Category Archives: TBGNP Top TEN

These are a few of my favorite things, but without the sing-a-long.

Top TEN – Melee Weapons

Top TEN – Melee Weapons

Number 10: Fists

Where else can the list begin but the bare knuckles, fisticuffs, mano a mano, basic beat down item, your fists. Brawlers like Final Fight and Double Dragon make frequent and satisfying use of them. In fighting games like Street Fighter, and One Must fall, they are primary weapons. Zeno Clash is an innovative first-person fighter put you into a perspective never before seen, and only seen again in God of War 3’s Zeus & Poseidon-killing Quick Time Events. Hulk games and the Rampage series use fists to deal most of the damage. Though the most satisfying use of fists as a weapon, for me, probably comes from Little Mac in the Punch-Out series. All that fight and energy coming from the underdog, being able to pummel guys 10x his size, those are some serious fists.

Number 9: The Rocket Launcher

This is supposed to be about melee weapons, close quarters combat, point blank range, within arms reach. Have you ever played a game that let you use a rocket launcher at that close range? And have you found out what happens when you do? Of course you have, we all have. We all know what happens when you fire a rocket launcher into a wall right in front of you. There’s a subset of players who just don’t pay attention to the etiquette of high explosives in confined areas. I’m one of them. In an FPS, once I have a rocket launcher, you’ll have to pry it from my charred fractured fingers, if they haven’t melted or fused to the trigger. I have no qualms about sending a rocket at an opponent who is closer to me than the length of the projectile itself. The doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction only works when both people are sane enough to value their survival.

Number 8: Minimal Force

In basic training, we called it, “Minimal Force” whenever we practiced striking the training dummies with the back end of our assault rifle. Before Halo’s laser sword, there was minimal force. I swear, 90% of my kills came from the melee attack in that game. Minimal Force also appears frequently in most of the realistic military shooters.

Number 7: Crowbar

Valve’s Half-Life created one of the most iconic melee weapons when Gordon Freeman first picked up the crowbar. Besides being tied to the character, Half-Life elevated the use of a melee weapon from “last resort” to “valuable tool” by using it to pry open boxes for power-ups, and to break down barricades. Valve used the crowbar again in Left 4 Dead 2. When you’re low on ammo and the zombies are closing in, it’s a perfect substitute. There may not be a more useful tool that doubles as a weapon.

Number 6: Knife

Besides sometimes being useful, the melee arsenal can be a stamp of proficiency, or just humiliation. In Counter-Strike, the knife doubles as a “last resort” weapon and the digital equivalent of “rubbing their face in it.” When all the bullets of the rifle are emptied, then the pistol is out, and you’ve been closing the distance, it’s time for a knife fight. Sometimes it’s skill, most of the time it’s luck, and other times it’s because the sniper was completely oblivious to your presence and must now cleanse themselves of their shame in letting you get that close. For rogues and thieves in the fantasy genre, it’s their weapon of choice, and in the proper hands, can do more damage than the larger, heftier, steel swords ever can. Rogue players always take a particular satisfaction when planning, preparation, and strategy overcome brute force. Serious Sam, Solid Snake, and the Halo ODST have all also selected the knife as an essential part of their weapon load outs.

Number 5: Powered Blade

Number 6 was a simple blade, so what is better than that? Answer: A powered blade! Take a sharp shank and add electricity and a motor. DOOM started us out with the chainsaw, and that image seems to have never left the collective gaming consciousness, appearing again and again in Gears of War, Warhammer, and Left 4 Dead 2. This extends to any type of powered blade. Dead Rising used a lawn mower to literally mow down zombies. X-COM Enforcer used an exposed extra-large blender blade. Hell-Gate London used a spinning buzz saw for the hunter and the Templars used all sorts of swords with tech upgrades to set them aflame or electrocute demons. This category is also where I’d place Star Wars lightsabres.

Number 4: Jaws

Sure, beating someone down with your fists is one of the most personal and personally satisfying ways to deliver primal punishment, one step above would be getting to sink your teeth into someone. It’s no secret that I love playing giant monsters. Giants: Citizen Kabuto lets you eat other players. Alien Vs. Predator’s Xenomorphs have a mouth within a mouth to instantly execute terrified terran marines. Rampage, again, makes frequent use of their jaws. In Spore, the right jaws can be a matter of survival. Just out for the 3DS, Jaws lets you play as a shark. I’m looking forward to picking that up.

Number 3: Automobile

Like the Rocket Launcher, this one wasn’t usually designed as a weapon, but can be improvised as one in a hurry. Grand Theft Auto rarely demands you drive on the sidewalk and run over dozens of people, but it’s a guilty pleasure we’ve probably all done at one point. Zombie Driver makes it a primary weapon, besides arming your car with guns, rockets, nitro, and flame throwers. Command & Conquer games have always let you squish enemy infantry units into paste by ordering tanks to move right over them. C&C: Renegade lets you do it from inside the driver’s seat. Lord of the Rings RTS Rise of the Witch King allows the Dwarves to ride their keg carts over enemy battalions and send them flying in disarray. TRON’s lightcycles are a unique combat vehicle. Dead Rising gave you an achievement for committing Zombie Genocide by killing several thousands of zombies, and the best way to do that was to get a car and drive through the parking garage. In Dark Void, I’d occasionally use my jetpack to hijack an alien saucer, then set it onto a collision course with a piece of enemy heavy artillery, then bail out at the last moment. Or does it count as a ballistic projectile at that point? Alien Shooter 2: Reloaded has several vehicle driving segments. The cannon on top of the car just doesn’t fire fast enough to clear out all the aliens around you, so you’re forced to run several thousand over. Half-Life 2 puts you into a buggy to cross dangerous ant-lion territory, and if you like, you can choose to swerve and avoid them, or just just smear bug guts all over the front end. It’s probably for the best that the buggy doesn’t have a windshield. I used the same tactic in Mass Effect with the terrain vehicle when I went down to the planets. Racing games, whether they include arms and armor or not, can be used as weapons to run your opponents into a barrier or off the road entirely. I’m always smugly satisfied when I can run someone off the track in Mario Kart. And lastly, it might not count as an automobile, but whenever we’re given the chance, we’ll all try to fly an A-Wing into a Star Destroyer at least once.

Number 2: Bum Rush

Previous entries included the likes of fists and jaws, but what’s even better than those is when you can turn your entire body into a weapon. Final Fantasy VI’s Sabin and Chrono Trigger’s Robo throw themselves at the enemy in a charge, a tackle, and a bum rush. Donkey Kong rolls into a ball and rolls over kremlings. Mirror’s Edge’s Faith runs full speed and can slide tackle, jump kick, or barrel over security guards. Sonic has been doing it since the first game, and his pals Tails and Knuckles have followed suit. Though it helps when your body is covered in spines. I don’t know how effective Tails is… Link charged forward and slams into walls with the force of a bomb in A Link to the Past. Samus started doing it in Super Metroid, then it became a standard ability in Other M, Fusion, and retconned in Zero Mission. Though the most satisfying probably come from Mike Haggar in Final Fight when he dropkicks or jump tackles the Mad Gear Gang, or in TMNT IV: Turtles in Time, using the bull rush that staggers the Foot Clan, putting them at perfect kicking distance.

Number 1: Shields

What makes it so great is that it’s not really a melee weapon, but it’s used as one. It’s amazing that a defensive item can have its use reversed and become offensive. Shields in the number 1 spot are also why this is my list, I have an affection for shield combatants after watching an episode of Conquest with Peter Woodward on one of the more educational channels. It showed how two people, one using a sword and the other using a shield could overpower 20 others. I’m also a big Captain America fan. Half-way through Marvel: Ultimate Alliance I discovered there was a block button. Up until that point I was just throwing Cap’s shield at people. Dragon Age: Origins lets you slap opponents with a shield, along with Diablo II. It’s Goofey’s primary weapon in Kingdom Hearts. Link uses his shield to reflect magic right back at attackers. Magicka, the game of bad decisions, lets you use shields to reflect beams, or create a force field to trap monsters inside, or fake walls to beat and fling monsters up against, with most of the damage coming from the impact. The Bard in The Bard’s Tale dazes foes with it. Hellgate: London has an entire skill tree devoted to the Templar’s shield attack skills. Mega Man can’t seem to go two games without having one of the weapons be a shield like Wood Man, Skull Man, Star Man, or Junk Man. The Star Wars lightsabre can almost be considered a shield, when it’s applied defensively. Sonic the Hedgehog began using offensive shields in Sonic 3. He could turn himself into a supersonic fireball and rocket himself through the air or at Dr Robotnik’s death machines.

