Who Would Win? Samurai vs. Viking vs. Knight

For Honor, the hugely successful game from Ubisoft pits three factions: the aggressive Vikings, the disciplined samurai and the valiant knights in a free for all battle for supremacy. The game’s factions are fairly balanced against each other. However, in a real-life setting, we know this wouldn’t be that case. If, in a scenario, the direct historical counterparts of these heroes were to duke it out, who was likely to remain standing? Let’s find out!

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The Vikings

Samurai vs. Viking vs. Knight

This faction seen in the game is inspired from the Norsemen of the Viking age, a period extending from 8th to the mid 11th century of European history. Fearsome seafarers, they raided and terrorized coastal towns and settlements as far as southern Italy. Contrary to how they are popularly depicted, they didn’t have horns on their helmets. Also contrary, Vikings weren’t savage raiders with primitive tools and little armor. Vikings could field highly effective armies when they needed to and founded dynasties that went on to rule major portions of England, Northern France and Russia.

The “Raider” in the game is based on the Housecarl, elite guards of Scandinavian nobility. The “Warlords” are based on wealthy Jarls who could afford good armor and swords. The ‘Highlander’ is inspired by the Gallowglass, elite mercenaries of Norse-Gaelic descent. Lastly, the “Berserkers” and “Valkyries”, despite their names, are loosely based on well-to-do Karls (freemen) of Viking society.

Weapons and Armor

Samurai vs. Viking vs. KnightSpears and axes were the most common types of weapon carried by Vikings, being cheap and easy to produce. For those who could afford, the battle-axe was a favored weapon, being lightweight, well balanced and giving a good reach. The most expensive and prestigious weapon, however, was the sword and only the richest could expect to wield one. Better quality Frankish weapons from Germany were also highly coveted.

How rich was a Viking also determined how good his armor was. An iron helmet and a riveted wooden shield were common protection for professional fighters while men of high status came clad in chainmail or lamellar. However, the average Viking could not afford such pricey items and had to rely on offense as their best defense.

The Knights

Samurai vs. Viking vs. Knight

The Knights, as seen in the game, are based off their real-life counterparts from late 14th century Western Europe, when plate armor was being introduced. Trained from youth in the art of warfare, knights were the élite fighting force of any medieval army, mounted on horses and clad in the best armor the lands could afford.

The “Law Bringer” from the game is based off the Vögte of the Holy Roman Empire.  The “Conqueror” and the “Warden” are based off the hardened veterans and noble knights respectively, of Germanic military orders. The “Centurion” and “Gladiator” take inspiration from earlier Roman times. Peacekeepers are fictitious.

Weapons and Armor

The primary weapon of a mounted knight was his lance, which he used to deadly effects. Once dismounted, the arming sword was the preferred weapon, usually accompanied with a heater shield. Others, more offense-oriented, tended to wield heavy longswords for greater reach and thrust. Against cavalry, a polearm was used. Archery weapons, while effective, were frowned upon as they were seen as “a coward’s weapon”.

Few things were imposing on the battlefield as a fully armored knight.  A 14th century knight’s armor was composed of mail augmented with layers of plated armor, providing protection against a variety of weapons. Quilted garments such as a Gambeson were worn underneath to absorb concussive blows. Usually, a metal skullcap called a cervelliere was worn under a padded steel helm for added protection. Together, this made the knight a walking medieval tank. Some sets of knightly armor could weigh as much as 25 kilograms (55 pounds). However, this weight was evenly spread throughout the body thus, neither a wearer’s movement or his agility were compromised.

The Samurai

Samurai vs. Viking vs. Knight

The in-game Samurai faction mirrors the Bushi warriors from the early Ashikaga era Japan. Adhering to the code of Bushido, they epitomized the virtues of reckless bravery, fierce family pride, and extreme devotion of to one’s master. Educated and trained in military tactics and strategy, the samurai were the officer class of Japanese armies.

The historical parallel to the “Kensei” would be a samurai of high status while the “Nobushi” is based off the Onna-bugeisha, its female counterpart. Similarly, the “Orochi” represents a lower ranked Samurai. The “Shinobi” is what its name implies, a professionally trained Ninja. The “Shugoki” is based off the mythological Oni, further corroborated by his weapon of choice, the Kanabō.

