Editorial: Exploring Familiar Monsters in Games
Halloween is here, and what better way to celebrate than by paying homage to some of the most notorious ghouls and monsters to grace our PCs and consoles? Without such cannon fodder as spiders, vampires and zombies we would be condemned to just shooting our fellow man, which although fun, would get old after a while. In compiling this list, I came across some notables worthy of an honorable mention, but who have yet to become mainstream enough to cross over into different genres, and instead continue to be pigeon holed within their niche. While this list is in no way a complete list of video game baddies, it is instead a list of some of the most common miscreants to get within our pistol sites or in the vicinity of our broadsword.
These distractions on our way to victory in our gaming universe are also not listed in order of importance or occurrence rate – because face it – one is just as annoying and evil as the other. Unfortunately, these monsters never get the glory that their bosses do, because they are nothing more than expendable minions set upon our paths to deplete our life force so that the main antagonist may continue with more important matters – World Domination. In truth, they become nothing more than something for you to enjoy chopping to bits or a vessel for extra health, magic, or cash, the poor, misguided fools. So without further ado, let me introduce you to the stars of this post.
I always thought that spiders were put into video games simply because the developers and writers ran out of ideas. It is almost like some sick and twisted joke to continue to put these eight legged freaks into video games, because lets face it – they are annoying, scary and usually so big that you can’t just “step on it” and go about your merry way. The majority of the time they are evil, poisonous and very ambidextrous. They attack in hordes and just when you think you have them beaten, one of the evil arachnids spawns more of her devil babies and sends them scurrying your way. Spiders can come in a variety of forms too; You have your normal, big black tarantula looking fiends, ones with armor protecting all but their soft underbellies, and then you have the mutant spiders from Hades whom you have to have a “special” skill or weapon to fight them off with. The majority of the time you have to take out their numerous eyes one at a time, or cut their legs off, or just keep button mashing until they are dead on their back with their legs curled in the air. It is a known fact that if you play an RPG, especially one set in the fantasy realms, that you will come across many a spider that you must hack away at and eventually waste an antidote potion on. Oh the horror of the denizens of the dark with their sticky webs and thousands of bloodthirsty children – how I loathe them!
Gaming Examples: Baldur’s Gate, Diablo, LotR: Return of the King (Shelob, you bitch!), LotRO, Doom, Conan, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Jack Sparrow, The Legend of Zelda Series, Okami
Best Use of Spiders: FPS, MMORPG, RPG, Third-Person Action
Aside from the Alien Vs Predator game, there are many games where the Alien takes front and center in the “must kill” department. It seems that there are a myriad of games out there where you must kill the aliens, stop an alien invasion, or join forces with aliens to stop another alien race hell-bent on universal domination. I could go on and on with all of the different alien scenarios, because the science fiction genre tends to orbit around these evil doers from outer space and developers who wish to go the science fiction route tend to do best with the FPS or strategy genre.
Gaming Examples: Area 51, Half-Life Series, Command and Conquer Series, Shadowgrounds, Space Invaders, Tarr Chronicles, UFO: Extraterrestrials, Tabula Rasa, Halo Series, Duke Nukem
Best Use of Aliens: FPS, MMORPG, Strategy
Ah zombies…the quintessential baddie of the horror-genre. How many times has this been done and how come we always come crawling back for more? I will tell you why: They are scary, fun to fill with lead, and comic relief. Nothing is scarier than your fellow human beings becoming incensed with an unquenchable lust for gray matter. Whether you are surrounded by hordes of them, fighting off wave upon wave of the undead, or creeping around the corner only to come face to face with them – zombies are a mainstay in video games. With so many movies and novels based upon our doomed brethren, it is no wonder they have become the darlings of many horror genre games. However, zombies can come in more forms than just human – spiders, Dobermans, fish and even zoo animals have suffered the same fate. While most of these incidences can be blamed on the fabled Umbrella Corporation, one thing is for sure – they are usually easy to kill. Not only are they unusually dense, a blast in the face with a shotgun or a blow to the head with a crowbar usually does the trick of putting them in their place. That is more than you can say for a normal human, who in some games can take a shot to the head five times before they die.
