Primal Rage is a versus fighting game developed and released by Atari Games to arcades in 1994. The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic version of Earth called "Urth". Players control one of seven large beasts that battle each other to determine the fate of the planet. Matches feature many of the conventions of fighting games from the era, including special moves and gory finishing maneuvers.
Various ports were released for home consoles and personal computers. Efforts to perfectly emulate the arcade original have been unsuccessful due to an unusual copy protection method that the developers used.
Toys, comics, a novel and other merchandise tie-ins were produced.
A massive meteor strike has devastated the planet Earth. Human civilization comes to an end in the ensuing cataclysms, and humanity regressed into tribes of Stone Age dwellers. Primordial rainforest covers the land, and the continental landmass has shifted into the shape of a fire-breathing dinosaur skull. The planet is now primitively referred to as "Urth" by the survivors of the cataclysms.
Seven fearsome creatures emerge from their slumber deep within the Urth's crust, and become worshiped as gods by the humans, who form segregated clans beneath the ones they follow. The beasts themselves are divided between those who wish to keep peace on Urth, and those who attempt to plunge the world into further chaos for their own benefit. These creatures have otherworldly or supernatural abilities. The Primal Rage trading cards that were distributed along with the toyline presented each creature as a god of an aspect of nature, as in life and death, fire and ice. There are four of the good Virtuous gods and three evil Destructive gods. The character Sauron, god of Hunger, is marked as a "Virtuous Beast" despite the fact that his in-game ending displays an image of him devouring humans.
Primal Rage is a traditional two-dimensional fighting game in which two players select characters to battle each other in one-on-one combat, or a single player finishes a campaign of fights against the CPU, over increasing difficulty. The final battle of the single-player game consisted of fighting all the other CPU monsters with an increased power bar, made available in a mini-game prior to the fight. A total of seven characters are available for players to select from. Each character has his or her own specialized set of three attack moves and abilities. In the game, the object is to deplete the opposing character's health meter as fast as possible. If "Game Gore" (an option in some versions) is switched on, then a defeated character's heart will explode into a bloody mess, and their brain will dissolve to ashes.
While fighting, human tribesmen will wander nearby and worship their gods during battle. This allows for the creatures to toss them around or devour some to regain strength (eating opponents' worshipers will add a bonus to one's score, while eating one's own will penalize the player). Prior to the final battle, a mini game commences in which one is required to eat as many worshipers as possible to increase health for the endurance round. Two human-controlled characters can trigger an easter egg of human volleyball, by keeping worshipers off the ground and batting them back and forth.
Unlike most fighting games, where the special moves are performed by moving the joystick followed by pressing one or more buttons, Primal Rage features a system where the player holds down certain buttons, then performs the joystick movements. Later revisions of the arcade game added the ability to perform "special moves" in the more traditional way, with motion followed by button presses, but kept the original method as well. After the opponent is defeated, a brief moment is allowed for the player to perform a finishing move to end the match in a more dramatic fashion; these were performed in a similar manner to the special moves. Although all characters feature three finishing moves, some of them were more easter eggs than fatalities, such as Vertigo's "La Vache Qui Rit" (French for "the laughing cow"), a fatality in which Vertigo transforms her opponent into a cow, which moos and runs away.