Wizardry IV

Star turns: 14 bad guys who got their own games

From heel to hero.

By Anthony John Agnello, Matt Gerardi, Joe Keiser, Samantha Nelson, John Teti, and Drew Toal • September 26, 2013

1. Tron Bonne, The Misadventures of Tron Bonne (2000)

Alas, poor Mega Man Legends. What at first seemed to be a sacrilegious, needlessly 3D spin on the Blue Bomber turned into some of the best adventures Capcom ever produced. As great as the first two games in the series were, Rock Volnutt, the earnest hero of Legends, was never as metaphorically three-dimensional as Tron Bonne, his piratical rival/stalker. First impressions of Tron were as misleading as those about the series. Rather than the typical clumsy anime villain, the only lady of the Bonne thief dynasty turned out to be the most complex character in the entire Mega Man mythos. Her life as the head of a robot household is mostly played out in her spinoff game, The Misadventures of Tron Bonne. In addition to going on adventures where she rustles horses and taunts the local constabulary, Tron also cares for her legion of Servbots, little Lego-looking dudes that are her helpers, children, and worshippers. Tron’s a lot of fun to play with, but she’s also a lonely gal who’s not quite sure how to live a good life yet. Of all the Legends games, hers is the most warm and strange.

2. Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Country (1994)
Donkey Kong

Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph tells the story of Ralph, a Donkey Kong-esque game villain who’s tired of being the bad guy. While Ralph finally comes to terms with his villain role in a touching statement of self-acceptance, Donkey Kong really was able to leave behind his days as Mario’s antagonist, putting his brawn and barrel-tossing skills to good use in Donkey Kong Country. DK seems to have done quite well for himself since retiring from the arcade, getting his own island, banana horde, and a sidekick. The new career path also earned Donkey Kong his own rhythm game (with a special plastic bongo controller) and a chance to work on his golf and tennis game. So Ralph might have a pretty bright future ahead of him, too.

3. Wario, Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 (1994)
Wario Land

1994 turned out to be a good year for Mario villains. After trying to take over Mario’s life in Super Mario Land 2, Wario returned for his own game with a less violent approach to their rivalry. In Wario Land, he’s just out to show off how successful and awesome he is rather than unleashing goons on the plumber. He’s not a hero, though. All he wants is to get enough money to build the biggest castle ever and make Mario jealous. Lucky for fans who wanted more of his big red nose and squiggly mustache, Wario got to star in plenty more treasure-hunting focused games before presumably retiring somewhere you can’t afford to go.

4. Firebrand The Red Arremer, Gargoyle’s Quest (1990)

Ghosts ‘N Goblins never hurt for colorful characters. The star of the whole series is, after all, a bearded man who’s willing to fight the devil wearing nothing but his boxers and a grimace. As likable as Arthur the Exhibitionist is, though, it’s hard not to love the bane of his existence, Firebrand The Red Arremer. Running into this blighter, with his blood-red skin and razor-sharp bat wings, is more nerve-wracking than any of the game’s bosses. Watching Firebrand swoop around in unpredictable arcs, it always seemed like it might be more fun to be Old Red than Underpants Knight. Gargoyle’s Quest and its sequels, Gargoyle’s Quest II and Demon’s Crest, give you just that opportunity. In the first two games, half your time is spent wandering around the demon realm, talking to beasts and hanging out. For Demon’s Crest, Ghosts ’N Goblins creator Tokuro Fujiwara borrowed the structure of another Capcom Super Nintendo classic, Mega Man X, and set Firebrand in a dark realm where he had to collect abilities to reach new corners of the game’s stages. Stripping out most of the chatty elements of Red’s first two games, Demon’s Crest is a pure shot of Super NES action, and it delivers on the promise that playing as the Red Arremer would indeed be totally sweet.

5. TIE Fighters, Star Wars: TIE Fighter (1994)

The Empire never put much value on human life. Perhaps this is obvious, considering that the Emperor’s countless minions constructed something called the “Death Star” and used it to blow up a populated planet just for looking at them wrong, but the nihilistic attitude is also clear in how they outfit their own troops. While the Rebel Alliance puts care and maintenance into their signature fighter, the X-Wing, there are no such precautions with its Imperial counterpart. TIE fighters, like their stormtrooper brethren, are made to be expendable and easily mass-produced, sent in endless waves to overwhelm their enemies with sheer numbers. Like German U-boat crews active during the tail end of World War II, TIE fighter pilots couldn’t expect to live long, or that their bodies would be found. So jumping in the cockpit for Star Wars: TIE Fighter puts you in a whole different mindset than its predecessor, X-Wing. You fly differently with the expectation of imminent death hanging over you. Being so vulnerable, rather than promoting caution, imbues the best TIE pilots with a dangerous fatalism that spells trouble for the Rebellion. Sometimes freedom—and life—must be sacrificed in the name of order. Why can’t these rebels understand that?

6. Subject Delta, BioShock 2 (2010)
Subject Delta

Among the challenges in building a sequel to the philosophical shooting game BioShock—and there were a lot of challenges—was the fact that no matter how the player ended the first game, it left the protagonist, Jack, unfit for future hero service. BioShock 2’s smart and surprising choice was to replace him with a Big Daddy. These face-drilling tragic figures appeared as towering threats in the first game, protecting at all cost the “Little Sisters” who Jack could kill to gain valuable abilities. (We’re playing with a loose definition of “hero” here.) Their forced servitude and unwavering loyalty make them empathetic figures even in the first game. So it made sense to put players in a Big Daddy’s shoes for the sequel, allowing the attachment to one little girl to pull us through a new storyline—and it also let players do some face drilling of their own. A solid win all around.

