The art of combat has always been an inviting aspect of video games. Everyone and their second cousin, twice removed knows that the sword is the primary weapon of choice where virtual fighting is concerned. We wish we could wield one in real life, but these days it's all about practicality and firearms rule that roost. In the land of gaming, sword-wielders are still as prevalent as ever. But with such a diverse variety of warriors, who are the best of the best out there? This is what I have attempted to find out, and my quest has led me all over the place, to hell and back. While it's always sad when some great names just miss the cut, it's even worse when I had to omit MORE than the amount I'm about to talk about here! Nevertheless, the selection I have here comprises the most up-to-date pure awesomeness of heroes, heroines and villains who show immeasurably sharp skill in their chosen profession.

Heavenly Sword is a brand-new IP set to provide us with buckets of intense, visceral combat come the end of this year. There isn't a heck of a lot known about this game still, but judging from gameplay snippets there looks to be enough sword-swinging action to satisfy the cut-throat in us all. Why does Nariko, the heroine of the game, come in at number 10? She is essentially a female version of the half-demon half-human being whom everyone loves - Dante! She has the ability to morph her one and only sword into various forms, from its initial chunky design to long-range extendable chain-blades, and she can quickly make mince-meat of anything that stands in her way. This is pretty damn important too, seeing as once she stops fighting with the Heavenly Sword, her life begins to drain! It's like Crank, but instead of adrenaline it's all about mortal combat.

This 7-foot tall monstrosity is one ugly mutha... but I'd be more concerned about making a quick escape rather than sit and stare, as it lurches towards me with that heavy blade screeching as it drags along the floor. It brutally kills anything, whether it be a human or a fellow freak of nature. It may not be very agile, but it doesn't really need to be; one well-aimed swipe equals good night, restless dreams for all.

A surgeon being placed in a list of the finest blademasters the world of gaming has to offer?! Yes, and there isn't any doubt in my mind. The scalpel could be considered to be miniature sword used indirectly (and directly if you should slip..) to cause massive damage to even the tiniest pathogen. Respect given where it is due - Derek Stiles is not only a whiz with incisions and excisional biopsies, but he also has the Healing Touch which makes his sword-wielding skills that much more potent, performing the most delicate procedures at the speed of light with perfect precision.

The way of the samurai has a whole new meaning as far as Samanosuke is concerned. Utilising a myriad of demon magic, he is able to infuse his chosen arm with a power able to rip through the Genma like scissors to paper. With sufficient soul energy he can transform into an Oni warrior, and with the Onimusha Blade in hand, not even the legendary general Nobunaga Oda can stand in wake of its destruction.

He may have been somewhat of a wuss back in the era of Sons of Liberty, but a few years later he returns to us as an enlightened cyber-ninja boy with a thirst for Metal Gear blood (or is that oil?) Who knows if he still uses that thin, fragile-looking High Frequency Blade? But if the trailers are any indication, High Fatality Blade suits the abbreviation just fine! As much as I admire Snake for his solid stealth, the new Raiden is more stylish than Tommy Hilfiger, more deadly than old man Shinobi, and more manly than all the 300.

Strictly speaking Soma isn't a specialised swordsman, but a soul-stealer who wrecks havoc by recycling the powers of evil and redirecting it back at them. He is a versatile warrior, able to wield everything from katanas, whips and guns, or he can just fight it out bare-knuckled. He's that good that he deserves a top spot in my list. The legendary holy sword Claimh Solais is a big-ass blade nearly twice his size and probably about ten times heavier, yet Soma is able to swing it from head to toe as if it were as light as a feather. Not only that, but he can combo aerial attacks into ground attacks cancelling into backdash attacks... in other words with ATT+106, DEF+4, STR+7, CON+7, INT+7 and the ability to hit multiple times in a fell swoop, I think you would know the outcome of his rage. Later the sword lost a fair bit of it's broken properties, but as long as there's another beastly blade nearby (King Arthur's mythical Excalibur set in stone even!) this high school exchange student of all trades needn't fear.

