Last modified: February 24th, 2021
Pet games were ALL the rage when I was growing up. You visit a website where you play Flash games to earn money, buy food from virtual shops, feed and play with your pet to keep its stats up – like a Tamagatchi or original Digimon, only with much fancier graphics, a billion different kinds of items, and, most likely, a crazy-inflated economy where users try to hawk rare items off for your life savings.
Pet games were very cool when I was in elementary school, starting with the great and powerful Neopets, back before it was owned by Nickelodeon and you could put whatever you wanted on your petpage. Most of them start off with a handful of generic pseudo-animals – a generic dog, a generic cat, maybe a generic dragon – but they started to develop more interesting and unique creatures as they aged.
So, from some of the major pet games still in existence, here are 3 of my favorite pet species, and 3 of my favorite pet colors.
Many virtual pets, especially Neopets, have an appearance of being various animal parts stapled together. The Bori, however, looks and feels like a unique, discrete animal. Sure, you could describe it as a creature with the face of a rabbit, the feet of a mole, the back of an armadillo, and the tail of a lion, but each element is tweaked just enough to avoid feeling like a stapled-together monstrosity.
For Neopets’ Nickelodeon standards, this creature is rather sinister-looking. I rarely see cartoon snake faces done effectively, but those big, knobbly eyebrows and angular snout work so well. Winged snakes appear in a few pet games, but this is the only winged snake to have scales on the wings, which double as hands. They’re not even clearly feathered wings – they might be entirely unique structures in this world. Again, it’s much better than if it just had bird wings stapled on to a snake body.
Kangaroos are an under-utilized animal component in chimeras – they’re absolutely terrifying, musclebound jerks. The Zafara really speaks to the desert or savanna to me. That dragon-like tail with those subtle spikes really makes it for me, but I’ve also never seen floppy dog-like ears on a very non-dog animal before. I wish there were just a few more spikes to help them seem more deliberate, because the tail does start to encroach on “stapled on” territory.
I’ve seen plenty of night sky-themed pet colors before, but never sunset. This is easily the most interesting of the “standard pose” colors that doesn’t affect the lineart of the pet.
A color based on the idea of demonic corruption. Many of the Darigan pets are purple, but I love this steel blue variation best. Darigan coloration is framed in-canon as a magical infection originating from a mysterious ancient artifact.
Transparent is an amazing color, because it is so unlike anything else I’ve seen on Neopets. Look at those squiggly cartoon organs! This color is funny because it forced the staff team to come up with semi-plausible anatomy for unrealistically-proportioned cartoon animals. For example, why are the Elephante’s ears made of… vertebrae? I’m not sure if this color would be better or not with the inclusion of lid-less googly eyeballs.
Now THIS is where it’s at. Wraith uses the same basic lineart as the original pet, but now it’s a luminous purple and the entire body is jet black, and with pupil-less eyes and a scary zig-zag mouth! I especially love the angular swirls added on to some pets. The only thing that would make this color better is the inclusion of wispy bits of purple or black coming off of the pet (or from the mouth!) like smoke.
It’s so rare to see carnivorous plant creatures, especially those that aren’t obviously based on Audrey II. I love the Aeanoid’s combination of tentacle legs, leaf-hands, aloe-like neck spikes, and giant reptilian eyes. The cute reptilian gecko/snake face is a big winner for me. Even better, the way you acquire an Aeanoid is by feeding a parasitic seed to your pet that transforms them into it.
Maybe not the most interesting pet design, but I love seeing goat or sheep hybrids that aren’t just horns glued onto another animal. The Sheeta feels like a genuine combination of feline and caprid traits, and I love those “cloven paws”. I even really like this face shape and those long, luxurious ears.
Look at this gator-turtle! I feel like this should be an obvious combination of animals, and yet I’ve literally never seen it before. The name is kind of a dorky pun (it’s pronounced “crikey”, like Steve Irwin the Crocodile Hunter’s catch phrase, in case you didn’t know). I love that this creature’s body is dense and short-necked, as opposed to a lot of the elegant long-necked Nessie-based water creatures. Plus, look at those cool proto-claws on the fins!
I’m not usually a big fan of robot creatures. Subeta has a few species of “non-organic” pets, but this is a color that any pet species can be “constructed” as. I have to really commend the artists for these pet variations, because they almost all feature difficult cylindrical mechanical components. The art is so detailed and precise on these jointed, steampunk creatures and I love the various substitutions made for organic components – some of the pets have wheels in place of hind legs, or even hover on jets of steam.
It’s not uncommon to have an ice-themed pet, but these come with their own attitude adjustment. Glacier pets are all solemn and severe, usually glaring or giving you a literal cold shoulder. They’re somewhat evocative of the depressed “grey” pets from Neopets, but more confrontational and moody. Definitely an improvement over “Christmas” themed winter pet colors wherein they’re cheerful and warmly-dressed.
Holy WOW. Several pet sites have a spooky themed color, but Subeta’s “Nightmare” is easily the most frightening I’ve seen. Those pinpoint white pupils and empty stare is often combined with grinning white fangs, making each one feel like a vintage Creepypasta creature. I’m also always a big fan of wispy smoke rising from a creature’s body, insinuating a less-than-solid body composition.
A gator-saur with some fun spine ridges and aggressive horns. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an Eastern dragon-style pearl in the clutches of anything that wasn’t obviously an Eastern dragon, and I love that it matches the creature’s eye color.
A feathery deep-sea shark. It’s clearly a shark, but it’s also just different enough to be something new. The feather-edged fins and line of luminous spots add a lot of uniqueness to what could have been a very bland creature.
Most pet sites have at least one kind of obvious “dragon” creature, and all have creatures that could be arguably some kind of dragon under the right definition. Misticpets’ Belragoth is obviously, plainly, irrefutably a dragon, and while it’s not a very unique dragon, it’s one of the most dragony dragons to have dragoned. I’m not sure exactly why I like the Belragoth so much, given my pickiness around this category, but it’s got such a good dramatic presence that I just can’t ignore it. Maybe it’s those little eyes, which makes the whole creature seem huge and imposing, or those glowing arcane markings. I do enjoy the particular fishiness of this dragon, with the catfish-like whiskers under the chin and finny frills down the spine.
I often see feather-winged “angel” pet colors, so it’s nice to have a sky-based color that isn’t obviously Christian, let alone winged. Cirrus pets are all playfully-posed and sky blue, lounging on a cottony fluff cloud. Does the color give them the ability to walk on clouds? Can they summon clouds? Is it some kind of symbiosis with a cloud-like life-form?
Lisa Frank, get in on this. Daydream is a cute name for this color, which could have easily fallen into the trap of being called “fairy” or something. I really love the black-and-white base colors, which give the pet almost a tribal tattoo look.
PEAK. A pumpkin-headed, Halloween-colored, Tim Burton-striped and skull-patterned pet is everything I could have ever wanted. The only thing missing is an organic or magical candle of some kind. Why don’t more pet sites have colors that change the creature’s HEAD?
Rescreatu doesn’t do different colors, but each species has multiple ages with different art. All of these are the adults.
This handsome wyvern is unique in that it has both forelimbs and wings – does it slither, or crawl on the ground? Either way, look how cute and noble this dragon is, and I love that mossy stone color and decorative spikes.
An adorable, squishy ghost that is somehow reminiscent of a jester, harlequin, voodoo doll, and Heartless all at the same time. I love how simple it is, just a swirly, smoky purple body with claws and a head.
I see lots of generic goldfish or koi fish, but I can honestly say I have NEVER seen a pet based on a ray before. Look at those cybernetic, or perhaps magical fins! It immediately reads as something that I would see flying through the air of a TRON-esque city.
How has the combination of snail and octopus not happened as much as it should? This creature isn’t quite a nautilus, because it also has sea slug traits! I love the additions of spines on the swirl of the shell, and those eyelash-like structures around those friendly, sweet eyes.
Did you know that crustaceans can also be handsome? I love the hints of mammalian anatomy in this creature, like that friendly dog-like face and long spine. The replacement of pincers with the more praying mantis-like raptorial legs makes it seem like this creature is far more predatory than defensive. I also think the placement of the antennae on the head, rather than the mouth, reinforces the dog-like features of this creature, and I can imagine them moving like ears to show interest or emotion.
LOOK. LOOK AT THIS. I cannot even express how adorable and pathetic this drowned swamp monkey-bunny is. Those somber bruised eyes, the droopy fur, the featureless puffball face. My one complaint is those brown droopy dog ears seem out of place, whereas I would have preferred something more simian or even finned.
Interested in any of these games? They’re all free to play: