The Resurgence of H&S ARPGs: Gaming's cultural cycle

sorceress in the baal throne room in the video game diablo 2

As gaming approaches its 70th year, it's clear it's not just a fleeting trend — it's firmly embedded in pop culture, echoing the cyclical nature of other phenomena such as fashion and music. Right now, one genre captivating gamers is the revival of hack-and-slash Action Role-Playing Games (ARPGs). Titles like Diablo 4, Path of Exile, and Last Epoch are leading the charge, blending nostalgia with innovation. Let's dive into why this resurgence is happening and how it mirrors cycles seen in other cultural realms.

The Golden Era

Think back to the late '90s and early 2000s, when dial-up modems ruled and hack-and-slash ARPGs reigned supreme. Diablo II was the king, offering addictive gameplay and immersive worlds. Remember That online feature was revolutionary, letting gamers team up globally and forge unforgettable memories.

The Age of MMO’s

Technological advancements and new titles captured gamers' attention, leaving hack-and-slash experiences in the shadows. Popular RTS-games like Starcraft, and even the FPS-genre with Quake and Counter-Strike were struggling to keep up with the shock-and-awe that the MMO-genre came with. As the mid-2000s rolled in, games like World of Warcraft, Guildwars, and EVE Online were released, and their predecessors EverQuest, Tibia, and Runescape gained more popularity. Gaming trends shifted, and the spotlight veered away. However, this lull wasn't the end—it was just a long intermission before the genre's inevitable comeback.

The Power of Nostalgia as a Cultural Reset

Fast forward to today, and we're witnessing a renaissance of hack-and-slash ARPGs. What's driving this resurgence? Nostalgia plays a massive role, attracting both seasoned players eager to relive past adventures and newcomers curious about gaming's rich history. The allure of revisiting familiar gameplay in a modern gaming landscape is irresistible.

Gaming is now a part of pop culture, approaching its 40th year online. It's fascinating how it mirrors other pop culture phenomena. The resurgence of hack-and-slash ARPGs aligns perfectly with the cyclical nature of fashion and music. Just like trends in these realms, gaming experiences go through revivals fuelled by nostalgia and innovation. It's proof that these experiences can captivate audiences across generations.

Evolution of the Genre

But nostalgia alone can't sustain this revival. Developers are infusing fresh life into hack-and-slash ARPGs, innovating with features, storytelling, and graphics. Games like Diablo 4, Path of Exile, and Last Epoch stand as evidence of this evolution, with constant updates shaped by player feedback and community engagement.

The Future of Hack-and-Slash ARPGs

Looking ahead, the future of the genre looks bright as technological advancements, shifting player preferences, and industry trends all point toward a continued resurgence for hack-and-slash ARPGs. Naturally though, if gaming is inheriting the characteristics of other cultural sensations, you have to take the good with the bad, and sometimes nostalgia is overrated. Trying something for the second or third time won't hit you like it did the first, and maybe that’s why Diablo III and IV did not receive the critical acclaim of its predecessor. Some things are just left better as memories encapsulated in a point of time, and just maybe you’re not supposed to wear low-rise jeans in your mid 30’s. 


In the ever-changing world of gaming, certain genres experience resurgences that mirror pop culture's cyclical nature. The revival of hack-and-slash ARPGs, led by titles like Diablo 4, Path of Exile, and Last Epoch, is a prime example. Fueled by nostalgia, innovation, and a desire for familiar yet refreshing experiences, these games are reshaping the gaming landscape for 2023 and beyond. As we embrace this resurgence, we're reminded that some gaming experiences truly stand the test of time, leaving a lasting impact on our culture. 

The burning question persists: Can we decode gaming's tea leaves and forecast the next big trends? Who will emerge as the Anna Wintour (Chief Editor - Vogue) of gaming, orchestrating the next cycle of hits? Will it be the influencers, with their sway over millions of followers, or the game developers crafting the experiences behind the scenes? And if this thesis holds water, are we on the brink of a resurgence in sprawling, open-world MMOs within the next 3-5 years? As we ponder these questions, we peer into the crystal ball of gaming's future, eagerly anticipating what lies ahead hoping those jeans might fit just as well as they did the first time.

Jasmin Juzbasic