- Simple Tips for Starting Out
- Basics of Dealing Damage
- Basics of Armor and Skills
- Basics of Preparation
- Hunting Fundamentals
- The Essence of Combat
- Foundational Concepts
- Intermediate Techniques
- Advanced Techniques
- Brief Weapon Overview
Welcome! May your sword be sharp, your mind and body sharper, and your hunts be prosperous!
My hope is that this guide will make it easier for players to dive into this wonderful series. Monster Hunter has given a lot to me, so hopefully I can give something back. Enjoy!
What is This Guide?
This is a guide to the mechanics of the Monster Hunter series. MH’s mechanics are deep and multi-faceted, but not always clear. Particular attention will be given to the fundamentals of combat. Other aspects of the series, such as lore or detailed builds, are well-covered already across the Internet.
This guide is focused on generalities, not specifics. Armor sets, monster tutorials, etc. won’t be included. The idea is to help you figure things out on your own, or at least know what to Google. However, examples of specific situations will be used to illustrate general concepts.
This guide is targeted towards late 2nd-4th gen games. This means:
- the 2nd gen game Freedom Unite.
- the 3rd gen games Portable 3rd and 3 Ultimate.
- the 4th gen games 4 Ultimate and Generations Ultimate.
The 5th generation games (World and Rise) changed many core mechanics of the series, so they won’t be covered here. If you are playing MH2/F2 or earlier, you probably know what you are doing, and don’t need this guide.
Why Play Monster Hunter?
For a player interested in action games, and possibly coming from other series like Devil May Cry, Ninja Gaiden, or Dark Souls, there are many aspects of MH that are familiar, and others that set Monster Hunter apart.
Only boss fights! Monster Hunter is almost entirely focused on what would be infrequent “boss fights” in other games! This means that MH has some of the best one-on-one encounters in gaming.
Deep and unique combat system. MH combat is very nuanced, and there is always something new to learn! Its combination of methodical pacing, predictive gameplay, and intense focus on positioning distinguishes it from the crowd.
Focus on efficiency. Stylish moments are possible, but they take the backseat in MH: the focus is on playing quick and clean.
Variable difficulty! Early progression can be easy, while later hunts significantly up the challenge. Optional content in many games will truly test your skill, but if you need help, build your armor defensively or play in multiplayer!
Simple Tips for Starting Out
These tips will help you hit the ground running and guide you through some of the more unintuitive aspects of the series.
If you are the type that just wants to learn as they go, then this is for you. Read these, then jump in!
What Game Do I Start With?
MH games are unconnected in story (and don’t really have much story anyway), so you don’t need to play them in a particular order.
For players completely new to MH, I recommend starting with Portable 3rd. It’s on the easier side and can be emulated by even weak PCs. The game was only released in Japan, but there is an English patch.
If you have someone to explain things, or want to play a certain game, then you can start with any MH! In addition to this guide, there are many resources available online to help you get started.
- Try different weapons! Each one plays differently from the rest. Arena quests and Training quests are great ways to experiment without having to craft anything.
- Blademasters: Prioritize getting green sharpness! Yellow sharpness, what most early weapons start with, will make you bounce a lot and lower your damage. See Sharpness and Hitzones for detailed info.
- Start with the village quests! They are scaled for singleplayer and are good for starting out. Other quests (called hub quests) are still soloable, but new players may have difficulty. Progressing in village quests often unlocks useful things like farm upgrades.
- Look up the key quests online! Only certain quests (key quests) are required to progress in the game. Feel free to do as many quests as you want, but you’ll likely want to skip the boring gathering quests that appear early on.
- Use the farm! It helps you get common items, which saves a lot of hassle. In some games you need to spend points to upgrade your farm, prioritize this.
- 4U, GU: Use item sets! Simply add the items you commonly use to your pouch and register a set. Selecting it will pull items from your box to match that set as closely as possible.
- FU, 3U, 4U: Do not compare damage numbers between weapon types! The reason is complicated and annoying. In P3rd and GU, feel free to do this. See Display Raw for more.
- Paintball the monster! Hitting a monster with one marks it on the map for 10 minutes. If it’s been close to 10 minutes, throw another to refresh the duration.
- FU, P3rd, 3U: Kill small monsters before focusing on the large one! Small monsters will annoy you, interrupt your attacks, and cause you to get hit by large monsters! Killing them solves this, usually they have low HP and will die in a few attacks.
- P3rd, 3U, 4U, GU: Bring Dung Bombs to quests with multiple large monsters! Hitting a monster with a Dung Bomb causes it to move zones after a bit. Fighting multiple monsters at once is difficult and inconsistent, so avoid it when possible.
- Emulators: Use speedup if it’s available! Some quests (such as gathering, small monster killing, and sieges) are boring and can take a bit. Speedup will save time and make the game more enjoyable. Don’t use this in multiplayer without other players’ consent!
How to Approach Underwater in 3 Ultimate
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is unique in that some fights take place underwater. Most fights are on land, but for water-dwelling monsters like Lagiacrus you’ll need to dive in after them.
Here are some tips to help you adapt to (or at least tolerate) combat beneath the waves.
Many weapons play differently underwater! If you don’t like how your weapon’s moveset changes, try picking up a secondary weapon for water fights, or switch to a primary weapon that plays similarly for both types, such as Dual Blades or Gunlance.
Shields are very useful! You are slow and monsters’ attacks are big and fast. Blocking is usually much easier than evading.
Use vertical movement to your advantage! Evading up or down will dodge many moves. Push forward or backwards on the left stick while dodging to go up or down.
How to Approach Hunting Styles and Arts in Generations Ultimate
Generations Ultimate is the only game to feature the Styles and Arts system. Styles change the core moveset of a weapon, and can add or alter game mechanics. Arts are special attacks that recharge by hitting monsters.
