Join our Tom as he runs down some of the best games featuring everyone’s favourite prehistoric beasties.
It’s an undisputed, objective fact that dinosaurs are cool. Some may claim to have grown out of their love for prehistoric monsters, but these poor misguided souls are only fooling themselves.
There’s an undeniable, dare I say romantic allure when it comes to prehistory; the idea of these behemoths duking it out against a backdrop of rugged wilderness is more than enough to get the creative juices going. In fact these daydreams practically helped to shape cinema as we know it. The first true cartoon was 1914’s ‘Gertie the Dinosaur’, a 12 minute comedy that would go on to influence the likes of Max Fleischer and Walt Disney. This love affair with big lizards would blossom throughout the decades, from King Kong to The Land of the Lost, and even in more recently in the Jurassic Park franchise, which remains ever popular to this day. Dinosaurs have always felt most at home on the silver screen.
However there remains a medium in which prehistoric life has been criminally under-explored, despite it seeming to be another natural fit. I am, of course, talking about video games. It’s fair to say when it comes to dinos and joysticks, there’s been more misses than hits, and most franchises that tried to explore the concept are either well past their prime, or have been rendered completely extinct. Why the idea of exploring prehistory hasn’t clicked in video games remains a mystery, but it definitely feels like a missed opportunity.
With that being said, there are a few exceptions to this rule and these are worth celebrating. So put your feet up, put on your best Dennis Nedry shirt and enjoy our list of the best video games featuring dinosaurs.
(Note: One entry per franchise, because Jurassic Park.)
Primal Rage (1994)
Starting with the earliest release, we have Atari’s Primal Rage. If you’ve never played it before, think Mortal Kombat, except instead of martial arts mystics, you fight with dinos and giant gorillas. Utilising the rubbery claymation animation style that was popular at the time, the sprites look more comical than menacing, but that did little to stop the ire of parents throughout the world.
Atari took a look at what Mortal Kombat could get away with, and double-downed on the violence. Bloody dismemberments, corpse desecration and wanton destruction of caveman settlements can all be expected in Primal Rage, and that is very much only scratching the surface.
It’s violent, crass and while it might not be the best fighting game of the 90s, where else are you able to watch a gorilla pee on a T-Rex?
Dino Crisis (1999)
Resident Evil and Jurassic Park. Two of the best franchises to spawn out of the ‘90s, each garnering an instant cult following. But the immortal question is – will it blend?
Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami gave us the answer in 1999 in the form of Dino Crisis, and the answer was an emphatic yes. He and Capcom took the Resident Evil formula of classic camera angles, nostalgic tension and cheesy dialogue, and transported it to a secret island base (in the far flung future of 2009) where dinosaurs run amok. Sound familiar?
The fact you’re pursued by swift, hungry dinosaurs, as opposed to the plodding undead means everything happens at a much faster pace. You might not think dinosaurs could top zombies in the terror department, but their agility makes them a much more immediate threat.
We’ve been blessed with a couple of outstanding remakes of Resident Evil classic in recent years, could we see a similar treatment for Dino Crisis? Probably not, but a man can dream.
Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie (2005)
One of the best movie tie-in games during a time when movie tie-in games were uninspired cash grabs, King Kong is an underrated gem.
Based on the film that can only be described as long, your playtime is split between screenwriter Jack (voiced by Adrian Brody) and the titular ape himself. Although the King Kong sections add some fun platformer elements, in our humble opinion it’s Jack’s FPS sections that really steal the show.
All the dinosaurs and other beasts of Skull Island seem larger and all the more terrifying at ground level, and being chomped from a first person perspective is enough to get the strongest of sphincters quivering.
This is augmented further by the fact there’s no HUD, instead you determine your health by the distortion on the screen, and available ammo through audible cues from Jack. This all adds to the immersion of a game that was far better than it had any right to be.
Turok Evolution (2002)
Turok was one of those aforementioned ‘90s series that made a real effort to normalise dinosaurs in gaming. Assuming the role of a Native American warrior, you had to run and gun your way through wave after wave of prehistoric beasts, combining ancient surroundings with futuristic weaponry. It and its sequel helped pave the way for more celebrated shooters like Goldeneye: 007.
But I’m not talking about those original titles here, I’m talking about the often overlooked prequel Turok Evolution. Casting you in the role of Tal’Set, fighting against the incursions of the United States Army, you’re soon transported to another dimension known only as the Lost Land. There, locals reveal that you are Turok, the legendary Son of Stone sent to battle the villainous reptilian Sleg and their master, Lord Tyrannus. Soon you’re off on your own in a world where the past and the future collide, and energy weapons are as much a threat as dinosaurs.
From a gameplay perspective, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but offers a solid FPS experience, where enemies vary from unkillable theropods to squadrons of Sleg soldiers. Your war club also happens to be one of the most satisfying melee weapons I can remember using; make sure to hold down the attack button for a charged swing that’ll leave parts of your unfortunate victim smeared on your club!
Turok Evolution also boasts a great arena multiplayer mode, pitting you against friends or bots in exhilarating encounters. Keep an eye out for the poisoned arrow attachment that makes enemies throw up before they die. A grizzly good time!
Jurassic World Evolution (2018)
The purist in me begged to reserve top spot for Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, but logical Tom won the day (pounding purist Tom is his handsome mouth). Jurassic World Evolution does a superb job of building on what came before it to make for the best dino park building sim to date.
Everything feels great, from resource management to just aimlessly navigating your way through the park in a 4x4. The satisfaction of going from very little to a bustling attraction is more fulfilling than any game I can remember playing recently, and even disruption in the form of illness and weather anomalies feels fair and manageable.
But the real stars of the game are the dinosaurs. They’re a sight to behold, and truly awe inspiring in first person view. You’ll quickly learn their unique needs and behaviour patterns as you unlock over 50 different species, including the hybrids of the later movies.
It might not be factually accurate, but for any fan of prehistoric life, this is the best video game experience to date, and gives me hope that we might see equally good releases with the next generation of games consoles coming soon.
And that’s a wrap on our list of the best video games featuring dinosaurs. Did we miss your favourite? Hit us up on our socials and let us know.
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