Honorable Mentions

Nunchuku – I’ve yet to see a game that has a primary weapon being nunchuku. The only times I’ve ever seen them used were in Double Dragon and Michaelangelo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They’re an interesting hobby weapon to me, an art form, one I’d like to see explored more.

Feet – It’s satisfying to have your enemy crushed under your feet. Duke Nukem’s melee attack is a boot. Duke also gets the biggest Ego bonus when killing an alien with his boot in Manhattan Project. In Mortal Kombat, the roundhouse to the head is one of the strongest attacks shared between characters and is a great finisher to any combo. The hurricane kick from Street Fighter and Double Dragon is just iconic.

Sword – It’s just too commonly used and difficult to find a game that uses swords exceptionally well. Lots of games have swords, and the depth to which they’re used is wanting.

Staff – I seem to be on a TMNT bender, but staffs also appear in Beyond Good & Evil, Dreamfall, and Double Dragon. Who didn’t reserve Donatello for the most difficult fights in the original TMNT game for NES?

Baseball Bat – Hit a zombie home run in Left 4 Dead 2. Use it to beat punks in Double Dragon. Ness from Earthbound uses it as a primary weapon. The Worms at war regularly beat each other to death with them, or knock each other into the water. Bats appear often, but like swords, fail to leave as much of an impact.

Taser – The reverse situation of the baseball bat. Tasers are satisfying, but they don’t appear in enough games. TRON 2.0 had a taser, but it was largely ineffective. X-COM’s stun rod let you capture aliens alive, but it just wasn’t effective enough.

Whips – I’m a sucker for unconventional weapons like bolas, boomerangs, and the sort, so this includes whips. I’m also a long time Castlevania fan. Whips appear in Soul Caliber with Ivy, Earthworm Jim uses himself as a whip, Indiana Jones and Zorro never go adventuring without one. The Metroid grapple beam is effectively one. They also appear in Double Dragon. I’m just not sure what to classify the whip as? Is it a melee weapon? Is it a ranged weapon? Is it a tool? It doesn’t appear as often as I like, as much as the other entries on the list. So I regrettably decided to leave it off.

Snowspeeders – They deserve a mention here just from my experience. I was playing a round of Star Wars Battlefront II against the computer on Hoth as the Empire. I was doing well and hadn’t died once. The option to play as Darth Vader came up and I took it. I continued playing a perfect game, never dying. When the rebel troop count was nearly depleted, I left the rebel base and surveyed the battlefield. I jumped up high in the air using the Force. It was a perfect game, I still hadn’t died once. The game ended, freezing in a big VICTORY screen, freezing my humiliation. I was too stunned and shocked to hit the print screen button. As I was floating in mid air over the battlefield, celebrating my invincibility, a rebel snowspeeder rammed into me, splattering Vader all over the windshield, punishing me for my hubris.

Frying Pan – At the suggestion of a second pair of eyes on the list, I’ve included a frying pan. Princess Peach uses one in the Smash Bros series. Dead Rising lets you smack zombies with one, or leave it on a stove and literally fry some zombie faces with the hot end. Left 4 Dead 2’s plethora of melee weapons includes a frying pan in appropriate areas. Fellowship of the Ring’s hobbits, besides attacking with tiny daggers, sometimes pull out a frying pan for combos. After investigating his recommendation, it appears more frequently than I thought.

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Top TEN – Unlikely Heroes

Originally written on 3/20/2011

Top TEN – Unlikely Heroes

There’s only so many Princes, Ninjas, Super Soldiers, Spiky blue-haired teenagers, super powered mutants, crusading knights, and bounty hunters that can save the world. So when they’re all busy, sometimes it’s up to someone more unlikely. When the first and second stringers are busy, the A and B teams are occupied, these are the people we can depend on, or, have no other choice but to trust.

10. The Healer

Most of the time your character is the one dealing the damage. The only way your character seems to know how to fix things is do deal more damage. Healers in just about every game take a supporting role to a more destructive character. There’s never any leading roles for priests or medics, despite how valuable they are. Can anyone think of any strong examples of a healer or some kind of restorer that’s a main character? RPGs where you pick your class don’t count.

9. The Parent

More frequently than not, when you fire up a new game, the hero is going to be a youngish white single male that’s completely unattached to anything or anyone. How many game heroes come from a well established nuclear family? How many are husbands or wives? How many have children of their own? How does that play into the storyline? I was tempted to name this entry, “the child” but there are plenty more examples of young kids being the hero of a story than there are fathers and mothers.

Mike Haggar from Final Fight’s daughter, Jessica, kidnapped by the Mad Gear gang. Though she serves as little more than a catalyst to beat the crap out of hundreds and hundreds of people. Jade from Beyond Good & Evil isn’t a biological mother, but she acts as one to a group of orphans that she takes care of. Samus from Super Metroid might count. She’s not a real mother, and the object in question isn’t a genetic offspring, but the parental role is playing out. C. Viper from Street Fighter IV is a single mom, which is an interesting choice for any game character. Sam Fisher used to be a dad, until the story writers decided to kill her off in between games. That’s a real shame. I’d have loved to see Sam interact with his daughter at some point.

The dad from Heavy Rain is probably the best example of a father that becomes a hero. The fact that he’s a father plays heavily into the story. But just once I’d like to see a game where a father or mother doesn’t have their children kidnapped, but still play up and emphasize the fact that they do have a family.

8. Unpowered Animal

There’s plenty of supersonic hedgehogs, jazzy jackrabbits, and half-animal hybrids that appear in games. But what about the realistic versions of them? Wolf Quest 1 & 2 has you take on the role of a wolf, doing wolf-y things. There are no superpowers, no struggle to save the world. It’s more of a simulator than a game. Savage, another wildlife simulator that came out in the 1990s, pits the player into the role of a lion on the African savanna, growing up, trying to survive other lions, poachers, hyenas, all the while just trying to survive. Animals frequently make supporting role appearances, like Dead to Rights, or as guard dogs. I’d be interested in seeing a game based on sharks as the main characters.

7. Civil Service

Most of the time, the municipal manpower is a force to be avoided. Grand Theft Auto puts you at odds with the police. You can steal fire trucks. But a regular Joe or Joline that works for the city as the hero to a story is rare. Mayor Mike Haggar from Final Fight might count, but a better example would be from the old Sierra adventure games Police Quest where you are a regular detective. The under-appreciated S. W. A. T. series also from Sierra puts you in the role of a SWAT officer doing SWAT things. No epic battle to save the planet or fight aliens, it’s humanity at it’s best, and worst. I vaguely remember a Wii game that lets you play as a firefighter, but it received some bad reviews due to sensitivity issues with the Wii-mote.. I’ll have to check that out to confirm. Sim City may make the cut, too.

6. Giant Monsters

Usually, it’s a giant monster that’s causing the trouble. Having a giant monster on your side, or getting to play as one is a fun reversal! Rampage has giant monkeys, giant lizards, and a whole giant managere. Penny Arcade Adventures On The Rain Slick Precipice Of Darkness Episode II lets you pilot a giant robot, the likes of which you’d see in a Japanese Super Sentai series. But my favorite is Giants: Citizen Kabuto. There’s a good giant and a bad giant on the island, doing giant monster things, leaping, long distances, knocking over trees, causing tremors, and eating livestock. I’d like to see more games with giant playable monsters, specifically dragons. Is it just me?

5. Vampire

There are far more examples of vampires as bad guys than as heroes. Vampires are typically the bad guys appearing in RPGs, horror survival games, fantasy horror, or some games based on vampire franchises like Buffy and Castlevania. But every now and then you get a renegade vampire that becomes the hero of a game. Bloodrayne may technically be a damphir, a half-vampire, but she uses all of their powers. Alucard appears in Castlevania III and Symphony of the Night as a main character. Marvel Comic’s Blade doesn’t have a game of his own, but he appears in Ultimate Alliance as a bonus playable character. And Razael from Legacy of Cain, looks a little funny, but is a rare type of vampire.