Weapons and armor

Samurai vs. Viking vs. KnightContrary to popular beliefs, it was actually archery that the Samurai favored most and excelled at.  Kyūba no michi or the way of the horse and bow was an important part of every Samurai’s life. Being skilled with the bow (Yumi) was a mark of a professional warrior. Any samurai who performed poorly was instructed to go kill himself (literally). Aside from the bow and sword, a
samurai also trained in the use of many different weapons such as a Naginata, Yari spear or even shuriken. The Katana and its intimidating variant, the Nodachi, were developed by this time and were a favored sidearm of the Samurai. A dagger, such as the Kaiken, was also carried, useful for self-defense in indoor spaces where the katana was impractical.  This all made a samurai a very versatile fighter on the battlefield.

While mounted, the O-yoroi was the armor of choice for a Samurai. However, this type of heavy armor was impractical for infantry combat and the lighter Do-maru was worn for such situations instead. These were examples of Japanese lamellar armor, comprised of hundreds or even thousands of individual leather and iron scales laced together into strips. Drapes of Kusari (Japanese mail) was used to cover the most vulnerable parts of a samurai’s armor while a Mempo (Facial armor) completed the set by providing protection to the face. Additionally, a garment called the Horo also was worn for protection against arrows and other projectiles from the sides and rear.

Now that you know your factions, let’s determine the winner….

It’s not the Vikings by any chance. Their obsolete armor (or lack of it), weapons and tactics are just no match for the more technologically advanced knights and samurai. This leaves us with the choice between those two. Both products of their feudal system, highly trained in warfare, processing the best equipment in the lands and adhering to a warrior’s code of conduct.

Let the fight began!

A knight riding through the countryside stumbles across a corpse riddled with arrows. On closer inspection, they looked of foreign origin.  Just then, an arrow zooms through the air and makes contact with the knight’s armor but barely manages to make a dent.

While the samurai could take to the bow in a way a knight himself could never imagine, the evidence states that it was extremely – and I emphasize on extremely – difficult for a bow to fatally penetrate a 14th century Knight’s harness. While it is true that English longbows were used to great effectiveness against French armored knights at battles such as Crecy and Agincourt, their purpose was to disrupt, slow down and dismount enemy troops. Most casualties among the French knights occurred when they charged en masse through difficult muddy terrain at the English lines under a sustained hail of arrows, becoming utterly exhausted and not in the condition to even “scarcely lift their weapons” when they met their foes.

A trained English archer could fire 10 arrows per minutes.  Imagine thousands of such archers firing tens of thousands of arrows at your head while you slogged through mud and you still being able to reach the faraway enemy lines. A samurai wielding a Yumi on horseback (much-decreased draw weight) could throw a knight off his horse but very unlikely to finish him off at bow range.

With the samurai emptying his quiver in vain, he charges at the dismounted knight with his yari spear, ready to deliver a fatal blow. The knight raises his poleaxe and braces himself. The spear hits the knight’s cuirass and lodges into it, penetrating the plate but not the mail and padding underneath. The knight’s own weapon then does quick work of the horse, throwing the samurai off his saddle.

The medieval poleaxe was a versatile weapon, dangerously effective against heavy cavalry. Medieval knights and other men-at-arms while fighting on foot preferred to use it. The blade of a poleaxe was used, not only for simply dismounting an opponent but also for blocking his weapon, disarming, blocking his blows and hacking him to pieces. A knight’s armor was designed and intended to deflect strikes and absorb powerful thrusting blows from lances and swords alike. Even a Sankaku yari, designed for penetrating armor, would have had little luck against such defense.

A little dazed, the samurai regains his composure and gets up on his feet. The knight with his long sword now drawn taunts the samurai.  Unsheathing his katana, the samurai prays to his ancestors to grant him an honorable victory and fearlessly, he lunges towards his foe. The knight thrusts his sword forward, the samurai parries and slices at the Knight’s less protected neck. However, the steel mail does a fine job of protecting the knight from the katana’s cutting ability.

