By using this site, you agree to our Privacy Policy and our Terms of Use. Close
Ranking the Devil May Cry Series

Ranking the Devil May Cry Series - Article

by Mark Nielsen , posted on 18 April 2024 / 6,653 Views

Upon finally finishing Devil May Cry 5 recently - after it spent several years on my “I’ll play that soon” list - I considered giving it a fittingly-named Late Look article. However, considering that this was indeed the final piece I was missing in the DMC puzzle, I decided to instead take this opportunity to take a look back at the entirety of this genre-defining series and rank the entries. What also made this a particularly tempting notion was that while most high-profile series have developed fairly evenly over time, with a few bumps on the road, the history of Devil May Cry has, at least in my eyes, been an absolute roller coaster, with everything from total disasters to action game gold.

It’s worth noting that while I'm a fan of the hack 'n' slash genre, I’m not someone who has put hundreds of hours into these titles to master the art of SSS-jitsu. In fact, most of them I’ve only played through once, but that doesn’t stop me from having quite a bit to say about each entry, however surface level it might be. Also worth noting is that this article contains minor spoilers, so buckle up for that.

  

6. Devil May Cry 2

Devil May Cry 2 is not so much a game as it is a lesson. A lesson teaching us just how little a good combat system amounts to when accompanied by terrible enemy and level design. If there’s one word that describes DMC 2 it would be ‘mess’, and by all accounts that's also exactly what the development process was, with changes in both direction and director in a game that released less than 18 months after its predecessor. They rushed the game so hard that even the cover art looks exhausted.

The result isn’t pretty, with the experience ranging from uninteresting to infuriating thanks to bad AI and boss fights. It doesn’t help that the development team opted for a dual perspective, like the Resident Evil series that DMC grew out from, only here you don't get two different stories, you instead get two halves of a story that make no sense on their own.

Are there only negative things to be said about DMC 2? Not quite. There isn’t much wrong with the combat system itself, so in the rare decently put together section you might find a little oasis of enjoyment in what is otherwise a desert. But, all in all, the game really only holds value today for those badly wanting to experience everything DMC, or for those suffering from a severe case of morbid curiosity.

   

5. Devil May Cry 4

This is quite possibly the most surprising placement on this list. It’s worth mentioning right off the bat that both the combat and encounters are far ahead of Devil May Cry 2, making this easily the biggest leap in quality on this list. DMC 4 is by no means a bad game, but it has its own non-trivial list of sins. On the gameplay side of things DMC 4 is mostly a natural evolution of what came before, but on the story front it throws audiences a curveball by taking us to church and switching the (main) protagonist from the stylish, sassy, loveable Dante to the *adjective not found* Nero.

When looking at this particular entry it’s very hard for me to not see that change as a downgrade. Not only is Nero blander as a character, he’s also less fun to play as; he has only one weapon available set and lacks Devil Trigger for most of the game. Essentially, he’s Dante with all dials turned way down, and since he’s the main driving force of both the game and story, that feeling of him being a downgrade ended up plaguing much of the experience for me. It also doesn’t help that DMC 4 employs an absolutely baffling handicap system that (in short) forces the struggling player onto a lower difficulty and then proceeds to punish them for it.

  

4. DmC: Devil May Cry

Okay, let’s get this one out of the way: Dante’s redesign was a horrible idea. At this point in the series history, it seems Capcom was absolutely convinced that the iconic Dante of old was holding Devil May Cry back. But putting that aside, what we’re left with is a mostly great action game - one that feels in many ways more cohesive than the two above.

As a reboot that was abandoned afterwards (to once again continue the old continuity), there’s no doubt that DmC is the odd duckling of the series, and that might actually be its biggest issue. While its different aesthetics and take on the lore are passable in their own right, they inevitable feel off when looking at what came both before and after. Other than that, and a few tone-deaf decisions, it holds up as a competent hack 'n' slash experience - if you can stop yourself from questioning why it even exists that is.

   

3. Devil May Cry

We're past the halfway point, so it’s high time we get some more positivity in here. Luckily, I have no problem bringing that out for the game that started it all. While there can be no doubt that the two previous entries on this list offered a more fluid combat experience (one area where this title’s age definitely shows), after six games there’s one element I still insist the original Devil May Cry got most right: Dante. Never since his first appearance have his wisecracks been so on point, nor his hair looked so good. In that regard you could say that Devil May Cry is the antithesis of DmC (and yes that is a confusing sentence).

Another aspect that makes this first entry stand out is how clearly you can see the series' Resident Evil roots, from the lock-and-key design of the mansion, to the camera angles as you explore it. And while the demon-slaying action will always be where this series shines the brightest, there’s a certain charm to that unique blend. Unlike the second entry, Devil May Cry is a game I would definitely say is still worth experiencing today, flaws and all.

