The 8 Ball 05.06.14: Top 8 Alien Species in Games
Posted by Marc Morrison on 05.06.2014
From Toejam & Earl and Metroid to Pikmin, Protheans, and more, 411's Marc Morrison ranks his Top 8 Alien Species in Games!
Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball where the topic this week is on aliens. Aliens are almost the biggest disposable bad guy in video games. I tried to focus on aliens which can be bad, but have their good sides as well, or are just neutral about everything. Also, I didn't want to pick any race from massive properties like Star Wars or Star Trek. Wookies are fun, but not that special in games. Anyways, let's begin:
Everyone seems to enjoy the multi-colored aliens of the Pikmin series. Even though the series is based on the planet "PNF-404", it's really just Earth. The neat thing about the Pikmin is that they all have their specific colors and uses. Reds are immune to fire and strong, yellows can carry bombs and be thrown more, blues can survive in water, white are immune to poison, and so on. Pikmin are also just cute, and if I could have one, I would.
7. The Covenant
I don't really hold the Covenant in high esteem like most Halo fans do. I like the look of most of them, but their internal politics bore me. I liked the Promethians in Halo 4 more, but they've only been in one game, while the Covenant has spanned the series as the perpetual bad guys, even if some are decent. They at least have more fun vehicles (Banshee) and diverse weapons like the sword and Gravity Hammer. The Covenant do have a lot of diverse roles, from the easy/goofy Grunts, the challenging Elites and the extremely difficult Brutes. I imagine they'll somehow still be the villains by the time Halo 27 rolls around in the year 2060.
6. Toejam & Earl
Who doesn't love Toejam & Earl? Well, besides Sega that is. The two alien rappers from Funkatron have been in three games, two on the Genesis and one (middling) one on the original Xbox. The music in the early Genesis games was great, as was actually going to Planet Funkaron in the second game, after the evil Earthlings have screwed it up. The games are pretty hard to go back to these days, but these funky aliens
The great thing about the Metroids is that for almost all of the Metroid games, they usually aren't a major device. A few games do have them in droves, notably Metroid 2, but my Super Metroid the species is all but destroyed for the most part. The other great thing is, the core Metroids themselves aren't intrinsically evil. They are just following their biological urges. Hell, the Metroid larva in Super Metroid ends up saving you as you fight against Mother Brain. That was a defining moment for the Metroid species. Plus, the Hyper Beam was cool.
Even if the Protoss are kind of a wishy-washy take on the Eldar of Warhammer 40K, and elements of Vulcans, the Protoss are still a cool race to rally around. The funny thing about the Protoss is that those in charge are usually seen as colossal idiots in the game. It's up to Tassadar to make the choice to contact the Dark Templar, which was the key to bringing down the Overmind. I also like the style and architecture of their buildings, kind of a futuristic look but with some naturalist elements. Ultimately, they do try and do what they think is right, even if at times it is short-sighted and incorrect to everyone else.
3. Aliens (XCOM)
I loved the diverse nature of the Aliens when you played XCOM. Sectoids are the traditional "Grey Aliens", Thin Men are the alien infilitrators, Mutons are the alien brusiers and so on. While the Ethereals are the ones in charge, they aren't introduced to pretty late in the game. I kind of love all the designs of the aliens in XCOM but the standout are the Cyberdiscs which are cute little flying saucers that turn into floating turrets of laser and grenade-spewing death. It's a shame you can't capture one in the game and take it back to base with you.
A friend of mine recently completed Mass Effect 3 for the first time. I asked her "So what did you think of Javik?" Her response was "Who is that?" I said "He's the Prothean you can get about 1/4th the way through the game, if you have the From Ashes DLC installed." Her reply was "Oh, I didn't have that DLC." I was shocked by this. Javik should be a requirement when you playing Mass Effect 3. Not only does he fill a vital role in the party (someone actually new and interesting….Fuck you James Vega) but he actually explains what they Protheans were about, and what kind of people they were. They were largely imperialistic dicks, which is sublime. His interactions with Liara are a particular highlight since she's spent so much of her life building this up into this romanticized notion of the race and he comes by and tears it all down. But while Javik might have been surly and egotistical, he did provide insight into the Protheans and the Reapers at large.
As with Toejam and Earl, who doesn't like orcs? Better yet, what if the orcs were in space, called themselves "Orks", and all they cared about was the "WAAGH!"? There exists different subsects within the Orks, Oddboyz who keep the Orks outfitted with salvaged together technology, Mekboyz who are able to use and create some vehicles, to Weirdboyz who have psychic powers. From having a teeth-based economy (yes, really), to the genetic drive to cause destruction and death, as well as to follow the biggest and baddest Ork in a given area, the Orks are a force to be reckoned with. Plus, they are almost intentionally silly, despite their terrifying nature, which endears them to me.
The Better Half with Liana K
Top 8 Alien Races
In honor of the excavation of Atari's "E.T." graveyard in New Mexico, we present our favorite alien races in gaming. Now, most aliens are just bullet-catchers so that impressionable young minds can shoot off humanoid heads without actually killing humans, but every so often, a beautiful thing happens when a fictional alien race does so much more...