Styles and Arts are a fun way for experienced players to view a familiar weapon in a new light! However, they can confuse new players, and at worst, become crutches that distract one from learning key combat fundamentals.
Aerial, Adept, and Valor Styles in particular play quite differently to other MH games. If you use one of these Styles, then be aware that you’re getting a different experience from every previous game!
If you are new to the series, or are looking for a similar experience to the previous games, I recommend using these Styles, at least for a while. They are closest to the “default” playstyle for each weapon, and focus on core mechanics.
|Sword and Shield||Guild|
In addition, I recommend avoiding these Arts, as they are often used as repeatable get-out-of-jail-free cards that diminish the importance of positioning and commitment.
- Absolute Evasion
- Absolute Readiness
- Round Force
That being said, all Styles and Arts can be used skillfully! Watching speedruns will confirm this. As long as you’re aware that you’re not getting the traditional MH experience, then use whatever you want!
Be warned though: some later fights, such as deviants and hypers, have highly aggressive movesets that may be difficult to handle if you restrict your styles/arts too much.
Basics of Dealing Damage
This section will tell you how to deal good damage, without getting into the nitty-gritty of the full formula itself.
Fundamentally, your dealt damage looks like this:
Damage = Raw Damage + Elemental Damage
Raw Damage = Player Raw * Crit Modifier (if you crit) * Sharpness (Blademasters only) * Critical Distance (Gunners only) * Motion Value * Hitzone
Player Raw and Critical Hits
Your raw is listed as “Attack” under your status page. Build better gear to raise this!
Your weapon itself makes up most of your raw. Higher number = more damage! Other considerations such as Sharpness or ammo capacities are important too, so try to find a balance.
Affinity is your critical hit chance. A crit (bright red flash) will deal 25% more raw damage, while a negative crit (dark red flash) will deal 25% less.
Explosions (such as Gunlance shells or Charge Blade phials) and some other attacks (such as bowgun elemental shots) cannot crit or negative crit, but most attacks can.
Many armor skills will increase your raw and/or Affinity, such as Attack Up or Critical Eye. See Offensive Skills for more.
This section doesn’t apply to P3rd or GU, so players of those games can skip this.
In Monster Hunter, some weapons (such as Greatsword) are slow and deal a lot of damage per hit, while others (such as Dual Blades) are fast but deal less damage per hit.
In an effort to convey this difference to players, the display raw modifier was created. Each weapon type has it’s own display raw modifier, with slow weapons having higher numbers than fast weapons. Display raw modifier doesn’t affect damage dealt in any way! Motion Values are why different moves do different amounts of damage.
The damage you see on your status screen (the display raw) is calculated by multiplying your “true” raw by the display raw modifier. If you want to know your true raw, look up your weapon type’s display raw modifier, and use it to divide what you see on your status screen.
Needless to say, this is extremely stupid and annoying, and since it has no actual effect on damage dealt, the best course of action is to just ignore it until you need to know your exact true raw.
Sharpness is a mechanic for Blademasters only. Hitting the monster will temporarily lower your Sharpness, and using a Whetstone will restore it.
Higher Sharpness levels will raise your damage! This is substantial, so try to keep your weapon sharpened.
Additionally, hitting hard monster parts and/or being on a low Sharpness level can cause you to bounce. See Hitzones for more.
Being at Yellow Sharpness or below will penalize attacks that hit at the beginning or end of their animation. This is extremely annoying to play around, so stay above Yellow Sharpness if at all possible!
Critical Distance (unrelated to critical hits) is a mechanic for Gunners only that multiplies your shots’ power based on your distance from the monster.
Being too close or too far away will hurt your damage, while being just close enough will raise it. You can tell if you are in proper crit distance range by watching the yellow hit sparks. Bigger = better!
Different ammo and arrow types have different crit distances. Pierce’s crit distance is further away than Normal’s, so watch your positioning! Some shots, such as elemental shots, don’t use crit distance, but most common ammo does.
Motion values (MVs) are what make attacks weak or strong. Weak moves like Longsword’s poke have low motion values, while strong ones like the Greatsword’s level 3 charge slash have high motion values. Gunners have motion values tied to their shot types.
Often you can guess the approximate value for a move after some time playing, but look them up if you are unsure! It may change what moves you prioritize.
Hitzones are what makes monster parts hard or soft. Soft parts like Rathian’s head have high hitzones, while hard parts like Rathian’s back have low hitzones. The higher the hitzone, the more damage you deal!
Monster parts have different hitzones for each of the three types of raw damage (cutting, impact, and shot).
You can tell how high a hitzone is in-game from the size of the blood splatter and the length of the hitstop (small pause on hit) when you strike it. Gunners may have trouble seeing hitzones in-game, so looking them up is recommended.
For Blademasters, hitting particularly hard parts will cause you to bounce. Bouncing locks you into a dangerously long animation and doubles the hit’s Sharpness usage, so try to avoid it. Higher Sharpness levels will make it harder to bounce.
Some moves cannot bounce, but you will still get the double Sharpness loss, and your damage will be low because of the bad hitzone. Unless you are trying to break a specific part, you’re better off hitting good hitzones.
Elemental Damage = Player Element * Elemental Hitzone
Elemental damage works similarly to Raw damage, with one big exception. Elemental damage ignores your move’s motion value! Even a weak attack like the Longsword poke does just as much elemental damage as the Hammer’s golf swing!
Fast weapons like Sword and Shield and Dual Blades thus excel at dealing elemental damage, so for those weapons, take advantage of elemental weaknesses if you can!
Slow weapons like Greatsword deal low elemental damage, so they can mostly ignore it. Medium speed weapons, such as Longsword, can use it if they wish.
Like your raw, this will come from your weapon and armor skills. Skills such as Element Attack Up or [specific element] Attack will boost your element.