4. Scientist

Usually scientists are mad doctors, or objects to be rescued. They represent a way to move forward and advance through the game, like a walking keycard. Sometimes they support the hero over a communication line, but are never the hero themselves. I grew up watching the likes of MacGyver and The A-Team on television. They used their brains more than anything. Until Half-Life’s Gordon Freeman, there was a distinct lack of scientist heroes. Has there been anyone else since?

3. Photographer

Few photographers are featured as central characters. Peter Parker is one of the rare exceptions, but how many Spider-Man games include a photograph mechanic? Pokemon Snap isn’t really a heroic adventure. Fatal Frame might be included, but you’re not a photographer, just a poor fellow who picked up a cursed camera. Frank West from Dead Rising is one of two good examples that I can think of. The other being Jade from Beyond Good & Evil.

2. Starving College Student

There aren’t that many starving college students who star in games. “The Quest for Ramen Noodles” doesn’t exactly scream, “adventure.” April Ryan is a starving college student when The Longest Journey begins. She works at a restaurant that tries to cheat her out of hours. This is hardly the epic, legendary, and heroic story we’re familiar with. But by the end of the adventure, she ends up saving not one, but two universes! Good for her!

1. The Bard

The Bard is never the primary hero. Bards are support characters, backup, never the muscular figure that stands on the front line. In Dungeons & Dragons, the Bard is my favorite class. It is one of the most versatile and underestimated classes. They almost always play second fiddle(no pun intended) to the warriors, priests, and mages. Except in The Bard’s Tale. This vulgar brigand cares only about coin and cleavage. He does whatever he likes, not following anyone. The snarky, sassy Bard reluctantly, very reluctantly, gets wrapped up in a battle to save the world. In the book Dante’s Inferno, Dante is a poet. But since the game makes him a crusader, he doesn’t get to take credit as a Bard who saves the day.

Top TEN – Jetpacks

Originally written on 3/14/2011

Top TEN – Jetpacks

Number 10: Jetpack

What do you expect from the title? This is a side scrolling 1-screen, sprite based, shareware, puzzle platformer. In each level, you have to collect a series of gems, like Pac-man dots, and reach an exit. All the while you dodge dangerous robots, hazards, and death traps. You’re armed with a jetpack, and a phase gun that phases objects(alters their density). After a few moments, you can walk through a brick wall or fall through a floor. The levels are complex and tricky enough to challenge anyone. And the game comes with a level editor, I love the level editors. I think this was my first experience with a video game jetpack. It was very simple and satisfying. The rate of movement up and down has a real sense of weight and inertia to it. This little game would be great on the DS.

Number 9: Pilotwings / Pilotwings 64 – Rocketbelt

Nearly unlimited use of a rocketbelt. You fly around from beacon to beacon, flying through loops, in a race against time. Or, you can take your time, fly around freely, and just enjoy the tranquil music and scenery. The rocketbelt was always my favorite license to test for. It was the easiest to control out of the light plane, hang glider, helicopter, and skydiving trials. This jetpack has a much more “casual” feeling than many of the others, though one cannot think of Pilotwings without thinking of or expecting a rocketbelt.

Number 8: Halloween Harry / Alien Carnage

Harry appears on the other top ten list with flamethrowers. He is a very over the top character, an action hero of wanton violence and destruction. It’s a game with big guns and bigger monsters. Harry carries around a flamethrower, photon gun, grenades, mini-nukes, and more. The Jetpack is one of Harry’s primary accessories, there’s no concept art without it. It’s an integral part of the gameplay in exploring the side-scrolling platform environments. So you’ll get plenty of use out of it, more than many games which only feature small segments with one as a novelty.

Number 7: Duke Nukem II / Duke Nukem 3D / Duke Nukem Manhattan Project / Duke Nukem Forever(?)

Duke Nukem was the epitome of the macho, politically incorrect, arrogant, action hero in the 90s. And he will be again. One of the items in the game is, as this list suggests, a jetpack. In Duke Nukem 3D, what was many people’s first introduction to the Duke. It was never necessary to complete the game, just for getting secrets, bonuses, or adding a little flare to the action. And flare is what jetpacks are usually for. They played a minor role in the side scrolling platformer update in Manhattan Project. But the jetpack first appeared in Duke Nukem II, he fired a flamethrower downward to propel himself into the air. And I love flamethrowers & jetpacks. Hopefully in Duke Nukem Forever, the jetpack will make a reappearance. It looks like it’s included everything else.

Number 6: Megaman VI, VII, and Megaman & Bass – Rush Adapter, Bass Adapter

I have to wonder why it took Dr Light so long to build one? I thought that was the desire of every mad scientist. In Megaman VI, Dr Light modifies Megaman’s versatile Swiss Army dog, Rush, to convert into a jetpack that gives Megaman additional jumping height and distance. In a rare instance of continuity, the same modification appears in Megaman VII and Megaman & Bass. But it’s still not as cool as Megaman’s rival, Bass, and his flying upgrade. Bass steals an upgrade meant for Megaman and Rush that turns his lupine companion, Treble, into a flying attachment. This suit gives Bass total free flight for a time, as long as the weapon energy holds out. It’s superior to Megaman’s in maneuverability, but not in fuel. Megaman’s recharges instantly after every use, Bass’s takes energy pellets. But while it lasts, he’ll be on a rampage.

Number 5: Star Wars Battlefront II – Boba & Jango Fett, Clone Jet Trooper, Imperial Dark Trooper

Some people just don’t look up. Shaking up the status quo with a little chaos. Lobbing grenades from great heights, firing precise pistol shots, strafing shots with repeater rifles, landing next to a sniper with a shotgun, are my favorite experiences. If you see me in-game, look up. That’s where you’ll find me.

Number 4: Tribes / Tribes 2 / Tribes Ascend

This was THE multiplayer FPS title for the late 1990s. It was a better than average game for its time, or even today’s time. Of course, everyone has jetpacks. It wouldn’t be on this list otherwise. You can deck your character out with a nitro upgrade, to extend your flight time. You can ski along the ground and fly the deck to close the distance at high speed. I never had a group of friends to play with that didn’t completely outclass me. I wasn’t good at FPS games back then. Maybe now I can be of more sport.

Number 3: Giants: Citizen Kabuto – Meccs Jetpack with Nitro Booster

Yahoo! The pint-sized Meccurians and their high-tech gadgets are a blast to play with. Every Mecc comes with their own rechargeable jetpack that lets them fly moderate distances. When you have a buddy to carry on your back, they make excited exclamations, pumping their fists in the air. It looks like great fun. The frequent, repeated, free use and fundamental need to use them make jetpacks an important instrument in the game.

Number 2: Vanquish Power Suit

Well, you don’t get to fly, but the power suit in Vanquish does rocket you in all directions at your will. It’s not unlimited, but it recharges quickly enough that if you use it wisely, you should do fine. If you don’t know what you’re doing and lacking in your fundamental skills, you’ll run out, become vulnerable, and probably have to load your game again soon.

Number 1: Dark Void / Dark Void Zero

Boosters, loops, u-turns, rocketing yourself into enemies, strafing runs, hovering, there’s nothing else with this amount of control. When people cease playing the game like a chore, and begin messing around freely, it provides a different sense of fun. In Grand Theft Auto, I can only enjoy the storyline for so long before I just give up and start hijacking, and driving around like a maniac at high speeds, looking for firetrucks so I can use the water turrets. The jetpack in Dark Void can be used at any time, so at any time you can just start free flying around, ignoring most of the story.

Honorable Mentions

Half-Life – Long Jump Module

Honorable mention. Dr. Gordon Freeman has some of the coolest toys at his disposal, the gravity gun, the gluon gun, the gauss rifle that shoots through walls, those little crabby things that try to nip at his fingers, a .357 magnum revolver, and the iconic crowbar. One of the often forgotten tools in his repertoire is the hazard suit itself, and the longjump module that he picks up halfway through the first game. It acts like a booster to his forward movement. Gordon can make great time across open fields of crossbow snipers.

Yves Rossi

This crazy-brilliant Sweedish man built himself his own jetpack and flew from France into England across the Channel. I think he deserves mentioning and credit, regardless. He’s a man who loves his jetpacks!

