Not every game series manages to impress gamers with horrible, cute or spectacular monsters. The more valuable the next 10 franchises are.
It is said that the quality of a story is determined by its antagonist. This also applies to video games. Some games rely entirely on colorful protagonists, but more often the authors place a strong emphasis on villains. Indeed, even with the most convenient controls and pleasant gameplay, we are unlikely to remember at least one battle if our opponents turned out to be boring and formulaic.
However, not all monsters in games act as antagonists. Some of them accompany the main characters, while others play passive roles. But high-quality monster design can improve any game, even if these same monsters do not participate in the story. So, here are the best examples of this approach.
Let’s start with the most obvious. Pokemon and the franchise built around them is perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to monsters. Over the past 25 years, the series has become the largest gaming franchise, and its bestiary includes more than 900 different creatures of all shapes and colors. Of course, not every game was a hit, but most of the projects in the Pokemon series quickly turned into real bestsellers.
Charizard, Pikachu and Mewtwo captured the hearts of all kids in the 90s with their simple yet catchy designs. The debate about which generation of Pokémon is better flares up with the release of the next part of the series, since even new games have enough interesting monsters. Just look at Dragapult (a mixture of a jet fighter with a dragon and a salamander) or at Snom, who is touching only by its appearance.
Shadow Of The Colossus
There is only one Shadow of the Colossus game, so it would be wrong to call the title part of any series. Nevertheless, the project has become so iconic that many franchises can envy it. And the secret of his success lies in beautiful minimalistic landscapes, emotional story and incredibly posed boss battles.
Colossus themselves are armored giants that combine organic matter with mechanical body parts. Almost nothing is known about them – the authors did not even give them names. Some colossi are quite hostile and attack the player as soon as they see him, while others behave peacefully. Particularly impressive is the last colossus – a gigantic humanoid creature whose lower half is a full-size fortress.
The protagonist of the Bayonetta series is a two-meter beauty with pistols instead of heels and a lush shock of hair that can turn into dragons. It is almost impossible to surpass this, and therefore the authors of the game had to not restrain their imagination in any way when creating the heroine’s enemies. They did not hold back, thanks to which the main opponents of Bayonetta – the angels – were born.
The Lagoon Hierarchy is heavily inspired by the descriptions of angels in Judaism and Christianity. Dressed in golden armor and with stone-faced statues, these angels are capable of instilling natural terror. The screenshot above shows Fortitudeo – one of the strongest angels, who took the form of a two-headed wyvern with the body in the form of an inverted human face.
Kingdom Hearts’ base opponents, heartless, play an important role in the franchise’s tangled lore. They are creatures devoid of emotions, driven only by the desire to consume hearts. Some of them are born naturally when darkness consumes the heart of a person. Others in the laboratory are created by Zeanort.
Most heartless designs include blank black faces with glowing yellow eyes. Over the course of several games, we have seen many varieties of heartless, both kitten-sized and giants taller than multi-storey buildings. Many heartless can use magic, and some of them are able to move between worlds.
The Mother series, which is known outside of Japan as EarthBound, is set in the setting of the modern world. Since dragons and goblins in such a setting would look inappropriate, the authors had to show remarkable creativity when creating opponents. This is how evil ducks, mountains of vomit and possessed circus tents appeared in EarthBound.
In one of the sequels, Mother 3, the design of enemies has become even more bizarre. In this game, an evil army of pig masks has put on stream the creation of chimeras – monsters that are a mixture of ordinary animals with mechanical parts. Some of them look extremely creepy (horse tarantula, for example, or rocket rhino). And the strongest chimera even appears in Super Smash Bros.
The beloved 2D slasher series drew inspiration from classic horror movies, which makes sense, given that the main villain of the series was Dracula himself. In almost every game, he was accompanied by no less colorful antagonists like Death itself, unkillable skeletons and the multi-headed Medusa the Gorgon.
And the best part of the series so far, Symphony of the Night, features one of the creepiest bosses in video game history. We are talking about the Legion – a flying biomass consisting of hundreds of zombies. After each blow, several moving corpses fall off from the Legion, and in the center of all this biomass is a core with tentacles that fires lasers.
The Monster Hunter series, like Pokemon, is renowned for its extensive bestiary. The collection of monsters from the Old and New Worlds includes both familiar dinosaurs and creatures fascinating with their design. What’s more, Monster Hunter takes a down-to-earth, almost scientific approach to the game world, making the ecosystems in each world look surprisingly convincing.
Monster Hunter artists drew inspiration from the most unexpected sources. Take a look, for example, at Sharu-Ishwalda – a giant ancient dragon, whose appearance refers us to Hindu legends and Sumerian myths. His face looks like a mask of a Barong (a character of Balinese mythology), and the main feature of the dragon is creepy eyes that follow not the player’s character, but the camera.
Most of the monsters in the Silent Hill series are the personification of the deeply buried fears and experiences of the protagonists and in one way or another are associated with the mental disorders and trauma of the protagonists. And although encounters with monsters mostly take place in the other world, where players expect something scary by default, the first meeting with each type of monster can come as a real shock. All this is due to the unique design of enemies, which by their mere appearance cause serious discomfort.
We all know Pyramid Head – one of the main antagonists of Silent Hill 2 and the unofficial symbol of the entire series, which turned out to be so popular that it appeared in several other game franchises, including Dead By Daylight. Most of the monsters in Silent Hill are roughly human-like nurses, for example. But there are exceptions to this rule, like the Glutton from Silent Hill 3 – a slimy, quivering mass of flesh with two mouths.
Akira Toriyama, creator of the Dragon Ball franchise, was also responsible for character design for Dragon Quest. The artist is known and loved for portraying human characters, but his talent is truly revealed in the design of monsters.
Dragon Quest has a lot of memorable enemies – from funny bags and bats to cute gnomes armed with wooden hammers. Each of the monsters has a lot of interesting variations, and the weakest of them, slime, has become a kind of mascot for the entire franchise. He has even had several exciting spin-offs dedicated to him, and for a minimalistic blob with a face, this is a very impressive result.
Dark Souls is renowned for its extreme complexity. But this is far from the only thing that the fans of the series remember. The authors of the games managed to create an atmosphere of gothic horror and perfectly work out the lore of this universe, thanks to which each boss has its own convincing backstory and. And the main goal of many enemies is to scare the player well.
Examples include basilisks, mimics, and the rare damned from the deep. And, perhaps, the most creepy of all opponents – the skeleton wheel. This is, in fact, a skeleton attached to a wheel, capable of dealing with an inexperienced gamer in a matter of seconds.