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Listmania!

Videogame characters that look like David Bowie

Mar 14 // Jim Sterling
BalthierFrom: Final Fantasy XIIResembles: Heathen Bowie Balthier is a 22-year-old Hume sky pilot who, in Final Fantasy XII, pilots an airship known as the Strahl. He also looks like David Bowie.  With the swept back hair and relatively un-flamboyant look, at least as far as Final Fantasy characters go, Balthier resembles Bowie as he was in the early millennium, particularly with the release of 2002's Heathen album. You'd actually be surprised by the sheer number of Final Fantasy characters that look like David Bowie, of which we've included but a fraction in this article. Still, I think you'll find that Square Enix has been quite rightly represented. Eva/Big Mama From: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots Resembles: Old Bowie Eva made her first appearance in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, then a young woman, and a double agent who helped Naked Snake complete his mission. In MGS4, Eva returned, significantly older and operating under the codename of Big Mama. She also looks like David Bowie.  This is a similarity we have actually pointed out before, but it needs to be repeated that Eva as she appears in MGS4 is a dead ringer for the modern David Bowie. The sort of crusty, slightly monstrous creature that he is today. It's the kind of old age that tells you the person was definitely attractive once, but that very fact has made look somewhat creepy in later life. A living paradox. Bowie's face is a paradox. Poison From: Final Fight Resembles: Ziggy Stardust Bowie Poison is a famous videogame character from Capcom's Final Fight series. Originally conceived as a woman, the American release of Final Fight saw Poison relegated to the status of crossdresser, since it wasn't considered "cool" to hit women in America, much to Ike Turner's surprise. Poison has since gone down in history as one of gaming's most notorious transgendered characters. She also looks like David Bowie. Our very own Niero nominated Poison for the list. The red hair and tight fitting clothes certainly make her a worthy contender, and since the only other character fit to represent Ziggy Bowie, we stick by our choice. While Kratos' facepaint is spookily Stardustesque, Bowie's hair is too legendary for us to have a bald man on this list. We take our work far too seriously for that.  Kefka From: Final Fantasy VI Resembles: Ashes to Ashes Bowie Kefka is hailed not only as one of the greatest Final Fantasy villains, but as one of the best videogame villains of all time. The maniacal clown of Final Fantasy VI gained noteriety for such diabolical acts as poisoning an entire village, and generally being a nihilistic psychopath with a hatred of all things. He also looks like David Bowie. Kefka looks very much like Bowie in his clown getup for the video and promotional material of hit single "Ashes to Ashes." While Kefka has never rounded up all his New Romantic buddies from the pub to walk in front of construction equipment for a few hours, I think he would have ... if he wanted to.  Albert Wesker From: Resident Evil series Resembles: Thin White Duke Bowie Albert Wesker is the treacherous villain from Capcom's Resident Evil series. A sinister double crosser who will stop at nothing to gain power and influence, Wesker has exploited everyone in his shady dealings with Umbrella, the T-Virus and Las Plagas. He also looks like David Bowie. Wesker most closely relates to Bowie's soul-influenced alter ego, The Thin White Duke, with slicked back hair and smart, dark attire. It also helps that Wesker blatantly sounds like David Bowie as well. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that Wesker is David Bowie, and nothing you can say will prove otherwise.  Liquid Snake From: Metal Gear Solid Resembles: Space Oddity Bowie Liquid Snake is the villain of Metal Gear Solid, and one of Solid Snake's most hated rivals. A clone of legendary soldier Big Boss, and believing himself to be genetically inferior to his brother, Liquid is a tragic figure, whose sense of jealousy and rage sought to ultimately be his undoing. He also looks like David Bowie. With the long hair, Liquid can only resemble Bowie as he looked right back in his formative years, and we have chosen "Space Oddity" Bowie as the likely match, though really any long-haired Bowie will do. They also have the English connection, which is very important, as well as both of them being as camp as Christmas.  G-Man From: Half-Life series Resembles: Absolute Beginners Bowie G-Man is one of gaming's most enigmatic individuals. The apparent "employer" of Dr. Gordon Freeman, he is always watching the Half-Life hero's adventures from a distance, always just out of reach, before arriving at the critical moment to meddle in the physicist's affairs. He also looks like David Bowie.  While the G-Man lacks Bowie's blonde hair, we would be wrong to not bring up the fact he looks very much like Bowie did in the movie Absolute Beginners. The similar hairstyle and near-identical clothing is enough to convince me that Gordon Freeman's mysterious string-puller has modeled himself after Britain's glamtastic songsmith. I can't believe you're still reading this.  Zidane Tribal From: Final Fantasy IX Resembles: Neoclassicist Bowie Zidane Tribal is something of an anomoly among Final Fantasy heroes. First of all. he's actually happy, and not the whining, moaning, prissy bitch that Square Enix consistently fawns over. He also looks like David Bowie. Zidane is very much like Bowie at the end of the last century. The hair is still long, but with a distinctive neat-and-floppy style, just before it went short. The cheeky Tantalus member also has a very Bowie-esque nose, which would help him get to the finals of any "do you look a bit like David Bowie?" competition. He does look a bit like David Bowie. Probably.  Kane From: Shining Force Resembles: Labyrinth Bowie Kane is a general of the Runefaust army, and you know he's an antagonist because you don't call join an organization called Runefaust and expect to be fighting for the good guys. A noble fighter but also incredibly merciless. He also looks like David Bowie.  Topher directed me toward this one, and I simply had to include this terrifyingly uncanny resemblance to David Bowie in his finest role -- the Goblin King Jareth from Jim Henson's The Labyrinth. So far, we have no photographic evidence of Kane's tights, so we can't see if he also share's Bowie's threateningly gargantuan wad. I'd like to think nobody can quite match the Duke in that department, though. Boz From: Omikron: The Nomad Soul Resembles: David Bowie as he might look in a videogame God, he looks and sounds just like him!
Bowie lookalikes photo
Bowie's face is a paradox
[From our Golden Archives: here's our most popular story of the day back in 2009. -N] David Bowie, born David Robert Jones on January 8, 1947, is an English musician, actor, producer and arranger. Having been active in the en...

Dem bones: The best skeletons in video games

Jan 29 // Ben Davis
Mr. Grimm (Twisted Metal series) One of the main recurring characters in the Twisted Metal series, Mr. Grimm is a Grim Reaper who usually rides a motorcycle into battle, and is known for having particularly powerful special attacks. I'm most familiar with his Twisted Metal 2 incarnation, where he joins the Twisted Metal tournament in the hopes of feeding off of the souls of the other contestants, and bringing doom and destruction upon the world. He's pretty hardcore. Matador (Shin Megami Tensei series) There are tons of cool skeletal demons in the Shin Megami Tensei universe, mostly in the form of Fiends. White Rider, Trumpeter, and Mother Harlot are some of the coolest Fiends, but the best of the bunch has got to be Matador. While he's usually a relatively low level Fiend, he's got plenty of style to make up for it. His most notable appearance is probably in Nocturne, where he appears as a boss that you must defeat in order to reach Ikebukuro. Many people say he's one of the most difficult bosses in the game, if only because he's the first boss that really requires you to think carefully about your strategy if you ever hope to win. I'd say Matador is the boss that really teaches you how to play the game. If you can beat Matador, then you've got what it takes to beat Nocturne! Carlos Calaca (Guacamelee!) Calaca is the main antagonist of Guacamelee. He sold his soul to the devil in order to win a competition, but was dragged to the World of the Dead before he could enjoy his victory. He has a penchant for turning people into chickens, including the protagonist, Juan, and even the devil himself. I'd also say that he has the best hat out of anyone on this list. Igos du Ikana (The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask) Igos and his two servants are the boss of the Ikana Canyon castle. It's a pretty difficult battle, and he may seem kinda scary at first, but he's actually a really cool dude. After he's been defeated, Igos reveals that he is ashamed of what his kingdom has become, and teaches Link the Elegy of Emptiness to help him bring light back to the kingdom of Ikana. The elegy creates those creepy, dead-eyed statues of Link that you've probably seen before... *shiver* Thanks for the nightmares, Igos! The Sanbone Trio (Gitaroo Man) The Sanbone Trio is a group of sweet-looking robo-skeletons that attack with percussion-based powers. Their designs are so damn cool. I mean, look at their pelvic bones. Their pelvises are Playstation controllers! They play the song "Born to be Bone," which narrowly beats out "Bee Jam Blues" as my favorite song in the game. It's super hard, but so much fun to play! Dry Bones (Super Mario Bros. series) Everyone knows Dry Bones. Dry Bones has been a Mario staple since Super Mario Bros. 3. These bony Koopa Troopas are difficult to defeat, since they're able to reattach themselves and rattle back to life (undeath?) after being jumped on. There's also a Dry Bones version of Bowser, who first appeared in New Super Mario Bros. Dry Bowser is pretty terrifying! Dry Bones even appears as a playable character on occasion. You could play as one in a couple of the Mario Party and Mario Kart games. I love playing as a Mario enemies, so I've chosen Dry Bones plenty of times. Sir Daniel Fortesque (MediEvil) The story of Sir Daniel is an interesting one. He rather shamefully falls in battle to the very first arrow fired by the army of Zarok, an evil sorcerer. The king of Gallowmere decides to make Sir Daniel out to be a hero, altering the truth so that Sir Daniel's name goes down in legend. When the sorcerer returns, Dan gets a second chance to live up to his legend, as an undead warrior. I love Sir Daniel's design. He's missing the eye where he was hit by the arrow, as well as his lower jaw. This causes him to mumble all of his dialog, which I always find humorous (I'm finding it really hard not to steal Hansen's puns right now). He can also detach one of his arms to use as a weapon, which is awesome. Emil (Nier) Emil is one of my favorite video game characters of all time, so of course I had to include him. Emil begins the game as a kind-hearted, quiet young boy with the power to turn things to stone with his eyes. That power is a source of major turmoil for him, and because of this, he wears a blindfold to keep his power in check. About halfway through the game, it's revealed that he's actually an ancient weapon created through magic, and he's transformed into a somewhat grotesque skeletal being. The poor kid can't seem to catch a break! But the rest of the party reassures him that they don't feel any differently toward him now that he's been transformed, so he grows to accept his new appearance. Emil's personality and storyline really speak to me. I found that I could easily relate to his character while playing the game. You'll always have a place in my heart, Emil! Manuel "Manny" Calavera (Grim Fandango) I'm only just now playing Grim Fandango for the first time, but I can already tell that Manny Calavera is one of the best video game skeletons around! To pay for his sins in life, Manny has to work as a travel agent for the dead, which basically means he's a Reaper. He's sarcastic, witty, and highly competitive, making him a very fun character to get to know. He also seems to enjoy stuffing his suit full of bread and balloons and all sorts of weird things. Seriously, where is he keeping all this stuff? Gravelord Nito (Dark Souls) Let's talk about how badass Gravelord Nito is. He's a powerful skeleton with dozens of other skeletons draped around him like some sort of enormous skeleton cloak. Who did all of these skeletons belong to? Were they important people he killed, and now he's wearing their remains like trophies? He seems to control an endless army of undead soldiers, and he wields a huge, nasty-looking blade, which also happens to be made out of skeletons, because of course it is!  Nito's skeleton motif is so over-the-top, but I can't help but marvel at how awesome he looks. He is without a doubt the greatest skeleton in video games!
Skeletons photo
Bad to the bone
I've been playing tons of Grim Fandango ever since the remastered version came out a few days ago, and it's left me with skeletons on the brain... and in the closet. This led me to thinking about more skeletons in games. Ther...

It's getting hot in here! Top 10 fire levels

Jan 15 // Ben Davis
10. Flame Man's Stage - Mega Man 6 The cool thing about Flame Man's stage is that the fire comes solely from the enemies. The stage takes place on an oil field, with pools of oil stretching throughout the level and platforms to jump above it. You can run around in the oil all you want, but make sure there are no enemies nearby. If an enemy's flames hit any part of the oil pools, the entire pool will erupt and kill you! But if you're careful, you can probably kill all the enemies in the level before they can ignite the oil, leaving you with a fire level that essentially has no fire in it. 9. Hell - Spelunky The Hell levels of Spelunky were once like a myth to me. As if beating the game normally wasn't hard enough, in order to access Hell, you have to beat the final boss, Olmec, after acquiring a long list of items throughout the entire game. Once you finally make it into Hell, you're in for the challenge of your life! Demons, imps, succubi, vampires, and magma men are all trying to kill you, while deadly traps like lava pits and spiked ball-and-chains are around every corner. Then you must face off against King Yama, the ruler of the underworld! I'm a little ashamed to admit that I've never actually beaten Hell myself. I've made it there several times now, and I even made it to King Yama's lair once, but one of his henchmen kicked me in the face before I could fight him. It's one of my personal goals to beat Hell in Spelunky at least once. 8. Barrel Volcano - Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars After visiting the cloud kingdom of Nimbus Land, Mario and friends go searching for the next star piece by jumping into a volcano. Literally. You actually fall off of a cloud and land directly in the heart of Barrel Volcano. Talk about an exhilarating sky dive! Once inside the volcano, you'll be fighting tough enemies, jumping carefully around hot magma, and facing off against the Czar Dragon, a formidable boss who comes back to life as a skeleton. You can also stay at an inn run by a weird Toad named Hinopio, who makes you sleep on a pile of wooden crates. Who runs an inn inside of an active volcano, anyway? But the main reason Barrel Volcano made this list is because of the second boss fight which takes place as you're exiting the volcano. The Axem Rangers are, without question, the best boss in the game. They steal the star piece you earned from beating the Czar Dragon and escape to the rim of the volcano, where you fight them after jumping onto their airship, Blade. They're a parody of the Power Rangers, and they're hilarious! "We fight for evil! We live for disorder! We like what we do! We struggle for chaos! We are... the Axem Rangers!" 7. Create a Bonfire - We Love Katamari In We Love Katamari, there's a level where you roll a fireball around a campsite, engulfing everything around you in flames as the fireball grows larger and more powerful. That may sound sinister, but your goal is actually quite charming. You're just trying to create a nice, big bonfire for everyone to sit around so they can relax and sing songs! I'd say that's worth destroying an entire campsite over, right? Plus, you get to hear this nice little acoustic tune whenever you succeed. 6. Solar - Star Fox 64 One of the coolest levels in Star Fox 64 has the crew flying around a star called Solar, the surface of which is composed entirely of an ocean of molten lava. You'll have to maneuver around waves of lava undulating right towards you while you try to stay as far from the surface as possible to keep your Arwing from overheating. Then you have to fight the boss, a colossal beast with scythe-like arms that lurks in the lava, making more and more waves to try and take you down. Solar is almost too hot for the Star Fox crew to handle (especially Slippy), but they still manage to keep cool and fly to victory! 5. Lost City - Shovel Knight Lost City is Mole Knight's stage. He resides in an underground cavern of stalactites, ancient ruins, and cascading magma, as well as some weird green goo that turns the magma into a Flubber-like substance that you can bounce on. It's a neat way to incorporate the shovel-bouncing mechanic into a fire level. There's also these giant, magma-dwelling Hercules beetles that you can ride around on, which are just the coolest! Plus, Mole Knight is a pretty awesome boss. He digs around underground, bursting forth from the walls at ridiculous speeds, and shoots lava out of his head like a volcano. To be fair, though, every member of the Order of No Quarter is pretty awesome. 4. Gourmand Land - Rayman Origins Gourmand Land is an area of two distinct, clashing environments. One part is a frozen glacier of cocktail delights, while the other part is a fiery inferno of ovens and spicy foods. The fire levels of Gourmand Land are inhabited by fire-breathing dragon chefs, and filled to the brim with earthenware pottery, stone ovens, chili peppers, bowls of spices, and other hot things. It's like running through an intensely hot Mexican kitchen. I hear the dragon chefs can whip up some legendary chilaquiles! 3. Iron Keep - Dark Souls II The Souls series has always had really cool fire levels. Stonefang Tunnel and Lost Izalith were some particularly treacherous locations, but my favorite has to be Iron Keep from Dark Souls II. Seeing Iron Keep for the first time was breathtaking; a grand iron fortress surrounded by lava, with an orange, cloudy sky above. The area looks formidable, and it's definitely no cake walk. Be prepared for a volley of arrows from the Alonne knights lurking around every corner. And good luck grabbing those chests sitting on the hardened lava, taunting you to try and open them. Too bad there's no Orange Charred Ring this time around! Plus, the bosses in Iron Keep provide great fights. Smelter Demon is one of the most difficult bosses in the game, providing a fierce challenge while also being a fun fight based on reflexes and speed. The Old Iron King is a little easier to take down, but the fight against him is impressive nonetheless, watching him emerge from the lava as he proceeds to pummel you with fists and fire. It's a much better final area boss than the Dragon God or the Bed of Chaos, anyway... 2. Norfair - Super Metroid Norfair is possibly the coolest-looking area in Super Metroid. It's a sweltering cavern of magma, which Samus cannot comfortably traverse without the Varia Suit to withstand the temperatures. The area is home to some nasty aliens which dwell in the extreme environment, including the super creepy eight-eyed boss, Crocomire, who is curiously killed by falling into the magma (perhaps it has some acidic properties). The best part is Ridley's Lair in Lower Norfair, a fiery, alien temple that looks as if you've descended into the depths of Hell itself. Plus, who doesn't love Ridley? He's just an awesome boss! Norfair also gave birth to one of my favorite stages in Super Smash Bros., although everyone else seems to hate it, haha. 1. Fire Temple - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time The Fire Temple in Ocarina of Time will always be the first thing that comes to mind for me when thinking about fire levels in games. The temple resides beneath the volcanic Death Mountain, and the temperatures inside are so hot that Link will quickly perish without the proper equipment. It's riddled with lava pits, flamethrowers, geysers, and enemies like bats, slugs, and skulls that are all on fire. Not to mention the final boss is a gigantic, flying fire dragon! I think they reached a perfect level of difficulty when designing the Fire Temple. None of the puzzles are so obtuse that they become frustrating (I'm looking at you, Water Temple), but it's not going to be a walk in the park, either. It's also satisfying once you figure out what to do, and you get to smash that giant pillar with your hammer and watch it fall down into the lava below. It's easily one of the most memorable fire levels in videogames. HONORABLE MENTIONS Lethal Lava Land - Super Mario 64. I can never not fall into the lava while playing this level! Amazonia - Twisted Metal 2. In Amazonia, you duke it out with Minion, a demon driving a tank that rises out of the lava. The Escape - Aladdin. As a kid, I could never beat this game because of this level! Volcano - Pokémon Snap. You get to bump Charmeleon into a lava pool and watch it evolve into Charizard to get its revenge. Sorry, Charmeleon! Flame Mammoth's Stage - Mega Man X. You can actually freeze this place over by beating Chill Penguin first. Nifty! Fire Spring - EarthBound. Watch out for those Soul Consuming Flames! -- What are some of your favorite fire levels? Let us know in the comments!
Top 10 fire levels photo
So hot...
The holidays may be over, but the snow keeps falling and the temperatures are still way too cold for comfort. So what better way to warm up during these cold winter months than taking a stroll through some of your favorite fi...

Arizona games photo
Arizona games

Games that remind me of my Arizona vacation


~Memories!~
Jan 06
// Jordan Devore
"My body is ready." That was the first message I sent to our staff-wide chat client this year, and it's true: I'm back from a holiday break, ready to write. For once, I wasn't glued to my email or Twitter while vacationing. I...