   

2. Devil May Cry 5

Redemption seems to be the main theme for this fifth (but actually sixth) entry. Redemption for the series itself, redemption for Vergil in the story, and (largely) redemption for Nero as a character, thanks to a change in personality and his role in this entry's story. I still have to maintain that he’s the least fun character to play as in DMC 5, despite new mechanics, but that is what it is. Dante nonetheless makes a glorious return, with gameplay as fun as ever, and we're also introduced to a third playable character, V, who has a strange but fun playstyle of controlling multiple demons to fight for him.

Devil May Cry 5 also manages to include a solid story to boot. While it sounds rather ambitious on paper to include three different protagonists and bring back several other characters from the series' past, it's all pulled off with relative grace, and though the game can at times feel like it's spread a bit thin (also in terms of buying upgrades separately for three different characters), that's easier to forgive after it's all brought together for one hell of a finale.

  

1. Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening

It’s hard to believe in retrospect that it wasn’t until three entries in that we first got a game with Dante’s twin brother Vergil as a major character, a character that's since become so iconic his name is synonymous with the words Special Edition. At least as far as Capcom is concerned. What can I say about DMC 3 other than... this was it. The first time that all the pieces finally came together. The gameplay was leagues above the first two titles, the story was solid, and the final showdown with Vergil was so epic that Capcom practically couldn't stop itself from reusing it.

Does Devil May Cry 5 have more refined, more varied gameplay? Quite possibly so, but overall I still think DMC 3 has the edge as a more focused experience where everything clicks together. It might not quite be the perfect hack 'n' slash title, but there can be no doubt that it ranks among the best of them, especially for its time.


More Articles

26 Comments
JuliusHackebeil (on 19 April 2024)

Apart from reusing levels, dmc4 is way up in my list. And I always liked Nero too - a brash hot head with a tough guy exteriour and a heart of gold. And his demon arm was fun as a way to have special moves tailored to specific enimies. My ranking would be, from worst to best:

2
DmC
5
3
4
1

(1, 3, 4 and 5 could be in any order to be honest, all awesome games)

  • +5
JWeinCom (on 18 April 2024)

Aside from the fact that I've never played 2 and thus can't comment on it, I agree with this list. I might argue that 1 and 5 should be flipped, but it depends how you rank them. The first was probably better for its time, but 5 would be more fun to play today.

  • +5
Leynos (on 18 April 2024)

4 below dmC? No. DmC is pure grade fucking trash. DMC4 is a really good game. Ranking sucks from the same person Gaas the only way forward so that tracks.

No it's

6.DMC 2
5.DmC
4.DMC4
3.DMC1
2.DMC3
1.DMC5

  • +1
JWeinCom Leynos (on 19 April 2024)

Viewed in isolation, DMC4 is probably the better game, but I can't see myself ever going back to play it when I could play 5 or 3 instead which do everything the 4 does but better and don't force you to play as Nero up front. It's completely redundant. DmC at least offers something different and has some good ideas along with the incredibly cringey ones.

  • +6
MTZehvor JWeinCom (on 19 April 2024)

Much as I enjoy both 3 and 5, 4 offers a lot of unique elements that you can only get there (at least, without modding). Inertia, guard flying, distortion, and reversals are all unique to DMC4 (as far as I'm aware), and add a lot of depth to the combat that isn't present in 3 and 5. 4 is probably still the most technically complex action game ever made, and while I don't expect that to necessarily appeal to the average player (especially considering how unfinished 4 is), 4 absolutely offers a ton of stuff you can't get anywhere else. You just have to dig a bit deeper for it.

  • +4
JWeinCom MTZehvor (on 19 April 2024)

If by a ton of stuff you mean some weird physics quirks you won't know about unless are like a speed runner specifically looking for those things then... I guess?

Not really qualified to speak for that niche, but for like 99% of players my comment stands.

  • 0
MTZehvor JWeinCom (on 19 April 2024)

None of those techniques (save distortion) would really be appealing for speedrunners, since for the most part they extend fights rather than speed them up. They're more used in high level play to provide additional options in combat; guard flying, for instance, allows you to maneuver around an arena in the air which lets you keep combo strings going that otherwise would've been impossible. Reversals change the direction you're facing during a move, allowing for certain other moves that would've otherwise been dropped to be executed successfully after. Etc. etc.

A big part of the appeal of DMC as a series is getting really good at the combat; doing multiple playthroughs to hone your skills, discovering the ins and outs of what each character is capable of, and finding the coolest looking ways to kill enemies. In that light, I think DMC4 providing the most depth to combat and greatest variety of tools to its players is absolutely worth mentioning, since combat depth is a massive part of the series' appeal.

