This work aims to investigate the influence of the energy and flux of the ions striking the substrate on the characteristics of the ZrCN coatings deposited by cathodic arc method. The coatings were investigated for elemental and phase composition, chemical binding state, texture, residual stress, hardness, adhesion and tribological behavior using GDOS, Raman spectroscopy and XRD techniques, surface profilometry, hardness and scratch adhesion measurements, and tribological tests. Various substrate current densities (in the range 2-7 mA/cm2) were obtained by using 1 or 2 cathodes, while different ion energies resulted from the variation of the substrate negative bias voltage (in the range 50 - 200 V). Chemical bonds, texture, mechanical and tribological characteristics of the films were observed to strongly depend on the ion bombardment conditions. The dominant factor in achieving high hardness values (in excess of 40 GPa) and superior wear resistance was found to be the substrate current density.