Last week, we got Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom from the powerful creative team of “They really liked Jurassic Park” and “We really like easy money.” But the whole point of Jurassic Park is that resurrecting old ideas is a guaranteed disaster. Forget resequencing sixty-five-million-year-old species: Jurassic Park III taught us even an eight-year-old movie was taking things too far.
But we still love dinosaurs. They’re counting on that, so we’re counting through every Jurassic Park game ever made to highlight the best, worst, or outright craziest examples of each species:
Platformer: Jurassic Park (Genesis)
1993 | Blue Sky Software
Officially licensed platform games are the perfect representation of Jurassic World: an unoriginal waste of an amazing idea stamped out for the money. The 1993 Genesis platformer was the worst waste of dinosaur technology since the velociraptor-hide smartphone case.
You could play as Dr Alan Grant or a raptor, which sounds amazing, but both just gently jogged through an environment where the worst hazard meant sometimes having to wait for an obstacle to cycle out of your way. I think they accidentally wrote a game about a regular amusement park.
There are rogue dinosaurs, but Alan has tranquilizer darts and grenades, which cause them to fall over as if they’d just gone to sleep. It’s less thrilling cross-species conflict than it is an extremely boring game of catch.
This was a game where you could be attacked by raptors capable of flying kicks, or be a velociraptor capable of flying kicks, and still managed to be boring. And every Jurassic platformer was exactly this bad. Because they were made by people who’d not only waste dinosaurs on a platformer, but didn’t know we already had the best dinosaur platformer.
Other titles: Jurassic Park (Genesis, Game Gear, Master System), Jurassic Park 2: The Chaos Continues (SNES, Game Boy), Jurassic Park III, The Lost World: Jurassic Park (PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Game Boy Color, Game Gear, Game.com), Jurassic Park III: Dino Defender (PC), Jurassic Park III: The DNA Factor (GBA)
Arcade: The Lost World: Jurassic Park (Arcade)
1997 | SEGA
Shooters are an excellent option for Jurassic Park conversions, because it’s something they didn’t do in the movies, but absolutely what any real person would do if they were in the movie. The script might make pretend idiots plink away at an armor-plated eating machine with a pistol, but in the real world Jurassic Park would be the first place where security guards really were armed with rocket launchers.
The game’s plot made some nonsense noises about using tranquilizers to calm the dinosaurs for later recovery, but it was easy to forget that as you blazed away at a T-Rex trying to eat an entire jeep with you inside it. It was the perfect arcade light gun game: fast moving, scene-changing, rewarding accurate shooting with bonus items and boss-encounters where a crack shot really was the difference between life and death. That never works in the movies because you know the hero will make it. When it’s you and your fifty cents at stake, you know no such thing, making it so much sweeter when you pull it off.
Other titles: Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park III
Shooter: Jurassic Park: Trespasser (PC)
1998 | DreamWorks Interactive
Trespasser was a perfect recreation of Jurassic Park: an attempt to create incredible entertainment which went disastrously wrong. If EA had been building an actual Jurassic Park, Trespasser would have been a half-finished frog wondering why its front legs were so short.
The game shifted from survival horror to action late in development. Meaning you’ve got a game specifically designed to be slow-paced, awkward, frustrating, and mostly silent, and then they said it was an action game. And saying “it’s an action game” was pretty much the only change they had time to implement. The game was so unfinished it didn’t even have a difficulty setting. It didn’t have an ammo counter. The game was so crippled that even the main character had a broken arm because the makers could only program one hand at a time. That’s not a joke! That really happened!
You had to pick up guns and wait for a voice sample to tell you if was is loaded, then try to aim it with no crosshairs and a jellied wrist. Your character could only carry two things and frequently dropped them. The controls were so bad they inspired Surgeon Simulator 2013 and Octodad, games specifically about ragdolling as a result of screwing up. The graphics clipped so badly that just before release, the dinosaurs were forbidden from even jumping at you. They’d just walk up to be shot at, and it was still a challenge. The game wouldn’t work right even on a game with dual Voodoo2 graphics cards, and back then dual graphics cards were enough power to take over small countries.
Other title: Jurassic Park (SNES, PC:DOS, Amiga, partial shooter levels)
Point and Click: Jurassic Park (Mega CD)
1993 | SEGA
The only lumbering technological abomination here was the Mega CD. Never mind merging the mythos of resurrected species with investigative gameplay. This couldn’t even get the basics of pointing and clicking right. The game had to be completed within a real-time 12 hour limit, which meant that instead of investigating each scene’s puzzles or soaking in the licensed atmosphere, the entire game was played in a vaguely panicked flail. Nothing spells fun like half a day of unclear time pressure.
The awesome storage capacity of the SEGA CD was used to render grainy footage of talking heads, like a 90s child trying to find unscrambled late night porn and stumbling on an educational channel. But the result was even more disappointing. You spent most of the game hauling your crudely pixelated self around by dragging your cursor to the edge of the screen. It was less a game than a simulation of a job unsticking printer paper jams.