  • 0
JWeinCom MTZehvor (on 19 April 2024)

Ok, not speedrunners, youtubers/super hardcore fans. Feels like you're being super literal here.

But, feels like you're pretty much proving my overall point. If what makes DMCIV unique are weird physics quirks that you wouldn't figure out unless you're already super super into the game and looking up videos on youtube and practicing things that don't really have much practical purpose beyond making your combos extra cool looking... Then for 99.9% of us, DmC will probably be the more worthwhile experience as all the things that make it unique are things 100% of people will experience.

  • 0
MTZehvor JWeinCom (on 19 April 2024)

The reason I make that distinction is to dispute exactly how many people actually learn or would want to learn those techniques: perhaps I've judged the playerbase wrong, but I don't think anywhere close to 99.9% of people fall into the camp of not playing DMC to do combos that look especially cool. Being "extra cool looking" is largely the appeal of the series; giving the player a bunch of freedom to do cool things in combat and find creative ways to kill their enemies, going back to the very first game, which was inspired by Kamiya's memories of wanting to show off and look cool to his friends at arcades.

I'm sure there are plenty of people who are happy to just casually play through the game once, maybe twice. And there's nothing wrong with that. But I don't think that particular group is anywhere close to just 0.1% of players, and for people going around more than that, they're probably going to be invested in learning how to play better. I guarantee I'm nowhere close to the top 0.1% of players out there, and I routinely messed around with those techniques mentioned here in the past. Outside of Guardflying, pretty much everything here is something that's fairly easy to learn and incorporate in a half hour or less. Take Distortion for example: it's literally just activating DT at a specific point in an attack. Hell, I learned it by accident as a kid before ever looking it up online.

  • 0
JWeinCom MTZehvor (on 19 April 2024)

According to the trophies, only about half the people who play the game on PSN will ever hit an SSS combo in the game. Only about 1/4 of the players will play enough to defeat 1,000 enemies. About 9% of the players will beat the game with Lady and Trish. About 15% for Vergil. Only 10% of the players who played DMCIV SE on Playstation even unlocked all of the actual moves in the game for Dante.

So if only around 10% of people who play the game care enough to play through it with an extra character or unlock all of the tools that Dante has, I think somewhere below 1% is a perfectly reasonable estimate for the amount of people who not only want to use all the tools presented to them in the game, but also are going to go out of their way to use the physics quirks it has in any real fashion.

You're just being kind of silly at this point. These are not meaningful features to any significant number of players.

  • 0
MTZehvor JWeinCom (on 19 April 2024)

Those statistics are heavily skewed from players who picked up the game once or twice and never touched it again, which is something that's applicable to just about any game. Somewhere between 28-53% of players have actually beaten the game at all, and it's probably on the lower side (for comparison's sake, only 50% of players finished even Mission 6 in DMC5) . So you're probably looking at a third-fourth of players who actually finished the game beating it with Lady/Trish, and 40% or so of players who completed the game did so with Vergil, which is probably a more indicative assessment of how many people beat it once and left it and how many went back for seconds.

Incidentally, I'd also point out that ~7% of people have beaten the game on Hell and Hell, a difficulty where enemies have SOS health/attack patterns and the player dies instantly, and I guarantee you very few people are beating that difficulty without relying upon more than a few advanced techniques. And that's 7% of all people; it's probably like 15-30% of people who actually beat the game, which is a significant percent of people that played it through to completion.

  • 0
JWeinCom MTZehvor (on 19 April 2024)

No, including all the people who played the game is not skewing the data. Skewing the data is removing all of the people who did not enjoy the game enough to play it to completion. If we're talking about a game's quality we can't just throw out people who didn't like it.

We were talking about the percentage of players. Now, you're trying to limit that to the players who beat the game. Which is my whole point, that these things matter to a niche of a niche of a niche.

Even so, you're still wildly off. I think you're misreading things if you're using PSN profiles. The number you see by default is the trophy completion specifically among members of that site. If you hover over that number, it will give you the number on PSN. If you're actually looking it up on your PS5, then maybe I'm the one who has it backwards, but I'm pretty sure I'm not.

About 43% of people made it through DMC V on some difficulty (or at least made it to level 15). We can tell with that one, because it's broken down by level. We can use that as a baseline for DMC IV, although I kind of think it should be higher for that one, since it was a remake/remaster and a good chunk of people buying it would already know they liked the game.

The 7% figure you're using for Hell and Hell mode is the wrong number. Firstly, because again it's from only members of that site, and secondly, because it's the number for Heaven and Hell, where I believe everyone dies in one hit, and these tactics wouldn't be especially needed.

For Hell and Hell, the actual number is 1.3%. Which means that even if we were assume everyone playing in that mode was using all that stuff, then it is still about one out of every hundred people playing the game, and about 3 out of every hundred who beats it.