For Blademasters, higher Sharpness levels boosts your element.
Bowguns do not have intrinsic element! Instead, some bowguns shoot elemental shots. The amount of element dealt will scale with your raw, so balance your bowgun’s damage with its ammo capabilities.
This works similarly to raw hitzones, with a few differences.
Bad raw hitzones are often good elemental hitzones, while good raw hitzones can be either good or bad elemental hitzones depending on the monster. If you need to break a hard part like the back, element can be very effective.
Unlike raw damage, most monsters are particularly weak to a certain element. Usually, you can either guess what the monster’s weakness would be (such as Rathalos and water), or look at the resistances on the monster’s armor.
Unfortunately, beyond these generalizations, elemental hitzones are difficult to guess in-game, so looking them up is highly recommended.
Basics of Armor and Skills
Each piece of your armor gives you a number of points in at least one skill. Every skill only activates with at least 10 points; having less than 10 points in a skill does nothing!
Some skills (like Attack) give additional benefits from having 15 or 20 points.
Having -10 points in a skill will give the negative version of that skill. Some of these aren’t so bad, while others are very dangerous!
A few armor pieces have Torso Up. Having 1 Torso Up piece doubles your torso’s skill points (including Decorations), having 2 triples them, and so on.
In 3rd and 4th gen, your charm also gives you points in up to 2 skills. The skills and amount of points are randomly generated. Don’t spend a long time farming for charms, it’s boring and you don’t need it unless you are speedrunning.
Slots and Decorations
Each piece of armor, your weapon, and your charm (in 3rd and 4th gen) all have 0 to 3 slots. These slots are used for decorations.
Decorations are an additional source of skill points. Each one takes from 1 to 3 slots. The more slots a decoration needs, the more points it gives.
Brief Skill Overview
There are a ton of skills to play around with! Some are good, some bad, and some are useful in certain situations. If a skill isn’t listed here, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth using. Read up on what it does, or try it and see!
In general, damage skills are always good! They are useful in any situation and speed up hunts, which gives you less time to make mistakes.
Skills that add to your damage are more useful the earlier in the game you are. Getting Attack Up (Large) in Low Rank can dramatically speed up quests!
Skills that multiply your damage, such as Affinity-boosting skills like Critical Eye or Challenger, are better later in the game. Critical Boost can add to this by making your crits do more damage.
For Blademasters, the Sharpness skills are great. Razor Sharp will halve your Sharpness usage, Sharpness+1 will raise most weapons’ maximum Sharpness level, and Speed Sharpening speeds up Whetstone usage. All weapon types are benefitted by Sharpness+1, while the other two skills are more useful on weapons that consume Sharpness quickly.
For weapons using explosions, such as Gunlance or Charge Blade, Artillery will provide a large damage boost to said explosions!
Weapons with strong elemental potential, such as Sword and Shield or Dual Blades, should be on the lookout for the element-boosting skills Element Attack Up and [specific element] Attack.
Weakness Exploit activates when hitting weak hitzones. In 3U and 4U, it simply makes the hitzone slightly better, but in P3rd and GU, it gives you 50% more affinity! A very powerful skill.
Health Up is good, but only in the early game, before your food fully maximizes your health. If you already have 150 HP, Health Up won’t have any effect.
The Earplugs, Wind Resistance, and Tremor Resistance skills both make dealing with certain attacks easier and create additional openings. Of the three, Earplugs is the most generally useful, but the other two can be very effective against specific monsters. See Roars, Wind Pressure, and Tremors for more.
The guarding skills are vital for weapons that rely on their shields. Guard reduces the stamina usage and knockback from blocking attacks, and Guard Up makes previously unblockable attacks like beams and gas blockable.
The evasion-related skills can be very powerful. Evasion lengthens the time of your evade’s invincibility (see Invincibility Frames for more). Evade Extender increases the distance your evade covers, which is very useful on low-mobility weapons like HBG.
Basics of Preparation
Eating food before a hunt will boost your maximum HP and stamina for the next quest, up until you faint. The amount varies per game and per meal, but in general you will be able to consistently max out your HP by the end of the early game.
Food also grants small status buffs, such as increased Attack, Defense, or elemental resistance, until you faint.
Meals also grant food skills for that quest. Some of these are alternate versions of armor skills, some are slightly different, and some are completely unique. For hard quests, be on the lookout for Felyne Insurance (grants an additional faint) and Felyne Moxie (saves you from death once if at high HP).
There are many different items to help you in your hunts. Many of them will become mainstays in your pouch, such as potions, steaks, whetstones for Blademasters, ammo/coatings for Gunners, and paintballs. Others, such as traps and status-healing items, are useful in specific situations.
Max and Ancient Potions (and Mega Nutrients) raise your max HP to the cap! Eat one after you faint, or in battle if you’re feeling risky.
For harder quests, crafting items from your Pouch can be a good idea. Bringing 10 Honey can give you 10 more Mega Potions to work with, and extra shots for powerful ammo types are invaluable to a Gunner. Bring the Books of Combos along to raise your craft chances.
Dash Juice is a powerful consumable that completely negates stamina usage for a time. Use it if necessary, but try not to abuse it, as the ingredients are expensive, and stamina management is an important skill to learn.
Throwing a Flash Bomb in front of a monster will blind it, causing it to sit there and attack the empty air. This is a good opening, but don’t come to rely on it too heavily, or it will hinder your growth as a hunter! Beware, as some monsters, such as Rajang, become erratic and unpredictable while flashed. In later games, flashing the same monster multiple times will reduce the flash’s duration.
Flying monsters can be brought back to earth with a Flash Bomb thrown in front of them. Many flying monsters in later games, such as Rathalos, can be annoying to fight without Flash Bombs!