Star Fox 64 – Landmaster Tank / Mass Effect – Mako ATV

Honorable mention. Although the boosters let you fly, it’s only a tiny bit. It’s fun to hover and roll, just to throw your weight around.

Metroid – Space Jump

While it’s not technically a jetpack, it does offer Samus a free, infinite, repeated power for mobility. It has all the qualities of a jetpack, just without the giant fiery plume out the back. It deserves an honorable mention.

Sparkster / Rocket Knight Adventures

I could never get the hang of this character’s controls. Maybe I should give the remake a try. Can anyone chime in with positive experiences on this game?

Starcraft 2 – Reapers

How can anyone not appreciate the light infantry, nitro boosting, dual magnum pistol wielding, jetpack wearing, high explosive throwing, cliff jumping units? A few of these can flashy, speedy units can pull off hit & run attacks to create chaos and cripple an opponent’s war waging capabilities, by striking at the economic center or other critical buildings. They’re a bit fragile, though, like anyone that’s strapping a jetpack to its back. I enjoy the occasional skirmish where I turtle, mass Reapers, wait for an attack, then send them around the back of the enemy base. There are very few problems that cannot be solved with the proper application of high explosives. It’s a shame you don’t get to experience the game from POV, unless I master that level editor. I think I know what I’ll be working on for a while.

Super Mario Sunshine

It’s a water jet, but it still counts. Mario has always been an excellent acrobat, high jumper, long jumper, athlete, he’s even been in the Olympics, so he doesn’t really need a jetpack. But when offered one, who would turn it down? I haven’t played it since I never had a Gamecube, but perhaps someone else can weigh in on how much fun it is.

X-COM – Flying Suit

Well, X-COM doesn’t have flamethrowers, but they do have jetpacks. Late in the game you can research and develop flying suits for your soldiers. They’re wicked expensive, but it gives them greater mobility. The soldiers are able to travel greater distances in a shorter amount of time. They can even hover indefinitely. Sure, it makes them a target any alien can see, it also gives them the vantage point to see anyone and everything. It saves time getting onto rooftops, or exploring two story buildings by just spying through the window. Or, just one soldier can act as a spotter while another launches guided missiles or high explosive rockets in the general area. The infinite, free, and repeated use is what makes this great. It’s just a bit odd to have high-speed jetpacks in a turn based game..

Top TEN – Frustrating Moments in Gaming

Originally written on 3/14/2011 

Top 10 Frustrating Game Events

Chime in with an example if you can identify with one of these, or suggest something new to add.

10. Loading time exceeds play time

Everyone’s probably experienced this at one time or another. You reach a boss or other difficult area and you have to re load your game again and again. There are times when the loading time actually exceeds the amount of time you’re playing before you die or have to load your save game again. This frustration is compounded by unskippable dialogue lines.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, the crow

The first time reloading an MMO

Mass Effect

9. The First Goomba

It happens to everyone. On one playthrough or another, we’ve all died to the very first enemy creature, trap, monster, or fell into the first lava pit. We were overconfident, we’ve done it 1,000 times already and didn’t pay enough attention. We lost to something we really shouldn’t have. Maybe the timing was a bit off. Either way, it was also entirely our own fault. And that’s the worst part about it.

Every side-scrolling Super Mario platforming game ever made

8. The Long Goodbye

I died, I know I died, I want to load. Let’s get to the loading screen. Come on. I don’t need to hear the heckling. Let me hit [start] to continue. I want to skip this. I don’t need to read professional “tips” about throwing grenades back.

Batman Arkham Asylum

Call of Duty 3

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

7. The path not taken

“Hmm… left or right? I wonder what’s over to the left. Oh look, that’s a boss fight which closes off the door to the right and I’ll not be able to go back. There could have been treasure or some item specifically critical to this upcoming fight. I guess I’ll never know.” And there was never any indication that one step in the wrong direction triggers a cut scene to close off your options.

Mass Effect, final fight location

Final Fantasy XIII

6. Lost in Interface

I know exactly what I have to do, I’m trying to do it. I think I’m doing it. But my repeated clicks offer no solution. As it turns out, I had to click a few pixels higher. I was doing it right all along. This occurs mostly in adventure games or games where you have to collect and use objects on one another. Maybe you’re doing it in the wrong order, or you have to click on yourself instead of the object, or put it someplace too specific. I feel terrible when I eventually look up the answer in a walkthrough and see I was 99% right already.

Lost Horizons, the cat puzzle

The Longest Journey, the pizza puzzle

Metroid: Other M, after Power Bombs are unlocked

Tomb Raider series – The jump you can almost make

5. Possessed Camera

The following sequence ought to be simple enough. If I could place the camera or control it in some way, this will be easy. But in an action filled environment, the camera may take on a life of its own. You won’t be able to see a thing, or the camera decides the wall is more interesting than you. You really have no idea what is going on and have to press buttons based on what you think is probably happening.

Beyond Good & Evil

Bloodrayne

Star Wars Battlefront II in 3rd person when a door closes on you

Tomb Raider series – Trying to jump somewhere that doesn’t exist

4. Autosave with 1 HP

It’s happened to everyone at one time or another. The game autosaves your progress when you’re critically injured, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Sometimes it’s automatic when you finish a level and the game doesn’t cut you a break before throwing the next one at you. Now, this next section must be performed flawlessly, or else we go back to number 10 on our list. Maybe this is how the regenerative health systems came about. Too many people were raised on this situation and decided to start making games in a way that would make sure no one would ever have to go through that type of anguish again. But then again, if you run through a section and come out with 1 hit point, it was probably dumb luck that you survived, you should probably work on your fundamentals a little more, and/or you made a critical mistake, like using a rocket launcher in an enclosed area.

3. Who’s The Boss?

You just spent 20-80 hours fighting your way through monstrous hordes of evil, undead, aliens, working for some big boss. And when you finally defeat it, you find out it’s some “other” guy you’ve never heard of that appears for no good reason. That’s a good way to cheat the gamer out of any sense of achievement or accomplishment and clear the slate of any actual character drama that has been created. By creating this new never before seen character that had been operating behind the scenes, there is no relation, and relationships are at the heart of any good story.

Final Fantasy anything

2. Why Am I Here?

I tried the Sims once and didn’t understand it. “If you do not direct your sims to take care of their needs, they will do it themselves.” So… what do you need a player for? In a Hideo Kojima game, it’s not unusual to run into stretches every hour or so where cut scenes exceed play time. Take a step forward, and you’re at a new cut scene. Take two steps forward, and you’re at another cut scene. All you have to do is press a button every 45 minutes.

Metal Gear Solid series

The Sims

Kingdom Hearts II

1. Quit Without Saving

It doesn’t matter how it happens, either by a game glitch, a power outage, negligence, forgetfulness, a save spot just out of reach, or a drop in your internet connection, that’s got to be the most frustrating experience in gaming. Everything you just did just got wiped away. You have to do it all over again. Nothing you did just counted. It’s worse if that happens more than once in the same area. Or, if it’s the first time you beat an area that’s been holding you back, and somehow you can’t repeat your success again as easily.

First 10 minutes of Half-Life 1

Glitched PS3 Trophies / XBOX360 Achievements

Corrupt memory cards

Top TEN – Flamethrowers

Originally written 3/14/2011

Top TEN Flamethrowers

Number 10: Mechwarrior 2 – Flame Unit

It takes a special kind of crazy to equip a flamethrower onto a mech in Mechwarrior. Battles are usually set up in such a way that you and your crew of hundred foot tall battle robots are squaring off in a giant field, with minimal terrain cover. You could fire off dozens of missiles and lasers while the two of you side step and circle strafe around each other, closing the distance. But a fast mech, small and low to the ground, with light armor, armed with flamethrowers, that makes a zig-zag path to the enemy has a chance to use the flamethrowers to generate heat and overheat the enemy mech, shutting it down. Then you can finish it off at your leisure with machine guns, aiming for it’s cockpit or literally it’s Achilles heel.

