Video games, fairly early in the console era, became known chiefly as kid stuff. You can see evidence of it everywhere, even today. Mario still traipses around in a candy colored world of non-threatening enemies and whimsical power-ups. Sometimes, though, in their attempts to be clever, creative, or intuitive, game makers produce a product that subtly indicates actions that would have a hard time making it into a rated R film. Let’s take a look at just a few, shall we?
Hail of Turtles
In the early Sonic Games, back before we were blessed with the absurd plots that we have to swallow now, stories were simple and left more or less as an exercise to the player. Evidently Dr. Robotnik, before changing his name to Eggman, used to take cute little duckies and bunnies and load them into his machines. It was up to a hyperactive spiny rodent to bust them out. As a result, there were cute little duckies and bunnies bouncing all over the screen whenever Sonic started getting violent. They were free and Sonic was a hero… until Sky Chase. This level takes place high in the sky, so surely all of those poor imprisoned creatures Sonic is springing have the gift of flight… OH MY GOD IS THAT A TURTLE!?!
Yes, our hero Sonic, in his overzealous quest for victory, sends countless hard-shelled reptiles plummeting to the earth. Sure, they might be over water for most of the flight, but they had to have at least started over land. So if you got straight to killing, it is virtually guaranteed that there are at least a handful of turtle craters dotting the ring strewn landscape below, to say nothing of the townsfolk getting pelted with adorable green projectiles. Way to go, Sonic.
Super Mario: Eater of Skulls
Super Mario Brothers is another Series of games that doesn’t work too hard trying to explain its setting, which leaves much to our imagination. All we really know is that he must repeatedly defeat a fire breathing turtle to rescue a woman by the unappetizing name of Peach Toadstool, who is inexplicably the human princess of a land of mushroom-headed people. In order to help keep his strength up, Mario must eat mushrooms that imbue him with increased size, strength, and durability. I’ll say that again, he eats mushrooms… in a land of mushroom people. “Obviously these are a non-sentient type of mushroom,” you say. Well, I would buy that, except for the fact that as soon as the graphics would permit it, you could clearly see that THE MUSHROOMS HAVE FACES!
Mario is a creature who grows larger and more powerful with every skull that he devours. In any other game he would be a Lovecraftian horror that the heroes would have to band together to stop, but in Super Mario world he’s the knight in shining armor.
Various: Cardiac Carnivores
In keeping with the horrific eating habits of video game heroes, let’s look briefly at the disturbing number of protagonists who have a taste for the human heart. Link is the biggest offender. If ever he is feeling a little low, all he has to do is scout out the nearest disembodied heard and chow down. Potentially due to a legion of obsessive compulsive serial killers, hearts are hidden in every nook and cranny, from inside clay pots to just sitting in the grass. Hell, Link is so addicted to hearts, he’s willing to scour the world for individual ventricals and atria. Sure, he calls them “heart pieces,” but that doesn’t make it any better. Perhaps more worrying is the Belmont clan. In Castlevania, the various members of whip loving, vampire hating Belmont family are eager heart collectors as well. Rather than eating them, though, they use them to fuel their weapons. The fact that two human hearts equals one jar of holy water is some sort of dark pagan metaphor that I hesitate to analyze. Even worse, in Simon’s Quest the hearts are actual CURRENCY! What sort of a world are they living in that the fellow mass murdering creatures and exchanging their circulatory organs for goods and services is the good guy.
And what does that nice old lady with the garlic for sale want all of those hearts for, anyway? If the kindly grandmother at the local farmer’s market ever asks for hearts in exchange for produce, Dracula is going to move down a few notches on my threat list, I can tell you that. We can’t have black market anatomy merchants on every street corner.
Believe me when I say that this is just the tip of the iceberg. These kids games are positively overflowing with nightmare fuel for the mind willing to inject an ounce of logic where it doesn’t belong. I didn’t even touch on Lemmings yet. So stay tuned for more to come, and give us a shout if you find any more you think warrant a mention.