Ain't nothing wrong with a little bump and grind...
In a lot of cases when we talk about games it's always the big climax, the action scene or the boss battle that we get excited about when in reality we spend far more time with the lower level minions which litter the stages or fields in between.
This month's Top 10 goes out to the little guys who always show up come rain or shine to pad out the game time so we've got something to do whilst wandering down those long corridors or dark forests.
We've picked our top 10 generic enemy types and given some examples of our favourite versions of them as we go.
Have you ever tried to hit a bat? They are tricky little buggers, agile and fast and having a tendency to hang out (geddit?) in dark spaces making them even harder to spot. Fortunately they’re also mostly unable to deal enough damage to defeat a single protagonist. They prefer to hang around (again) in packs and rarely take more than a single swing or shot to dispatch. They serve to slowly wear down any weary adventurer rather than deal a knockout blow. They also can be a sign that their supernatural masters await you in the room ahead…
Chris - Zubat – You can guarantee in the land of Kanto that where there’s a cave, there’s a Zubat. Sometimes you can’t even take 3 steps without encountering the next one. Your patience will probably run out before your HP will!
Mark - For this I’m going to go with the Final Fantasy series. Whilst there are few bat enemies that really stand out on their style, the one thing that I remember about these guys (and not a positive way) is the leech move. Most bat bad guys have some form of vampire bat leech special move so that often after you have worn down their HP they often steal yours! They usually have a high agility stat making them hard to hit too. Damn you bats!
It turns out, as gaming has taught us, that canines are not always man’s best friend. In fact they can be one of your biggest enemy. Whether they are a particularly angry local mutt through to a mystical fantasy werewolf creature, the pointy nose and snapping teeth have been the muse for many a developer. As common in gaming as they are in the street, part of their attraction comes from the familiarity we all have with dogs. Doge this is not. Much enemy, so bite, very wow.
Mark - Are there many more iconic bad dogs than the Zombie Dog from the Resident Evil series? Typically a snarling infected Doberman the image is one of the first things that springs to mind when I think of the game. Their speed compared to the zombies in the first game made them perfect for jump scares which personally are a major weakness of mine!
Chris - Command and ConquerMore my choice due to being a pain and being efficient than being a favourite. Dogs in C&C are able to wipe out a whole infantry troupe if you’re not paying attention. They can even take out a commando if undetected. They are however weak and useless against vehicles but they are also so cheap it doesn’t matter!
One of the Hammer Horror classics the vampire is easily recognisable as a bad guy to just about anyone. The genre has been played around with so many times with a number of different weaknesses such as garlic, sunlight, silver, crosses etc, through to vampire protagonists who only feed on those who “deserve it”. One of my favourite non gaming theories is that the original vampire was in fact Judas Iscariot. After betraying Christ he was banished from dying, remaining in a half life. His aversion to silver a response to the blood money for giving up Christ, The cross a reminder of the result of his betrayal.
Mark - For this I’m going with the vampires in Oblivion/Skyrim. Not notably for any characteristics they have themselves, but this was the first game where being bitten by one of them had lasting effects on the way you continued to play the game. If you were a purist against reloading then once bitten you would have to start living as a vampire. Avoiding sunlight etc but on the pro side had access to skills and strengths you would otherwise have not had. Crafting a cure was often very expensive or difficult to do so this was the first time that the curse of the vampire felt a real threat in games for me.
Chris - Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Shout out to my wife for this one. I have watched my wife play Buffy (chaos bleeds) more than I’ve played it myself but I was impressed at how well represented the Vamps were from the source material. They come in a variety of different skins and generally need to be mercilessly beaten down before being staked and then they dust. Even if a vamp’s health is full theirs a chance you can stake them in the heart (even by throwing the thing) and they’ll go down.