7. Werdna, Wizardry IV: The Return Of Werdna (1987)

After Werdna’s defeat in Wizardry: Proving Grounds Of The Mad Overlord, the first in the series of influential computer role-playing games, Wizardry IV puts you in control of the evil wizard as he attempts to break out of prison. Along the way, Werdna must find pentagrams, both to restore his wicked powers and to build up a posse of monsters that can help fend off invading parties (which bear an awfully close resemblance to the gang of goody two-shoes from the previous games). It’s a notoriously difficult journey. There aren’t any experience points or leveling up to increase Werdna’s strength—those pentagrams are all he’s got—and the dungeon he’s been locked in was (rightfully) filled with more deadly and confusing traps than any that Werdna ever designed himself.

8. Miles Edgeworth, Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth (2009)
Miles Edgeworth

The relentlessly smug, cravat-wearing prosecutor Miles Edgeworth was already the star of the Ace Attorney series before 2009, if you judge stardom by sheer quantity of real-world cosplay appearances. But with the release of the fifth game in the series, the ruthless antagonist of defense attorney Phoenix Wright gets to prove he’s not that bad a guy with his own starring role. This time, Miles is investigating a series of cases and seeking the people who are actually guilty—rather than the innocents he’s usually prosecuting when facing off against Phoenix Wright. It’s a problem often found in TV courtroom procedurals, where the main characters’ side is always right and the opposition is always wrong. Even if the cases are still black-and-white here, it’s nice to show that lawyers don’t have to be.

9. Zero The Kamikaze Squirrel, Zero The Kamikaze Squirrel (1994)

A minor villain in the B-level cartoon mascot action game Aero The Acro-Bat 2, Zero The Kamikaze Squirrel is now mostly forgotten. But if he were going to be remembered for anything, it would be that he actually abandoned Aero halfway through to star in his own B-level cartoon mascot action game. That isn’t to say it was the wrong decision: Zero’s job at the time was building an engine that would somehow help his evil clown boss take over the world’s circuses. Surmising that he was not in a growth industry, Zero jumped at the chance to abandon his post to bring a high-profile fight to unsustainable logging in the game that would bear his name. This sort-of sequel probably would have rehabilitated Zero’s justly tarnished image, had anyone noticed it happened.

10. Big Boss, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004)

Big Boss was the primary mustache-twirling maniac during the early days of Metal Gear, Hideo Kojima’s long-running spy series, until he was incinerated by the games’ primary protagonist, Solid Snake. Even after his death, though, Big Boss’ pre-incineration actions continued to drive the action. This lingering shadow was made whole in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, a prequel set in the ’60s that stars the villain and explores how he, a noble CIA operative then named Naked Snake, rose to prominence and earned his ludicrous alliterative title. And since evil is more interesting than good, Big Boss has since usurped leading-man status from Solid—his fall from honor was further chronicled in Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, and his pre-warlord days will take center stage in the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

11. Dracula, Kid Dracula (1993)

Ask yourself: How many times do you actually see Dracula hurting someone in Castlevania? Evidence suggests that, while he does rule over a horde of monsters and living suits of armor, he’s nothing more than a profoundly wealthy recluse with a bizarre sense of interior design. The Belmonts, meanwhile, come in and trash his joint repeatedly like they were in some medieval Beastie Boys video. Cramming candles with boomerangs and axes is hard work, you jerks! Konami preserved a document of poor Drac’s carefree youth, when he was just a playful scamp capturing that famous castle for himself. He wasn’t so different as a tyke. Fireballs were still his weapon of choice, but that glorious Kris Kristofferson mane was more of an Albert Einsteinian bouffant back then. Monsieur Impaler’s outings on both the Famicom (Japan only) and Game Boy (available in English) offer some insight into his later interior-design choices. He had to bomb out walls, which explains why it’s so easy for Simon and his brood to whip through the masonry. It isn’t clear why Dracula eventually hides meat in there, though. The guy lives in a clock tower 24/7; give him a break.

12. Adrian Shephard, Half-Life: Opposing Force (1999)

The biggest threat to Gordon Freeman, the scientist-turned-action-hero star of Half-Life, isn’t the inter-dimensional monsters he accidentally unleashed upon Black Mesa, his place of work. It’s the marines that breach the research facility in an attempt to quell the invasion and erase any evidence of it. Opposing Force, an expansion pack for the original game, puts you in the combat boots of Adrian Shephard, one of the marines sent to cover up history’s worst OSHA violation. In what seems like a bit of a cop-out, you don’t spend the game hunting down the invading aliens and innocent scientists. Instead, Shephard battles another race of rift-traversing extraterrestrials and an even shadier black-ops military force as he tries to escape Black Mesa. In the end, he’s able to put a stop to the second alien invasion (the rest of that mess is all Gordon’s to clean up), and the enigmatic dimensional traveller known as the G-Man dumps him into some sort of inter-dimensional holding cell until further notice. It’s a prophetic ending, predicting the frozen-in-time future of the Half-Life series nearly a decade before it went off the map.

13. Shadow The Hedgehog, Shadow The Hedgehog (2005)

Sega’s unwavering mascot, Sonic The Hedgehog, is the ultimate product of early ’90s marketing. He’s cocky, in your face, and totally radical. His latter day archrival, Shadow The Hedgehog, is equally reflective of his era. Introduced in 2001’s Sonic Adventure 2, Shadow is soft-spoken and angsty. Given his demeanor and the color of his spines—black and red—Shadow seems like a creation molded from the emo music and culture that was breaching the mainstream around the same time as his debut. The gloomy Gus even has a dark and gritty backstory that left him with an existential crisis—he’s a genetically engineered perfect weapon, you see—and a hatred for the human race. Sega gave him his own self-titled game in which he can either help save Earth or destroy it depending on player choices. In addition to matching Sonic’s super-speed, albeit with the help of hover-shoes, Shadow comes to his own game packing heat. Yuji Naka, Sonic’s creator, would later comment that his team had received many letters from kids asking for Sonic to have a gun. While they thought it inappropriate to give firearms to their cheerier hedgehog, they were perfectly happy to grant Shadow a carry permit.

