Video games: the monsters that changed their history

Video games: the monsters that changed their history

Video games

The figure of the monster in video games has always been very important since the beginning, since it was represented by simply a few pixels in titles such as Space Invaders or Centipede. The monster has always played the role of the main obstacle in the player's path, evolving over time to become a central figure in various genres, from role-playing games to action and horror. In some cases, monsters have really reinvented a genre.

Today it is not difficult to find titles that develop around monsters, and we are not just talking about horror films such as the recent Dead Space Remake or The Callisto Protocol, science fiction, but also of other games such as the new Wild Hearts , created by Koei Tecmo and published by Electronic Arts, which can be defined as the first valid modern rival of Monster Hunter . These titles are an example of the evolutionary thrust favored by monsters, which thanks to their own evolution have been able to change entire genres.

A shadow born from pixels

The best stories teach us that a good protagonist must be pitted against a good antagonist. As narrated in Christopher Vogler's Hero's Journey, the Shadow archetype represents the antagonist par excellence: he is the embodiment of repressed feelings and negative tendencies, which however always maintains his humanity. Therefore, it is not a question of bringing on stage a simple representation of wickedness, but a true nemesis, the worst version of the hero, the one who has taken the wrong path and stands as his antithesis.

The relationship between shadow and hero is one of the most important elements of a story and often the shadow is represented precisely by those monsters who hinder the path not only physically, but also psychologically and who are a tough obstacle to overcome in order to embrace a new vision of the world that is better than the previous one.

In video games, monsters were born as simple obstacles to overcome in order to advance to the next level. Often in their first representations they were inspired by the most emblematic monstrous figures of the tradition, for example the famous dragon of the historical Dragon's Lair or the demons of Gauntlet. Gradually these creatures have evolved, giving life to boss battles, that is the supreme obstacle, not only in terms of skills, of most video games, to the point of even being able to change the rules of some specific genres, for example when they became the embodiments of man's worst fears in horror titles.

The evolution of the monster in horror video games

The horror genre, in video games, has experienced a constant evolution since since its inception, above all thanks to the monsters that inhabit it. Some of these have become as iconic as classic cinematic ones. Let 's think , for example , of Pyramid Head , a famous creature from Silent Hill 2 . This is the perfect example of an antagonist generated by the unconscious of the protagonist James Sunderland, in fact it represents the incarnation of his faults and his past.

Pyramid Head is a being that has not only become iconic for its creepy and eccentric appearance, but also for its characterization. Although the creature never speaks, through its violent gestures (especially against other monsters) and its menacing presence, it manages to convey to the player a particular sense of uneasiness and allows us to guess his bond with James and, more in general, its being a representation of man's darkest sides, which will later be confirmed in the game's ending.

Resident Evil, another progenitor of the horror genre, has provided us with other examples of monsters that have gone down in history. Impossible to forget the disturbing Lickers, the unstoppable Mr. X of the second chapter or the fearsome Nemesis of the third, monsters back in vogue today also thanks to the recent remakes. These creatures, with the release of the original chapters of the title in the 90s, started a tradition of unpredictable monsters and continuously chasing the player, forced to flee in front of their invincibility. This idea was also partly taken up by the famous Lady Dimitrescu from Resident Evil Village, a character who became a true web celebrity precisely because she was no longer a simple emotionless killing machine chasing the player, but had her own story and her own personalities that have made it more human despite its monstrosity.

Capcom There are still many creatures that with their charisma have brought certain games to success, such as Slenderman, a disturbing faceless being born as a myth of the web and made famous by a free game of which several subsequent versions were made. Dead Space has instead reinvented, in the gaming world, the myth of Alien , with the disturbing necromorphs: a distorted representation of a humanity plagued by a religious cult of an alien nature . Then there is the vein dedicated to zombies, which reached one of its peaks with The Last of Us , where creatures infected with the Cordyceps fungus throw the world into chaos in which the survivors forget their humanity. In this reality, in the end, it is the men who are the real monsters, willing to do anything to survive and often even more ferocious than the infected themselves.

The new mythology

It is always fascinating to see how mythology reappears in the course of history, changing form, but unchanged in its essence. This is also the case in video games, where boss battles have become the fateful moment of hero versus monster . A real test placed before the player, just like it happened in the stories of the heroes of the myth, in which they had to demonstrate their personal growth through the defeat of the monster, aware of having overcome an obstacle not only physical, but also internal.

In some ways this also happens when overcoming a battle against a boss, when the player can test if and how much he has learned the mechanics of a game. Defeat in these cases is simply an invitation to improve, necessary to achieve the desired success. Some games reproduce the clashes of the myth in a modern key: an example above all is the God of War saga, with its battles against the most famous monsters of Greek mythology and, in the most recent chapters, of the Nordic one.

Elden Ring - FromSoftware Bandai NamcoThe peak of this philosophy, however, is embodied by the soulslike subgenre, born from the Japanese development house From Software, which reached the peak of its production last year with Elden Ring, winner of the award as game of the year at The Game Awards 2022 .

In From Software's titles, the challenges against the bosses are the most feared and at the same time most coveted moments by all players, given their high difficulty. In titles such as the aforementioned Elden Ring we have epic clashes against legendary and semi-divine beings, which put the players' skills to the test; many do not make it and give up, but those who do not give up are eventually rewarded with a feeling of great satisfaction, as they are aware of the obstacle overcome thanks to an evolution of their skills. The clashes with Isshin in Sekiro and Malenia in Elden Ring are probably the perfect example of this, being two of the most difficult boss battles ever proposed by From Software, so much so that the web is full of videos in which many players, proud of their As a result, they show how they were able to defeat these fearsome opponents without taking damage or even without equipment.

When monsters are the center of the game

There is also a specific category of dedicated games monster hunting, all derived from the progenitor of this action subgenre, the famous Monster Hunter. Capcom's series has become a true worldwide phenomenon, thanks to its simple yet unique formula. The real protagonists of these games are in fact the monsters, which will have to be hunted and which will be used to build ever more valid weapons and armor to fight against even more powerful beasts. In practice, the game consists of one boss battle after another and its success lies in the incredible characterization of the monsters, which give life to exciting and spectacular battles.


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