Sharks. They’re the lords of the sea, and this month’s Maneater sees them turning the tables on humans as players get to be the shark. The mighty predator isn’t new to video games though, so here are five past releases where sharks ruled.
In 1975, Stephen Spielberg’s movie Jaws – or more particularly its sharky star ‘Bruce’ – terrified moviegoers worldwide, making mega box office bucks as it did so. Atari head honcho Nolan Bushnell wanted in on this action, and tried to licence the flick for what would have certainly been the first movie tie-in video game. Movie studio Universal were having none of it though, so Atari added ‘Shark’ to the title in tiny, tiny letters, created a new company – Horror Games – in case of legal action and lo, Shark Jaws hit some 2,000 arcades. The game? A rudimentary affair wherein a diver went about collecting small fish while a rather large shark tried to eat him.
Japanese game developer Atlus decided to get in on the shark action, going the official route by obtaining an official license… although their Jaws game was hardly based on the most auspicious in the movie series, as it went the Jaws: The Revenge route. Other than featuring Michael Caine, the 1987 movie, the fourth and final in the franchise, didn’t offer much. But its plot involved the sharky star of the show following the Brody family from Amity Island to the Bahamas, which could lend itself well to a game. The operative word there was “could”, as Jaws was just a fairly run-of-the-mill affair, with one stage even reminiscent of Shark Jaws by Atar – erm, Horror Games.
Bruce is back. So, what could all of those polygons of newer machines add to the Jaws at home experience? For starters, it was “inspired” more by the original movie, but the key selling feature was in how it flipped the script, making the player be the shark. Through an open world adventure, the player would swim about causing all manner of destruction, while chowing down on fish and any human unfortunate enough to cross its path. The story? Some 30 years after the events of Jaws, Amity Island is a thriving hub in which a big corporation bloke’s son gets munched by a shark. His dad hires a killer, whom the player must avoid while also evading capture by a familiar name, one Michael Brody.
While other shark games had tended to be a bit more on the cartoonish side – admittedly often due to graphical limitations – Depth brought a whole new level of reality. It started life as an Unreal Tournament 3 mod, before evolving into a deep online multiplayer first-person shooter in which the player can participate either as a diver or a shark. The former hunts treasure and weapon upgrades, the latter hunts divers and “evolutions” to power up the predatory.
Hungry Shark World
(2016, Android/iOS/PS4/Xbox One/Switch/PC)
This game, which at one point seemed to have everybody with a mobile in its thrall, continued the “be the shark” gameplay style, and was so successful that it hopped from phones to consoles. It wasn’t the first release in the Hungry Shark series though, as the original iteration was released in 2012. The formula was there all along, where you start out as a tiddler shark, roaming the ocean – and beyond – for marine life to consume in order to upgrade to the point where you were gonna need a bigger bod. The larger you got the more you could gobble up – and the more attention from various hunting types you’d attract.
Fangs for the memories
They may not be games about sharks specifically, but here are some memorable cameos.
• Banjo Kazooie – Snacker
• Batman: Arkham City – Tiny
• Ecco the Dolphin – just plain old sharks
• Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon – Cyber-shark
• Resident Evil – Neptune