14. Slime, Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime (2006)

The Slime—a smiling blue drop of goo—is one of the least intimidating enemies in all of gamedom. It’s a pushover by design, as the Slime originally served as a way to introduce the Dragon Quest battle system to players without giving them too much of a challenge (and it still serves that purpose in every Dragon Quest game). But the Slime’s friendly cuteness and distinctive character design—with a simple yet instantly recognizable silhouette—make it something more than your usual role-playing game cannon fodder. And so over time, the Slime has become a mascot of the Dragon Quest universe, with its own spinoff series, Slime Morimori Dragon Quest. As you might gather from the title, the series is primarily a Japan-only affair, but one of the three Slime games was released in the U.S. on the Nintendo DS as Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime. The game alternates between a sort of simplified, cute Zelda and bombastic tank battles (which are fueled by the ammo you gathered in the exploration part of the game). It’s an enjoyable game whose prime selling point is that you are an adorable Slime who gathers a menagerie of other, equally adorable Slime cousins. With enemies like these, who needs friends?

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149 Responses to “Star turns: 14 bad guys who got their own games”

  1. evanwaters says:

    Wizardry IV is some intense shit. Even by the standards of 80s computer RPGs they went over the top in how insanely hard it was. There’s an excellent Let’s Play of it at the LP Archive.

    For the opposing adventurer parties they actually had players of past Wizardry games mail in disks with their saved parties and some of them got to make appearances in game. (Also there’s a secret best-possible-ending that’s loaded with all sorts of Kabbalah imagery and ends with your character attaining enlightenment.)

    • I’m just pleasantly surprised that Wizardry IV was included – gaming is understandably a youth-oriented culture where “old-school” often means mid-1990s and nobody remembers the entire existence of the Apple II and thinks that Apple started with the Mac.

  2. Mr. Glitch says:

    In terms of role reversals, Donkey Kong Jr. certainly applies. It’s the only game courageous enough to reveal Mario as the cruel, sadistic taskmaster he really is.

  3. rvb1023 says:

    No Bowser’s Inside Story? I know Bowser kind of has to share with the Bros., but Bowser is my main man.

    Seriously Nintendo, where’s my action/platformer starring Bowser?

    • Marozeph says:

      Considering how “Where’s my action/platformer starring Peach?” turned out, you might be careful what you wish for.

      • Anthony Stalder says:

        Super Princess Peach was a perfectly good game. If your only problem with it was that a Nintendo game hurt your refined perception of your eternal friends the Women, a good rule of thumb would be to forego playing video games entirely forever and go change the baby.

        • Fluka says:

          “Your eternal friends the Women”

          “Forgo playing videogames entirely forever and go change the baby.”

          I suppose I should compose a thoughtful response to this well-thought-out critique of Princess Peach’s deep, PMS-based game mechanics.  But I’ve got silly lady things to do.  *Shrugs, giggles!*  

          Instead, I’d just like to point out two excellent new phrases to incorporate into our comments here!  How rare to see a veritable Johnny Boy, not just in the wilds of Youtube or Metacritic, but wandered into our own back yard!  Whoa there Hitler indeed!

      • Carlton_Hungus says:

        Awe, I missed the rude interloper’s comment.  But like Princess Peach from the NES Super Mario 2 you have chosen to use your power to float above it!

      • George_Liquor says:

        Forgo? Torgo? Torgo the videogame? I got your Torgo the video game!

        • DrZaloski says:

          I’m disappointed by the lack of a pointless 15-minutes driving scene and a couple completely irrelevant to the plot of the game.

    • Girard says:

      It’s not entirely Bowser-based, but you can do a bit of Bowser platfoming in Super Paper Mario…

      • rvb1023 says:

         And in between the levels of Paper Mario 2. Nintendo just keeps teasing me with potential is all.

        • GaryX says:

          Is it in Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door where you play 1-1 as Bowser, but he just smashes through everything?

        • rvb1023 says:

           @GaryX:disqus Yeah, every in between chapters level switches between Peach and Bowser, Peach does her schtick and Bowser plays through Mario levels but eventually just walks through everything, taking up the whole thing.

      • DrZaloski says:

        I hope one day we get Count Bleck back as a protagonist. I hope “The Re-Bleckening” will somehow be involved in the title.

  4. NakedSnake says:

    We have no nation, no philosophy, no ideology. We say what
    is needed, commenting not for lulz, not for trolls, but for ourselves. We need
    to reason to comment; we comment because we are needed … If the times demand
    it, we will be critics, radicals, philosophers, fanboys. And yes, we may all be
    heading straight to hell. But what better place for us than this? It is our
    only home, our heaven and our hell. This… is Gameological.

    • Anthony Stalder says:

      I can see why we had to get rid of you. If you thought Gameological was a safe haven – A Joueurs sans frontières if you will, then you really needed to be disposed of. Go back to the sixties, Naked.

  5. ItsTheShadsy says:

    What about the extreme other way around? The main characters in Adventures of Lolo inexplicably ended up as villains in the Kirby series.

    • CrabNaga says:

      To be fair, all they were doing was pushing blocks back and forth. From their perspective, they probably didn’t even see Kirby in the way. They were probably just trying to block some Medusa head’s line of sight. That makes Kirby the jerk for killing them.

