By request: Lovecraft in gaming

By request of magflare

About an hour into Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, you have the option to double back through the Marble Gallery, completing a loop back to the opening portions of the game rather than advancing to the next objective. There’s no value in this action, inherently, save for opening a path that previously had been barred. But it’s a tough walk, because along the way you encounter two boss-level enemies roaming freely through the corridors (the F.O.E. experience 10 years early — no wonder I love Etrian Odyssey): One Plate Lord, an armored giant who totally throws his body into his attempts to smash you with an iron ball, and this guy:


Who operates under the name Cthulhu. Much later in the game, you find a guy called Malachi, a massive demon with a squid for a head who fires blasts of all-consuming dark magic at you.

Someone in the localization department really screwed up.

But oh well. I guess it wouldn’t do for Symphony to be completely perfect. Where would gaming be able to go from there? Besides, games have plenty of other more proper representations of The Great Old One to choose from.

Sadly, my chronicle of Cthulhu’s all-time greatest gaming appearance has been lost to time due to’s slow decomposition, which means my in-depth exploration of his starring role in Scribblenauts Unlimited exists only in a fragmentary form, such as me waking The Great Old One from where he dreams at the bottom of the sea and immediately dying:


And later turning him into the leading man of an impromptu rock band:



Perhaps no developer (besides, you know, the folks behind Call of Cthulhu) has invested more of its energy into tapping into the Cthulhu mythos than Bungie. You know, the Halo guys. I mean, there’s even a bit of Lovecraft in Halo, between accidentally waking the Flood, and the unfathomably ancient menace of the Halo installations, and the inexplicable Gravemind — all kind of mining that particular vein. But nothing compared to their first major work, Pathways Into Darkness, which sees you descending into the earth beneath an ancient pyramid to detonate a nuclear bomb. See, there’s an ancient god slumbering beneath that pyramid, and it’s beginning to awaken, so you need to bomb it back to sleep. The further you descend into the depths, the more aggressively the sleeping god’s restless dreams distort the fabric of reality, causing all manner of abominations to become manifest. They don’t actually say Cthulhu at any point in the game, but the connection is obvious.

That slumbering god makes a cameo of sorts in Bungie’s Marathon trilogy — the entire third game consists of you leaping through time to prevent the sequence of events that lead to Marathon 2‘s conclusion from transpiring. Turns out the aliens you defeated there detonated a star out of spite, accidentally letting loose an ancient and unknowable deity who had been trapped inside its gravity well and, now freed, threatens to flay the fabric of reality itself and ultimately bring an end to the universe.

Speaking of flaying, I have always found the Final Fantasy series’ take on the Cthulhu concept fairly disappointing. Squid-headed mages called Mind Flayers can inflict confusion status, which is definitely on-point, but they’re still just scrub opponents. I guess we can blame Dungeons & Dragons, aka the Final Fantasy I sourcebook, for that.



There have existed a fair number of games through the years based more overtly on Lovecraft lore, from Darkseed to the aforementioned Call of Cthulhu. However, the one I desperately want to play is Shadow Over Innsmouth for Virtual Boy, of all damn things, a complete anomaly for the console. It’s a Japan-only release, a survival horror title with a branching storyline, a first-person style game, and a licensed work based on a television series. Inexplicably, I’d never heard of this game at all until a couple of months ago when I added it to the Game Boy World database and felt compelled to do some research on it. I can’t believe such an impossible, unlikely game like this ever existed.

The only problem with games that explore the Cthulhu mythos is that they can’t really give you the money shot of meeting the Great Old Ones and still be faithful to the original work. Because, you know, as soon as they make their appearance, you go mad and die hideously, not necessarily in that order. Maybe that’s the real root of the Cthulhu/Malachi mixup — Konami was just trying to keep our minds from being destroyed as we gaze into the unknowable horrors of the eldritch.

P.S., no, the Batman Arkham games don’t count.

5 thoughts on “By request: Lovecraft in gaming

  1. Well, he still went mad and died, but the guy in Call of Cthulhu managed to drive a boat into the big guy’s head and that made him just go back to bed. Cthulhu’s secret weakness: steamboats.

    I think the Cthulhu/Malachi mix-up was actually in the original SotN as well, but I’d have to get home and break out my Japanese copy to check. Further updates Wednesday evening, assuming no one beats me to it.

  2. Should hand it to the Konami localization team – they made their mistake & stuck with it. The squid-headed beastie continued to appear in the portable games under the Malachi name.

  3. I hadn’t heard of Pathways Into Darkness, and I grew up with a Mac! It seems it’s been ported to modern Mac OS X via the Mac App Store but no Windows port, which is understandable given what I understand of the porting process.

    It’s funny to think that since I grew up with a Mac, I had almost no unique games, but even though retro revivals and exist, I’ll never see them again even though there’s just a handful!

  4. Can’t forget about Eldritch! But I suppose that’s a bit obvious.

    FFXIV might be the only FF to get it right. The Mindflayer in Tam Tara (a low level dungeon) is still a pushover, but he is appropriately summoned by a group of cultists in a massive crypt. They re-made the dungeon for Hard Mode, which doesn’t have anything to do with Lovecraft, but it is about as creepy as an MMO can get.

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