Herein I continue my rambling review of some of the monsters from the Monster Hunter franchise (of which I have only played one game, the Mons game spinoff Monster Hunter Stories)! In today’s entry, I discuss my favorite monster in the entire franchise. It will not surprise you. I also talk about a bunch of others too, but that’s standard.
We’ll start off with two mammals to whet our whistle. One of the reasons I love the Monster Hunter franchise’s monster bestiary is also one of the reasons I love the Kanto generation of Pokemon: the majority of the monsters are at least partially lizardy. Its like it’s a world where “lizard” is the preferred body plan, and everything keeps evolving back into lizards in one way or another. This makes the few monsters who AREN’T lizardy stand out all the more. Popo is another herbivore in the vein of Aptonoth and Apceros, but takes design cues from Cenozoic megafauna instead of the Mesozoic monsters that preceded it. Bulldrome is actually the first of a new Monster Class, the Fanged Beasts. Like every other “drome” in the franchise, Bulldrome is a large member of a usually less impressive monster species, the Bullfangos. In the first Monster Hunter game Bullfangos were put in the Herbivore Class, but once Bulldrome was introduced they were moved to the Fanged Beasts.
The other Fanged Beasts introduced alongside Bulldrome took a different design path, aping (HA!) a great deal of their design inspiration from various primates. Congala here doubles as both a Drome-style leader of weaker monsters (called Congas) AND a Weird Tier monster in the vein of creatures like Yian Kut Ku. This hippo-gorilla-monkey is notorious for its explosive belches and horrible farts, the later of which inflicts the “soiled” status. It’s gross, but that’s monkey business for you.
I like that it has a hippo-ish face. Nothing about its status as a stinky ape monster screams for including Hippo elements, and yet it works!
Blangongo, leader of the blangos, is a bit more straight forward. It’s a big pissed off gorilla-baboon with some weird ass facial hair. I feel its personality isn’t quite as standout as Congala’s, but it’s still a good monster monkey, and I appreciate how its hindlegs seem to be a little wolf-y. It’s a design that seems straight-forward at first but gets weirder the more you look at it.
However, the Greatest Ape of the series is undoubtedly the Rajang, which remains not only the strongest Fanged Beast of the franchise, but one of the strongest monsters of the franchise PERIOD. This Devil Baboon has a really mythic vibe and is a total fucking asshole to fight, even in the light-hearted Pokemon-style spinoff game. Rajang was meant to pay homage to both King Kong and the great ape forms of the Saiyans in Dragon Ball Z, the later of which also inspired its golden-haired super-charged form. While a simple design on the surface, this goat-horned baboon is monster that is perfect in its straight forward brutality.
The series also branched out with another new monster class, the Carapaceons, which are basically big crustaceans. Daimyo Hermitaur is my favorite of these, as it’s basically an enormous hermit grab that wears the skulls of other monsters as a shell. Shogun Ceanataur and Shen Gaoren are pretty cool crabs too, with the latter having a nice cave monster vibe.
Anyway, back to lizards. Hypnocatrice emphasizes the “bird” in “bird wyvern, with far more plumage than its predecessors in the franchise. At the same time, it has a scaly lizardy tail and big leathery bat-wings, which gives it both an archaeopteryx vibe AND a cockatrice vibe! Prehistoric creatures and fantasy beasts – the formula for a good MH monster design!
Nagacuga, meanwhile, is a Flying Wyvern that brings a bit more mammalian influence to the table than its predecessors in the class. Despite its panther-y vibes, that mouth and tail are very lizardy. It’s like a panther that evolved to be a bat lizard! As a fan of cats, bats, and lizards, I am a pretty big fan of this fella. But it’s not my favorite…
Tigrex is another member of the Flying Wyvern class, and, from what I can tell, holds a ranking close but not equal to Rathalos in the franchise. When a MH monster cameos somewhere else, it will be Rathalos. If a second monster cameos alongside it, chances are high it will be Tigrex. I guess that makes Tigrex… I dunno, the Meowth to Rathalos’s Pikachu? Or maybe the Eevee?
