August 2015 Update: We've added two new entries to this list. They're the latest and greatest titles in the genre, released in 2015.
Dinosaurs! Everyone loves the scaly beasts! Or are they even scaley? I can barely keep up with that particular part of canon anymore. Brontosaurus never existed, all my favorite dinosaurs actually looked a whole lot different, tyrannosaurus rex was ate carrion and didn’t hunt - or did he?
Anyway, we are gathered here tonight to celebrate video games that feature dinosaurs. Those beloved ancient beasts, staple food of any healthy boy’s diet. Or girl’s diet. Not that love for dinosaurs would be gender specific. Dinosaurs are a huge thing in popculture, so obviously they are a huge thing in gaming too.
Over the years, there have been a ton of games in which our lizardy friends had one or another role to play. There was Wonderboy in the 80s, Mario had the most famous of gaming dinosaurs ever (who even had his own game), but we’re focusing on the real deal here. Big beasts being big and stompy.
Kids (of all ages) love dinosaurs. As friends, as adversaries, as beasts of burden. Show me someone who doesn’t. If you grew up in the 80s or 90s, you were subjected to a ton of dinosaur stuff, read Jurassic Park after seeing the movie and didn’t really get what it was all about until years later. You watched a ton of TV series that featured dinosaurs. Dino Riders! Extreme Dinosaurs! So obviously you will have had a lot of love for video games feature them too. So let’s celebrate a fine selection of the best games featuring the best of extinct animals!
The game got mixed reviews thanks to some bugginess, poor audio patching from the original films, and frustrating Compsognathus battles. But it did allow you later on to play as a dinosaur character, making it at least worth a mention. Because playable dinosaurs. Playable. Dinosaurs. LEGO: Jurassic World will not go down as the best of the Jurassic Park franchise video game tie-ins but it will still be among the most memorable.
11. ARK: Survival Evolved
In this survival title, players fend for themselves on a mysterious island and tend to their basic needs while learning to hunt and tame dinosaurs. It also allows you to ride them, turning you basically into a pre-history Mario on a giant Yoshi. Currently in Early Access, ARK: Survival Evolved has a lot of positive pre-release buzz.
10. Offroad Velociraptor Safari
One of the few games, maybe even the only one, on this list to get dinosaurs right, a game where velociraptors look more like they probably really looked, and not like they looked in Jurassic Park. Meaning, these velociraptors sport some wicked plumage. This here was a free little indie game, where the player was cast as a sentient velociraptor who got into a jeep to run down other, fellow velociraptors in a jungle. That’s pretty much all there is to it, but the dinosaurs feature so prominently in this one, this list wouldn’t be complete without it.
9. Jurassic Park: Trespasser
Oh, Trespasser. You could have been the game to end all games, instead you ended up being a pile of rubbish. This overly ambitious project set out to revolutionize user interfaces for first person perspectives, but failed miserably by making things just too complicated. Plus, the game was so hardware hungry, it put Origin games (“Games from today for the computer of tomorrow!”) to shame. Riding on the success of the first two Jurassic Park movies, this game was supposed to tie in with The Lost World - Jurassic Park 2. However, development hell struck, and what was supposed to be one of the biggest, most innovative games of the decade turned out to be a major dud, credited by a lot of contemporary critics as the biggest disappointment of the year.
8. Primal Rage
What could be more true to the popcultural representation of ancient giant beasts than a fighting game utilizing stop motion claymation that would have made Ray Harryhausen - God rest his soul - proud. Primal Rage arrived at the heyday of colorful fighting games, and it successfully stood out, since it’s sprites were created shooting single frames of puppets made of clay, which is something no other game had done to that point (and not ever since, if I’m not entirely mistaken...).
7. Primal Carnage [original]
One of THOSE games. A class based, online multiplayer shooter that pits dinosaurs against human mercenaries. In space. Or rather on some strange planets. I’m not so sure. It sure looks great, and it’s one of two games on this list, that lets you actually play as a dinosaur, ripping apart pesky two legged mammals with guns. As far as dinosaur games go, this is probably the best any true dinosaur fan can ever imagine. Rip and tear, rip and tear.
6. Primal Carnage: Extinction
Primal Carnage: Extinction is a massive, class-based online multiplayer shooter unlike anything else you've ever seen. Offering fast-paced combat on an island overrun with prehistoric monsters, players can go toe-to-toe against a variety of legendary dinosaurs or even play as them.
5. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
Arguably another one of those “close.. but..” cases. Monster Hunter has the player on the track of countless different creatures roaming the land a lot of the bigger ones taking clear hints from existing dinosaurs. Especially some of the creatures in 3 ultimate are a bit too close to pass them by. If there’s a game that lets players indulge in their dinosaur (or other gargantuan reptilian creature resembling actual dinosaurs) hunting urges, it’s this one.
4. Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie
This is one of the few instances, where a movie tie-in is actually pretty good. The game was developed by none other than legendary French game designer Michel Ancell, of Rayman and Beyond Good and Evil fame. In the game, the player is cast as Jack (Adrien Brody in the movie), and has to survive the mysterious island, fighting off hungry dinosaurs of various sizes. In the second half of the game, the player is actually cast as Kong, the giant ape, and goes toe to toe with the island’s T-Rex population. The game wasn’t a huge commercial success, despite it’s high production values and solid game mechanics. And incessant dinosaur shootings and brawlings. Which were really good fun as far as those things go.
3. theHunter: Primal
Developed by the same studio that brought you the Just Cause series and the upcoming Mad Max, theHunter: Primal is touted as the most realistic prehistorical survival game ever created. Players take on the role of a hunter who's armed with a variety of implemenents allowing them to take down dinosaurs of all stripes, including the Triceratops, Velociraptor, and the fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex.
2. Dino Crisis Series
Dinosaurs! In space! Oh dear, could there be anything more awesome? Oh right, add robots. Or ninjas. Or pirates maybe. anyway, Dino Crisis 3 was a game with one of the most awesome concepts ever conceived, yet sadly the actual game wasn’t too great, and eventually lead to the demise of the Dino Crisis series. Dino Crisis was Capcom’s attempt to give the Resident Evil formula something of a more broadly acceptable appeal. Seeing as to which of the two series is still alive and kicking and which one is, forgive me, I can’t help it, extinct, it seems zombies win this round over dinosaurs. Now a game with zombie dinosaurs... THAT would be something...
1. Turok - Dinosaur Hunter
The Turok series is one of these weird phenomena that eventually passed away in the early 2000s, even though there was an attempted reboot of the game series in 2008 that failed both critically and commercially. The original Turok was actually the first third party game developed for the N64 in 1997. The game series is based on a dinosaur fighting Indian character from a 1950s comic of the same name. The original game was what would today be dubbed a “killer app” for the N64. It spawned five sequels and the aforementioned reboot (which is really silly, killing all connections with both the comics and the games). The Turok games are first person shooters in which the player takes on a lot of different dinosaurs and aliens and other trans dimensional mutants and other creatures. Even though the first games were largely revered, the series eventually faded into obscurity, and couldn’t compete commercially with the Halo generation of shooters of the early 2000s.