With the new Jurassic World 2 trailer arriving earlier this week, I figured this would be the perfect time to look back at the weird and wonderful prehistoric world of dinosaur video games. To say the quality of games with dinosaurs in them is patchy is an understatement. While the games are few and far between, they do veer wildly from utterly fantastic to triceratops turds.
As part of my life-long obsession with dinosaurs, I’ve played a decent bunch of them. Here are some of the best, the weirdest, and the downright terrible.
The Washed Up Fossil
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter
You can take your pick from either of the original two Turok games, but both were absolutely fantastic at the time. The original is blighted with that telltale mist that was a signature of the early 3D consoles but, like Silent Hill, this was often used to its advantage. Oftentimes you’d hear a raptor long before you’d seen it come tearing out of the mist. Both Turok and Turok 2: Seeds of Evil are actually available in remastered form on Steam, and Turok 2 is well worth a visit for the Cerebral Bore alone. Unfortunately, it strays a little too far from dinosaur territory for my tastes though, so stick with the original if you want a classic T.Rex hunt.
If splicing Resident Evil with killer dinosaurs sounds like a match made in heaven, that’s because it is. Capcom’s survival horror game was all the terror of Resident Evil combined with enemies that aren’t brain dead. At turns cheesy, yet consistently panic-inducing, it’s painful to see the Dino Crisis series abandoned for all these years. Capcom, do us a favour and put Resident Evil 8 on hold for a bit.
That is One Big Pile of Shit
Simply called ‘Trespasser’, this was actually a PC-exclusive Jurassic Park tie-in. It’s one of the earliest games from DreamWorks interactive, who actually went on to become DICE LA. At the time, this was one of the most anticipated PC games on the planet. It promised to be a technical evolution the likes of which we'd never seen before.
But Trespasser was odd even back then - it was unusual to see a game without any HUD whatsoever, and DreamWorks used a clunky physics-based system for picking stuff up and firing guns, wherein you have to manually move your arm. It also tried to bag cheap points by rendering your character’s huge boobs at the bottom of the screen. Trespasser was largely awful, but its eccentricities and sandbox nature certainly made it memorable.
The Family Fastpass
Lego: Jurassic World
By virtue of most dinosaur games being terrible, Lego Jurassic World is automatically one of the best. It doesn’t stand up there with the finest of the Lego games but that hardly seems to matter - it’s all four Jurassic Park movies in brick form. It may also lack the fear factor but once that John Williams score starts up I defy you not to crack a smile. In true Lego fashion, it’s also a fantastic co-op game for those after some lighthearted fun.
Why Does it Have Dinosaurs in Again?
Star Fox Adventures
Rare’s final game for Nintendo before it was gobbled up by Microsoft in a $700 million deal, Star Fox Adventures was a Star Fox game that basically had nothing to do with Star Fox. That’s because it began life as Dinosaur Planet before Nintendo stepped up and slapped Star Fox across it, crowbarring in Fox McCloud and co. As far as Rare games go it’s regarded as all-time great, but I consider it a bit of an unsung gem. The core gameplay is very reminiscent of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the bonus being that the planet is full of dinosaurs. It beats Star Fox, that's for sure.
Man Creates Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs Eat Man
Ark Survival Evolved
Precious few developers have tried and succeeded in succeeding bringing our reptilian friends to modern games. Ark: Survival Evolved is one of them though, even if its original Early Access release meant it was very rough around the edges for the first few years. Studio Wildcard should be credited with their impressive dino designs and mountable T.Rex’s. We now just wish this same effort could be taken with a single-player, story-driven game.
Life Finds a Way
With Jurassic World 2: The Fallen Kingdom right around the corner, we’re expecting another wave of games about large lizards. Surely it’s time for a renaissance by now.
Looking forward, there is one bright spot on the horizon. Planet Coaster developer Frontier is bringing Jurassic World Evolution to us in the summer, a strategy management take on John Hammond’s dream. Jurassic World Evolution leads a lonely existence though, as there’s nothing else on the horizon that seems poised to take advantage of prehistory’s greatest predators.
What are the some of the best dinosaur games you’ve played? Do you think it’s about time we saw a resurgence in dino-themed titles, perhaps a return of Turok? Let us know!