayStation players for two years, it’s finally time for the world at large to see why I love Rise as much as I do.
There’s never been a better time to try and get into Monster Hunter, I promise.
Monster Hunter Rise is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, and Nintendo Switch. It’s available on Xbox consoles and PC via Xbox Game Pass. You can check out our best Monster Hunter Rise beginner’s tips here.