Top 10 Kaiju-esque Monsters in Gaming
Video games have been home to some truly original creatures, sometimes as a playable character that grants players a sense of immense and fantastical power, though more often as the Goliath to the player’s David in a memorable boss battle or set piece. While hundreds of games have featured impressively large creatures, though, from dragons in Skyrim to colossal angels from Bayonetta, to the titular Colossi from Shadow of the Colossus, the only a few beasts have managed to show a suitable amount of influence to be considered products of the Kaiju genre.
Popularized by Japanese films like the Godzilla franchise and 1950’s B-movies such as Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, the Kaiju genre often showcases these beasts’ incredible power and scale side by side with the cities, monuments, and people they so love to terrorize. This list comprises the most memorable times we saw the genre’s influence claim a noticeable foothold in our favorite games, whichever side we may have been on.
10. Chaos (Primal Rage)
Primal Rage featured seven savage and fearsome beings fighting for control over the post-apocalyptic “Urth,” with the Virtuous Beasts striving to achieve peace, while the Destructive Beasts desire a world plagued by even more death and misery. Given this setting, it should come as no surprise that Chaos, the God of Decay, is a member of the latter group. Any of the playable characters in the game could have probably made this list, given the way that both good and evil characters show equal indifference to the well-being of their puny human followers, often devouring them for a health boost or even picking them up and using them to play an impromptu game of volleyball.
Despite being one of the smaller characters in Primal Rage — he is the smaller of the two ape-monsters in the game — Chaos makes this list for being likely the most memorable of the group, due in no small part to his unique move set. Players will most likely remember Chaos’s downright gross moves where he farts and pukes on his opponent, even if they didn’t see his infamous “Golden Shower” fatality, which was censored in later versions of the game. His counterpart, Blizzard, who graces the front cover of all versions and ports, provides the stiffest competition for this list, but Chaos’s identity as a controversial figure (another parallel to the early Mortal Kombat games) earns him a place on this list.
9. Leviathan (Resistance 2)
The Resistance games provided a lot of what the Playstation 3 needed in the early years of the system, when “PS3 has no games” memes were all the rage. The alien invasion shooter may not have been a “Halo-killer” as Sony seemed to want it to be, but in its right, it certainly provided its fair share of memorable moments. The alternate history setting also made for some interesting story details that at least allowed it to rival Gears of War, even if the success of Halo was out of reach. The second game takes humanity’s defense against the Chimeran Invasion from the streets of London seen in the original to a coast to coast fight across the United States, including a monumental firefight across the city of Chicago.
The Leviathan arrives to defend the Chimeran Tower from the player, standing at even height with the numerous skyscrapers of the city. The monster easily dwarfs player character Nathan Hale, who must race across the tops of the Chicago skyline to points where The Leviathan can pick him up and allow him to fire a rocket at its face for damage, only to be whipped through the air, get back up and do it again. The way the Leviathan towers over the streets of 1950s Chicago more than mirrors many a monster movie, while the way Hale takes him down all by himself (with a massive rocket launcher) echoes that David and Goliath feel for a moment as memorable as any modern shooter.
8. Kabuto (Giants: Citizen Kabuto)
Giants: Citizen Kabuto is a game about a group of Scottish-accented island folk called the Smarties, from developer Planet Moon, a company who apparently really likes for their characters to all have Scottish accents (look up Armed and Dangerous for examples). Like a goofy Starcraft, it also employs two more races that make up its story, although each race has its unique gameplay motif. Whereas the scenes involving the spell casting sea princess Delphi and her obedient islanders lend a bit of an RTS/melee combat blend to things, the high-tech alien Meccaryns introduce some tactical shooter elements. Of course, the third and most defining aspect of the game is when players take control of the monstrous titular beast, Kabuto.
Kabuto is a 60-foot tall green monstrosity that roams across the island, devouring Smarties to replenish his health (which sounds counterintuitive in any other situation), wreaking havoc on their settlements, and crushing anything that stands in its way. It’s likely that many people who bought this game did so solely to take control of the hulking beast on the front cover, only to grow impatient playing through the other two gameplay modes. It's too bad since they were missing out on a truly unique and well-rounded experience where the rampaging monster sections were the icing, rather than the cake. As a result, Giants: Citizen Kabuto went largely unappreciated upon its initial release but has achieved a deserving cult status in the years since.
7. Black and White Creatures (Black and White)
Without any truly original creatures to stand out from one another, being solely based on real animals instead, the entire roster of creatures from Peter Molyneux’s god game Black and White earn themselves equal footing in one single entry. Black and White was by no means the first god simulator, but it should be given some degree of credit as a whole for the way it helped characterize Molyneux’s obsession with morality systems in games that would be utilized later on in Fable. The original Black and White and its sequel were much more than mere breeding simulators for kaiju-like monsters, but at the same time, it’s often hard to remember anything besides them.
This is for a good reason, of course, as not only was the care of creatures the most memorable element of the games, but also the most critically acclaimed, with the AI of the first game as a whole (creatures and civilizations) earning numerous accolades for innovation and technical achievement.
6. Kineticlops (War of the Monsters)
Beating out the rosters of SNK’s King of the Monsters series for a spot on this list, the similar War of the Monsters by Incognito Entertainment again boasts an entire roster of kaiju that would seem fit for this entry. The game itself is a 3D brawling fighter that allows players to destroy each other’s monsters along with entire cities like you would see in any Godzilla Vs. Flick, though the presentation often tilts much further towards the 50’s B-Movie style seen in the Destroy All Humans! franchise.