2014 recap: The 15 most popular posts on Destructoid this year

Dec 30 // Brett Makedonski
Fifteen most popular posts 15. I'm going to miss tripping in Super Smash Bros. 4 It's almost laughable that this kicks off the list, because, with the vast majority of people, this was the opposite of popular. In fact, it was rage-inducing for some. But, I think our dear Jonathan Holmes still loves the pratfalls in Smash, even if you don't. 14. Destiny's 'Queen Wrath' event is underway, here is what it brings For whatever reason, Chris posting about a Destiny event did really well. He even described it as "middling," and that "Bungie can do better than this." Still, a lot of people were at least interested enough to read about it. You'll see that these don't always make sense. 13. You can get an Xbox One bundle for as cheap as $200 This one isn't as much of a mystery. Turns out that everyone likes cheap electronics, and, as demonstrated a bit further down the list, free things. 12. GameStop to roll out a credit card with a really high interest rate Talk about a boring post. We got the heads-up that GameStop was going to offer a credit card, and it got passed around the Internet. That's how these things go sometimes.  11. Intelligent Systems is thinking about the next Advance Wars and Fire Emblem While half of our team was in Los Angeles for E3, Jordan was one of several holding down the news front from home. Smack dab in the middle of that madness was the reveal of Code Name: STEAM, and in a post-presentation Q&A, someone brought up the beloved Fire Emblem and Advance Wars franchises. As indicated by this post's performance, many were excited to hear about the future of those properties. 10. The Super Smash Bros. for Wii U challenges unlocking guide The Wii U release of Super Smash Bros. took the world by storm in November, and it left lots wondering what needed to be done to clear the game's many challenges. Luckily, Holmes had a challenge guide to help everyone out. 9. Don't overplay the Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire demo Jordan advises you not to burn yourself out on a Pokémon demo, because that's something he did. Seems like we need to keep Jordan busier. 8. Download Red Orchestra 2 on Steam for free "Free stuff! Hellz to the yeah!," you said before realizing that you sounded ridiculous. 7. Now's a nice time to buy a Wii U: Here's everything you should know Steven advises exactly how someone like you should go about buying a Wii U. Spoiler: It involves having a job so that you have money. Ehhh, maybe it's not worth it. 6. South Park: The Stick of Truth gets its first DLC pack Who wouldn't want to know about a three-costume pack for South Park? This is obviously another one whose popularity is lost on us. Chris cleanin' up on those. 5. Rust: If you see the Penis Brothers, take off your pants Headline of the year? Headline of the year. 4. XCOM, Payday 2, and eight other games are free to play on Steam this weekend "Man, I really wish I didn't get so excited and spell 'hellz' with a 'z' back there. I hope Brett doesn't think less of me now." I do, Internet. I do. 3. Anticipation Simulator 2015 pushed back to 2016 Max doing funny guy Max stuff. Typical Max. He's so tall that he makes for an awkward hug. I still try every time I see him, though. 2. Guide: How to use the Pokemon Bank and Poke Transporter People needed a bit of help as to how to use the Pokemon Bank and Transporter apps. Jordan was your proverbial guiding Sherpa up the treacherous terrain of Mount Poké. 1. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare leaked, see the first video and images Stick with me, because this is going to be hard to follow. As it turns out, when you reveal the next installment in the world's most popular videogame franchise, a lot of people want to read about it. Shocking stuff, but it's true. Five most popular reviews 5. inFamous: Second Son Hope you're ready for the Chris Carter show, because he had all five of the most popular reviews on Destructoid this year. 4. Watch Dogs Seriously, he's a beast. I don't know how he plays so many videogames. 3. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Sometimes I tell him to look out a window. It's almost like a TV screen in a way. 2. Far Cry 4 But, that would detract from playing videogames, and that's the only thing Chris Carter was programmed to do. 1. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Well, play videogames and think less of Shadow of Mordor than nearly every other person alive. Staff picks for five most enjoyable posts of the year (in no particular order) 5. You won't believe these Kirby pics that Dtoid drew, they will blow your mind and restore your faith in humanity During the waning hours of E3, the stress of the week finally got to us and we lost focus. Instead of scrambling for last second scoops like other outlets, we blew off steam by drawing some pictures of Kirby. It was probably the right decision. 4. World exclusive Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare preview Remember how our number one most popular post was the reveal of Advanced Warfare? Yeah, Activision wasn't so happy with that, so our invitations to all the preview events got lost in the mail throughout the year. That didn't stop Kyle from imagining what he probably would've seen had he gone. 3. We're celebrating Sonic's 23rd birthday the only way we know how The "only way we knew how" was through erotic fan fiction and amateur drawings. It's also where we learned that Brittany is a force to be reckoned with. And, Steven. Oh, Steven. 2. Bored of the things: Shadow of Mordor should've been a dating sim Speaking of Steven, he took issue with Shadow of Mordor's (and the general AAA gaming space's) derivative nature. Know what would've made that better? A rom-com twist. You've done it again, Stu Hansen! 1. Remembering the glory of videogame manuals Brittany fondly looks back on a time when every game came with a thick instruction booklet on what exactly you could expect. Within those manuals were words of wisdom, the only way that you prepare for the adventure ahead. And, at the far back, were some blank pages where you could jot down your own notes. Pour out a bit of your forty for instruction manuals; I think they're probably gone forever. -- We wrote about a lot of fun subjects in 2014. Only five got listed in this round-up, but there was far more that we were proud of. If you'd like, check out the Destructoid Originals tag to rediscover some of it. Here's to hoping 2015 treats us just as well!
Popular posts of 2014 photo
With bonus reviews and staff picks
We post a lot of stuff here on Destructoid. News, reviews, opinion editorials -- you know the drill. Every now and then, a post will catch fire and get ridiculously popular. Sometimes it's a complete mystery as to why; someti...

Promoted Blog: Bears photo
Promoted Blog: Bears

The top 10 bears in videogames! No, not that kind of bear...


Promoted from our Community Blogs!
Aug 23
// Ben Davis
[In response to the unexpected influx of fetish posts in our Cblogs lately, Dtoid community blogger bbain shares his own list of manly men you can't help but want to snuggle up with. Want to see your own work appear on the fr...
Top 10 space games photo
Top 10 space games

Let's explore space! My top 10 space games


Promoted from our Community Blogs!
Jul 07
// StriderHoang
[Dtoid community blogger StriderHoang shares his list of all-time favorite space games! Have a Top 10 list of your own you'd like to see promoted to the front page? Go write something! --Mr Andy Dixon] Space is something that...

Top ten game music tracks to get you pumped for the gym

Dec 30 // Jayson Napolitano
10. "Db 606" - de Blob (Wii) [embed]265845:51406:0[/embed] Let's start with something energetic and fun! While you can probably guess that this list will be dominated by battle themes, this track, from the amazing soundtrack to de Blob, brings live instruments to the mix with a jubilant disco track. In the game, the tracks are named by mood, and this one is aptly called "Euphoric." Pretty fitting, and it will certainly put a smile on your face as you're torturing your body at the gym! 9. "Boss Battle" - Final Fantasy XII (PS2) [embed]265845:51408:0[/embed] I have so much Hitoshi Sakimoto on my exercise playlist, it's not even funny. Kind of odd when you consider his orchestral style, but this track in particular has some epic buildups in the chorus section that will really get your blood pumping. You may also want to check out some of his themes from Valkyria Chronicles as they're surprisingly good for a workout. 8. "Geometric City" - Raystorm (PS1) [embed]265845:51409:0[/embed] Raystorm has several tracks I'd like to include, but I love the smooth soundscape of this track. It's not too intense, and gently eases you into a workout, or gives you a much needed break towards the end of a tough session. You can also check out the NEU TANZ MIX remix album for more Raystorm goodness for the gym. 7. "Maze of Death" - Mega Man 9 (Wii / PS3 / 360) [embed]265845:51410:0[/embed] There are so many Mega Man tracks to consider, but I had to pick this one. The track title, the pumping basslines, and the fast-paced notes make for such a great motivation for that workout. There's also an arrange album for this game which has a great version of "Maze of Death," and several other themes from Mega Man 9 and of course the entire franchise are great for the gym (check out our top ten underrated Mega Man tracks here). 6. "Sealed Time" - Ys III: Wanderers From Ys (PC) [embed]265845:51411:0[/embed] This is one of my favorite songs of all time, period. So it goes without saying that I also love to take it with me for exercise sessions. It's a powerful '80s rock adventure, as is the rest of this amazing soundtrack, and all of it could be included on this list. Man, that melody is just so awesome! 5. "Dispossessed Eidolons ~Minudes~" - FFIV: The After Years (Wii / PSP) [embed]265845:51412:0[/embed] I bet this one is a surprise to most. The chaotic nature of this track and the pounding orchestral elements are just so awesome, I couldn't help but bring people's attention to it here. In fact, the word "explosive" comes to mind with this track... it will really work you up into a frenzy at the gym. 4. "Awakening" - Xenogears (PS1) [embed]265845:51413:0[/embed] This is one of my favorite final boss themes out there, and it always comes to mind when people ask me about my favorite battle themes, or heaviest game music tracks. Mitsuda really outdid himself with the orchestral elements and choir, bringing in a memorable melody and a perfect ending to such a powerful game. 3. "Glory Days" - Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 4 (Arcade) [embed]265845:51414:0[/embed] The Wangan Midnight franchise features music by Yuzo Koshiro, and this track in particular brings in the pumping electronics for which the series is known and combines it with a mean sax performance by Metal Gear Solid composer Norihiko Hibino (the two often collaborate on the Etrian Odyssey series, so this track is a trip to hear after hearing the style of music they create for those games). It makes me think of the "Glory Days" when I weighed a lot less, which gets me into gear! 2. "Worlds Collide" - Final Fantasy XIII-2 (PS3) [embed]265845:51415:0[/embed] I absolutely love the Final Fantasy XIII-2 soundtrack, and this track and "Paradigm Shift" are absolute musts on your exercise playlist. This is one of the first songs featured in the early demos of Final Fantasy XIII-2, and it blew me away with its heavy electronics-infused hip-hop sound, and I think if you really give it a chance, it will grow on you and become one of your favorites as well. 1. "Argon Refinery" - Shatter (PS3) [embed]265845:51416:0[/embed] The entire Shatter soundtrack is a gym playlist in itself. It's absolutely stunning, and "Argon Refinery" in particular with its 8:23 length will keep you going for a while. There's a part towards the middle where some killer electric guitar makes an entrance and will really get you in the mood to kick some ass. Go download this whole soundtrack now, in fact! BONUS! "To Far Away Times" - Love SQ [embed]265845:51417:0[/embed] I wanted to throw in a bonus, and this one is an arrangement of the ending theme from Chrono Trigger. This track has a special meaning to me in my life, and always managed to bring a tear to my eye, but this version is just so energetic and positive that I love when it pops up during a workout.I also present this arrangement here for another special occasion. I know the articles I write on Destructoid are long, but I know there are those out there that read every word, and for those of you reading this now, I have this message: this is my last post on Destructoid. I'm not one to write a big going away post for the front page, so I wanted to say goodbye here, to those of you that have read this far, in the best way I know how: with the most fitting piece of music I could think of.Thanks to everyone running Destructoid for giving me the opportunity to share my passion for game music with all of you, and most of all, thank you, dear readers, for your ear in more ways than one. I will continue sharing my passion for game music with others as I delve into providing public relations services for composers around the globe as well as releasing albums as a part of a new record label I'm launching. You can bet that the good folks here at Destructoid will be keeping you informed about these projects in the future. And I'll hopefully see many of you at MAGFest.Until that time, I beg you all to keep an open ear, listen to as much game music as possible, and share the love with your friends! Thanks for everything! 
The Sound Card photo
Sound Card 014: Get ready to kick some ass!
Like our last issue of The Sound Card, which focused on music to sleep to, this has also been on my back burner for some time. I have over 300 tracks on my exercise playlist in iTunes, and a lot of that is game music. I thoug...

Top 10 ice levels photo
Top 10 ice levels

Let's go sledding! My top 10 ice levels


Promoted from our Community Blogs!
Dec 21
// Ben Davis
[Dtoid community blogger bbain loves ice. Ice, baby! Want to see your own blog appear on our front page? Go write something! --Mr Andy Dixon] Happy holidays, everyone! I hope you're staying warm during these cold winter month...
Promoted Blog photo
Promoted Blog

My 7th Gen: 7 most memorable moments


Promoted from our Community Blogs!
Nov 09
// naveenwf
[Dtoid community blogger naveenwf reminisces about his favorite memories of last gen for this month's Community Assignment. Want to see your own blog appear on our front page? Go write something! --Mr Andy Dixon] Instead of w...

Top ten game music tracks to sleep to

Sep 24 // Jayson Napolitano
10. "Eruyt Village" - Final Fantasy XII (PS2) [embed]261464:50403:0[/embed] I knew from the moment this track started in with its beautiful harp and woodwinds that it'd be perfect to sleep to. Not only is the music soothing, but imagery of a lush deep forest comes to mind, really putting me in the mood. This is also one of my favorites from the highly underrated Final Fantasy XII soundtrack, and one of my favorite Sakimoto compositions to date. 9. "The Queens" - Secret of Evermore (SNES) [embed]261464:50404:0[/embed] Did you know that Secret of Evermore was composer Jeremy Soule's musical debut? This track, while somber, is simply magical. There are the peaceful harmonies in the beginning, followed by the warm bass, and finally the scattered woodwinds that seemingly drift off into a dream. 8. "Still of the Night" - Secret of Mana (SNES) [embed]261464:50405:0[/embed] I could have easily made a top ten list of music to sleep to from Secret of Mana alone. I went with "Still of the Night" mainly because some of my other picks were either more relaxing than sleep-inducing, or they were already featured on past lists. The bell tones and choir pads get a nice rhythm going that will do just trick on those sleepless nights! 7. "Peace of Akatosh" - The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (PC / PS3 / 360) [embed]261464:50406:0[/embed] My sleep playlist is loaded with Jeremy Soule's work from The Elder Scrolls. "Peace of Akatosh" is especially effective, however, with its dreamy pads, slow pacing, and effective use of silence. It's not as exciting as many of the other tracks here, but it's somewhat of a sleeper hit (hah!). 6. "The One Who Is Torn Apart" - Xenogears (PS1) [embed]261464:50407:0[/embed] Okay, this one is a bit sinister, but man, that steady pad in the background and the fading bell tone backing does wonders. I often find the track contemplative, but given its length at over five minutes, I'm usually knocked out by the time it's through. This is another soundtrack with tons of great music to sleep to, though, so dig in! 5. "Subterra" - A Boy and His Blob (Wii) [embed]261464:50408:0[/embed] This was such a charming and gorgeous-looking game. Daniel Sadowski really outdid himself with the soundtrack, with "Subterra" being my favorite track from the game as well as one of my favorite songs to sleep to. It's that rich reverb that gives the track such an encompassing feel. 4. "Dimension Break" - Chrono Cross (PS1) [embed]261464:50409:0[/embed] Chrono Cross is another title with more than ten tracks that could easily be on this list. This lazy track moseys along with solo guitar, a measured pace, and a beautiful melody that is never intrusive. I can't help but remember the track's context, as well, in the bizarre yet beautiful space between worlds. 3. "Submerged Temple" - Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (GC) [embed]261464:50410:0[/embed] I was pleasantly surprised that this arrangement of the red soil area from Super Metroid found its way into Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. It's an exceptional example of memorable ambiance, and the updated version featured here really put the theme over the top. There's power in repetition, and I find a certain regenerative quality in this track. 2. "Lifestream" - Final Fantasy VII (PS1) [embed]261464:50411:0[/embed] Okay, getting down to the bottom here, I had some really tough decisions to make. "Lifestream" is simply my favorite track from Final Fantasy VII, and for some reason, people never seem to pay it much mind! I remember going into Bugenhagen's observatory and leaving my TV on just to relax to this track, and I'll admit that it was first MP3 I ever encountered back in 1998. A friend brought over 21 floppy discs with three songs from the FFVII OST so he could show me "this cool new MP3 thing" (I now own the soundtrack legally, of course!). 1. "This Dream" - NieR (PS3 / 360) [embed]261464:50412:0[/embed] Nearly the entirety of the NieR soundtrack is on my sleep playlist. However, I went with "This Dream" because it literally put me to sleep while I was playing the game. This forest town is foggy and dream-like to begin with, but this track plays during one of the text adventures that you encounter while trying to save the villagers from their eternal dream state. So beautiful! BONUS! "Nao Chorra Menina" - Final Fantasy: Pray [embed]261464:50413:0[/embed] Okay, I intentionally said I wouldn't be including arranged tracks, so I had to pick my very favorite and make it a bonus track. "Nao Chora Menina" is a lullaby-esque arrangement from the Final Fantasy vocal album, Pray, and covers "Kids Run Through the City Corner" from Final Fantasy VI. It's one of just a handful of songs that contain vocals on my playlist, and I think you'll find that it's a wonderful lullaby.
The Sound Card photo
Sound Card 013: Try not to fall asleep while reading!
This one's been on the back burner for way too long. While most recent editions of The Sound Card have focused on a single game franchise, I've been wanting to get back to the good ol' "What's on your playlist" kind of posts....

PAX 10 photo
PAX 10

PAX Prime 2013's PAX 10 games have been announced


You might have heard of some of these games already
Jul 29
// Darren Nakamura
One of my favorite parts about PAX Prime since 2008 has been the PAX 10 indie game showcase. Over 100 games were submitted to be judged upon by a panel of experts, and the following ten games have been declared the best of th...
Tony's Top 5 Mega Mans photo
Tony's Top 5 Mega Mans

Ranked: The five best Mega Man games (Tony's picks)


The REAL list of the Blue Bomber's greatest
Jun 25
// Tony Ponce
I don't know if you are aware, but I'm something of a Mega Man nut. The bulk of the Mega Man articles that appear on Destructoid are penned by none other than yours truly, and I sometimes wonder if I'm going overboard. Should...
Chris' Top 5 Mega Mans photo
Chris' Top 5 Mega Mans

Ranked: The five best Mega Man games (Carter's picks)


The Blue Bomber's best, ranked
Jun 25
// Chris Carter
It's no secret that fellow Destructoid author Tony Ponce and I enjoy a hearty serving of Mega Man on a daily basis. While I'll let Tony speak for himself in his own "Ranked" article, the reasons why I love the Mega Man series...