Boars generally serve a multipurpose in gaming as a low to mid level enemy and as a meat resource to be harvested upon their slaying. Not normally something found in large numbers like some of the entries here they usually have a decent damage resilience due to their thick hide and use a gore/charge attack to unbalance their foes.
Chris - Suikoden – Boars are the first enemies you meet in this title that have an actually chance of wiping out your whole party. They are often fought on their own early on and their charge attack can damage several of your party at once. You’ll be hoping you can dish out enough punishment each turn to take them down!
Chris (again!) - Nier – A good example where the creature is used as more of a mid-boss than pure cannon fodder. The beast basically owns the North Plain area of the game and you’d do well to avoid it in the early hours of play as it can run fast and kill you quick! Later it can be tamed and ridden however.
Defying all science, the animated skeleton is just as popular as a baddy as any other creature I can think of. With magic making up for the missing muscles which bind the bones together the Skeleton can range from being a full on armoured warrior through to just a “bare bones” (boom boom) fodder enemy. Another mainstay from novels of old, there is plenty of scope to bring them into just about any sci-fi or fantasy setting in one guise or another.
Chris - When I think of skeleton enemies my immediate thoughts go to Golden Axe. True to form these enemies are resilient to damage and usually more easily dispatched by throwing (or guiding) them off a ledge. The interesting thing in Golden Axe is that they’re the only enemy who have 95% of the same abilities as you (no back attack), which makes them quite the formidable foe.
Mark- This is not going to be a common favourite example but I’m going to go with the “Sixty Whiners” team in Mutant League Football. Not because they are good or scary, in fact exactly the opposite. I spend so long playing against these guys with the best All Stars team in the game just to watch them disintegrate into a million pieces under a crushing tackle.
We all know killing people is a bad thing…But soldiers? Those who have been drafted into war either voluntarily or against their will have been a staple enemy type since gaming began. We’ve often been given some motive that their evil, be they Nazi or some other similar cultists or even mercenary. Usually carrying a firearm or driving vehicles, they are always numerous and like the real army come in ever increasing ranks which usually gifts them with different abilities or weapons. Given how easily they’re dispatched in most games it’s amazing any of them gained the opportunity to actually get promotion when a single hero can kill several hundred in a single title.
Chris - Commando – One of the original run and guns and forebear to the likes of Mercs, Ikari Warriors. Soldiers come at you en masse as you raid enemy barracks and fortifications all for an unknown purpose. It’s entirely possible given the lack of plot in the game that you could be the bad guy in this one given the amount of bodies you’re leaving behind with no discernible plot to drive you!
Mark - Punks from Streets of Rage. Never have I enjoyed beating anything up as much as these guys in my life. Even as a youngster I could already revel in their annoying level of street cool. The mohawk, the leather jacket, everything about them screamed punch me in the face and I gladly did. Many times. In between face punches they were thrown from the now infamous lift.
Not only are Aliens a common enemy in most Sci-Fi games, one has actually ended up being cited as a major contributor to the video games market crashing in 1983. Chasing after the quick profit video games seemed to offer a number of companies were churning out low quality games to the point of saturating the market and undermining buying confidence. Figure-heading this low quality cash cow approach was 1982’s ET. Based on the hugely popular movie of the same title it has become the epitome of poorly written and developed gaming. Thankfully not all Aliens are such poor foes.
Mark - Whilst not one of my favourite games I can’t help but think of the alien Slashers in the Dead Space games. Whilst usually you are used to cutting your way through waves of aliens with pulse rifles etc the Dead Space series left you alone with very little in the way of an armory knowing that a single one of these guys could tear you apart with ease. In other games an enemy of this caliber would be saved for boss battle but this was the most common fiend in the game making almost every combat sequence seem punchy and genuinely a case of survival.
Chris - Everything in Metal Slug simply oozes personality and that is quite literally the case with the alien enemies which make themselves known to being the true masterminds behind the “plot” of the third entry in the series. These guys have a squid-come-jellyfish appeal and partially replace the soldiers you’ve been mowing down in their droves for the final chapters. They even get their own flying saucers in true 1950’s fashion which you get to commandeer for the finale.
