?The Alien franchise is one of the few in cinematic history to have developed both mainstream success as well as a dedicated cult following, something almost unheard of today. The first film is considered a classic of the horror genre, though to classify it that simply would be mistake. It’s a thrilling sci-fi emotional rollercoaster, and the idea of a claustrophobic film set in the vastness of space is so ingenious that many others have tried to replicate it, with most attempts failing miserably.
Then, James Cameron came along. Cameron saw the amazing potential in the original film’s star; the Xenomorph. Here was an enemy practically impervious to injury, let alone human understanding. How could they be battled, who could hold their own against such living nightmares? The answer: Send in the Marines!
As we all know, this approach worked wonders from a storytelling standpoint, not to mention a financial one. The opportunities for merchandising and licensing grew every year since the release of Aliens in 1987, to the point where today millions are spent on developing titles based in what could accurately be called Cameron’s universe, because it’s all but guaranteed to be a success… most times. And not just movies — videogames, too. Below, we’ll take a look at the six best games made great by pulse rifles, smart guns, and of course the real stars of the series: Xenomorphs.
6) Alien Vs. Predator
The only reason this awesome, awesome 1994 arcade game isn’t higher on the list is because Aliens are terrifying, and pulling a Haggar from Final Fight-style piledriver on an Alien with the character Major Dutch Schaefer may be the very definition of awesome, but isn’t a thing that would happen in any universe, much less the Alien one. The appeal of the Xenomorph is its lethality, the fear that comes with encountering a being without even eyes to see your own fear reflected in. They are remorseless killing machines, and punching them is not a legitimate strategy, robot arm or no.
But we can overlook that bit of absurdity when you’re having so much fun dicing them up with Lieutenant Linn Kurosawa’s katana, or using the Predator Hunter’s shoulder cannon to fry them. It also provides plenty of opportunities to use the weapons the second movie in particular made famous, and seeing a Predator cut down ‘morphs with a pulse rifle is pretty sweet, but not as awesome as dealing damage with the Predator character’s weapons of choice: The spear, wrist blades, and the shoulder-mounted cannon.
It’s fun as hell, and is one of the only AvP games to feature continuous conflict between Predators and Xenomorphs, as opposed to, say, Aliens Vs. Predator on the Xbox 360, where the primary enemy of both alien species are Marines, though they too make an appearance here. It ain’t canon, but it’s definitely cool.
While a number of titles based on the film franchise had been release on the Commodore 64, Amiga, and ZX Spectrum, none had captured the balls-out action of the second installment until this little baby rolled out in arcades in 1990. The game kicks off with you in control of the series’ heroine, Ripley. And if you’re anything like us, you weep upon seeing that the Smart Gun is your default weapon; for those that know how powerful it is in the film, this is an absolute joy. Immediately you’re blowing Xenos apart, acid-blood be damned, and the weapons only get cooler from there: Missile Launchers, 3-Way Fire, and the Flamer become your fun new friends.
Oddly, there’s plenty of enemies that have nothing whatsoever with the film. The first boss you encounter (after fighting green face-huggers) would look more at home in John Carpenter’s The Thing, but even though it may be non-canon, the only cannon that counts is the one you get to use during the APC sections. It set the tone for every other Aliens game to come.
4) Alien 3 – The Gun
Alien 3 is often referred to as the worst of the Alien films (or at least it was, until Alien: Resurrection and the AvP films were released) because it contained none of the elements of the series’ second movie, specifically action and shooting This was an error that Sega tried to rectify in 1993.
In this arcade light-gun game, you (and a friend, provided you can find someone to play with that won’t hog your kills play as a team sent to clean up the Xenomorph infestation on Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161. You begin your mission on the Sulaco, the ship that Ripley, Hicks, Newt, and Bishop escaped to at the end of Aliens, and then proceed down to the planet itself to continue the slaughter.
Now, we’ll be honest and say that) this isn’t the best light-gun game. In fact, it’s not even the best game based on the third film. But it’s fun, and cathartic in a “this is totally what the movie should have been!” way.
3) Alien Trilogy
The original PlayStation’s Alien Trilogy was the most anticipated Alien-based game of its era, and possibly of all time. The reason for the overwhelming anticipation among fans was the fact that we finally had the technology to feel that we were stalking through LV-426 with Pulse Rifle locked and loaded, but more importantly, to feel like we were the hunted just as much as the hunter. We’d already spent plenty of money on games letting us blow Aliens away, but the hope was that this time we’d truly feel the menace of the movies. We wanted an experience that delivered the ice-in-your-veins terror that came with the whistle of the motion tracker indicating that somewhere in your vicinity was a nightmare-come-true. In other words, we wanted to go out like Hudson — scared and shooting madly.
So did it deliver? To a point… it was great at scaring the pants off you, and it made the whole acid-for-blood thing a gameplay element that didn’t become annoying (no small feat when just about everything you shoot bleeds death) but when you saw a pixelated Xenomorph trotting toward you out in the open, the illusion shattered a little. But it maintained the feel of the films, which was a first for gamers, and one we appreciated.
2) Aliens Vs. Predator
After being starved for decent Alien experiences via videogames and left somewhat confused by Alien: Resurrection in the cinema, we were keen for something special. PC game developer Rebellion Developments answered the call.
1999’s Aliens Vs. Predator let you take the role of the titular characters, as well as that of Space Marine, and was a godsend for the members of the community that didn’t have an Atari Jaguar (so everyone) and were especially keen on inhabiting the Xenomorph’s role (again, everyone), dominating Marines with speed, stealth, and lethality to burn… in single player. In multiplayer, the skittishness of the ‘morph’s made accuracy difficult, and death was pretty much guaranteed for a lot of your playtime. Still, ‘morph kills were a sweet, sweet reward, if you could get a handle on your beast and surgically eviscerated your enemies.
It was also the true successor of Alien Trilogy when it came to the claustrophobia and constant terror of playing as a Space Marine; the whistle of the motion tracker as you realize you are no longer alone, the pitch of the tracker’s tell-tale whine rising as you spin in circles trying to find the danger… the roof? Under the floor? No… the walls! They’re coming out of the goddamn walls! You fire wildly, trying to buy yourself some time, some room to work, but they’re everywhere, and your clip has run dry… the last thing you see is the inner jaw coming at your face, and the only thing left is to wonder if you’ll be food, or an incubator. A truly immersive experience.
1) Alien 3
Hands up how many of you saw the film, wondered how on Earth they could make it into a game, and were almost knocked out of your gaming chair when you saw the wonderful, beautiful digital ’99’ in the top corner of the screen, indicating pulse rifle bullets?
The game didn’t give you any idea how Ripley came upon the Holy Trinity of Pulse Rifle, Grenade Launcher, and Flamer, but if you were at all like us you didn’t question it, and just tore into the first face-huggers with all three.
This SNES title from 1993 takes the top spot because it’s faithful to the three main aspects of the original trilogy: It has the claustrophobic vents and crawlspaces of the first film, the awesome weaponry of the second, and the interesting setting of the third. The rotoscoped animation of Ripley looks great, the music is utterly amazing, and the backgrounds, especially the outdoor sections, are excellent; a real feat, as the look of the third film can easily be summed up in one word: “Brown.”
The real genius of this game lies in the mission structure: You’re not here just to blast bugs, you’re here to survive, and to keep the other inhabitants of Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161 alive as well. At terminals, you find a list of tasks that needed doing; welding pipes, fixing three-phase fuse boxes, clearing corridors of Xenomorph eggs, and saving captive prisoners. It’s not fully explained why these tasks are so important when everything is trying to eat your face off, but ours is not to question why, ours is but to weld and fry.