Have you ever played a game that seems to be going well, until a certain moment makes you stop and just sort of sit there? You scratch your head, you think: “What? How does that even…” or perhaps “Really? That’s what we’re doing here?”. This phenomenon can be triggered by almost all facets of a game. Strange dialog choices, awkward character design, or my personal favorite, baffling weapon design.
Some games seem to have this notion that just because they’re set in a fantasy world, that beating people with a crowbar simply won’t do the job.
What we get as a result of this is some game designers foisting ridiculous tools of mayhem onto their players. Weapons that one would think a rational human being would never be able to conceive of. They’re guns that can’t just be guns, they’re guns with X-ray vision. They’re crossbows that can’t shoot bolts (that would be too boring), but instead shoot red-hot rebar. Because that would get the job done more efficiently? In the most tame examples, we see the likes of simply using unconventional ammo, like the example above, to taking a normal weapon and super sizing it, in the case of every JRPG ever.
I like to imagine that during the brainstorming sessions where these weapons are conceived, that the designers start out with something reasonable, and just get more and more excited as they yell out suggestions that are more like the fevered power fantasies of a 12 year-old, than something a respectable adult would think fits into their story world.
So without further adieu, here is my list of the top 5 most absurd weapons in gaming (that the games seem to want you to take totally seriously).
5: Blue Shell – Mario Kart 64 (and beyond)
These first few entries, I feel, may be cheating a bit. The entire Mario franchise is video game absurdism. It is not meant to make sense, so when you’re presented with a winged, nuclear powered, kart seeking turtle shell, it’s not actually as awkward as you might think reading this sentence. That said, it’s still ridiculous. We can almost forgive them for having a clear line of progression: Mario used to jump on koopa troopers, and then throw their shells about, so this is just an escalation of that.
Even knowing that, however, we have to realize that there was, at some time, a group of grown men discussing the logical progression of a turtle shell and banana peel-centric arms race.
Not to mention the subtle implications that come with the blue shell. How does it know who’s in first place? Is the turtle shell sentient? Is it some sort of living weapon? It certainly soars along looking for just the right victim, only to smash itself into them in a ball of fire and anger.
In the end, the Blue Shell is a polarizing choice: It is objectively, perhaps, the most ridiculous on this list, but given the absurdist genre of the entire series within which it exists, it is, perhaps, less preposterous than the rest of this list.
2: Stranger’s Crossbow – Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath
The series Oddworld is another foray into the absurdist realm. Clearly not meant to be bound by traditional views of… well anything. What we’ve got here is Stranger’s Crossbow, a prime example of a conventional weapon that has been tweaked into the realm of “what?”. Crossbows are pretty cool weapons, you see, but they’re not quite edgy enough for a game like Oddworld. They needed that little extra something. That something being the ability to shoot animals. Not shoot AT animals, but shoot animals OUT of your crossbow. Skunks, Beetles, Slugs, you name it. There are something like 9 different ammo choices for your critter cannon, all of which have different effects.
This is slightly less excusable than the Blue Shell, as Oddworld isn’t taking the established weapon of a long running IP to the next level, but more just “going for the craziest thing they could squeeze into the setting”. Doing absurdist work is, by definition, creating a world where things that don’t make sense here, in the real world, are commonplace and unquestioned. So what does that mean? You’ve got a bunch of guys wondering: “What’s the craziest thing we can do?” and this is what you get.
But they’re still going for absurd. What makes ludicrous weapons even better is when they’re meant to be taken completely seriously. When it’s almost like the developers don’t realize how crazy they are. That leads us right into the next weapon on the list…
3: Cerebral Bore – Turok 2: Seeds of Evil (and beyond)
The Cerebral Bore is, literally, what its name implies. A weapon for hollowing out the skull of an enemy. This weapon is the quintessential example, in my book, of what happens when a developer lets their inner child run rampant. When they get just a little too carried away.
The Cerebral Bore functions by shooting small, hooked, brain wave seeking robots that fly around and lock onto an enemies skull before burrowing inside and exploding. Because, you see, simply shooting your enemy in the head doesn’t suffice. Bullets aren’t good enough for this guy. This guy needs incredibly complex micro robots to hunt down and destroy specifically the brain of all who oppose him. Please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks about that function, and imagines a guy writing down this idea with a really creepy grin, forgetting that he’s in a room full of other adults, all looking at him with a bit of nervous trepidation in their eyes.
This weapon is not only an analogy for the entire game that it’s in, but for, I feel, an entire genre. It embodies everything that is Gears of War or Halo, God of War or Devil May Cry. All of these more recent games fall into the same category, and they’re all headed in the same direction. They’re the manifestation of the 12 year old inside of the people that make them, meant to appeal to the 12 year old in the people that buy them. That same 12 year old that talks about wishing he were a robot that s shoot lasers out of his eyes. Lasers that seek out their enemy’s skulls and explode them from the inside out…. because everything needs to be just a bit cooler.
2: Gunblade – Final Fantasy 8
You had to know this was coming. At some point we were going to have Final Fantasy on this list. How could we not? JRPs are notorious for having some of the silliest weapon designs out there. Swords taller than the little girls that hold them. Robots who fire bullets out of each of their individual fingers. The list goes on.
The worst offender? The Gunblade of Final Fantasy 8. This weapon doesn’t even make sense. It’s not flashy enough to fit into the last category. It’s not absurd enough to fit with the first two. It’s just… there. I mean, why would you ever make a gunblade? It doesn’t actually fire bullets. Look at that image, there isn’t any barrel. It’s just a sword with the handle of a gun. I mean, read this description of the weapon:
“They are mostly used like normal swords, but triggering a round sends a shock wave through the blade as the weapon passes through an opponent to increase damage.”
You pull the trigger to have the blade vibrate and deal additional damage? What? Not to mention I’m sure swinging a sword with a handle like that is hell on your wrists. The gunblade is this high on the list because it’s as useless as it is absurd. No one would ever make a weapon like that, and the reason no one would make that weapon is because it does literally nothing to improve upon the original design of a sword. The previous entries on this list may be crazy, but they’re unquestionably effective at what they do. The gunblade is just stupid.
So what could possibly be worse than the gunblade? Well….
1: The Skyhook – Bioshock Infinite
Ok ok, guys, listen up, I’ve got an idea for a weapon. It’s got a handle and a trigger, but it’s not a gun. It’s got hooks instead of bullets, but not just one hook, THREE hooks, but not side by side, one in front of the other. They’re also going to spin, ya know, like a chainsaw but players won’t saw people with them, they’ll just punch people. It’s also magnetic, letting them jump three to four stories in the air (and somehow safely fall that same distance without being harmed), but only when it wants to me. It won’t just be magnetically attracted to everything, just specific things. What I’m saying is that it’s a magic, trigger activated, spinning tri-hooked punching weapon!
I’m sorry, come again?
The Skyhook has it all. Set in a completely serious setting? Check. Ridiculously inefficient? Check. Unexplained behaviors? Check. Needlessly complex? Check.
There was no reason to make the Skyhook. It doesn’t add to the setting. It’s not integral to the plot. It doesn’t allow the player to do anything that a far simpler and more reasonable equivalent wouldn’t have also achieved (except for magic jumping, but if you’re bringing in magic magnetism, then who caers? Nothing about the Skyhooks design can be accredited to that functionality).
It’s 36 flavors of superfluous design that the developers just seemed to let get away from them. The Skyhook doesn’t just have us screaming “What??” but also “Why??” and “How??”.
To bring this all around, Booker Dewitt doesn’t do anything with the Skyhook (again, magic aside) that Gordon couldn’t do with his crowbar. So why make a crazy spinning, multihooked gun contraption if all you’re gonna use it for is a fancy blunt object? Your guess is as good as mine…
And here is Charles (@FanaticalG), narrating this Fanatical Five in a manner that makes Morgan Freeman green with envy: