Video games Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos
H.P. Lovecraft is considered the master horror writer of the 20th century. Naturally, a few horror video game creators have used his work as inspiration. A few of the more prominent Cthulhu Mythos or Lovecraft inspired games have been listed here.
Cthulhu Inspired Games
H.P. Lovecraft influenced most of modern horror. Lovecraft did not consider himself a success during his own life time, but many writers, programmers and movies have used the themes introduced in his work. Lovecraftian references now appear in movies, television shows, and even video games.
Before Lovecraft's tales appeared in Weird Tales and other pulp magazines, horror writers used creatures that took a deep interest in humanity. The entities of the Cthulhu mythos seldom considered humanity as little more insects to be crushed. There have been many games that use Cthulhu mythos inspired creatures. Fantasy and horror computer games frequently feature tentacled monsters or aquatic races that resemble the Deep Ones that first appeared in The Shadow Over Innsmouth.
Perhaps the most unusual Lovecraft inspired game is a first person shooter, Quake. Quake featured futuristic space marines going after Demons, and the last boss in the first game was Shub-Niggarath.
The First Lovecraftian Video Game
The first Lovecraftian computer game was not graphical. It was a text-based adventure game, The Lurking Horror. Infocom released this game shortly after they released the more popular Zork series. Text based games involved players typing in commands to direct the flow. Text based adventure games were forerunners to Multi-User Dimensions, which in turn became MMORPGs.
Alone in the Dark and Phantasmagoria
Alone in the Dark claimed to be the first graphical adventure game based on the Cthulhu mythos. The number of shareware adventure games that appeared during the same period make this claim difficult to verify, but it was the first commercial game to do so. The game was followed up by The Trail of the Comet. No actual mythos creatures appear in Alone in the Dark.
Phantasmagoria appeared in the 1995. Phantasmagoria featured a more traditional haunted house, but the game's story relied on psychological horror and mirrored the mood of horror in Lovecraft's stories. It also started the trend of using live actor as models for video game characters.
X-Com 2: Terror from the Deep
UFO games are ideal places to encounter many of Lovecraft's extra-terrestrial menaces. Microprose decided to place a Cthuhlu like entity as the villain of X-Com 2: Terror from the Deep. The Great Dreamer's UFO crashed into the planet some 65 million years ago and The Great Dreamer has been trapped on this world since. Terror from the Deep can be described as The X-Files Meets Cthulhu.
Although names cannot be copyrighted, the designers feared that the use of the names Cthuhhu and R'yleh might raise copyright issues. The names were changed for the game except for the use of Deep Ones as brief enemies.
The Mad Arab's Al-Aharzed's Most Famous Work - The Necronomicon
Even people who have no literary experience have heard of this infamous spell book. They may think the book itself to be little more than a fictional creation designed to fit the needs of horror writers. This is not far from the truth. The Necronomicon was created by H.P. Lovecraft for that reason. Many people who have seen the Evil Dead series may not know the true origins of the book's name.
The Necronomicon appeared as a pinball game, although the pinball game did not capture the feeling of cosmic dread Lovecraft was noted for. The work of the mad Arab Al-Aharazad served as the title for another game. Necronomicon: Gateway to Beyond is a clear nod to Lovecraft's fiction. It even takes place in a sleepy New England town. The protagonist must try to stop the cultists from completing the summoning ritual.
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth
Many of the Lovecraftian games focus solely on the horror elements, with one noted exception. Seldom do they focus on the investigative part that occurs in many of the original mythos tales. The protagonist of this game used to work on the Boston police force, but a raid that took place a few years before the start of Dark Corners of the Earth caused him to develop a split personality.
The protagonist of Dark Corners of the Earth winds up in Innsmouth, several years later. A simple missing person case turns into much more when he accidentally discovers the Esoteric Order of Dagon. His investigation then shifts into a prison break and a dangerous escape from the town. The coming government raid drags him back to face the Eldritch terrors in town. The game's most interesting feature is how it handles loss of sanity and injuries. Sanity loss causes the player's vision to blur and suffer from auditory hallucinations as he gets closer to suicide. Injuries could cripple individual limbs or give concussions and they could only be healed with the appropriate items. A morphine system also existed for temporary boosts with long run costs to sanity through the withdrawal.
The game starts out strongly, but becomes weaker as it progresses and involves Yithians, Polyps, and Dagon himself. Had it stuck to imitating one mythos tale rather than trying to give nods to all the short stories Lovecraft wrote, Dark Corners of the Earth would have had a much stronger storyline.
Sherlock Holmes: the Awakened
Sherlock Holmes never confronted supernatural creatures in any of Arthur Conan Doyle's works. Holmes represents rational thought and logic. The Cthulhu mythos represents humanity's irrational fear of the unknown. Modern readers do not know what Doyle would have thought about video games, although Lovecraft disapproved of games on general principles. Nevertheless, Frogwares Entertainment's second Sherlock Holmes offering, The Awakened, had Holmes track down a Cthulhu cult. Neither Holmes nor Watson loose their sanity during the adventure, although they do make a trip to an insane asylum to uncover the world reaching activities of the cult.
Source: Author's Own Experience
Box covers taken from Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, X-Com: Terror from the Deep and Alone in the Dark