Seeing as Monster Hunter doesn't operate on the terms of your average RPG—there's no character stats, levels, or experience points—essentially, you are your equipment.
You shouldn't be too surprised, then, that Monster Hunter wants you to treat your weapons as if they were party members: each of the 14 possible types controls in a completely different way, though, regardless of which one you choose, you'll be equipping yourself with a completely viable hunting option. And, since you'll likely be swapping between more than one weapon type to fit your current situation, it might be hard to decide just where to begin. So what exactly are the best weapons to use in this game?
Before you find yourself intimidated into submission, check out the following guide, meant to ease you into the many complexities of Monster Hunter's offensive options. And, if you'd like a safe space to try these weapons out for yourself, just remember the tutorial quests of Val Habar (the first town you'll encounter) offer instruction on each one—though you might want to make sure you're comfortable with fighting a Great Jaggi, first.
All character and weapon images courtesy of the Monster Hunter Wikia.
It's the biggest, baddest, and most basic of Monster Hunter weapons, and if you don't mind how long it takes to land those powerful hits, the Great Sword works wonders. The major downside, of course, is that this weapon type is so heavy you won't have much mobility while it's unsheathed, so just know you'll be taking it out and putting it away multiple times during a fight. X delivers a downward strike, A performs a spin attack, and X + A attacks with an upward strike. Because these animations take so long to play out, it may at first be hard to get the timing down right to chain one move into another, so be sure to experiment in a safe spot before you take the Great Sword out for Serious Business. Oh, and you can also use this weapon as a makeshift shield by pressing R.
Special Attacks: Holding in X will put you in a charge stance, with a small flash indicating a boost in offensive power. Ideally, you'll want to release the button on the third flash, but, obviously, you should tailor your charge to the amount of time a monster gives you to attack. You can also perform a charge attack with the A button, but in order to do this, said attack needs to fall within a chained combo. Try X + A, A, then hold A: if you follow up this charge attack with the X button, you'll end the combo on one powerful strike. Again, chaining attacks with the Great Sword can be tricky, so aim for launching your next attack just as the momentum from the previous one has ceased.
Sword & Shield
The most traditional of Monster Hunter's weapon types, Sword & Shield might not look very powerful, but this combo provides something that's rare for this series: A means of protection outside of your armor. After drawing this weapon, holding in R will put you a defensive stance; and while you can't move until releasing the button, you can consume items in this state. This is great for when you might not have the time/stamina to run away and heal.
As for the standard moveset for the Sword & Shield, X delivers an overhead swing, A performs an attack from the side, and X + A inflicts an attack that starts with a forward charge, which is perfect for starting a combo. Hitting A along with any direction will cause your character to attack with a shield bash, and hitting back (relative to the direction your character is facing) + A while in the defensive stance (R) will make your hunter leap backwards—hold in A again just as this happens and you'll follow this move up with a powerful lunge attack.
Special Attacks: None to be found with the Sword & Shield, but the protective qualities of this weapon type certainly make up for its few shortcomings.
The Long Sword's attack patterns are very much like that of the Great Sword, except it's a much faster and slightly weaker type of weapon that requires a greater degree of precision. X attacks with a downward strike, A performs a forward thrust, and X + A strikes with a sideways attack that also sends your character leaping backwards. Since you strike so quickly, it's very easy to pull off combo attacks with the Long Sword: A, X, X, then X + A is a very basic but nonetheless effective string of attacks.
Special Attacks: With each successful strike against the enemy, your Long Sword's Spirit Meter will charge—it's right below the weapon quality icon on the UI. When you fill this Meter, it will take on a glowing outline, and your character will begin to emit an aura. From here, you can launch a powerful series of attacks with the R button, and if the final one connects, your Long Sword will change colors and receive a boost in power. Keep in mind, though, you can do this an additional two times, bringing the color of your sword from white to gold to red. (Note that these effects are temporary, and the glowing line around the Spirit Meter shows you how much longer it will last.)