The Katana was an exceptionally sharp blade. However, its thick wedge shape design meant it had to move aside material as it cut.  Though devastating on a draw slice against flesh and bone, it was less effective against armors. Because of this, Japanese swordsmanship devised specific techniques not to cut at armor, but to stab and thrust at the more vulnerable gaps and joints. Nonetheless, a knight’s mail protected his most vulnerable parts; this made him nearly invulnerable to all cuts and slice draws.

The samurai back steps to draw some distance and re-strategizes. He sheaths his katana – to the bemusement of the knight – and suddenly, hurls shuriken at him. The knight instinctively bends his head and raises an arm for protection.  Seizing the moment, the samurai leaps at the unaware foe with his Kaiken, which jams into the knight’s arm. The knight grabs hold of the samurai, savagely pummels his head with his pommel and finishes the samurai off with a thrust of his long sword.

Knights fought against a greater diversity of enemies than did the samurai, as such their arsenal evolved to be counter such a great variety of foe. Their weapons such as the long sword and the poleaxe were developed specifically in response to the advancement in plate armor. No such equivalent existed in Japan at the time. Against a powerful strike from knight’s long sword, lamellae composed of leather and iron was unlikely to hold.  With factors such as experience, health and age being equal, in a showdown between a late 14th century samurai and knight, the latter would likely be the winner.

The winner is the Knight

Samurai vs. Viking vs. Knight

A. R. Usmani

Historian | Researcher | Likes to live in the past because housing is much cheaper

18 thoughts on “Who Would Win? Samurai vs. Viking vs. Knight

  • April 12, 2021 at 11:25 am

    Does anyone else notice in the ending animation that it looks like the knights sword got stolen by the samurai? XD

  • January 25, 2019 at 4:49 pm

    Since when do samurai use shuriken?

  • December 17, 2018 at 4:16 am

    Wow what a great read. I learned a lot:)

  • March 9, 2018 at 10:21 pm

    even though the question is pointless it is a good debate topic to discuss

  • March 9, 2018 at 10:20 pm

    i thin that a knight would win because
    A medieval knight would win because their whole body was very well protected by their metal armour.
    The knight was riding on horses and they had height advantage. I know you might be thinking that a samurai also was riding on horses but, not all of them had horses.
    The knight had unique weapons like flail, mace, sword, bow and arrows, crossbow, halberd, spear, broadsword. A broadsword is a sword with a wide and a strong blade, usually used by a knight.
    A samurai’s armor is made of bamboo which makes it easy to break. I know that you might be thinking that a samurai had also had metal armor but it was only for the people like kings or the leader of a group.
    Even though the samurai had the katana it could not easily go through the metal armor or chainmail at one try.
    The horses had armor too, which made it hard for the samurai to kill the horse.
    The arrows of the samurai would do no damage to the knight.
    They had the shield as a weapon and protection too.
    The primary weapon of a mounted knight was his lance, which he used to deadly effects.