Number 9: Starcraft/Starcraft 2 – Firebat, Hellion, Flame Turret

I love the Firebats from Starcraft 1. I admit, they were pretty lousy in late game unless the opponent decided to mass early units. I just liked them. Maybe it’s because I read Fahrenheit 451 in high school? In Starcraft 2, the Firebats exist in the single player campaign, probably due to popular demand or people at Blizzard just love flamethrowers as much as I do. In the final mission, I must have replayed it a dozen times, losing with about 15 minutes to spare each time. When I finally beat it, I changed my strategy to extensively use the Flame Turrets. They effectively won the game for me. Rock on! How cool would it have been to play Starcraft: Ghost and get to play as a personal Firebat? Deep in the dark corners of the internet, there are some old gameplay videos that show just that, Nova running around with a flamethrower.

Number 8: Diablo II – The Sorceress’s Inferno

The spell wasn’t all that useful, even at higher levels, maxed out, with synergy skills. You could easily increase your total area of affect and damage output by specializing in other spells like Meteor or Fire Wall. But neither of those skills gives you the ability to spin around in as a whirling dervish of flame. At high enough levels you could wave it back and forth in a wave. It was flashy, it looked cool, and that’s the primary reason for putting points into it.

TIE Number 7: Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse – Sypha’s Fire Spell

One of the better magical flamethrowers. Out of the Sypha character’s three sub-weapons, I find Fire to be my favorite. The other two make up for the damage by providing more area coverage above and behind her. But the fire was direct, forward, offensive, pure, satisfying, face-melting, damage.

Castlevania X: Rondo of Blood – Flame Whip

A questionable addition. The long warm up time, the low probability of not having a weapon, and relatively weak damage compared to the other sub-weapon “item crash” moves like holy water, axes, etc, make it not as desirable as it could be. I wish it were stronger. But from the time you start to the time you finish, your target is likely to have run right by you. And if you end up at a boss with no sub-weapon, you probably don’t have enough hearts to use it much.

TIE Number 6: Alien Shooter 2 Reloaded

This game had dozens of different types of pistols, assault rifles, shotguns, rocket launchers, all the FPS classics, put into a top down arcade style shooter. When the room fills up with tiny creepy critters with a taste for human flesh, the different types of flamethrowers make short work of them. They’re a bit expensive, but the sooner you purchase one, the better. Use it in short bursts. No other gun puts out that amount of damage, that quickly, that early in the game. If you like flamethrowers, it will be your staple for a long time to come. Nothing will stand in your way!

Alien Swarm – Flamethrower

I played this free top-down arcade-style shooter Steam game with my Uncle and a few other friends. After so many alien kills, you unlock the next tier of weapons for your character. You can repeatedly run through level 1 to level up. It’s a game that requires cooperation like Left 4 Dead. So when one character unlocks the flamethrower, stay behind him(or her, the little miss Ellen Ripley wannabe)!

TIE Number 5: Return to Castle Wolfenstein

I get excited to hear old properties that get revivals in the modern age, especially when they’re free. I played the original first episode. But they could have stripped the entire Wolfenstein connection away and I would still have checked it out. This game was, not the first, but it was the best rendering of a flamethrower in a 3d graphics engine at the time. Many developers had tried and it just never ended up looking right. This one was the first to get it right. It awed everybody. Yeah, it doesn’t do much on the wide open spaces, I lost a lot. But I always loved using it when I could.

Team Fortress 1 & 2 – The Pyro

I’m absolutely rubbish with the Pyro. I usually get antsy, sitting around defensively and I have to go out and do something. The Pyro isn’t the best character at long ranges or open fields, and I die. But I have fun! The flamethrower is a weapon of complete chaos. Whenever people play with strategy, have their team organized, and get a handle on things, expecting a certain chain of events, one crazy Pyro can run in and set everyone on fire! It’s not much more than a nuisance, but it does create a ticking clock for the other team. They have to start moving before the damage-over-time effect of being lit on fire deals enough damage that their attack will fail. If you can’t beat them, just ruin their day.

Number 4: John Carpenter’s The Thing

Wow! A game that was wholly designed around the repeated use of flamethrowers! You can bust up, beat up, bludgeon or shoot the monstrous alien creatures as much as you want, but you always have to finish them off with flame. Blow torches, incendiary devices, lighters, Molotov’s, whatever you can improvise. I think I’m cheating myself by not having seen the original movie. I played part of the game, I never got very far. It was really hard for me. As the new remake of the movie gets further along, nearing completion, I will probably find another copy and go another few rounds with it, just like I did with TRON 2.0 when I heard about TRON: Legacy in development. Maybe the game will get a remake?

TIE Number 3: Contra III The Alien Wars

Note, I’m mentioning a specific Contra game with this one. The Flamethrower appears in just about every incarnation, and it’s always hit or miss with players. It really shone in Contra III. Instead of spitting out little spinning fireballs, this was a constant stream of flame that you could wave around and incinerate irritating insects and infantry. I was never more depressed about losing a Contra weapon than with the flamethrower. I would always pass up the homing or crusher missiles, even the overpowered spread gun, for it. And when you get dual flamethrowers, woo-hoo! I’m not usually a vocal player, but you could expect to hear a few aggressive curses from me, telling them to, “Eat it!”

Halloween Harry

I think this is what started my love of flamethrowers. Long ago in the Shareware-era of computer gaming, there was a zombie killing, jetpack wearing hero called Halloween Harry. His primary weapon was a flame thrower. Sure, you could buy other weapons like grenades, photon guns, mini-nukes, and more. But I loved that flamethrower!

Number 2: Hellgate London

What’s better than a flamethrower? A flamethrower with unlimited fuel! Hellgate: London didn’t look as nice as the Wolfenstein flamethrowers, but they were fun. You burst into a room full of monsters, backtrack down the hallway, hosing the floor, walls, and ceiling, all the way and let them cook themselves trying to reach you. Or, just hose the floor, walls, the creature itself. It’s an Action RPG that plays like a shooter. Your weapons have a % chance to ignite the creatures, draining 5% of their health every second. So you can theoretically kill anything in 20 seconds. And they come in several types from pistol sized to two handed. And yes, you can hold one in each hand and spray the entire room. I miss those weapons. I want to fire up the game again right now. There are also flare guns, but those aren’t really flame throwers, even though they do light demons on fire.

Number 1: One Must Fall:2097 & One Must Fall: Battlegrounds

Out of anything on this list, nothing gives me a more satisfying use of fire and flame than the Pyro from One Must Fall: Battlegrounds! The Pyro dances with fire. It is a giant humanoid robot with flamethrowers where its wrists and hands should be, and boosters by its calves. The Pyro can’t even move without firing boosters and thrusters. It incorporates fire into its every move. All of its special moves take advantage of this. The Pyro aims one arm forward and one backward, spinning in a circle, damaging anyone around it. It can fly forward, fly to the side, hover in mid-air. It can spray flame from either hand independently, to the front or to the sides, and both simultaneously in front. And even though I don’t count it, it can throw fireballs from each hand, or gather up enough flame to throw a massive fireball 10x as big as itself and send it rolling across the arena floor. The flamethrowers alone are enough to earn it the top spot, the molten ball is icing on the cake.

Honorable Mentions

X-COM – Incendiary Rocket Launcher / Incendiary Grenades

You’re not shooting, spraying, or hosing a stream of flame. But it does light stuff on fire. I’ve lit wheat fields on fire trying to smoke out a pesky little gray alien Sectiod. During missions that take place in darkness, instead of throwing chemical flares, I light up the night with phosphorous rockets that set anything and everything on fire in a radius, and then the fire spreads. But for those long hallways in alien colonies, I wish we had a real flamethrower.

The Ship – Flare Gun

Setting people on fire with the flare gun in The Ship. It must be magnesium or phosphorous based because jumping in the swimming pool or jacuzzi will not put you out. And jumping overboard, well, there are sharks(every creature deserves a hot meal). It’s a nice and satisfying one-hit kill if you can nail your target with the flare gun, which is great since you only get one shot(unless you’re like me and carry around 4 just so you can go bananas). It doesn’t get on this list because you’re not controlling a stream of flame. Maybe the sequel Hollywood Murder Party has them?

Blood – Flare Gun

While the flare guns light zombies on fire, you now have a ticked off flaming zombie charging you. It’s the first gun you get, so the game gives you plenty of opportunities to do that, and then fend them off with a pitchfork before they give you the standard shotgun and machine guns. Akimbo flare guns are a nice touch, but it just doesn’t match the idea of turning a room into an oven like a long steady stream of flame.

