A knife is an embarassing backstab, located deep behind enemy lines, to demonstrate just how much better you are at a particular shooter than your helpless prey. A knife is an aesthetic signifier, letting the rest of the party in an RPG understand that you'll be the one skulking around in the shadows scoring crits with each ambush. A knife is a backup hail mary when the durability bar reaches zero. A knife is the moment a Street Fighter match against Cody gets serious. A knife is the weapon you only see in cutaway stealth-kill animations, as Ezio or Talion demonstrate the many ways to remove a brain from a body.
Point being, knives are perhaps the most dynamic armament in video games. Assault rifles and rocket launchers essentially work the exact same way in most games, but knives can either be a last resort or the scariest thing in the world depending on the universe you're playing in. That's more than enough justification to celebrate 10 of the best knives in gaming history.
Some quick housekeeping: Daggers are knives. Shivs are also knives. When in doubt on the sword/knife dichotomy, we generally aired on the side of the language in the name itself. (See: Monster Hunter World's fairly hefty "Hunter's Knife.") If you want to get into an ontological argument about what should and shouldn't be considered a knife, please meet me in the comments below, where we can hash things out or stage a dramatic switchblade fight on a bridge.
Dual Hidden Blades - Assassin's Creed 2
With the first Assassin's Creed, the big stunners were the crowd tech, the climbing system, and the undeniable cool factor of jumping off a ledge onto a guard with a wrist blade shiv to the neck. Assassin's Creed 2 flirted with edgelord territory by letting you wield not just one but two wrist blades, but in the end it just worked, perfecting the series' defining weapon. It's just such a simple pleasure, walking between two guards and giving them a simultaneous neck tickle.
Butterfly Knife - Team Fortress 2
This is the single reason your Team Fortress comps constantly get stuffed with too many Spies. Simply put, there are few better sensations in FPS than the disguise/backstab tandem. It's worth it, even if you only pull it off once every three billion tries.
Twin Daggers - Dead Cells
The first time Dead Cells truly resonated with me was when I picked up my first set of Twin Daggers, which let me slice-and-dice through the Toxic Sewers with unbelievable ease, in a way that seemed natural with the rest of the game's incredible napalm-inked Blade Runner aesthetic. I can't be the only one, right?
Hunter's Knife - Monster Hunter World
You could set off into the jungle with heavy bowguns, or arcane charge swords, or claymores big enough to make Cloud Strife himself blush. Or, you could be a real mensch, and take on the wilds with nothing more than a meaty knife and an iron shield. Monster Hunter is at its most rewarding when you fell a titanic-sized beastie with weaponry you'd expect from a shambling corpse in Dark Souls' Lower Undead Burg.
Kitchen Knife - Dead By Daylight
Have you ever wanted to stalk a bunch of idiot high schoolers through a pitch-dark forest? Well, you should maybe talk to a professional about that. But in the meantime, get your kicks in Dead By Daylight, which lets you track down your friends as the unstoppable killing machine Michael Myers, armed with nothing more than his trademark kitchen knife. Dead By Daylight's horror multiplayer sure did cash in on some base cultural pleasures.
Finkle's Skinner - World of Warcraft
Finkle's Skinner was a top-tier dagger in Vanilla World of Warcraft for rogues who hadn't quite cracked Molten Core or other 40-man raids yet. You pull it off The Beast in Upper Blackrock Spire, and you're a happy camper who can do serious damage to any unsuspecting Priest in Warsong Gulch. But that's only one part of the equation, because the Skinner also boosted your Skinning ability by 10 points, which could put you over the cap if you're already at a max 300/300. At that game-breaking 310/300 Skinning, you're officially one of the few people on the Warcraft server capable of harvesting the pelts of some of the nastiest beasties in the game, thereby allowing you to supply ingredients for some extremely demanding leather armor recipes. Killing efficiency, and good old-fashioned mercantilism. We love to see it.
Throwing Knife - Destiny (series)
One of the stranger suspensions of disbelief necessary to enjoy video games is the tacit understanding that knives, in first-person shooters, are more dangerous than any ammunition you're pumping out. Nowhere is this more pronounced than Destiny, which outfits players with a whole universe of high-tech artillery, only for it to be outdone by the Gunslinger's Throwing Knife. Handcannons? Assault rifles? Who cares. Put this knife on someone's head, and you're in real business.
Combat Knife - Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Big ups to Call of Duty for pioneering one of the greatest advancements in knife key-binding and button-mapping. Swing around a corner, see your screen fill with the body of someone on the other team, and either click in the right stick or tap E for an instant kill. No degenerate mouse-wheel scrolling, no wasted nanoseconds trying to remember what number you put your sole melee weapon on—just an instant hyperlink to death. It's been 12 years, and we're still feeling the reverberations.
Cosmic Knife - Fallout: New Vegas
If you're brave enough to venture into the demented Sierra Madre Casino in Fallout: New Vegas, it seems only fair that you ought to be rewarded with a really mean kitchen knife. The player-character loots the Cosmic Knife off of the ghost people who stalk the former resort's villa, and it is said that they're so sharp they can cut your thumb clean off if you're not paying enough attention. Naturally, these bad boys offer a unique V.A.T.S. Back Slash attack, which will keep you efficiently farming the wasteland for years to come.
Shadowflame Knife - Terraria
It's a knife that shoots other knives! Seriously! The Shadowflame Knife costs no mana, no ammunition, and it causes a mini hellstorm of purple, heat-seeking blades that will clear out any of Terraria's tricky 2D deathtraps in a hurry. All you gotta do is survive a Goblin Invasion and loot the knife off the enemies. Easy enough! ...Right?
Data Knife - Titanfall 2
An absolutely ridiculous knife used for stabbing computers, not people. The Data Knife has to have the coolest hacking animation in games, and wins major points for originality. You could also use it in multiplayer in Titanfall 1 and 2, but there's something special about the absurdity of using this knife approximately three times in the entire campaign, when a computer needs hackin'.
Mehrune's Razor - The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion
It's the coveted blade of the Dark Brotherhood, and its Daedric Banishing magic gives you a small chance (based on your Luck) of instantly killing your target and sucking out their souls. It even tracks how many souls you've stolen as a grim reminder of what an unrepentant killer you are. Even when it doesn't banish it does good damage, has a disintegrate armor effect, and has a slightly longer reach than any other dagger in Oblivion. Plus, it's just a sweet-lookin' knife.
Mehrune's Razor shows up in Skyrim, too: here's a bonus video of someone's 120th attempt to one-hit kill Alduin using it.
Knife - Counter-Strike (Series)
The ultimate disrespect. For a series that deserves its reputation as the premiere tactical shooter, there is simply nothing more euphoric than slipping behind an idiot with an AWP and putting a liquid-blue, weed leaf-stamped blade through their skull. (Skins have gotten weird, you can't blame me.) There are other, utility-minded uses for the knife in Counter-Strike—it lets you run faster, for one—but everyone who's ever been to a LAN Cafe knows that the game's primary melee weapon is reserved mostly for psychological warfare. Bonus points, also, for its iconic idle animation.