Tooth and Claw: A brief history of dinosaurs in video games | Digit

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Show me someone who isn’t a fan of dinosaurs and I’ll show you a person without a soul. We’ve been enthralled since man first discovered the existence of these magnificent beasts. Whether it’s the T-Rex’s awe-inspiring visage or the Velociraptor’s vicious hunting tactics, dinosaurs have captured the imagination of storytellers for centuries. We’ve had numerous novels, films and shows that featured dinosaurs and video games are no different. Right from the inception of the industry, dinosaurs have been staples as companions, bosses and enemies in hundreds of games across all platforms. The most famous of these is the Dino Crisis series, published by Capcom and directed by horror maestro Shinji Mikami. But, apart from just acting as antagonists in video games, dinosaurs have also been saddled as loyal companions (Yoshi, anyone?), mounts and more. The length and breadth of dinosaurs in games are vast and we’re going to try and condense the entire history of these prehistoric monsters in video games. 

Roaring into the 8 and 16-bit era

Even though we’ve had games like Dino Wars for the Commodore 64 and Atari 2600, the first real recognizable dinos in games were the enemies in Dino Riki on the NES. Sure, looking back at the graphics, they weren’t great but you could clearly see that the developers put in the work when it came to the dinosaurs in the game. 

Tooth and Claw

Hell, even the main character had fewer sprite animations compared to the dino enemies. But it was Super Mario World for the SNES gave us the most loved and recognizable dino in gaming, Yoshi! Released for the Super Nintendo in 1988, Super Mario World was not only an incredible game, but it also introduced dinosaur mounts. You could essentially ride Yoshi on various levels, using his fire breath as an attack, Again, Yoshi isn’t the most realistic dinosaur in gaming, but he’s definitely the most memorable. 

The next big dino game in the 16-bit era was Dinosaurs for Hire for the Sega Genesis. The game was a side-scroller that saw you take control of three different beasts including a T-Rex, a Triceratops and a Stegosaurus. The game was based on a comic book and was a minor success on the console. It was one of the few games that featured dinosaurs as both the good guys and the various bosses and enemies in the game. 

There was even a Jurassic Park game on the Sega CD that didn’t do too well but was relatively faithful to the films and novels. 

Even the Arcade wasn’t safe from dinos as in 1994 we got the insanely zany Primal Rage that saw you pick from a range of dinosaurs and cryptids to engage in a battle to the death. The game was praised for its graphics and style and was looked at as a worthy successor to fighting games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. It received a bunch of ports for the Genesis, Snes, PS1 and more. There were other games like Cadillacs and Dinosaurs that saw moderate success in the arcades thanks to a catchy title and addictive gameplay. Although the game did not receive any console ports, it is still considered an arcade classic, to this day. 

Show me someone who isn’t a fan of dinosaurs and I’ll show you a person without a soul. We’ve been enthralled since man first discovered the existence of these magnificent beasts. Whether it’s the T-Rex’s awe-inspiring visage or the Velociraptor’s vicious hunting tactics, dinosaurs have captured the imagination of storytellers for centuries. We’ve had numerous novels, films and shows that featured dinosaurs and video games are no different. Right from the inception of the industry, dinosaurs have been staples as companions, bosses and enemies in hundreds of games across all platforms. The most famous of these is the Dino Crisis series, published by Capcom and directed by horror maestro Shinji Mikami. But, apart from just acting as antagonists in video games, dinosaurs have also been saddled as loyal companions (Yoshi, anyone?), mounts and more. The length and breadth of dinosaurs in games are vast and we’re going to try and condense the entire history of these prehistoric monsters in video games. 

Roaring into the 8 and 16-bit era

Even though we’ve had games like Dino Wars for the Commodore 64 and Atari 2600, the first real recognizable dinos in games were the enemies in Dino Riki on the NES. Sure, looking back at the graphics, they weren’t great but you could clearly see that the developers put in the work when it came to the dinosaurs in the game. 

