While the concept of a “Furry Fandom” may be a recent cultural development, the idea of having animal characters star or feature prominently in different mediums, such as videos games, certainly is not. Many folks have no doubt heard of popular animal-themed games such as the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, the Donkey Kong games, Banjo and Kazooie, Crash Bandicoot, and so on; but what about other games that aren’t too well-known but would still potentially be of interest to gamers and furries? Well, today we’re going to be taking a look at five really awesome furry games that folks might not know about. Now the rules for this are simple: These are games that I feel might not be super well-known like the aforementioned games, though they no doubt might have their own cult following, and something that would be of interest to furries must be a prominent aspect of the game in some way; so for instance, the Mimigas of Cave Story or the animal masks from Hotline Miami. The other major rule is that I have to have actually played them myself at some point. I should also note that these aren’t in any particular order as well.
1. Metamorphic Force – Arcade, Konami, 1993
Metamorphic Force follows the adventures of the souls of four “Guardian Spirits” who have been revived as “warriors of the present day” in the year 199X to combat an evil king and his evil kingdom who also, somehow, revived. BUT!! The guardian spirits allow our warriors to morph into powerful beast forms, allowing them to transform and power up into their respective were-forms. So, it’s kinda like Altered Beast minus being stuck to one plane and the Greek theme. It’s your typical beat ‘em up fare, so you move around from area to area beating up whatever bad guy is unfortunate enough to be at the end of your fists, you can move in eight directions and have a jump and attack button, and when both are pressed your character does a sweeping desperation attack that takes away some health if it connects. Though curiously the American and Japanese releases treat health and Beast Mode differently; in the US version your health and beast gauge countdown ala Gauntlet, with the game even giving you prompts when either runs low; conversely in the JP version this doesn’t happen (You also have a proper gauge instead of numbers) and you only lose health and beast energy when hitting with a desperation attack or getting hurt.
The animal aspects don’t stop with the humans, though; plenty of baddies are also anthros as well, such as lizardmen, birdmen, and even hedgehogs. I’m glad someone other than Sega realizes they exist!
This game, as you can see, is just pure 90’s arcade awesome. With a neat comic-book-esque art style reminiscent of Konami’s earlier X-Men arcade game, and a pumping soundtrack that’s not only speedy heavy metal but also hits some nice epic orchestral tunes. This, along with Violent Storm, is what all end-of-genre swan songs should be like. Unfortunately, for some darn reason, this game never got a re-release on any platform – not even on an Arcade compilation disc! So the only way to adventure here is either to look into emulation, or find it out in the wild.
2. Ecco the Dolphin/Ecco: The Tides of Time – Novotrade International, Sega Genesis, 1992/1994
Ah, the Ecco the Dolphin series; this is a series I have a serious love-hate relationship with. On one fin, it’s got nice, atmospheric music and features dolphins, one of my favorite animals; on the other, it’s a frustrating maze of a game with challenging puzzles and an ever-approaching sense of dead and claustrophobia as you traverse ever-darkening waters. I only ever played the Genesis games though, so I’ll focus on those.
Both games feature the titular Ecco in his quest to rid the oceans of the Vortex, a race of aliens who attempted to use Ecco’s family (and surrounding area) for food in the first game, and managed to survive Ecco’s assassination attempt to return to cause temporal problems in the second. Both games let you swim about freely, and features both a life and air meter, which must be refilled via air bubbles or surfacing or else Ecco will drown. Ecco can also send out sonar waves, which can be used to talk to other sea critters as well as interact with various objects; holding down the sonar button will cause your sonar to return to you, allowing you to get a limited radar view. Be careful with this one though – the Ecco games are notoriously difficult, but despite that, I feel like the developers should be given praise for what they tried to do; well, except one developer who went above and beyond to make it too hard so kids wouldn’t complete it over the weekend. I think he did his job a little too well. Still, you don’t get many of these kinds of games, and again, the graphics and music are really swell.
If you wish to accept the challenge and swim the waters with Ecco it’s rather easy; both games are fairly common to find on the Genesis, and both have even received ports on Steam’s Sega Mega Drive & Genesis Classic collection – though if you know how you can pluck the files from the collection and convert it into a format that can be read by your favorite emulator.
3. Alien Soldier – Treasure, Sega Genesis, 1995
What’s the best way to describe Alien Soldier? The hyperactive younger brother of Cup Head. No, seriously. This game, this is what high octane 16-bit action looks like. Players are put in the role of Epsilon-Eagle, who…well it’s a very convoluted backstory, but basically, Epsilon used to be the top phoenix of a criminal organization named Scarlet and got into a fight with Earth’s forces that was so epic it tore open a hole in space-time and split his soul into a good and evil form. The good form attached itself to a young boy and now they’re blasting through on a rampage of revenge against Xi-Tiger who is now trying to overtake Scarlet or something like that. All you need to know is, basically, Epsy is a good guy now.
What makes this game so crazy? Well, first of all it only has two difficulty levels: SUPER EASY and SUPER HARD. Secondly, it’s just..it’s insane action. Even on “SUPER EASY” the game is extremely difficult and will eat alive any unsuspecting gamer even on Stage 1. But stick around, master the controls, learn the powers and the enemies and you’ll be treated to a classic 16 bit game unlike any other. In the beginning, players are able to customize their HUD (which includes even hiding the numbers, if you’re that much of a showoff), and you can select up to four different weapons, all which you can switch between on the field. You can increase ammo for these weapons with powerups, or use those same pickups to swap out weapons. The game takes inspiration from Treasure’s earlier Gunstar Heroes in that Epsy can have either a moving or stationary firing mode, and you can switch between them both in-game; stationary leaves you standing still and open to attack, and while you can move around with the other mode, you burn up more ammo.
