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For a certain generation, quotes from The Simpsons and Seinfeld have achieved a canonical status in day-to-day speech. Video games are not always so readily quotable—even the best zinger loses something in the delivery when an 8-bit icon “speaks” it one letter at a time—but if you play enough games, some of their verbal detritus is bound to end up in your personal parlance. What quotable game quote do you like to slip into casual conversation (possibly to the consternation of your friends)?
Anthony John Agnello
I actually mentioned my all-time favorite video game quote in an On the Level article about Ninja Gaiden for the original Xbox: “Are they trying to make fun of ninjas?” It comes up in the game because Ryu, star ninja and fetish suit enthusiast, needs to get into a locked room and finds the room’s window held together with packing tape. It’s funny as hell in the game, but it’s way more useful as a general expression of incredulity. It works in any given situation. Sitting on an airplane and the captain says you’re delayed for an hour, go ahead and ask, “Excuse me Miss Stewardess, but are they trying to make fun of ninjas?” Order a glass of orange juice at a diner and they bring that stupid tiny glass with a thimble of nectar in it. Surely they’re trying to make fun of ninjas. Myself and a select group of buddies have probably used that stupid quote around 9 billion times over the last decade. It is the best thing that Team Ninja, the creators of Ninja Gaiden, ever did.
I use “A Winner Is You” from Pro Wrestling on the NES all the time. It’s just too perfect, especially when you’re hassling friends, which American sitcoms have taught me to do whenever I can. A buddy shows up at the bar at an agreed-upon time and announces how hard it was to get out of work to meet us. I raise a glass and unleash a deadpan “A Winner Is You.” Same friend crafts themselves a peanut butter sandwich or a pot of spaghetti and declares that they didn’t injure themselves in the process. I don’t even bother to tilt my head in their direction as I proclaim, “A Winner Is You.” Same lazy bum of a friend flops face-first on the couch and moans something about surviving another day at their banal retail job. I take a long, slow sip of water and finish with, “A Winner Is You.” It has become my de facto “congratulations on doing what you were supposed to do” auditory eye roll, and I’ll stop saying it when it stops being even a little bit funny. (No, I won’t.)
I’ve been known to bust out the occasional “A winner is you!” myself, but the video game quote that’s somehow lodged itself most firmly into my consciousness is from the arcade classic Gauntlet. Whenever my wife and I are running errands and I get hungry, all those hours of dungeon fighting come back to me, and I can’t help but explain to her that “Warrior needs food badly.” She’s a little too young to remember Gauntlet as fondly as I do—I had to explain what the hell I was talking about the first time I dropped that one on her—so she doesn’t find it all that amusing, but I’ve never let that stop me since it never fails to amuse me. That could just as easily be due to the influence of low blood sugar on my brain, but whatever. When warrior needs food, warrior needs food badly. That’s just the way it is and, given that my time with Gauntlet is decades in the past, apparently the way it will always be.
My answer is also ninja-related. I think we can all agree that the poor early Japanese-to-English translations of the ’80s make for the best unintentionally amazing quotes. There are a million to choose from, but my favorite is this challenge issued at the beginning of Bad Dudes: “Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the president?” Ninjas, it turns out, broke into the White House and kidnapped America’s chief executive. The United States government, bereft of effective leadership, sees no choice but to entrust his return to the nunchuck-swinging arms of Blade and Striker. The quote works best if “president” is used figuratively. For instance, maybe you’re wrestling with a particularly uncooperative lid on a jar of gherkins. It’s not budging, and you’re about to give up. That’s when you dig deep and ask yourself, “Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the president?” I’m not saying nunchucking the jar open is the answer—I’m also not saying it isn’t. But one way or the other, you’ve got to rescue those pickle presidents.
To me there’s none greater than the classic “IT’S-A ME, MARIO!” I’ve used this line while playing basketball, while drunkenly leaping out from behind a couch, and once while triumphantly wielding a plunger after unclogging a toilet. It’s the sheer utility of the line that makes it so endearing. It even managed to sneak past the fourth wall in Assassin’s Creed 2. It’s become a rallying cry for an entire generation of nostalgic players, even if it hasn’t exactly helped shatter the myth of stereotypical Italian accents.
Because I am far too easily amused, you will still occasionally hear me quote from the ’90s arcade game Captain America And the Avengers. There wasn’t a single conversation in that game that made sense. They were also only two sentences long, so each one became a sort of Zen koan that was screamed in anger by spandex-clad men. I frequently meditate upon one particular exchange, in which your chosen superhero tells the villain Whirlwind, “You cannot escape!” Whirlwind replies, “You will be the one escaping!” I’m still not sure what Whirlwind’s intentions are with this statement. Does he intend to let you escape? Why would he tell you this before fighting you? If you lose this fight, you decidedly do not escape, so was he lying? Why? To this day, if I ever have to do something I feel I can’t escape from, I will be muttering under my breath, “You will be the one escaping.” Not me. You. Because apparently that’s bad.
I used to suck at fighting games. These days, I’m—okay, I still suck, but I’m slightly better. (I finished Injustice! Where’s my parade?) But the kids my age all loved Mortal Kombat, which meant I got my ass kicked by nearly every character at some sleepover or birthday party. And every time, after I had struggled to press all the right buttons (i.e., I pressed all the buttons) and my best friend used Scorpion’s spear thingie on me like six times in a row (how in the hell is that even fair?), we’d come to the end of it. My character would rock woozily back and forth, and an unseen announcer would shout down, “FINISH HIM!” That two-word sentence haunted my dreams, and eventually I found myself using it in my real life. These days, it comes up a lot when I watch action movies. Or during fight club. Or when I stare at my age-ravaged face in the mirror and wonder when Time will finally rip my spine out of my back and use it as a xylophone or something.