Sonic Bombs stun some monsters in certain situations, but usually don’t work if the monster is enraged. The most notable uses are forcing Diablos or Cephadrome out of the ground, and forcing Plesioth out of the water. There are many more uses for Sonic Bombs, so if the item box gives you some for a monster, experiment! (or use the Internet)
Palicos are AI-controlled cat helpers that can battle alongside you, using abilities to deal damage and support the hunter. These are of varying usefulness, but can come in handy.
The most important effect of cats is splitting monsters’ attention. This can give you additional openings when the monster targets a cat, but also makes the monster much less predictable, as its movement and attacks will switch targets at random.
Cats tend to be most useful in quests with multiple monsters always in the same zone, such as certain quests in arenas. For single monster hunts, consider leaving them behind, as it will help you learn and leverage monsters’ predictability, a core aspect of the series.
Monster and Weapon Matchups
Some monsters are particularly easy or difficult to fight with a certain weapon type. If you are having trouble, consider trying a new weapon!
Example: Melee Weapons vs. Gravios. Gravios’ bad hitzones, tall legs, and massive fire farts make it difficult to get frequent hits in as a Blademaster. Gunner weapons bypass all of these issues, so they have a much easier time.
Example: Ranged Weapons vs. Tigrex. Tigrex is relentlessly aggressive and charges constantly, so escaping him while staying in Critical Distance can be extremely difficult! Melee weapons can naturally stand much closer, and have an easier time using staggers.
The Essence of Combat
Monster Hunter differentiates itself from other combat systems with three key principles: positioning, commitment, and defensive play.
Unlike many other games, overwhelming the enemy with offense is very difficult. Instead, you need to position yourself to both respect the monster’s options and open up avenues for attacks on weak locations.
Recklessness is a death sentence, as almost everything you do cannot be canceled out of! Be deliberate in your actions, and anticipate what will happen in the next few seconds!
An opening is a time when you can attack without fear of retaliation. Some may be short, others long. Many monster moves can be openings, either because you are safe from the attack in a certain area, or because the monster has to take time to recover afterwards.
Example: Any Weapon vs. Rathian. Rathian’s triple fireball can be dangerous at range, but if you are standing to her side, the weak head becomes open for the whole duration. Don’t get too close and eat a fireball on accident!
In Monster Hunter, almost every action “commits” you by preventing you from doing other actions for a certain amount of time. The longer the animation, the greater the commitment.
Try to use your openings to their fullest, but don’t overcommit! On short openings, such as a monster’s small recovery period after attacking, get a quick hit in. On long openings, such as a trip, unleash your big damage-dealing moves!
Example: Dual Blades vs. Rathian. The Dual Blades’ Demon Dance is a powerful attack, but it takes a long time to execute. Using the Demon Dance on smaller openings, like when Rathian lands after a flip, is dangerous. Instead, deal small hits to her legs. Then, when she trips, rush to the head and Dance away!
Positioning yourself smartly relative to the monster is crucial! It’s advantageous to stay close to some monsters, and further away from others. Gunners should pay special attention: Critical Distance ties your damage directly to your distance from the monster!
Example: Any Weapon vs. Rathian. Being far away from Rathian is dangerous, as her triple fireball spreads out over distance. Staying close to her helps, but not too close! Her legs can trample you as she moves, and her horizontal tailspin covers a wide range. Experiment and find the optimal distance!
Your orientation to the monster is also important. Certain moves are much easier to dodge when standing to the side, while others are more difficult.
Example: Any Weapon vs. Rathian. Rathian’s charge can be very difficult to avoid when both in front and close to her. Staying to the side makes it much easier to dodge. Don’t wait for her to start the charge: move there in advance!
Some monsters have moves that are very dangerous on one side, but easily dodgeable on the other, so favoring the latter side for most of the fight can greatly help you.
Example: Any Weapon vs. Rajang. Rajang’s zigzag hops start with a hop to the right, so always circle him to your left when close!
The basic roll is an invaluable part of your toolset. For a small stamina cost, it will quickly move you in the direction you’re facing. Use this to get out of harm’s way, or move into an advantageous position.
The roll has a small window of invulnerability that can be used quite effectively. See Invincibility Frames for more on this.
Immediately after an attack, you can only roll in 3 directions: straight forward, directly left, or directly right. Rolling backwards is not an option!
Example: Any Weapon vs. Khezu. Khezu’s electric zap can be impossible to escape from if you are too close after attacking! Choose your strikes carefully. Once you gain more experience, techniques like Angling Strikes can enable more aggressive play.
Some weapons have sidesteps instead of rolls. These move you a shorter distance, but can be chained together. Lance can also sidestep backwards!
A few attacks, such as the Longsword’s Fade Slash, are “evasive” because they move you around. Use these to get into position while dealing damage!
Evading while sprinting away from the monster will do a special move called a superman dive. This makes you invincible for a long time, but won’t let you counterattack. Useful for emergencies.
Unlike evading, which all weapons can do, only some weapons can guard. Guarding uses your stamina to avoid taking damage from a hit. If you are not facing towards the attack, or you don’t have enough stamina to block the hit, you will take the damage and knockback!
Stronger attacks will cost more stamina to block, deal chip damage, and take you longer to recover from blocking. The skill Guard will make these attacks easier to block.
When guarding and standing still, your stamina will not regenerate. However. weapons with heavy shields, such as Lance and Gunlance, can move slowly while guarding to avoid this.
Blocking with a light shield, such as the Sword and Shield’s shield or the Greatsword’s blade, will block stronger attacks less effectively and deplete your sharpness. With these weapons, save guarding for emergencies.
Example: Greatsword vs. Tigrex. If you find yourself right in front of him as he starts a charge, you may not have time to sheathe and superman dive! Try to guard the attack, it will hurt your sharpness and deal chip damage but it’s better than getting hit.