    • March 24, 2019 at 7:11 pm

      Samurai armor is not made of Bamboo. Depending on how wealthy the samurai was he could be wearing the best or most basic armor available. But since it seems we are comparing him to rich European knights who can afford horse plate mail armor and the best weapon. Lets use an equally wealthy samurai to compare his armor around 14-15th centuary would have been layered. On the inside it would have been padded coat, followed by a do-maru(like a breast plate) this would have been made of layered cloth and leather that was laquered for futher reinforcement. That alone is enough to stop a slash by all but the most giant of European swords. This was then further reinforced by interlaced and interlocking plates of steel. Steel that would have been tempered to absorb blows as well. The way this steel interlaced gave the samurai more mobility than a set of full plate armor and also would have added less weight and been almost if not just as strong. As for the katana vs. the long sword, well honestly only the absolute best katana from the late Kamakura era to the early Nanbukocho era would have been able to slash into the steel plate mail of a 14th century fully decked out Euro knight. But we do have record of some katana such as the Honjo Masamune that cleaved a steel helmet another samurai was wearing and the sword was not damaged. Now I would say the same about any European longsword or hand and a half sword too. they are not slashing through a fully armored samurai’s steel plated armor either. But either of these blades could be used to thrust through the weakest points in the either set of armor or places that the armor didn’t cover at all. Now the katana most people envision as well as the samurai in general, Is the Edo(or Tokugawa era samurai & katana). During this Era you have to understand that aside from about the first 15-20 years or so, this was era of peacetime that last 250 years. At that point the samurai’s primary weapon became the katana. Where as before this it while it symbolized the samurai, was not there primary battle weapon. During the Edo period which again, is where the most Iconic depiction of samurai comes from was a time where few battles were fought, aside from small skirmishes maybe. So, naturally the katana became a weapon that was forged with intent to cut through flesh and bone. And mostly during all eras of the Japanese warrior that was the true intent of the katana, to be a weapon that could easily slash or slice through flesh and bone and maybe some light protective armor. During the Edo period it was a big thing to become a great swordsman and many wandered the countryside looking for worthy opponents to duel. Some of this was done with wooden swords even. But even with those people were killed or horribly injured. The only period than I really can think of where the Japanese sword changed to a sword specifically meant to cut through armor was shortly following the first Mongol invasion. During that point in Japanese history Samurai were still fighting in an older style of battle, where there were strict rules about how a battle was fought and the individual warrior fought a battle. Strict form was observed where the battle would be started by barrage of “humming Bulb arrows” from one side signify the start of the battle, then Samurai warriors would shout there name, lineage, and deeds accomplished hoping to find a worthy opponent on the battlefield. The first Mongol invasion changed all of this, because of course Samurai being Samurai did all this as the Mongols approached and then as soon as the Mongol army got into their bow range simply shot the Samurai waiting on worthy opponents down. This was new to the Japanese warrior. What also was new was the armor the Mongols wore. Being a collaboration of all the lands they invaded. The katana(which would have been called a Tachi at that point) did have a hard time with the some of the Mongol army. After they pushed the Mongols back to sea the first time, they began to change their swords to be a little longer, more, broad, with a bit more reinforcement behind it. When the Mongols came the second and third time they were met with a much more prepared group of warriors. But that was really the only time period when the Japanese sword was ever really designed to cut through heavier armor. Mostly they are made for cutting flesh and bone. And they did a better job of this than any sword ever created.

  • January 2, 2018 at 8:27 pm

    I feel the Vikings should not have been discredited. If they are discredited due to lack of armor, than the Scot’s should have lost against the English in the battle of Bannockburn or Stirling Bridge. The Americans were sure out gunned during its Independence wars, And Col. Custard underestimating his enemies brought about his own demise. Vikings used a lot of superior weaponry and armor. such as the “+Ulfberh+t” sword. and their raids afforded them good armor. I think there is more research to be done before shrugging an enemy off. King Harold Fine hair of Norway led a great army against King Harold of England’s knights, they lost. but only due to lack of reinforcements promised.

    • January 31, 2019 at 1:17 am

      Germanian “Barbarians” who were much like Vikings only less disciplined waged terrible yet successful battles against
      the Roman Legions who often wore metal armor. I think some of the facts here are miscalculated. A 14th Century Knight
      wouldn’t have the agility afforded a Samurai. Samurai armor was at minimum as impenetrable as a knights metal shell, and in some cases preferred due to it being lighter… Vikings were trained to carry two very long spears that were quite thick, which would have been more than an equal to any pole arm a knight carried. I think the Knight would have been dismounted and killed on the ground by the Viking right off the bat with a few fatal axe hits. The fight would have then turned to the Samurai who, might only be successful against the Viking if he lands a first maiming blow. Otherwise I think the Samurai would be overwhelmed by a charging fearless giant swinging a flurry of axe strikes and shield blows…Historically Vikings were known to be simply monstrous in combat, with a developed fighting style and heavy durable equipment. Knights were mounted and easily knocked prone… Samurai, while highly skilled, well equipped and mostly agile, were still not prepared for the outright brutality of a savage Viking.

      • April 5, 2021 at 1:20 am

        Plate wins, the knight has Plate chainmail and a gambeson the Vikings weapons isn’t getting thought it. and the knights weapons are far superior as well and people seem to forget that knights are incredibly well trains martial artists honing there craft from childhood.