  6. Aurora Boreanaz says:

    TIE Fighter!  The game was actually my first exposure to Grand Admiral Thrawn, who ended up becoming one of my favorite Star Wars villains once I read the Heir to the Empire trilogy.

    In direct contrast to Darth Vader, Thrawn was intimidating because he was fair with his own men.

    At one point his target gets away, and two of his men respond to his accusations of failure.  One says there was nothing he could do, and the other lists the steps he took to attempt to capture the target.

    Thrawn: “Do you know the difference between an error and a mistake, Ensign?”Colclazure: “No, sir.”Thrawn: “Anyone can make an error, Ensign. But that error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.”

    The first man is killed, and the second promoted.

    As with most of the X-Wing/TIE Fighter games for PC, I loved them greatly, but was never very good at them.  I got about halfway through each of them before quitting due to not being able to match the difficulty curve.

    • Erik Schultz says:

      Vader was just as fair with his own men, though. Ozzel left hyperspace too close to the Hoth system in direct contravention of Vader’s orders, and Needa “lost” a small freighter with no hyperdrive that charged his Star Destroyer head-on. Thrawn would have killed those morons, too. He also would have killed Piett for losing the Falcon at the end, but Vader abstained because Piett was too awesome (actually it was probably because Vader was distracted, but still). 

      That’s why I never liked Thrawn. He’s a Gary Stu villain who’s set up to be superior to Vader in every way, including fairness, but he really isn’t.

      • JohnnyLongtorso says:

        I never understood all the praise that the Thrawn trilogy got. Maybe in comparison with contemporaneous SW books it was good, but Thrawn is a ridiculously omniscient villain and it’s one of the many books in which they have to come up with some excuse to suppress Luke’s Force ability so that he can’t do anything. Plus he loses points for naming a pair of dogs (excuse me, vornskrs) “Sturm” and “Drang”. And then there’s the Planet of the Badass Assassins.

        • Anthony Stalder says:

          Really? “Sturm” und “Drang”?! It’s in ludicrously poor taste. It’s inadmissible in a space fantasy.

          But then again, I chose to forego all those X-Men kiddie movies with Jackman when I witnessed the opening scene of the first one. In a concentration camp. To sell us Wolverine statues. It litterally gives me nausea just thinking about it, even now now. It was the absolute nadir of what can be absolutely undefendable in Hollywood.

      • Anthony Stalder says:

        Yeah… Vader would have spent his days on the Outer Rim if he was as hysterically ,maniacally murderous with his “men” – who mostly were NOT “his men” btw – as he is seen in the trilogy. First we see him sensing that his Empire is in danger. Then he realizes the danger is a son he thought was never born, and spends the rest of his life in borderline hysterics until it kills him dead.

        THAT GUY WAS NOT GOOD WITH HUMAN EMOTIONS. He was like Björk in Space. Human behaviour left him confused.

        • mizerock says:

          I would like to see a version of Episode VI where Vader’s helmet is removed to reveal … the face of Björk. Ideally with swan feathers sticking out around her neck, because why not.

    • Marozeph says:

      The missions with time limits were usually near-impossible. It was usually something like “Disable 3 ships with your weak ion guns in two minutes while flying over an enemy platform that bombards you with lasers”.

      The designers apparently knew how hard the games were, considering that add-ons always contained an “Ace Pilot”, allowing you to watch all cutscenes and medals.

      • JohnnyLongtorso says:

        The only mission I had trouble with in the original TIE Fighter was the one where you had to disable two shuttles and have Imperial transports board them. It seemed almost impossible unless you were on easy mode. There were a few ridiculous missions in the expansions, though.

        • Pgoodso says:

          The WORST ones were where you had to disable a small ship, not because of the enemies, because, until they were disabled, your computer controlled allies would often treat it like a normal enemy target and attack it full on with their own lasers and missiles in an attempt to “help”, generally blowing the damn ship up as soon as you got the shields down. You don’t know how many times I was in the middle of hearing the victory speech when a stray rocket that got fired from 5 clicks away finally found its target and I had to reload.

    • Carlton_Hungus says:

      As much as I loved the early ones, my personal favorite was always X-Wing: Alliance.  Flying the YT-1300 and YT-2000s which had gun turrets which could autofire while you tried to work around to get them in your sights.  Those things were tanks too compared to X-Wings, let alone TIE fighters.

      • Aurora Boreanaz says:

        Alliance was an awesome game, and a great change from flying starfighters.  I still hit the point where it got too hard for me though.

        I just suck at space sims, no matter how much I love them.

    • mizerock says:

      Have any of these games ever been re-released for modern PCs? I keep being told I should try “DOSBox”, would I need to buy a USB-connected floppy drive first?

      • SuperShamrock says:

        A lot of the old games are put up on Steam.  DosBOX also works, or variants like Boxer for Mac.  Not sure if USB would work with them though, I’d just get the games from a torrent site.  You have the original disks so nothing to feel guilty about, even.

        • mizerock says:

          I would indeed feel justified using a torrent version if I already owned the discs. But it would be so retro geek cool to be able to hook up a disc drive.

          It doesn’t look like it’s easy to come by the 5.25″ floppy drives, but I doubt I have more than a handful of those around.

      • NakedSnake says:

        Of the old PC games, I know Opposing Force has been released on Steam. You’d have to use DOSBox for TIE Fighter and Wizardry, though. In general, the games are readily available, IF you know what I mean. DOSBox can run them straight from your hard drive. If you’re going to take the plunge, I would recommend you also check out Albion which I played for the first time on DOSBox and is awesome.

        • Sarapen says:

          I played the living crap out of the demo back in the day. The dungeons were creepy at night. I did obtain a copy through certain means a free years ago but unfortunately I couldn’t get past the old school graphics.