Chrono Trigger – Flame Toss Dual Tech

Coating a sword in fire, and then waving that sword around to catch other things on fire near you is wicked fun. ‘Nuff said.

Kirby – Flame

Kirby is cute. Even when he has a sharp pointy sword, he waves it cheerfully through the air like a kid playing pretend pirates. But when he swallows the fire breathing enemy, his face gets angry, like the American box art. He breathes fire a short distance. You don’t get very much control over it, there are other, better weapons. It’s too short to really be super satisfying. But it gets a mention just for the transformative power is has over the pink puff.

Mega Man X – Flame Mammoth’s Weapon

This one only ranks slightly higher than Kirby. At least Megaman X can run while torching. It’s amazing that after Fire Man, Heat Man, Pharaoh Man, Napalm Man, Flame Man, and Turbo Man, Megaman never got a flame thrower, but X did on his first time out, and not really a very good one. At least he could charge it up with the X Buster arm cannon attachment and send a rolling ball of fire down a hallway. But that’s a fireball, not a flamethrower. If I were to include fireballs, this list may never end. It only gets an honorable mention because it’s such a short range.

Natural Selection

After the movie Aliens, what space marine would attack an alien hive without one?

Mortal Kombat – Scorpion’s “Toasty” Fatality

As iconic as this is, it’s not very high on the list. In the original game, you didn’t have much control over it. Scorpion’s fire powers were only used in the fatalities. In later games you could use Scorpion’s fire powers in the middle of the match, so that’s better. But it’s not quite the same amount of control as some of these other contenders.

Command & Conquer – Flame Thrower Troop

I liked using them, despite how useless they really were. They were great against infantry units, except that every other infantry unit had superior range over them. And if one blew up, it damaged the surrounding area. So if you rushed with mass flamethrowers, they had the potential to cause a chain reaction and blow up every single flamethrower troop nearby(learned from experience, that one). In C&C Generals, the heavily armored Chinese Flame Tanks and Flame Turrets, those worked better.

End

Hopefully after reading this, you have learned 2 things. The first being, you will now automatically start critiquing other games for their lack of flamethrowers, and instantly identifying swarming situations where you wish you had one. And the second: you now know what to get me for Christmas.

What are your favorite flamethrowers?

Top TEN – Zombies

Originally written on 3/1/2011

Top TEN – Zombies

I mentioned before in a previous list that I used to have a severe phobia of zombies. In spite of that, I seem to have played a lot of games with zombies or zombie-like creatures in them. Here, I’ve collected the favorite zombies from my gaming collection. The mindless, shambling, reanimated, undead vary in fright factor and in the satifaction in dispatching them. Those, along with how memorable they are, are the biggest factors in where they’re placed on the list.

Number 10 – Castlevania

Every Castlevania game has zombies. They’re infinite, easily killable, and can be dispatched in many ways, axes, holy water, boomerangs, and the whip, just to name a few. Decapitating three with a single boomerang throw is always fun. I was looking forward to that in Lords of Shadow, and was disappointed. But the whipping is the most satisfying. The idea of beating a zombie to pieces with a heavy chain whip adds a personal level of hostility that I appreciate. Maybe I appreciate it just a bit too much.

Number 9 – Hellgate: London

Along with demons and ghosts, undead creatures appear all throughout the game. They automatically level up with the player, so they’re always difficult. They’re significantly memorable because of their intensity. They tend to swarm you and scream. In some environments, they are in total darkness, so you have to have a head lamp. Darkness always enhances the fright factor. All you can do is hear them, you know they’re nearby, but you can’t find them. Besides the fright, there are a variety of ways to kill them. I prefer incineration, but there are also sniper rifles, shotguns, machine guns, buzz saws, electrocution, explosives, cleaving in half, stabbing, throwing a sword into their face, crushing them with a shield, or summon robots or other monsters to kill them, like locusts or an armor plated demonic rhinoceros.

Number 8 – The Bard’s Tale

The undead are the major enemy throughout The Bard’s Tale. There are reanimated human and animal skeletons. But the standard zombies are not any more threatening than any other creature in the game, they are not overly satisfying to kill. But there is a show stopping song and dance number as one zombie “crew” tries to “serve” another in a dance-off. That’s just one of the many show stopping “WTF” musical moments in The Bard’s Tale. Singing and dancing zombies are hard to forget. With the advent of the musical game genre, there needs to be a remake.

Number 7 – X-COM – Chrysalids & Deep Ones

The turn based environment makes for great tension. The fact that a mission can fall apart and become a disaster at any moment is ever present. The alien’s movement phase takes control away from the player. When you see a threat, there’s very little you can do about it, unless you planned or prepared for it beforehand. X-COM’s aren’t your typical zombies. There is one dangerous creature that I hate more than any other, the Chrysalids. It runs up to one of your soldiers, kills them(I hope you weren’t attached to them), and then another creature spawns up from the corpse on the next turn, producing an additional monster that can, and will, do the same.

The sequel, X-COM: Terror From The Deep, has a similar monster called a Deep One that does the same thing. When you see it coming, it’s pure terror. They’re both fast, too. So by the time you see one, you must kill it immediately, or else you will not survive the next turn. And there’s nothing you can do about it but hit the “End turn” button. It’s the waiting that’s the worst part. You have to resign yourself to dooming that soldier. By pressing that button, even if there’s nothing else you can do, you know you’re going to lose him.

I hope the new X-COM by BioWare will have Chrysalids or something similar. They added a great element of terror!

Number 6 – Metroid: Fusion – The X Parasite

The scariest thing about the X Parasite is the fact that it’s not really far fetched. The X Parasite is an organism that infects a host cell, replicates the entire creature, and animates the newly created body. In Metroid: Fusion, the ideas is taken to the sci-fi extreme. This behavior is based on a real life parasite that zombifies lower life forms like snails, caterpillers, and worms and moves them in to sacrificial, suicidal situations. It travels up the food chain by letting itself be eaten until it’s “expelled” through the digestive track and is deposited in a new location to replicate.

Metroid: Fusion creates zombified versions of life from planet SR-388. It even infects Samus, replicates her, and steals her power suit. Samus then has to play cat and mouse against a zombie of herself that has all her equipment. For such a powerful bounty hunter, Samus usually blasts everything that moves. So for her to repeatedly retreat from a battle is a very different experience.

Number 5 – Half-Life – Headcrabs

These are the first creatures you see. You see the headcrabs before you even get a weapon to defend yourself. They leap up on and munch on a scientist’s head, take over it’s body, then shamble it towards you. Early on, you’re low on ammo so it’s wiser to bludgeon them to death with the crowbar(!). Getting that up close and personal, that early on, creates a very memorable experience. Most games before that would usually, at the least, give you a firearm. The headcrab zombies appear all throughout the game, creeping around corners, clawing through doors, and are featured more extensively in the sequel. In Half-Life 2, they majorly amplify the fright factor, putting them in darker locations, making them stronger, and introducing new species of headcrabs. Half-Life 2 also ups the satisfaction in killing them with grenades, buzz saws, sicking giant insects on them, dropping cars on them, and lighting propane tanks to create defensive firewalls. Rock on!

Number 4 – DOOM 3

I suppose the rest of the Doom series qualifies, but Doom 3 has the best zombies of the series. I used this game as part of my zombie exposure therapy to get over my zombie phobia. It’s does a great job combining the creepy environment with eerie zombies. After the first random dead “environmental decoration” body got up, I never trusted any “decorative” body to stay down. I double tapped every body I saw and was low on ammo the rest of the game.

I came to one quiet segment with a long hallway and little alcoves dotted along the sides, like the detention center on the Death Star. I knew that was a perfect spot to hide zombies. If I was a developer, and a jerk, that’s where I’d put them. Before entering, I cautiously fired one single bullet down the hallway with the pistol. The shot was enough to wake up all the zombies in the area and have them slowly climb out of the alcoves and shamble single file down the hallway towards me. I sighed, smiled, hefted up the chainsaw, and yelled, “F*** it! Cut ’em up!” (Bonus points to anyone who knows that quote). It was incredibly therapeutic.