The roster of War of the Monsters is packed with references and homages to classic movies and sci-fi, but the one design that often sticks out from the rest is fan favorite Kineticlops, a giant eyeball, suspended in humanoid form by a field of electricity. It’s Kineticlops’s uniqueness that earns him his place here, as he’s essentially the only character in the cult classic (are you noticing a trend here?) that isn’t clearly and directly inspired by a monster from an existing movie or franchise.
5. Mr. Stay-Puft (Ghostbusters: The Video Game)
The Ghostbusters game from 2009 was, to use the cliche, a love letter to fans of the franchise who had waited so long for a new film. As far as Dan Ackroyd and just about anyone else might as well be concerned, it’s “essentially the third movie.” Personally, when I played it way back then, I could have taken that with comfort as it did have almost everything you could have needed, with plenty of old and new content, as well as phenomenal performances and an overall just very well-rounded story that incorporated gameplay surprisingly efficiently.
Like the new Star Wars films, the biggest flood of nostalgia is taken care of early on when your first mission as a recruit involves aiding the team in taking down Ray Stantz’s old nemesis, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man. One of the best moments of last console generation for me personally was dangling off the side of a New York skyscraper and firing my proton pack at Stay-Puft’s face, watching his puffy white flesh char and bubble as he scaled the building towards me.
4. King Kong
Although nowhere near his nemesis Godzilla’s video game resume, the original movie monster has been in his handful of games, most notably his 2005 outing based on the Peter Jackson remake, which seems like it was released for every system ever made. Of course, for the most part, the game follows the film by being as much about Adrien Brody’s character, wherein it plays like a cinematic FPS. King Kong still has plenty of screen time in his own game, though, and much like Giants: Citizen Kabuto, the highlights of the game are when players take control of Kong and get to beat the hell out of whatever is in sight.
King Kong also has a pair of Game Boy Advance titles, though neither of those is particularly noteworthy. What is worth mentioning, however, is his outing on the original Famicom, King Kong 2: Ikari no Megaton Punch. A beat-em-up developed by Konami, it’s a rather crazy adventure based on the film King Kong Lives, yet released only in Japan, complete with exotic locations, power-ups, and the search for Lady Kong.
3. Bowser (SimCity)
The original SimCity received some great extras when it was ported to the SNES in 1991, including Mr. Wright as the player’s helpful advisor and special buildings and rewards. But one moment from the Super Nintendo version of will be remembered for its entertaining twist on the original: instead of the original Godzilla attack that plagued the player’s city from the original version, the imposing monster was none other than King Koopa himself!
Obviously, this is a very small footnote on Bowser’s resume, but his terrorizing nature has always been a staple of his persona as a great character, even in roles where he isn’t exactly a villain (honestly, can anyone think of a moment where we hate him more than in the Mario Party franchise?). Still, this full-kaiju cameo is cool enough to earn the ultimate big bad a spot on this list, as a moment we aren’t likely to forget anytime soon.
2. George, Ralph, and Lizzie (Rampage)
Now, I know I know I could probably have gone with just one of these infamous characters, and if you put a gun to my head about it, this spot would easily go to Lizzie (hey, it’s my list, and I cave to pressure pretty easy), but when it comes to pure classic movie monster destruction, all three of them have their fans. Their status as arcade hall of famers is hardly in question. The original Rampage is widely regarded as a co-op arcade classic, while its sequel, 1997’s World Tour, and its immediate follow-ups are often remembered as the most iconic portrayal of the original three monsters.
Out of any game mentioned on this list, the Rampage games are responsible for the most unabashed, straightforward recreation of kaiju-Inspired destruction, ultimately being about arriving, raising hell, and then leaving. While the series eventually became more intricate and more complex with regards to this formula with each release, 1986 original and World Tour are still consistently simple and fun games and some of the few that get exponentially more fun with the addition of more players.
I’m sure it’s hardly any surprise that Godzilla tops this list but, I can assure you, that this doesn’t come as a cop out, but rather as another truly deserved an accolade for the most infamous movie monster of all time. Godzilla isn’t the best video game kaiju of all time just because he’s Godzilla, but because he’s got one hell of a history with video games, dating all the way back to the Commodore 64.
The first series of memorable Godzilla titles began with Monster of Monsters and its sequel on the NES, and then Super Godzilla on the Super Nintendo, the trio of which incorporated a strategy board game element to things before players took on other monsters head-to-head in a 2D fighter. A plethora of Japanese-exclusive titles would be released throughout the years, including Godzilla: Generations for the Sega Dreamcast, which was more of the mediocre destruction simulator that the PS4 title would be than the 3D monster fighter style that defined the Renaissance of Godzilla games.
Anybody looking for a great Godzilla game need only look for the trio of Atari-published 3D brawlers released during the mid-2000s. Like War of the Monsters with licensing rights, Godzilla Destroy All Monsters - Melee, Save The Earth, and Unleashed robust feature rosters of classic Godzilla monsters including numerous iterations of the titular beast himself, along with monsters like Ghidorah, Rodan, Anguirus and more. With more films to follow the 2014 feature set for release in the next few years, there seems to be every reason to expect more Godzilla titles on the horizon, although one can only hope that they can get back to the level they were at with games like Save The Earth and Godzilla Unleashed, instead of the glitch-fest of the 2014 tie-in.