Some attacks, such as clouds of gas or elemental beams, are not blockable normally. The skill Guard Up will make these blockable.
The Heavy Bowgun’s shield attachment can be quite effective, but will only block attacks in a 45 degree arc in front of you, as opposed to the 90 degree arc of all other shields. Make sure you are looking right at the attack!
Roars, Wind Pressure, and Tremors
Caused by certain monster attacks, these three effects deal no damage but will momentarily stun you. They come in different levels of strength and duration depending on the attack.
Avoiding the hitbox of the roar, wind, or tremor will also avoid the corresponding effect, so you can either move out of their range or use Invincibility Frames.
Example: Any Weapon vs. Nargacuga. Nargacuga can hit you while you are stunned from its roar! How rude. To avoid this, simply walk away as it gets ready to roar. The roar’s hitbox is very short-range, so you won’t be stunned.
Example: Any Weapon vs. Blangonga. Blangonga’s body slam creates a tremor around it, stunning you for the rest of the move. However, if you roll right before the tremor starts, you will be unaffected and can get a free hit in!
Many weapons have attacks that can resist weak wind pressure. Use this to get extra hits in and close distance.
Example: Hammer vs. Rathian. Hammer resists weak wind pressure while charging. As Rathian lands, charge and walk up to her, negate the weak wind pressure, then let loose a superpound on her head!
You can block all three of these effects, but like with regular attacks, you must be facing towards the hitbox. The higher strength versions will also increase the knockback and stamina used.
Equipping the corresponding resistance skills (Earplugs, Wind Res, Tremor Res) will nullify these effects entirely. Higher levels are needed for the higher strength versions.
Weapons with a status attribute and status-inflicting items can apply status effects to monsters after enough hits. These are powerful, but usually only occur a few times a hunt. Make the most of them!
Blunt weapons (Hammer, Hunting Horn) and certain special attacks (such as Sword and Shield’s shield bashes, Crag ammo, etc.) can build up KO on monsters by hitting the head, indicated by a yellow flash. Once KOd, the monster will flail around defenseless on the ground for a short while. This flail animation depends on the monster, so pay attention and don’t miss your big attacks!
Paralysis freezes the monster in place and prevents it from moving or attacking for a while. Use your highest-damage attacks!
A sleeping monster takes double/triple damage from the hit that wakes it up! (Depending on the game, and whether the attack was a Barrel Bomb) Barrel Bombs, Greatsword level 3 charges, and Hammer golfswings are all great wakeup attacks. After a while the monster will wake up on its own, so don’t waste too much time!
Poison does direct damage to the monster’s HP over time. Good for monsters with tough hitzones like Gravios. Tends to fall off somewhat in late game.
Blast (called Slime in 3U) causes a direct damage explosion at the location where it’s triggered. Good on most monsters and for breaking tough parts. In 3U Slime is quite overpowered, so use at your own risk.
Certain monster moves can inflict you with status effects, which will appear as a symbol next to your name. For most of these, you can negate them with a certain skill, wait them out, or use a specific item to cure yourself. Below are a few of the more common examples.
Elemental blights (3rd and 4th gen only) are caused by many monsters and vary in effect and length. Each roll you do will reduce their duration. Eating a Nulberry also cures them.
Sleep will first make you drowzy for a few seconds, then put you completely to sleep for a while. Getting hit ends the effect, so purposefully running into a low-damage attack, such as a monster’s walk, can save you from a big hit later. Drinking an Energy Drink before fully falling asleep also works.
Snowman, Mud, and the second level of Bubble will severely impair your movement. Spin the left stick when you have a chance to escape more quickly, but don’t get hit while breaking free!
Bleeding will damage you as you move. Crouch and move slowly to recover from it.
Stun is a special status effect that is caused by taking too many hits in a short amount of time. You will be unable to do anything while stunned! Mash the face buttons to recover faster.
The less you get hit, the less you have to worry about any of these! Of course, this is easier said than done.
Loading zones are zones at the edge of an area that, when touched, move you to adjacent areas. Usually these are simply used to traverse the map, but they also affect combat.
Loading zones can be a powerful escape tool. Reaching a loading zone means you are completely safe! If you need to do something that takes a while, like healing a lot or sharpening, then your safest bet is to switch areas.
On the other hand, avoid fighting monsters near loading zones! Accidentally touching a loading zone can rob you of openings, and reentering an area can be dangerous if the monster is right at the entrance.
Some maps, such as arenas, don’t have loading zones in the main area! Use a Farcaster if you need to escape.
Invincibility Frames/iframes, or moments of invincibility/MOI in older sources, are periods of time where you cannot be hit by any attack. By default, the basic roll has 0.2 seconds of iframes (6 frames @ 30fps). 0.2 seconds may seem short, and it is compared to other games like Dark Souls, but that window can be enough to get you out of a sticky situation.
Iframes are best used against attacks where the hitbox is small, moves quickly, or lasts for a short amount of time. Right before you are hit, roll towards these attacks: rolling towards and through them will move you through the hitbox more quickly than rolling alongside it will.
Example: Any Weapon vs. Nargacuga. Nargacuga’s tail whip is a perfect candidate for iframing: fast-moving, small, and short. Right before you see the tail hit you, roll through it. If done right, you will pass through unscathed! If not, your timing was off, so try again when the chance presents itself. It’s better to roll early than to roll late.
With enough skill and knowledge, or in desperate circumstances, iframes can also be used to dodge other attacks, but this is difficult and risky. Some attacks cannot be iframed, as they are too large, slow-moving, or lengthy.
Example: Any Weapon vs. Gravios. Gravios’s “fire fart” covers a wide area, stays in one spot, and lasts a long time. This attack is completely impossible to iframe without evasion skills, so don’t try it unless you want some new burns to show off.
