Top 10 Dynasty Warriors Games [Best Recommendations]

It might come as somewhat of a surprise, especially considering that the Dynasty Warriors franchise is not exactly known for innovation, but the changes from the first to the second release were so vast that it practically stands unparalleled in gaming history. The first Warriors title was a plain old one-vs-one fighting game, in the mold of Mortal Kombat and Tekken, with the gimmick that the combat was weapon-based (pre-dating Soulcalibur by a year). It actually did a pretty good job of things as well, receiving largely positive reviews, featured an impressive enough roster of 16 playable characters, and a robust combat system.

This all changed with Dynasty Warriors 2, ditching the restrictions of the 2D fighter and creating the Musou genre as we know it today. With a simplistic combat system, players would choose a general and then head off into battle: with the goal of slaying thousands of scrubs before taking on a named enemy. Based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel, or history in general, the levels and characters were directly taken from one of those two sources.

With Dynasty Warriors 9 on the horizon, which seems poised to shake things up once again, there is no better time than the present to revisit this 20-year-old series. For this list, only titles with Dynasty Warriors in the actual name will be included. One Piece Pirate Warriors, Hyrule Warriors, Samurai Warriors, and Warriors Orochi will have to wait for another day.

10. Dynasty Warriors 7: Xtreme Legends

  • Systems: PlayStation 3, PC
  • Publisher: Tecmo Koei Games
  • Developer: Omega Force
  • Release Date: Sep 29, 2011

Following the disappointment that was Dynasty Warriors 6, the seventh entry into the franchise proved to be a step in the right direction. Introducing 11 new playable characters, and revamping the weapon and combat system, Omega Force prioritized fast-paced action and quantity more than ever. In some ways, this was a return to the stylings of the fifth entry – as the Renbu combat system from the sixth game was discarded, in favor of the system of old.

One interesting addition is the conquest mode, which seemed largely inspired on the Dynasty Warriors Strikeforce game on the PSP. In this mode, players could select from a range of warriors (some only available here) and are given a considerable amount of freedom to carve their own path. New characters and ultimate weapons can be unlocked, and it ended up greatly increasing the play time for Dynasty Warriors 7. This entry also has one of the best story modes in the franchise, as it re-imagines the Romance of the Three Kingdoms in its entirety, rather than focusing on a particular time period.


9. Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires

  • System: PlayStation 3
  • Publisher: Tecmo Koei Games
  • Developer: Omega Force
  • Release Dates: Nov 8, 2012 (JP), Feb 22, 2013 (EU), Feb 26 (US)

The Empires games have been around since Dynasty Warriors 4, with the aim of adding a degree of strategy and realism to the franchise. Presented as a cross between the hack and slash mayhem of a Musou game and the more tactical gameplay of the Romance for the Three Kingdoms franchise, these spin-offs tend to not have a large amount of depth but deliver quantity over quality.

Bringing back the entire Xtreme Legends cast, and adding a new playable character in Xu Shu, players could choose what type of life in Feudal Japan they want to lead: to carve out their own destiny. With Empire Mode, the main three options were to become a loyal officer, an ambitious ruler, or a mercenary. The latter can be the most diverse to play through, as the goal was to earn a reputation while fighting for a variety of different factions.

The performance within battle also dictated the fame that character would build and whether they are seen as a positive or negative force. Each map also has strategy points, where traps can be set to take out enemy soldiers, and officers can also die from injuries they may have sustained in battle.


8. Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires

  • Systems: PlayStation 2, Xbox 360
  • Publisher: Tecmo Koei Games
  • Developer: Omega Force
  • Release Dates: Mar 23, 2006 (JP), Mar 28, 2006 (US), June 23, 2006 (EU)

As with all the Empires spin-offs, Dynasty Warriors 5 places the player in the shoes of a leader whose goal is to seize territory and eventually unite China. The earlier main games had a heavier focus on group morale, meaning that the player felt more like a unit within an army, rather than a monster capable of destroying hundreds with their bare hands. Therefore, when the Empires games were released, which allowed to create your own character and to carve your own path, this genuinely provided a different experience from the main titles.

