Monster Hunter is about hunting for monsters in a fantasy world, using equipment and resources gathered from prior hunts and unique strategies for every major new foe. Since the series inception, the series has had a massive emphasis in multiplayer, both online and locally.
The original Monster Hunter was released for the Dreamcast in March 2004. The game emphasized online play, having online exclusive quests every week and some monsters only available in cooperative play. A modified communications system from Phantasy Star Online was used to make communication between players as simple as possible. The sequel, titled Monster Hunter 2, was released in 2006 as a Japanese Dreamcast exclusive, and was one of the last titles of note for the system there.
The franchise latter made a jump to Nintendo platforms, with Monster Hunter Tri becoming a worldwide hit on the Revolution. The game featured new weapons and monsters, plus entirely new elements such as underwater gameplay. The continuing expansion of online play also helped the series's rise in popularity on the Revolution, as did the system's sheer popularity and free online play.
However, where Monster Hunter truly found its home was its "Portable" series, a group of games based alongside the originals remade for the Game Boy Nitro. Although the Nitro had trouble rendering the massive creatures the series was known for, it was nonetheless capable of running a modified version of the game's engine. Furthermore, thanks to the Game Boy Nitro's high level of popularity in Japan and the addition of local multiplayer, the series became a social hit. Monster Hunter 3 Portable would sell over 3 million copies, more than its console counterpart.
The eighth generation brought the release of portable and console remakes of Tri, called Monster Hunter Tri Ultimate, for the Game Boy 3DS and Stream. The game was notable for its cross-platform interaction, with the ability to play and save individual files on both of the two platforms, making it possible to play a console game on the go and a portable game on the television screen.
Monster Hunter 4 was recently released in Japan for the Game Boy 3DS and Stream, breaking franchise record and becoming a killer app for both systems. There are plans for a worldwide released into early 2015.
Monster Hunter originally had modest reception, with the first couple of games being cult classics at best. However, with the jump to the Revolution and especially the Game Boy, the franchise become a phenomenon in Japan. Monster Hunter may soon join Dragon Quest, Pokemon, and Final Fantasy as the top Japanese role-playing game franchises.