Updated: Feb 11
Many games aim to create immersion by sucking you into their game world. Some games go one step further, by sucking you into something that lives inside said game world. The following are ten (rather squishy) games, or levels therein, that take place inside something’s body. Let’s dive in.
1) 1982: Fantastic Voyage - Atari 2600
The 1966 film Fantastic Voyage arguably invented the whole ‘story set inside someone’s / something’s body’ genre. It has since been parodied by the likes of The Simpsons, Futurama and Rick and Morty, and was likely the inspiration for the 1987 film Innerspace.
It is only fitting then that the earliest video game set inside someone’s body was also called Fantastic Voyage and was loosely based on the film. The relatively primitive graphics of the Atari 2600 meant it was difficult to tell you were controlling a miniaturised vessel inside someone’s body - it could just as easily have been a plane flying along the Grand Canyon. But from these humble beginnings far greater (and ‘ickier’) games would follow.
Fantastic Voyage ATARI 2600
Video by DePaula Games
2) 1984: Fantastic Voyage - ZX Spectrum 48K
1984 saw the release of the second game to go by the name Fantastic Voyage. Released by Quicksilver UK, it had more than a passing resemblance to their earlier game ‘Blood and Guts’. Fantastic Voyage arguably had better, more ‘organic’ graphics which helped to sell the illusion you were inside someone.
Blood ‘n’ Guts
Video by RZX Archive
Video by RZX Archive
3) 1998: G.U.T.Z - C64
1988 saw us go from being inside someone to being inside something, in this case, a giant space worm that wants to munch down the Earth like a KitKat. To defeat it, you will need to destroy its kidneys, heart, lungs and brain from the inside, whilst avoiding being killed by its giant immune system.
By this point, graphics were improving but had not quite reached a level where it was clear you were inside of something. Many of the levels of G.U.T.Z. resembled a planetary surface and caves more than they did something’s innards, but it was a step in the right direction.
“G.U.T.Z. Putting the ‘Macro’ into Macrophage since 1988”
Video by Al82 Retrogaming Longplays
4) 1988: Alien Storm - Arcade
The final levels of Alien Storm take place within an alien bio-ship and see our intrepid burger van workers/alien busters fighting through aliens to reach its brain. As you do…
Alien Storm was never designed to be taken seriously, so the bioship’s icky interiors were there for comic effect. This would not be the case for many of the ‘inside something’ games and levels that would follow.
Alien Storm Arcade
The bullets coming in from the upper left of the screen every now and then are from a spaceplane. Quite how it got inside an alien bioship is left to your imagination.
Video by arronmunroe
5) 1991: Fantastic Voyage - Amiga CDTV
The third (and final) entry on this list to go by the title Fantastic Voyage, this differs from the Atari and Spectrum incarnations in that it closely resembles the film, and there is no mistaking that its game world is set inside someone’s bod.
Fantastic Voyage 1991 Amiga CDTV
Video by hipoonios
6) 1993: Microcosm - CD32 / Sega CD
When Microcosm was released in 1993 gaming on CDs was ‘the next big thing’. Many of the early games were simple rehashes of the existing floppy disc (Amiga) and cartridge (Genesis / Mega Drive) titles with flashy intro sequences added.
Microcosm was different, in that it used the increased storage capacity of CDs in-game as well. The rather icky backgrounds were created using Silicon Graphics Workstations which were then inserted into the game.
Because the backgrounds were essentially pre-rendered videos, they were non-interactive and didn’t affect the simplistic Afterburner, Space Harrier etc. gameplay. Therefore, Microcosm looked superb (in a gross kind of way) but its gameplay left a lot to be desired.
Looks like my last endoscopy. Is that TMI?
Video by World of Longplays
7) 1995: Philosoma – PSOne
Philosoma was an unusual PSOne exclusive shoot ‘em up for several reasons. Firstly, its plot, voice acting and characterisation were not total garbage - almost unheard of in a shoot ‘em up.
Secondly, it changed perspective multiple times throughout the game. Some missions were horizontal scrolling, some were vertical, whilst some were ‘afterburner-esque’ and saw you flying both into and out of the screen.
It may not be immediately apparent why Philosoma has been included on this list. I don’t want to give anything away, but I recommend skipping to the 50:00 minutes mark of the video and watching it to the end and all will become clear.
Video by Virtual Gaming Library - VGL
8) 2003: Unreal 2: The Awakening – PC / Xbox
Unreal 2 was one of the earliest games to use the Unreal 2 engine. It looked fantastic for the time, but its gameplay left a little to be desired, partly due to many of the more ambitious and interesting enemies and gameplay features being removed during development, and partly due to your player character moving at the speed of a sedated sloth. One interesting level that did make the cut was the one shown in the video below.
Unreal II: The Awakening
So, is this thing the Sarlacc’s mum?
Video by hinsten
9) 2007: Castle Crashers
Castle Crashers armoury takes place inside an unfortunate giant frog monster, who’s innards appear to use Dr Who physics. Castle Crashers is available on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, Windows, macOS and Nintendo Switch
Castle Crashers Remastered
Clearly, this thing hasn’t got eyes bigger than its belly.
Video by Peril Knight
10) 2008: Gears of War 2 - Xbox 360
Let’s be honest, we all saw this one coming. If Unreal II: The Awakening showed how the Unreal 2 Engine handled fleshy insides, then Gears of War 2’s ‘Intestinal Fortitude’ showed how the much-improved Unreal Engine 3 handled it better.
Not only did it look fantastically gross, it played well too. The level design truly sold the notion you were traipsing around a giant worm’s insides. Level highlights included giant pulverising internal teeth, showers of digestive juices, outrunning the food it had just swallowed and fighting against its internal ecosystem.
Using the MK2 Lancers’ chainsaw blade to sever the worm’s aortas - and then almost drowning in its blood - was the perfect ending to both the level, and this list.
Gears of War 2: Intestinal Fortitude
I guess eating a city is one way to get enough roughage in your diet…
Video by GOWSeriesVideos
So that is my top ten levels and games that take place inside a living organism. What are your thoughts? Are you a fan of levels and games such as these?
Are there any other games, or levels within otherwise ‘normal’ games, that could be added to a ‘Part Two’ list? If so let us know in the comments section below. If sharing a level inside a game please let us know which one, ideally stating its name and / or number, but failing that, roughly whereabouts in the game it can be found.
EDIT - the community's suggestions can be seen in the next article.
Iain is a 40+ author and gamer from England, who started his gaming journey on the Atari 2600 36 years ago. His specialities include obscure cult classics, retro games, mods and fan remakes. He hates all sports games and is allergic to online multiplayer. Since he is British, his body is about 60% tea. He can be reached via Twitter at https://twitter.com/IainBaker17, and contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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