Stop your grinnin’ and drop your linen! This year marks the 25th anniversary of the video game franchise based on the 1979 science fiction classic Alien. To celebrate this landmark moment Horror Geek Life takes a look back at the series from its inception on the Atari, its low points and its eventual resurrection in 2014 with Isolation.
Before we begin though, a note to our readers: Omitted from the list are all Alien Vs Predator crossover games and spin-offs like the pinball game released this year. Yes, we know many of these games were incredibly good, and often better than the pure Alien games, but you won’t find mention of them here. That’s a feature for another day.
So now that’s clear it’s time to start reading because “It’ll be dark soon, and they mostly come at night… mostly.”
Alien (Atari and Fox Games, 1981/2)
What’s the worst game ever made? E.T., right? Well back in late 1981 Atari were tasked with adapting the smash hit sci-fi opus Alien in to a video game and in doing so created the worst game of all time prior to the release of E.T. Way to go Atari!
Even for its time it was described as a “sad disappointment” by industry magazines, lifting much of its mechanics from the incredible Pac Man but failing to capture any of its magic.
It’s probably a good thing that in space no one could hear you scream while you tried to play this. I’m sure many a copy was retired and used as a coaster shortly after purchase.
Alien (Amsoft, 1984)
Two years after the original Alien came the appropriately titled … um … Alien. This time though you were tasked with making your way around the Nostromo, trying to locate a sinister synth, who was out to ruin your day and dispose of the lone Xenomorph which had inconveniently burst out of a crew member’s chest making quite a mess of your table cloths.
Hideous graphics – you play the part of a flashing green scribble – did little to improve this trashy adaptation that felt outdated 22 years ago. Amsoft just weren’t trying.
Aliens: The Computer Game (Activision, 1986)
After two failed attempts to adapt Alien we were finally treated to a half decent collaboration from Activision and Mr Micro, Aliens: The Computer Game.
Instead of controlling barely visible blobs players now had the choice to play any one of the Colonial Marines from the movie, side scrolling through corridors and travelling in lifts until eventually encountering an Alien who could be defeated by repeated taps of the space bar.
Unlike the previous games Aliens TCG was an early first person shooter with some pretty decent graphics and a rad soundtrack that I still hum to this day.
A Japanese only version titled Alien 2 was released shortly after this and included scenes where you could fight Aliens that shot lasers from their eyes – y’know, just like in the movie.
Aliens (Konami, 1986)
By 1986 the Alien video games were finally ready to be ported to the arcade, and the 1986 splatter fest Aliens is still one of the very best entries in the franchise, two decades later.
Hated by parents because of its gore and loved by kids and critics, Konami’s Aliens introduced players to awesome weaponry like the Smartgun and missile launcher which you could use in your encounters with the Xenomorph hordes and their angry, bitch of a mother the dreaded Queen.
Aliens is also the only game I can think of in the whole franchise that lets you play as Newt, the scruffy little rugrat Ripley adopts in the second movie.
Alien 3 (Probe/Eden, 1992)
Holy sh*t how hard was Alien 3? The first Alien game to make it onto Nintendo and Sega was insanely difficult, as you crawled around the corridors of Fiorina 161 blasting quite literally millions of Alien baddies with flame throwers and grenades. If you managed to save any of the prisoners then that was a bonus but as most of them were rapists and child murderers it wouldn’t hurt to just leave them hanging.
Alien 3 was quite literally panned by critics, and caused me to launch my Super Nintendo controller at the wall on more than one occasion. If any of you ever completed this stupidly difficult title, then congratulations you have succeeded at life.
Alien 3 – The Gameboy Edition (Bit Studios, 1993)
Oh look, we’ve taken all the things we hated about the early Alien games and ported them into a Gameboy game that should be avoided at all costs.
Love squiggly black blurs that are supposed to represent Aliens? Then you’ll love this. Oh by the way, you have terrible taste.
Alien 3: The Gun (Sega, 1993)
Finally, an Alien game where you get to hold a Smartgun. Well, you got to hold the Sega Light guns which wasn’t really the same. Be that as it may, Alien 3: The Gun was an enjoyable rail shooter that barely resembled the movie but no one cared. It was also 2 players which allowed you to invite your friend over who was crap at video games just so you could show him or her up because you’re mean. Or was that just me?
Alien: A Comic Book Adventure (Mindscape, 1995)
After years spent blowing monsters to bits, a point and click adventure was a welcome reprieve for fans of the Alien games and Alien: A Comic Book Adventure did not disappoint.
Slow moving, dark and genuinely terrifying in places Mindscape’s entry into the franchise seemed fresh as it was largely based on the popular graphic novel Labyrinth rather than the now dormant movie series. Despite its initial success the game sadly found itself sh*tcanned when Fox sued the company for copyright infringement and with it died any chance of a follow up.
