1. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004)
The bullet-riddled streets of San Andreas are a true gangsta’s paradise, a place where there’s no shortage of cars to jack, guns to shoot, and people to beat. But there are also plenty of consequences, especially when it comes to what you decide to shove into your food hole. If you’re not careful, before long you might be swapping your chiseled six-pack for a six-piece bucket of chicken at the Cluckin’ Bell. Your health is refueled by eating, with no shortages of places to grab a quick bite. The catch is that if you eat too much, you’ll soon be waddling down the street with some Biggie Smalls-style junk in your trunk. You can always burn off the weight by dieting or hitting the gym. In the concrete jungles of San Andreas, not even hardcore OGs are immune to the battle of the bulge.
2. The Binding Of Isaac (2011)
A bucket of lard doesn’t stand out as a potent monster-fighting instrument, but in The Binding Of Isaac, it’s one of the finest tools at your disposal. While spoils like coagulated milk or dog food—available in both wet and dry varieties—also provide the player with a permanent health boost, only the lard puffs you up with a new, stockier figure. It increases Isaac’s health by two heart containers, which could mean the difference between meeting an early death and meeting a somewhere-around-the-middle-of-the-game death. However, that extra life comes bundled with a reduction in movement speed. It’s not like anyone would be expected to run a six-minute mile after a heaping helping of rendered pig fat.
3. Fast Food (1982)
It was the game that launched a thousand eating disorders. In Telesys’ Fast Food for the Atari 2600, you’re just one pair of apparently herpes-ravaged lips against an endless stream of high-calorie food items that launch themselves into your mouth. “STUFF YOURSELF!” screams the game’s manual. “No matter how much you eat, you’ll never gain a pound.” That’s a nice thought, except that once you get into the game, each level of binge eating concludes with the statement, “YOU’RE GETTING FATTER!” (This is when you’re successful.) As if that cruel bait-and-switch weren’t enough, the titular food then gets even faster, making it even more impossible to resist gorging yourself. The game concludes once you’ve eaten too many purple pickles, which prompt a burp so load and so shameful that the snack bar is forced to put out its “CLOSED” sign. The bonus levels of the game are the years you spend in therapy working out your myriad food neuroses.
4. Diet Go Go (1992)
The early ’90s arcade game Diet Go Go was prescient in its depiction of an obesity epidemic, presenting it as a mad scientist raining tasty treats from the sky. Having done no research on the food industry, that seems more or less like what’s happening. Maybe we should also heed its forward-thinking solution—a preemptive strike on the very things that make us fat. Instead of eating that ambling, man-sized gingerbread man, we’ll throw food at it and fatten it up, making it sluggish and easy to kill—and then we’ll kill it! But we need to be careful, or we’ll accidentally eat a gumball, and our own sloppy tummy folds will spill out of our spandex gym suits. Then we will be the ones with one foot in the grave. Diet Go Go isn’t about good health, it’s about making you hate yourself for your flabby abs. You know what, sentient gingerbread man? Pass the cake.
5. Wario Land II–Wario Land IV (1998-2001)
In the Wario Land series, Wario might have a death-proof body, but he is still plenty vulnerable to environmental hazards. His figure can change based on the kind of enemy that attacks him. In Wario Land II, when a cook flips a slice of cake into his greedy maw, he turns into Fat Wario, a swollen, lethargic version of his former self. Though he loses most of his ability to jump, Fat Wario is able to crash through barriers beneath his feet, a necessary skill in many stages. In later Wario Land games, the cake is gone, replaced by doughnuts and what must be the world’s most unhealthy apples. Luckily, Wario’s quick metabolism purges the extra flab, leaving his body svelte and primed to continue his tortured eternal life.
6. Fable II (2008)
The life of an adventurer in Albion is fraught with danger. Step outside the comfort of ye olde inn and you’ll find bandits, skeletons, necromancers, and the most dangerous foe of all: carbs. Yes, throw back too many beers, pies, and apples, and before long you’ll be trading your sword of smiting for a +2 Girdle Of Back Support. Food is a necessity when it comes to quickly regenerating health, but it’s a matter of ensuring you don’t eat too much too quickly. Unfortunately, the Atkins Diet spell book hasn’t quite made it to the shores of Albion. The only surefire way to lose the weight is to snarf down as much celery as possible. Do that, and you’ll turn your heroic heifer into a lean, mean monster-slaying machine.
7. Metal Slug series (1996-2009)
The Metal Slug series is known for its hilarious transformations. At various points, your gun-toting commando takes on such bizarre forms as a mummy, a diaper-wearing monkey, and an inflated, tubby soldier. The latter, which increases your weapon’s damage but reduces your now morbidly obese action hero to a slow waddle, happens when you devour 16 health-recharging food power-ups in a row. Adding insult to injury, the announcer blasts you with the line “Uh oh! Big!” It’s a barb more painful than any bullet to the face. The transformation will go away gradually, or you can expedite the process by picking up a diet pill or keg of diet powder. It’s an addendum to that classic arcade lesson that “Winners don’t use drugs,” adding, “or binge on too many raw foods.”
8. We Love Katamari (2005)
Silly as it may seem, the original Katamari Damacy has a straightforward objective: Gather junk to rebuild the stars that have fallen out of the sky. Once they ran out of constellations, though, the developers must have asked themselves, “What else can we grow by rolling stuff into it?” There were a variety of clever variations on that theme in 2005’s We Love Katamari, but none quite as odd as rolling a thin sumo wrestler around and picking up food to make him “strong” enough to topple a rival sumo. Collected items stick to the wrestler’s body, in typical Katamari fashion, but they’re eventually sucked into his bulk as the wrestler absorbs the food, presumably through osmosis. There are precious few pleasures in the world quite like watching a stack of wedding cakes fold themselves into a cartoon fat guy’s paunch and disappear into the vortex of his ever-expanding gut. At Katamari-speed, this scrawny wimp easily overpowers his champion rival faster than you can say Charles Atlas.
9. Fat Princess (2009)
Cake is awesome. Don’t try to deny it. Cake doesn’t care that your body is a temple. It is delicious, and its careful blend of sugar, fat, flour, fruits, and creams can easily seduce even the most health-conscious crusader into indulging. The red and blue princesses of Fat Princess know all too well the danger of cake’s “intense yumminess,” as the game’s introduction puts it. They literally can’t resist it, which makes rescuing them a chore. Both princesses start as captives of the opposing color’s army in Princess. Your goal as loyal retainers is to rescue your own princess while keeping the enemy’s princess trapped in your castle’s brig. So, to keep your foes from carrying off their own svelte royal, you can feed her slices of cake. Each piece makes her increasingly rotund, and the fatter she gets, the more soldiers it takes to carry her home. Cake is tasty and will definitely plump you up quickly, but the magic cake in Fat Princess is just ridiculous. As good as it looks, it’s not hard to empathize with those caged princesses.
10. Diet Family (2001)
The Korean shoot-’em-up Diet Family gives you one goal—to destroy every food item put in front of you, preferably with missiles. This won’t be easy, seeing as the game takes you on a culinary odyssey featuring delicacies from all over the world. But with the help of many, many diet pills, you too can ignore all food all the time, even if it is a carrot. And your punishment for failure? Your calorie meter will deplete with every food item you touch, until you are hideously bloated. That’s right—this game is more than happy to shame you for your weight gain, even though it doesn’t know the first thing about how calories work, or what a vegetable is.