The Earth Defense Force franchise is silly in the right way. Girls in skirts skyrocket to the stratosphere in order to take down giant insects from outer space. These ants, spiders, beetles, and hornets recruit other bizarre creatures like dragons, UFOs, frogs, and more to join them in their conquest. As these monsters merrily destroy every living earthling in their wake, players will have to endure terrible voice acting, frequent glitches, and some of the worst graphics this generation of consoles has to offer.
All of the above coalesce to form experiences that are akin to watching train wrecks in slow motion. Given the property’s unabashed poor quality and cheesy nature, it’s no surprise that it has managed to amass a cult following since its debut in 2003. The following is a ranking of all the Earth Defense Force games that have released in North America so far, just before Iron Rain releases on April 11.
5. Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair
While Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair (also known as Earth Defense Force 2025) is one of the more visually impressive entries in the franchise, its flaws often get in the way of the enjoyment one could have knocking bolts out of slender, bipedal robots. Its biggest defect is its frame rate, which frequently runs well below 60 frames per second and transforms environments into undecipherable piles of polygons. Though veterans may be used to this problem, its persistence on PlayStation 4 is disappointing.
Another lackluster element is the overuse of recycled enemies, as the same ants that appeared in 2017 show up here. Shadow of New Despair could have surprised fans more, but instead chooses to rest on its laurels.
4. Earth Defense Force 2017
The franchise’s messy fingerprints can be found all over Earth Defense Force 2017. Buildings mysteriously disappear before they’ve been damaged, giant ants soar across the screen in ways that defy gravity, and automatons sporadically adjust their height as they amble forward. These imperfections may turn away newcomers who might expect some degree of stability.
The game’s camera is also occasionally fixed in place for no apparent reason. This leads to disorienting moments where players are struggling to get their bearings while a hungry dinosaur mech roars overhead. The lack of multiplayer is a bit of a letdown as well, though fans can tackle enemy swarms with a buddy locally.
3. Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon
Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon‘s neatest addition to the franchise comes in the form of playable classes. Battle armor soldiers can use explosives at close range, jet armor types can fly and use energy cannons, tactical infantry can lay down turrets and mines, and troopers can fire any weapon in the game.
The game also includes a cooperative mode where up to three friends can join together to play through the entire campaign. As great as these new features are, Insect Armageddon is far from perfect. It lacks local multiplayer functionality and its story mode is surprisingly short with only 15 levels. The various classes add a degree of replayability, but there’s no denying that the title feels like it’s missing content.
2. Global Defense Force
Global Defense Force, otherwise known as Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders from Planet Space, nails the franchise’s simplistic premise. It’s not as sophisticated as Insect Armageddon, but that doesn’t stop it from being fun. It’s mechanics are easy to learn so long as one is familiar with typical third-person shooter control schemes. All players need to do is pick a gun, choose a target, and fire away with the PlayStation 2 or PlayStation Vita’s right trigger.
Like a worthwhile arcade game, Global Defense Force is best played in bursts. It may feel repetitive during long sessions, as fans are tasked with taking out the same variation of insects over and over again. Newcomers may be under the impression that returning to the game after playing unrelated titles is jarring, given the franchise’s buggy nature. However, frame rate problems and spawn glitches are noticeably absent here. It’s easy to jump back in to the global extermination underway, so long as players are pumped up to kill all the kaiju drooling over the horizon.
1. Earth Defense Force 5
Earth Defense Force 5 easily represents the best of what the franchise has to offer. The class system now encourages players to mix up their play styles as they complete missions. In other words, fans can improve their ranger, wing diver, air raider, or fencer’s armory no matter which distinction they choose from the outset. Weapons have been overhauled as well. Collecting the same type of firearm gradually improves its destructive capabilities. The guns that one obtains early on in the title may prove to be useful in later missions, which is a departure from the series’ conventional thinking of constantly discarding old weapons in favor of the next shiny new toy.
While the game’s frame rate isn’t as great as Global Defense Force‘s, it doesn’t significantly detract from the experience. In fact, Earth Defense Force 5‘s few mechanical problems are understandable given the variety of new creatures it introduces. These include giant humanoid frogs called the Colonists, gray aliens called the Cosmonauts, and giant pill bugs called the Aggressive Alien Species Gamma. Of course, as in any other Earth Defense Force game, no one ever comments on how these invaders look exactly like animals that exist on our planet.
This entry wholeheartedly embraces the property’s cheesy nature and allows fans to run wild in its nonsensical world. Seeing as how the title released late last year, there’s reason to believe that Iron Rain will follow closely in its footsteps.
Should video game fans ever find themselves in the mood for ridiculous B-movie action, they should look no further than the Earth Defense Force franchise. Few games nowadays allow players to hop into an over-sized mech and beat the crap out of monstrous kaiju just for fun. The series seldom explores the profound narrative themes or complex relationships found in today’s multi-million dollar projects. It simply empowers fans to kill big things. What’s not to love about that?