Number 3 – Zombie Shooter

After playing Alien Shooter 2, I was pleased to see Zombie Shooter come out from the same people. They knew how to create the eerie atmosphere, restrict lighting, fill the screen with zombies, and have enough choice in weapons to allow personal preference to shine through(like incineration). Killing zombies is intense, challenging, satisfying, and empowering in this title. It’s amazing how slowly, yet suddenly they can fill up the screen and surround you if you’re not paying incredibly close attention. The title is really all you need to know. That’s what it is, and that’s what it does best!

Number 2 – House Of The Dead Series

Killing zombies is satisfying. Killing zombies with a pistol, shotgun, or sub machine gun is even more satisfying! Having my hands on an actual fake firearm adds another, deeper, level of fulfilling immersion to the zombie killing. Just give me some elbow room in the arcades, and plug your ears. I have a tendency to shout obscenities the more immersed I am in the zombie killing. It’s probably for the best that I don’t have the home versions of the pistol, shotgun, and sub machine guns. Televisions are getting more and more expensive. I don’t want to have to replace my television like I had to replace that arcade cabinet. Who knew the screens were so fragile? I kinda, struck the screen with the butt of the plastic shotgun to get one of the zombies off of me. It was instinct! I just reacted!

TIE Number 1 – Dead Rising 1 & 2

Frank West is my hero. I never owned an X BOX 360, but I did get to play it on a roommate’s console. I never got anywhere near the end. I couldn’t focus on the story without getting easily side tracked with killing every zombie I see. Being able to smash, crush, mow, run over, slice, cook, and kill zombies any number of ways, was incredibly satisfying and therapeutic. Out of any item on this list, this game has the most varied ways to destroy zombies. Though I wonder, how come all the zombies were grown up, how come there were no kids at the mall that day? No baby zombies in strollers?

TIE Number 1 – Left 4 Dead 1 & 2

These games were made for me. If they had come out a few years earlier while I was still suffering from my zombie phobia, they might have done the trick of curing me. There’s so many different types of generic zombies, and plenty of ways to kill them, I like this game a little too much. I can only play it for short periods since my heart rate gets a little too high. And I’m afraid if I lose too many times, it could trigger a nightmare. I haven’t had a “losing” zombie nightmare since my fateful Z binge, but I still don’t want to tempt fate. This game could be very therapeutic to anyone suffering from my former phobia.

Coincidentally, all the zombies are the same height, so when you get rushed by a gross of them down a narrow hallway, you can rack up a ton of head shots. The melee weapons are a great addition, frying pans, swords, cricket bats(a nod to Shaun of the Dead), chainsaws, baseball bats, Molotov cocktails, and pipe bombs, all offer a strong, sick sense of satisfaction to me. My problem is that I don’t do speed runs very well. I enjoy checking every closet, every bathroom, and every hedge just to make sure I get them all. And since they’re actually infinitely spawned, that can take a while. Lots of hordes and special infected come and rush me while I’m looking for a few.

Honorable Mentions

It’s a shame there are only ten items in a top ten list. Maybe I should start counting in a base 16 hexidecimal system? That ought to help, but only a little. I have too many zombie killing games.

Starcraft – Infested Terrans

The Zerg from Starcraft are a swarm that assimilate other species into their hive. They infested the humans and turned them into mindless suicidal zombies. The Zerg infested so many humans in the first war that they apparently have a near limitless supply of space marines to spawn at will from Starcraft 2’s new units, Infestors. In the first game, they were very effective, but hard to get. In the second, they’re too easy and much less threatening. They’re really only worth mentioning because of the single player campaign. There’s one mission that has you burning infested buildings during the day, and bunkering down at night to defend against a zombie onslaught.

Mass Effect – Thorian Infected, Geth Husk

I guess they’re zombies, just not very good ones. They’re the reanimated bodies of people who were infected. But they just don’t have the fright value as some of the others. I don’t get as much satisfaction in blowing them away with the anti-tank pistol. Honorable mention.

Dead Island

I saw the trailer, I don’t know what to expect from this. How will this be any different than another series of levels in a Left 4 Dead campaign? That wouldn’t be a bad thing. It may be “more of the same.” But it’s more of the same awesomeness! I just don’t know how much I’d be willing to pay for it. Or could I just download a custom level in L4D for free? It’s not out yet, so for now, it’s just an honorable mention.

Diablo I, II, & III

Fantasy action RPGs nearly always have a zombe or two somewhere in them. Diablo has plenty. Diablo 1 had some nice atmospheric creepiness. The zombies were fun to watch fall over with a hack and a slash, or a fireball to the face. They certainly weren’t threatening at all, except for the bright neon yellow Plague Bearers. They permanently removed 1 max HP from you every time they hit. That fact alone made them frightful. Diablo II was much less scary as a whole since it took place outdoors and you could easily outrun them. Diablo III isn’t out yet, but it looks like their zombies will be very satisfying to kill since they will come in many varieties with many ways to kill them.

Star Trek – The Borg

I have nothing against techno cyber zombies, but I just don’t think they offer up enough threat or satisfaction. In Star Trek Voygaer: Elite Forces, they play only a minor role. And the magic weapon, “The Infinity Modulator” makes them too easy to kill. They could have been much scarier, like in Star Trek: Borg, the interactive movie. I don’t know how scary they are in Star Trek Online. Can anyone chime in? Are they a real fright? Or are they just fodder like any trash mob in any other MMO?

Alien Carnage

I mentioned Alien Carnage / Halloween Harry on several Top TEN lists, Harry has a flamethrower, a jetpack, and fries zombies. Not only does he use the flamethrower, he uses a photon gun, grenades, and mini-nukes. There’s just not enough zombies throughout the game to rank high enough on the list. There are several better games for zombie killing.

Secret of Mana

Fantasy RPGs and Action RPGs will usually throw zombies in somewhere. Secret of Mana sprinkles them throughout. Normally, they act like any other monster. They can be spotted alone or come from another creature that is a zombie generator. But the reason they make the list is because of one particular instance. Late in the game you travel through an underground subway. For some reason, the subway car is full of zombies on every seat. It’s a very strange and out of place scene, which is why it’s so memorable. Anyone who has taken the journey through Secret of Mana probably remembers the WTF moment I’m talking about.

Mortal Kombat – Meat, Zombie Liu Kang

In Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance, the “hero” of the series, Liu Kang, is assassinated in the opening credits. From then on, you get to play as a zombified version of him. In Mortal Kombat 4, the first 3d installment, there is a a hidden character called Meat. He’s a completely skinless creature with muscles and bone visible, constantly bleeding everywhere. He’s reappears in Mortal Kombat Armageddon. The skinless, bleeding model really creeps me out.

Final Fantasy – Undead

Somewhere along the epic journey, every Final Fantasy will throw some undead monsters at you. It’s a turn based RPG, so the fright factor isn’t as strong as some other games’ zombies. What makes these undead zombies, ghouls, so satisfying to kill is unique to Final Fantasy. All you have to do is cast Life or some kind of healing spell to incur massive damage on them. Use one Revive potion or Pheonix Down and it kills them instantly. Bam! Problem solved.

Zombie Driver

Crazy Taxi meets Zombie Shooter. Top down arcade style driving game that fills the streets with zombies. You can deck out your taxi cab, bus, ambulance, or limo with machine guns, missiles, or my personal favorite, flamethrowers. You mow down zombies by the dozen. I bought it on a Steam discount weekend and have been completely satisfied with my purchase. It’s a great game to pick up in bursts for when you have only a short time to squeeze in some zombie killing, or to warm up for a marathon.

Wolfenstein

I know the game has zombies, I just never got far enough to see them. I never played more than the shareware episode of Wolfenstein 3D and the free multiplayer client of Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Can anyone write more about them from experience? How do they compare to the zombies of other FPS games?

Zombies Ate My Neighbors

I know many people hold this game in high regard. It’s just, unfortunately, one that I haven’t played. I was still severely handicapped by my zombie phobia at the time. Is there anyone who would speak on this game’s behalf and rate it higher on their own lists?

Monster Bash

This is another old shareware gem. A side scrolling platformer game with creatures all drawn from Halloween and horror movies. There are garish zombies that, when defeated, their bodies disappear and heads roll along the ground at you. Eew.

