Halloween is my favourite holiday. Its an awesome celebration of the spooky, the scary, and macabre. Its a time when we confront and co-exist with our sense of mortality, and we are truly brave. We even take on the mantles of fantastical creatures as part of this. And my favourite such creature? The werewolf.
It has so much to it – a reflection of man’s more bestial nature and the primalness within; duality; an expression of freedom, strength, and wisdom…the werewolf means a lot of different things to me, and to society in general (I wrote an essay a while back, if you’d like to learn more about them). And in terms of video games, they are capable of making very powerful heroes, or villains. And with the Werewolf: Apocalypse game on the horizon to boot, it seems as good a time as any to discuss that. So here’s my personal list of the Top 5 Werewolves of Gaming! And I had to limit it to 5, or I would probably list them all, ha ha.
Artwork used in header by @swiftinhell as a commission for me – check out their artwork, and consider commissioning them!
5. The Centurion
You simply can’t make a werewolf list and not acknowledge this guy. Almost as iconic as Universal’s Wolfman, the Centurion from Sega’s 1988 beat-em-up classic, Altered Beast, is someone almost every gamer will know (especially if they owned a Sega Mega Drive/Genesis). The nameless Centurion is a deceased Roman warrior from a long forgotten war, who is resurrected by the King of Olympus himself, Zeus. Zeus iconically tells the hero to ‘rise from his grave’, and informs him that he has been brought back in order to rescue the Goddess Athena, who has been captured by a Demon God named Neff, and taken to the city of Dis on the 6th through 9th layers of Hell. To this end, Zeus has granted the Centurion the ability to collect mystical orbs of power, which will increase his strength, right up until he transforms – into an incredibly powerful werewolf.
The premise of the title is a little odd when you think about it, sure – Why is Zeus resurrecting a Roman and not a Greek? Why is he making him a werewolf when the last time he did that was to punish? But if you look past all that, Altered Beast is a pretty fun title, and the Centurion is a pretty cool werewolf. In werewolf form, the Centurion is faster, and can fire a weak fireball; although he can also turn into a weredragon, werebear, and weretiger in later stages, his most powerful form is definitely the golden werewolf, who can move faster, attack with more strength, and shoot more powerful fireballs. The Centurion is certainly a werewolf that deserves to be remembered, even after all these years.
Speaking of older werewolves, Ralph from the Rampage franchise predates our Centurion friend – the original Rampage arcade machine came out in 1986. Ralph has had a great many appearances, almost more than anyone else on this list: Rampage, Rampage: World Tour, Rampage: Universal Tour, Rampage: Puzzle Quest, Rampage: Total Destruction, and a recent movie outing, too! Usually depicted as a 30-foot tall monster with blue fur and large fangs, it’s easy to forget that Ralph was indeed once a human – in the original incarnation, he was the victim of a questionable food additive, in World Tour onwards he was a scientist caught in an industrial accident with the others, and in Total Destruction he was mutated by some soda. He can only return to his human state upon defeat – I guess he’d technically be considered more of a mutant than werewolf, but being able to change back and forth makes him legit in my mind.
Ralph is usually focused a little more on strength and speed in the games he appears, but has lower health and poor jumping ability to balance him out to be a fairly rounded character. He’s pretty good at clearing cities quickly, though can face difficulty against certain obstacles (like the Mecha in Tokyo from World Tour). He also has the ability to let out a mighty howl in some titles, which completely clears what’s on screen. If widespread destruction is what you want from your werewolf, look no further than Ralph – just be careful to keep out of his way.
3. Jon Talbain
If Ralph is chaos, then Talbain is tranquility. Jon Talbain was born in England to a human mother and a lycanthropic father, although circumstance orphaned him early on. Unaware he was actually a Darkstalker – his universe’s collective term for supernatural creatures – until his teens, Jon struggled to accept and live with this new aspect of himself for many years, especially as it caused him to lose the life he had built for himself. Picking up martial arts as a way to discipline himself, Jon eventually became an accomplished fighter in his own right, utilising his skills to help those in need and fend off Darkstalker hunters as required. He eventually accepted his nature as a Darkstalker and found peace with it, opting to remain in his wolf form the majority of the time as a show of this acceptance. His humanity prevailed over the beast, and his heroic nature eventually led him to open an orphanage. He is still weary of humanity in general, though the catgirl Felicia has made it her personal mission to show the wolfman that there could indeed be co-existance between humans and supernatural beings someday.