The few hours of my college career that didn’t involve playing Sega hockey were mostly spent in front of a pinball machine called FunHouse, which featured a chattering plastic head named Rudy built into the table. Rudy watched the action from the top of the cabinet and would spew forth a constant stream of insults that varied based on which targets you hit and how well (or poorly) you played. Most of Rudy’s extensive repartee made its way into our daily speech patterns, but the one that stuck was his enthusiastic exhortation to “Get yerself a hot dog!” (It helps if you imagine this being said in a Curly Howard “nyuck nyuck” voice.) The phrase became our “aloha” or “shalom,” an all-purpose exclamation that meant anything and everything depending on the context. A greeting, a sympathetic observation, an angry retort, or a bemused reflection on the human condition, there was nothing that couldn’t be communicated by suggesting that one get oneself a hotdog, and to this day I still find myself encouraging others to obtain said mythical sausage.
I have a lot of affection for the humble Slime, the first monster you encounter—and the easiest to defeat—in every Dragon Quest game. That little blue blob could not be less intimidating. The fact that it appears during the first battle, a moment when a less confident game might seek to thrill players, makes it a mascot forDragon Quest’s puckish spirit and its lack of self-seriousness. The arrival of the slime is heralded with the words, “A slime appears!”—in some games this is translated as “A slime draws near!” but the former is more fun to say, as it gives the sense of being surprised. It”s a fun way to herald the sudden arrival of some harmless interloper. Cat jumps up on the bed? “A cat appears!” Neighbor kid comes running around the corner? ”A kid appears!” Almost nobody ever understands why this is funny, because it is A. obscure and B. probably humorous only to me, but oh well. I’m happy to amuse myself.
I’m honestly embarrassed at how often catchphrases from video games slipped into my vernacular during my formative years. I realize now that it was like a secret yet familiar language I shared with certain friends of mine in high school and early college. If I was playing pickup basketball with my b-ball crew and someone was shooting the lights out, we’d shout “HE’S ON FIRE!” or “Boomshakalaka!” in our best NBA Jam announcer voices. While hanging with my fighting game-playing friends, there’d be plenty of tossed off exclamations of “Yoga Fire!” or “Shoryuken!” During college, my friend Steve and I were so obsessed with Marvel Vs. Capcom, that he gave me the nickname “Magneto,” and I would greet him with the X-Men villain’s in-game phrases like “Hyper Grab!” or “Magnetic Disruptor!” Let’s just say I didn’t date much in college. But the lines that have remained implanted in my brain the longest are those from the announcer with the booming voice in Unreal Tournament. If I kill multiple people in a current multiplayer game like Call of Duty, I’ll still occasionally proclaim “DOUBLE KILL!” with that same over-the-top gravitas.
I played a lot of Starcraft with my college friends, and we’re prone to repeating plenty of the game’s lines, whether it’s greeting each other with “En Taro Adun”—the salutation regularly used by the alien Protoss—or announcing we were “Jacked up and good to go” before heading out somewhere as if we were deploying space marines. The line I abuse the most is “Ah! That’s the stuff!” which is what marines say when you order them to take a drug that makes them more effective in combat at the cost of their own health. It’s just applicable to so many situations. I’ll use it while playing a game when I get healed or pick up a piece of loot, and also when I’m cracking open a beer after a long day or digging into food when I’m really hungry.
Sam & Max Hit the Road was one of the first games I got into that came with real writing and dialogue beyond lines like “Press A to shoot.” It’s also not the kind of game my brother and I would play over and over again, so I wasn’t exposed to its lines as often as, say, “Boomshakalaka” or “Finish him.” However, Steve Purcell’s dialogue was so witty and clever that being exposed to just one or two instances of Sam saying “I don’t indiscriminately use people…except Max” and Max’s “Gratuitous acts of senseless violence are my forte!” were enough to merit repeating them to each other even to this day. Plus, “swearing in longhand” came in handy around our ever-vigilant parents.
It’s hard to casually drop a high-pitched and throaty “Er-er-errr” into conversation, so I’ve relegated my Warcraft II: Tides Of Darkness quotes almost exclusively to family gatherings. I can never tell who grew up playing the game, so I mostly play it safe and act weird around my sister and dad, who are well-versed in the game’s sarcastic Orcish exclamations. One of the best parts of Warcraft was clicking on your infantrymen, who would offer up spirited one-liners in a mix of English and Orcish. The way the orc peons grunt is just so adorable, like they’re getting a tummy rub and all they can manage is “Dabu!” So when it comes to family lunches, which are often stressful, sneaking in one of the orcs’ lines always defuses a tense situation, at least for me and my dad. If anything, “Er-er-err,” which sounds like a vocal finger wagging, is a great stopgap in that awful time before someone thinks of something to talk about. Maybe one day, the rest of the world will speak our tongue, but for now, it’s fine as our own private code.
My girlfriend and I are hardly professional chefs. I’d say we’ve spent more time making cartoon food in Cooking Mama: Cook Off than we have making actual food. It just isn’t as much fun when you don’t have Mama’s inexplicable accent praising or admonishing you based on how many eggs you improperly crack. I’ve heard that more recent games in the Mama series have made her more understandable, but the bizarre half-German, half-Japanese accent that Mama has in that earlier entry has really stuck with us while we try to get more experience in a non-virtual kitchen. That’s why very few meals go by without me shouting “better and better!” or “Wonderful, better than Mama!” as I manage to successfully crack eggs or stir pasta without getting anything on the floor. If only I had picked up more from Cooking Mama than funny quotes, maybe I’d be wasting fewer eggs.