Before Call of Duty, Fifa and Halo, the games that kept topping the sales lists were mainly games with loveable animal characters as the protagonist. These cute critters amassed huge fan bases and grew into lucrative franchises. Here’s a look at some games that had an animal as a main character.
1. Donkey Kong (Donkey Kong Country)
Donkey Kong of course, is a classic character who first appeared in the 1981 arcade game Donkey Kong, which was also Mario’s first appearance in games. It was Rare who in 1994 turned the character into the one most of us know today by turning the villain into a hero in Donkey Kong Country. The game stunned with its gorgeous pre-rendered graphics (that, to this day, still look good), but under its beautiful graphics there was also a brilliant platform game, worthy of being called a classic in its own right. The game’s success would permanently change how the gorilla was perceived in later times.
2. Sonic (Sonic The Hedgehog)
One might ask what Sonic has to do with real hedgehogs, but he is called a hedgehog and has spikes – kind of… So he definitely is an animal, thus worthy of being included in a list like this. Sonic of course was Sega’s flagship character in the famous bit wars and his games made sure to make full use of Sega’s technological capabilities. Blazing fast action would follow and the original game is considered nowadays one of the biggest classics of gaming history – again very pleasing game to play even to this day. The sequels continued within the same vein, further exploring the same ideas.
3. Crash Bandicoot
Another flagship character, this time, however for Sony Playstation. This hugely popular game franchise has already spanned to more than 18 games, and while Crash is certainly no Mario he has done well for himself and can well be called one of the better-known animal heroes in gaming world.
4. Ecco the Dolphin
One of the better known titles in Sega Genesis library, Ecco the Dolphin is a rare kind of game. Having a dolphin as a main character in a game was a thing that had not been done before and it hasn’t really been done since either. Even this game had to resort to fairly crazy plot to make it happen. There was a sequel as well as an appearance on the Xbox live arcade but as yet, he is yet to appear in a 21st century game.
5. Conker the Squirrel (Conker’s Bad Fur Day)
The foul-mouthed squirrel actually made his debut in 1999 in a Game Boy game “Conker’s Pocket Tale”, but it was in “Bad Fur Day” where the character really hit off. Despite having cute animals as characters game was geared towards more mature audiences and is certainly a Rare breed. “Conker: Live and Reloaded” that was released for Xbox was effectively just a remake of the original N64 title.
6. Sam & Max (Sam & Max Hit The Road)
Lucasarts turned Steve Purcell’s comic into a memorable and quirky adventure game in the golden age of adventure gaming. “Hit the Road” was among the best, most humorous adventure titles ever created and featured the bizarre dog & rabbit freelance police duo. The characters were revived into the world of gaming in Telltale Games’ episodic games, and while they stand strongly on their own they will never reach the charm of the original adventure.
7. Banjo & Kazooie (Banjo-Kazooie)
Another Rare entry on this list – they really have monopolized this whole animals as a game characters genre. Banjo & Kazooie are a dynamic bear & bird duo in a hugely popular 3D platformer that set off into a series, spanning four games. Banjo actually originates from Diddy Kong Racing where he was a side character, before getting his own game.
Undoubtedly there are other animal characters that are worthy of mentioning, but if anything this list proves that games starring animal characters is nowadays getting rare. The gaming audience has shifted from the early 90’s mostly kids into people now in their mid-20’s. These animal characters are still certain to bring nostalgic memories and it would be wrong to say that the franchises are dead – their peak of power might still have passed.
Who is YOUR favorite animal character (from games)?