A setup is where the hunter seemingly attacks at nothing, only to have the monster move into the strike at the last moment! This takes advantage of monsters’ predictability to deal big damage.
Setups are most useful on heavy weapons with powerful attacks, but other weapons (such as Longsword) can sometimes find utility for them. More than any other weapon, setups are the Greatsword’s lifeblood!
Example: Greatsword vs. Glavenus. After Glavenus slams his tail into the ground, watch his head! He will bring it near where the tail used to be. When you dodge a tailslam, charge your GS near his tail, and watch as his head moves into your strike! If you miss, note what aim adjustments you need to make, and try again.
Many monster attacks are more common at certain ranges and positions. If a certain attack is very punishable, staying at that range/position to see it more often (baiting the attack) can be useful.
Example: Any Weapon vs. Plesioth (2nd gen). Plesioth is an infuriating fight for many, but his AI can be baited to the point of brokenness. Standing in front of Plesioth a decent distance away will almost always result in the water beam, which can be easily dodged and punished. This strategy will trivialize the fight for ranged weapons, and make things much easier for melee weapons without shields.
Hitting the monster from an unorthodox angle can be advantageous in many circumstances. While your evasive options after attacking are constrained to only three directions, the angle of the attack beforehand isn’t, so aiming in a certain direction can let you control this in advance.
Example: Hammer vs. Khezu. Khezu’s infamous electric zap is the bane of many a new hunter, but with experience under your belt, you can turn this frustrating attack into a chance for more damage. When you are using your superpound, try hitting the head from the side during openings. If Khezu does his electric zap, simply side roll to safety!
Example: Any Weapon vs. Rajang. Avoiding Rajang’s punches and zigzags can be difficult, but they are weak to the left when close. When going for hits, angle them so you can roll into the left corner (Rajang’s right) of Rajang’s body. In this spot, his zigzags and punches will whizz past your head!
A sweet spot is a specific position where an attack won’t hit you. These are often close to the monster, giving you a chance to get some hits in during the attack. If you are even a bit off on your positioning though, it’s very likely you will be hit.
Example: Any Weapon vs. Glavenus. Glavenus’s charged tailspin covers a wide area and does massive damage, but there is a sweet spot! As he charges the spin in his mouth, sit under his tail, right next to his foot. If done correctly, you won’t get a scratch! This is also a great opportunity to hit his heated tail.
Each part in a monster has two invisible numbers: stagger buildup and stagger threshold. Dealing damage to a part adds that damage to the part’s stagger buildup, and if the buildup exceeds the stagger threshold, the monster becomes staggered, and the buildup is reset to 0.
Importantly, the stagger threshold for a part never changes. This means that the same amount of damage on the same part will always stagger the monster!
From this, the concept of stagger control arises. Figure out how many hits of certain moves on a certain part will cause a stagger. Then, deal just enough hits to that part so that it’s buildup is one hit away from reaching the threshold. You now have a guarantee that the next hit to that part will cause a stagger.
The power of this technique lies in converting unsafe attacks into safe ones. Because your next hit will stagger, even small openings become opportunities for strong attacks. Don’t miss though, or else you might be in for a world of hurt!
Example: Greatsword vs. Tigrex (2nd and 3rd gen). Inexperienced players will have trouble with this monster’s unrelenting pace and freight-train charges, but experienced players can use stagger control to great effect.
First, play safe and find out what combination of attacks to the head will make him stagger; for instance, an uncharged draw slash and a level 3 charged slash. Then, look for safe openings like the bite or spin to get a quick draw slash hit in.
Finally, punish his head turning towards you with a level 3, and watch him stagger as you deal vicious damage!
With enough experience and knowledge, instead of counting hits of specific attacks, you can get a sense of how much damage each attack deals, then approximate how close you are to the next stagger for each part. This lets you use your full moveset instead of just a few attacks. Mastering this will place you at the highest levels of play!
Many monsters (especially older ones) will pivot in place after an attack in order to face you. This is called a head turn, and can be leveraged in a number of ways.
Because the head is weak for most monsters, and head turns move it quite predictably, these turns can be consistent sources of small openings. Be careful though, as you will still have to deal with the following attack!
Example: Any Weapon vs. Rathian. Rathian will head turn to face you after every attack, and her head is very weak, so use this to get some easy hits in! Beware her charge afterwards though, and try to position yourself to avoid it.
The small opening created by a head turn is great for cashing in your built-up stagger! See the Stagger Control section for more on this.
Be very careful when committing to an attack while right in front of the monster! Some monsters can act immediately if they don’t have to turn their head to see you!
Example: Any Weapon vs. Yian Garuga. Garuga’s hopping when entering rage is a tempting opening, but use caution! If you are standing right in front of it as the hopping finishes, it can instantly charge you down! End your attacks early, stay away from it’s front, or interrupt it with a stagger.
By moving against the direction of rotation of a head turn, the monster won’t be able to follow you as much, creating space.
Example: Any Weapon vs. Akantor. Akantor’s massive body and proclivity for charging makes standing in front of him very hazardous. Move against his head turn to give yourself some breathing room, especially if you are near a wall!
A core principle of MH is commitment: almost nothing can be canceled out of by the hunter. So then what is this section?
Even though you can’t cancel animations directly, other animations can! Highly situational, but useful. Below are some examples, but there are many more applications, so be on the lookout!
Example: Bowgun vs. Any Monster with Roar. Reloading can take a bit, but the actual bullets are loaded at the very beginning of the animation. So if you start a reload, then a monster roars, the roar’s stun animation will cancel the rest of the reload animation, but you’ll still have a fresh magazine!
Example: Any Weapon vs. Any Monster (4th gen). The 4th gen games introduced the dreaded ledges; while annoying, they can sometimes come in handy. Most weapons with slow sheathe speeds, such as Heavy Bowgun or Charge Blade, can walk while sheathing. If you walk over a ledge, the ledge-hopping animation will cancel the rest of the sheathe animation, instantly completing the sheathe.