      • Sarapen says:

        DOSbox is an emulator program that lets you run old stuff on new computers. You just need to get a copy of those programs in the first place.

        Speaking of which, I wonder what happened to my old TIE Fighter disks? Somehow I kept getting promoted even though I barely won any missions, I think the Emperor just liked my high body count.

    • duwease says:

      It’s definitely a product of its time.. I don’t think I could stomach repeating those 20-30 minute hellishly difficult levels a few dozen times anymore.

      It’s amazing what we did before we realized checkpoints were an option..

      • mizerock says:

        After returning to gaming a few years ago, it took me quite a while to convince myself that dying wasn’t going to send me back to the very beginning. I was so tense playing Portal 2, when I finally did die (several hours into it) I was absolutely stunned to be spawned again, automatically, at the beginning of the level I had just started. And, instead of insulting me, GlaDOS just repeated what she had told me 30 seconds earlier, as if I had never flung myself into a pit of acid.

        But yeah, it would be really hard to go back to that old-school level of difficulty now.

  7. Dr. Clint Handsome says:

    Man, I have replayed the first three Wario Land games way too many times. They’re so much fun.

    • NakedSnake says:

      I’ve been playing the first one (Mario Land 3) and I must admit to being a little confused as to what I should do. It’s like a freeform mario without rules.

      • GaryX says:

        It’s so good. It was my first Game Boy game. It also felt like you could just stumble onto secrets (going back to yesterday’s article).

        I think there’s an Iceberg world that’s completely optional?

        • NakedSnake says:

          I’ll put a little more effort into it. It’s in the 3DS e-shop library, by the way.

        • Citric says:

          There is an iceberg level that’s completely optional. Also, it’s a rat bastard.

          There were very subtle hints that stuff was there to find. Levels with multiple exits had slightly different icons, level icons would flash if you missed a treasure, though you had to beat the game once first I think.

          I somehow found every treasure and exit without a faq, which is impressive just because some of those treasures are quite obnoxiously hidden.

        • Unexpected Dave says:

          Finding Sherbert Land was one of my happiest gaming surprises.

        • GaryX says:

          @Citric:disqus @davedalrymple:disqus Agreed on both accounts. I completed that whole thing without knowing the existence of FAQs. I kind of wish I could go back to that completely not knowing state. It felt incredibly intuiting that stuff out.

          What was your guys favorite helmet?

          Mine was the Jet helmet. I remember I would just try to get as high as possibly and fly against walls in the hopes that I’d find a secret path.

        • Citric says:

          The jet was the best, especially if you didn’t quite hit the jump right, it was a lifesaver.

          I know my brother liked the dragon, but it was really only the best in the water levels.

      • GaryX says:

        Goddammit. As if I need another reason to want a 3DS.

    • flowsthead says:

      I loved Wario Land so much. There was something about giving that genie giant bags of money that made me especially gleeful and happy. Plus, I really enjoyed the tackling motion that Wario has.

    • Zack Handlen says:

      I got the first one again after not having played it in years, and was amazed at how difficult it is. Which then made me sad to realize how much my platforming skills must have atrophied. Alas.

    • sharculese says:

      I spent a not particularly fun family road trip finding every last piece of treasure in the first one, so it will always have fond memories for me.

      Second one is the first game I remember owning that really tried to take advantage of the Super Game Boy, and I loved seeking out all the alternate endings.

      Third I like less than the other two, but it definitely got at least a couple of playthroughs.

      • Dr. Clint Handsome says:

        I love the first two, but the third is actually my favorite just because of the semi-open world, exploratory nature of it, and how levels change depending on what treasures you’ve unlocked.

        • GaryX says:

          I had the third one and remembering digging it, but then I lost it somehow and never saw it again. The same thing happened to my copy of Link’s Awakening DX.

          My brother eventually got the 4th, and I don’t recall liking that quite as much.

  8. Oh, No! It's Sluggo! says:


  9. PaganPoet says:

    GS, I can’t believe you failed to mention the sometimes-enemy, sometimes-ally mascots of the Shin Megami Tense series, Jack Frost and Pyro Jack (Jack-o-Lantern in Japan)!! Not only are the brothers totes adorbs, but they starred in one of the only decent games of the eye raping failed Virtual Boy console, Jack Bros.

  10. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    The only thing that makes a centennial visit from a Belmont worthwhile, is the aftermath allows Vlad to indulge in treating himself to a visit to the Yankee Candle Company to replace all the special item candles for the castle.
     “Oh, Lisa! Smell ‘axe’! Am I wrong, or is that a hint of sandalwood they’ve added? Spicy!”
     Vampires need some pampering after zealot attacks. 

  11. Soredomia says:

    Great list!  I especially like the Dragon Quest slime mention and who doesn’t love seeing Wizardry IV get some well-deserved attention?

    Another game involving a previous antagonist as the protagonist that comes to mind is the third Book of Kyrandia: Malcolm’s Revenge (Spoiler: Wherein he proves his innocence for his past crimes, though he’s still a lovably misanthropic smeg head during the proceedings).  Pretty darn good adventure game series for its time.  Shame Westwood Studios didn’t make more of them after the early ’90s.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      Namedropping those 3 gets you on my good list.   I swear 1 of the 3-d German graphic adventures does that, too, but I can’t pull a name.

      Tales Of Destiny indulged the player in the remakes by giving a whole mode over to a good character who goes bad, and it’s 1 of the best bonuses in the series.

      • Soredomia says:

        Oooo thanks for the Tales of Destiny mention.  
        I forgot about that game.

