Best Treasure Ever

IWHBYD Skull, Halo 3

Round One: 8-seeds vs. 1-seeds

Will the opening round provide us with an upset special?

By John Teti • September 11, 2012

We’re still sorting through yesterday’s readers’ choice nominations, but it’s time for the first round of voting to get underway—the white round. It’s like The Beatles’ White Album, except different in almost every possible way. Before I break down today’s matchups, let me mention that the bracket art is by Charles Giglia, and the little animations of each treasure were made by Richard Hofmeier. So a round of applause for those fellows.

Our numbering of the seeds was pretty capricious, but even still, there’s a thrill in the bottom-feeders going up against the juggernauts. Do Gameological readers favor the underdog? Let’s find out. The polls will be open for 24 hours (closing at midnight Eastern). And please don’t try to stuff the ballot, because it’s really easy to detect and just wastes our time and my god you would be stuffing the ballot for a tournament of video game treasures.

Animal Division: Beast Mode Medal vs. Space Hamster
Beast Mode Medal, Uncharted 2
Space Hamster, Mass Effect 2

The Beast Mode Medal is a prize you get for petting a few yaks. It’s either a rare instance of the Uncharted series poking a bit of dorky fun at itself or a vile example of the “you get an achievement for everything!” philosophy of game design. In any case, here’s the problem with the yaks: They are not in space.

On the other hand, the Space Hamster from BioWare’s Mass Effect 2 is a space hamster. This alone makes it the overwhelming favorite here. But even better, this space hamster has a history. Not only does he resurface in Mass Effect 3, but he may very well be the same space hamster that appeared in BioWare’s 1998 game Baldur’s Gate—an animal that itself was based on a character created during the developers’ Dungeons & Dragons sessions. Point is, this hamster has a gaming heritage. He gets around. If you enjoy saying the words “space hamster” as much as I do, your choice is clear.

Which is the better treasure?

  • Space Hamster (86%)
  • Beast Mode Medal (14%)
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Weapon Division: Wabbajack vs. Zodiac Spear
Wabbajack, Oblivion and Skyrim
Zodiac Spear, Final Fantasy XII

The Wabbajack could easily have been the top seed in this division. It is a staff of pure madness. Any weapon that can turn your opponent into a bunny rabbit is okay in my book. I mean, it does other things, and you can never predict what it’s going to do, but when you wield the Wabbajack, you’re pretty much hoping for some bunny rabbit transmogrification.

But we had to give the No. 1 spot to the Zodiac Spear, perhaps the biggest “fuck you” move in the history of game design. The Zodiac Spear is the most powerful weapon in Final Fantasy XII, but other than that the weapon itself is fairly unremarkable. It’s the process of finding it that makes it so notorious. Throughout the game, there are a number of treasure chests that, if opened, make it impossible for you to find the Zodiac Spear. The chests are unmarked and there is no indication that it would be bad to open them—and given that people tend to open treasure chests, you’re liable to screw yourself without even realizing it. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it takes a lot of brass to make the ultimate weapon impossible to find without a strategy guide. The question is, will you reward this brass, or will the Wabbajack prevail?

Which is the better treasure?

  • Wabbajack (78%)
  • Zodiac Spear (22%)
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Throwback Division: Yoshi vs. Warp Whistle
Yoshi, Super Mario 64
Warp Whistle, Super Mario Bros. 3

It’s hard to make an argument against the Warp Whistle here. It’s clearly the superior Mario treasure. Among Mario aficionados, who doesn’t remember the thrill of finding one of those whistles for the first time—and then giving it a toot to see where it takes you? The Warp Whistle is a threat to win the whole bracket.

But here, let me make a case for Yoshi: He rewards exploration. Once you find all 120 stars in Super Mario 64, a cannon appears, with which you can blast yourself to the top of the game’s castle. It’s the kind of thing you’d try on a lark, just to see if there’s anything up there. And it turns out there is, because the development team cared enough to add this little bonus for the truly dedicated. Yoshi gives you a bunch of lives and an improved triple-jump move, which is nice, but the real draw here is, hey, it’s Yoshi! From that other Mario game!