  • August 2, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    I honestly thought the Viking would win? Because of the tallness,strength,and mass they held (not saying all of them had rock hard abs lol) but Vikings didn’t fear dying they were violent and restless. If this was a one on one battle I think the Viking would crush the Samurai, and the knight would destroy the Viking. (This is just my opinion XD so don’t protest with meh lol)

    • May 13, 2021 at 8:12 am

      The fiefdom of Normandy was created for the Viking leader Hrólfr Ragnvaldsson or Rollo (also known as Robert of Normandy). Rollo had besieged Paris but in 911 entered vassalage to the king of the West Franks, Charles the Simple, through the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte. In exchange for his homage and fealty, Rollo legally gained the territory which he and his Viking allies had previously conquered. The name “Normandy” reflects Rollo’s Viking (i.e. “Norseman”) origins.
      No enormous racial diference betwen a french knigth and a viking.

      Viking mean raid in old norse… call them Norsemens.
      For strength a knigth is a professional soldier like a norseman “Jarl” and viking are lead by professional soldier but maned by part-time farmers part time soldiers.

  • May 31, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    If the Vikings were inferior then why bother put them in the game. They must have something against the other two

  • February 27, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    This is an absolute useless comparison based on one simple idea. If these 3 factions existed at the same time and were at war with each other as is true of the game, then they would have been actively developing tactics and armaments to combat the others. You can’t compare them as they were since there are large gaps of time in between their existences that don’t account for their tactics. It’s like saying a European Knight from the 14th Century would lose to an M-16 with Armor Piercing rounds…. duh. Why make the comparison at all if all you are going to do is say the newest tech wins, we all could have guessed that……

    • March 8, 2017 at 10:51 pm

      I did discount the Vikings because of their outdated ‘tech’ early in the analysis. However, the Knight and the samurai used in this scenario (and on which the in-game factions are loosely based on) are from the same time period – the late 14th century. Quote “..there are large gaps of time in between their existences” – this is factually wrong. History is not a linear narrative, all three did exist during the same time period (the 10th century) and even by the 16th century, both a knight and a samurai were present, albeit on the opposite ends of the old world.

    • January 16, 2018 at 9:38 am

      Actually they were all thriving in the year 1000-1100, the knights at the time had chain mail and a helmet most of the time, the Viking had hard leather and a helmet, while the samurai had leather, steel, and wood armor with a helmet shaped to deflect blows on the head. The samurai’s weakness at the time was close combat because they mainly focused on bows and arrows on horse back. The knights weakness was arrows because their chain mail was weak against it. The knights had superior swords and spears though. The Vikings had bad weapons. Most of their weapons and armour were not strong. They were fearless coming in to battle and that is how they won by scaring them

      • January 10, 2019 at 1:50 pm

        The Vikings did not have bad weapons. if anyone would give a knight a run for his money it would be a Viking with an ax and shield, or any capable warrior with a similar set up.. pretty much all Japanese armor was a joke meant to defend against sticks and rebellious Farmers. you start hitting Japanese armor with any real weapon it falls apart.. on top of that the katanas and other Japanese swords are brittle and required training just to use it right so it didn’t break… do to the shitty steel. very unlike the Japanese swords today.. many Vikings were wearing chainmail over a gambeson. or lamellar. don’t forget they raided much richer Nations and kicked the hell out of them. they sacked Paris twice btw. do you think they left all those weapons from those countries or put them to use?

        • May 13, 2021 at 8:24 am

          Against a 14th century armore a dane axe is not so impressive only blows to the head could be efective , plate armor difuse trauma unlike the chainmail.
          A poleaxe is two-handed warhammer spike combo dedicated to pierce armor a hauberk is praticaly useless against it.
          For reach a Dane axe as the same reach as a poleaxe and it was a cutting anti – chaimail weapon.
          The knigth had a plate armor efective against Dane Axe …
          If the combat ocurs with secondary weapon two shield and arming swords could be draw , the knigth arming sword is a stab and cutt weapon the norse swort is mainly a cutiing weapon.
          Stab is very eficient to pierce the arms covered only by textile armor – padded jack-.
          Sword cut is paraticaly useless aginst palte an chain.
          If he use a two handed longsword he could opt for halswording to efectively pierce chain with a longsword thrust , chalenging but doable.


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