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Looking back at the Alien franchise across movies and games

Before Aliens: Dark Descent enters our atmosphere, let's take a look back across the Alien franchise

They are the toughest hombres in the galaxy. Go in, get the job done, and get out. They have been the foundational back bone of the words “ Space Marine.” Every character that has ever gone to space to fight has been modeled after them. The are the Colonial Marines. The Colonial Marines are known for their macho bravado and cutting edge weapons, but over the years, something has gone missing from the established formula: Fear. The horrors of outer space.

The sensation of terror has been sorely missing from the Aliens franchise for quite some time. Action and shooting has replaced any semblance of tension or vulnerability. Tindalos Interactive hopes to change that. Ten years after the disastrous Aliens: Colonial Marines, the team at Tindalos are bringing the Colonial Marines back in a new Real-time Strategy game. This time, fear is being put at the forefront.

Turning the Page

Aliens: Dark Descent represents a new chapter in the long running Alien franchise. Returning to its roots with action and horror, Aliens: Dark Descent is a real-time strategy game with an entirely new story to tell. There is a lot of ambition to the game as this marks another return for the Colonial Marines following the disaster that was 2013’s Aliens Colonial Marines. To understand the significance of this new game, one must study the past.

1986 changed everything we would know about soldiers and fighting in space as a young James Cameron introduced the concept of the Space Marine in his signature movie, Aliens. Unlike the storm troopers of Star Wars, these seasoned and grizzled grunts sport heavy firepower as they traverse planets across The Frontier. These roughnecks of the future were portrayed with all the cadre that one would expect form a seasoned military unit. There was an added element to it, however, and that was horror.

Bugs that bleed acid

In the movie, the marines were not facing a synth uprising or colonial terrorism but a vicious enemy that holds no feelings. It’s a bio weapon without remorse, conscious, or delusions of morality. It mutates and changes, striking without mercy. Most horrifying of all, it uses its prey to grow and expand the Hive. This enemy, the Xenomorph, was an intelligent enemy beyond comprehension, and on a cold moon at the edges of space, there were hundreds of them. No help was coming. No way to get home.

Horror and action gelled together to make Aliens a near perfect sequel. Protagonist Ellen Ripley, along with commanding officer Lt Goreman look on in horror from their command post. All they hear are the yells and screams of Marines fighting for their lives. The look of panic on Hudson’s face as the team make a mad scramble to escape. One by one, the Marine are picked off by Xenomorphs, the last thing heard are their screams of pain and terror. Their monitors go down. Their vital signs go silent.

They Mostly Come At Night…Mostly

The horror doesn’t end there. Eventually Ripley barges in with the APC and rescues several survivors. One Marine is sprayed in acidic blood and screams in agony and fire. One tries to get in and is killed by shotgun, only for Hudson to yell in pain as the acid sprays on his arm. Vasquez is determined to rescue his fellow Marine drake but is forced back by Hicks as he tries to save what’s left oh his team. It’s chaos and terror unlike anything seen before.

Ripley manages to rescue what’s left but a Xenomorph kills the aerial team midflight. Their dropship crashes into the mammoth atmospheric processor and the damage caused from the earlier encounter caused the processor to slowly malfunction, This results in a ticking nuclear time bomb. They are under constant pressure from xenomorphs . Inevitably, the xenomorphs learn to cut the power to the Marine’s sanctuary in Hadley’s Hope and attack the small group remaining.


The team fight their way through the dark with several survivors being taken while other being killed in the process. One survivor, newt, is abducted moments before finding a way of the planet. Mustered in her determination to survive, Ripley enters a burning nuclear reactor in an attempt to rescue Newt. Horror turns to burning courage as Ripley assault the Hive, launching grenades and bullets, as well as coating the area in fire. She rescues Newt and escape the planet but not before one final nightmare.

In a final showdown on the edges of space, the Alien Queen survives, ripping the android bishop in half. Enraged and determined to gain revenge, the Queen tracks down Newt only to be confronted by a vengeful Ripley in a Cargo Loader. In the eyes of Ripley, there is vengeance. She lost her crew to an Alien on the Nostromo. Lost 67 years of her life and her only daughter. She faces her fear with all the might a human could muster. A fierce duel and blown airlock later, Ripley wins with the Queen ejected into space.

A Foundation made

This combination of action and horror set Aliens apart from anything else in cinema at the time. Most importantly, it laid a groundwork for others to follow in every medium possible. Pop culture would see its inspirations. Movies like Starship Troopers, and Edge of Tomorrow follow the formula of Aliens, with a fleshed out team fighting a vicious enemy in futuristic visions of tomorrow’s war fighter. Video games from Killzone to Timesplittters bear some trace of Aliens DNA with military banter and shooting.

For the Aliens franchise, there would undoubtedly be games. However, almost every one of them focused on action as opposed to vulnerability and terror. The arcades would see side-scrollers such as Konami’s Aliens and rail-shooters such as Alien 3: The Gun. Later releases on consoles and PC had first person shooters. On PlayStation, Alien Trilogy and Alien Resurrection provided the acid spills and chills while, Alien Versus Predator put players into a three way war between human, hunter, and beast. This trend would continue with 2010’s Aliens Versus Predator, which took the climactic battle to PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and steam players.

Back to the Screams

The franchise did get close to feeling like its horror roots. Alien Trilogy and Alien Resurrection may have been first-person shooters but each game established the uneasy atmosphere of maneuvering through dark environments. There was a constant sensation of dread as xenomorphs could burst out of a hidden duct and ambush the player. Smaller touches, such as the sound samples of xenomorph screeching or crawling through tight spaces, increased the sensation of horror. It was a solid blend of action and horror.

In 2014, Sega and Creative Assembly released Alien: Isolation. The game wasn’t necessarily themed to the Colonial Marines. It focused on Ripley’s daughter and took place fifteen years after the events of the first Alien movie. However, the game created a striking and refreshing take on survival horror. As Amanda, players conjure up tools from whatever they can find and escape the clutches of the xenomorph. This was the last horror title in the franchise until now with Aliens: Dark Descent.

Aliens: Dark Descent launches next month!

Aliens: Dark Descent is developed by Tindalos Interactive and published by Focus Entertainment. It launches for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and PC on June 20, 2023.

Are you excited for Aliens: Dark Descent? As always, let us know what you think in the comments!

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