Somewhere between the 51st and 52nd times I smashed my 12-foot steel drum into a dinosaur’s face, I felt something. This dull, unfamiliar pang in the back of my neck didn’t register as anger — didn’t taste like bloodthirst. Concerned loved ones have since assured me this sensation was “guilt,” but how could that be? Monster Hunter games are all about defeating (and then skinning) gigantic creatures in order to make yourself look like a godly beastmaster. Who has room for remorse in a power fantasy?
A mystery of this magnitude can only be solved with the internet’s oldest and most reliable form of study: an ordered list. In the style of merritt k’s previous piece on Destiny 2, here is a ranking of Monster Hunter creatures, assembled in order of how bad I feel about murdering them and wearing their corpses. There’s more nuance here than you’d think!
Those familiar with Monster Hunter World will know this menace all too well. If you haven’t yet clenched your fist and cursed its name at the sky, Bazelgeuse arrives as the MHW endgame unfurls, proceeding to haunt players across several environments. This spiteful shitbag hates everything you are and will not hesitate to show it by raining down exploding scales all over you, and your little cat, too. It doesn’t matter if all you’re trying to do is ambush an Anjanath with two humongous meat cleavers — Bazelgeuese wants to ruin your day.
What’s worse, the New World’s version of Mr. X shows no remorse for its unending harassment. I guess we can’t expect more out of a feral brute, but part of me still wishes I could teach it a lesson. How would Bazelgeuse feel if it was chilling out and minding its own business, maybe killing another monster or three, only for an outsider to start mindlessly wreaking havoc in and around its personal space? I guess we’ll never know.
See, this feels right. Scales don’t belong on the animals of land or sea; they belong on virtuous warriors who then destroy the animals of land or sea. In the defeat and subsequent carving of a Bazelgeuse, the world has one less demonic flying squirrel and I look good as hell while stalking my next target. There are no losers here. Why did I think I felt bad for these monsters, again?
You’d think I would feel worse when hunting something that appears genetically related to me, but that distinction doesn’t really do you any favors when it comes to video games. Humans are the default enemy in this medium, and I have killed tens of thousands of Junkrats alone; a quasi-humanoid doesn’t only not register on my (very broad, very generous) empathy scale. It practically triggers a fight or flight response unto itself.
It doesn’t help that Congalala is yet another enormous asshole, one whose main attack involves his actual super-sized sphincter blasting deadly farts at the player. I’m serious. Someone on the Monster Hunter Wiki described this fatal flatulence as having the properties of “dragon strength winds,” and I have no choice but to believe whoever was strong enough to enter those words into internet canon.
Congalala is essentially the Wario of the unknown frontier, a garlicky jester who uses its prehensile tail to carry around a mushroom, a little snack which it uses to replenish its health when it gets tired. Is that relatable? Of course. Nevertheless, this ape has no style, has no grace, and therefore must be obliterated.
Wow. Some people ask “Who is the real monster?” in Monster Hunter games, but now the answer is clear: the real monster is Congalala, whose bones and organs can’t even be fashioned into reasonably good-looking armor. Why waste consumables fighting a massive primate if the end result is you looking like some kind of prehistoric ding-dong?
Now I remember why I started this list. I can get behind the wholesale slaughter of ancient lizards and boorish primates, but there’s something about Paolumu that’s just… soft. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that it’s more or less a giant bat. When seen at this size, at clobbering range, it’s clear that bats are just leathery dogs that can fly. And nobody wants to clobber a dog.
Yes, it is immensely satisfying when it inflates like a pufferfish and you whale on it with a giant hammer. I like popping bubble wrap, I’m only human. I won’t say I’m sorry for Paolumu. According to Monster Hunter, at least, it is my divine right to poach my lessers, and I am manifestly destined to strip them for parts and give them to my cat (who I would never strip for parts, we’re complete equals, and you’re a sicko for thinking otherwise). If it puts other Palomu at ease, I am considering being adjacent to a fleeting second of shame when their time comes.
Forget everything I said. Equipping a Paolumu set is like wearing a portable ski cabin with hot cocoa and a blazing fire. May its silky fur soothe my fickle conscience…
Granted, Arzuros is one of the more bizarre looking monsters on this list, but there’s something about its mangled combination of a scrappy badger and a paunchy bear that makes me feel a little warm to it. It stands on his hind legs to get honey, just like me. It’s a frankly terrible fighter and loses most battles very quickly, just like me. What’s not to love?
The limp, for one. During battles, most monsters reach a point where they begin to stagger during walks, signaling to players that the hunt is almost at an end. Whereas seeing an irritable elder dragon hobble away can be gratifying, this is not the case with Arzuros, whose pathetic shuffle is almost heart-wrenching. On occasion, it even looks back at the hunter; like Orpheus on his death march out of the underworld, it knows looking back means facing doom, but it cannot help doing so.
My god, what am I doing here? Why have I traveled across the world, so far from home, into a strange continent, only to track down this sad Pooh bear and rend its rumbly tummy asunder? Who am I!?
Oh, that’s right. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help but see that fur lining and notice a direct correlation between the look of the fur and the sullen expression of the animal I butchered for the crime of living its own life on a distant island paradise. I could just be imagining things, though.
1. Great Jagras
I think I’m starting to see the pattern here… The Great Jagras is the first major encounter in Monster Hunter World, and it quickly becomes apparent that its noble prefix is some kind of cosmic joke. This shaggy iguana is no major threat, and can do almost nothing beyond scamper around the Ancient Forest, waiting for a hunter to exploit its low clearance and jump onto its back. Great Jagras’ main form of defense is, uh, finding another animal and guzzling it down, desperately trying to eat while a team of tiny Gulliver’s Assholes assault it with swords and blunt objects of varying styles. Then it must continue the battle while still pregnant with its food baby. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to do anything after a big meal other than take a nap — which the Great Jagras is welcome to do, provided it’s okay with waking up to an electrified trap or a cartoonishly large pile of explosive barrels.
As the smallest big game in World, Great Jagras is subject to all sorts of amateurs testing out their new weapons, wielding Switch Axes and Long Swords like toddlers whipping around pool noodles. And because they are human — because they have planted a flag, because they have drawn a line around their side of the apartment, and because that line is the horizon — the Great Jagras has no recourse but to become someone’s loincloth. And the worst part of it all?
I just look like a dipshit.