The game also has a ton of boss battles, all announced with “READY? FIGHT!” In fact, before Cup Head came along, it was the current world record holder for most boss fights with a thumb breaking thirty one boss fights across 25 stages. However unlike Cuphead, there’s no easy going Disney-esque music as you wander around awesome 1940’s style cartoon worlds; instead, you’re just thrown into more fighting with some weaker enemies. This game’s also the only game I’ve seen so far where a planet is destroyed and then revived later. Probably due to more of that space-time mumbo jumbo in the game’s backstory – which as you can see will actually be fully explained in the opening demo.
If you want to play this game, be prepared to shell out a ton of cash – I hear the cart commands high prices on eBay. Fortunately, it’s also available on the aforementioned Mega Drive & Genesis collection, though for this one I’d recommend doing the trick to turn it into a file emulators can read so you can play the Japanese version; see, the version you get on MD&GC is the PAL version, which runs at a slower frame rate than the Japanese version, which blazes by at 60 smooth frames a second. And once you experience that, you’ll never go back to the PAL Version. Rise to the challenge of this one – I dare ya!
4. Bloody Roar 2 – Eighting & Raizing, Arcade/PS1, 1999
It seems the Japanese love their metamorphing humans, because the Bloody Roar series also features humans who have the power to take on beast forms – known as zoanthropes in the game’s setting. There’s actually a neat and complex backstory as far as fighting games go that can be explored with every character through a story mode. Ha, take that Mortal Kombat 9!
As far as fighting games go, it’s pretty nice. The controls are neat, and tight, and if you’ve played any fighting game before I think you’ll be able to adapt easily to this one – it’s also nice that the PS1 version comes with a booklet that outlines all the characters’ moves. Some characters, like Long, are even combo-intensive and not only have their moves laid out, but they’re arranged into a neat diagram so you can know where you can go next in your combo. Each character also has their own fighting style too, such as Yugo’s boxer style, Long’s martial arts, or Bakuyyu who uses ninjutsu. Characters can morph into a Beast Mode and not only power up, but regenerate a limited amount of health and gain new moves as well – even the grapple attacks change! Each character also has a super awesome Beast Drive special move that can be activated with the push of a button on the PS1 port. The beasts are varied too – we not only get a wolf and tiger, but also a mole, chameleon, a rabbit – heck there’s even a “half beast”, as Uriko can’t get her powers to work right and can only partially morph.
I also like how the PS1 port has two different soundtracks, as you can roll with the original arcade tracks, or go with some generic rock and roll music that, honestly, isn’t that bad. There are a couple other neat features like “Custom Mode” where you can screw around with various aspects of a fight like adding after images, hidden characters, and you can even break down the barriers around an arena and knock the opponent out of them if you KO them with enough force. Also as expected, the US version uses English voices, while the Japanese version uses Japanese voices; however I actually recently found out the Japanese version also uses a different announcer despite the JP version’s announcer speaking English.
If you’re wanting to mash up some beasts you’ll have to locate the PS1 disc, which shouldn’t be too hard to find as I don’t recall this game ever being billed as rare. For the arcade version it’s the same story as Metamorphic Force: either go with MAME or find it in the wild somewhere.
5. Hotline Miami/Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number – PC, 2012/2015
Just a quick warning about this one – if you don’t like extreme violence, this is one that you probably don’t want to check out.
The Hotline Miami series is most likely one of the more well-known games on this list, as it did get a decent amount of attention when it released, and from what I’ve heard the furry community picked up on it somewhat too, due to the first game’s protagonist, Jacket, using various animal masks.
Hotline Miami sees players taking on the role of an unnamed protagonist, named Jacket by fans, who gets mysterious phone calls that instruct him to carry out massacres against Russian mobsters in an alternate version of 1980’s Miami where Russia was gaining power over America. Each level sees Jacket entering a building, and through the use of various found weapons ranging from guns to even poll cues, clearing out each floor in bloody glorious fashion, and no man is left alive. In fact, the game’s scoring system encourages players to be as quick and brutal as possible, awarding combos and bonus points for entering rooms and slaughtering enemies in quick succession. Through the use of surreal storytelling, players slowly find out what’s going on, and are eventually brought to confront the leader of Miami’s Russian mobs. A side story involving a motorcycle wielding character named Biker is then unlocked which sheds light on just what the heck is happening. Hotline Miami also features lots of animal masks that players can unlock which give various abilities such as thrown items killing opponents, being able to move quicker, and silenced gunshots. Players can also execute any enemy unfortunate enough to get knocked to the floor, and these exhibit more of the brutal retro style gore the series is known for.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number picks up shortly after Hotline Miami, and takes on a more story-based approach, showing various characters dealing with their own conflicts and issues surrounding the fallout of Jacket’s actions in the first game. Players will take the role of various characters ranging from a group of Jacket-inspired masked vigilantes, a police detective investigating various crimes, and even a pacifist author that will actually unload picked up firearms and only injures his enemies…but he can turn into a violent killer if the player pushes him over the edge. HM2 also takes on a different tone as well – HM seemed more like a euphoric noir fever dream, whereas HM2 is more grounded, and somber, with plenty of characters both player and NPC meeting cruel unfortunate deaths, and an ending that…well not to spoil it, but it ends the series in a bang. It’s definitely a difference that’s clear as night and day to anyone that experienced Hotline Miami. It’s still available on Steam and has even expanded to other platforms such as the PS4, giving more gamers the opportunities to explore their inner animal, and the consequences of doing such.
So that’s it for this short list of furry games that you might not know about – hopefully you discovered something new to look into or maybe even try out. Are there any furry games you like that might not be too well known that wasn’t on this list? Have you played any of the games that were on this list? Sound off in the comments below. Thanks for reading, and as always, I’ll see you all next time.