Saturday, July 09, 2011

Greatest animal heroes in gaming

Here at Megabits we thought it was about time we recognised and celebrated the animal heroes in video game history. Although a long list of crazy looking characters have come and gone into the history books, a few have shown their pedigree to decorate the Hall of Fame with some even managing to carry number of titles under their belt.

Here are our top 15 animal heroes which have captured our hearts and imagination and become icons of the gaming world.

As ever, if we've missed anyone off you think should have been included, leave a comment below...

1/ Sonic the Hedgehog

Probably the most famous hedgehog in the world and one of the most famous gaming characters ever, this spiky hero entered the gaming world in his first game in 1991 - 20 years ago. Sega’s trademark mascot was created to rival Nintendo’s plumber Mario. Yes, his friends are a little lame but the blue speed demon with the red shoes has stood the test of time, moving from 2D to 3D, spearheading around 30 titles into the gaming world. To Sonic we salute you!

2/ Yoshi

Technically not an animal but must be counted, this legendary green dinosaur has moved from just being Mario and Luigi’s sidekick to become one of the most recognisable gaming characters since his debut in 1990 (older than Sonic!). Yoshi’s cute looks, loyal demeanour and super sticky long tongue, has made him a big hit with fans. Through his lifetime Yoshi has learnt to lay eggs, breathe fire, fly and even drive a kart pretty well when necessary.

3/ Ratchet

Ratchet from the brilliant Ratchet & Clank action/adventure series plays a heroic bobcat-looking mechanic who keeps finding himself having to save the galaxy for one reason or another. Always travelling the universe with his sidekick Clank, Ratchet (who is from a species called the Lomax) is famous for his wit, crazy big guns and cool gadgets. Ratchet has been a big games seller with a long list of titles since arriving in 2002 on the Playstation 2 and I fully expect him to be collecting bolts for a long time to come.

4/ Amaterasu

Amaterasu is the star of the critically acclaimed action-adventure video game, Okami, which was one of the last PlayStation 2 games selected for release in 2006 prior to the release of the PlayStation 3. Set in a world inspired by Japanese folklore, Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun takes the form of a white wolf to defeat an eight-headed demon which is cursing the land and covering the world in darkness. Being a wolf and a sun god probably makes Amaterasu the coolest looking animal on our list.

5/ Donkey Kong

Barrel-wielding Donkey Kong (strange name for an ape) is one of the oldest animal heroes in our list. He first entered the gaming world in 1981 as the antagonist in puzzle/platform title “Donkey Kong”, a game which also introduced Nintendo's flagship character Mario (as the hero of course). However, Donkey Kong changed his ways and came back a reformed hero in his later outings, bringing with him his banana collecting nephew and sidekick Diddy Kong.

6/ Parappa the Rapper

Parappa the paper-thin rapping dog immediately warmed the hearts of gamers when he was released in Japan on the Sony PlayStation in 1996, later followed by releases in North America and Europe. Parappa was the main character in one of the earliest rhythm video games as he tries to win the heart of his beau Sunny Funny. Parappa’s main motto was "I gotta believe!" as he rapped to progress through a very bizarre story line which saw him learn to fight at a kung-fu dojo and make a cake.

7/ Crash Bandicoot

Crash Bandicoot sprang into life in his own self titled game in 1996, intending to be a mascot for Sony to rival Mario and Sonic. Although he didn’t reach such stardom, Crash has had a number of successful titles in which he battles against arch nemesis Doctor Neo Cortex and his plans for world domination. Crash’s trademark move was to spin at high speeds to knock out anything in his way. He was always a lot of fun and always ready for a ruck.

8/ Fox McCloud
As the main character in the Star Fox series on the Nintendo, Fox McCloud has become a favourite with his cocky and brave persona. The red fox led an independent mercenary unit called Star Fox as they fought for good around the fictional Lylat system in both rail shooter and action/adventure titles. Fox McCloud was first introduced in his first title in 1993 for the SFC/SNES.

9/ Sly Cooper
Usually I don’t have much love for pickpockets but for Sly I will make an exception, especially when this agile racoon uses his thieving techniques to such good effect. With a cane in hand and a family tree of master thieves, Sly has so far pulled off heists in three acclaimed titles, all on the Playstation 2. As he is master of sneak and stealth, keep on the look out for Sly in a new title on the PS3 in 2012.

10/ Spyro the Dragon

Spyro (again not technically an animal) made it famous when he flew on to the Playstation with the action adventure platformer “Spyro the Dragon”. The young heroic purple dragon made his name travelling through magical portals and saving fantasy worlds. His later titles saw him meet new friends, get celebrity voiceovers (Elijah Wood plays Spyro in the 2006 title “The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning”) and build up his skill set.

11/ Gex
The wise-cracking, TV loving gecko from Maui, Hawaii, is the hero of his own platformer series which began in 1994. While watching the world’s largest television (which he bought after inheriting over $20 billion from his late Uncle – random) Gex swallows a metallic transmitter mistaking it for a fly – He is then pulled into the TV by cybernetic bad guy Rez who has evil intentions to take over the world through the media dimension. Gex fights his way through television worlds to save the day.

12/ James Pond
I’m not exactly sure what sort of fish James Pond (after the spy James Bond) was but when this underwater secret agent hit the waters in 1990 he was an instant hit. The central story of the game is that James Pond was hired by the British Secret Service to protect the seas from supervillian Doctor Maybe. James Pond gets extra points for looking great in a tux and being a hit with the mermaids. He had two sequels as well as a spin-off. James Pond is expected to return in new titles on the iPhone and iPad at the end of June this year.

13/ Frogger
Although Frogger was not the name of any of the individuals in the game, the frogs still deserve an honorary mention. A little bit lazy when it came to reading up on road safety laws, the suicidal frogs couldn’t get enough of crossing busy motorway traffic or traversing moving logs on fast running rivers to find safety on empty lily pads. The frogs are also grandfathers when it comes to gaming, being introduced by Konami in 1981.

14/ Banjo & Kazooie
As Banjo, a honey bear, and Kazooie, a red-crested breegull, work so well as a team they have been entered into this list as one character. The duo, created in 1998, use their separate and joint strengths as well as instruments (banjo and kazoo) to battle an evil witch called Gruntilda. In reality a bear and a bird shouldn’t get on but thankfully for us these two have gone to book themselves into gaming hall of fame.

15/ Chocobos
Despite being unable to fly, this large bird has a long list of titles to boast on top of being a much-loved character in the Final Fantasy video game series. Despite looking like an over-grown chicken, the chocobo is super fast and great for racing.