The best video game animals

The cat from Stray sitting at an izakaya.

The cat from Stray sitting at an izakaya.

Our favourite video games would be nothing without their four-legged characters. While not many games place animals at the core of their narrative, there are still plenty who ingrain themselves into the hall of fame.

In this list, we'll run through some of the best animals in all of gaming. From playable marsupials to wacky cameo appearances, these entries demonstrate just how refreshing it is to see some wildlife while gaming.

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Here are the best video game animals

  • The giraffe in The Last of Us
  • The cat in Stray
  • The Goat Simulator goat
  • Trico from The Last Guardian
  • Crash Bandicoot

The giraffe in The Last of Us

Joel and Ellie petting a wild giraffe in The Last of Us.
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As a game, The Last of Us is almost ceaselessly bleak. After all, the game starts with protagonist Joel Miller losing everything he cares about, and rarely lets up throughout its duration. There is, however, one small moment that adds a veneer of hope and innocence in this infection-ravaged world.

As Joel and Ellie's emotional story comes to its conclusion, the two stumble across a lush view of Salt Lake City, at which point a herd of giraffes run past. Our heroes marvel at their natural beauty, but it becomes all the more poignant when one stops by, coming as close as to touch Ellie's outstretched hand.

It's one rare moment of emotional respite in an otherwise exhausting quest for survival, and a powerful message that no matter how bad things get, there's always a glimmer of hope and prosperity to hold onto. It's a fleeting moment in a long game, but you'll never forget your interaction with a giraffe in The Last of Us.

The cat from Stray.
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The cat in Stray

Upon its release in the summer of 2022, Stray became colloquially known as 'the cat game.' This is no surprise, given the heavy emphasis on playing as this lone feline in a futuristic sci-fi world where humans are nowhere to be seen, with robots reigning supreme.

Until Stray, you could never embody an animal in a game quite like this. The movement feels precise, the cat-like mannerisms are all there, and the four-legged, purring hero is stunningly rendered against a mostly technological backdrop. Cat lovers finally had an in-depth simulator, adding a shade of interactivity to the household pet we all know so well.

Even better, Stray tells a powerful story about isolation and yearning to return home, all through the lens of a mute cat. It takes some emotional weight to convey these messages with an animal as the playable character, but Stray more than pulls it off.

The goats from Goat Simulator.
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The Goat Simulator goat

From one end of the spectrum to the other, the eponymous goat in Goat Simulator is something completely different. The two games in this series are less of a tribute to the bleating animal as a pathway to cause as much chaos on four legs as possible. If Stray is a tribute to animals, then Goat Simulator is slapstick parody at its best.

Simply put, the goat from Goat Simulator is a menace. It causes utter carnage with its powerful back legs and eerily stretchy tongue, gripping unassuming citizens or even blasting off on rockets. The extent of the chaos is totally dependent on your imagination, which makes the Goat Simulator series one of the most enjoyable sandboxes of them all.

Even better, the Goat Simulator series lets you play as a whole host of other animals. The more you explore and unlock secrets, the quicker you'll snag the chance to become penguins, giraffes, and even a dolphin. There may not be much story here, but the Goat Simulator series lets you unearth your pure animalistic instincts.

Trico sat with a boy, looking into the distance in The Last Guardian.
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Trico from The Last Guardian

The Last Guardian is a game completely invested in the relationship between animals and humans. The bond between Trico, the half-mammal, half-bird, and the nameless boy you play as is one that's tender, laced with emotion, and more than worth the nine-year wait between the game's reveal and ultimate release.

Perhaps the best thing The Last Guardian does is make Trico a living, breathing entity in itself. As you make your way through the game you'll gradually learn to control it, harnessing abilities to increase your bond, but Trico can be equally independent. Let it roam away from you and it can find new paths and secrets, giving much more agency to in-game animals than we've seen before.

In and of itself, Trico is a hugely interesting animal. It's no easy feat to make this fictional, hulking beast a pet you care for, but through the touching, subtle story and Trico's stunning design, it's hard not to fall in love.

Crash Bandicoot as seen in Crash Team Rumble (2023).
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Crash Bandicoot

Over the past three decades, Crash Bandicoot has rightly taken his place alongside Mario and Sonic as one of the most recognisable faces in all of gaming. The mute marsupial - a few episodes of the Skylanders cartoon notwithstanding - is as wacky as they come, and aside from visuals bears little resemblance to the animal he is based on.

There's no denying that this PlayStation icon is among the best animals in games. It was one of the first times that a creature of this kind was the main hero, with his own friends, love interest, and enemies. Sure, we'd seen the likes of Donkey Kong and Sonic, but Crash was nonetheless a trailblazer in 3D platforming and adventure games as a whole.

Crash Bandicoot as an animal is less realistic than those seen in Stray or other entries on this list, but he's nonetheless one of the most revered gaming characters ever. The industry simply wouldn't be the same without him - and for that reason, he earns his place on this list.

That's it for our look at the best animals in all of gaming! For even more green features like this, check out what happened when we tried to plant 10,000 trees in Minecraft. And be sure to subscribe to Gratitude, as the first 1,000 annual subscribers will be entered into a draw to potentially win an Xbox Series S Gilded Hunter bundle with a controller. Head on over to Gratitude’s official site to learn more!

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