Right, so go ahead and vote for the Warp Whistle.

Which is the better treasure?

  • Warp Whistle (71%)
  • Yoshi (29%)
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Wild Card Division: IWHYBD Skull vs. Luck Bobblehead
IWHBYD Skull, Halo 3
Luck Bobblehead, Fallout 3

A showdown between two different takes on the human head. Which makes the better treasure: an amusing, bobbling head or a head stripped of all its skin? In the skull’s favor: It spices Halo 3 up with some jokey dialogue—albeit dialogue written by someone who thinks the phrase “bitch-slapped” is the height of hilarity. In the bobblehead’s favor: It features Fallout mascot Vault Boy, one of the most charming and versatile mascots in all of gaming. Plus, it’s mildly radioactive. In my opinion, uranium beats cranium.

Which is the better treasure?

  • Luck Bobblehead (82%)
  • IWHBYD Skull (18%)
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  • PugsMalone

    I liked the Warp Whistle better when you used it to uncover the seventh dungeon in the original Zelda.

    (Did I just blow your mind?)

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      A really mysterious, magical item. Use it and it’ll amaze you with what it can do.

      The whistle is the most mysterious of all the treasures in this game. Blow the whistle and it’ll let out a strange sound. People say it opens up paths for Link. Try blowing and see what happens.

      • Cornell_University

        Digdogger hates certain kinds of sound.

        • PugsMalone

          Dodongo dislikes smoke.

          (I tried way too hard to kill it using the candle.)

      • Aurora Boreanaz

        “Master blowing this and you can have it!”

        “Uhhh….no, thanks.”

  • NFET

    I can’t vote for anything, it says I need authentication.

    • KidvanDanzig

      same

    • caspiancomic

       Same here. Tried my Disqus login, and it turned its nose up at me.

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      Working on it, sorry.

      Edit: Is it working now?

      • Captain Internet

        I’d suggest blackballing for the next vote, but people might get the wrong idea

      • caspiancomic

         Works a treat now, cheers.

      • George_Liquor

         Oh I get it. Trying to ‘reduce voter fraud’ are we?

        • HobbesMkii

          All those elderly, black, latino, and college-age voters have a well known Warp Whistle bias.

    • Raging Bear

      Are you a felon?

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        @NFET:disqus deals cocaine to his classmates. It’s actually just talcum powder, but they’re too hopped up on it to know the difference.

        • NFET

          You caught me!

          [title card:that's our NFET]

  • Spacemonkey Mafia

    I will never stop giving effusive thanks for providing original assets with features when possible.  I do not lie when I say it is the distinction between a good site and an invaluable one.
       Awesome job, Mr. Hofmeier.

    • Hofmeier

      Thanks!

    • dreadguacamole

        It also helps that they’re lovely.

    • caspiancomic

       Totally agree, I love seeing original art for these sorts of features. It takes ten times the time and effort, but it makes everything eleven times nicer, so totally worth it mathematically speaking. These pieces in particular are really charming- can’t wait to see what everything else looks like!

      (My favourite is the hamster. Look’it ‘im go!)

  • KidvanDanzig

    Oh and another thing – the Alien Blaster from Fallout 1. It had its own unique death animations! Wild.

    • George_Liquor

       Thanks! God, That gun’s been on the tip of my tongue for three days. I remember it being in Fallout 3; was it in the first one, too?

      • Monkeylint

        I believe the only way to get it was the random encounters going through the desert. That makes it cooler than the one in F3 which was there on the main map, you just had to find it (or more likely just look it up).

  • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

    The space hamster, the Wabbajack, Yoshi, and the luck bobblehead get my votes. I know Yoshi is the underdog here, but the 120 stars secret was the talk of the playground when I was a kid. I can’t not vote for the dude.

    • http://twitter.com/MikoSquiz Miko the Squiz

      We’re not exactly being given choices here. Hey, what do you think, which is better, this amazing thing you love or this kinda crappy one that you .. probably.. haven’t heard of.. ohhhh. I see what they did there.

