Warning this Bestiarium has a lot of Spookiness so if this entry is too spooky for you then go ahead and leave.
Making an entry about skeletons should be easy. In fact, this is going to be a large entry, probably the largest one of the Bestiarium series. The reason for this is because Skeletons are so common, not only in video games but also in movies and TV shows. They are well known as the low class enemies that get their asses kicked most of the time.
I don’t know why, but out of the whole catalog of undead creatures, I think that skeletons are probably my least favorite. Especially if you have to compare them with vampires, zombies, mummies and even Frankenstein monsters. But you know what? This entry is about restoring the love for skeletons, so let’s begin with what is a skeleton in a video game.
Skeletons are undead monsters similar to zombies or ghosts, but what makes them special is the fact that they are neither vulnerable nor immune to physical weapons. Unlike zombies, where a bite will infect you with a disease that will turn you into flesh-eating mindless monster, and unlike ghosts, you can touch these bastards – and hit them in the face. The reason why I compare them is because, well, you need flesh to be a zombie, but you need your soul or spirit to move without any muscle. The skeleton would fit in the middle of these two. Another thing that makes them so special is the fact that there are several kinds of skeleton in video games, such as…
Classic skeletons are normally the low class enemies that you see in RPGs or horror themed games such as Sweet Home, Minecraft, Medievil, Dark Souls, Puyo Puyo, Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army, the whole franchise of Dragon Quest, The Legend of Zelda, and Castlevania, who basically owns this kind of enemy. There’s not much to say about these enemies aside from the fact that they die pretty quickly and their only attacks, besides hand to hand combat, is using their own bones as weapons.
Aside from the classic skeleton there’s also what I call skeleton warriors. These are a higher class of skeleton equipped with weapons such as swords, spears, bow and arrows, sometimes carrying armor or shield, and they may even be smart enough to ride vehicles or animals. One of the best examples of this kind of skeleton is Spinal from the Killer Instinct franchise, who uses his sword, shield and magical power to give us a nightmare of a fight. Other skeleton warriors includes Skullmageddon from Double Dragon Neon, the skeleton warriors from King of the Dragons and Golden Axe franchises, most fiend class demons from the Shin Megami franchise (such as the four Horsemen, Mother Harlot, Matador, David the Violinist, the Trumpeter of the Apocalypse, Daisoujou the Monk, and the Hell Biker) and not to mention several other RPGs.
Finally, the skull monsters that are basically any kind of creature with a skull for a face or body. Monsters like these appear in games like The Neverhood 2 (A.K.A Skull Monkeys), Cubone and Marowak from the pokemon franchise, despite the fact they are technically helmets (but it works for me), and the skull spiders from The Legend of Zelda, among many others.
Gashadokuro (Giant Skeleton)
This monster is a Yōkai (demon or spirit in Japanese) from the Japanese folklore, a ghost with the form of a skeleton fifteen times taller than an average person, said to be created from the amassed bones of people who died of starvation. These Yōkai roam after midnight, grabbing lone travelers, and biting off their heads to drink their spraying blood (Or as I like to call it: Tuesday). There is a telltale sign as the victim would hear the sound of loud ringing in their ear. According to the tales, they have the power of invincibility and indestructibility, which can be translated in video games as high defense stat. For me, a Gashadokuro is basically a big-ass Skeleton which appears in games like Dark Souls, Demons’s Crest, Goemon’s Great Adventure, Okamiden and most Atlus and Castlevania games, generally as minor bosses.
These creatures appear in several forms, the most common is of a skeleton holding a magical scepter and dressed an old robe. Liches are said to be the result of a transformation of a powerful wizard to obtain eternal life. Some myths indicate that a lich can seal his soul or part of it into any kind of magical object. This means that he would never die until his soul or all the pieces of it are destroyed. They are mostly connected with necromancy, a form of black magic based in the control and reanimation of dead bodies or the summoning of spirits (at least in video games). Liches are very common in fantasy games such as Dungeon and Dragons, Ogre Battle, and Final Fantasy. Lich Karthus in League of Legends, The Lich King in World of Warcraft, Gruntilda in Banjo-Tooie, The Skull in F-Zero, and if you think about it, Skeletor count as liches. Being a lich can explain what happened to Skeletor’s face and why he’s still alive. These monsters are not very common, but it would nice to see them as a main enemy especially considering that they are hard to kill. This can inspire a couple of sequels.
Human skeletons aren’t the only enemies you are going to find in video games. There are also animal skeletons such as turtles, apes, wolves, dinosaurs, monkeys, horses, spiders, dragons, and others. Believe or not, there’s a Yokai in the Japanese culture called Bake-Kujira, a skeleton ghost whale, (weird, I know) that is said to bring misfortune to the place where its spotted. Skeleton animals are very common in the Castlevania and Super Mario Bros franchises, but they also appear in games like Adventure Island 3, Joe and Mac, Mabinogi and others.
The Grim Reaper
This is it pals, this is the top Skeleton of the Bestiarium, the one and only personification of Death and the sexiest horsemen of the four: THE Grim Reaper.
Yes, death is real in video game as you see when you lose a life, a wizard sends you a death spell or you have to fight one on one with Death himself. Despite many interpretations, the most recurrent portrayal of the incarnation of death is the one of a skeleton wearing a hood and using a scythe as a weapon. This guy is one of the few skeletons that really give us a decent fight.
This is one of the most recurrent characters on the Castlevania series, usually the last boss before Dracula. Death works for Dracula because…reasons. Really, they were never very specific about why Death serves Dracula in the old Castlevania games, but I’m assuming that Dracula has some embarrassing pictures of him at the last Halloween party.
Aside from the Castlevania franchise, the Grim Reaper also appears in games like Ghostbusters for the Genesis, Little Samson, Twisted Metal, Dante’s Inferno, Brutal Legend, Megaman X4 (Sigma’s disguise counts), Wonder Boy in Monster World, Romancing SaGa, Kid Icarus, and the list goes on and on.
Personally, I’m not a fan of skeletons, but I’m sure they have a large fan base that would love to see them not only as generic enemies, but also as main characters or great bosses, like Lichs or Gahsadokuros. Video games like Dark Souls and Undertale did a great job with these kind of creatures, so let’s see if other companies would do the same in future games.
…so you better prepare your strength to send them back to the grave.