Seven more of the toughest games to run on PC

Apr 09 // Brett Makedonski
Metro 2033 (2010) By far the most popularly acknowledged omission from the original list was Metro 2033. It seemed like no one could get it running properly, no matter how impressive their hardware was. The exact reason for this is unknown, but most chalk it up to a poorly-optimized engine. Regardless, Metro 2033 wasn't a game that many experienced at full capacity. System Shock 2 (1999) Before its GOG.com release, System Shock 2 was one of the greatest offenders of this topic. A top-of-the-line computer wasn't necessarily enough to play it; it required the user to manually change the number of active processors within the game itself, which is a less-than-ideal way to be able to play a game. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (2002) Morrowind was a technical achievement of the early 2000s, and the number of awards it won reflected that. The game's world was praised for being expansive and detailed. However, it's this same level of detail that caused it to run at a low frame rate for many players. It was somewhat ironic that what was supposed to be a source of immersion was just a source of frustration for a lot of users. F.E.A.R. (2005) Before Crysis existed, F.E.A.R. was the go-to example for famously hard to run games. It was the first game created on Monolith's LithTech Jupiter EX engine. The engine was very advanced for its time with regard to physics and texture-rendering. However, it came at a price. Jupiter EX wreaked havoc on most PCs as it was extremely resource intensive. EverQuest II (2004) As an MMORPG, it's not surprising that EverQuest II featured a lot of player interaction. However, when the game came out, hardly any computer could handle it without a drop in performance when there was a lot of action on-screen. Far from optimal for a title that puts such an emphasis on group battles. Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason (2009) You can pretty much throw your specs out the window on this one. Cryostasis isn't just difficult to run; it's actually considered to be one of the most poorly-optimized games ever. It's a shame too, as the psychological horror game seemed to put a truly interesting narrative on display, but most people couldn't enjoy it, as the technical issues were too much to overlook. Half-Life 2 (2004) Even Half-Life 2, a title that's included in every "best game ever" conversation, was tough to run on PC. However, this one wasn't the developers' fault. If you had a rig that was capable, this game worked nicely. It was just that it required some beefy specs at the time of release. [Image courtesy of pixelwg]
Tough-to-run PC games photo
From the community
A few months ago, we compiled a list of some of the toughest games to run on PC in honor of the release of Crysis 3. While each of the games listed were certainly troublesome, plenty of additional titles were mentioned in the...

The best and worst games of 2013: Infinite March

Apr 06 // Jordan Devore
Etrian Odyssey IV (3DS) Etrian Odyssey IV the best series title yet, and an excellent place to start if you've never played one before. It is, by far, the most accessible series game yet, with its Casual mode and its wide-open, free-exploration gameplay. And for the first time, despite being a dungeon crawler at heart, an Etrian Odyssey title feels like a sprawling adventure.  For series fans, everything you love about Etrian Odyssey is here, and then some -- better music, art, monsters, and mapping. You will not be disappointed. For everyone else: fans of classic dungeon crawling, fans of planning and plotting, or fans of a sizable challenge, I cannot recommend Etrian Odyssey IV enough. Read the full Etrian Odyssey IV review Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus (PlayStation Vita) On top of the technical issues, there's barely anything new that's been added here to justify another purchase. It's a shame, because I really enjoyed the original Ninja Gaiden 2 and Sigma 2. Team Ninja really missed the opportunity to add a killer feature like the ability to replay Time Attack missions with extra characters or enhance Ninja Race, which would have justified a double/triple-dip. With the removal of content like Japanese audio and online co-op, this game doesn't offer enough to truly justify the "Plus" in its name. Team Ninja really needs to get its act together going forward, or the Ninja Gaiden series will be beyond repair. Read the full Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus review March of the Eagles (PC) There still remains some obstacles to an enjoyable evening of name-calling and war-declaring, unfortunately. Throughout my multiplayer matches, there's been players dropping, a shoddy "metaserver" that simply didn't work, the need to connect directly via IP as if we were still in the '90s, and the weirdest issue so far: the checksum of half the players changing, stopping us from being able to play together for about 30 minutes. Get past that nonsense and it's bloody marvelous. If you have the patience.  I'd happily recommend March of the Eagles based exclusively on the multiplayer, but if you prefer your gaming to be a solo venture, then it might not really offer quite as much. Those looking to get stuck into a historical war and not a lot else may still find conquering Europe and giving ol' Bonaparte what for entertaining, though, and as a game doesn't tend to go on for longer than eight hours in single-player, it won't devour your life.  Read the full March of the Eagles review Driftmoon (PC) [...] diehard RPG fans like myself will find things like the lack of party controls and the basic skill tree a bit too simple when compared to games like Baldur's Gate orThe Witcher. Driftmoon is, in its own right, an adventure worth having though, largely thanks to its witty writing and absolutely splendid humor. It’s a bit of salvation in a genre that seems to be limping by these days. Driftmoon is very obviously a labor of love. A lot of time and dedication went into creating it, and it shows. Though it may fall short in some areas, this is a classic RPG through and through. Beginners and veterans alike should take note and try out the demo at the very least. Read the full Driftmoon review Alien vs. Predator: Evolution (Android, iPhone, iPad) In fact, as I think about it, I have to give the devil his due. AvP: Evolution is actually worse than Colonial Marines -- ever so slightly worse. At least getting from A to B in Gearbox's insulting mess was relatively stress-free and didn't cause me to want to break something. For that roaring triumph, Colonial Marines now gets to enjoy not being the worst Aliens game to be released this year.  Congratulations to AvP: Evolution! You've managed to be marginally worse than an unfinished, buggy, outsourced piece of trash. You must be very proud.  Read the full Alien vs. Predator: Evolution review Tomb Raider (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Tomb Raider could so easily have gone wrong, and its opening gambit looks like it's heading down a most erroneous path. It starts off with some ambushing QTEs and absolutely pummels Lara Croft into the dirt to such a degree, you'd almost suspect the developers were getting off on it. This first impression is an awkward obfuscation, however, one that soon erodes to reveal a savvy, thoughtful, and above all, immensely enjoyable game. In fact, I'm happy to go on record as saying this is the best Tomb Raider game I've played. Tightly produced, competent in both its puzzling and its combat, this is one reboot that manages to be unequivocally superior to its predecessors. Read the full Tomb Raider review Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires (PlayStation 3) The Empires series is generally considered the best type of Dynasty Warriors spin-off, but with Koei's latest efforts smacking of no effort at all, this particular release comes across as unnecessary and pointless, especially with Dynasty Warriors 8 already out in Japan and inevitably preparing for a Western launch in a matter of months. This is still a decent enough game if you literally cannot get your fill of Warriors games, but for this lifelong fan of the series, Koei's been delivering too much of too little for a while now, and I'm about at the end of my tether. Read the full Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires review Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - The Hangman (iOS, PC [Reviewed]) As a first episode, The Hangman does more right than it does wrong. The influence of Jane Jensen, and Phoenix Online's previous work on its labor of love, The Silver Lining -- itself inspired by the hey-day of adventure gaming -- makes Cognition feel very much like what I suspect Sierra Online would have been putting out now if they were still around. Most importantly, I'm eager to get stuck into the second episode.  Read the full Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - The Hangman review Dollar Dash (PC, PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade) Dollar Dash is a serviceable game, even if it doesn't aim very high. If you're bored of constant deathmatches in Spelunky's multiplayer versus mode, or you've saturated every last round of Bomberman and the many clones it spawned over the years, Dollar Dash will give you a few evenings of enjoyment. Read the full Dollar Dash review Mass Effect 3: Citadel (Xbox 360 [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PC) For those of us who are heavily invested in the series, for whatever reason, it means putting away something special. This was a modern sci-fi epic that attempted, at least, to give the player a voice. I don’t think this trip quite took the path that anyone thought it would, but it’s been an interesting ride. If this is how BioWare wants to close Shepard’s chapter, I can live with this. It’s not a perfect finale, but it’s one that highlights the best we’ve seen from the series so far, and it’s not without its own set of endearing idiosyncrasies.  Read the full Mass Effect 3: Citadel review DmC: Devil May Cry: Vergil's Downfall (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) In a way, Vergil's Downfall represents the game DmC might have been -- less fluff, more style. But at the same time, like many areas of DmC, it lacks substance. You'll fight very samey enemies across five areas that also bear a resemblance to stages from the core game, which at the end of the day, just isn't quite enough to justify DLC pricing for everyone. If you loved DmC, you really can't go wrong here. But if it wasn't everything you had hoped for, Vergil's Downfall will do little than give you a glimpse into the stylish Devil May Cry of old, at least from an aesthetic perspective. Read the full DmC: Devil May Cry: Vergil's Downfall review God of War: Ascension (PlayStation 3) Ascension had challenges coming from every direction from early on. Some of the franchise's core mechanics have grown a bit tired over the past years, which had gamers questioning the need for another title. Beyond this, some questioned the need for a prequel story. Most of all, the idea of a multiplayer addition was initially off-putting to vocal series fans. But, like Kratos, Sony Santa Monica ripped through every one of these challenges with their bare hands to bring us a game that is so fantastic that it should make anyone that ever questioned them feel bad for doing so. God of War has never looked or played better than this. Kratos has never been as deep or interesting as this. They've set the bar so high that I have no idea how they'll be able to follow this one up. Sony Santa Monica should be proud. Series fans should be proud.  Read the full God of War: Ascension review Kersploosh! (3DS eShop) With a bit more content and some tweaking, Kersploosh! could have been one of the best games on the 3DS eShop, because as it stands, it's a hard sell for people who like their experiences padded with more content. If you're okay with a short, enjoyable journey to the bottom of a well though, it's more than enough. Read the full Kersploosh! review The Bridge (PC) The Bridge surprised me multiple times during the eight or so hours I played it. It surprised me with the devious simplicity of the level design, the dark theme that permeates the entirety of the game, and I was especially surprised by how satisfying the game was as a whole. Some of the puzzles are a bit of trial-and-error since the more complicated mechanics take a certain amount of experience to fully understand. The difficulty can also be a bit wonky at times, alternating back and forth between "hard as a five star Sudoku" and "easy as a word search." Read the full The Bridge review SimCity (PC [reviewed], Mac) There is some promise for this to be a good game, but promise alone isn't enough. Even if they do manage to get their servers back online and functioning, I still know that if something goes wrong on their end I will lose all of my saved games. My cities are at the mercy of EA's servers and my Internet connection, and while there are some nice things to be found in SimCity, the need to always be online and feeling forced to play with other people ruins the experience.  I wanted to like this game, I really did. At first I started to enjoy it, but soon all I found was frustration. I can't recommend this game to anyone, and I don't want to play it anymore myself because I am afraid of seeing all my efforts lost due to server issues. It's a decent game if it worked right, but the online dependency, forced multiplayer, and DRM ruin it.  Read the full SimCity review The Banner Saga: Factions (PC, Mac) Consider Factions for what it is: A testing ground and potential cash cow for Stoic's upcoming commercial release, and a fun sample of what's to come. If I were not in the middle of Fire Emblem, I may continue to play Factions -- hell, I may play a random match here and there, anyway. This unorthodox release that has Kickstarter backers in a frenzy is not worth getting so worked up over, as it suggests the single-player Banner Saga may be a gem -- a gem that some will have Factions users to thank for helping make it what it is. Read the full The Banner Saga: Factions review ATV Wild Ride 3D  (3DS eShop) In many ways, ATV Wild Ride 3D is stuck in the 90s, but that isn't wholly a bad thing. It does everything that it advertises -- it allows you to ride ATV vehicles on some pretty neat courses, in 3D. Just don't expect much more than that. Read the full ATV Wild Ride 3D review Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds (Xbox Live Arcade) With its colorful characters, gorgeous sprite graphics, 8-bit tracks, and multiple game modes, there's a lot to love here. I must admit, while I wasn't familiar with the fighting game on which it's based, I'm seriously hoping it passes through localization, as I'd love to play that title as well. Whether playing couch co-op or online, it's a great way to spend an afternoon with friends, though hopefully they'll patch for having a more stable connection for the latter. Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is a simple game that anyone can pick up and play, but belies a deeper feel for combos like a traditional fighting game would, while adding a minimal skill tree for damage and speed boosts like an RPG. It's deep without being too deep, which makes it just the right amount of fun. Read the full Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds review Richard & Alice (PC) There is a lot of text to get through, but Richard & Alice is a well-paced adventure. Dialogue-heavy moments between the titular characters are broken up by Richard, under player control, interacting with his room, emailing the prison staff, attempting to fix the AC, all the time still chatting to Alice, and then there are the flashbacks which are evenly paced throughout.  Despite being a short tale, there are multiple endings and subtle, easy-to-miss pieces of information that make Richard & Alice worth at least a second playthrough, something I just did this afternoon. It isn't required, however, as this is a complete story, and all the endings have something to offer both in terms of the closure they provide and their emotional weight. Read the full Richard & Alice review LEGO City Undercover (Wii U) For all its faults, charming is absolutely the word best describing LEGO City Undercover. While more could have been done to exploit the sandbox scenario, and while it sticks a bit too nervously to formula than it could have, Undercover is nonetheless a frequently pleasurable, occasionally hilarious little romp in a new LEGO world full of potential. Should TT Games get another chance to revisit this idea, I hope for -- and expect -- a lot more of an expansion on the concept, and a lot more focus on the fresh elements that provide Undercover's highest points. As for this first try, we have a pretty damn good effort that I'd love to see more of.  Read the full LEGO City Undercover review Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate (3DS) Your mileage may vary; from various impressions around the net, a lot of folks have already voiced their approval. And that's fine. I'm happy if you are able to look past the complete exclusion of any of the traditional Castlevania values and appreciate the Western-focused approach, even if it isn't original in the least. I simply cannot share in your enthusiasm. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate is not the fusion of old and new Castlevania designs that was teased; it merely cements MercurySteam's ambition to keep the Lords of Shadow sub-series as distant from the main branch as possible. Not the worst thing in the world, but still quite disappointing. Read the full Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate review Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk (PS3) In short, Gust definitely seems to be straddling the line with Atelier Ayesha, showing that they have the talent to construct a plot which doesn’t rely on swimsuit competitions, yet aren’t quite ready to dedicate themselves to the taxing demands of a full RPG adventure. What we’ve left with then is a game without an audience. Fans of traditional RPGs will be turned off by the minimal exploration elements; fans of anime babes in skimpy costumes are unable to get their fix, while fans of generic cutesy anime nonsense really don’t command the buying power to make Atelier Ayesha anything more than a niche title. Read the full Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk review Naruto Powerful Shippuden (3DS) It may not be a perfect brawler, but it's certainly a fun one, and one that any Naruto fan would enjoy. Don't let the art style dissuade you from enjoying the action here, as the RPG-esque elements of stat boosting and defense increases add a special something that future games in the genre should take note of. The humor may also not be for everyone, but if you're like me, you'll love the fact that the game doesn't take itself seriously. It fits the art style as well as the general goofy nature of the characters and situations. Plus, with it being based on Rock Lee's spin-off, you're already getting a unique experience gamers haven't yet tapped into. It's the ideal mix of fun and funny, without being too over-the-top. Read the full Naruto Powerful Shippuden review Super House of Dead Ninjas (PC) This is one game that I know I'll be playing long after this review is finished with. The instant challenge and frantic pace makes it perfect to just pick up and play for 15 minutes, while the tight controls and potentially limitless number of floors makes it easy to pour hours into. If you're not convinced, then check out the free version and see if it floats your boat. I do have one caveat, however. Whatever you do, don't play this with a keyboard. It's possible, but you'll just be giving yourself another unnecessary and fairly unpleasant challenge. Thankfully,Super House of Dead Ninjas comes with native controller support, and after a few initial hiccups, it seems to work perfectly now. Read the full Super House of Dead Ninjas review The Showdown Effect (PC) The Showdown Effect's success will ultimately be dictated by the number of players that stick around. They need to host the games, and they need to provide the challenge for other players. Unlike Magicka, it's a multiplayer, online-only experience, and that's something of a risky endeavor for a small studio. It's a game that deserves to be played, however, and it's one that's a hilarious spectacle to watch too -- something that Arrowhead clearly realizes and is keen to exploit with its Twitch.tv integration. Maybe I should make one of those video thingymabobs? Nah, I don't need any more people laughing at how awful I am.  Read the full The Showdown Effect review Dead Space 3: Awakened (PC, Xbox 360 [reviewed], PlayStation 3) Speaking as a fan of Dead Space, I feel I could skip Awakened and miss absolutely nothing of value. While some of the new ideas are nice, the sense of disappointment that none of them are capitalized upon offsets any good they do, while the story is nothing you couldn't explain in a single Tweet. While the gameplay is as solid as anything found in Dead Space 3, it could also be acquired simply by replaying chapters of Dead Space 3.  Dead Space 3: Awakened is a whole lot of not much at all. Read the full Dead Space 3: Awakened review Darkstalkers Resurrection  (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) If you're opting to play online, the netcode is extremely solid, and I had a chance to play around 50 games with little to no interruptions or issues. The GGPO-powered online system works just as advertised, and with eight-player lobby support, YouTube upload functionality, and an online tournament mode, Resurrection really shines online. Although the visuals deserved a much larger upgrade than a lazy filter, the fact of the matter is, the engine still holds up amazingly well, and the netcode is near perfect. If you've always been curious about this franchise, now is the time to take the plunge -- if you're a fan of old-school 2D fighters, you won't be disappointed. Read the full Darkstalkers Resurrection review Vampire Crystals (WiiWare) After beating the final boss, the story pulls a Ghosts 'n Goblins and forces you to replay the entire campaign for the true ending, only now the levels take place at night and enemies are unfathomably more aggressive. I died three times during the revamped first stage before dropping the controller and saying, "No more." Clearing the three worlds once only requires a handful of hours, but the tedium that sets in early on makes it feel like far more time has elapsed. There was no way I was suffering through all that again. I can appreciate the classic arcade spirit of Vampire Crystals, but it does little to mask the shortcomings of old-school design while adding its own set of issues. Playing it single-player is chore, but convincing a group to play with you might be even more laborious. There just isn't enough meat on these dusty old bones. Read the full Vampire Crystals review Ridiculous Fishing (iPad, iPhone [reviewed]) Yes, perfect is the word for Ridiculous Fishing. Everything comes together to deliver a cohesive whole that works to alternate between making you smile, making you wonder, and most of all, making you want more. Thankfully, the game is quick to offer more. Just when you think you've seen the end, there's a new area, new item, a new kick in the storyline, or new fish to savor.  Ingeniously designed, continuously compelling, painstakingly crafted, dripping with personality, packed with content -- I like everything about Ridiculous Fishing. Read the full Ridiculous Fishing review Gears of War: Judgment (Xbox 360) Gears of War 3 was still a great little game, but represented the kind of step down indicative of a series that's running out of steam. Gears of War: Judgment puts paid to that impression, proving there's plenty of vitality in Epic's flagship yet; provided it's willing to try some new spins on its established formula. OverRun alone is worthy of praise, but there's just so much stuff going on in this package, there's something for all followers of the series. A few of Judgment's experiments may not be as fondly received as others, but overall it's hard to complain about a game that tries so much, and succeeds in almost all its endeavors.  Read the full Gears of War: Judgment review StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm (PC) Heart of the Swarm is a fantastic addition to the StarCraft series, and quite frankly feels on par with a $60 game. It brings almost nothing new to the table, but there's nothing wrong with sticking to a formula you know works well. If you enjoyed Wings of Liberty, or just like RTS games in general, there's no reason not to pick this one up.  Read the full StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm review Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (3DS, Wii U [reviewed]) Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate definitely isn't for everybody. It requires a lot of time and dedication that some people simply can't put forth. It will take a while to get used to the controls, to determine which weapon is best for you, and to discover the tiny nuances to the gameplay. After all is said and done and the big monster is slain, however, nothing is more rewarding. Encountering monsters in Monster Hunter isn't like most other games. Monsters will take your breath away shortly before they take your life away. This is a game that will force you to learn from your mistakes, lest you repeat them and achieve the same failure as before.  While the visuals are far from stunning and the online lacks any sort of host migration, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is one of the best and most rewarding experiences in a long time, and will certainly keep you busy for a while. Read the full Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate review Assassin's Creed III: Tyranny of King Washington: The Betrayal (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) The Betrayal tries to offer more variety than The Infamy did thanks to its high flying antics, but it never truly transcends those ideas on a base level. If it offered a full sandbox with ridiculous spirit powers, it could have made for a pretty amazing superhero sideshow. Instead, the powers feel fairly limiting, as do the worlds they take place in; which feels like a wasted opportunity. Perhaps if the third part can bring the craziness up to 11, this "what if" story will pack a little more punch. Until then, you may want to hold off on going all in, or even partly in, at this point. Read the full Tyranny of King Washington: The Betrayal review Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon (3DS) In many ways, Dark Moon's ScareScraper is one of the best multiplayer modes I've ever played. There's so much variety to it, and the formula of combining the cooperative nature with competitive, playful elements is genius. My wife and I couldn't stop playing, and every time I had friends over who owned a 3DS, I beamed a download play version to their portables for a quick few rounds. If Dark Moon was just a single-player experience, it would have been a fleeting, yet enjoyable adventure. But with the addition of an infectious multiplayer element that can't be replicated anywhere else, it makes Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon even better than its predecessor, and one of the clear-cut best games on the 3DS. Read the full Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon review Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 (PC [reviewed], Xbox 360, PS3) There is an enjoyable camp quality to the script, which is full of nonsensical twists and tough guy talk ("We've got a major shit sandwich!") that takes itself way too seriously. I can see some appeal in getting together friends and having some drinks while playing. The constant waypoints and enemy icons make me think that being inebriated would make for an acceptable challenge. Nevermind online, which is composed of 2 maps, 1 mode (Team Deathmatch), and 0 active servers. The task set before Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 is not a hard one: make sniping fun. Apparently, City Interactive didn't get the memo, filling the game with a never-ending sequence of following an NPC guide through uneventful, recycled, and ugly environments. Even at four hours, Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 requires a level of patience and commitment that even the best snipers won't be capable of. Read the full Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 review Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 (PlayStation 3 [reviewed], Xbox 360) While the game isn't a genuine sea change from its predecessors, it stays true to the franchise's foundations, and makes up for any lack of innovation with the grand, beautiful spectacle that is its hallmark. The iterative refinements Cyberconnect2 have implemented over the series' history have helped to deepen the gameplay as well, bringing a more satisfying competitive experience while still maintaining accessibility. Though it stumbles somewhat due to unfortunate narrative placement, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is a must-play for any Naruto fan, as well as anyone looking to have a good time wallowing in fun anime ridiculousness. Read the full Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 review The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed], Wii U) It's easy to believe Terminal Reality had the skeleton in place for a unique and enthralling take on the Walking Dead franchise, but with a deadline looming, added absolutely nothing to the bones and tossed out something woefully undercooked. Survival Instinct clearly isn't finished, and has no business expecting money from any paying customer. It's the kind of hurried, jury-rigged game that risks dealing damage to a property -- an especially sour note considering all the excellent work achieved by Telltale's The Walking Dead. By contrast to 2012's adventure game, Survival Instinct cashes in all the property's goodwill to churn out a botched, incomplete, hideous little waste of time and energy.  Read the full The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct review Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity (3DS) It's always tough to judge whether or not a game should be commended or punished for streamlining a series that previously catered to a niche audience. In this case, it simplifies the experience a bit too much, but given that this is the most accessible game yet, it could lead to more potential fans, which is always a good thing. Although it may not be the best game in the franchise, Gates to Infinity is still an enjoyable dungeon crawl, and a beautiful-looking game to boot. So long as you can deal with an easier adventure, this is another mystery worth solving. Read the full Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity review BioShock Infinite (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) As a game, BioShock Infinite has its successes and its falterings consistent with any suitably complex piece of interactive entertainment. As a story, as an exercise in drawing the player into a believable and relevant world, as proof of exactly what a videogame can mean to a person ...  Well, I already said it. BioShock Infinite is damn near perfect. Read the full BioShock Infinite review HarmoKnight (3DS eShop) [...] HarmoKnight is a wonderful bundle of charm and joy that doesn't really punish failure but rather encourages perseverance and dedication. There isn't even a "Game Over" when you die! Instead, the screen reads, "Oh Dear..." Reminds me of a mother who picks up a child who fell off the jungle gym, dusts him off, and gently urges him to try again. It's such a minor touch, but it's nonetheless uplifting. Maybe I'm sentimental like that. It's been seven years since Game Freak last made a non-Pokémon title. HarmoKnight feels like the promising start of many wonderful new experiences to come, so I can only hope we don't have to wait another seven years for a follow-up. Read the full HarmoKnight review Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 (PlayStation 3 [reviewed], Xbox 360) Satisfying gameplay is the crux of the Tiger Woods franchise. All the new modes in the world wouldn't matter if it didn't feel so amazing to actually play. Luckily, Tiger Woods PGA 14 stays true to the core gameplay, and adds a very worthwhile mode with Legends of the Majors. All of the other new bells and whistles are either mediocre or long overdue. The game is hard to recommend to someone who picked up last year's outing, except perhaps to the big golf enthusiasts among you who would appreciate the Legends of the Masters mode more than anyone else. If you're like me, though, and haven't picked up a Tiger Woods game in a while, PGA 14 has the classic gameplay that made the series stand out from its competitors, even if it is starting to show its age graphically. Read the full Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 review Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - The Wise Monkey (iOS, PC [Reviewed]) Though The Wise Monkey is not all it could have been, it's a strong second episode. Much of it, however, felt almost like filler. The murder of Erica's brother and The Hangman case remain effectively untouched throughout most of this installment, and it does worry me that it has now set up even more mysteries while answering absolutely nothing. I don't doubt that it will all tie together somehow, but Cognition throws so few bones to the player that even the enjoyment of speculation is fruitless.  Read the full Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - The Wise Monkey review Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) The core of Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel is still decent. It's a serviceable game, and provides the kind of no-frills, unimaginative action that can at least provide cathartic fantasy violence. If that's what you want, however, you're better off getting the last game -- one that felt more refined, offered more compelling interaction, and will likely be available to purchase for peanuts these days. The Devil's Cartel, by contrast, is buggy, unnecessary, and outstays its welcome before the credits close.  Army of Two has never been an especially bad series, it's just never been an especially good one.The Devil's Cartel is the ultimate example of this. Is it bad? Not especially. But it's a far, far cry from good. Read the full Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel review Sword of the Stars: The Pit (PC) The Pit is very difficult and has that same feeling of "okay, just one more run" that both Binding of Isaac or FTL: Faster Than Light have, but it still feels a bit "been there, done that." The Easy difficulty setting in conjunction with being able to save at any time are great boons for new players, while both the Hard and Insane difficulties are present for you crazy masochists who enjoy that kind of punishment. While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with Sword of the Stars: The Pit, there just isn't anything that is really mind-blowing. It is a well-polished roguelike that doesn't stray far from expectations, but instead stays in a rather comfortable zone from a game design perspective. Read the full Sword of the Stars: The Pit review Dead or Alive 5 Plus (PSVita) When it comes right down to it, one of last year's best fighting games on home consoles has become one of this year's best handheld fighters. Play control is never hampered by the more cramped constraints of the small button layout, graphics aren't sacrificed on the smaller screen, and just about everything from the feature-rich home version is included here, with a few noticeable exceptions. While not all the extra modes are fantastic, there's something to be said for extra content at all in a port, and the cross-save and cross-play functionality is a welcome addition to any Vita game. Read the full Dead or Alive 5 Plus review DLC Quest (PC [reviewed], Xbox Live Indie Games) Still, for less than five dollars, there's enough charm to justify the entry fee. The game's dialog induces anything from smirks to cringes, while the retro-themed graphics and music are joyful in their simplicity. It's a cheap game, with a rudimentary premise, that does enough to keep its joke fresh and feels inherently validating for a player who's grown weary of the game industry's less savory practices.  At the very least, you'll get your money's worth, which often cannot be said for the many games DLC Quest owes its creation to. Read the full DLC Quest review
March 2013 reviews photo
Review round-up: The games of March 2013
What a month! Now that March is well behind us (and we remembered to take a look back to ponder), I feel confident in saying that between BioShock Infinite and Tomb Raider, and yet another Gears of War, we are well into ...

