In 1979, the first installment of one of the most popular film franchises in history was released in theatres. That film was Alien, a science fiction horror following a group of blue-collar workers who, during the course of a routine commercial excursion, are tasked with investigating a distress call from an unknown spaceship crashed on a nearby planet.
During their mission, an unstoppable killing machine gets loose aboard their cargo ship, and in a number of tense and claustrophobic confrontations, they attempt to hunt down the unwanted visitor before it murders them all. Since the landmark release of Alien, the franchise has spawned a large number of video game tie-ins and to celebrate 40 years of Alien, here are the 10 best video games in the franchise, ranked.
10 Aliens: The Computer Game (C64, 1987)
Yes, the graphics in Aliens are primitive, the gameplay is a little slow and the control system a touch clunky, but it’s still a highly playable experience even today. It plays like an early FPS but what keeps the game interesting is the element of strategy at play. You control six different characters as you explore LV-426 looking for the Alien Queen. Before switching to a different member of the team, you must ensure your current character is safe by clearing a room of Aliens and locking all the doors. You can then systematically clear rooms to hunt down the Queen for a final showdown. Don’t let the graphics and sound (or lack thereof) put you off; Aliens: The Computer Game is a true classic.
9 Alien (C64, 1984)
The original franchise tie-in, Alien on the Commodore 64, is a strategic adventure game that makes up for its lack of looks with plenty of character. At the outset of each game, a different member of the crew becomes host to the Alien and the remaining crew members must hunt it down and destroy it. As the player, you move each character around the map, setting traps and hunting for the Alien. At the same time, you must determine which of the crew is secretly an android and attempting to keep the Alien alive. Throughout the game, the emotional states of the characters can change, meaning they may refuse to take orders if they are too frightened for example. Alien is a surprisingly deep game hidden behind a simple facade.
8 Aliens: The Arcade Game (Arcade, 1990)
Released in arcades (remember them?) in 1990, Aliens: The Arcade Game is an explosive side-scrolling shooter developed by the legendary Konami. Whilst loosely based on the movie of the same name it does take significant artistic license and introduces multiple never-before-seen enemy types (bubblegum pink Aliens anyone?) to keep things interesting. The graphics are beautiful in that timeless '90s way, the action is frantic, chaotic and violent and the difficulty level is sky high. Starting with the infamous smart gun (“LET’S ROCK!!!”) you play as either Ripley or Hicks and you even get a chance to pilot the iconic Power Loader, a dream of '80s kids the world over. “GET AWAY FROM HER, YOU B****!”.
7 Alien 3: The Gun (Arcade, 1993)
The Gun is an on-rails shooter, extremely loosely, based on Alien 3. Whereas the film features a single creature, The Gun features hordes and hordes of them “coming out of the god*** walls.”
Your task is to blast through corridors as Aliens charge you down, leap from ceilings and slash at you at every turn. The graphics are still pretty impressive considering the game's age and there’s plenty of fun to be had wielding a light gun and fighting off bloodthirsty creatures from outer space. There’s not a great deal of depth to Alien 3: The Gun, but if you’re after a quick burst of Xenomorph blasting action, there aren’t many better options.
6 Alien vs. Predator (Arcade, 1997)
Capcom are well known for developing fantastic side scrolling beat-em-ups like Final Fight and Streets of Rage and Alien vs. Predator is a classic example of Capcom doing what Capcom does best. There are four playable characters: two cyborg Marines and two Predator warriors who can shoot, kick, stab and punch hordes of Aliens as they progress through moody environments inspired by the films. Some of the larger arcade machines support up to three players at once so you and your mates can hand out cans of dynomyte left, right, and center. The game features huge, detailed, colourful sprites, silky smooth animation, crunching sound effects and intensely satisfying combat. Punching an Alien in the face has never been so much fun.
5 Aliens: Infestation (Nintendo DS, 2011)
Aliens: Infestation follows a team of marines sent in to investigate the USS Sulaco, found floating in space after the events of Aliens and Alien 3. Despite looking like a typical 2D platformer, the game incorporates elements of exploration and puzzle solving in a similar vein to Metroid and Castlevania. Interestingly, if one of your team members dies they’re dead permanently, and once your entire team is lost, well then it’s “game over, man!”.
Infestation was originally developed to complement Aliens: Colonial Marines but actually ended up being the better game. It features its own unique storyline, beautifully designed characters and locations and excellent 16-bit style visuals reminiscent of Alien 3 (more on that later). The best Alien game on portable consoles.
4 Alien: Isolation (PS4/XBONE/PC, 2014)
Alien: Isolation is a first-person survival horror game that recreates the look and feel of Alien by reigning in the action and playing out as a frightening game of cat and mouse; it just drips with tension. The player must act with caution to avoid a grisly death at the hands (read: jaws) of a monstrous Xenomorph that stalks the corridors of Sevastopol space station. It’s a beautiful looking game and the locations are loving crafted to mimic science fiction from the '70s and '80s: think lots of CRT monitors, dials, and switches everywhere. Whilst it doesn’t follow the story of the original film, Alien: Isolation is one of the most faithful recreations of Alien there has ever been.
3 Alien Trilogy (Saturn/PSX/PC, 1996)
Released the year before Alien Resurrection hit theatres, Alien Trilogy is a first-person shooter based on the first three films in the franchise. With claustrophobic, industrial locations, pitch black darkness, and fantastic sound effects, the game captures the true terror of the unknown. You’re constantly on edge, expecting facehuggers, chestbursters, and full grown Aliens to jump out at any moment. It was the first game to induce genuine panic from that ghostly blip on the motion tracker and provide the intense rush of adrenaline from emptying a pulse rifle into the inky darkness at the mere suggestion of movement. Looking back, the graphics are quite dated, but in 1996 they were as good as anything home consoles had to offer; sheer horror had never been so beautiful.
2 Alien 3 (SNES, 1992)
Alien 3 was released on various platforms but it’s the Super Nintendo version that really shines. Playing as Ellen Ripley you must run, shoot and jump your way around the Fiorina 161 prison colony featured in the critically derided movie. The usual weapons like the Pulse Rifle and flamethrower are available to dispatch Aliens, the graphics are gloomy and dark and the creature animation is impressive. It’s not all just running around blasting Xenomorphs though and you are tasked with blocking off passageways and rescuing prisoners within a strict time limit. The music and sound effects also contribute to a nervous tension and the game is often terrifying. Alien 3 the video game is a much better way to spend your time than watching Alien 3 the motion picture.
1 Aliens Versus Predator (PC, 1999)
Based on a concept from a late 80’s Dark Horse graphic novel, Aliens Versus Predator pits the fearsome intergalactic warriors from The Predator franchise against Aliens and Marines. It’s a first-person experience where you play as a vulnerable, but heavily armed Marine, a practically unstoppable Predator or a rabid, lightning fast Alien.
Each character has its own control scheme, style of play and unique campaign, ensuring that gameplay both on and offline is incredibly fun. You’ll never get tired of decapitating marines with the throwing disc as a Predator, leaping out of the shadows to burst skulls with your jaws as an Alien or just generally shitting your pants as a Marine whilst being stalked by two of the most dangerous foes in science fiction. No game in the Alien franchise comes close to the original heart-stopping AVP.