        Yeah I like it when RPGs give the appropriate facetime and energy to morally ambiguous situations and character shifts, be it the decisions made in Tactics Ogre or the final special chapter in Suikoden III archiving that longtime protagonist’s fall into darkness.

        Side Note– coming up on September 30th soon, so here’s to King’s Quest VI soon becoming old enough to drink /cheer.  

        Challenging the Lord of the Dead and beating the Gnome Senses Sentries.  And men of flesh were all we needed to be, my lord.  

        Those were the days.

  12. PaganPoet says:

    There’s also Demon’s Crest, the SNES game starring Firebrand, the little demon from Goblin’s N Ghouls. Admittedly, I’ve never played either game, but someone who knows more can elaborate.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      I’m not sure how much you would like (localized titles) Demon’s Crest or Gargoyle’s Quest 1, but Gargoyle’s Quest 2 is likely right up your alley.  A perfect comparison doesn’t come to mind, so how about ActRaiser 1 with the god game elements toned down?

      Also, the music is as good as the mainline games’.

  13. feisto says:

    What about wish lists? I wish Infocom had written a game where you get to play as a grue. It would have been fun dealing with light as an obstacle after so many games where pitch blackness is an issue.

    • Girard says:

      In Zork: The Undiscovered Underground, you get to disguise yourself as a Grue to infiltrate a Grue Convention, and in Sorcerer there is a Grue costume you could wear, but neither is as awesome, gameplay-wise, as what you describe.

    • CrabNaga says:

      What about a Mega Man spinoff where you play as Dr. Wily and the primary gameplay is to design robot masters in a Spore-like character builder, giving each powerful abilities (but not too powerful, or else that blue bastard will just kill one and use its ability to soundly trounce the rest of your minions). Then you’d build stages for the robot masters and try to kill Mega Man with traps and such, and directly take control of the robot masters in a fight.

      Then as an added bonus, you could switch roles and play as Mega Man through your own creations and share them online.


    I think Kojima made a big mistake with the two PSP Big Boss Metal Gears, here’s why

    number 1: the more games that come out in a series the more watered down that series becomes, I actually miss the days of Metal Gear Solid 3 when the only notable spinoff was that Gameboy one (one that featured it’s own separate story too)

    the Ac!d games were bad enough, but at least they were non-canonical, however Kojima done goofed big time when he made Portable Ops and Peace Walker “canon”, thus there’s now been 3 games starring Big Boss and that makes his appearance in MGS5 less special, 5 still look amazing of course but just think how cool it would be if this was the first time we were playing as Big Boss in ten years

    number 2: they weren’t very good games, I never even bothered with Portable Ops but I gave Peace Walker a shot due to it’s inclusion in the HD collection and I hated it, Metal Gear should always be at the cutting edge of gaming, it has no business being “scaled down” to fit onto something like the PSP, when the graphics are worse than both 2 and 3 which came out many years before it, you have a problem 

    but graphics aside I just did not like the gameplay, I hated the whole “vignette” style of the levels and whatnot, just ugh, did not like it all

    so while 5 still looks great it also makes me feel a little nervous too because at this point the series is feeling spread a little too thin

    • Carlton_Hungus says:

      I think Peace Walker is good canon, but Portable Ops less so.  PW on the PSP was pretty impressive on that system, and doesn’t look terrible in the HD package, and the mission style works really well for a portable system.  Plus the tons of replayability in upgrading your base/army and even your own metal gear.

      Peace Walker also seems to serve as a good link between 3 and 5, since in some of the promo footage for 5 you see [SPOILERish] Outer Haven being destroyed and Miller and Big Boss abandoning their off-shore oil derrick like base.

      I agree in wishing that Portable Ops wasn’t canon.

    • beema says:

      It mostly just makes me depressed that Solid Snake pretty much got kicked off the bus. I mean, I guess his story came to a close in 4, but still. If I want to be pedantic, the game series only became Metal Gear SOLID because of SOLID Snake — the codename bestowed on him after Metal Gear 2. Anything centering around Big Boss should just be Metal Gear something else. 

      • GaryX says:

        They should have put a bullet in Solid Snake at the end of MGS 4, not just kicked him off the bus.

        • Crusty Old Dean says:

          It’s so weird that he didn’t die. The whole game was leading up to it, then Big Boss swooped in and died instead.

    • NakedSnake says:

      One thing that was good about Portable Ops, though, was that it introduced a comic-book style of cutscenes. These were a refreshing change from the typical format. Honestly, I think they fit the spirit of MGS content better than live-action cut scenes. MGS is basically a Manga. 


        oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I hated the comic-book style cutscenes too

        although that had less to do with the concept and more to do with the fact that they had that terrible “IDW comics” art style that I hate

    • Citric says:

      I loved Portable Ops, but I mostly loved going around and kidnapping everyone.

      • NakedSnake says:

        Haha, yea, it was pretty fun. There was a definitely a point, though, where I had to take a step back and say “what am I doing with my time???” It didn’t help that I basically only ever played missions with Snake and then some guy who I got early on who had really high sniper, shotgun, and bomb skills. Snake didn’t ever kill anyone on my playthrough, so if I was losing interest in stealthing my way through the mission, it was time to bring in the one-man-kill-squad.

        • Citric says:

          It just made me think I really want a kidnapping simulator. I didn’t like how Peace Walker minimized the kidnapping aspects of that game, just attaching a balloon to a guy and letting him fly away is not nearly as fun.

        • NakedSnake says:

          @Citric:disqus I loved how some of the guys you kidnapped had a Kidnapping stat boost, where they could drag people to your truck faster.

      • GaryX says:

        I’m pretty sure a kidnapping simulator would send Fox News into hyper alert.