Ranked: The Gears of War trailers

Mar 18 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]248958:47621:0[/embed] 6. Gears of War: Judgment Despite its impending release, the Gears of War: Judgment trailer has to be the worst of the bunch. It completely ignores the formula that was expertly refined in the previous trailers. Featuring the song "Shooting the Moon" by Mona, the Gears of War: Judgment video takes an entirely different approach than all of its predecessors. Focusing on action, combat, and testosterone, it feels less like a Gears of War trailer, and more like the run-of-the-mill trailer released for almost any other videogame. It's tough not to view this one as the black sheep of the Gears of War trailers. [embed]248958:47622:0[/embed] 5. Gears of War 2 - I Have A Rendezvous With Death This is the most unique of the Gears of War trailers, in the sense that it's the only one to feature a poem instead of a song. Borrowing choice lines from Alan Seeger's writing, this video seems to move step-in-step with the poem. Despite being only the second Gears of War trailer, it didn't take long for Epic to find their groove. This video is highlighted by several defining characteristics that tend to find their way into the series' other trailers. [embed]248958:47623:0[/embed] 4. Gears of War 3 - Ashes to Ashes When Cliff Bleszinski appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to announce Gears of War 3, they showed this reveal trailer. The video unveiled some interesting tidbits about the game such as the inclusion of a female COG, and the introduction of the Lambent as enemies. Aside from these revelations, the video was quite phenomenal. It's probably the trailer that best depicts the hopelessness of war. The look of utter defeat on Dom's face as he gives in to the realization of death is nothing short of incredible. As the camera fades out to show all sects fighting one another with the COGs caught squarely in the middle, you couldn't help but feel as if Gears of War 3 couldn't release fast enough. [embed]248958:47626:0[/embed] 3. Gears of War 2 - Last Day The "Last Day" trailer may be the most emotionally effective one of all because it shows purely the human side of war. There's no combat or action, just soldiers reflecting on the weight of war. As Dom looks at a creased picture of him and Maria, and Marcus stares into the ominously overcast sky, their lives seem semi-normal. That is, until the camera follows Marcus to show him walking from a golden field into a Locust camp -- expressing the permanent blurring of lines between what can even be considered normal anymore. As their elevator plummets into the ground in perfect synchronization with the music, you know that normal's out the window. [embed]248958:47627:0[/embed] 2. Gears of War 3 - Dust to Dust "Dust to Dust" is the trailer that was made for the game that was set to close out the original trilogy. It's unusually action-packed, as it was made to correlate nicely with the apex of the series. What made this trailer really special was the style in which they went about packing in all that action. The entire video is one continuous camera shot, and it's in slow-motion. This, coupled with Mazzy Star's "Into Dust", made for one of the most memorable trailers of all time. [embed]248958:47628:0[/embed] 1. Gears of War - Mad World Here it is. The "Mad World" spot is hands-down the best Gears of War trailer. This probably doesn't come as a surprise to anyone. In fact, there's a solid chance that you clicked this article solely to watch it again. When this trailer began to air in 2006, not only did it turn a lot of people on to Gears of War, but it's the reason that a lot of people even bought an Xbox 360 in the first place. There was never any question that "Mad World" would be at the top of this list. In fact, if this were a list of best videogame trailers of all time, this one would probably be in the exact same spot.
Gears of War trailers photo
The emotional side to these tough guys
The Gears of War franchise has a history across its four titles of releasing some of the best cinematic trailers in gaming. Despite the series' reputation of being all about impossibly muscle-bound space marines murderin...

Ranked: The five best Castlevania games

Mar 05 // Chris Carter
As a side note, I have been playing Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate as of yesterday. Reviews are all over the place, and personally, I find it to be a serviceable 2D platformer. No, it's not the classic Castlevania you know and love, but just like Lords of Shadow, it manages to strike a decent compromise and acclimate itself to the genre to the point where most people would have fun with it. There are exploration elements, but they feel limited -- and as a warning, yes, there are some QTEs. I wouldn't consider it even close to worthy of this list, but then again, these are some of the best games of all time on offer here. As usual, the following list is in no particular order. Super Castlevania IV (Super Nintendo - 1991, Virtual Console - 2006) What Castlevania list would be complete without Super Castlevania? A revolution at the time, Super brought Castlevania into the new era of 16-bit, with a mind blowing array of graphical prowess, and an incredible soundtrack to boot. Protagonist Simon Belmont could now whip in eight directions, hold out his whip to utilize a new attack, and grapple select hooks. You could also (gasp!) control your character while jumping, and crouch walk. As a result, players had more control over Simon's actions, creating a more action oriented feel. In short, it sought to keep the franchise from being antiquated, and it succeeded. If you haven't played it yet, definitely make time soon to do so -- it still holds up, even if Egoraptor thinks that all of these new freedoms of control result in a less complex game overall. Castlevania: Curse of Darkness (PlayStation 2, Xbox - 2005) I love the art direction for Curse of Darkness, to the point where visually, it's probably my favorite in the franchise. Although the level designs weren't always up to par in the first portion of the game, the art and character designs are so beautiful, that they ended up spawning a two volume manga spinoff. Another reason why I enjoy Curse of Darkness is how original it is, and how Konami managed to keep the game fresh, yet distinctly Castlevania. Instead of yet another Belmont, this game features Hector, a former Devil Forgemaster for Dracula. Hector's quarrel deals with his former friend, Isaac, who murdered his wife. There's a ton of content here, including a full explorable castle, tons of items to collect, a complex level system involving familiars, and a fully playable Trevor Belmont. It plays like a mix of Lament of Innocence and Symphony of the Night, which is incredibly unique from a gameplay perspective. Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (PC Engine - 1993, Wii Virtual Console - 2010, SNES [remake] - 1995, PSP [remake] - 2007) The release schedule of Rondo of Blood is a confusing riddle that took me years to decipher. Originally, it was released in 1993 as a Japan only title for the PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16). It had multiple paths, a super ability that let you go berserk with sub-weapons, some of the best level design in any Castlevania game, and the ability to play as both Richter Belmont and Maria, his lover's sister. In short, it was hectic, and one of the better games from a pure action standpoint. Not content with keeping the game in Japan, Konami remade the game on the SNES into the version most Americans are familiar with today -- Dracula X. When Dracula X was released, critics were divided, some calling it a serviceable remake, and others calling it an inferior port. Years later having played the original Rondo of Blood, I tend to agree with the later sentiment, but Dracula X is still a very playable game if you haven't tackled it already. Even still, Konami wasn't done with Rondo. Years later, they released Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles [pictured], a 2.5D PSP remake that also included the sequel, Symphony of the Night in one package. Chronicles as a port is closer to the original, and it's a better experience than Dracula X. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (Game Boy Advance - 2003) Choosing a favorite portable Castlevania game is torture. They're pretty much all good in their own way, but one in particular stuck out: Aria of Sorrow.As weird as it sounds, Soma Cruz is one of my favorite protagonists in the franchise, mostly because of how crazy he is conceptually. I mean, a teenage reincarnation of Dracula? How much wackier can you get? Gameplay wise, it plays out pretty much like Symphony of the Night. There's a fully explorable open world, an experience system -- the whole shebang. Hell, even the life meter looks 1:1 like Symphony of the Night. But it's the tactical soul system that set sit apart. Soma is one of the more unique heroes in that he can absorb the souls of his fallen foes to gain new abilities (think Blue Mages in Final Fantasy). You could trade these souls through a Game Boy Advance link cable, and collecting them was as addicting as Pokémon. Also, an optional New Game+ Mode is never a bad thing, nor is an additional Hard Mode, Boss Rush, or a mode in which you can play as Julius Belmont. As a spiritual successor to Symphony of the Night, Aria of Sorrow delivers. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PlayStation - 1997, PSN - 2007, Sega Saturn - 1998, Xbox Live Arcade - 2007) I know I said this wasn't in any particular order, but I can't resist making the following statement: Symphony of the Night is easily my favorite Castlevania game ever. Full stop. It has one of the best soundtracks of all time, incredible level design, and one of the most classic twists in all of gaming. Alucard is also one of the most enjoyable videogame protagonists I've ever had the pleasure of playing with. He's incredibly versatile, fun to play, and an all around badass. From start to finish, Symphony of the Night reminded me why I even like playing games in the first place. Everything wasn't painfully obvious and the difficulty was at just the right setting, to the point where it took actual effort to persevere. When everything was said and done, you felt like you actually accomplished something, rather than feel like the developer held your hand through the entire experience. To have such an Earth-shattering revelation as an entire second castle that's different enough, yet familiar, after you obtained a secret ending that essentially doubled your game length, was mind blowing. I've been enamored by a lot of 2D platformers over the years, but it's distinctly possible that none of them have captured my attention as well as Symphony of the Night. It's that good.
Top 5 Castlevania games photo
Timeless classics
Castlevania is a very personal series for me. I grew up with the franchise from the very first game's wondrous release, through my utter confusion with Simon's Quest, all the way full circle to the newest iteration of the fra...

