Reviews - Updated on April 6, 2022

The female hippopotamus is quite graceful and gentle during the mating season. But don’t check it out!
Nikolai Drozdov

Fresh exclusive for PS5 – Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart has already managed to please critics. The cute fluffy Lombax are back on the screen, and now there are even more of them – a new playable character has been added, the determined and resilient Rivet. Such cute heroes easily and confidently find their way to the hearts of the players. Perhaps the reason for this is huge eyes, bright fur and resemblance to raccoons from a children’s cartoon?

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All sorts of animals began to appear in the main video game roles at the dawn of game development. Entertainment for ancient machines that loaded games from magnetic tape with satanic sounds (veterans certainly remember these Jericho motifs) has already shown many heroes from among our smaller brothers.

Game developers forty years ago quickly realized that it was not necessary to invent and draw a model of some amazing hero – it was easier to turn to the world of fauna. A significant part of the players will accept such a character with sympathy on a subconscious level, because most people love animals – both those that they have tamed and those that have not yet been reached. And in the old games, a toad jumped across the highway with suicidal persistence, an armed fox robbed chicken coops, a naughty cat mischievous in an apartment building, and other movement was going on within the animal world.

Animals in games: the origin of species and where the fantasy of game designers leads

The fox is armed and dangerous.

But these projects are now interesting only as museum exhibits, so let’s turn to the beginning of the jet 90s – everything has become closer to the modern gamer there. In those years, with a slight lag behind the world rhythm, the NES console burst into the apartments of citizens of the Russian-speaking space, behind which the name “Dendy” was assigned.

Together with the “Dandy” on yellow cartridges, the heroes of the Disney series landed in each selection of games. Just in the early 90s, the first Disney animated series officially went on TV. “DuckTales”, “Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers”, “Miracles on turns” and, of course, a brilliant parody of Batman – “Black Cape”; all of these shows featured anthropomorphic animals. Walt Disney (Walt Disney) since the appearance of Mickey Mouse in the short film “Steamboat Willie” (1928) laid his universe “Beasts like people”. And in the Sunday series, this universe appeared in all its glory – instead of people, mice, ducks, wolves and other furry citizens lived there. Almost every series has had an eight-bit adaptation.

Animals in games: the origin of species and where the fantasy of game designers leads

Chip and Dale’s opponents are quite recognizable.

Disney licensed games were incredibly popular. Although at that time a successful project under license was considered one where character models flashed, vaguely similar to the on-screen originals. To be fair, DuckTales (Capcom, 1989) featured exotic locations from the series, and Darkwing Duck (also Capcom, 1992) had the opportunity to fight the famous villains of St. Canard. One way or another, the people were happy to control the Disney little animals.

The central characters of the Disney studio – Mickey, Donald, Goofy and others – appeared in video games with enviable regularity. But, perhaps, the role-playing game Kingdom Hearts can be called the apogee of the Disney universe in game development. The first part of the franchise appeared on PS2 in 2002. Designer Tetsuya Nomura has mixed classic Japanese RPGs with the colorful worlds of Disney into an unprecedented cocktail. While the focus is on generic JRPG characters, the core team of Disney characters are heavily involved in the events. The series included three successful licensed parts and a myriad of offshoots, prequels and additions.

Animals in games: the origin of species and where the fantasy of game designers leads

The third Kingdom Hearts was the real pinnacle of the series.

At the end of the last century, another pair of iconic anthropomorphic beasts from video games appeared: arcade games about the gorilla Donkey Kong enjoyed well-deserved popularity on slot machines, and the Crash Bandicoot series shone on the first PlayStation. Kong is the main villain! – did not part with a stylish tie, and Crash flaunted in blue pants, which, in general, is not typical for real Australian bandicoots.

Animals in games: the origin of species and where the fantasy of game designers leads

Crash recently returned to current platforms.

The series of adventures of Sly Cooper the raccoon is also sustained in the Disney spirit. A virtuoso thief commands a whole animal gang, which includes a turtle and a hippopotamus. Traveling around the world, cat-and-mouse with the police, and a great picture with cel-shading provided a lot of popularity for games about Cooper – at one time the raccoon was even a symbol of the PlayStation.

Animals in games: the origin of species and where the fantasy of game designers leads

The latest story about Sly is out on PS3.

If we think about more serious matters, once Ukrainian igrodelov were inspired by the ideas of the British science fiction classic Herbert Wells. It was on the “Isle of Dr. Moreau” that the shooter “Vivisector: The Beast Within” (2005) was similar. According to the plot, Dr. Morehead is weird on a distant island, endowing a variety of animals with the mind. In the tradition of Wells, this does not end with anything good – wiser animals turn on revolutionaries, blood flows, tufts of wool fly.

Call of nature

There is a more complicated way to make a decent game about animals – to show a real animal on the screen. Finding worthwhile examples is more difficult, although it is quite possible.

In 2014, indie developers unleashed the hooligan Goat Simulator on us. In the role of an ordinary goat, we had to do all sorts of mischief, play the fool and fill the virtual goat life with deep meaning. Whatever the authors from Coffee Stain Studios say about the deep hidden meaning, Goat Simulator is dedicated to the manifestation of the most nasty goat manners – that’s what makes it interesting. By the way, those who have been on vacation in the countryside will confirm that in reality, goats often have a craving for hooliganism and antisocial behavior.

Animals in games: the origin of species and where the fantasy of game designers leads

Watch out goat!