Presenting the option to follow a historically accurate or completely fictional scenario, the decisions made throughout the experience impact the trajectory of the narrative. Officers can recommend policies, which can be accepted or rejected, which in turn influences upcoming battles. Captured generals can also be executed or left unharmed, and there is even the option of letting characters die from old age. As the combat is considerably harder in these earlier games, Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires can be rather unforgiving as well.


7. Dynasty Warriors: Gundam

  • Systems: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
  • Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
  • Developer: Omega Force
  • Release Dates: Mar 1, 2007 (JP), Aug 28, 2007 (US), Nov 9, 2007 (EU)

The first of the Gundam spin-off titles, this 2007 release is based on the Universal Century timeline from the legendary anime franchise, and offers a host of mecha suits from a range of series. There are two unique story modes included: Official and Original. The former has six playable characters and re-tells famous plots from the Universal Century timeline. The latter offers a completely unique storyline and includes mechas from series not set within the UC timeline, mainly Mobile Fighter G Gundam, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, and Turn A Gundam.

Although any Dynasty Warriors veteran will feel right at home with the gameplay, there are a few changes to make better use of the source material being adapted. As would be expected, the range of combat options is expanded and made considerably more prominent within this entry. Inspired by the dozens of famous battle sequences in the anime, the characters have considerably more mobility and some can even fly.


6. Dynasty Warriors Advance

  • System: Game Boy Advance
  • Publisher: Nintendo Koei
  • Developer: Omega Force
  • Release Dates: Mar 24, 2005 (JP), Aug 29, 2005 (US), Dec 2, 2005 (EU)

So, who remembers this one? There have been a few handheld Warriors games released, usually offering a smaller scale version of the console mainline games, but Advance was actually one of a kind. Due to the limited hardware being used, the graphics are sprite-based, and a grid battlefield system that was used in Dynasty Warriors PSP is implemented. Focusing on small battlefields, mini battles take place within these areas, with a color scheme that will indicate which side is dominating.

A huge downside is that there are only 13 playable characters, but this is complimented with a robust weapon system with over 100 options. Each character can use up to three weapons, which allows for a fair amount of experimentation and variety. There is also a power-up system in place, as characters gradually gain strength as they proceed through a variety of stages.


5. Dynasty Warriors 3: Xtreme Legends

  • System: PlayStation 2
  • Publisher: Koei
  • Developer: Omega Force
  • Release Dates: Aug 29, 2002 (JP), Jan 15, 2003 (US), Mar 14, 2003 (EU)

The first ever Xtreme Legends add-on, this included a ton of new features to the already robust original game. This entry is honestly including Dynasty Warriors 3 as well, as Xtreme Legends could only be experienced in all its glory if the player had the CD of the original game, to allow its content to be loaded and added to Xtreme Legends.

Dynasty Warriors 3 was the first great game in the franchise, introducing a bodyguard system and amping up the AI's aggressiveness; resulting in one pretty challenging experience. Musou mode focuses on re-creating scenarios from the Nanman Campaign, with unique stories for individual characters. Xtreme Legends piled on more content, as new scenarios were unlocked for characters that were left sidelined in the original.

Although the slower gameplay can be hard to return to, especially after experiencing one of the later entries, there is still a lot to enjoy here.


4. Dynasty Warriors 5

  • Systems: PlayStation 2, Xbox
  • Publisher: Koei
  • Developer: Omega Force
  • Release Dates: Feb 24, 2005 (JP), Mar 29, 2005 (US), June 24, 2005 (EU)

The last entry into the golden era for the franchise, Dynasty Warriors 5 was the most popular release up until that point, and has not really been matched since (although Dynasty Warriors 8 gave it a good run). Although the combat has not changed much from the previous two installments, there were a few slight adjustments that made the whole experience a bit more satisfying. For the first time, each character is given their own finishing move and bases have been added to the battlefield, which can either serve as an attack, defense, or supply center.

Musou Mode moves away from the style of narrative seen in Dynasty Warriors 4, which focused on factions rather than individuals, in favor of presenting stories for each character. With 48 playable characters, which can be unlocked by clearing stages from Musou Mode, there is a vast amount of missions to play through. Dynasty Warriors 5 does a fantastic job of making the individual warriors feel like their own person, with unique victory poses, and varied move sets. It rarely feels like anyone is just a copy of another character. This variety stops the massive story mode from becoming too repetitive or dull.


3. Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition

  • Systems: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, PC
  • Publisher: Koei
  • Developers: Omega Force, Fuze
  • Release Dates: Nov 28, 2013 (JP), Mar 25, 2014 (US), Apr 4, 2014 (EU)

Competing for the longest title in gaming history, the most recent installment took the improvements seen in Dynasty Warriors 7 and ran with it. First things first, let's talk about that cast! There are 83 playable characters, with each character playing a part in the campaign. Musou Mode is divided into four faction based story-lines, infused with a few impressive cut scenes to allow newcomers to get some background on the time period, and another 'Other' section dedicated to characters who do not belong to these groups.

Xtreme Legends adds a further storyline for Lu Bu and his army, and even more missions for each of the factions. That is an insane amount of content to play through, which is backed with the most fast-paced and over-the-top gameplay seen in the franchise. A few unique mechanics are even added, including a rock, paper, scissors weakness system. For the first time ever, Ambition mode is also introduced, which plays like a bare-bones version of one of the Empires games. After collecting material to build a palace, the player then needs to conquer territories in order to bring down a false Emperor.


2. Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn

  • Systems: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita
  • Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
  • Developers: Omega Force
  • Release Dates: Dec 19, 2013 (JP), Jul 1, 2014 (US)

The fourth entry in the Gundam series, Reborn spans most of the anime franchise and offers over 100 Suits and Mobile Armors to choose from. There are two main modes; Official and Ultimate mode. The former is based on the content found in the source material, with both the Universal Century and Cosmic Era timelines being presented. On the other hand, Ultimate mode serves as wish fulfillment for most fans, as crossover missions are created that incorporate about 120 mechas.

Gameplay-wise not much has changed, although there are a few additions like Burst System and space battles are revamped to truly feel like their own separate experience. Graphically, Gundam Reborn steps away from the cell-shaded stylings seen in the third outing, opting for a more realistic design. The customization features are stripped down, although it is still possible to power up a suit by merging different system plans together.

From the four Gundam games, Reborn is the easiest to recommend to fans of both the anime and Dynasty Warriors series, as it incorporates the best of both worlds.


1. Dynasty Warriors 4

  • Systems: PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC
  • Publisher: Koei
  • Developer: Omega Force
  • Release Dates: Feb 27, 2003 (JP), Mar 25, 2003 (US), June 27, 2003 (EU)

Although there isn't a lot separating most of the entries into the franchise, Dynasty Warriors 4 remains one that most fans continue to return to for one more run. Building on the solid foundations of the previous game, the 4th entry adds a few cinematic features that further enhance the experience. For example, enemy generals can challenge the player to a duel. If accepted, they both are teleported to an isolated battlefield to duke it out. Characters can even announce themselves when they enter battle, creating an aura around themselves.

The story mode is based around kingdoms, rather than creating an individual story for each character. Each one has a variety of 'Acts' that need to be played through, and players are free to choose which warrior they wish to control. For the first time in the franchise, weapons can also be leveled up, as points are gained the more they are used in battle. All normal weapons can be increased to level 9, while unique level 10 weapons can be unlocked as a reward for completing objectives.


Final Thoughts

It could be argued that Koei has played it too safe with Dynasty Warriors; that each game is the same. On the flip side, the quality is pretty darn consistent, despite being around for 20 years. With Dynasty Warriors 9 being an open world experience, a feature that worked brilliantly in Dragon Quest Heroes 2, fans might have something new and exciting to look forward to.

Are you a fan of Dynasty Warriors? If yes, please let us know which is your personal favorite in the comment section below!

Mark Sammut

Writer

Author: Mark Sammut

Born and raised on a small island in the Mediterranean, my life goal is to experience as many different ways of life as possible. Since time and money are in short supply, anime and film provide the best opportunity to experience far away cultures and worlds. When I'm not watching the latest episode of Gintama, or wondering what series to watch next, you can find me in the corner of the closest coffee shop; writing away on my aging laptop.

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