You might not be able to tell from his youthful looks, but Jon is actually 54; it appears his genetics are a little…screwy (that’s the only reason I’ve got for the blue fur this time around). He stands at 6″1 in human form, and has a lean, muscular physique, which is often on display as he only wears the lower half of his purple gi when fighting. His martial arts style is a mix of Jeet Kune Do and personal maneuvers, utilising nunchuku, claw swipes, and bites. Through a mixture of his training and supernatural nature, Talbain is able to summon a pair of blazing wolves to attack his opponents. Several games have referenced the werewolf – Amaterasu had a homage to Jon as an alternative costume in Marvel vs Capcom 3, and in Ryu’s ending of Capcom Fighting Evolution both he and Talbain began to fight. Jon’s both an awesome guy, and an awesome fighter; what’s not to like?
2. Wolf Link
This pick might be a little controversial, especially because it’s higher up on the list than other, more established lycanthropes. But even though Link’s only delved into lycanthropy in Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, he is just as legitimate as any other therianthrope! The idea for the iconic Hylian hero to turn into a wolf in this title came to director Eiji Aonuma in a dream: “I randomly had this dream that I was a wolf shut up inside a jail cell,” Aonuma recounted, “While I was pondering why on Earth I’d been a wolf in my dream, I got the urge to try putting it in a game.” The game uses the influence of both the Twilight and the Triforce to explain this alteration, and as such (at least, initially) Wolf Link can only exist in realms of Twilight.
As a wolf, Link is unable to use items, but is still able to attack: He can lunge, pounce (in some instances, maul), and even use a spin attack with his tail, similar to what he can do with his sword. The Twilight Princess, Midna, who rides on Link’s back in this form, may also aid the wolf in creating an area of effect that will allow him to attack every creature inside it. Link also gains the skills of a regular wolf: His sight and smell is enhanced, allowing him to locate treasures and dig them up, and he is also able to talk to other animals and gather information from them. And on top of all that, he just looks so cool! His fur is a nice series of earthy tones, and he looks pretty tough, too. Wolf Link returning in Breath of the Wild via Amiibo functionality was a nice addition, and I wouldn’t be against seeing more of this incarnation of the Hero of Time in future!
Lycanthropy has existed in a fair few Elder Scroll titles, most notably Daggerfall (where it was featured alongside the ability to become a Wereboar) and the Morrowind expansion, Bloodmoon. Whilst portrayed typically as brutal monsters, aiming to eek out their own territories and lives at the expense of others, this is not universally so – infact, the famed mercenary group in Skyrim, The Companions, have their entire leadership filled with noble lycans. These people are heroes who seek to protect the land of Skyrim, and use their condition to aid them in this effort. The Dovahkiin may choose to accept lycanthropy by ascending ranks of this guild.
Werewolves in Skyrim typically have amber eyes, black fur, and muscular physiques which tower over other humanoids (though there are plenty of eye and fur mods out there). There is no sexual dimorphism present regardless of the creature’s gender; what need does a wolf have of breasts, after all? The werewolf is strong and fast, able to send enemies flying with a swipe of their claws, and pounce and maul others to death. They are able to feast on the flesh of humanoids to restore their health and prolong the period of their shapeshifting, and should they be lucky enough to have access to the Wolf Totems, they are able to call forth wolf spirits and enhance their own state with Detect Life and imbuing their howls with magical Fear effects. All werecreatures are under the domain of the daedric prince, Hircine – patron the the hunt. When a werewolf dies, its soul usually goes to Hircine’s plane, the Hunting Grounds, where it will spend its afterlife hunting and being hunted by others; an ongoing test of survival and supremacy.
You are the werewolf here, more than in any other video game. Creating your own werewolf character beats played a pre-defined one, always. As you are in full control over your actions as a werewolf, you can be whatever you want: The noble lycanthrope that harms no innocents and could fit into society if it were only more tolerant, right through to the stalking terror that destroys all in its wake? That freedom is one of the ultimate embodiments of lycanthropy in my mind, and as such, I couldn’t justify giving the first spot to anyone else.
- Yugo (Bloody Roar franchise; technically a species known as Zooanthropes as opposed to a Lycanthrope)
- Sabrewulf (Killer Instinct franchise)
- Dire (Fortnite)
- Selena (Blood of the Werewolf)
- Werewolf life state (Sims 3 – Supernatural expansion)
- Bigby (The Wolf Among Us – technically a Wolfwere, though)
- That ONE F@$king Werewolf (Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines)
- Swiftrunner (Dragon Age: Origins)
- Friedrich Von Glower (The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery)