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The Power Of The Player Compels You: Possession In Games

by Jordan LaPorte on Oct 24, 2012 at 10:05 AM

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Being possessed would probably be a terrifying experience. Having someone or something invade not only your personal space, but your mind, and then controlling all of your actions must be accompanied by some amount of discomfort. Luckily, video games that feature possession as a gameplay mechanic tend to put players on the more enjoyable side of that equation. There haven’t been a huge number of games over the years that use possession as a major aspect of gameplay, but here’s a look at some of the games that do.


Dishonored is the most recent game which grants players the ability of possession. Fish, rats and NPCs are all fair game for the player. Corvo takes direct control of animals and humans when he possesses them by physically entering their bodies. This makes Dishonored’s possession mechanic a useful tool for infiltration, allowing Corvo to access openings too small for the human body or guarded security checkpoints. When used in conjunction with other powers, possession can also be a useful tool in choreographing beautiful murder ballets. 

Driver: San Francisco

Plenty of crazy and weird things happen in the games on this list, but somehow Driver: San Francisco’s shift mechanic comes off as the strangest implementation of possession in any game, possibly due to the realism of the world. When Tanner falls into a coma after being in a car crash, he finds that he has the ability to possess any driver on the road. When Tanner possesses someone, he can control what they do and what they say but their physical appearance remains unchanged. When Tanner shifts again, players get an elevated view of the city allowing them to jump into a different driver’s body without ever physically exiting a vehicle.


Driver: San Francisco may hold the title for weirdest use of possession, but Stacking holds the title for cutest. Players control a small Russian nesting doll named Charlie. In order to solve the various puzzles in the game, Charlie must jump into the bodies of bigger dolls and use their various abilities to his advantage. Players must also stack multiple dolls together according to their size if they want to possess the larger dolls. It may not be possession in the classic sense, but it’s close enough for inclusion. Fun fact: Stacking is also one of two games on this list where farting is a viable option for solving a puzzle. Jump ahead in the video to 7:56 to see some stacking action.

F.E.A.R. 3

While Paxton Fettel’s most remarkable ability may be taking a bullet to the forehead like a champ, he is also capable of possessing his enemies and helping them improve their bullet absorbing skills as well. Fettel is a playable character in F.E.A.R. 3, and players can use his possession power to take control of an enemy and use their own gun against their squad mates. When Fettel leaves a target’s body, he does so by making the unfortunate victim explode from the inside out. At least Fettel is able to find some humor in the whole ordeal.

Overlord II

The first Overlord let players give orders to plenty of minions throughout the game, but Overlord II took things a step further by letting the player remotely control a minion through possession. Once the Overlord gathers enough minions around a Possession Gate, he has the ability to possess one of the minions and directly lead the rest of the minion horde. The player remains in control of the minion until the minion is brought back to the Possession Gate, or until the minion is killed.

Clive Barker’s Jericho

When the name Clive Barker is attached to a game, it shouldn’t be too surprising when there are some supernatural shenanigans transpiring. Players take on the role of Capt. Devin Ross, who leads a squad of soldiers, which works for the Department of Occult Warfare fighting demonic threats. Ross dies early in the campaign, but his spirit lingers, allowing him to enter the bodies of his squad mates. The possessions are a way for the game to contextualize the player’s ability to switch between playing as any squad member during a mission, and not much else. Each soldier has unique supernatural abilities as well, but the possession mechanic is only used for Ross to switch between bodies. 


This GameCube title has the distinction as being the only game on this list that lets players possess inanimate objects as well as human targets. Possession is a central component of the game because players are stuck in a spiritual form when not actively possessing something or someone. Living beings cannot be possessed unless they are scared, but players can possess inanimate objects and manipulate them to sufficiently scare their living target. Paint cans, mop buckets, food bowls, and shower heads are just a few examples of items that can be controlled. 


Messiah places players into the angelic diaper of a cherub named Bob. Bob is sent to Earth by God in order to cleanse the corruption which is overtaking the planet. In his cherub form, Bob can be easily killed, but Bob can avoid harm by possessing other life forms and bending them to his will. Players will usually possess humans, but aliens, rats and cyborgs can be controlled as well. Like Dishonored, Bob physically enters whatever he is possessing, so if his possessed target dies in the line of fire, Bob suddenly finds himself in the line of fire as well. Every once in a while players are also treated to some generic heavy metal when controlling their target, you know, music that angels would listen to. Go to 2:15 in the video to see the possession mechanic in action.

Legacy of Kain: Defiance

Raziel’s possession ability in Legacy of Kain: Defiance is a little more restricted when compared to other games on this list, but it’s there nonetheless. Raziel uses his power of possession, referred to as Spirit Projection, to take control of various corpses at designated areas in the world. These corpses allow Raziel to shift between the spectral and material realms. Raziel can tackle certain obstacles or bypass enemies depending on the realm he inhabits. The video shows a good example of this 50 seconds in.  

Abe’s Exoddus

Abe’s Exoddus takes the possession mechanic from Abe’s Oddysee and gives the player more options than before. Abe now uses his chant to possess Sligs, Paramites, Scrabs, Glukkons and even his own farts. Drinking a bottle of Soulstorm Brew causes Abe to have a bigger and nastier fart than usual. Not only can players possess that diabolical gas cloud, but once it is possessed, they can use it to navigate around the environment.  When players deactivate possession over the fart, it explodes, destroying everything around it. I’m really not sure if it’s possible for a game to do any better than having the player possess and subsequently detonate a fart.