Example: Any Weapon vs. Gravios. For certain types of roars, Gravios can act while you’re still stunned, creating the potential for dangerous situations when close up. One way to mitigate this is by purposefully being tripped. If Gravios’s legs trip you while you are roared, the trip animation will cancel the roar’s stun animation, allowing you to act sooner and get out of harm’s way.
Down in the dark, deep recesses of the hunter’s craft, there are techniques so obscure, so forbidden that their existence is kept only to a select, chosen few. If such knowledge were to be released into the world at large, who knows what havoc would be unleashed…
Just kidding. AI manipulations are techniques that take advantage of some quirk in the monster’s behavior to gain an advantage. These can often be difficult to discover yourself, and many are probably unintended by the developers. Once you are experienced enough, watching speedruns are a good way to discover these.
Example: Any Weapon vs. Diablos (2nd gen). Diablos’s “fast” dig, where he exits the ground a second after digging, is very common in high and G rank, especially when enraged. When Diablos digs in front of you, rolling onto and over the spot he entered the ground at will cause him to erupt behind you, opening up the weak tail for some hits. If your positioning is slightly off though, he will hit you for massive damage!
Brief Weapon Overview
Every weapon type has their own playstyle, strengths, and weaknesses. Here is a quick look at each one, as well as some general strategy tips to help you explore their capabilities. This is by no means exhaustive: this section barely scratches the surface of what each weapon is capable of!
Greatsword is a hit-and-run weapon that hugely emphasizes prediction and positioning. It’s simple to pick up, with only one primary move, but legendarily difficult to master. To understand your foe is to understand the Greatsword!
The charge slash is your most important tool. A fully charged hit to a weak spot does massive damage, but don’t be greedy! It’s better to land a low charge hit than to whiff a high charge one. Predict where the monster will be for more charge time!
The other moves can also be useful, either for killing small monsters or for sneaking a quick extra hit in after a charge slash. Also, don’t forget that you can block! It hurts your Sharpness but is good for emergencies.
Hammer is hard-hitting yet technical. Different levels of charge give different moves, and hitting a monster’s head enough can KO it for a big opening. Aim well and focus the head to deal massive damage!
Hammer can charge while walking, which gives it surprising mobility! The superpound (release a full charge when standing still) is relatively safe, long-range, and strong. The golf swing is harder to use, but deals more damage and KO.
One of the key strengths of Hammer is its versatile moveset. The uppercut (3rd and 4th gen) does low damage, but moves you forward and builds up lots of KO. The spin transitions into a golfswing or cancels early into a safe swipe. Be careful not to walk aimlessly with your charge held: this is an easy mistake to make when learning and wastes stamina.
Hunting Horn is mobile and precise, with reliable long-range pokes as well as KO potential when hitting the head. It can also play songs that grant buffs to yourself and teammates. Snipe the monster’s head over and over with your range and speed!
Your most important songs are Self-Improvement (huge movement speed buff + immunity to bouncing), and Attack Up (+15%/20% of your weapon’s raw). Try to keep these active at all times! Beyond that, don’t tunnel-vision in on the songs. Hitting the monster is more important!
In 3rd and 4th gen, the backslam is a powerful option with respectable reach. A common tactic of HH players is to quickly face away from the monster before starting the move, which turns it into a “forward slam.” This is often called QTABS (Quick Turn Around Back Slam) and creates different options for timing and roll directions.
Sword and Shield
Sword and Shield is a quick and versatile weapon with fast attacks, high mobility, a shield, and the ability to use items while unsheathed. Adapt to any circumstance, and take advantage of monsters’ weaknesses!
While the main weakness of Sword and Shield is its short reach, this is more than made up for by its other capabilities. Quick attacks make element and status formidable options, shield bashes can build up KO on the head, and blocking with your shield offers a powerful emergency defense.
While guarding, you can use items! This can either be used defensively, such as getting a quick Potion off in the heat of battle, or offensively, such as nailing an airborne monster with a Flash Bomb just as it takes to the skies.
Dual Blades (also called Dual Swords) is an offensive tornado with quick attacks, quick movement, and a powerful Demon Mode that drains stamina. Keep up with even the fastest monsters, and unleash Demon Mode at opportune times to wreak havoc!
Demon Mode boosts the damage of your moves, and in 3rd and 4th gen, grants a fast sidestep dodge, but drains stamina over time. Use it when you can, but makes sure that you have enough stamina left to dodge if need be.
Dash Juice is extremely powerful on Dual Blades, as it will allow you to remain in Demon Mode indefinitely! Don’t overuse it though, as the ingredients are uncommon, and learning to manage stamina properly is an important skill. Save it for difficult quests.
Long Sword is an easy to learn weapon with impressive reach, flowing attacks, and good mobility. Use the Spirit Meter for big, sweeping slashes and keep up the offensive!
The Fade Slash is the heart and soul of Long Sword. It’s a bit slow, but both deals damage and moves you backwards (or left/right in 3rd and 4th gen). Use it near the end of your offensive to get into position.
Filling up your Spirit Meter will make it flash for a while, which prevents it from decaying and slightly ups your damage. In 3rd and 4th gen, hitting with the last attack of your Spirit combo will level up your aura (white -> yellow -> red). Higher levels give higher damage multipliers.
Lance is a defensive powerhouse that uses its heavy shield to keep up unrelenting pressure. Poke the monster’s weak points and block anything that comes your way!
Lance’s pokes operate in threes: poke, poke, poke, dodge. You can mix and match low or high pokes, depending on where you are aiming. High pokes are slightly stronger, which adds up over time, but are often harder to aim accurately with.
In 3rd and 4th gen, Shield Advance and Counter are both important tools to keep up with the monster. Shield Advance allows you to guard while moving forward, and can transition into pokes afterwards. Counter will block an attack, then follow up with a strong poke. Beware though, as this cannot be canceled, so multi-hit attacks or monster whiffs will leave you wide open!
Gunlance is a quirky blocking weapon with a wide variety of moves (and a gun that shoots from your lance). Its lance hits deal cutting damage, while its explosive attacks ignore hitzones. Mix and match your tools to adapt to the situation!
Many of Gunlance’s moves hit at different angles. Some hit, low, others high, and one hits straight upwards! Shell after any of these, and your shell will fire at that angle. Great for hitting midair monsters! Shelling is also useful both as a combo tool and a source of fixed damage. Poke, poke, poke, shell can chain into itself for good damage, provided you have enough shells loaded.
Wyvern Fire is a powerful fixed damage move with a cooldown of a few minutes. The startup is long and leaves you defenseless, but with experience you can fit it into mid-fight openings. It’s damage is spread across multiple hits though, so don’t use it for wakeups if you have other options, like Barrel Bombs or teammates.
Switch Axe can switch between its mobile, long-range, but slow to attack axe form and its sluggish, short-range, but viciously damaging sword form.
Evading after many moves will do a quick, short range sidestep. This allows you to keep up a strong offense, but is much more difficult to use defensively than the regular roll. Evasion skills can dramatically improve this.
Switching to sword mode after certain attacks is much faster! Work this into your offense to change forms on the fly as the situation develops. Trying to transform with low meter will do a long “recharge” animation and refill some of it. Useful, but not something you want to do accidentally.
Insect Glaive is a versatile all-rounder with medium range, the ability to jump in the air, and a Kinsect that can deal damage while buffing the hunter.
Your fancy jumping aerial moves may look flashy, but don’t rely on them too much! If you are going for a mount, then they can come in handy, but your damage will come from the grounded moves.
Managing your extracts is important to keeping up pressure. Red is the most important, as it buffs your damage and alters your moveset. White adds movement speed, and orange grants knockback resistance. You can refresh the duration by getting more extract, except when all 3 are active simultaneously.
Charge Blade offers many different attacks and mechanics for technical players to pore over. Use your weapon’s two forms and Guard Points wisely to maintain your resources, deal big damage, and even KO the monster!
Guard Points can “steal the initiative” from monsters when used well. In addition to dealing small amounts of damage, they give you an opening to either block and retaliate (4U) or continue your attack uninterrupted (GU). Attacks that are too strong will simply be blocked, while unblockable attacks will cause you to be hit. Use the Guard and Guard Up skills respectively to combat this.
Some attacks create phial explosions, of which there are two types. Impact Phials are general-purpose, and deal raw damage independent of hitzones, with KO buildup when hitting the head. Element Phials are more specialized, and deal elemental damage which uses the monster’s elemental hitzones.
Bow is a mobile ranged weapon that can charge its attacks to strike at opportune moments. Time your charges and shots to make optimal use of your stamina!
Power Coatings are a giant damage boost, so use them prudently! Try to hit the best hitzones with each shot, strike from Crit Distance, and use your highest charge level. Other coatings, like the status-inflicting ones, also benefit from higher charge levels.
The Arc Shot introduced in 3rd gen is difficult to aim and takes a while to land, but provides an additional source of damage as well as KO potential when hitting the head. Look for opportunities to use it when the monster isn’t moving very much.
Light Bowgun is the nimbler of the Bowgun pair, with good mobility, fast sheathing speed, and Rapid Fire for increased ammo efficiency. Stay safe and on the move while laying down fire!
Certain ammo types (depending on the Bowgun) can be rapid-fired, shooting 3 lesser-damaging shots for the ammo cost of one. This boosts ammo efficiency overall, but takes longer to shoot, so don’t overcommit!
Use your mobility to your advantage. Your movement, sheathe speed, and unsheathe speed are very quick, so you can play quite aggressively and still have time to escape. With experience, you can even outmatch relentless monsters like Tigrex!
Heavy Bowgun is the Light Bowgun’s bulkier sibling, trading mobility and ammo efficiency for sheer damage potential. Select your ammo types, position properly, and pound the monster from afar!
Be very careful when playing Heavy Bowgun! Your movement and sheathe speed are both very slow, so escaping sticky situations is difficult! Try to predict both how the monster will move and which attacks could threaten you, then position to counter them in advance. The Shield attachment and armor skills like Evade Extender also help.
In 3rd and 4th gen, some ammo types (depending on the Bowgun) can be siege-fired, which greatly increases the magazine size but locks you in place. Save this for big openings, and make sure you’re in proper critical distance.
Kiranico - Immensely useful resource for drop rates, monster hitzones, weapon crafting, and much more. Only for 3U and after, FU and P3rd are not included.
Ping’s Dex - Offline databases of items, monsters, etc. for MH games. Similar to Kiranico, but has better info for some games (like 3U).
ryin77’s guide - Drop rates, hitzones, motion values, and more. Some tips as well.
mazereon’s Bowgun Compendium - Everything Light and Heavy Bowgun. Mechanics overview, equipment recommendations, and guides for gunning every monster in the game.
FUComplete patch - Patch by IncognitoMan that ports the FU localization to P2G (the JP version of the game), adds all event quests, and more. Highly recommended if you can get the ISO file for P2G. Compatible with existing FU saves out of the box.
violetKIRA’s Monster Data Guide - Drop rates, hitzones, status vulnerabilities, etc. Japanese monster names used.
mazereon’s Bowgun Compendium 3rd - A sequel to the FU Compendium, but covering P3rd.
Thanks for reading this guide! I hope it was helpful. As you improve and learn, many other resources, such as speedruns, can be very useful, so I encourage you to seek them out.
Goodbye, and good luck!