Alien Trilogy (Probe, 1996)
Without a doubt Alien Trilogy was the greatest entry in the Alien video game franchise, and it’s easy to argue that it still is. Debuting on the Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn, Alien Trilogy gave audiences what they’d always wanted – an Alien game that had the look and feel of Doom.
I remember playing this on the PC at my parents’ house while my then 3-year-old sister sat on a chair at the side of me demanding that I kill the seemingly constant horde of creatures that were trying to rip my face off. Come to think of it she was just as scary as the Aliens!
Aliens Online (Mythic Entertainment, 1997)
Aliens Online could have been as big as World of Warcraft except it was terrible. In fact, it should have been renamed Alien: World of Warcrap.
Alien: Resurrection (Argonaut, 2000)
There’s very little to say about the Alien: Resurrection adaptation. It was originally planned to be a clone of the original Resident Evil game, which would have been incredible. Shortly after it was announced though the game slipped into a development coma, and was so unrecognisable when it re-emerged that it may as well have stayed in its stasis.
Aliens: Thanatos Encounter (Wicked Witch/THQ, 2001)
In 2001 video game developers still hadn’t learned that these types of game just didn’t work on the early handheld consoles.
Move along folks, there’s nothing to see here.
Aliens Unleashed (Sorrent, 2003)
An Alien game on a mobile phone in 2016 would probably be half decent. Lucky then that 13 years earlier when Sorrent made the first (and only) Alien game for your phone it was actually pretty good. Sadly, in those days’ phone memories weren’t as powerful and the game was small and basic. The plot – featuring Marines battling genetically engineered synthetic Xenomorph’s that have turned on their creators – was also pretty decent and was a welcomed distraction from playing Snake on your lunch break.
Aliens: Extermination (Play Mechanix, 2006)
Not since 1993 had an Alien game made it into arcades, but that all changed in 2006 when someone had the bright idea of tweaking Alien 3: The Gun and updating it for a new generation.
This time though the game was more closely linked to the second Alien movie and offered a 2 player experience with a House of the Dead feel.
Aliens Infestation (Sega, 2011)
After years of trying to port an Alien game onto a handheld console, Nintendo finally succeeded with this impressive expanded universe adventure on the DS.
Players choose from a team of around 20 Colonial Marines and pit them in an age old battle against the Xenomorph threat. When your Marine dies he or she is instantly replaced by another team member until all team members are dead. This was something new for the franchise – a once you’re dead you’re dead approach that is lacking in so many similar modern games.
Aliens: Colonial Marines (Sega, 2013)
There were definite high hopes for Colonial Marines before it came out. It would be the first real Alien game for the next gen consoles and was the tale of a new group of Marines who were on a search and rescue mission for the missing Ellen Ripley and Dwayne Hicks who were believed to be floating through space after surviving the events of Aliens and Alien 3.
Although first week sales were high they quickly dropped off as gamers the world over began to realise that this was not the game they had hoped for, nor was it the game they had been promised. Pre-release stills showed a much more impressive visual element than we ended up getting and shortly after law suits were filed for wrongful advertising.
The fan backlash that followed was enough to cement Colonial Marines as one of the worst entries in the Alien video game franchise. At that moment it truly felt like the series may be dead.
Aliens: Armageddon (Play Mechanix/Raw Thrills, 2014)
One of the key stories fans of the movies were always keen to see played out on the big screen was one where the Alien monsters finally made it to Earth. How would humans protect themselves? How quickly would the creatures spread across the planet?
After the terrible Colonial Marines, the Alien games returned to the coin-op environment and decided to tell this exact tale and it was a sight to behold. Adopting the now typical light gun approach the game offered addictive game modes and a leader board that would ensure players kept loading it up with money until they were sat pretty at the top of the board. To date this was the last arcade game in the franchise, though more will likely follow.
Alien Isolation (The Creative Assembly/Sega, 2014)
Released in 2014, Alien Isolation is unlike any of its predecessors. It is not a first person shooter. It is not a shooter at all. It is a survival horror game that pits you – as the daughter of Ellen Ripley – against a single Alien that is hunting you down.
You don’t have massive guns. You don’t have tons of ammo. What you have is cupboards to hide in, air ducts to crawl through and a single mission – survival.
There is some serious hide behind the sofa moments, like when you first encounter the creature, and plenty of hardcore side villains like the sh*t your pants scary synthetics who are out to mess up your day. For perhaps the first time ever someone actually got the feel of the original movie and turned it into one Hell of a game.
Oh, and any game where you get an achievement for dying is one I can get on board with!