The best and worst games of 2013: February Rising

Mar 04 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Cart Life (Windows) Hofmeier gives the player the freedom to trap themselves in the rat maze of low-income retail, but surrounds this with a world of distant figures for whom jobs don't exist and success has been tamed. While in shellshock from the burn of menial work and poverty, only the character and short term problems seem to exist. The figurative and literal connections Hofmeier makes between physical input and character action are profound and immediate, creating emotions that bleed into reality and beg for contemplation. Eventually, the worker must look past their own problems and become a part of society. In Cart Life, there is no world to connect to. After personal discoveries are made through the game's mechanics -- which are unfortunately paired with a multitude of game crashes -- the player is left to repeat a virtual life of monotony and zero-sum progress. The most reasonable action is to do the thing that real life cart vendors can't: Turn your back on the job and go do something else. Read the full Cart Life review  Croixleur (PC) Drawing inspiration from Devil May Cry's Bloody Palace mode, the game's story mode takes place in a tower filled with monsters. Players are placed in a series of arenas and must defeat a set number of enemies in order to progress to the next floor.  It's pretty simple and there aren't a whole lot of frills to the package, but what Croixleur does (combat), it does very well. Slashing, dashing, move canceling, the mechanics of everything seem incredibly refined and well tuned. Standard attacks are complemented by a sizable arsenal of unlockable weapons, each with their own properties and special moves. Nuanced systems help flesh out an otherwise unadorned game, as players will need to learn how everything works together to see it through to the end. Read the full Croixleur review  Tokyo Crash Mobs (3DS eShop) Tokyo Crash Mobs is a match three puzzle game where you play as one or two young women who throw or roll human beings at other human beings wearing the same colored clothes. This makes the human beings form "cliques," then disintegrate. At first, the two women appear to have different motivations for taking action in this way. Grace wants to have a fun time at the club, but she's at the back of the line. Only the first ten people of the line will get in. Her solution to this problem is to kill everyone in front of her using her mysterious disintegration magic until she gets to the front.  Read the full Tokyo Crash Mobs review  Omerta: City of Gangsters (PC, Xbox 360) If you're really into mafia movies and other cosa nostra flavored dealings, you might get some pure novelty enjoyment out of it on a Steam sale, provided you can put up with the repetitive nature of the game. For everyone else, it's probably best to "forgettaboutit". Read the full Omerta: City of Gangsters review Aero Porter (3DS eShop) Yoot Saito is most famous for creating the Dreamcast classic Seaman, arguably the strangest game ever made. It is a game where you take care of a fish man. That's it. Do a marginally good job, and you may have a few interesting conversations with it about existentialism and the possibility that The Beatles weren't real. Then he'll leave. Game Over.  Knowing this about Yoot Saito, I went into Aero Porter expecting something surreal. Shame on me for thinking I know what to expect from Yoot Saito. While Aero Porter does delve into a few playfully strange moments, it's a fairly straightforward game about sorting luggage. What's strange about the game is that it's compelling. Sorting luggage sounds boring as hell. You'd have to pay me to do it in real life. In videogame form, it's something that I'm paying Yoot Saito and Level-5 for the permission to do.  Read the full Aero Porter review Dungeonland (PC) Let me start off immediately by confirming the challenging nature of the game: indeed, this is a "hardcore" dungeon crawler in every sense of the word. Exemplified by the fact that Dungeonland's lowest difficulty setting is "Hard," this game will throw the kitchen sink at you, go to a hardware store and put every other appliance on credit, then throw more at you, while sticking you with the exorbitant bill. Read the full Dungeonland review Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 (PlayStation Network, Wii U eShop, Xbox 360) When Warriors games get a sequel, it typically gives all its characters a complete overhaul, with new looks and movesets to justify a fresh purchase. Not so in Ken's Rage 2, where any aesthetic alterations are minimal at best, and playable characters boast the exact same moves they had in the last game. None of the existing content seems to have been updated at all, and in some areas, even appear stripped down and inferior. Read the full Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 review Dead Space 3 (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Dead Space 3 could have been the best entry in the series, and in many ways, it still does provide some of the franchise's most energetic, thrilling, entertaining moments. The changes thrown into the game inevitably damage its charm, though, and make this a step down from its predecessors. A step down from Dead Space's high standards don't necessarily make for a bad game -- far from it, in fact, for this is still a bloody great game and well worth any fans' time. It's sad that market pressure and industry fear tried so hard to ruin things, but one can at least savor the victory of Dead Space 3's creative success in spite of commercial encroachment.  Try as they might, ain't nobody killing Dead Space yet.  Read the full Dead Space 3 review Proteus (PC, Mac) As mentioned, there is a beginning and end to Proteus. It won't take long, either -- I finished in under an hour. Since it is entirely about exploring an unknown, randomly-generated island, there are more things to see and do than can be accomplished in a single playthrough. You can make also "postcards" of a specific moment during the journey that act as save points and can be revisited at any time. It may prove difficult to tear yourself away from the game in the first place, since exploring the island becomes such a memorable experience. Do you remember your first night cycle in Minecraft? The terror and fright that struck as soon as that first monster approached from out of nowhere? There is a similar feeling in Proteus, except the feelings of terror and fright are replaced with beauty and splendor, gazing into the night sky and marveling at the stars. Read the full Proteus review Aliens: Colonial Marines (PC, PlayStation 3,  Wii U, Xbox 360) Aliens: Colonial Marines is more than a disappointment. It's downright depressing. I can't say if it's the result of a lacking budget, rushed development, or sheer carelessness, but having the nerve to present this as a full retail game is inexcusable. It's simply not finished, and it certainly isn't worthy of being considered a legitimate followup to Aliens. As a story, it's inconclusive, riddled with cliches, and underwhelming. As a game, it's incoherent, insubstantial, and blatantly unconsummated. It took over five years for me to finally play this game, and less than five hours to feel nothing but a shocked emptiness at the thing I'd first downloaded with feverish anticipation. Read the full Aliens: Colonial Marines review Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time (PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita) In fact, "inoffensive" is probably the word that best describes Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time from the perspective of a fan. It fits right in with its predecessors, offering a rather lengthy campaign and a fair quantity of optional content that's fun to play, though not particularly challenging most of the time. While there may be an expectation that a series' arrival in a console generation outshine all that came before, Sanzaru has made a perfectly acceptable game that may not advance the genre, but feels comfortable with right where it is. Read the full Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time review Special Forces: Team X (PC, Xbox Live Arcade) I would hope that no one is so desperate for a third-person cover-based shooter on PC that they have to resort to playing Special Forces: Team X. It's bland, uninspired, unpolished, and borderline unfinished. The already paltry amount of players is sure to dwindle in the coming weeks and months, leaving Special Forces: Team X nothing more than a line in some unfortunate fans' Steam library.  Special Forces: Team X offers nothing unique to the genre and is likely to leave players unfulfilled. What could have been an interesting, inoffensive multiplayer game turned out to be a buggy mess without so much as a hint of something fresh.  Read the full Special Forces: Team X review Bentley's Hack Pack (PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita) If you're a retro gamer, you've already played other titles that present the core precepts these mini-games provide, but Bentley's Hack Pack has an interesting enough framework to actually compel you to keep going, with a bit of the ol' Sly charm to boot. For a few bucks, it's worth taking the plunge. Read the full Bentley's Hack Pack review Serious Sam Double D XXL (Xbox Live Arcade)  The aesthetic of Serious Sam Double D XXL isn't anything great, bordering on generic. All of the classic enemies from the core games are present, which really makes it feel like a Serious Sam game. Even the new enemies are absurd enough to fit right in with the existing world. The music is also generic, with background music that does its best to sound as epic as possible to accompany the chaotic action on-screen. Serious Sam Double D XXL isn't going to blow anyone away, but it can make for an entertaining afternoon, with or without a buddy. It does a good job of capturing what the Serious Sam games are all about while at the same time changing the type of gameplay typical of the series. Read the full Serious Sam Double D XXL review Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Metal Gear Rising is not Solid but still, unmistakably Metal Gear. Despite its lack of seeming significance to the larger scope of the franchise and less complex plot, it does no harm to the setting and features enough action-packed combat that nobody should really give a toss about the story anyway. Seasoned fans should be aware all the same that this is a wholly different series, taking a different approach with a team that has a wildly different set of skills and experience. The work they do well is stunning and overwhelms the shortcomings to mild grievances at worst. Very challenging difficulty settings and hidden unlocks await the enamored, while those seeking something a little less demanding of their time should appreciate the brisk pace. Players who don't expect they will return for a second round might consider making Revengeance a rental, however, if they have concerns that its short length won't measure up to the full retail price tag. Read the full Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance review Capcom Arcade Cabinet (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) If you don't mind waiting until late May, Arcade Cabinet represents a decent value for the discounted $29.99 asking price over the $45 you'd pay for the five packs. I'm certain I spent over $50 in quarters in playing these titles for this review, if you'd like to look at it that way.  Of course, if you already have some of Capcom's other collections, you'll need to decide for yourself if the online and social features make these re-releases worth the outlay. As far as titles go, there's nothing that could be considered new in the collection, though the new online features and presentation should not be glossed over.  Read the full Capcom Arcade Cabinet review Crysis 3 (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Crysis 3 attempts to strike a balance between Crysis and Crysis 2, but in doing so manages to lose a little bit of what made each game appealing. The result is a title that doesn't truly match the open-ended excitement of the first game nor the revelatory empowerment of the second, yet manages to provide enough of both to at least tantalize, even if it doesn't completely satisfy. Solo play is shorter than previous installments and not as enjoyable, but multiplayer goes some way toward apologizing for it by stepping up its game and providing a gripping new experience in Hunter mode. This is a game that feels like the very essence of a "third installment" -- Familiar to the point of looking overplayed, but nonetheless refined and suffering no lack of quality.  Read the full Crysis 3 review Urban Trial Freestyle (3DS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita) The setup for Urban Trial Freestyle is pretty simple. You play as a generic motorcycle rider who has to get from point A to point B, with no context given as to why the trip has to be made.  Your only job is to utilize your bike's acceleration, brakes, and directional capabilities to get there -- it's kind of like Excitebike, but a little more puzzle-like in nature. It's a lot harder than it sounds, as the slightest mistake can send you crashing into a wall or cracking your skull open on the hard pavement.   Read the full Urban Trial Freestyle review Assassin's Creed III: Tyranny of King Washington: The Infamy (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) As previously mentioned the main change in gameplay is the power of the wolf. Utilizing the ancient powers of one badass cup of tea, Connor will be able to summon a pack of three wolves to chow down on enemies, and cloak himself at will (using his health as "MP" essentially). Using the cloaking power is pretty fun at first. Basically, as long as an enemy doesn't bump into you, or you have a solid amount of health, you can stay cloaked. What this means is that you can stealth kill enemies right in front of other people and remain a deadly shadowy visage so long as you can pay the MP for it. This leads to a ton of cool stealth puzzle opportunities that force you to figure out what the best course of action is in terms of moving between hidden bushes and buildings, using the cloak to fill in the blanks. Read the full Assassin's Creed III: Tyranny of King Washington: The Infamy review Star Wars Pinball (Google Play, iOS, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) Each table is chock full of beautiful art, character cameos, and tracks pulled straight from the films' soundtracks. These first three tables are a bold and equally stellar introduction to Star Wars Pinball, and they'll keep you more than busy until Zen Studios drops the next batch. At about $10, this is a bit more expensive per table compared to the usual $10 for four tables, but the package is certainly worth the asking price. If you're not a fan of Star Wars, but love pinball (or vice versa), Star Wars Pinball will make you a fan. Zen Studios has created the most interesting and content-rich tables yet, with their obvious love of the source material piercing through each of the fantastically crafted tables. Read the full Star Wars Pinball review Impire (PC) All of a sudden I was getting crashes every single mission, and to make matters worse, my saves were being corrupted. Most of the game is filled with "been there, done that" moments, but for me I literally had been there, playing that very mission, and I had to do it all over again. These aren't levels I wanted to do once, let alone twice. At this point, I should add, for the sake of transparency, that I failed to finish Impire's final mission. It crashed the first time I attempted it, then the second time it crashed and corrupted my save file. I packed it in at that point.  Read the full Impire review Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien (Mac, PC, PlayStation Network, Wii U eShop, Xbox Live Arcade, iOS) Runner2 feels like a very natural progression for the series. The team at Gaijin Games has crafted a more nuanced and impressive follow-up to what was great title in its own right. Avant-garde but with a healthy respect for the past, Runner2 is a marvelous rhythmic platformer that just about anyone should be able to enjoy. Read the full Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien review Everything else Destructoid reviewed: Razer Orbweaver Gaming Keypad All in all, I don't see myself using the Orbweaver for absolutely every game I own, but I keep it hooked up to my PC all the same, next to my keyboard. I've found that for basic image editing required for my writing career, and my frequent MMO habits, it suits my needs fairly frequently. I've created a number of profiles for a few MMOs I play, and one for a few image touch-ups that I'll be using for the foreseeable future. If you don't play a lot of PC games I don't see a need for splurging here given the high price point, but for everyone else, it's a decent investment. Read the full Razer Orbweaver Gaming Keypad review Razer Taipan Gaming Mouse The Razer Taipan is a great middle ground for those who like to play competitively, regardless of whether or no they're playing in actual tournaments. It's simple enough as to not be overwhelming, while at the same time having plenty of features that the more hardcore players want to see, such as quickly adjustable dpi settings and macros. Read the full Razer Taipan Gaming Mouse review The History of Sonic The Hedgehog There is a delightfully optimistic tone throughout the book, even while discussing the less-than-stellar chapters in the Sonic saga -- I'm looking at you, Sonic 2006! I find that to be quite reflective of the Sonic fanbase, but in a good way. We know the series isn't the most consistent in quality, but ol' Mr. Needlemouse was once on top of the world, so there's no reason why he can't make a comeback as long as the passion remains.  The History of Sonic The Hedgehog is must-read for the diehards and lapsed fans. We may be unsure of where Sonic is heading, but I think we can all admire his storied journey.  Read the full The History of Sonic The Hedgehog review
February 2013 reviews photo
Review round-up: The games of February 2013
Our monthly reviews recap continues on from the series return last month. January was packed full of great games, to the point of sensory overload. Thankfully February didn't have as many new titles, giving us a chance to cat...

The ten most meaningful videogame quotes of all time

Mar 02 // Anthony Burch
10. "John Romero's about to make you his bitch" Hubris. It invariably arises manifests in the top personalities of any profession, and the games industry is certainly no exception. Prior to the release of John Romero's Daikatana, the long-haired developer -- still riding high from his Doom and Quake successes -- released a rather striking, minimalist, full-page ad in multiple gaming magazines. It read: "John Romero's about to make you his bitch." And nothing else. Well, nothing else other than Ion Storm's logo and an equally pompous urging that gamers "suck it down."  From there, everyone knows the story: Daikatana was delayed, then sucked complete balls upon release, and Romero faded into relative gaming obscurity. His fall, and the arrogant advertisement which started it all, nicely epitomize developer douchebaggery moreso than any other single sentence in the English language. Whether we're talking about Derek Smart touting Battlecruiser 3000AD as "the last thing you'll ever desire," or George Broussard's hilariously silly and underwhelming "trailer" for Duke Nukem Forever,  or Julian Eggbrecht's suggestion that those reviewers who hated Lair actually weren't playing it correctly, big egos, big gaming budgets, and big failures often go hand in hand.    9. "You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike." Simultaneously immersive and frustrating, beautifully worded but logically irritating, this one line epitomizes both the strengths and flaws of the classic text adventure. "You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike" is -- if you'll permit me to be absurdly nerdy for a moment -- a very well-constructed sentence. It is a statement of mystery and ultimate possibility. It's brief, yet descriptive enough that your mind can fill in all the blanks: the details of what the maze looks to are ultimately up to you, but you're given enough information about the current location to make an informed gameplay decision. Sort of. Because, when you really get right down to it, "a maze of twisty passages, all alike" is a horrendously confusing thing to read when you're trying to make your way out of a maze. How many passages? Alike how? What the hell am I supposed to do? It is this mixture of attraction to the language, yet utter confusion in conquering it, that makes me give up every text adventure I can find after ten minutes of play.   8. "You were almost a Jill sandwich!" Gamers are no strangers to horrible, horrible dialogue; whether we're getting haphazardly-translated Engrish from our friends in the Orient or simply suffering from lazy writers, awful dialogue and videogames tragically tend to go hand in hand. I find it hard to pick just one example of horrendous writing to stand for literal decades' worth, but, if only because I'm loathe to give "All Your Base" any position on any top ten list, Barry Burton's famous line from the original Resident Evil will do. If you ever wonder why so many gamers have a hard time taking interactive storytelling seriously, "you were almost a Jill sandwich" is the reason why. Far more irritating than those games which simply elect to have no story whatsoever are those which try to be entertaining, terrifying, or cleve but fail miserably in the attempt -- namely, games like the Resident Evil series.  Ben Croshaw partially covered this in a recent video, but consider the ridiculousness of a survival horror game which, despite containing insanely supenseful gameplay, has one of the most laughably convoluted and poorly written plots in gaming history? Where, after almost being squished to death, a character responds not with a relatable statement of surprise like "JESUS CHRIST ARE YOU OKAY WE NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE," but by making a snarky joke about sandwiches? The adorably bad writing found in so many, many, many videogames serve as a constant reminder to better, more story-conscious game developers: this is what you need to be better than We'll never be truly rid of horrendous dialogue and plot -- every storytelling medium has its share of lazy creators -- but it's nice to have cringe-inducing lines like "Jill sandwich" to remind us that games could, and should, be much more than just decently entertaining gameplay wrapped around an irrelevant or stupid story.   7. "That's the second biggest monkey head I've ever seen!" This is the single best quote in all of (non text-based) adventure gaming. Period. Spoken by Guybrush Threepwood upon seeing an absurdly large monkey head idol (which, over the course of the series, he tends to do more than a few times), it epitomizes the brilliant writing found in some of the best games of the adventure genre's heyday.  Leisure Suit Larry dealt with sex jokes, Sam and Max dabbled in anthropomorphic absurdity, and the Monkey Island series, with its insult swordfighting and fiendishly difficult puzzles, nimbly jumped back and forth between the high- and lowbrow. In many of the most popular franchises during the late 80's and early 90's, adventure fans experienced a quality of humorous or dramatic writing which, to my mind, has rarely been matched in the years since. When the player wasn't scratching their head over how to get past one of any number of frustratingly difficult puzzles, they were rewarded with some of the sharpest, most clever writing in the history of videogame storytelling. From a writing point of view, everything the Monkey Island series is -- and everything the best adventure games were -- can be found in this quote.   6. “Didn’t we have some fun though? Remember when the platform was sliding into the fire pit and I said ‘Goodbye’ and you were like ‘NO WAY!’ and then I was all ‘We pretended we were going to murder you’? That was great." Remember how I was talking about adventure game writing of the late 80's and early 90's? Remember when I said that the level of hilarity achieved in those seemingly simplstic games had rarely been matched since? Portal is why I used the word "rarely." Portal fever swept the Internet literally overnight after its release. Less than 12 hours after the Orange Box hit Steam, you could find gamers singing the praises of the Weighted Companion Cube, showing appreciation for the snarky-yet-scary characterization of GLadDOS, and chanting "the cake is a lie" as if it were scripture. Apart from containing a technologically astounding gameplay mechanic, Portal helped remind gaming cynics like me that games can not only be fun, innovative, and challenging in today's world of endless sequels and ripoffs, but friggin' hilarious as well. GLadDOS constantly drops darkly humorous hints considering the character's past and future. The player is forced to care for a cubic hunk of metal as if it were the love of his life. The final showdown with the evil AI constantly jumps back and forth between the suspenseful (as you attempt to defeat her before she floods the room with poison gas) and the hysterical (as one of her personality spheres recites a recipe for cake). If we're lucky, future game writers might take a few cues from Erik Wolpaw and learn that where humor is concerned, we gamers are much more likely to latch onto dark, witty irony than idiotic machismo. Portal's writing doesn't quite match the level of a Monkey Island or a Sam and Max, but it gets close enough in a time of awful one-liners and obvious jokes that it is, in its own way, slightly more uplifting and meaningful.   5. "Hey dudes, thanks for rescuing me! Let's go for a burger...Ha! Ha! Ha!" Ah, the mid-to-late 80's. A time of relative innocence for the videogame. Before the time of Mortal Kombat or Hot Coffee, when arcade games still came equipped with "Winners Don't Do Drugs" disclaimers, absurd fun was the name of the game.  Anyone over the age of twelve can nostalgically remember a time when videogames, despite being considered an exclusively "nerd" pastime, had a happy-go-lucky quality to them. You could inextricably describe a game's plot and story in a single sentence ("you're a chef and you have to make hamburgers by running over the different ingredients and avoiding bad guys"). This was the time of the arcade; the time where you had to actually go outside if you wanted to play something new and awesome.  The quote which defines this era will differ for each gamer according to which game he or she played most frequently. For my money, though, the final lines of Bad Dudes will never be matched, in grandeur or hilarious tone, by any other game from the period. Or ever.    4. "Prepare for unforseen consequences." Half Life: Episode Two taught me that videogames can be better than movies. They can elicit a greater emotional response, and, given their extended running times, the player can get more of a chance to become attached to his or her NPC co-stars. Originally spoken to Eli Vance just moments before first entering the test chamber at Black Mesa, the G-Man's mysterious message to a then-unconscious Alyx Vance actually gave me the goddamned chills.  As the shady, sallow asshole with the weird vocal rhythm leaned down to manipulate a character who I had come to admire and feel empathy for, I almost yelled at the screen. I wanted the G-Man to stay the f*ck away from Alyx. Not because it would affect the gameplay in any way. Not because I was worried about what it meant for the plot. Not for any number of legitimate reasons, other than the fact that I simply cared about Alyx. I knew what the G-Man represented, and I wanted him to stay the hell away from my friend. Upon hearing the G-Man whisper those words to Alyx, I suddenly understood that I had been wholeheartedly enveloped by Half-Life: Episode Two's story and characters. I'm sure most gamers didn't get the exact same reaction out of this scene that I did -- to the best of my knowledge, I may be the only person alive who considered Episode Two the single best part of the Orange Box -- but no one who has spent several hours with Dog, Alyx, Barney and Kleiner can deny their personal, emotional attachment to those characters.  Additionally, this quote speaks volumes concerning one of the Half-Life saga's main themes -- namely, the constantly chaotic, unpredictable, seemingly contradictory nature of life. Everything the player does after first exiting the tram in the first Half-Life ends up having terrifingly far-reaching and unforeseen consequences. Gordon fights through Xen and destroys the Nihilianth, only to find that his initial actions in the test chamber may have summoned an even greater evil. Later, while under the thumb of the G-Man, Gordon kills Wallace Breen and seemingly harms the Combine -- and is suddenly robbed of his victory by being put into stasis once again. In Episode Two, Gordon is finally free from the G-Man's control and heads to White Forest...only to find that the G-Man actually wants him to go there. Is Gordon free, or a slave? Is the G-Man good or evil? No game series has ever had me so interested in the answers to the questions it posed.   3. "War. War never changes." Even after most of the world has been turned into nuclear ash, even after the world governments have crumbled and the social infrastructure decays into anarchy, even when, after the greatest and most horrible war of all, the human race has every reason to band together in an effort to save one another from total annihilation -- they don't. War never changes. Fallout may be one of the most cynical, nihilistic game franchises in existence, which also makes it one of my personal favorites. Rather than half-assedly cultivating a world-weary tone through a sepia color scheme and needlessly gruff-sounding protagonists (I'm looking at you, Gears of War), the Fallout series tells the tale of some people who try to act with common decency in a world utterly lacking in it, and who are subsequently tortured and killed and exiled for their troubles. Cormac McCarthy would be proud.  In the world of Fallout you can do varying amounts of good on your quest through the Wastelands but, more often than not, your efforts can be just as easily undone by bad luck or the corruption of others. You can save the Ghouls of Necropolis from starvation, only to hear of their slaughter at the hands of Super Mutants. You can help the Brotherhood of Steel find new technology, but they'll use it to further their war-driven, quasi-fascist agenda. And no matter how much good you do in the original Fallout -- no matter how quickly you save the denizens of Vault 13 from dehydration and destroy the Super Mutant base -- you will always be cast out by a hypocritical, bureaucratic Vault Overseer who claims that your heroism will make you a bad role model for the other Vault Dwellers. Without getting into a current sociopolitical discussion, let me just say that the themes suggested in Fallout (punishment of morality in an immoral world, the hypocrisy of authority, the petty and violent nature of humankind) can be seen quite clearly even today. Wars are driven by greed, necessity, stupidity, or fear -- and even after the cities have been burnt to cinders and the countryside irradiated, war will never change.   2. "...But our princess is in another castle!" Videogames, according to Warren Spector, are work. We enjoy playing them, yes, but they also take a great deal of effort and frustration to actually complete. Before getting our ultimate reward, whatever it may be (a cool ending, a beautiful cut scene, a clever bonus level), we actually have to work to reach it. This quote, repeated lord knows how many times throughout the original Super Mario Bros, represents this fun/work dichotomy better than any other I can think of. When working their way through a Bowser level in Super Mario Bros, a gamer's thought process goes something like this: "Crap crap crap crap crap JUMP wait wait wait JUMP run run crap crap crap run CRAP DODGE THE FIREBALL crap crap crap haha take that you stupid Koopa King woo this is awesome I get to meet the Princess HEY WHAT THE HELL." Perhaps it was my feeble, insipid, six-year-old mind getting ahead of itself, but I fully expected the Princess to be waiting for me at the end of every goddamned castle. Sure, she wasn't in the last one, but hey -- life is full of infinite possibilities, and a game this fun wouldn't dream of continually frustrating me over and over by dangling the carrot of possible victory in front of my nose, only to yank it away once I've seemingly reached my goal, right? Right? Wrong.  It was fun getting to the not-Princess every time, don't get me wrong, but after continually not-finding her over seven worlds of gameplay, the Nintendo Entertainment System began to feel a little bit like work. The kind of work I'd be absolutely ecstatic to go to everyday, granted, but work nonetheless.   1. "Would you kindly?" Not only is this a moving, shocking, and all-around incredible quote about the consequences of blindly accepting authority, but it also represents one of the single most insightful statements ever made about videogaming in general. Cut scenes are a form of gameplay slavery. They rob the player of control, take him out of the moment, and force him to passively witness as the events of the game -- the events he is supposed to have some degree of local agency over. Ken Levine knows this, and chose to exploit it in creating one of the most memorable story twists of all time. When the player finds out that he has been subliminally controlled by Atlas throughout the entire game, he or she experiences a very sudden, shocking reassessment of values. Having gone through the game thus far with the single-minded intent of beating Andrew Ryan to a bloody pulp, the player is suddenly forced to ask a question most other games would never dream of proposing to the player: "Why am I doing this?"  Why, upon first entering Rapture, do you inject a Plasmid into his veins for seemingly no reason? Why do you follow Atlas's every instruction? Why do you kill the innocent, nonviolent-unless-provoked Big Daddies? Why do you want to kill Ryan? The answer is depressingly simple: you did these things because you were told to. Not because you necessarily had any personal investment in the action, but because someone asked you nicely. Even after realizing this, the player remains completely powerless to stop himself. In an older article I wrote ("Exploring BioShock's storytelling flaws"), I had this to say about the final "would you kindly" cut scene:  Noninteractivity is used brilliantly within the context of the scene: for perhaps the first time in the entire game, the player doesn’t want to kill Andrew Ryan, but Jack’s violent nature and refusal to question his orders are too much and the player is forced to watch, horrified, as he mercilessly and uncontrollably batters Ryan to death. It stands as the single greatest noninteractive cut scene in gaming history. Ever.  As a storytelling device, noninteractivity is used as a weapon against the player: you don’t want to question why you’re doing what you’re doing? Fine -- you’re nothing better than a mindless, robotic slave, and you have essentially given up the human gift of choice. Having control taken away is, within the context of the story, a tangible punishment for accepting things on face value and blindly following orders.   BioShock wants us to question authority and instruction not just for the big stuff -- politics, work, education and so on -- but for videogaming, as well. When Cortana asks you to pistol-whip a bunch of aliens in Halo, why not stop for a moment and really think about why you're doing it?  One might suggest that questioning authority in a videogame, where structure is more or less mandatory and even the most nonlinear games still have an inescapably linear storyline, would be an ultimately meaningless gesture. But if you're willing to take everything a videogame presents you with at face value, how much more are you capable of accepting without question? If the player is asked to mow down armies of faceless baddies simply because they are "evil," what does that even mean? For these reasons, "would you kindly" is, quite simply, the most meaningful videogame quote of all time. It deeply affects the player on both emotional and intellectual levels; not only that, but the intensity of the former inspires the latter. As the player feels hatred and betrayal from his amiably-worded induction into slavery, he becomes much more likely to take Andrew Ryan's dying words to heart: A man chooses; a slave obeys.    Check out more classic Destructoid articles in our Golden Archives
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An exaggeratedly titled top ten list? On the Internet? Surely you jest!
[This month, Destructoid turns 7 years old! Here's the top article of this weekend back in 2008. You can browse more of these in our Golden Archives. Nostalgic yet? -Niero] Call me a weakling, but it's been more or less forev...