      (EDIT: I accidentally a word)

    • MrTusks

      Whaaa? The Warp Whistle was CLUTCH. Sure Yoshi gave you 100 lives, but that was only after you had literally nothing else to do in the game.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        It’s a nostalgia vote. SMB3 was a bit before my time. (“My” time being a time when I could speak in complete sentences.)

        • Monkeylint

          SMB3 is a bit after my time. I was starting high school and didn’t really pick up games again until the mid 90s.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           And you’re probably old enough to vote for REAL now, too, aren’t you? Goodness I feel old.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus: Yeah, but only in Canada, so it doesn’t really count.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

      Voting for Yoshi mainly in protest – the warp whistle SHOULD’VE been Kuribo’s Shoe, dammit.

  • http://www.avclub.com/users/mattman-begins,89632 Mattman Begins

    (pokes head out briefly, moves trackball to “Space Hamster”, clicks left mouse button, makes sound like “squeeeky”, ducks back into hideout)

    Also, these “trophies” are awesome.  Excellent work, Mr. Richard Hofmeier.  As payment, I hope there’s a big block with a “?” on it for you to punch at the end of this tournament.

    • Hofmeier

      Hah – Thanks, but your love is all the treasure I need.

  • LoveWaffle

    WABBAJACK ME

    PLEASE WABBAJACK ME

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      *wabbajacks @lovewaffle:disqus*

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

         I’m sure s/he’d thank you, but it’s hard to type with paws.

      • Fluka

        Wabbajack Wabbajack Wabbajack Wabbajack .

    • Electric Dragon

      Say it loud and it’s like a donkey braying,
      Say it soft and it sounds like a flaying.

  • ItsTheShadsy

    Man, not a lot of love for the IWHBYD skull. Maybe it was just a time-and-place sort of thing, but I remember that being one of the last hidden objects in a game that was still subject to the same sort of playground-legend impossibleness that makes some of the Throwback Division so memorable.

    The bonus lines themselves weren’t that great, but come on, the game made you literally jump through hoops to get it.

    • HighlyFunctioningTimTebow

      Huh. When you stack multiple skulls in Halo 3, I think the variety of higher level enemies causes rarer VO strings. I nearly died laughing (figuratively) on the New Mombasa Highway level on Mythic when, after a Covenant dropship unloaded a dozen Brutes, they turned out to be hella gay in the butt for each other (no offense to anyone’s particular butt-alignment). It’s funny to hear Brutes getting scolded by their Chieftains about “inapropriate touching” while those little grunts are running about aimlessly, collectively losing their shit when they see their buddies’ heads explode in a shower of confetti while random children cheer each kill.

    • SisterMaryFrancis

      I always preferred the Grunty Birthday Party skull from Halo 2. Flying around trying to chase down the Heretic in the middle of a storm and Flood infestation, and suddenly you find a bunch of grunts just hanging out dancing.

    • Monkeylint

      I’ve never played Halo.

      But I logged about 150 hours on Fallout 3. Easy choice.

  • blue vodka lemonade

    That Wabbajack link appears to be suffering from the same dread disease as the link to the God-gardening game from a couple days ago. IE, it’s a link to somebody’s productivity calendar site.

    Or are y’all trying to tell me something about my time-management skills? Because I know. Oh, do I know.

  • Pgoodso

    Time to place bets on Final Four and Ultimate Treasure!

    Here and now, (barring some amazing readers’ choices) I predict Warp Whistle, Space Hamster, Ryno, Bandana for the final 4, but, hands down, Space Hamster for the win.

    I mean, seriously, there hasn’t been a lopsided tournament like this since the domination of the Michael Jordan era Chicago Bulls. There are some possible upsets out there, I’m sure, that the commentariat can bring up, but with the present list, I really don’t see a serious competitor for Boo anywhere. Not only is he basically the symbol for one of the most well-regarded comic relief characters in video game history, Minsc (or at least western RPGs), he’s an indestructible, scurrying, miniaturized giant space hamster, which is the epitome of awesome.