And a year ago, in 2020, the adventures of a goose embittered at life came out – Untitled Goose Game turned out to be really worthy entertainment. Doing nasty things left and right, while controlling a clumsy-looking poultry, is an activity that appealed to players tired of saving the world in epic RPGs: on Steam, the game has extremely positive reviews. The local goose is making every effort to deprive the lives of the villagers of joy and harmony, and again, here the developers are not far from the truth: there is no bird in the village more terrible than the goose, an aggressive hissing monster.

The extraordinary adventure game Lost Ember (2019) takes the user into the body of a real wild wolf. Here a fantastic assumption appears: the wolf can move into the bodies of other animals, birds and even fish. But almost real animals flash before us, without any human clothes and habits, and this is captivating.

Animals in games: the origin of species and where the fantasy of game designers leads

Lost Ember is a bit underdone, but still charming.

Well, in The Red Lantern we are busy with a team of real sled dogs. Plus, let’s remember Falcon Age – there, along with the player, a manual falcon travels through the inhospitable world.

Cats vs dogs

Separately, I will mention the recognized favorites of the public – dogs and cats. The developers used the people’s love more than once or twice.

Since Antiquity, mankind has called dogs into military service. Game creators have repeatedly suggested that gamers unleash the dogs of war in the manner of Roman legionnaires. So, in Dragon Age: Origins, almost from the first minutes of the passage, we have a faithful fighting dog of the Mabari breed in our party. If you pamper him with delicious bones, then he will definitely bring you something valuable, recently dug out.

Animals in games: the origin of species and where the fantasy of game designers leads

The Mabari is clearly a fighting breed.

The dog from The Bard’s Tale (2004, Brian Fargo’s version) showed unprecedented devotion. The mongrel dog accompanied the Bard everywhere – and every decent bard has a mongrel according to social status – and, when dog death overtook her, she returned as a ghost to still be close to the owner.

At the stage of the advertising campaign for Call of Duty: Ghosts (2013), the ability to “steer” a German shepherd was presented as almost the main gameplay “feature”. Although in the end the episode with the sheepdog turned out to be fleeting and unintelligible. Like all Ghosts.

As for cats, in games they prefer to walk on their own. And a good confirmation of this was the RPG Cat Quest dilogy, where the protagonist cat is shown as a real adventurer, adventurer and treasure hunter. This is pure, undiluted cuteness, everything there is pleasing to the eye – from the model of the protagonist to the “caramel” map of the world. A vigorous process in the spirit of action-RPG is attached – you will have to save the world of intelligent animals and further in this spirit.

Animals in games: the origin of species and where the fantasy of game designers leads

Cat in search of treasure – why not?

How to benefit the owner and fall asleep full

Often we see animals and birds in games that bring all sorts of benefits to the host player. If dogs protect, and cats … rub against the leg, then on a long journey you cannot do without a good horse.

For Shadow of the Colossus, designer Fumito Ueda chose a visual style of spectacular minimalism – usually only the main character Wander and those very colossi are in the frame. The more noticeable is the role of Wander’s faithful horse – Agro. On it we traveled, chased the goal, fought on horseback with the titans. Agro, for obvious reasons, did not say a single phrase for the entire passage, but was perceived only as one of the central characters.

And by the way, if you have not read the books of Pan Sapkowski (Andrzej Sapkowski), then know that the witcher Geralt calls all his horses Roach, so as not to become attached to any one. The turnover of horse personnel in the dangerous witcher service is high: the ghoul does not care who to chew – a traveler or another Roach.

Animals in games: the origin of species and where the fantasy of game designers leads

On a horse, you can participate in races and win valuable prizes.

When the folk series Assassin’s Creed moved into the action-RPG genre with the release of Origins, the eagle Senu entered the service of the assassin Bayek. Bayek knows how to survey the surroundings with an eagle’s eye, and if you invest experience points in the Seine, then a smart bird will learn to attack the enemy on command. The arrival of Senu opened up yet another horizon of mechanics in a game already rich in features.

Traces of unseen beasts

The fantasy of the developers has always been closely within the framework of reality. Therefore, sometimes in games we are shown fantastic animals and their habitats. We will not talk about dragons, beholders and other evil spirits and will designate several species that look more convincing.

For example, in the classic RTS on the world of “Dune” by Frank Herbert (Frank Herbert), you can meet a giant sandworm in the Shai-Hulud desert. In the old Dune 2 or the more recent Emperor: Battle for Dune, the worm swallows everything that can be swallowed. Your spice harvesters will do just fine.

The Borderlands series allows you to shoot plenty of predatory skugs. These creatures have bred on the planet Pandora and are steadily reducing the population of local adventurers. And in the third numbered game, gamers got the opportunity to command a skag – a slobbering beast breaks into a fight and drags loot to the owner.

Animals in games: the origin of species and where the fantasy of game designers leads

Skaggs look like… They don’t look like anyone else!

But perhaps the most authentically depicted fantasy beast is Trico’s griffin from The Last Guardian. Trico befriends a strange boy and is trying to get out of a hostile castle. The aforementioned Fumito Ueda’s team did their best to model Trico’s behavior. A real beast appeared on the screen, impulsive and sometimes unpredictable. Like many real animals – cats, for example – Trico can show unexpected curiosity or fear at any moment. This game is remembered (as well as unusual style).

Naturally, the theme of animals from video games is not exhausted. Developers turn to the world of fauna often and willingly, showing it from a variety of angles. So, it is in the good old bears that druids from the universes of Diablo and D&D turn. Or wyverns, but that’s another story.

Share in the comments where, in your opinion, the most interesting game animals live and what examples seemed worthy of your attention. And feed, finally, a homeless cat – you will not lose.

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