Gaming Examples: Resident Evil Series, Left 4 Dead, Dead Island, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, Dead Rising, DOOM Series, Zombi, Cold Fear, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, Evil Dead: A Fist Full of Broomstick and I could go on and on with this one.
Best Use of Zombies: FPS, Third Person Action
DEMONS / VAMPIRES
Deep within our psyche, the fear of demons and vampires has taken root through so many generations of our forebearers that it is practically embedded within our DNA. Growing up, we were taught that the Devil would send his demons to escort us to Hell if we were bad. Countless stories in different religions tell deeply frightening tales of demons who invade our bodies; jealous of the life we lead -wanting to taste it themselves. Literature is peppered with stories of demonic possession, deals with the devil, and lists of demon names that we can call upon to do our bidding. The Vampire is another sort of demon we are all too familiar with. Our ancestors were told that a bloodthirsty beast walked the night searching for eternal life through our blood – condemned to live life with constant blood lust. Although the majority of these tales were told to keep people on a virtuous path in life, in modern times they are nothing more than a great way to get our scary thrills. The thought of the unknown is always a good scare, and things that go bump in the night have made playing video games more fun and challenging at the same time. The goal of destroying these demonic entities is usually – like most games – the salvation of the human race. Demons have taken over – destroy them before they open the gate to Hell and Satan walks again! Destroy all the vampires or humankind will turn into cattle for the damned. Ya gotta love that plot-line.
Gaming Examples: Castlevania Series, Hellagate: London, Brutal Legend, The Chosen: Well of Souls, The Witcher, Devil May Cry Series, Clive Barker’s Jericho and Undying, Blade and Blade II, The Soul Reaver and Blood Omen Games, Primal, Bloodrayne Series, and some of the monstrous forms in the Silent Hill series can be considered demons.
Best Use of Demons/Vampires: FPS, MMORPG, Third-Person Action
WEREWOLVES / WOLVES
The poor wolf has been given a bad rep since the dawn of man. Not only is he the fall guy for the loss of cattle and sheep around the globe, but he is also one of the main annoyances of the RPG genre. Name almost any RPG title and I guarantee there is a wolf or some form of dog you must kill. Not only do you have to kill the poor beast, but they also make him cry and flail about when getting an axe to the head or his ass fried with a lightning bolt. Poor Rover. His half-human counterpart does not fair any better, and with good reason. The Werewolf is a nasty creature whose only desire is to tear you to shreds, where as the poor canine is just misunderstood or in the wrong place at the wrong time. Werewolves thrive on destruction, they are usually hard to kill, and they always seem to hunt in pairs. Both of these wolf creatures come in a variety of forms, and sometimes they can be zombies as well. Usually, the Werewolf is just that – a nasty beast you must kill or suffer the consequences. The regular dog like critter though, comes in many forms: skeletal, Cerberus, ghostly, zombified, warg, demonic, and vanilla. Whichever form you come across in a game, they are usually easily enough dispatched – however, beware of his human brethren, for during a fight they are not only usually bigger than you, their fangs and claws can cause irreparable damage.
Gaming Examples: Baldur’s Gate Series, Diablo, Fallout Series, Champions of Norrath, The Legend of Zelda Series, The Elder Scrolls III & IV: Morrowind and Oblivion, Majesty, World of Warcraft, The Gothic Series, Darkstalkers, God of War I & II, Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness, again I could go on and on with this one.
Best Use of Werewolves/Wolves: FPS, MMORPG, RPG, Third-Person Action
Another staple of the RPG or horror genre, skeletons seem to be everywhere. Usually they are minions or guardians of dungeons and tombs, but you can safely bet that if you are playing a fantasy themed game or something scary – you will cross paths. The majority of the time they are carrying swords and have a great block to them with their massive shields. Skeletons can come in different forms such as animals and other strange creatures, but the majority of the time they are in human form and are pretty resilient for a rack of bones.