  15. Tim Kraemer says:

    I still want a Zelda game where you play as a young, pre-evil Ganondorf who’s trying to save his homeland ala Ganon’s monologue in Wind Waker, which ends with him making the decisions that will lead him down the path to evil.

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

       I’ve thought about that idea too, but I think it would end up coming off very anakin-esque.  Ganon doesn’t have an awful lot of characteristics that go beyond just basic villainy stuff, so I’m afraid a prequel version would just be a generic misfit with a static chip on his shoulder.  Like Anakin and Tom Riddle.

      • CrabNaga says:

        Anakin (and the whole original trilogy) was just pretty poorly written. It did a good job of painting the Jedi as a bunch of personality-deprived jerks who never did anything because doing anything leads you on the path of the Dark Side. It would probably have served the greater story to present that idea within the prequel trilogy, and have Anakin and Obi Wan try to challenge that ideal, with Anakin taking it too far (and becoming a Sith) and Obi Wan finding the true balance. Then it would come down to Obi Wan trying to convince the suffocatingly bureaucratic Jedi to act against the obvious threat of the Sith and the Separatists, them being all “nah there’s no reason to fight” and the Jedi getting wiped out because of their inaction.

        Tom Riddle was just a jerk.

        I think that a pretty complex story could be told about Ganondorf. He’d come from some poor and deprived town with a close family and a looming threat, and the elders would tell stories about the Triforce, the Hero of Legend, yadda yadda. Ganon would think that he’s the hero, go off in search of the Triforce, and after assembling it, he fails to save his town and family (or possibly even contributes to it by using the Triforce of Power). With their few dying moments, the elders reveal that he has the Triforce of Great Evil and curse him. The grief and influence of the Triforce blacken his heart, and he vows to make the rest of the world suffer as he had, especially those that fate dictated would be the “Heros.”

        • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

           I guess it would all depend on execution.  Then again, what doesn’t.  “Crazy one-legged captain goes a’whaling” doesn’t sound like a concept that would hold its weight for the entire length of a dense symbolist tome.

        • TheKingandIRobot says:

           Well it sort of doesn’t.  I mean the author has to take a whole chapter’s worth of digression to just natter on about the common aspects of life in Nantucket.

        • Treymoney says:

           I think it’s amazing that a Jedi Council crippled and eventually destroyed by bureaucracy, fear and indecision was obviously what was really happening, when it appears Lucas never noticed that aspect himself.

      • GaryX says:

        I think it would be really tough to do in a game because what I like so much about Ganondorf in Wind Waker is his choice to be evil: it’s both inevitable but it’s something he affirms. I think so much of what makes it interesting is the internal and philosophical nature of what kind of “evil” Ganondorf is in those last moments that it’d be very, very difficult to translate that existential decision into an interactive narrative.

        I think it’d have to go beyond just a “he thought he was a hero” arc and make it more about what it means to be evil and why anyone would follow such actions. On top of that, you have the added layer of WW Ganondorf knowing that this isn’t the first time he’s lost (or likely, will lose), but that he’s become almost a reoccurring inevitability. WW basically posits Link and Ganondorf as reoccuring forces that must and will always occur in tandem. Ganondorf tries to destroy and rule Hyrule because he has to–because that’s the way it is–but out of everyone involved, he’s the only one who actively chooses this role, taking it upon himself to both attempt destruction and bring about salvation. If it was put in a game, I’d worry the designers would ignore a lot of that subtext and just really boil it down. You’d need to resurrect Kierkeegard, make an evil clone of him, then have Drageekreik write the overall narrative.

        Man, I really hate how they reverted Ganondorf back to to “stock evil dude” in Twilight Princess.

    • TheInternetSaid says:

      I thought for sure that Goose would become Gannon in Skyward Sword, but maybe they’re saving it for a sequel.

      • sanandreasae says:

        I thought it seemed like Groose was being set up to found Hyrule’s royal family. His character arc is more about learning to be responsible and his “hey”-ish sound effect is similar to that of the King of Red Lions in WW.

    • Chalkdust says:

       My idea for anti-hero LoZ was actually to twist the lore around… whereas the Triforces are usually distributed Power:Ganondorf, Wisdom:Zelda, Courage:Link, my idea was to rotate them to Power:Link, Wisdom:Ganondorf, Courage:Zelda.

      Using that as the premise, the background is that Ganondorf has Hyrule under his despotic rule, having staged a successful ouster of the royal family some time prior.  Wisdom twisted to malicious ends.

      Zelda’s courage is then in standing against this dictator Ganondorf, and in fighting to reclaim her rightful place on the throne.  But she needs help!

      Now, Link!  Being bestowed with power, but directionless, this Link is feared, a fierce bandit, a wanted man.  But from that chaos, Zelda sees a force that could topple Ganondorf.

      So, gameplay-wise, it’d still follow the classic LoZ structure, with dungeons, gadgets and combat, though with Power Link, an extra emphasis could be placed on that combat, adding some DMC-ish depth (combos, precision, timing, juggling, etc.).  Mix in more Zelda segments, Sheik-y sneaking bits, and the like.  But it’d be a darker timeline, with Ganondorf’s oppressive force already in effect, and a much more violent Link.  It would be easy to fall into the “ooh edgy” trap of, say, Shadow the Hedgehog, but I think under a thoughtful director it could be an interesting exploration of the formula.

      On that note, I’ve also often daydreamed about “what if such-and-such notable game designer made a LoZ game and put their own spin on the formula?”  And Nintendo could release them under a different banner (I was thinking “Saga of Zelda”).  So, what would Hideo Kojima’s Saga of Zelda look like?  Michel Ansel’s?  Jonathan Blow’s?  And so on.

