The original Alien film premiered on May 25, 1979, in the U.S. It redefined the horror genre and still holds up to this day. The quiet atmosphere of space mixed with the terror of an extraterrestrial that can seemingly hide in plain sight is just masterful. It's one of those films that leave you breathless. So naturally, a successful film franchise of that era was merchandised to hell in the form of toys, comics, and (of course) video games. Most of the nearly thirty games out there are complete rubbish, but there are some gems in there as well. That's why this list is comprised of the eight worst and 7 best instead of the usual reverse.
Why is it so hard to make a good Alien game? Video games might be the worst medium the series could be adapted into. Think about it. The original film is the best because it pits a group of individuals against one monster. The Aliens, or Xenomorphs, are stealthy, strong, and have a thick skin. Basically, they're not easy to kill. Decimating floods of Xenomorphs can feel disjointed in a game given that fact. You could take that argument and apply it to any video game based off of a property though. Yet a game featuring only a single enemy doesn’t sound fun either does it? There are pros and cons to each side, and I’ll get more into as I pass through each entry. Enough talk Marines —let’s kick some Alien scum!
15 Worst: Aliens Colonial Marines
Hoo boy where to begin here? The easiest thing to criticize is being able to mow down hundreds of Aliens. It’s as if the hierarchy sent out the stupidest Xenomorphs in their species to face off against indestructible Marines. Suddenly, these powerful creatures feel like brain dead zombies. That said, there are also rogue soldiers to fight off too, and I’d rather dance with the dumbfounded Aliens rather than generic soldiers. The worst thing about Aliens Colonial Marines is the bugs. Plus the graphics were so bad it caused a litany of controversies when the reviews started popping up. The game is a mess and the PR storm that happened afterward is a nightmare. Not a great game, but it is a fascinating story to read about.
14 Best: Aliens Infestation
God bless WayForward for actually giving a damn about the licenses they take on. Their own projects —like Shantae— are the cream of the crop, but even their movie bases tie-ins, like Thor, are actually pretty good. Aliens: Infestation is better than “pretty good” though. Players have a small roster of soldiers that wait for your directions in a safe room. Simply choose one and start exploring this Metroidvania-inspired space station where loads of Aliens wait in the darkness. Given the right equipment, they can go down fast, but chances are they’ll take a good chunk out of you too. If that character dies it’s permanent, and the game switches back to the safe room. Run out of soldiers and that it. Game Over, man! Sorry I couldn’t help myself. It’s a clever mechanic that heightens the tension of an otherwise already stressful game.
13 Worst: Aliens: Alien 2
Before Final Fantasy, Square didn’t have a good track record. Aliens: Alien 2 was about their tenth game, and they wouldn’t even develop Final Fantasy until their fifteenth try. That’s a lot of garbage to make before you hit it big and trust me: the fourteen games —including this one— are not what you’d call awesome. Now, as you’d imagine, the game is based on the second movie. It’s a side-scrolling action game where Ripley mostly fights off Facehuggers and sometimes lesser Aliens. At the end of each stage is an impressively gigantic Alien, but it’s the same boss throughout each encounter. It’s short, hard, and pretty uninspired. I will say the music is at least good thanks to famed Final Fantasy composer, Nobuo Uematsu.
12 Best: Alien: Isolation
Alien: Isolation was the first game to really try and evoke the atmosphere of the original film. It not only looks phenomenal in terms of graphics, but it also feels authentic thanks to the 80s future-tech aesthetic and sound effects. A lot of passion was clearly poured into the soul of this game, and that’s just part of it. There is primarily one Alien stalking Ripley’s daughter throughout her adventure. You can fend it off eventually with fire, but otherwise, you need to hide in order to stay alive. It’s smart — maybe too smart. Constantly having to hide within seconds apart can get frustrating. So it’s not perfect, but it’s a great first try, and I look forward to a sequel in this vein. Fingers crossed!
11 Worst: Alien: Resurrection
Before Alien: Isolation, the developers over at Argonaut Games tried to evoke survival horror hits like Resident Evil. Setting Alien: Resurrection in first-person in a dimly lit environment was a good call, but the area is almost too dark. I had to crank up my settings to see what was going on, which made playing a bizarre snowy —almost Silent Hill-esque— experience. Moreover, like the atrocious Aliens Colonial Marines, you have to fight wave after wave of soldiers. Fun! I get the direction they were going for, but at the same time, I can’t applaud an ugly execution. It doesn’t help that this film is terrible too.
10 Best: Aliens Vs Predators (PS3)
A better name for this game would have been Aliens Vs Predators Vs Marines. There are three campaigns that follow the exploits of each rac,e and they all feel distinct too. The Marine expedition isn’t anything special in terms of a first-person shooter, but it’s still good. Playing as the swift, stealthy Aliens, or the gadget savvy Predators are more fun though. Whatever side you choose, —be it solo or online— you’re in for a real treat and one splattered with blood. Seriously. Aliens Vs Predators is uncomfortably gory at times especially when it comes to the Predators’ obsession with ripping off heads. It’s definitely not the best looking game, and it can be a bit chaotic, but it’s still a neat little gem from the past generation.
9 Worst: Aliens: Thanatos Encounter
Most of the earlier games task players with rescuing people from Alien infested levels. Save the crew, kill Aliens, and repeat. The music itself is bad, but tack on gun noises and footsteps that sound like they were programmed on the Atari 2600, and you get something akin to noise torture. It’s not that they even sound bad it’s just that the mixing made them louder than anything else in the game. It’s awful. The Game Boy Color is not the beefiest handheld out there, but it can produce some amazing looking games. This, uh, is not one of them. I’m always a fan of character rosters with altering stats, but everyone plays the same as far as I could tell. It’s bland, it’s boring, and it’s not worth your time.