8: The Zin Empire (Saints Row IV)
This alien race only ranks last because I haven't been able to play Saint's Row IV yet. But they deserve a place because they were the reason that the Saints Row franchise became more delightfully ridiculous than I could possibly imagine. Well done, Saint's Row. Well done.
7: The Brethren Moons (Dead Space)
Technically the necromorphs aren't aliens. They're reanimated corpses. The aliens controlling them through the markers are the Brethren Moons, an admittedly creepy race of giant people eaters which were the only legit cool thing about the otherwise disappointing Dead Space 3. I mean, look at that picture! To completely misappropriate a Jim Sterling quote, "That's proper scary!"
6: The Humans in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
I was originally going to say those mind worm thingers that are the indigenous life form on the planet, but then I realized that in the case of this game, the humans are the aliens, since they're colonizing a distant planet. Which is kind of morally ambivalent, but the concept and factions were cool... and I liked the Gaia faction, which tried to co-exist with the wormy guys. So my conscience is clear.
5: The Raving Rabbids
Yes, the Rabbids are aliens, complete with UFOs. No one quite knows when they got to Earth, where they're from, or why they're infatuated with toilet plungers, but come on, do you really need a reason to be infatuated with toilet plungers?
4: The Space Invaders
Space Invaders was the "Killer App" game of the 1980s. I'm not sure why they were invading, but I know that many hours of my life were spent fending them off, which was always a poetically futile endeavor. You could never actually stop the Space Invaders. And yet we just kept trying. It was the eighties. Reagan had that affect on the world.
3: The Elcor (Mass Effect)
Everything about the Elcor is amazing, from their weird elephant with no nose appearance, to their inability to speak with recognizable inflection, to the fact that they come from a planet with wicked strong gravity. Excited: Elcors are cool. Confused: Is the plural of Elcor Elcors? Or Elcor? Puzzled: I think it's Elcor. Resigned: Ah well. See also: Elcor Hamlet.
2: The Covenant (Halo)
The Sanghelli (the Elites), the Unggoy (the grunts), the Jilralhanae (the Brutes), and the San 'Shyuum (the Prophets) make up the Covenant, a collection of alien species that puts the United Nations to shame. The nuances of their cultures get unfortunate short shrift in the Halo games themselves, but they're still cool character designs, with great battle chatter, awesome weapons, and the Sanghelli have big honkin' awesome feet! Unlike the Forerunners, who are, so far, a bit over-thought, and the Flood, which... well the Flood is just gross... the Covenant is an interesting concept that properly gets its due in the tie-in novels. Not every member of their various species thinks and approaches things the same way, and it's an uneasy alliance as a result. And the religion angle was an interesting twist too. Halo is always bizarre for me, because the games tend to be less as wholes than the sum of their parts, and the Covenant's rich and varied species are a classic example of that.
1: The Krogan (Mass Effect)
All the Mass Effect alien species are pretty great. This list could have easily been the Top 8 Mass Effect alien races. (For me that would have been Hanar, Salarian, Asari, Drell, Turian, Quarian, Elcor, and Krogan.) The Krogan hold a special place in my heart because they're hilarious and scary at the same time. They're believable in what they're supposed to be: a primitive, warlike race that nuke-trashed their home planet, but were artificially given advanced technology to be mercenaries anyway, because the Rachni war had a high casualty count. Good call, Citadel races! What could possibly go wrong there!? When the Krogans themselves proved to be a problem, the "genophage" -- a forced genetic alteration that results in only one in one thousand births surviving – was introduced by the Salarians as a "humane" solution and unleashed on the Krogan by the Turians... geez, most of this entry is written in made up words, and this is why science fiction rules! But the Krogan genophage wasn't, of course, more humane. It was just cleaner and more complicated than other more direct solutions, because the Citadel races didn't frikkin' learn from their first attempt to stupidly overcomplicate things. For this reason, the other Mass Effect alien species are either stupid – I mean, the Quarians spectacularly f'ed up with the Geth too – or they're someone's bum boy – Seriously Drell and Volus, shake off the shackles of your oppressors! Or, in the case of the Vorcha and the Batarians, they're kind of like Krogans, but less cool, because with Krogans, the correct dialogue option is always "head butt". More Krogans please!
I did try to come up with a few aliens, or alien-type characters that didn't quite make my list. The first thing I'd say is "Any other race in Mass Effect". The Krogans and Turians are the popular ones, but almost any race could fit the bill well. Here's a short list of others I considered: Lombax, Abe (Mudoken), Necromorph, The Zin, Horatio (Endless Space), Red Falcon (Contra), Star Fox, Glacius, and Furons.
The General Roundup
I'll try and respond to a few comments from last week. I tried not to pick any weapon that was just overtly powerful. The FarSight and ‘Merica guns are great, but they don't break the game too much, unlike the BFG or Redeemer. The Gravity Gun didn't become a weapon till fairly late in the game. Sure, you could pick up objects and throw them at enemies, but only when you could start doing that with the troops themselves did it become fun. There were at least three people who said the Golden Gun should be mentioned. Did anyone remember it? It had a magazine size of 1 round. The Gold PP7 was much better than the Golden Gun. As far as the Buster Sword goes, it is completely ridiculous. I'll direct you to watch the "Man At Arms" Youtube episode where Tony built one and said that it weighed 75 or 80 pounds. Lastly, Kuribo's Shoe is always awesome.