Hell, even the main character had fewer sprite animations compared to the dino enemies. But it was Super Mario World for the SNES gave us the most loved and recognizable dino in gaming, Yoshi! Released for the Super Nintendo in 1988, Super Mario World was not only an incredible game, but it also introduced dinosaur mounts. You could essentially ride Yoshi on various levels, using his fire breath as an attack, Again, Yoshi isn’t the most realistic dinosaur in gaming, but he’s definitely the most memorable. 

The next big dino game in the 16-bit era was Dinosaurs for Hire for the Sega Genesis. The game was a side-scroller that saw you take control of three different beasts including a T-Rex, a Triceratops and a Stegosaurus. The game was based on a comic book and was a minor success on the console. It was one of the few games that featured dinosaurs as both the good guys and the various bosses and enemies in the game. 

There was even a Jurassic Park game on the Sega CD that didn’t do too well but was relatively faithful to the films and novels. 

Even the Arcade wasn’t safe from dinos as in 1994 we got the insanely zany Primal Rage that saw you pick from a range of dinosaurs and cryptids to engage in a battle to the death. The game was praised for its graphics and style and was looked at as a worthy successor to fighting games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. It received a bunch of ports for the Genesis, Snes, PS1 and more. There were other games like Cadillacs and Dinosaurs that saw moderate success in the arcades thanks to a catchy title and addictive gameplay. Although the game did not receive any console ports, it is still considered an arcade classic, to this day. 

Taking a bite out of the future

The PS1 pretty much changed the way we looked at video games. For a long time, games were looked at as a childish hobby but with the launch of Sony’s first console, gaming was now seen as big business. There were a bunch of games that were aimed at adults including Resident Evil and the like. One of those games was Dino Crisis, developed by RE director Shinji Mikami. Dino Crisis took the template set by games like Resident Evil and instead of zombies, added fast-moving dinosaurs. The pre-rendered backgrounds and fixed camera angles were ideal for a horror game like Dino Crisis. The game went on to do incredibly well and even got a sequel in 2000. Dino Crisis 2 was more of the same but with more of an emphasis on pulse-pounding action instead of a classic survival horror experience. This move could have backfired but instead, it was a hit with both fans and critics alike. Sadly, the game never saw any further sequels, although Capcom did have a few plans for the franchise that never saw the light of day. 

In the PC gaming world, Jurassic Park Trespasser was one of the few games that featured dinosaurs in a major role. Although the game was panned as a clunky mess that played like molasses, it should be mentioned that it was one of the first few games that depicted dinosaurs as scary monsters. It’s a shame that it was such a terrible game. 

Tooth and Claw

Back in the console space, it was only until the release of the PS2 that we got another dino game in Turok Evolution. Based on another comic book, Turok Evolution was a first-person shooter that has you take control of the titular character as he shotts, stabs and burns a path through vicious, genetically enhanced dinosaurs. While the game did not set the world on fire, it was clear that there were some great ideas in Turok Evolution. So much so that in 2008, we got another game in the franchise. Simply titled Turok, the game stayed true to its predecessor with better graphics and gameplay. And, although critics had a mixed response to the game, it performed relatively well and is a bit of a cult hit with fans. 

Modern Monstrosities

The modern era of gaming understands gamers and what we want. It’s clear that we want more dinosaurs in our games, and developers and publishers have gladly obliged. If you’re a fan of theme park management games with bite, then check out the excellent Jurassic Park Evolution. Into asymmetrical shooters? Primal Carnage is just up your alley. You even have the cutesy thrills of Lego Jurassic World to sink your teeth into. The current state of dinosaurs in games is pretty good. We even have a life-like Tyrannosaurs in a Mario game. It’s like these beasts are everywhere! Hell, Google Chrome has its own dino game built into the browser. 

Tooth and Claw

After a rough and rocky start in gaming, these cold-blooded killers have come a long, long way. Even though their bones and stories have been lost to the ether, we’ll always keep coming back to dinosaurs because, at the end of the day, no matter how cynical all of us get, seeing a giant reptile roar on the screen will always be an awe-inspiring experience that deeply appeals to our inherent curiosity. 

Tags:

Dinosaurs
video games
Capcom
Konami
Arcade Games
Super Nintendo
Nintendo
Sega Genesis
Sega

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