Ever since the term UFO slipped into the public lexicon back in the 1950s, people have searched the skies for anything that could fit the description, leading to plenty of hoaxes - or a few other-worldly encounters, depending on whether you want to believe.
In fact, our fascination with life, Jim, but not as we know it goes back much further than the American sci-fi of the mid-20th century. Mankind has long held an interest in what lies beyond the confines of our little blue planet. Are we alone in the universe, and if not, what is out there and what would happen if we crossed paths with alien beings from another world?
Being such a grand and intoxicating topic, video game developers have added otherworldly elements into their games since the '70s, with the most prolific title being Space Invaders, one of the most influential games in history and one that was created due to the boom in alien pop culture. When being developed in the 1970s, Space Invaders was originally going to be a title about planes, tanks and battleships, however, after seeing a magazine feature about Star Wars and reading the H.G. Wells novel, War of the Worlds, Tomohiro Nishikado thought a change in direction was needed. In the end, we ended up with an 8-bit fixed shooter where players defended Earth from slowly progressing invaders from space.
Space Invaders was nothing short of sensational and its success would start a long and fruitful relationship between the world of video games and science-fiction. More than that, however, the game inspired a near-endless supply of games to follow suit, and more than 40 years on we can look back at a multitude of excellent series and standalone titles based on our encounters with not-so-friendly aliens. Here are a bunch of our favourites...
Area 51 - Paying homage directly to the renowned US military facility that is said to house ET deep underground is a title called Area 51. This one is also about the Illuminati working together with aliens to wage war on both humanity and aliens alike. It's a conspiracy theorist's nightmare. You play as a mission specialist sent into the secret facility to find a team of trapped soldiers whilst also attempting to neutralise or detain an incredibly powerful alien mutant known as Theta. With the fate of the entire human race in your hands, you must find a way to destroy the facility before untold waves of havoc can be wrought throughout the planet.
Contra - Another classic that explored the theme of alien invasions was Konami's Contra. Set in the vast jungle island of Galuga, players take on the role of a soldier from the elite Contra team, whose job it is to travel deep into the island, battling through countless enemy forces, all with the goal of discovering and defeating the strange alien entity at its centre. The title managed to lay the path for several sequels, all the way up to the most recently released Contra: Rogue Corps, which launched last year.
Xcom: Enemy Unknown - X-COM (extra-terrestrial-combat) has been a staple in the turn-based strategy genre ever since UFO: Enemy Unknown first launched in 1994. By having players taking up the mantle of leading teams through levels, eliminating powerful alien enemies all whilst making crucial decisions for the survival of your team, it has generated countless sequels, reboots and even a few high-quality spin-offs. The newest entry in the series, Chimera Squad, even has the aliens working on your team.
Duke Nukem 3D - While the previous titles mentioned above are great examples of alien invasion games, to balance things out we need a little madness, and that's where Duke Nukem crashes in. Unlike the first entries in the series, Duke Nukem 3D sees the macho-man returning to Earth after a small detour to an alien world. On return he finds Los Angeles under siege by aliens, prompting Duke to dive headfirst into action fighting in strip clubs, movie theatres, sushi bars and even the renowned Area 51. Unfortunately, folks on Facebook, you'll have to settle for second place, Duke already stormed the facility a few years ago.
Saints Row IV - Anyone who's played Saints Row IV will know how outright silly the series is. With this being said, it's also one of the most memorable alien invasion titles the industry has to offer. Merging superpowers with alien enemies in a virtual world, it's essentially Independence Day crossed with The Matrix. In fact, to make it more fitting you actually play as the President of the United States, starting your defence against the alien invaders from the White House itself. It's genuinely ridiculous.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas - Ever since Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas launched, players have been reporting information suggesting aliens exist in its virtual world. The most common accounts of UFO sightings refer to two sections of the map, called Area 69 and Bone Country (although, no official reports have been confirmed, making the whole scenario another hoax). With this being said, the mission Black Project featured voice lines such as "all personal working on alien bodies evacuate immediately," adding further fuel to the flame that is the San Andreas hoax. Was it real? We're still not entirely sure.
Destroy All Humans! - To wrap up the truly wacky alien invasion games, we have none other than Destroy All Humans! This title is a little bit of a perspective change and puts you in the shoes of the alien invader. First launched in 2005, this parody-filled action-adventure experience buys into all of the most bizarre aspects of alien life, giving you the ability to use tractor beams to pick up cows, or even disintegrate people with lasers. Whilst it did well enough to spawn a sequel that was just as absurd as the original, the whole franchise will be rebooted when Destroy All Humans! invades our consoles again sometime in 2020.
Mass Effect 3 - Commander Shepard and his/her crew spent three games fighting to eradicate the Reaper threat, a danger not only to humanity but to the galaxy as we know it. Eventually, this alien menace would end up invading Earth itself, with Shepard and company the last line of defence. Sure, the ending of the third game proved somewhat divisive, but the trilogy is nothing short of a masterpiece and if you love aliens then look no further than this. In fact, BioWare's sci-fi saga lets you love aliens literally (if that's your thing, of course).
Half-Life - The iconic Valve-series followed physicist Gordon Freeman as he opens up a portal to another dimension by accident after trying to analyse an unknown material at the Black Mesa Research Facility. At which point, hostile aliens rush through it into the facility and Freeman is forced to defend himself as parasitic headcrabs take control of his colleagues and massive alien brutes roam the corridors. Half-Life and its sequels revolutionised the industry in more ways than one, but the threat faced felt real and the unique design of the aliens and the immersive narrative had the player fearing for their safety in a world where a science experiment gone wrong spawned an alien invasion.
Halo 2 - Being one of the best-known and highly regarded franchises in the shooter genre, Halo has one of the best alien invasions, in Halo 2. When the Covenant show up outside the planet's defensive perimeter, playing as the Master Chief (and the newly introduced Arbiter) you must work to eliminate the alien threat that is assaulting the city of New Mombassa in Kenya. Taking the Chief and his Elite compatriot across different locations, it was the series entry that elevated the Halo franchise into the science-fiction hall of fame, where it remains to this day. What's more, if you want to revel in the alien invasion portion of the series, Halo 3: ODST is great, too.
Crysis - With Crysis about to get a remaster, the series will return to the limelight once again. Things kinda spluttered out with the third game, but we have extremely fond memories of the first two, the first of which was the go-to game for people who wanted to show off just how powerful their gaming rig was back in the day, with Crytek's game engine able to produce astonishing results (if you had the hardware to make it happen, of course). The series is perhaps best known for the nano-suit you wear throughout, but the aliens you battle, the Ceph, were pretty memorable enemies and we can't wait to battle them once again.
Resistance - One alien-filled series that looks to have been put out to pasture is Insomniac's Resistance, with the third and final game in the trilogy (yeah, we're not counting the bland PS Vita spin-off, Burning Skies) landing on PlayStation 3 back in 2011. Resistance stars an alien civilization known as the Chimera. These aliens invaders muscle in and take over, transforming humans into supersoldiers and turning them back on the former comrades.
Prey - You can talk about two games with the name Prey, both the Human Head Studios title from 2006 and the more recent action-stealth game from Arkane Studios. We're going with the more recent Arkane adventure because it's one of the most sumptuous out of this world adventures we've ever had the pleasure of experiencing, and were it not for one or two aggravating design decisions we'd be talking about this one as a modern classic. Part of the reason why is the enemies that you face off in the game, the so-called Mimics. These shape-shifting enemies are a menace that'll have you second-guessing every single in-game object you lay your eyes on. Sinister stuff - at least you're not on Earth but rather floating in orbit onboard a space station or on the Moon.
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