The top ten Contra songs OF ALL TIME

Feb 24 // Tony Ponce
10. "Venus" - Contra: Shattered Soldier (PS2) [embed]246547:47171:0[/embed] Shattered Soldier's soundtrack blends pulse-pounding techno, produced by Konami musician Sota Fujimori, with face-melting metal, done by none other than the legendary Akira Yamaoka. Contra gave Yamaoka a chance to let his inner metalhead out, which would surprise those who only know him for his much more atmospheric work on the Silent Hill series. The intro theme, "Venus," sets the tone for the rest the game -- a much darker, grimier Contra then you've ever played before. That intensity comes at a price: the soundtrack as a whole is very repetitive and doesn't lend itself well to standalone listens. But as the backdrop to your alien-murdering rampage, it will make you feel like a god. 9. "Alien Hive" - Contra 4 (DS) [embed]246547:47172:0[/embed] WayForward knocked the ball way out of the park with Contra 4. It is the most consistent game in the entire series, enhanced even further by Jake "virt" Kaufman's stellar soundtrack, which heavily re-interprets classic Contra tunes while adding plenty of amazing original numbers. "Alien Hive" may be the penultimate level, but its music makes it sound like heroes Bill Rizer and Lance Bean's final assault. It is intense and furious, made all the more haunting with sound bites of people shrieking in despair. And if you want to hear an even more amazing version of this track, check out "Let's Attack Aggressively!" off the Contra 4 rock arrange album Rocked 'n' Loaded. 8. "Area 2" - Operation C (GB) [embed]246547:47173:0[/embed] I'll never stop praising the incredible sound quality of the original Game Boy, so you better get used to my bringing up Game Boy music whenever I find an opportunity. The soundtrack for Operation C, the portable side story between Super C and Contra III, consists almost entirely of re-arrangements from the two NES games. With one notable exception. And like the amazing tunes in Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge, it is so heavy on the bass that you could drown in it -- more proof that, if you are playing Game Boy without wearing headphones, you are doing it wrong. 7. "Ruins" - Hard Corps: Uprising (PSN / XBLA) [embed]246547:47174:0[/embed] Hard Corps: Uprising may not be the most curious entry in the Contra series -- that distinction goes to Contra Force, which technically isn't even a Contra game at all -- but it is easily the most unique. Uprising takes the franchise in a whole different direction, fueled by a soundtrack composed by Daisuke Ishiwatari of Guilty Gear and BlazBlue fame. Uprising features the same deft guitar work found in the venerable Arc System Works fighters, but the music that plays during the "Ruins" level is a little extra special. With the melodious incorporation of organ and piano sections, "Ruins" at first sounds like it could have been pulled out of a post-Symphony of the Night-era Castlevania. But then the crazy guitars come back and simply DO. NOT. QUIT. 6. "Boss" - Contra (NES) [embed]246547:47175:0[/embed] Easily the most badass boss theme of any NES game, this piece of music lets you know that shit just got real. Even though it only lasts 35 seconds before looping, I could seriously listen to it on repeat all day. I wish I could replace other games' boss music with this one. So why is it only played at the end of the two "Base" levels and nowhere else? I love the original Contra to death, but I can't forgive Konami for such a gross oversight. For shame! 5. "The Showdown" - Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES) [embed]246547:47176:0[/embed] If you ask me, I find the soundtrack to Contra III to be on the weak side when stacked against the rest of the series. Whereas Contra music is typically loud and rhythmic, Contra III's is a lot slower and more ominous, which I admit fits the game's apocalyptic tone. Some people swear by the music, but it simply doesn't feel like Contra to me personally. Which is probably why I don't remember Contra III as fondly as I do the other entries. That said, the final battle music is insanely cool. You have to test you might against against a gauntlet of progressively more aggressive bosses, including a few familiar faces from the NES days. To reflect the multiple phases, "The Showdown" is split apart into three movements, each more intense than the last -- the Contra equivalent of Final Fantasy VI's "Dancing Mad." Nice. 4. "GTR Attack!" - Contra: Hard Corps (GEN) [embed]246547:47177:0[/embed] I'm in the "Hard Corps > Contra III" camp. Furthermore, I believe that Hard Corps is the best Contra game period. I'm sorry if you disagree with me, but I couldn't give less of a damn. Among its many triumphs over Contra III is its hard rock-dance soundtrack that puts the Genesis' FM synth sound chip through its paces. And among the game's many different boss themes, "GTR Attack!" stands head and shoulders above the rest. Like the NES Contra "Boss" music, it unfortunately only plays twice -- but one of those fights is against an incredibly cool endlessly transforming mechanical chimera, so I'll let this particular musical oversight slide. 3. "Jungle Normal" - Contra 4 (DS) [embed]246547:47178:0[/embed] Paying homage to the original Contra "Jungle" theme is not an easy feat, but Jake Kaufman is not some bum off the street banging on a keyboard. He wanted to recapture that same feeling you got when you hopped off the chopper that first time back in 1988 (or 1987 for you arcade jockies) and felt empowered by the music. I'd like to think that he succeeded and more. Fun bit of trivia: Did you know that the "Jungle Normal" theme is actually a shortened version of a Contra-inspired chiptune that virt released way back in 2002 called "Vile Red Falcon"? "Jungle Exploder," the "Jungle Normal" arrangement found on Rocked 'n' Loaded, is actually more based on the original chiptune than the Contra 4 version. 2. "Jungle" - Contra (NES) [embed]246547:47179:0[/embed] It's one of the most iconic pieces of videogame music ever. Naturally, the classic "Jungle" theme would worm its way near the top of the list. No matter how many times I hear it, no matter how many times it's re-worked or remixed, it never gets old. I'm certain you all feel the same way too. Trying to describe Contra's "Jungle" music is like trying to describe perfection. It simply can't be done. You just hear it and go, "Oh, totally! Yes! Yes! That's right!" The memories all come flooding back: the exploding bridge that sent you into the drink, the glory of the spread gun, the wall. Boys became men and the Konami Code became a playground mantra. So why did I give it the #2 spot and not top honors? 1. "The Hard Corps" - Contra: Hard Corps (GEN) [embed]246547:47180:0[/embed] This is why. You begin with a shot of a city street overrun by robots, the skyline ablaze. Out of nowhere, you come barreling through in your armored truck, mowing the bastards down like weeds, until you collide into a broken-down car and fly through the windshield. You land unscathed, of course, and you proceed to blow everyone away. You rip apart a giant spider before an earthquake cracks the ground. A flame-throwing robot blocks your path, but you send it crashing into a building, knocking the structure over and giving you an incline to climb to the rooftops. Miles in the distance, you see a towering cyclops razing the city with its eye beams. It spots you and immediately jumps to your location. The sheer power emanating from its body causes debris to levitate, and you must flying cars and laser beams. And that's just a mid-boss! Meanwhile, the music is going BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! And you wonder why I'm calling it the best Contra song of all time!? It's read "hardcore" for a reason. BONUS! "Simon 1994RD" - Contra: Hard Corps (GEN) [embed]246547:47181:0[/embed] Even though "Simon 1994RD" is not in my top ten, there's no way I couldn't not mention it in an article about Contra music. In Hard Corps' third stage, there is an alternate exit that takes you to a secret tournament. Your first opponent is a strange afro-headed man who is a cross between Castlevania's Simon Belmont and Japanese vocalist Masato Shimon; he tosses a fish cracker boomerang while a dance remix of "Vampire Killer" plays in the background. Afterwards, you fight an alien baby in a carriage, then a tear in the fabric of space-time sends you into the distant past where you marry a monkey. God, I love this game. [embed]246547:47185:0[/embed]
Top 10 Contra songs photo
Sound Card 012: Rocked and loaded!
Castlevania. Mega Man. And finally, Contra. With this, my holy trinity is complete. In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the greatest run and gun videogame series ever, Allistair Pinsof ranked the top five Contra games. ...

Ranked: The top five Contra games

Feb 23 // Allistair Pinsof
5. Contra: Hard Corps - 1994 - Genesis At long last, Sega fans had awesome Konami games to dangle over their Nintendo friends' heads with Castlevania: Bloodlines and then Hard Corps; a game that many series fans still hold as the plateau of dual-gun-totting, manly, hyperactive shooters. Playing Hard Corps between other series entries this week made me notice just how amazingly fast this game runs. Music cues up and grand entrances are made in The Alien Wars, but in Hard Corps robots just burst through walls and then it's on. Even the hilarious intro displays this attitude, with your chosen hero nonchalantly driving through enemies and a mini-boss before jumping out of his vehicle, beginning the game. Hard Corps is a practice in excess and it's what makes it a polarizing entry; not as in, "is it good or not," but "is it the best or not?" The multiple paths, characters, weapon sets, and endings makes Hard Corps the most replayable Contra, but it also makes it a bit unfocused and uneven. It also takes the series to a level of difficulty outdone only by Super Contra (arcade). 4. Neo Contra - 2004 - PlayStation 2 (also available on PSN) After Nobuya Nakazato (mastermind of Hard Corps, The Alien Wars, and BEST GAME SEGA GAME EVER Rocket Knight Adventures) got the series back on track with Shattered Soldier, he threw it back into rough waters with Neo Contra: The sequel that no one asked for and that few gave a chance -- but DO give it a chance! Neo Contra takes the half-assed top-down missions of Super C and makes a great shooter out of them. The speed, controls, and manic pace of action makes Neo Contra a Smash TV for the PS2 generation. It's kinetic techno soundtrack, ridiculous cutscenes, and unpredictable bosses make for one of the series oddest but best entries. It would be higher on this list if it were longer and more cohesive (two complaints shared with Shattered Soldier). 3. Hard Corps: Uprising - 2011 - PS3/Xbox 360 With no Contra name attached and a fighting game studio developing, expectations were low for Uprising and it was quickly forgotten after release. While I understand the reasoning for the former, I don't get why Uprising isn't hailed as one of the greatest digital releases of its time. Yes, it really is that good. Uprising does away with the grim, '80s sci-fi film aesthetic of the Contra series in favor for a brighter, Anime look that recalls Dreamcast titles. No more dark blue backdrops of cities in decay and giant, creepy robots. Despite this change in art direction, Uprising is a natural evolution for the series that combines all the control improvements introduced in The Alien War and Shattered Soldier. The levels are much longer than any Contra before it, but now the player can quickly dash through them and zip through the air like a ninja -- in fact, there is even a ninja player that makes the game play like Strider. Shattered Soldier missed the platforming elements that defined the series' best entries, but Uprising cranks them out along with crazy level design and boss fights that require tricky jumps and wall climbing. Uprising doesn't quite capture the spirit of the series, but it definitely plays like a Contra -- and a very good one, at that. 2. Contra - 1988 - Nintendo Completing Contra on one life is a right of passage for all gamers. It's the quest to videogame Mecca that all should make. Through this spiritual quest, you will learn just how tightly designed Contra is, how what you thought was cheap design was really dumb player mistakes, and that good, minimal design is timeless. It's true that Alien Wars and Hard Corps ramped up the action and visuals, but there is an elegance to the simplicity of the original. This isn't nostalgia talking, as Contra was never a favorite of mine growing up. There is a reason why the alien wall, waterfall, 3D stages, and opening jungle come to mind when thinking of Contra. Playing Super C and Contra back-to-back really highlights the subtle details in design that makes Contra a timeless, thrilling adventure. And, yes, I agree that it's too bad Super C didn't make this list. 1. Contra III: The Alien Wars - 1992 - Super Nintendo (also available on Virtual Console) This is when shit got real. Giant penis turtles, flying on a rocket, evil robot heads shooting friggin' lazers, creepy alien bosses ... this is when shit got too real. Like the original, Alien Wars remains a timeless action game due to the simplicity and restraint in its design. Every gun is perfect, every stage is different, and every encounter presents its own lessons to be learned. Sure, the Mode 7 levels aren't the best parts but they add some nice variety to the traditional stages. Sure, it's short but the campaign holds its own to recent Call of Duty's in offering a series of intense set pieces -- and, unlike Call of Duty, these set pieces are fully interactive and change the way the game is played. The Alien Wars brought about many clones on competing systems, but none were as bombastic, over-the-top, and sublime as Contra's magnum opus. [Image by Maher Al-Samkari]
Top 5 Contra games photo
When heroes, not douchebags, wore bandanas
While other kids were chasing mushrooms, leveling up mages, and debating boss orders, real tough guys were playing Contra. Though the series saw a dip in quality in the PlayStation generation, it still stands as one of the mo...