8 Best: Aliens Versus Predator: Extinction
Aliens Vs Predators was a good concept for an FPS, but I never dreamed of taking that idea and applying it to an RTS. And yes I do realize this came first. Timeline aside, it’s a brilliant idea and one that works well for the franchise and on consoles. There’s not a lot of emphasis on base building — similarly to Halo Wars’ design. It’s all about experiencing the expedition as Aliens, Predators, or Marines. Each class has their own special traits, which are probably pretty obvious at this point. Aliens are fast, Predators are brutal, and Marines have lots of guns. Hardcore RTS nuts may fault the game for its more simple approach to the genre, but as someone who is often overwhelmed by these games otherwise, I applaud the change.
7 Worst: Alien Vs Predator: The Last Of His Clan
Alien vs. Predator? More like Alien vs. Big Foot. Seriously, the Predator looks like a big ape with some fat dreads. He moves like one too. Oafish movement aside he’s also like One Punch Man — in that one punch will literally explode your Alien foe. It’s not an exciting explosion either. Plus, the crouched animation looks like the Predator is about to take a dump. Probably on his own game. Ooooh! Call the burn unit because we have a victim.
This game is just plain boring from the controls, to the effects, to the music. If someone could sigh and create a video game based on Alien, this would be it! I struggle to even make fun of it so let’s just move on already.
6 Best: Aliens (Arcade)
It’s a little weird that Ripley looks like a reddish blonde in this game, but other than that it’s fantastic. Aliens is one of Konami’s best licensed based arcade games. Sure there’s not much to it, but it's still loads of fun. Ripley is armed with a giant gun that can be transformed into other giant guns, like a flamethrower, to unleash hell on the Alien scourge. There are side-scrolling segments, third-person viewpoints, and even vehicle runs. It’s actually very reminiscent of Konami’s Contra, which in and of itself is an homage to Alien. It’s the Circle of Life or something of that nature. The music is superb as well. Aliens may go against everything I said before about taking the license seriously, buy hey, sometimes it’s also good to let loose. Contradictions be damned!
5 Worst: Aliens: A Comic Book Adventure
A point and click adventure game? Now that’s something novel to base a game around for this franchise. Sounds like a winning idea to me. Unfortunately, the artistic design around this game is hideous. It’s all CG, but the world looks like it’s made out of melted plastic figures. Except for characters that is. They instead look like bad fan art. The juxtaposition between these two styles is jarring beyond belief. Not to mention the music reminds me of something bubbly like Rugrats. Everything about Aliens: A Comic Book Adventure just seems 'off.' I’d love to see someone else make another adventure game based off of Alien, but not Telltale. (They’re on a time out from me —make a new engine, or fix your old one already!)
4 Best: Alien Vs. Predator (Arcade)
Now that we’re at the final AvP game I just want to point out that I spelled every title correctly in case you were wondering why “versus” was shown so many ways. Confusing, I know, but let’s get to this arcade beat’em up. Like the Game Boy game, this is about Predators pummeling hordes of Aliens. Unlike Alien vs Predator: The Last of His Clan though, this is actually enjoyable. Plus the Predators don’t look like Big Foot. You can choose between a Predator Warrior, a Predator Hunter, or even two human soldiers as well. No matter who you choose, you’re going to be smacking droves of Aliens around. It’s the quintessential Japanese take on the film series. It’s over the top, and I love it.
3 Worst: Alien 3
Ripley looks like E.T. hollowed out her body and wore her skin like a suit. I mean just look at her above! Straight off the bat I was like, "yep this is going in the shit pile." Looks aren’t everything though, so how does it play? Well about as bad as you'd imagine. There are actually six versions of this game, and it was hard to narrow down which one was the worst of the worst. The NES, Sega Genesis, Sega Game Gear, and Sega Master System all follow the same principal of rescuing survivors from their Xenomorph jailers. At least these games have semi clear-cut goals, but the Game Boy and SNES versions simply do not. Alien 3 is also the worst movie in the franchise, so... go figure. Why not accompany it with six dreadful games?
2 Best: Alien 3: The Gun
Fortunately, there is a good game based on Aliens 3. Fortunately? That’s probably not the right word, but the statement remains true. It’s an on-rails shooter filled with Xenomorphs just begging you to murder them with extreme prejudice. It’s not about Ripley, or any of the other prisoners. Instead, it focuses on two Marines. It’s like an alternate universe. You enter familiar areas from the film, but that’s about as far as the similarities go. Fitting seeing as Alien 3 was technically not contrived originally as a sequel to the series. It was retrofitted. Stranger than that, this game was only released in Japanese arcades. Too bad too since it’s great alone, or with a friend right next to you on the cabinet. In terms of a light gun game it’s nothing truly special, but fun nonetheless.
1 Worst: Alien (Atari 2600)
It’s probably predictable now, but of course I’m going to end on an Atari 2600 game. Now when you think about Alien, you think Pac-Man right? It’s so obvious. NOT! So there’s really not much to say other than that. This game has nothing to do with the movies. You’re a human trapped in a maze filled with colored dots, which are supposed to be eggs, and Aliens are trying to kill you. There’s even a power-up that will turn them all blue so you can kill them. All I have to ask is why? Pac-Man has been ripped off to hell, but I would never have imagined Alien of all things would try the same scheme.