    AND, even more to the point, he does NOTHING aside from sit there and be awesome in your inventory or on your shelf. Almost everything else gives you some sort of in-game benefit or utilitarian reward. Boo is literally a treasure unto himself: he needs no use other than to be Boo to be awesome. Also, everything else is something you find much later in the game, sort of a reward for time spent.  Boo, conversely, as long as you keep Minsc/buy him from the Citadel, you’ll have VERY early on, and as such, you’ll have a chance to smile at his seemingly innocuous presence for most of two excellent Bioware trilogies.

    Basically, this all adds up to the big difference between Boo and all the other treasures. Everything else is fluff for completionists and Easter Egg hunters. Anyone who bought Boo or kept him and Minsc around CHOSE to do so. Why? Because You. Loved. Boo.

    End of story.

    PS: I hope I don’t have to eat my words because Baldur’s Gate is over 10 years old.

    PPS: Interesting sidenote: an HD remake of Baldur’s Gate (made by former Bioware employees) is being released the same day as Borderlands 2, with plans to redo BG2 and Throne of Bhaal as well. http://www.baldursgate.com/

    …squeak.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       You are neglecting to acknowledge the fact that, my God, I’m going to stuff the ballot box for Protoman’s shield in a tournament of videa game treasures.

    • Aurora Boreanaz

      “Go for the eyes, Boo!”

      “squeak.”

      • Fluka

        Man, the space hamster gets *doubly* referenced in ME2.  You also have Tali shouting at her battle droid “”Go for the optics, Chiktikka! Go for the optics!”

  • Kevin Irmiter

    Don’t expect it to win, but my favorite treasure of all time is definitely the Hoe of Mass Destruction from Ultima VII. It is basically what it sounds like, a hoe that has been enchanted so it is super powerful. But of course, it’s locked away in a shed. Getting it involves reading about the complex backstory filled with Wing Commander references, then following a series of cryptic clues leading you to search through a bunch of dead fish at one spot on the lake until you find the one that has swallowed the key to the shed.

    Or, you can just blow up the door with one of the many kegs of dynamite laying around.

    • Treymoney

       I could never find that damn key.

  • TheKingandIRobot

    Gotta go for Yoshi over the Warp Whistle.  Yoshi is a reward for playing a game well, the Warp Whistle is a reward that lets you skip playing the game.  Generally I associate the latter with shittier games (every upgrade in farmville is basically “Congratulations, you don’t have to play as much farmville), so the warp whistle feels incongruous in the wonderful SMB3, and I always avoided it because I wanted to see the tiny Mario, giant world stuff level and so on.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

      I always felt that the whistle was compensation for the lack of a save feature. 

      You know what would be amazing? If the next re-release of SMB3 allowed you to re-enter levels as in Super Mario World.

      • George_Liquor

         I’m pretty sure you can replay levels you’ve completed in SMB3. Are you talking about going back to a world you’ve already finished?

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       I went with the warp whistle, as it’s actually something you acquire, it has actual practical utility, AND it appears in at least two seminal video games. (And in the Zelda instruction book it has some of the best descriptive text for any game item, ever.)

    • ToddG

      I wish I had read this comment before voting for the whistle.  That is an excellent point.

  • The_Misanthrope

    Without even really trying, I consistently voted for the underdogs.

    • caspiancomic

       Yeah, three out of my four votes went for the little guy. I promise I wasn’t being intentionally difficult about it.

  • JMAG117

    Real disappointed by the Skull vs. Bobblehead write-up (and results). The Luck Bobblehead is just one of several, doesn’t do anything extraordinary, and isn’t especially hard to find.

    The IWHBYD Skull, on the other hand, takes an arcane platforming routine of ridiculous proportions to achieve — if the internal game files hadn’t given it away, I wouldn’t be surprised if it had never been discovered. It also ties into the franchise and developer mythos in a lot of ways (the Halo theme, the number 7, the skull concept, “I Would Have Been Your Daddy…”), and unlocks a lot of rare and unique dialogue you’d never hear otherwise.

    • Captain Internet

      I suspect in most cases this vote is going to come down to a) what games people have played and b) which treasures they actually found.

      People are such narcissists. 