The reanimated corpses of fallen comrades or enemies which are reborn with a thirst for human flesh. Often but not exclusively the result of a virus or chemical experiment, these can sometimes be created by supernatural means. Usually numerous and overwhelming, these creatures can absorb a large amount of punishment before being neutralised. Typically in RPG terms they are weak against fire and in a more action setting they have a weakness by being attacked or shot in the head. Special classes of these creatures can exist with certain armaments or helmets making them even more difficult to finish off. They are capable of handling basic melee weapons and in exceptional circumstances chainsaws or similar. Once kitsch then becoming extremely popular, it’s hard to find a genre they haven’t penetrated.
Chris - Plants vs Zombies – The titular zombies present here come in all sorts. There’s your garden variety (yes I did) as well as (American) football, dancing, bucket head, Pogo, Yeti and even (Zom)Zamboni riding to mention a few. Apart from their differences they stay close to form however, slow, stumbling and en masse. A good rare example of a game taking advantage of a trend but still making a decent game out of it!
Mark - Few enemies in games make me feel as uneasy and uncomfortable as the Witch in Left 4 Dead games. The haunting crying, ringing out the moment you are close. Not knowing where she is or when she will attack. Everything about this character is a slow, creepy build up which just runs shivers down my spine.
From Dungeons and Dragons to Lord of the Rings, the Orc is a mainstay of most High Fantasy settings. Dating back almost as long as fantasy novels have been going it’s only natural that they followed into gaming lore. Ranging from bright green hulking beasts through to cunning grey skinned hunters there is as much variety in Orcs as the humans they are often faced off against. They make for an easily accessible and thoroughly challenging foe.
Mark - I have to go with the classic Warcraft series. This took up a huge amount of my time as a kid with the original Warcraft but more so with WarcraftII Tides of War. I was a big fan of Warhammer tabletop gaming and this was the closest I found to a virtual version. The look for me between Warcraft and Games Workshop is still the epitome of the Orc. Hulking, Green and Mean.
Chris - Legend of Zelda A Link to the Past - Ok, so technically a cheat but outside of Warcraft and LotR, which I both find to have too generic Orcs, I’m going for Moblins from Legend of Zelda. They are common enemies found throughout Hyrule in all of the Zelda entries. They generally keep to the wooded areas (such as the Lost Woods) and throw spears to attack. Not all Moblins are enemies, however. Friendly ones can hide in secret caves across Hyrule and give Link Rupees when spoken to, uttering the iconic phrase "It's a secret to everybody".
Robotic Enemies often feature heavily in games as a substitute for gory violence. Apparently piercing a sword into an android torso is acceptable where soldiers, ninjas and even Nazi’s are not. Naturally affiliated to games with a sci-fi edge, robots come in many shapes and sizes from the humanoid to industrial machines to dustbins. They often use electricity or lasers as weapons and are often weak to electric attacks when water would make much more sense. Guilt free slaying awaits.
Chris - Cyborg Justice – Every enemy in Cyborg Justice is a cyborg, as are you. As a result you’re permitted the use of buzzsaws and various attacks which will dismember your foes without fear of offending the BBFC. In fact the enemies here are actually made of the same parts as you which means upon defeating them you can switch arms and legs if you prefer the look they’re rocking.. Comrade fall in battle? Build a new player 2!
Mark - So Robots are cool. And T-Rex dinosaurs are cool. So bring in the ThunderJaw from Horizon Zero Dawn. Basically a MechaTRex, the ThunderJaw was the first machine animal in the game that filled me with a sense of awe. I could just about hear the theme from Jurassic park playing out in the back of my head. It’s also the first fight that was as brutal as it looked in the game.
What are your favourite things to grind or just wail on? We'd love to know in the comments.