  16. DrFlimFlam says:

    I love Rocket Slime and am so sad that I appear to have lost the cart. I still have the case, of course, but the cart, like a few others, has disappeared, probably because of a small human with a knack for losing tiny treasures.

  17. Marozeph says:

    Silly question, but is that picture on top from a game or is it something drawn for this article?

  18. stakkalee says:

    Good list, nice variety.  The topic puts me in mind of Sarevok, the big bad of the first Baldur’s Gate game, who returns in BGII.  Condemned to Hell after you defeat him (uh, spoilers) in BGII you have the option of letting him join your party as a pretty powerful fighter.  Of course, being as it’s a Bioware game, Sarevok’s “second act” gives him some extra, much-needed characterization, a wonderfully sharp personality, and a chance at redemption (if you choose the right dialogue options.)  He wasn’t a very complex villain in the first BG, so I appreciated what they did with him in the second game.  Now Jon Irenicus, there’s a complex villain.  I’d love a chance to explore a game with him as the main character.

    • Drinking_with_Skeletons says:


      That’s somewhat similar to Amon Jerro in Neverwinter Nights 2.  You spend a good portion of the game fighting against him, only to discover that he’s basically trying to save the world, he’s just a huge dick about it.

      Actually, he’s kind of like Walter White reimagined as a warlock.

  19. CrabNaga says:

    A couple (loose) proposals:

    1. GTAIV’s Episodes The Lost and the Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony have you playing as minor antagonists from Niko’s story.
    2. Cthulu Saves the World isn’t really a spinoff, but it’s pretty much the definition of a bad guy getting to star in his own game.

    • JamesJournal says:

      Episodes from Liberty City is really loose. Johnny and Luis are really minor characters in GTA4 (each time I saw them cross Niko’s path I was like “Oh … I guess that person WAS there when this happened).

      I felt more like Niko was an antagonist for Luis than the other way around during the diamond story line.

  20. Anthony Stalder says:


    You lot are awfully insensitive, ignorant and uninterested in THAT subject to OUR point of view.

    We? People who DO actually apply as much humor, easy knowledge and ABILITY TO BE INTERESTED AND THUS, INTERESTING, as you can not be. You’re being paid to TRY AND UNDERSTAND WHY YOU SHOULD REALLY LIKE THOSE NINTENDO GAMES.

    Bad news; you’ll never understand. LEAVE IT TO THOSE WHIO DO, you fat, awfully fat, old vynil hipsters.


    PAY SOMEONE WHO KNOWS – and IS funny.

    This is not AV101. Its the Club. Please behave accordingly. Dishonest punks.

  21. DrFlimFlam says:

    We need an Elder Scrolls game where the player chooses to be a Daedric prince or princess and wreaks havoc with the people of Nirn.

    • Marozeph says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if the first expansion for TESO is something like “Realms of Oblivion” which adds Deadra as a playable race.

      And while we’re at MMORPGs: Guild Wars 2 turned the Charr from pure villains into a playable race.

    • LoveWaffle says:

      Sort of already happened in Morrowind. Azura is your character’s patron, and as a direct result of your actions the Ministry of Truth falls, which causes the eruption of Red Mountain which devastated Morrowind and allows for the Argonians to invade.

      Are you Azura herself? No, just her champion (and there’s always Shivering Isles for players dying to be a Daedra), but it’s close enough for me.

  22. Knarf Black says:

    Demon’s Crest is my fourth favorite game of all time. I love the music, art direction, wide variety of powers, and scale. (Small-ish open world that feels big without being overwhelming.) It’s a microcosm of everything I loved about the 16 bit era.

    • NakedSnake says:

      It’s truly a great game, but fuck that final boss. That shit was unfair and is a representation of what I didn’t like about that era. But yea, the Mega Man X inspired gameplay worked perfectly. And the level design (both artistic and in terms of layout) was inspired. What a great game. Incidentally, I also thoroughly enjoyed Gargoyles Quest on the Game Boy, but I never finished that one because it truly was Too Hard.

      • Knarf Black says:

        I believe the “final” boss (not the secret, “true” one) resulted in my only call to the nintendo helpline and subsequent grounding for dialing a 900 number.

        It was kind of bullcrap that you suddenly got thrown into a battle of attrition that necessitated the use of healing potions that you could easily ignore for the entire rest of the game.

        I’m starting to think I’m the only person to have beaten Gargoyle’s Quest. (borrowed it from a friend who never made it passed the first area) If I remember correctly, it got significantly easier as you upgraded Firebrand’s hovering duration, but suffered from the pre-Gamefaqs era problem of “where am I and what the hell was I doing?” whenever you put the game down and picked it back up.

        I never played GQ II on the NES, but then apparently no one did.

  23. jungleland says:

    IIRC, it’s not until the very end of MGS3 that your character is revealed as the future Big Boss. So, Spoiler Alert perhaps?

    • JamesJournal says:

      I felt like it was revealed as soon as you know the game is set in the 60s, and there is only one possible reason someone could be walking around in that era looking remotely like Solid Snake.


      yeah, but it’s pretty obvious from the start 

  24. long_dong_donkey_kong says:

    Also it should be noted that Wario now also owns the Jacksonville Jaguars, so not too shabby (if you can ignore that it’s the Jaguars)

  25. JamesJournal says:

    I still want to play a full on Mario Galaxy style Wario game set in Diamond City with all Wario’s pals. They’ve been stuck hosting mini games far too long.

  26. signsofrain says:

    I had to chime in and second the demand for a Bowser platformer. I want to breath fire, climb walls with my claws, bust through walls, and just generally brawl my way through a Mario-style platformer. It’d be cool if they gave bowser some beat ’em up type moves like throws and suplexes and maybe even a giant-fist type punch move to blow enemies off the screen (like in Battletoads)

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