Five most notorious videogame ripoffs of all-time

Feb 22 // Vito Gesualdi
Zynga wasn't even creative enough to come up with their own RGB skintone values... Thing is, the laws regarding which aspects of a video game are covered by copyright are actually quite fuzzy, and unfortunately, EA and Zynga have settled the matter out of court, failing to establish the precedent so badly needed in this legal gray area. Just one look at the app store and you'll find hundreds of blatant clones, quick hack jobs thrown together to capitalize on the success of other popular games. Though if you dig deeper into the history of the industry, it becomes obvious that ripoffs have been a big part of the gaming industry since its very beginning. So, as a bit of a history lesson, here are five of the most notorious game ripoffs of all-time. The Great Giana Sisters When Super Mario Bros. first released in 1985, it revolutionized gaming forever; the wildly successful game laid the foundations for the side-scrolling platformer and showed off just how powerful Nintendo’s Famicom system was. In fact, the Famicom was actually more powerful than many home computers of the time, something made very apparent by Hudson’s disgustingly ugly PC port of Nintendo's most famous game. Who needs sidescrolling when you've got screen flicker? Interestingly enough, though developers eventually figured out how to make sidescrollers work on the PC, by that point Nintendo was no longer interested in porting their games, even turning away a spot-on a Mario demo put together by id Software (who would go on to use the technology in Commander Keen). So, with PC gamers eager for their own Mario game, it seemed obvious that someone would eventually come along with a simple clone to help fill this hole in the market. What people didn't expect is just how blatant they'd be about it. See, Time Warp Productions might’ve almost gotten away with cloning Mario if they’d had the sense to not make their lifts so painfully obvious. Despite some minor graphical changes (diamonds instead of coins, owls instead of goombas), The Great Giana Sisters looks exactly like Super Mario Bros. In fact, the first stage of the game is an almost perfect copy of the first stage of Mario, with the few extra pits thrown in before the final flag not enough to fool Nintendo's copyright lawyers. See, our warp pipes are orange. It's a totally different game. Though Nintendo never took any legal action against Time Warp, they did make it very clear to retailers that those continuing to peddle this blatant Mario clone might find their orders for Nintendo product going strangely unfulfilled. As a result, the game was quickly removed from store shelves, and is now quite a desired item for Atari ST and Amiga collectors.   However, the strangest thing about The Great Giana Sisters is that this strange, forgettable clone survived to the modern age. While as recently as 2009 the series was still ripping off Mario, the latest Giana Sisters’ game was actually a wholly unique puzzle/platformer. Though the series will likely always carry the stigma of having ripped off gaming’s most beloved franchise, it’s definitely interesting to see a series finally trying to find its own identity.    Most of Square's early game catalog Though Square (now Square Enix) has earned a reputation as one of the finest purveyors of RPGs (at least until Final Fantasy XIII…), there was a time when this fledgling game company was barely a blip on the radar. It wasn’t until Square got approved to develop games for the original Nintendo system that they really got to work… ripping off Sega. And don't ask why a company named Square has a stylized Triangle in their logo... See, in the mid '80s Sega had some of the most popular arcade games around, but the home ports were only available on their own Master System console. Square saw the chance to cash in with some quick clones and capitalized on it. One of their first releases, 3D World Runner, was a terrible ripoff of Space Harrier which kept most of the action on the ground, only letting you fly around and shoot dragons (see: the fun parts) during the tragically short boss battles. Not long after came Rad Racer, a blatant copy of Sega's arcade racer Outrun, which, despite being a minor hit, wasn't enough to pull Square's revenues out of the red. With Square’s money running out, company director Hironobu Sakaguchi decided to take a risk on ripping off the work of a different company, now looking to Enix’s wildly popular Dragon Quest (itself a ripoff of Origin’s Ultima series) for inspiration. Knowing that if the game failed he’d quit the game industry and head back to school, Sakaguchi realized this ripoff could be his “Final Fantasy.” Ms. Pac-Man When Pac-Man first hit American arcades in October of 1980, the little yellow circle immediately began gobbling up not just power pellets, but quarters as well, quickly becoming one of the most popular arcade games of all time. Given this wild success, North American distributor Midway was eager to put out a sequel, though the developers at Namco were strangely dragging their feet. Around this same time, three young programmers were realizing the potential market for arcade conversion kits. Arcades were constantly purchasing new games in order to keep players interested, but each new machine was a risky investment, as a bad game might not bring in enough money to cover the cost of the machine. Conversion kits were the perfect solution, letting arcade operators upgrade games that they already knew players would like, while costing much less than a new machine. The trio quickly formed the General Computer Corporation (GCC) and set to work making plug-in boards. The original Plug n' Play game. Unfortunately for the boys at GCC, their idea wasn’t too popular with arcade manufacturers, who stood to lose plenty to this new technology. Atari was the first to react, taking GCC to court over Super Missile Attack, a mod of Missile Command. Though the two parties settled, GCC realized it could be fairly risky to continue with their new venture. However, they’d already sunk much of their time into a ripoff of Pac-Man, called Crazy Otto. With nothing to lose, they decided to see if Midway would consider buying their mod. See, it's like Pac-Man with legs! Totally new! What happened next is gaming history. Midway liked Crazy Otto so much they actually signed a deal behind Namco’s back, rebranding the game as Ms. Pac Man and quickly releasing it to arcades. Though Namco’s own sequel, Super Pac-Man, would release later that same year, the souped-up ripoff of the original Pac-Man’s code was the better game by far. What’s even more interesting is that GCC would later take Midway to court over their game Baby Pac-Man (a similarly unauthorized sequel), claiming they were originally responsible for the idea of a Pac-Man family. I mean, it’s one thing to ripoff a game, another to have your ripoff become the game’s official sequel, and another entirely to sue the company who helped make your ripoff an official sequel because they liked your ripoff so much they started making their own ripoffs based on it. GCC makes laser printers now, which seems like a much less confusing industry. Angry Birds If you think you're sick of seeing crappy Angry Birds merchandise littering your local shopping mall, imagine how the developers of Castle Clout must feel, having devised the simple game formula which has now made Rovio millions of dollars in app sales and licensing deals.  This ranks right below Decca Records not signing The Beatles on the "missed opportunity" list. Though Castle Clout is definitely a bit rough around the edges, all the basic elements of Angry Birds are in there. Structures waiting to be toppled, various bad guys to be squished by the falling blocks, and a big catapult firing off a variety of projectiles. Though Angry Birds added some serious polish, and replaced the awkward catapult mechanism with some wonderfully responsive slingshot touch controls, at heart, it's still a clear evolution of this now forgotten flash game, and you hope they'd at least have the courtesy to send the guy a free t-shirt. Indeed. Thing is, it’s kind of hard to be upset at Angry Birds. After all, the mechanic of using catapults to knock down structures can be traced back to, oh I don’t know… the ancient greeks? If anything, the real moral of the story is that if you have a successful flash game, get that thing on mobile phones as soon as possible, preferably adding a bunch of crappy cartoon animal mascots to it, so you can later brand every piece of merchandise known to humankind. The Simpsons: Road Rage The Simpsons: Road Rage is what happens when you have the rights to one of the most successful television franchises of all time and zero total creativity. I like to imagine that someone in the planning meeting for this game asked, “Why would the Simpsons be driving taxis?” before being dragged down to the basement and bludgeoned to death with sacks of money. Remember, this is Electronic Arts: the same guys who invented a bunch of crappy original characters just so they could try to ripoff Marvel vs. Capcom. The same guys who wanted to make their own Goldeneye and came up with the idea of a guy with an actual golden eye.  This is unfathomably stupid. Point is, EA is full of dangerous psychopaths who care more about money than logic, and if they say the Simpsons are going to be driving taxis then you best shut your mouth and start programming. So, you might be wondering what makes Road Rage a notable ripoff. After all, there are plenty of crappy licensed titles which blatantly steal their ideas from other games, with The Simpsons having copied everything from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater to Grand Theft Auto without incident.  See, our game has a hand instead of an arrow. totally new! What Electronic Arts didn’t know is that, unlike the other developers they stole from, Sega actually owned patents on some very specific Crazy Taxi features. For instance: pedestrians that jump out of the way of a car, or giant floating arrows which show the player where to go. That’s right, Sega owns the rights to people not wanting to get hit by cars and arrows that point at things. They should’ve really pushed their luck and tried to get a patent for cars that drive really fast. Rather than take a chance on forfeiting all the money they’d made from the million or so copies of Road Rage sold, EA choose to settle the eventual lawsuit, much like they did this month in response to Zynga's counter-suit (saying it's okay that The Ville ripped off The Sims Social, because The Sims Social was ripping off CityVille to begin with). It seems that until a big company like EA decides to grow a pair and actually fight it out in court, small game developers are pretty much forced to accept that their original ideas will be endlessly cloned, as has been the case in this industry for decades now. Now, if only we could pass some laws outlawing crappy Simpsons games…
Videogame ripoffs  photo
Okay games, great lawsuits
When I first heard that Electronic Arts was suing Zynga over The Ville, a rather blatant ripoff of EA’s The Sims Social, I was pretty excited to see the outcome. After all, there’s nothing worse than a company whose only business model is to steal the works of small game developers, and given some of The Ville's obvious lifts, it seemed as though EA had a very solid case.

Seven of the toughest games to run on PC

Feb 21 // Brett Makedonski
Battlefield 3 (2011) The Frostbite 2 engine sure is visually pleasing as it showcases some of the best-looking environment destruction in games. However, if your PC isn't in tip-top shape, it's more likely that Battlefield 3 will look like a janky game of Jenga gone awry. Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (1996) Back in a time when videogames didn't look all that great, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire boasted a "universe so detailed you [could] see the tow cable around an Imperial AT-AT." Fascinating stuff. The only problem is that it required 3D Acceleration, a feature that was very new to graphics card manufacturers. Ultima IX: Ascension (1999) How difficult was Ultima IX: Ascension to run? It took a few years for most players to be able to finally play it. A need for advanced hardware, coupled with poor optimization, made for a game that most people couldn't play. Not that it really matters -- Ultima IX: Ascension is sort of the black sheep of the series, and most fans refuse to accept it as canon. Far Cry 2 (2008) Far Cry 2 featured some of the most dynamic scenery ever witnessed in games. Between the vast expanses of African wilderness, the realistic and ever-changing wildfire mechanics, and the detailed storm effects, Far Cry 2 was one of the most compelling games of 2008. Unfortunately, it also wasn't one that many people could play on max settings. Myst (1993) Myst is a bit different from the other entries on this list in that it didn't necessarily require a computer with high specs to run. No, its main barrier to entry was just a CD-ROM drive -- something that not many people had in 1993. Grand Theft Auto IV (2008) Grand Theft Auto IV was hailed as one of the grittiest and most realistic open-world sandboxes ever. While this might be the case, many PC players had a tough time immersing themselves in the game, as deficient performance acted as a constant detractor. The consensus seems to chalk it up to a poor port from console versions. Regardless of whatever the real issue was, it took quite the machine to efficiently run this title. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (2011) The Witcher 2 is one of the prettiest RPGs in years, and garnered many near-perfect and perfect review scores. However, it's also one of the most resource-demanding titles, and many are hard-pressed to actually see it in its full glory. But for those that can, it's a sight to behold. These seven titles were/are some of the most difficult games for PCs to run. That being said, there are certainly plenty out there that didn't make the list. Which games have frustrated you due to inability to play them at full-capacity?
Can't run this photo
Obviously Crysis-inspired
The Crysis series is well-known in the PC community as being the benchmark of sorts for games that require a high-end computer to run. It began in 2007 with the release of the first Crysis. It's undeniable that the game ...

Down the rabbit hole of fake PlayStation 4 crap

Feb 19 // Allistair Pinsof
Even as Google cooks up new algorithms for its searches, the presence of SEO bastards filling the internet with useless, misleading crap for clicks ($$$) continues to grow. The current crop of fake PS4 sites is a good example of this. To those that don't make mad money games blogging, SEO stands for search engine optimization. Putting priority on placement of certain buzzwords. The headline "Britney Spears boobs PS4 am I really pregnant?" would do wonders on our site, if it didn't do an even more wonderful job driving our current audience away. Perhaps, I'm not telling you anything that you don't already know -- but while I'm at it, use condoms (rubber bands and Ziploc bags aren't the same thing!) -- so let's jump into the good stuff: fake-ass PS4 sites. If you do a Google search and click a couple pages past ye olde' IGNs and Kotakus, you'll be greeted by a list of sites with eye-sore URLs (that I won't link to, in fear of forwarding malware/spyware): ps4info.com, ps4playstation4.com, sonyps4.com, etc. These crappy Wordpress-based sites feature "exclusive" leaked footage of the PS4, numerous console images, lists of unofficial games, pre-order info, and tickers counting down an unannounced release date: [embed]245902:47031:0[/embed]  You probably shouldn't click on this. What these sites don't have is any contact info or transparency on who started the damn thing. Occasionally, you'll find mention a company name if you dig deep enough. Here's FutureROI: respectable webmasters of SonyPS4.com along with OurWeed.com and L0Lz.com. It does not surprise me in the least to discover FutureROI is Las Vegas-based. I mean, why wouldn't they be? If it sounds like I'm ragging on these SEO scambait sites, I'm actually not. Sure, what they do is scummy, pointless and toxic to our online environment, but I find it all so delightfully kitsch. I love reading six-plus paragraphs of a writer pulling PS4 factoids out of their bumhole, stealing DeviantART console renders and presenting them as *LEAKED* pictures, and the horrid site design that is at once evident of less than 48 hours of work and nostalgic of GeoCities fan pages of the '90s. Instead of getting mad, let's laugh at these dumb sites by highlighting the five worst PS4 console images (original source of each design linked below): 1) This thing Glass + touch = future? I get the sense that something along that equation is being taught at design schools, because I see this kind of crap everywhere in design forums. I don't even know what the hell this thing is. Why would you want the system menu on your physical console? Why would you want a postage stamp video feed of your game on your lap? How comfortable would this thing even be? The only real advancement I see here is that the PS4 could double as a fancy food tray. [via convoyrider] 2) Whatever the hell this is This is what would happen if Adidas designed the PS4. Coming soon to Big Lots and Payless Shoes! [via Nebojsa Nadj] 3) This car radio-looking garbage I love the "connect to 4 screens" remark. Because there really is a big market of people who own four TVs side-by-side, and a lot of potential in games to take advantage of it. I'm even more puzzled by how you set this down, or does it just constantly wobble back and forth on its rounded frame? [via Neklas Heller] 4) This 100% legit, non-Photoshop'd system Even my eight-year-old imagination couldn't foresee this monstrosity. [via HypeUp] 5) The PlayStation toaster Whether or not the graphics or controls are revolutionary, this model guarantees to reach new heights in fire hazard probability. [via PSU] ------------------------------------------------------------------ Come tomorrow, Sony will unveil the future of PlayStation. I don't doubt that this racket of fake PS4 info will continue, but the kitsch factor will be lost along with the use of fake system and controller mock-ups. So, let's cherish these final hours of ignorance and intentional misdirection. Post your favorite PS4 mock-ups below, along with any you made on your own. And as always, wildly speculate and pretend you have eXclusive infoz from your friend who works at Sony.
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Seems legit
Wherever there is public interest, there are con artists preying upon the susceptible. How many shoddily-built iPod rip-offs must one buy or mid-life-crisis-inducing timeshares must one occupy, before this lesson is learned? ...

Ranked: The five best Clover and Platinum games

Feb 19 // Chris Carter
From 2006-2007, many members of Clover Studio left the defunct developer to form Platinum Games. As a result, I thought it would be fun to include both studios in this list, especially in honor of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. We'll see how Platinum's own Wonderful 101 and Bayonetta 2 fare later this year. As a side note, the following list is in no particular order. Viewtiful Joe (GameCube, PlayStation 2 - 2003, 2004) What can I really say about Viewtiful Joe that hasn't been said a million times over? It's truly one of the best 2D platformers of all time. Defying all logic that most designers in the genre were prescribing to at the time, Viewtiful Joe opted to go the route of technical platforming, which made it feel like a 2D fighting game on wheels. Add in some of that Clover charm, including unforgettable bosses, memorable levels, and a ton of variety in terms of the moveset, and you have one amazing game. Even today, the game's art design and colors really pop, regardless of your platform of choice. If you somehow missed this gem, make sure you check it out. Okami (PlayStation 2, Wii - 2006, 2008) If you ever told me that the creators of Viewtiful Joe would create one of the best Zelda games of all time, I would have laughed in your face. Three years later though, against all odds, they did it. Okami graced the PS2 and pretty much blew everyone away right out of the gate. The amazing art style, the engaging, unique paintbrush gameplay, and RPG elements kept people entertained during this lengthy affair.It also had a great story and wonderful themes to boot, as it was on naturalistic spiritualism, and Shintoism, two ideologies rarely acknowledged, much less explored in the West. Okami will no doubt go down as one of the best RPGs of all time, and it's well deserved. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 - 2013) I had the chance to play through Revengeance last week, and I have to say -- it's probably the best action game I've played since Platinum's own Bayonetta.Combat is swift, rewarding, challenging, and tight. It took me nearly an hour to fully grasp the game's concepts (even after playing the demo quite a bit), but once I did, Revengeance really nails down that feeling of controlling a badass cyborg ninja. Surprisingly, it takes the whole "slaughtering innocents" angle that Ninja Gaiden III tried to go for, and nails it. It never gets too preachy, because the narrative is about Raiden himself, his past, and his struggle to acclimate to the evolving political and social climate. Of course, it's a bit hard to take the story seriously when he's slicing giant gorilla robots into thirty pieces while riding missiles like surfboards, but for what it's worth, I was entertained and engaged throughout. In fact, I have something I like to call the "mouth wide open" test. If a game drops my jaw at least once, odds are I'm having fun. My jaw dropped constantly playing this game. I don't really want to spoil any of the insane over-the-top action here, but needlessly to say it was a blast. Platinum said they really wanted you to feel like Raiden acts like Metal Gear Solid 4's cutscenes. I'd say they accomplished that, and then some. Bayonetta (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 - 2010) In my mind, Bayonetta is locked in eternal combat with Devil May Cry 3 as the best action game of all time. Combat is deep, rewarding, and it's one of the hardest challenges I've ever played in my life, if you count the higher difficultly levels. Not since Ninja Gaiden's Master Ninja mode did I struggle so much with having to learn pinpoint, perfect-frame dodging, and then some, but I loved every second of it. It's also packed to the gills with content, making it one of the most complete action games ever made. It may be cheeky a times, and the plot may be a fairly throwaway affair, but I challenge you find many action games that can measure up to it. Barring a few other masterpieces, Bayonetta is in a league of its own. God Hand (PlayStation 2, PSN - 2006, 2011) Now we come full circle, to one of my favorite games ever, in any genre. Although I would put a few action titles a notch above God Hand in terms of the raw quality of combat, very few experiences  have entertained me as much as Clover's lovable brawler. The endearing characters, the outlandish set-pieces and insane bosses -- it's a world that I want to be a part of on a constant basis, and often times I'll replay the game just to get a piece of it. But it's not just a straight brawler, to be clear. God Hand mixes some of the best design found in beat 'em ups to date, and mixes things up with fully explorable 3D environments. In just about every nook in cranny there's a hidden item, or someplace to visit. In addition all of that, Clover made the game extremely challenging in a completely fair way. God Hand introduces a fairly unique way to keep you on your toes: a difficulty level that adapts to how well you're doing, mid-game. It's a really cool idea that keeps you constantly upping your game. Also, Poison Chihuahua Racing. The fact that this exists makes me happy.
Clover & Platinum ranked photo
Timeless classics
If you were to poll me as to what some of my favorite games of all time were, you'd see a lot of Clover Studio and Platinum Games titles on that list. Quite a bit, actually. Both studios are comprised of brilliant minds that ...