Blood

Technically, you’re playing a zombie. Level 1 starts off in a graveyard where there are other zombies. The first weapon you get is a pitchfork to stab zombies and keep them at a distance. Keeping them at a distance is very important since the next weapon you get is a flare gun. One shot is all you need to kill a zombie because a few seconds later, they burst into flame and come running at you. This was the first time I used a flare gun as an offensive weapon. The zombies are not as frightening as some of the other items on the list, but immolating them with a flare gun and keeping them at bay with a pitchfork is incredibly memorable. If there were ever an update, I’m sure they’d be much more fearsome.

Bloodrayne

Scantily-clad, Kung-fu fighting lady vampire that kills zombie Nazis. If you need more of a reason to check it out, it’s probably not for you. There are a lot of great ways to kill them, harpooning, blood draining, cleaving, exploding, spiking, shooting, and more. It’s just that the controls are a bit loose and I never got the hang of them. Sometimes I would insta-kill them, other times they’d take 4-5 stabs. If the controls were tighter and I could master them, it might have made the list.

End

Zombies. I used to fear them. Then I hated them. Now I love to hate them. Since I love to hate them so much, what other zombie games would I enjoy?

Hmm… since this was a top ten list, inspired by another top ten list, I could probably make more based on the other items in other lists. Top ten favorite aliens? Top ten favorite robots? I wonder how recursive I can get with this?

Top TEN – Love to Hate Monsters

Originally written 3/20/2011

Top TEN – Love To Hate Monsters

Every so often a game comes along that has a monster or creature in it that is more satisfying to beat than it should be. These are usually rank & file, expendable, armies of troops. Here are the top ten monsters that I love to hate.

10. Koopa Troopas & Little Goombas

These little guys have to be on the list. They represent an entire generation’s introduction to video game baddies. I’ve squished more mushrooms and kicked more koopa shells in my younger days than anything else. And how satisfying is it to find those specially designed 1-up spots were you stomp or kick 10 in a row? A Mario game without stomping these guys just isn’t a Mario game.

9. Slime / Blob / Jelly

These creatures appear in one form or another in many games. They’re usually on the lower echelon of difficulty, and that’s what makes them fun to squish, splat, and splorch. The accompanying sound effects are part of that satisfaction. They mostly appear in RPGs and action RPGs. I’ve never seen a FPS with a blob. That would be interesting to see! And the bigger, the better.

8. Nazis

There’s not many games where it’s considered acceptable or appropriate to slaughter members of a political party by the thousands. I can’t imagine a game that would force the player to slaughter Democrats, Republicans, or Tories. Though I could imagine the appeal that game would have to some folk.

7. Stormtroopers

These ping pong balls are in every Star Wars game and fall by the hundreds. The poor guys get destroyed in every way imaginable, by blasters, jedi, ewoks, thrown off cliffs, electrocuted, sarlacc, wompas, dismemberment, explosions, and probably more.

But not just Star Wars stormtroopers, any sort of mass uniformed army of expendable soldiers like the Helghast in Killzone, Sea Reapers in Giants, or any other kind of basic military grunt.

6. Imps / Gremlins / Shadows / Goblins / Fallen / Lesser Demons

The little guys, devilish looking, cooky, cackling, easily defeated, or better yet, swatted. That’s about as much force as it usually takes to get rid of them. Their like appear in Kingdom Hearts, lots of fantasy RPGs, including World of Warcraft, Diablo, King’s Bounty, Hellgate: London, Dungeon Master, Final Fantasy.

5. Ninjas

For being so secretive, these guys are very well known and show up, a lot! And for being so awesome, they sure get slaughtered a lot, too. Maybe they just don’t make them like they used to? Mortal Kombat is full of them. I’m surprised Team Fortress doesn’t have one. Half-Life, which is mostly science-fiction, has a few “ninja” soldiers that appear. Mass Effect has some ninja robots that cling to walls. Thank goodness Left 4 Dead doesn’t have ninja zombies, that’d be the stuff of nightmares. TRON 2.0 introduces a kind of cyber ninja, different from the robot ninjas in Metal Gear Solid. The Ninja Turtles’s nemesis, the Foot Clan are ninjas, and sometimes robots. Brawlers like Final Fight and Double Dragon, and JRPGs like Final Fantasy and the Chrono series always like to throw a few in.

4. Street Thugs

There’s no shame in beating up street thugs. They’re nameless, faceless, probably up to no good. Grand Theft Auto has no end to them, you can run them over, shoot them, beat them up, set them on fire, and more. Brawlers like Double Dragon use them as the basic fodder in the early levels, before they break out the ninjas. Final Fight has them just sitting around, minding their own business. They might not even be part of the gang, but that doesn’t stop you from suplexing them into the concrete. In fact, that might be why one of the main characters ends up in jail in the epilogue.

3. Aliens

Aliens are a great nameless faceless adversary to throw at a player. Some are good, some are bad. I enjoy killing the bad ones. Not just any bad aliens, but the most satisfying to kill are the little gray “probing” aliens. The likes of the X-COM series, Rebelstar, UFO: Aftermath, have all put more than enough grays in my cross hairs.

2. Robots

It was hard to decide between Aliens and Robots, but I figured robots were far more frequent than gray aliens. I’m a techie at heart, so I love some good mecha. Robots can come in all shapes and sizes, making them very versatile. (I suppose aliens can, too) They usually appear in any story that partially involves science fiction or mad science gone berserk. Megaman, P. N. 03, Dark Void robot soldiers, Battlestar Galactica’s Cylons, Mass Effect’s Geth, Gundam anything, Star Wars droids, sci-fi RPGs, TMNT Foot Soldiers(or do they count as ninjas?), and of course, one of my favorites, One Must Fall.

1. Zombies

These are without a doubt my number 1 pick. I personally have a long standing prejudice against them. Once upon a time I snuck out of my room at night to watch a movie my parents were watching. It was a zombie movie, Return of the Living Dead. I had nightmares for days. And from that point on, every time I saw a zombie movie, I would have nightmares. I was afraid to watch zombie movies for a decade or so. I had to face my fear. And that’s really hard to do when your fear is fictional. You can expose yourself to heights or spiders, if that’s what terrifies you. Zombies were trickier. I played Doom 3 in the dark, Bloodrayne, rented Resident Evil 1, watched Resident Evil 2 and Shaun of the Dead in theaters. That night I had a zombie dream, and for the first time, I didn’t die horribly. I never died to a zombie in my nightmares again. From that point on, I developed a deep seeded, seething hatred for zombies. Like Jedi Master Yoda says, fear leads to anger, and anger leads to hate. I love to hate zombies. Games like Zombie Shooter, Left 4 Dead, and most fantasy action RPGs, are therapeutic tools for me.

Honorable Mentions

Wizard’s Eye / Cocademon / Beholder

For such a strange and unusual creature, it shows up more frequently that I’d expect. I don’t remember any fairy tales, fables, or myths that feature them, no classic literature stories. I’m not even sure where it originated. As far as I know it’s a weird D&D creature. It has some slight variations, but they’re generally a fleshy floating ball of eyes. Weird. Just weird.

Dragons

These aren’t on the list because I don’t love to hate them at all. I love them! Every movie with a dragon, I root for it. In every game, they’re usually one of the most difficult creatures the player’s will encounter. Honestly, I’d love to see a game where you play as a dragon.

Dinosaurs

They would make some great monsters, but they just don’t show up often enough. Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, Jurassic Park(s), Joe & Mac Caveman Ninjas, but those are all very old franchises. There needs to be something more recent that really shows off how ferocious they can be.

Orcs

These guys make for good fodder in any fantasy story. But I don’t love to hate orcs. Ever since Warcraft III put a much more noble and respectable face on an orcish horde, I haven’t been able to see them as universal bad guys.

Bats / Spiders / Rats

The low level critters just don’t offer as much satisfaction as jellies or goombas. They’re more frustrating than fun. So I don’t enjoy or “love to hate” them as much as the others. I like bats. I have no problem with spiders. And rats make for good pets. If someone can speak against this in a personal way, I’d post it.

Skeletons / Ghouls / Undead / Mummies

While zombies are also undead, they don’t fall into the same category. I don’t have a personal vendetta against mummies and ghouls. And the uniformed nature of skeleton armies are a bit too similar to the uniformed armies of stormtroopers and Nazis.

End

The zombies are a very personal addition to the list. If someone else has a passionate number 1 they’d like to explain, shout it out.