All of that is irrelevant because Tigrex is a Dragon With a T.rex Head, which, according to my inner child, is a combination of two of the best things ever. AND! It has tiger stripes! Which is why it’s called Tigrex, you see. Tigers are also super cool! So that’s, like, Three Perfect Things in One!
And in Monster Hunter Stories when you win a battle with a Tigrex it snaps its jaws in a really cute but ferocious way it’s like CHOMP CHOMP THAT’S RIGHT I’M A TIGREX CHOMP CHOMP MOTHERFUCKER I’M THE BEST AND WILLIAM IS MY BEST FRIEND WHICH MEANS HE’S COOL TOO COME ON WILLIAM LETS GO ON ADVENTURES AND
Anyway I really like Tigrex. It’s my favorite.
I didn’t talk a whole lot about Plesioth, so let’s amend that when talking about its close relative, Lavasioth. As the name and color scheme implies, Lavasioth swims in LAVA, which a number of Monster Hunter monsters are adapted to do. It’s not really a surprise to have creatures that live in lava in an RPG, but Monster Hunter‘s emphasis on ecosystems results in creating one ecosystem filled with creatures adapting to living inside fucking volcanoes, which is pretty hardcore. I like how Lavasioth builds on the ceolacanth-dragon vibe of Plesioth by having big black scales that look like cool lava chunks mixed with the more traditional fish scales, and that mouth is freakin’ gnarly.
A vision of things to come, Akantor is another lava-dwelling monster, this one belonging to the Flying Wyvern class… technically. See, despite the classification, this fucker can’t fly. That doesn’t stop it from being deadly, though, as Akantor takes all those powerful arm muscles its ancestors’ wings needed and devotes them to these big, gorilla-like brawling arms. It’s also got a gnarly set of tusks and some wonderful dorsal spikes. All in all, this guy gives me some Ultraman kaiju vibes – which, again, is a vision of things to come in the franchise.
Another flightless Flying Wyvern, Ukanlos also has a pleasant Ultraman kaiju vibe. In fact, this guy and Akantor both feel like wildly different interpretations of the same monster prompt. It’s even got a prominent and weaponized lower jaw, replacing Akantor’s tusks with just… a great big shovel of a chin. I love it. Ukanlos also lives in an environment with extreme temperatures – a frozen wasteland, as opposed to the volcanic home of Akantor. A good lizardy fellow, even if it can’t fly.
We’re into the Elder Dragons again! Chameleos has the classic dragon limb arrangement (two wings, four legs, you know the drill) but takes it in some weird and, dare I say, psychedelic directions? I like how it incorporates chameleon anatomy, from the curly tail to the articular eyes to the long tongue and even the nasal horn! It’s a good freaky boss monster.
Kushala Daora opts for the Fatalis route, feeling like a classic Fantasy dragon that wouldn’t look out of place in Dragon Age or Dragon’s Dogma or Ace Dragon Attorney or (insert fantasy RPG here). While normally I love a good classic dragon, Kushala feels a little bland compared to the weirder critters on display here – though it does have a really cool bit of behavior! The metal-like armor of Kushala Daora apparently fuses together, so when they shed their skin they have to break out of it in a single piece, like a cicada. There’s even a cool video showing them doing it!
Teostra and Lunastra take that weirder step, mixing in a dash of lion to get a vibe that feels equal parts Chimera and Shisa Lion Dog. Like Rathalos and Rathian, these are two sexes of the same species – Teostra the male, Lunastra the female. Again, furry dragons usually aren’t my thing, but I like these two.
Quite possibly the weirdest Elder Dragon in the series, Yama Tsukami is… a squid? A floating mountain? A forest? Wait… are those SCALES on its arms? Or is it chitin?
Yama Tsukami is a floating squid mountain forest lizard bug. You know, what a dragon is basically.
While not what I picture when I hear the word “dragon,” this is a genuinely cool design, looking utterly alien and bizarre yet also incredibly powerful and, in a weird way, almost natural? It feels like primal entity, which is basically what the Elder Dragon class really means – monsters so powerful and so weird they defy our conventional understanding of how monsters work.