    • dreadguacamole

       I was going to vote for it, until I remembered the dialog it unlocked. (IE – watched the linked video…)
       If it unlocked the awesome, firefly-flavored banter from ODST, then it would have been a lock-in.

    • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

      I know! It shows crazy amounts of dedication (and possibly immaturity) that Bungie took the time to record all this dialogue that 95% of Halo players will never hear.  I voted for it just for all the sad, scared little grunts throughout Halo.

  • HighlyFunctioningTimTebow

    Space Hamster. Yawn.

    • George_Liquor

       Space Hamster. Yum!

  • ToddG

    I voted for the Hamster Spear Whistle Skull.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      Ah, the most powerful item from Mass Fantasy: Super Halo.

    • Aurora Boreanaz

      Or, alternatively, the “Hamster Skull Whistle Spear”?

  • CrabNaga

    The Zodiac spear is especially ridiculous because it isn’t even one of the better weapons in the game, since it can only hit once, twice tops. I had Basch using the Masamune when I was fighting some of the later-game marks and was hitting the damage cap with 12 hits a turn. The Zodiac spear might actually be a huge middle finger to the players of the game because people would freak the hell out over something that isn’t even that good. Which makes it completely perfect for this list.

  • stakkalee

    All I’ll say is “Go for the eyes, Boo!  GO FOR THE EYES!”

  • doyourealize

    I don’t know what the Wabbajack is even though I’ve played both those games (though Oblivion way more), but it gets my vote simply because of Teti’s choice to include the word “transmogrification”, and making me think of a cardboard box, later a gun, in Calvin & Hobbes.

    This is how I choose my votes.

    • Aurora Boreanaz

      And THAT reminds me of turning the box on its side or upside-down to make it a duplicator.

      “Hi Mom!” “Hi Calvin.”
      “Hi Mom!” “…hi Calvin.”
      “Hi Mom!” “ALRIGHT, that’s enough!” “What??!”

      • ToddG

        And THAT reminds me of turning it right-side up to make it a time machine!

        “Something doesn’t make sense here, and I think it’s me sitting in this box.”

      • doyourealize

        “My Ethicator machine must’ve had a built-in Moral Compromise Spectral Release Phantasmatron! I’m a genius!”

  • The_Forgotten_Quill

    I loved the space hampster, if not for anything else than it couldn’t die. You have no idea how soul crushing it felt to return from a hard, brutal, emotionally challenging mission only to find all my beautiful fish hovering near the top of the tank.

    But my space hampter was still going strong! 

    Also, I know I’m late on this, but did anyone by any chance mention the “The Truth” from Assassin’s Creed II as a possible reader’s pick? I know it’s not an actual item or some flashy weapon, but keeping an eagle eye out for the hidden symbols and then the mental trial of deciphering the puzzles was well worth the effort. I’ve never been so transfixed by a 45-second clip. I remember feeling like I’d definitely earned a treasure even through it wasn’t one I could literally use in the game.

    • Fluka

      One of my favorite moments of ME3 was going down to the cargo hold, hearing a “squeak!” and seeing that little guy running across the floor with a tiny activation box hovering over him.  

  • Brainstrain

    I worry that the ultimate winner will be Borderlands 2 no matter how we vote. But seriously: Space Hamster.

  • HobbesMkii

    I like how slanted the write up for the Wabbajack vs Zodiac Spear is in favor of the Zodiac Spear, and how thoroughly the Wabbajack is winning that contest. I can’t believe the Wabbajack was a no.8 seed. Sheogorath (check spelling) is the best part of those Elder Scrolls games.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1320596433 Matt Gerardi

      You can thank a certain someone who had trouble finishing Final Fantasy XII because he loved it so much for that one.

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      I fully expected the Wabbajack to win that matchup. I just felt wrong placing the Zodiac Spear anywhere but No. 1 because of what a monumental and unparalleled dick move it represented. By the same token, the Wabbajack is too wonderfully wacky to occupy the top slot—i.e., the establishment. Sheogorath would rather muck around at the bottom of the seeds where he can make more mischief. I may have stayed up too late thinking about all this.

      • HobbesMkii

        Almost certainly. But I appreciate your sacrifice, John.