With Stray capturing the hearts of cat lovers everywhere this week, we've been thinking about other games where animals take the lead.
All the way back to arcade classics like Frogger, we've had many chances to inhabit the animal kingdom, and the 90s featured a slew of animal-based titles, particularly with Disney tie-ins, not to mention console-era mascots like Sonic and Crash Bandicoot.
These days you can be a goat, a goddess in the form of a white wolf or attack people as a shark. What's your favourite?
Star Fox 64 / Lylat Wars | Liam Andrews
As much as I love cats, it wouldn’t do to pick them seeing as they have Stray repping them this week, so I went digging around my game collection to see which four legged creatures have taken centre stage in past played games.
That’s where I stumbled across my copy of Star Fox 64 3D, the 3DS port of the excellent N64 game, Lylat Wars. While there’s all sorts of animals knocking about in this series, I’m going with the main man (beast?) himself, Fox, as my selection.
Like James’ pick, there’s not actually much in the way of animal-specific stuff happening in this game, although we can’t be sure of what Fox McCLoud likes to do when not saving the galaxy – perhaps he does enjoy scattering the contents of bin bags across a street, or is partial to a bit of night-time pooping on people’s garden lawns? We’ll never know.
What he and his anthropomorphic allies do bring to the game, however, is a bit of whimsy that would simply be lacking with a regular human protagonist. I mean he’s a fox, called Fox, and it somehow works. I doubt a human, named Human, starring in a game called Star Human, would have been quite so popular.
Bubsy | Chris Brand
I've always thought Bubsy (not Busby, I did check - Ed) was a likeable character who deserved better. Though I can picture a few different levels from various games, it's Bubsy himself that is the most memorable aspect. He's got an almost Crash Bandicoot-like charm which, I believe, is solely responsible for the repeated sequels. Once again, the series would be functionally the same with a human protagonist (granted, the story would need rewriting), but having a cheeky animal mascot was all the rage at the time.
Nostalgia has no doubt coloured my memories but I can recall genuinely enjoying Bubsy's first outing, Clawed Encounters of the Furred Kind, even though my younger self found some sections of it to be painfully frustrating due to the one-hit-kill mechanic and my own impatience.
Anyone who has played a 2D platformer starring a blue hedgehog or a moustachioed plumber will understand the gameplay and be immediately familiar with the controls. It was a fully competent Sonic/Mario clone that was just different enough to justify its existence.
Maybe Sonic is a little more charismatic, and he certainly has a better back-catalogue, but Bubsy has somehow managed to survive in the minds of many, despite almost every sequel being a huge disappointment. Every now and then they'll try to resurrect the loveable bobcat but the games never live up to their potential.
The Bubsy series mirrors the classic horror, Halloween; each new entry is worse than the previous, but the focal character just won't die.