With each new game, Devil May Cry seems to be trying to reinvent itself in terms of themes and story beats. Nowhere is this more obvious than when trying to make sense of Dante's character arc. Not only does the series constantly bounce between various points in Dante's life, it rarely revisits past plot points. When it does revisit something introduced in previous games, such as characters like Lady, Trish, and Vergil, the new title often overwrites the past. Despite this confusion, fans used to have a pretty solid idea of the overall series timeline. The release of Devil May Cry 5 changed that with a retcon that swapped which order the games officially took place in.
Spoilers ahead for the Devil May Cry series.
In the original Devil May Cry timeline, the events of Devil May Cry 3 took place first. This title follows Dante as a brash and reckless teenager, goes into depth on his troubled relationship with his twin brother Vergil, and explores how he became determined to protect those who can't protect themselves. Next came Devil May Cry 1, which tells the story of Dante's battle with the demon Mundus and introduces him to Trish.
After this came the events of Devil May Cry 4, when Dante teams up with Trish and his old friend Lady to fight the Order of the Sword. This brings them into conflict with the new character Nero. Finally, Devil May Cry 2 leads a colder, more solemn Dante on one final devil hunting mission before he vanishes into the underworld, seemingly for good.
As of Devil May Cry 5, the official timeline has swapped the places of Devil May Cry 4 and Devil May Cry 2. This means the series timeline now goes Devil May Cry 3, Devil May Cry 1, Devil May Cry 2, Devil May Cry 4, then Devil May Cry 5. Fortunately, the fact that each title is more or less self-contained means that there aren't many major plot threads derailed by this change. Unfortunately, there's at least one major plot hole caused by putting Devil May Cry 2 in the middle of the series instead of ambiguously at the end: Dante's first trip into the underworld.
The new timeline means that Dante has gotten himself stranded in the demon world twice: Once at the end of Devil May Cry 2, and once at the end of Devil May Cry 5. Not only is this a repetitive plot point now, but Devil May Cry 4 also doesn't explain how or why Dante returned from his first trip to the underworld. It also means that the cast of Devil May Cry 2 just sort of vanishes from the series afterward, which made sense when it was the last game, but seems odd if it takes place in the middle.
The re-ordered timeline does mean Dante's physical aging now resembles normal human aging — the original timeline had him preserved as ambiguously twenty-something, and then seemingly age backward between Devil May Cry 4 and Devil May Cry 2. Unfortunately, Dante's creator Kamiya has previously stated that Dante would become more demonic as he aged, so Dante's increasingly worn features in Devil May Cry 5 may still leave even dedicated fans confused. Especially fans who were used to the previous game order.
It remains to be seen whether Devil May Cry 6 will continue to follow a Dante who ages realistically, even when Trish and Lady appear virtually unchanged, or if he will return to his iconic classic look.
Devil May Cry 5 is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Amazon Luna.