Thing is though, even that is probably way overestimating it. I looked up a couple of videos of people playing through that mode, and far as I can tell, they're not doing anything out of the ordinary, just playing really well. No bouncing around, no using devil trigger in weird ways, no unnatural floating, just good old fashion Devil May Crying. One of them even had commentary, and he didn't mention doing anything funky. So, based on my admittedly limited sample, it seems that even among the people that are so into this game that they are uploading it on their youtube channels, this isn't exactly a common thing.

Again, I get that there's a subset of people to whom this makes a big difference. But to insist that these weird little glitches/exploits are a major deal to any significant number of people is really silly.

  • 0
MTZehvor JWeinCom (on 20 April 2024)

"If we're talking about a game's quality we can't just throw out people who didn't like it."

If those were people who played it for a good chunk of time and genuinely decided they didn't like the game then I'd agree, but I don't think that's the case here. While I don't have mission specific DMC4 statistics (largely because DMC4 doesn't have achievements for those missions), nearly 50% of players put DMC5 down by Mission 6, which is just not enough time to form an opinion on the game (pulling this from Steam achievements). This is a pretty common phenomenon across games; roughly comparable numbers don't get past the quarter point in Souls games, Like a Dragon games, etc. People just have a habit of buying games and not finishing them, due to no fault of the game. They just get busy, or distracted by some other title, or whatever else.

I'd wager the same holds true for DMC4. I don't think the majority of cases are people who just picked up the game, decided they thought the game was bad, and then didn't play it. It's more people who either picked up the game and probably played it once and never touched it again.

  • 0
JWeinCom MTZehvor (on 20 April 2024)

I disagree... but it really doesn't matter. I even granted that premise for the rest of the post. We still get a very small percentage of people who take on the game's tougher challenges, and it stands to reason that a fraction of those are going to care about the stuff you're talking about. That number is so small that it really doesn't matter if we include everyone who played it, everyone who played till level X, or everyone who beat it. We still get a number that is at best way under 5% and realistically under 1%.

  • +1
Leynos JWeinCom (on 19 April 2024)

I finished DMC4 DE with every character and even just Nero/Dante it has the highest skill ceiling of the series. 5 scales it back to make a lot of things easier to do but still offers a lot of depth.

  • 0
JWeinCom Leynos (on 19 April 2024)

Cool? Dunno if you're talking about skill required to beat the game, or to do the best looking combos. Either way, these are things that apply to a very small niche. The vast majority of people are not going to come close to getting as good as they possibly can at the game. For those who will, then maybe DMCIV is amazing, but we're talking about a super small niche here.

  • 0
Leynos JWeinCom (on 20 April 2024)

So? DMC has always appealed to that niche. Except the 2 times they made trash.

  • 0
JWeinCom Leynos (on 20 April 2024)

You're talking about the ceiling. Regardless of the game, there's going to be a very small amount of people who are going to want to get literally as good as possible at it. That may be a higher number for DMC than other series, but it's still insignificantly small for the purposes of a general ranking like this. If you wanted to evaluate them from a particularly hardcore perspective you can do that.

  • 0
Leynos JWeinCom (on 19 April 2024)

Try the DMC4 DE version.

  • 0
JWeinCom Leynos (on 19 April 2024)

I honestly forgot that existed. Maybe playing it would change my opinion, but I don't imagine id enjou playing the game with new characters more thani would enjoy playing 3 again. So if I'm craving DMC I'll probably do that. I suppose that makes my opinion on the rankings somewhat less informed, but I'm ok with that.

  • 0
UnderwaterFunktown Leynos (on 19 April 2024)

My GaaS article critized the view (of certain companies) that GaaS is the only way forward. Anyways I was well aware that placing DMC4 below DmC would be unpopular, I could see a lot of people not being bothered by the elements that dragged it down for me and that's totally fair. It was close call even with my personal gripes, but I didn't want to simply go with the more popular opinion just for the sake of it.

  • +3
Machina Leynos (on 19 April 2024)

Did you even read the GaaS article, or just the title?

Also your ranking isn't massively different from his - DmC down 1 and DMC 3 down 1.

  • 0
Kaunisto (on 23 April 2024)

I never played any, but just some time ago happened to get 3 special edition for PS2

  • 0
LivncA_Dis3 (on 20 April 2024)

DmC: Devil May Cry had one of the best gameplay,
A little bit short though!

The grappling hook addition and DMC 5 borrowing it for Nero made him powerful

  • -2
Leynos LivncA_Dis3 (on 20 April 2024)

DMC4 had it before DmC

  • +1
LivncA_Dis3 Leynos (on 20 April 2024)

It was only used to traverse and not so much as combat,

The floating long hand wasn't very reliable

  • 0