Top 5 (Fictional) Killer Games,
Last night I saw a commercial for an upcoming show that got me to thinking about killer video games. Not games you have to have (killer apps) or games where you play as a killer, but rather games that kill you… or whatever player is unfortunate enough to attempt them. So this week, we’re taking a look at the deadliest games ever made or imagined. Just to make things more interesting, we’re not just going to be looking at real video games, but also fictional games that were created for other mediums or as games within games. Before we begin though, a few quick notes:
1. Minor SPOILERS AHEAD. You have been warned.
2. Stay Alive is not on here.
3. There will be no real-life examples. Yes, there have been real cases (as well as urban legends) where people have died while playing video games. I’d like to request these do not get brought up in the comments either; the world’s depressing enough already. I’d like to keep this list lighthearted.
5. The Bishop of Battle (Nightmares – The Bishop of Battle)
Now here’s an obscure little gem that fortunately has gotten a little more recognition since it got referenced in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. The short, which was part of the anthology movie Nightmares, is a deliciously 80′s romp that has Emilio Estevez star as J.J. Cooney, a troubled youth who hustles people at arcades so he can get more money for the hottest new cabinet, The Bishop of Battle. The game, which at first appearance is some sort of twin-stick shooter that requires you to also press two additional fire buttons, claims to only have 13 levels but even the greatest players have only reached level 12. This drives our J.J. mad, to the point that he starts stealing money and pushing away his friends so he can focus on getting to level 13. This leads to the short’s finale, where J.J. sneaks out of his house and breaks into the local arcade, where he finally reaches level 13.
Unfortunately, it turns out that the real level 13 spawns the enemies from the game in the real world and turns the oddly shaped right joystick into a functioning laser-gun. J.J. manages to do pretty well until he runs into the titular Bishop of Battle, who takes on a proto-Shodan appearance for the encounter and gobbles him up (though J.J. should have known better: when life give you a laser gun, you hold on tight to it and keep it with you. Don’t just toss it away). However, this isn’t the end of J.J.’s story. Come the next morning, as players are sifting through the wreckage of the arcade, The Bishop of Battle machine turns on and has a marked change: the player character is now J.J. and he is at the mercy of whoever plunks a quarter into the machine. The Bishop of Battle might only net one casualty, but it does it with style.
4. WildSide (Kid Chameleon)
“Wait, Kid Chameleon had a story?” Oh yes, it most certainly did. The game’s story was actually centered around the game-within-a-game, Wildside, which your character, Casey, was trying to beat. See, the boss of the game, Metal Head, got sick of watching kids come into his virtual reality domain and losing. He decides that if you lose, you stay in the game, never to return. By the time your character shows up, he’s already managed to snatch up tons of kids and he has no intention of turning them back over. While Metal Head may not necessarily be killing the multitude of children he’s caught, they are trapped within the game frozen forever until they are saved or the game is destroyed along with them.
The idea behind Metal Head’s plan also has some meta-value: the reason the kids are trapped in the virtual reality game is because the title is too difficult. As someone who lost more than a couple weekends trying to beat Kid Chameleon, I can sympathize with that.
Alright, indulge me for a moment. I rarely get to talk about Regular show, the program which takes place in a seemingly regular park that is actually a magnet for all of the collective weirdness in that world’s universe. In this particular episode, Mordecai, an anthromorphic Blue Jay, and his Raccoon friend Rigby decide to slack off while setting up chairs for a child’s birthday party and start playing with some retro arcade cabinets they find in a storage shed. Unfortunately, one of the cabinets they decide to turn on is Destroyer of Worlds, which immediately spawns its titular monster who immediately begins wrecking the park.
What I like about Destroyer of Worlds is that it wastes no time in revealing how evil it is. Other games might take some time before they begins racking up a body account, but not Destroyer of Worlds. It leaps right into the fray and starts blowing up the park and even turning the special entertainment into ash. Luckily, thanks to Rigby’s button mashing, he was defeated, only to return in “Exit 9B” where all of the park’s dead foes were resurrected by Garrett Bobby Ferguson Jr. (whose father was a parody of Donkey Kong record holder Billy Mitchell). Luckily, Lemon Chef returned to put the kibosh on him and helped get the petition signed, which sent all of the antagonists back to hell (this show is kind of weird now that I think about it).
2. Unnamed RPG (Nanashi no Game)
What if you took Japanese horror classic Ringu, but made the haunted object a DS Card instead of a video tape? Well, then you would have Nanashi no Game, the chilling story of university student who gets a copy of an unmarked TS cart (not sure why a DS exclusive tries to be coy about what system the game-within-a-game is on) that has been rumored to kill people seven days after they start the game. Your character plays the RPG, which strangely lacks fights, and its conversations seem to be leading you down the trail of something that happened in real-life. As you find out more about the game, more and more people wind up dead as their time playing the game runs out. If you want to have any hope of survival, you must reach the end of the game while following the real-life trail of a tragedy that played out over the game’s development.
Nanashi no Game isn’t just scary because players of the unnamed RPG die though (both in real life and in the game where they become statues you can find). What makes it scary is that, like Ju-on, the souls of the victim become part of the curse, hunting you down in later stages and attempting to impeded your progress. Additionally, you see characters do things that most horror fans would try: Why don’t they just smash the game? Well, it comes right back and even loads itself up. If the characters know the rumor about the game and receive it, why don’t they just ignore it and not play? Well, one character actually tries and it doesn’t end well. The game also has several moments of effective fourth wall breaking, including a moment where it looks like the unnamed RPG is being loaded on your DS and not the character’s TS. Finally, consider that the unnamed game appears from nowhere and spreads like a virus, meaning it has the greatest potential for a massive body count.
1. Sword Art Online (Sword Art Online)
Now it’s time to talk about the very game that inspired this list. In just a couple of weeks, Adult Swim will finally start showing Sword Art Online, the popular series about gamers who log into a new MMORPG, the titular Sword Art Online, only to find out that the option to log out has been removed and now they have to deal with the fact that the game will microwave their brains if they die in the game or someone tries to remove their VR headsets. The only way to escape is to reach the hundredth floor of the game’s main dungeon and defeat the boss, who is actually the rogue game designer who turned the MMO into a charnel house.
I won’t lie, Sword Art Online isn’t the smartest show (people are logged into the game for MONTHS without dying from starvation, aneurysms, or the power going off), but it is an entertaining romp and has some good dramatic potential that is often used to pretty good effect. The fact that a lot of the game’s 10,000 players (who were already early adopters of the game) are already experienced with MMO’s makes the initial death toll all the more shocking, especially when beta testers who have played the game for months prior to the launch are among the first dead, due to them not being able to make use of the former respawn points or the helpful AI, which has been turned off. Also, while the players who do the best in the game are practically superhuman with the ability to handle whole mobs and boss monsters by themselves, you still have players who try to form guilds and take on tactics they would have in any other game. Additionally, you have the human drama of side characters who have accepted the fact they are going to die and now just want to leave proof they existed (like killing a floor boss so their names will be left on a monument that surviving players can see).
Overall, Sword Art Online is by far the deadliest game on the list. Not only does it rack up the highest body count, but it also adds the horror of being in a game where your body is completely helpless in the real world, while the players around you are becoming increasingly unstable and, in some cases, just as dangerous as the enemies you encounter. If you’re interested, I suggest looking into it. It’s not an instant classic that will be talked about years from now, but it is a pretty entertaining show.
So, that was the list. Please share your thoughts below and feel free to give any suggestions for it or future lists.