A recent point-and-click by Telltale Games made an even worse mistake: concentrating on the human characters. Listen, it’s not Anthropecene Park. If we want to watch irrelevant humans talk about nonsense nobody cares about, we’ll hire you to make the Friends point-and-click game.
Make a game about the internal power-struggles of a stegosaurus society, and then we’ll talk. Even if we have to invent an entire dinosaur language to do it. It’s not like the franchise could get any more scientifically inaccurate.
Other title: Jurassic Park (Telltale Games)
Strategy: Jurassic Park: Chaos Island (PC)
1997 | DreamWorks Interactive
Far too many games turned Jurassic Park into a top-down “you’re still a silly pink monkey” maze. Chaos Island knew how to do it: you’re playing as humans, but only so that they can create and unleash dinosaurs. Which is the real plot of the movie. Unfortunately, it’s not the “Command & Conquer & Pikmin & Tyrannosaurs” game it should have been. But now that that awesome title has been written down, we’re trusting that it’s only a matter of time until someone makes it happen.
The game was a great idea, and well-received, but still limited by the ridiculous thought that we care more about Jeff Goldblum than giant dinosaurs. I’d feed Ian Malcom to a raptor in the first scene if it meant the camera would follow an actual dinosaur for the rest of the movie.
Other titles: Jurassic Park (NES, Game Boy, SNES, PC:DOS, Amiga), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (Genesis), Jurassic Park III: Island Attack (GBA)
Fighting Game: Warpath: Jurassic Park (PlayStation)
1999 | DreamWorks Interactive & Black Ops Entertainment
Warpath: Jurassic Park combined Jurassic Park with the game Primal Rage in the same way the movie combined Jurassic creatures with frog DNA: it led to a disaster. Except frog DNA is more fun to play with.
A 2D one-on-one fighting game is an even more unnatural environment for dinosaurs than an amusement park. It didn’t help that the enemy AI was a realistic simulation of a dinosaur’s intelligence, and could be defeated by doing the same couple of moves over and over again. Yes, a T-rex repeatedly lunging and biting should win any fight, but that’s the wrong place to go for realism in a fighting game.
The problem was that the developers didn’t go far enough with the dinosaur adaptation. The combination of special moves with giant reptiles was ridiculous: an Acrocanthasaurus doesn’t need a special button combination to remind it of how to get in and chew on something. It just needs a single button marked “be an Acrocanthasaurus.” If you’re going to have dinosaurs scheduling to meet each other at gas stations (yes, really) and agreeing to fight for exactly sixty seconds, go the whole hog and give them fireballs and headbands. Hell, arm them with cyborg limbs and levitation. Maybe then we’ll finally create something which can counter Ken’s fierce Shoryuken.
Gimmick: Jurassic Park III: Scan Command (PC)
2001 | Vivendi Universal
Jurassic Park III: Scan Command could only have been made to prove that Jurassic Park III wasn’t the most desperately commercial cash grab in the series.
You modified your dinosaurs with barcode DNA and issued instructions as they fought against enemies. It even had a potentially cool DNA block assembler where you fit Tetris-shaped jigsaw pieces together to build your dinosaur’s stats. Let’s be clear here: Scan Command could have invented “Jurassic Pokemon.”
Worse, the evil villain was only practicing his skills on dinosaurs, and used them to bring back the “Primos,” an ancient race of humans who worshipped the dinosaurs. Because we bought a Jurassic Park game to mess around with humans again. Listen, everyone involved in making games, the humans who want to praise the dinosaurs are us! Us right now! MAKE A GAME ABOUT THE DINOSAURS.
Other titles: Jurassic Park: Dinosaur Battles (PC), Jurassic Park III: Danger Zone (board game)
Theme Park: Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis (PC, Xbox, PS2)
2003 | Blue Tongue Entertainment
How did it take this long to make the game? It was eight years after the film before the first park-building game, and another two to get one on a system which wasn’t portable. You’d think the movie’s lesson was that actually trying to build a Jurassic Park was a bad idea. But that’s in a movie world where chaos and rampaging dinosaurs are a bad thing. In a game, it’s glorious.
The game lets you arrange and build your own park, and by far the best feature is the a goat-elevator. You can release goats into the dinosaur pens to feed them, and you do it through an overcomplicated piston-platform ascending from underground, exactly the way a megavillian would do it.
Like any good management game, it had a disaster mode, and who needs earthquakes when you have all these dinosaurs. They would break lose, and you’d have to save the civilians, even climbing into a helicopter to shoot the dinosaurs yourself.
Completing all the assigned missions unlocked Site B, a fence-free dinosaur park with no humans, stress, or disease. That’s the sweetest game ending I’ve ever seen. You don’t just win, you get to be the god of dinosaur heaven.
Other title: Jurassic Park III: Park Builder (GBA)