Gaming Examples: The Elder Scrolls III and IV: Morrowind and Oblivion, The Legend of Zelda Series, World of Warcraft, Baldur’s Gate, Pirates of the Caribbean Series, Death Jr., Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance, Grabbed by the Ghoulies, DOOM Series, RuneScape, Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, Castlevania, Dragon’s Lair, Serious Sam, Grim Fandango, etc.
Best Use of Skeletons: All Styles of Gameplay
Nazis make the best bad guys in a video game because they are the worst kind of monster. Not only are they human, but also they embody the pure evil and unadulterated cruelty that human beings possess. They are fun to kill because they are one of the most hated and vile forms of life in the universe and nothing gives us more pleasure than putting a stop to their reign of terror. With the rise in popularity of WWII games like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor, the Nazi has become one of the most popular monsters to annihilate with insistent fragging.
Gaming Examples: Call of Duty Series, Castle Wolfenstein Series, Brothers in Arms Series, Medal of Honor Series, Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, Theatre of War, Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines, A Stroke of Fate, Battlefield 1942, Blitzkrieg 2: Fall of the Reich, Company of Heroes, World in Conflict, etc, etc, etc.
Best Use of Nazis: FPS, Strategy, Third-Person Action
Mostly content to stay within the RPG genre, the rat is one of the weakest enemies in a game. There are countless ways to kill them, one of the easiest being just walking on them, and then at the other end of the spectrum you just have to slash them once with your sword and the deed is done. No dungeon would be complete without them, especially when venturing in the sewer levels or in the cellar of a house. Occasionally you can find them in caves, and sometimes you do not have to interact with them at all – they are just part of the scenery. Whatever the rat’s role in the game is, if you can kill it, you have an easy way of leveling up because of it – and the bites you receive from them are generally harmless. Occasionally, they may give you a disease, but if you know of a nice healing spell or have a potion in your pack, it becomes nothing more than a minor annoyance.
Gaming Examples: Rat Attack, Baldur’s Gate, The Elder Scrolls III & IV: Morrowind and Oblivion, Rats!, Basically, if the game has a dungeon it has a rat.
Best Use of Rats: FPS, MMORPG, RPG, Third-Person Action
THE FLYING MENACE
Usually with any game that has some sort of monster in it, each one has to live in certain elements. If you have one on land and in the water, you have to have one in the air right? These airborne menaces can run the gambit of your average predatory bird, to super-sized teradactyls and dragons. Sometimes all it takes is a straight well-timed shot with a bow and arrow, and other times you have to wait for it to come into sword range. If you are playing an RPG, usually a lightning bolt will do the trick, and if you happen to be playing a game where you pack around a well-equipped machine gun –let your bullets do the work for you. Bats are especially vulnerable to bullets. Whatever form of flying creature it is – they can pack a serious punch. Remember those damn Cliff Racers in the Elder Scrolls games? Man, I hated those guys.
Gaming Examples: TUROK, Final Fantasy Series, The Legend of Zelda Series, The Elder Scrolls Series, Lair, Resident Evil Series (damn crows!), Mario Games, Various Pokemon Games, Guild Wars, Tomb Raider: Legend, Heroes of Might and Magic, RuneScape, and the list goes on.
Best Use of the Flying Menace: FPS, MMORPG, RPG, Third-Person Action
Clowns – Twisted Metal, Clowns and Lemans for the Commodore 64, Final Fantasy VI, Digimon, Batman, Jack Thompson
Mutants – Fallout Series, Resident Evil Series, The Simpsons: Bart Vs. The Space Mutants, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, Half-Life Series, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Resistance: Fall of Man
Fish and other Water Bound Creatures – Half-Life 2, The Elder Scrolls Series (damn slaughterfish!), Resident Evil 4, The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker, Jaws Games
Ghosts – Silent Hill, Fatal Frame, Pac-Man, Ghosts n’ Goblins, Alone in the Dark
Goblins, Orcs, and Trolls– Any RPG or fantasy themed hack and slash
HAPPY HALLOWEEN, EVERYONE!