Moments in Presidential history: Cats, mechs, and burgers

Feb 18 // Allistair Pinsof
1988 - President Ronnie rewards good work with fast food (Bad Dudes) Why reward military service with a historic statue, when you can give two hardworking members of the Secret Service a burger instead? This is the difference between the Japanese and English ending of Bad Dudes; it's also the difference between a good and a great president. 1993 - President Clinton is on fire (NBA Jam) There are many critics who are quick to point out Clinton's lackluster sax playing -- let's just say he's no Kenny G; man, does that guy know how to suck and blow -- and his inability to keep booty calls on the DL, but no one can deny his ability to shoot some hoops in NBA Jam. 1998 - President Richardson puts "Near-humans" in their place (Fallout 2) Being president in the 2020s isn't easy, especially when there are asshole mutants with massive Gatling guns roaming the country. In such dark and dry times, America needs a president that isn't afraid to commit acts of genocide and nuclear warfare which is why President Richardson -- wooden, emotionless face and all -- continues to inspire. [embed]245775:47021:0[/embed] 2001 - President Mr. President shows that inaction is sometimes the best action (Sonic Adventures 2) In the face of great tumult and terrorism, Mr. President decides to relax in his limo and let a little blue hedgehog do the heavy lifting. If only our current president could learn a thing or two from him. [embed]245775:47020:0[/embed] 2004 - President Visari gives a rousing speech (Killzone) Visari doesn't appear in the first Killzone, but his presence in the game's introductory cinematic lingers on. Such is the power of a great presidential speech that inspires the people to rise up and senselessly murder. [embed]245775:47023:0[/embed] 2004 - President Wilson takes matters into his own hands (Metal Wolf Chaos) So many Presidents enter office complaining about the problems that the past president left, only to then turn around and burden the next president with their own unfinished issues. Well, Wilson pilots a freaking mech. So he's not going to take shit from either end. He's going to handle it and give foreign adversaries his "flame of justice." [embed]245775:47022:0[/embed] 2008 - President Ackerman works with canine allies toward common goal (Command & Conquer 3) In a progressive stance, Ackerman moves the national dialog from being "for or against illegal immigration" to "for or against attack dogs handling illegal immigration." Resourceful, fair, and firm. 2009 - President Cat shows that great presidents shouldn't be labeled by species (Sukeban Shachou Rena) Only in Japan can the American dream be truly realized.
The Greatest Presidents photo
WE SALUTE YOU!
On President's Day, it's our duty as bloggers to supply the unwashed, malnourished Kmart-lovin' masses of America with reminders of awesome, fictional Presidents in games. I mean, it's not like I get to take the day off, so w...

The nine worst girlfriends in videogames

Feb 14 // Vito Gesualdi
Jessica – Final Fight On the surface, Final Fight’s Jessica seems like a rare catch, a high-society gal with a definite knack for fashion and a particular interest in bad boys. Not to mention how hard it can be to find a decent date in Metro City, unless you’re into having beautiful transvestites beat the crap out of you. The real problem with dating Jessica though? Meeting her parents, specifically daddy: Yes, Haggar is pile driving a shark, and no, he doesn't need to explain why Meet Mayor Mike Haggar, the man who pioneered the pro-wrestling politician angle (long before Jesse “The Body” Ventura tried to steal his swagger). This is the kind of father-in-law you don’t want to mess with, as one wrong step will result in a literal whirlwind of hurt. Remember, this is the man who tackled his city’s gang problem by punching it to death; the kind of guy who goes to work in suspenders because he knows that he’s just going to rip through any dress shirt he puts on once he thrusts those beefy arms out to his sides and spin-punches the crap out of whatever junior assistant screwed up his coffee order. So, how do you think he’s going to treat the guy who forgets his little girl’s birthday? If your answer was anything other than “pile drive his skull into the pavement,” you've got a lot to learn about Mike Haggar’s America. And don’t even think about trying to report your savage pummeling to the police, because Mike Haggar IS THE LAW. How do you really think Jessica’s former boyfriend wound up in jail? I really shouldn’t have told her she looked fat in that dress… Aeris – Final Fantasy VII To be fair, Aeris actually seems like a pretty fantastic girlfriend. She’s a dedicated church-going woman, maintains her own small flower selling business, and despite being relentlessly pursued by the evil corporate goons at Shinra she manages to maintain that winning smile. I'm dying Cloud... you'll carry this moment with you for the rest of your life... If anything is wrong with Aeris, it’s the fact that she’s well… deceased. But beyond the obvious fact that necrophilia is generally frowned upon, the bigger problem is this girl doesn’t know how to stay dead. And I'm back!  See, one of the great things about dead people is that they stay dead. For instance, I miss my grandfather a lot, but because he has the decency to remain in his corpsebox deep beneath the earth, I’ve mostly been able to cope with the loss. Aeris however, seems to pop her head up in just about every new SquareEnix game that comes along, which has got to be weighing a serious emotional toll on her former boyfriend. What’s that Cloud? There’s a movie sequel to the game where you watched me get a sword jammed through my heart? How’s about I show up and help reopen those terrible wounds? Oh, Square’s making a fun Disney tie-in game meant for preteens? How do you feel about my dead ass prancing around? Would a corpse woman tormenting her former lover be appropriate for this E-rated title? Thing is, though it’s creepy to watch Cloud chase his dead girlfriend through the streets of Toontown, watching Tifa continue to pursue that spikey-haired jackass is even worse. Seriously, girl, it’s time you stop crushing on that mopey loser and get with a real man. Might I suggest a little bit of brown sugar to spice up your life?Catherine - Catherine Many men hope to wake up with a beautiful woman in their bed, though before you start pining for the titular character of Atlus’s Catherine, know that this privilege comes with a horrible price. You think it’s bad when your girlfriend forces you to watch some crappy Ashton Kutcher romantic comedy? Imagine if instead she forced you to fight for your life in a terrible nightmare realm, featuring the two worst things in the world: trippy demonic manifestations of your darkest fears, and CRATE PUZZLES. [embed]244682:46909[/embed] To be fair, main character Vincent totally deserves to be impaled by a giant fork. He’s got a perfect girlfriend already (Katherine), and he wants to sleep around with some blonde hussy. Why? Because he’s afraid of commitment? Get it together jackass. Point is, if you happen to be dating a fantastic woman and some random chick with a suspiciously similar name starts flirting hard up on you, it might be time to GTFO. Anybody - Fire Emblem: Awakening When battling your way through Nintendo’s blistering tough series of strategy RPGs, it’s hard to not get attached to the game’s many capable women. Beautiful sorceresses, graceful Pegasus knights, even scantily clad immortals, so the Lolita-fetishists can pretend they don’t have a problem. She's 1000 years old! IT'S NOT CREEPY! Problem is, as attractive as these women may be, your chance of forming a lasting connection is slim. Because let’s face it, you suck at strategy RPGs. Half these girls are going to die before you even make it through the tutorial missions. Rose – Metal Gear Solid 2 Making a relationship work definitely requires a lot of communication. Thing is, while many men complain about their girlfriend’s constant texting, imagine how it would be if you had a stealth communication device implanted in your ear canal, and for no good reason, the military decided to give your girlfriend the frequency code. I know a lot of people weren’t fans of Metal Gear Solid 2’s Raiden, but regardless of how you feel about long-haired pretty boys with samurai swords, you have to have some sympathy for a guy who’s busy trying to rescue the goddamn President of the United States, only to get forced into a conversation about his “feelings.” Hey baby, I’m about to fight an immortal vampire atop an oil platform. Can we maybe talk about this later? Yorda - Ico Look, I get it, there’s a certain exotic appeal to having a foreign girlfriend. Hell, there’s even an entire industry catering to supremely lonely creeps who would rather buy a wife from abroad than take the chance on becoming a decent person. That being said, somehow the weird glowing girl from Ico leaves much to be desired. Thing is, it’s going to become very hard to make a relationship work when the only conversation topics your significant other understands are “climb that crate” and “dammit, you stupid girl, I’m all the way over here -- will you please get away from those shadow monsters, please!” Seriously, don’t even get me started on those shadow monsters. What’s that, all your guy friends are having a poker night? Sorry, buddy, but you’re stuck at home making sure your significant other doesn’t get pulled into a swirling portal to oblivion. Pass.Tails – Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Look, I’m not personally into the whole “furry” thing, but even if you were going to pick an animal partner I think you could do much better than Sonic’s stupid fox girlfriend. Not only does she have one of the most annoying voices in all of gaming, but--Wait, Tails is a guy?Oh. Well he still sucks.Sakura – Street Fighter Though I understand the whole schoolgirl thing definitely appeals to many fellas, you may want to seriously reconsider breaking your state’s statutory laws for a fling with this spunky street fighter. As cute as Sakura may seem, her methods of showing affection are borderline psychotic. I mean let’s be honest, Sakura has a major crush on Ryu. Though rather than express her affection in a sane and rational manner, she instead decides to basically become his female clone. So while taking to wearing a similar headband is on par with your typical teenage obsession, putting in countless hours of training to learn all of a man’s signature fighting moves? That’s beyond the realm of creepy obsession. Do not want. Every male game protagonist ever Sorry fellas, but you’ve gotta admit that for every lackluster gaming girlfriend, there’s about fifty muscle-bound morons who offer literally nothing in terms of dating potential. Just take a look at some of our most beloved gaming stars: a fat middle-aged Italian plumber who still hangs out with his brother; a guy who thinks mullets are still in style; a physics nerd. This douchebag. And of course, legions and legions of muscle-bound morons whose only real method of communication is some indiscernible grunting and a burst of fire from their plasma rifle.Point is, as much fun as it is to jump into the shoes of these digital heroes, real girls aren’t hiding in castles. As nice as fantasyland might be, maybe it's time for losers like us to turn off the console and get ourselves a real date. Nah... [Haggar image courtesy of jnkboy]
Worst gaming girlfriends photo
Suddenly my prom date seems alright
If you’re anything like me, Valentine’s Day is a very special time of year. A time to be reminded that your crippling social anxieties and complete lack of desirable personality traits mean you’re likely to ...

Roses and tears: 10 depressing videogame romances

Feb 14 // Taylor Stein
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater – Big Boss and Eva Love can blossom anywhere. If the Metal Gear series has taught us anything (besides the usefulness of a cardboard box) it is that romance is especially prominent on the battlefield. Why would bullets, explosions, and a team of evil super soldiers deter one from indulging in a little affection? While Big Boss fought off Eva’s motive-driven advances, he was unable to resist her overt feminine charm indefinitely. After a romantic encounter complete with wine, a fireplace, and a bear skin rug, Eva skipped town, leaving the battle-hardened veteran heart-broken and empty handed. I guess Snake would've been better off sticking with his M1911A1. Final Fantasy 10 – Tidus and Yuna Ah, there’s nothing sweeter than teenage love. Combining raging hormones with the responsibility of saving a world tormented by perpetual death is certainly a unique formula for passion. During their pilgrimage to defeat the ever-returning nightmare Sin, Tidus and Yuna found romance as a convenient way to ignore the foreboding reality of their quest: Yuna’s death. Throughout a series of plot twists and extensive battles, players save Yuna from her sinister fate. Too bad the protagonist Tidus turns out to be from a dream world and disappears into a poof of nothingness. Dead Space – Isaac and Nicole The horror genre isn't ideal for heartfelt connections. The closest that scary games often get to featuring physicality is through a zombie bite to the neck. Too bad no one sent the memo to Isaac Clark. What started as a standard repair job on the intergalactic mining vessel the USG Ishimura, quickly turned into a terrifying test of survival among reanimated corpses and alien monsters. Did I mention that his girlfriend Nicole was stationed aboard the ship? I’m sure you know where this is going. Not only does the poor systems engineer discover that his girlfriend has been dead since before his arrival, he develops mental instability causing him to see visions of her, courtesy of an alien artifact. Thanks, Nicole, insanity is a perfect parting gift. Infamous - Cole and Trish There are very few actions in life that cannot be forgiven. Being held responsible for an explosion that wiped out a chunk of a city, killing thousands, would definitely be one of those unforgivable moments. Ever since The Blast, Cole's relationship with his girlfriend Trish took a turn for the worst. Blaming him for the death of her sister, Cole became a monster in her eyes. In an effort to win back her trust, the now super-powered hero went above and beyond to assist Trish and the citizens of Empire City. Just as affections were beginning to turn around, Trish was kidnapped, forcing Cole to make a difficult choice. Save the love of his life, or save a team of doctors; serve his personal desires or act on behalf of the greater good. Either way, Cole is pretty much screwed. Choose Trish and she spends her last dying breath describing how much she despises what Cole has become. Rescue the doctors and Trish praises his decision yet still dies from her injuries. Lose-lose situation is an understatement. Final Fantasy VII – Cloud and Aerith What does a spiky-haired soldier, an innocent flower girl , and a well-endowed bartender have in common? In the boring arena of reality, absolutely nothing. Within the fiction of videogames however, the trio arguably represent the most notable love triangle in the gaming world. Regardless of who the player chooses to pursue as a romantic interest, Aerith or Tifa, fate intervenes in the cruelest way possible. A scene of tranquility is instantly transformed into the epitome of shock, alarm, and terror. While praying at an alter, the silver-haired villain Sephiroth seemingly appears from the heavens and impales Aerith with his eight-foot-long Masamune. In an instant she is gone, collapsed in Cloud's arms. To hit the point home, Aerith's theme song begins to play in the background, and the reality that Final Fantasy VII actually had the audacity to kill off a main character halfway through the game, is fully realized. Mass Effect 3 – Commander Shepard and Romantic Partner Saving the galaxy from sentient machines may seem like a tall order, but after three installments of the Mass Effect series, it's pretty safe to say that Commander Shepard always finds a solution. Whether through diplomacy or a firefight, humanity's savior has proven to go above and beyond the call of duty. This applies both on and off the battlefield. Seducing a slew of men, women, and alien crew mates is all fine and good, but the end of the world has a way of offering a sobering reminder as to what is at stake. There will be no civilian life for Shepard and her partner; no white picket fence and no blue children. Ensuring the survival of the entire galaxy is not a job that one simply comes back from. All that can be said between the larger-than-life figure and her significant other is a somber goodbye before the true suicide mission commences. At the end of Mass Effect 3, the hero alone ventures into the depths of the Reaper operated Citadel. The first human Spectre is given a choice that will forever alter the course of the galaxy, to end the cycle of destruction that has continued in secret for millennia. Ultimately, Shepard's decision opens a new chapter for the galaxy, while putting an end to her own. Whether truly dead or not, Commander Shepard's closest squadmate is forced to hang her name on the Normandy SR2's memorial wall. In an act of remembrance signifying Shepard the soldier, the legend, and the human being.  Shadow of the Colossus – Wander and Mono Love has the power to transform a young man into a hero; a vigilant civilian into a seasoned warrior. In the case of Wander, the desire to revive his romantic interest Mono, inspires him to commit a laundry list of questionable choices. Stealing an ancient sword is risky yet understandable. Entering a forbidden land is yet another precarious decision. But following the instructions of an ominous, obviously evil, being is a step in the wrong direction. Whether due to naivety or injudiciousness, Wander proceeds to slay 16 enormous colossi in the hope that his new "ally" will reawaken the beloved maiden. Instead, the sinister lord Dormin possesses his body, transforming Wander into darkness incarnate. In the end, Mono successfully opens her eyes and returns to the land of the living. Wander, however, regresses to the age of an infant, marked with horns upon his head to signify a curse. As the only bridge connecting the forbidden land from the rest of the world falls, only Mono, altered Wander, and his trusty steed Agro remain. The two are together again, yet they are worlds apart. Alive but isolated in a land of danger and mystery. The Darkness - Jackie and Jenny Hit man with a heart of gold may seem like an oxymoron, but in the case of Jackie Estacado, the seemingly opposing identities are more than true. After the death of his parents at a young age, Jackie was sent off to an orphanage where he met the love of his life, Jenny Romano. Their childhood friendship blossomed into an adult romance; a relationship seemingly too good to be true. Unfortunately, Jackie's profession would be the factor to catalyze the sudden change from conjugal bliss to marital tragedy. On the eve of his 21st birthday, Jackie was targeted in an assassination attempt by his own organization due to fears that he was attempting to take over the Franchetti Family. In an effort to shake Jackie at his core, Don Uncle Paulie kidnaps Jenny and travels to the orphanage from their youth. Jackie arrives in a homecoming of sorts to witness his enemies berating Jenny. In a scene of absolute helplessness,  the Darkness seizes Jackie's body, preventing him from intervening as the Don raises his gun to Jenny's face. Boom. Jenny crumples to the floor and the antagonists escape. Even through suicide, Jackie is unable to find peace. The Darkness cannot live without its host, and thus he returns to the land of the living, forced to continue his existence as a pawn of the malevolent being. Gears of War 2 – Dom and Maria Battling for humanity’s survival against a horde of reptilian humanoids may seem like a challenging feat, but the steroid-pumped, macho men of Gears of War claim otherwise. Corporal Dominic “Dom” Santiago, one of the elite soldiers chosen to fight against the Locust, is forced to not only deal with the hardships of war, but also with an internal struggle fueled by the death of his children and disappearance of his wife Maria. When news is received about her whereabouts, Dom trudges through hordes of alien forces to her rescue. The good news is Dom finds his wife alive. The bad news is she is malnourished, scarred, and mentally broken from the torment of slave labor. In the ultimate display of love, Dom ends her suffering with a single bullet to the head. Damn. God of War – Kratos and Lysandra Kratos may be Sparta’s most prominent ladies man, boasting encounters with countless women and even the Goddess of Love, but he wasn’t always the king of promiscuity. Before the demigod was known to partake in threesomes with advanced button-pressing sequences, he was a devoted husband and father. In a desperate move during a losing battle, the Spartan devoted his allegiance to the god of war Ares in return for victory against enemy Barbarian tribes. Through a twist of fate fueled by Kratos’s thirst for power, he was tricked by Ares to raid a nearby village. Blinded by Ares' power,  Kratos slaughtered every man, woman, and child in the village, including his own wife Lysandra and child Calliope. If that wasn’t enough, Kratos was cursed by a village oracle, forcing him to forever wear the ashes of his dead family on his skin. From that day forward, Kratos became known as The Ghost of Sparta; and ever since then, God of War has represented one of the most depressing love stories in videogames. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- What is your favorite videogame romance? Have you ever felt moved or saddened by gaming love affairs gone wrong?
Sad videogame romances photo
Still think love conquers all?
Valentine’s Day inspires a variety of emotions. While love is in the air for many, cupid has more sinister plans for a select few. A poor Valentine's Day for an average person might include seeing a movie alone or a sol...







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