When many gaming experiences can still be broken up into a series of boss fights and Big Bads, taking on the role of one of those bosses can be particularly satisfying—especially if you still get to stomp all over the heroes. It’s a natural offshoot of the standard videogame power fantasy, and it’s spawned its fair share of interesting concepts over the years. Evolve is only the latest of these, and it’s following in the footsteps of some of the most unique parts of gaming history.
Whether you want to scratch a monstrous itch without committing to a brand new, full price game, or you’re just looking to revisit a few of the classics that came before, here are 10 monster-led titles worth sinking your teeth into, in no specific order.
The version of Jurassic Park for the Sega Genesis had one very serious advantage over every other platform: Its grimy bassline. Okay, maybe it had two serious advantages, because in addition to having an exceptionally raunchy soundtrack you could also play from the perspective of either Dr. Grant or an escaped velociraptor. The Lost World for Playstation iterated on the brilliance of that idea, introducing a full complement of prehistoric characters (while tragically replacing the grungy Genesis beats of its predecessor with an orchestral score).
You are supposed to empathize with the abomination of bone and sinew you craft and steer to solve puzzles in Incredipede. Her name is Quozzle. Quozzle’s on a quest to save her sisters. She peers out at you with her large, singular eye. She winces as her appendages are stretched and snapped away. She squints like a cat getting a good chin-scratch when she reaches the goal of each level. She’s not exactly a force of unparalleled destruction, but there is certainly a monstrous (and mildly nauseating) quality to playing with her—a bit like building contraptions in Besiege if you were working primarily in the medium of corpse limbs instead of, you know, wood.
While the older Aliens vs. Predator and Aliens vs. Predator 2 are a little more well regarded, they haven’t aged as gracefully as they could have, and the acquisition of developer Sierra means that their multiplayer servers have long since been taken offline. 2010’s Aliens vs. Predator has its problems, but it offers reasonably grotesque monster-on-monster-on-marine gameplay and visual effects that still look decent by today’s standards.
Yes it’s another Jurassic Park game, but one in which an ankylosaurus and a raptor can have a Judo-kicking showdown outside of a gas station, and then swallow a wandering golden retriever to recover some health. Suffice it to say that Warpath doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s surprisingly cinematic and completely absurd, and that’s what makes it such a treat.
Much of Warpath’s charm comes from how restrained it looks compared to Primal Rage, even though without the latter we almost certainly wouldn’t have the former. Primal Rage, which came out 5 years before Warpath, had similar bystander-eating mechanics and dinosaur-on-dinosaur combat, but it also leaned as hard into the “extreme” aesthetic as a game possibly could. And it was the ‘90s, so that’s saying something. Primal Rage was also rotoscoped just like Mortal Kombat, but with detailed clay models instead of living ones—which would be a lot cooler if those models weren’t farting and peeing on each other.
Dragons, like dinosaurs, are the subject of their fair share of games. Divinity II is certainly one of the better examples, situating players in the middle of a compelling story and allowing them to switch between the high-flying destructive abilities of a dragon form and the significantly more subtle abilities of a human form. You’ll be managing a rather sinister tower at the same time, and cobbling ghoulish little assistants together out of assorted found parts. It’s not only a solid monster sim, but a decent choice if you prefer to play as the antagonist.
There is certainly a way to play Monster Loves You! that is not in keeping with the spirit of this list. This game presents you with a series of choices to shape your monster as it develops from its protozoan infancy to its awkward teen years and beyond. You may choose to become a peacemaker, bridging the divide between your community and human society. Or maybe you’d rather just eat those same humans, diplomacy be damned. Your call.
Although the titular Boy might seem innocuous, his place on this list is well earned. Strip away the vibrant colors and quirky atmosphere masking this unique PS3 classic and you have the story of an alien consuming everything in its path to propel a symbiotic force deeper and deeper into the abyss of space. That’s absolutely soul-chilling—even if it’s accomplished mostly by ingesting and excreting lumpy animals and even lumpier people.
One of the most immediate comparisons that can be made to Evolve is Depth, which launched with mixed reviews during the tail-end of 2014. Depth is a competitive multiplayer game which centers around the eternal (and very bloody) struggle between sharks and divers. It lacks some of Evolve’s more complicated systems, but makes up for that with an abundance of unadulterated nightmare fuel. If you’d prefer to keep your ocean-based mayhem strictly PVE (and your ocean-based gore a little more PG), Jaws Unleashed is a reasonable (if dated) alternative. No, it’s not the best game you’ll ever play, but it will at least allow you to maul a few lifeguards.
It’s a classic for a reason. Smash up buildings, evade the authorities, make a mess and move on to the next level. Rampage may not hold up if you’re looking for another hyper-realistic grimdark monster hunt, but you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who grew up around arcades without fond memories of this Midway game. Rampage also distinguishes itself from many other monster games by focusing almost solely on destruction rather than combat. It’s that feeling of stomping on a sand castle or knocking a tower of blocks over: Mean, but very satisfying.
An honorable mention goes to Grand Theft Auto V for who else but Trevor. While Trevor is undeniably a skin-crawling monster of the highest order (“but it’s satire!”), if I included him we would have to throw open the doors for a large number of gaming’s human protagonists. Joel from The Last of Us, I’m looking at you.
Janine Hawkins is a games writer based in sunny Canada. You can find her written and video work on HealerArcherMage.com or follow her on Twitter @bleatingheart.