The evil sword has consumed its owner, and so the sword-wielder in question here is really the soul of the weapon itself! A once gallant knight is now the ultimate cursed being, thriving upon spilt blood and the life-force of everything that is innocent. His giant blade, the Soul Edge, with its gruesome eye popping through the infected metal, is the grim reaper on the stage of history. Countless lives have been lost at the tip of this eternal evil, and the dark knight seems to show no signs of stopping anytime soon. Even without the human Siegfried in its possession, the armour commanded by the soul of the blade is enough to obliterate any army thrown at it. He may look big and slow, but one counter-hit rook splitter will make you think again. Top-tier for sure.

This taciturn protagonist may lead the confusing fantasy with a cold-heart, but as a man of the sword, there isn't a finer example. The gunblade is a cool conglomeration melding the strength of RPG steel with an extra shot of napalm in the morning. In reality it may not be a very practical weapon, but if you could actually perform a Renzokuken flurry, I'm sure no-one would tell it that to you! Squall and Seifer are masters of this fusion arm, but the lead always comes out on top where skill is concerned. If a series of multiple explosive hits isn't enough for you, Squall can also tie up loose ends with several finishing moves at his disposal. So what's on the menu for today? Lion Heart for another barrage of even more mind-numbing slashes, or Blasting Zone for a literally earth smashing crash from the heavens!

He's a reploid who aids the main mega man, X, in the quest for justice and peace between humans and their robotic creations. Zero's preferred method of attack is full-frontal slicing & dicing, and he is able to dash up and jump in your face in nearly zero seconds at that! By retiring mavericks he is able to gain new saber moves, from rolling dash attacks to my favourite: flame-uppercut slashes in the style of Shoryuken! Zero has been blown to smithereens more than a few times, yet he always comes back a few years later boasting more power than ever before! What gives? Is he really the ultimate creation of the infamous Dr. Wily?? So legendary is his status that a century after his apparent demise, a new Zero is reborn. While technically inferior to the original model, he still owns up the place, criss-crossing, thrusting, diving and soaring with his signature neon-green light-saber with the grace no human could ever dream of.

The flamboyant son of Sparda kicks up a storm of sword swinging madness so strong that even devils may cry. Don't let his cocky attitude fool you - Dante is a man who talks a lot of trash, but takes it out just as well. It's all about style with this half-blood, and arguably the flashiest is the stance he takes as a Swordmaster. If you think you can utter a mocking laugh from 10 metres distance and remain safe, he'll show you a thing or two; before you drop your last note, Dante will have swooped in with a Stinger stab, strung it into a multi-hit combo of slashes, ending that sequence with a High Time uppercut. He would then have leapt up to pursue you with an Aerial Rave, slammed you back to the ground with a Helmet Breaker, and Prop Shredder spin-slashed your mangled, fallen body. After taking a brief rest taunting your helpless self, he would then have charged a Drive shockwave to slam you against the closest wall, before finally finishing the job off with the flurry known as the Dance Macabre, cancelling to the Million Stab routine, and then the final decisive thrust. The greatest sword-wielder ever? OH HELL YEAH!

Guns are bad. In real-life they are nothing but weapons of mass-destruction and in gaming, I've had enough shoot 'em ups to last me 'til the end of days. Okay I exaggerate a bit, but when compared the honourable blade, it doesn't quite 'cut' it :P Of this list, I hope you have learnt a lot about the sword-wielders who have changed my life in more ways than one. Sadly some legends were missed: Link and his Master Sword, Bleach's Ichigo and Zangetsu, Cloud and the Buster Sword (one Final Fantasy is enough here), Metaknight, Ryu Hayabusa, and a whole host of Tales of characters. But I still think that the ones that are listed here cleanly slice & dice the rest up any day of the year! "Live by the sword. Die by the sword"

List by Arkrex (04/30/2007)

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