Primal Rage

STORY:  Before there were humans, gods walked the earth. They embodied the essence of Hunger, Survival, Life, Death, Insanity, Decay, Good, and Evil. They fought countless battles up through the Mesozoic Wars. Then Balsafas, an arch mage from a parallel dimension, anticipated the threat that Earth's gods posed. He was not powerful enough to kill the gods, so instead he banished one to a rocky tomb within the moon. This disrupted the fragile balance between the gods; pandemonium ensued, and a great explosion threw clouds of volcanic dust into the atmosphere. The dinosaurs died out, and the surviving gods went into suspended animation. Now, the impact of a huge meteor strikes the Earth. Its destructive force wipes out civilization, rearranges the continents, and frees the imprisoned gods.


Primal Rage character selection screen.

Releasing in arcades in 1994, Primal Rage is a unique 2D fighting game created using 3D clay models and stop motion animation, all animated by hand. The game's playable characters are giant prehistoric creatures known as "gods" to the humans. While the "gods" are fighting, human tribesmen wander nearby and worship their gods during battle... the giant beasts can toss the humans around or even feast on them to regain strength. In addition, eating your opponent's humans will add to your score, while eating your own will penalize the player. Pretty twisted... yeah? In any case, Primal Rage was definitely a "head-turning" arcade fighting game in 1994, followed by fairly decent console ports.


Jurassic Park meets Mortal Kombat.


Primal Rage
plays similarly to other 2D fighting games of the mid 90's, especially
Mortal Kombat. The game has a noticeably "slower" pace than some, but features fundamental mechanics and a combo system that's easy to understand. Like Mortal Kombat, each fighter has their staple priority attacks, throws and special moves, in addition to a unique fatality AKA "Domination" move.

Unlike most fighting games, where special moves are performed by moving the joystick - followed by pressing one or more buttons, Primal Rage's control scheme requires the player to hold down attack buttons, then perform the joystick movements. Later revisions of the arcade version enabled the ability to perform special moves the more traditional 2D fighting game way, with motion followed by button presses... but kept the original method in place as well.


Apparently not the giant ape.


Also a technique borrowed from
Mortal Kombat, the game's animation was stop-motion captured by hand (using a similar technique to how Midway animated Goro in MK1). The result is a very unique animation style, making Primal Rage look unlike any other fighting game. The overall graphics of Primal Rage were definitely eye-catching for a 1994 arcade game, but unfortunately most home ports didn't live up to the original arcade version, visually. In the 16-bit console ports, the character sprites were a much lower resolution and lacked the most impressive details from the arcade version. However, the 32-bit faired much better in visuals / animation. The home versions also featured exclusive bonus games like human volleyball and "human bowling". Gotta give the devs some credit for their twisted sense of humor...

Primal Rage
achieved a fair amount of success at arcades and retained its popularity when it was ported to a variety of home consoles. A sequel was actually planned (Primal Rage 2), but Atari games abandoned the project in fear that the game wouldn't make a profit. A few test cabinets of Primal Rage 2 were actually created, and rare footage of the prototype game can be found on YouTube. The canceled sequel featured giant "human" gods who could turn into various beasts during gameplay.

FUN FACTS Similarly to the Mortal Kombat series, Primal Rage sparked some mainstream controversy at the time due to its level of violence and gore. Even though Primal Rage featured blood, Fatalities, and vore, the game was originally rated "T" for Teen by the ESRB. Eventually, the game was withdrawn by the developers, then re-programmed and re-released numerous times. The later versions of Primal Rage featured a toggle switch for "Gore" or "No Gore" disabling all blood and Fatalities.

In 1996, a grassroots campaign led by Ellie Rovella was launched in protest of the Genesis version's "golden shower" fatality. This campaign resulted in Best Buy pulling the game from over 250 stores across the United States of America. After Atari Games re-released an updated version, Best Buy put the game back on the shelves... except for the Genesis version, which they stated they would only sell if it received an "M for Mature" rating. However, most home versions of the game contain all the same fatalities and gore as the Genesis version.



Page Updated: February 27th, 2023
Developer(s): Atari Games
Probe Software
Publisher(s): Atari Games
Time Warner Int.
Designer(s): Jason Leong                  Animator / Sketches
Dan Plat                           3D Models
Ken Humphries            Producer
Platform(s): Arcade, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Sega Genesis, Game Gear, 32X, 3DO, Super Nintendo, Game Boy, Jaguar CD, MS-DOS
Release Date(s): August 1994                      Arcade
Aug. 25th, 1995
               SNES, Genesis, GG, GB, MS-DOS
November 1995              SNES, Genesis, GG, GB, MS-DOS
December 1995              Atari Jaguar CD
                                    /   PS1, Saturn, 32X
1996                                      PS1, 32X
1998                                      Saturn
Characters Armadon, Blizzard, Chaos, Diablo, Sauron, Talon, Vertigo

Featured Video:

Related Games: Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat 2, Mortal Kombat 3, MK3 Ultimate, Killer Instinct, Killer Instinct 2, Killer Instinct Gold, Samurai Shodown 2, Street Fighter: The Movie, Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, Samurai Shodown 3, Samurai Shodown 4,Tekken, World Heroes 2 Jet, X-Men: Children of the Atom, Darkstalkers, Golden Axe: The Duel, Mace: The Dark Age, WeaponLord

Gameplay Engine  6.5 / 10
Story / Theme  8.5 / 10
Overall Graphics  7.5 / 10
Animation  8.0 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  7.0 / 10
Innovation  9.0 / 10
Art Direction  7.0 / 10
Customization  4.0 / 10
Options / Extras  6.5 / 10
Intro / Presentation  6.5 / 10
Replayability / Fun  6.5 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  6.0 / 10
Characters  6.5 / 10

 6.8 / 10

 Review based on Arcade version     


Final Words: Primal Rage was pretty metal. Who would'a thunk the company behind a wholesome, family-friendly game like Asteroids would put out such a violent, borderline-disturbing fighting game? As a lover of many 2D fighters in the 90's, "Dinosaurs VS Giant Apes: The Game + Eating Humans" never really peaked my interest... even as young teenager. lol. But for some reason, I still (quietly) slipped quite a few tokens into that Primal Rage arcade cabinet back in the day (notably at smaller arcades that didn't have better fighting games or because the stick / buttons were broken on those).

In fairness, Primal Rage was a pretty unique fighting game... and no doubt a "technical feat" at the time. While Primal Rage was visually and conceptually unique, the simplistic gameplay and overall gimmick seemed to have a lower ceiling than most other successful fighting games of the mid 90's (and those releasing short after). Simply put, I remember feeling Primal Rage just wasn't as "fun" or replayable as other comparable fighting games at the time.

It seemed like the game's principle goal was to "turn heads" at the arcades and stand out as something completely different; (rather than be a fighting game dedicated players would enjoy playing for years, competitively). Still, Primal Rage succeeded in what it set out to be. It was an interesting change of pace to the typical mid-90's 2D fighting game, but the long term lasting appeal just wasn't there.

The fact that the sequel, Primal Rage 2, never released also killed whatever potential this game had. It also didn't help that there were only 7 playable characters (which included 2 sprite clones). Other than that, I had some good times playing and watching Primal Rage at arcades.
~TFG Webmaster | @Fighters_Gen
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