Why do we game? What’s in it for us? Is it escapism? A break from the insanity of everyday life, perhaps? Maybe it’s for the feeling of control we receive when we immerse ourselves in a hobby that allows us to determine what we do and what ultimately happens. A world where the rules make sense for once and we’re always welcome to indulge. But what of the games that exist on the fringe of normalcy? The games that remind us that we’re their guests and they can do with us and our psyches as they please.
Whether it be subtle nudges to test our levels of attention or overt sledgehammer shots to the face that mercilessly criticize our skills and decision-making, some games seem to exist only to strategically troll us. Just to be clear, these aren’t necessarily difficult games by nature, though they certainly could be. What we’re talking about here are those games where you serve as their fodder (or mother, if you’re feeling maternal about it). One quick rule before we start—we chose only one game per franchise. Otherwise, this would simply become a list of Hideo Kojima games and nothing more. We love you, Kojima-San, but please stop toying with our emotions…and our PS1 memory cards.
I’m Brian ‘CIVICMINDED’ Lesyk from Head Nerds In Charge and here are nine games that messed with the player.
Number 9 – Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – Boomshine Saigon
The Grand Theft Auto series has always been known for its risky and sometimes controversial moments. Sometimes touting its cruel sense of humor, GTA asks the player to oftentimes commit some truly questionable acts. There isn’t enough time here to list all the potential horrid activities in which your player can engage, but suffice to say there is quite the assortment.
Now, of all the heinous options available at your fingertips, operating a motor vehicle while inebriated might not necessarily be top of mind, but that’s exactly what is required of protagonist Tommy Vercetti in the Boomshine Saigon mission of 2002’s Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
Boomshine Saigon comes as the final mission in Vice City assigned to you by illegal arms dealer and amateur explosives aficionado, Phil Cassidy. A single mission that messes with the player in two ways.
At the onset of the Boomshine Saigon mission, Tommy meets a drunken Phil who proudly shows off his homemade boomshine bomb. For those not familiar, “boomshine” is a play on the word “moonshine”, which refers to a type of unaged whiskey known for its coma-inducing alcohol content. Phil suddenly presses the button on the remote detonator as Tommy instinctually ducks for cover.
The bomb, however, fails to detonate. HAHA, gamer, you flinched! You know you did. That’s the first way this mission messes with you, but I promise it gets worse.
Assuming the batteries in the remote must be dead, Phil, in his inebriated stated, grabs new batteries resting precariously close to the bomb. After successfully swapping out the batteries, Phil throws his arms up in adulation. Unfortunately for Phil, this motion accidentally detonates the boomshine bomb and the subsequent explosion blows Phil's arm clean off! Realizing he’s critically injured, Phil drops to his knees, but can only laugh at the situation as he’s clearly too drunk to grasp the full impact of the situation. Guess you could say he had more than his…fill. Or something.
The second manner in which the Boomshine Saigon mission messes with the player is that it makes you drive Phil to the hospital—while completely wasted! That’s wasted in the intoxicated sense, not in the “you’re dead” sense…because that would be really weird, right? It would appear that the fumes from the detonated boomshine bomb were so potent that Tommy is now also drunk just by inhaling the boomshine fumes. So, now Phil is drunk and hallucinating, Tommy is drunk and panicked, and you have to rush Phil to the hospital for immediate medical attention.
This isn’t so easy because the game’s screen becomes nauseatingly disorienting, the driving controls become muddled and semi-non-responsive, and time is ticking away as Phil bleeds out. The whole thing feels dizzying albeit terrifying. It’s GTA’s way of testing the mettle of even the most polished and experienced Vice City motorist. Phil eventually urges Tommy to drive him somewhere other than the local hospital for medical attention, seeing as how it would have potentially cost him an arm and a leg…and that’s never a good thing when you’re an arms dealer……..arm…right. Go home, HNIC, you’re drunk!
Number 8 – P.T. (the Silent Hill playable trailer/teaser) – You’re Being Followed
Oh, what could have been! P.T. (or Playable Trailer, if you want to get unimaginative and long-winded about it) is the name of the interactive demo for what represented early gameplay for what was to become the next installment in the Silent Hill video game franchise. Hideo Kojima collaborated with legendary filmmaker, Guillermo del Toro, in creating this little piece of nightmare fuel. Experienced from the first-person perspective, the player is tasked with continually traversing the seemingly never-ending linked series of nearly identical L-shaped hallways in a dimly lit house. This initially appears a straightforward affair until you quickly come to realize that there might be evil lurking in this residence. With each progressive loop, the hallway introduces increasingly unsettling imagery and sounds—some more subtle than others, ranging from innocuous visual oddities to downright jump-scares.
Oh, look…someone left their fetus thingy in the sink. I hate it when that happens. After about the fifth loop or so, you begin to realize that this is not a place you want to be…at all! In one form or another, the player will eventually encounter a towering, ghastly apparition they will come to discover is named Lisa. Lisa…is terrifying.
I guess Kojima and Del Toro felt that the aforementioned unsettling moments and jump-scares just wouldn’t go enough to really get the point across, so they took things a step further. After a certain point in the demo when the player acquires the flashlight, there is a distinct feeling that someone or something is following the player. Sounds and footsteps not of the player can be faintly heard. It’s almost like you’re being followed by OH, MY GOD!!! Yup, you were being followed…the entire time!
As proven by video game hacker, Lance McDonald, in 2019, there absolutely is something following you the whole time. And, yes, that would be Lisa…not sure if we made that part clear. McDonald hacked P.T. in order to unlock the game's camera view from the player’s character. This made it so that the player could rotate their view behind them without rotating their in-game body. And, boy, I bet McDonald needed a new pair of boxer shorts…or a defibrillator…after discovering that Lisa was standing right there all along. Without having hacked the demo, this would have never been completely realized because there is no other way to confirm she was even there. This is the god-tier level of player trolling we’ve come to expect from Kojima, yet it wouldn’t be the last on this list.
P.T. originally debuted as a downloadable demo in 2014, but was since removed from the Sony Store for digital download in the aftermath of the Kojima/Konami fallout. In fact, it’s one of the rare instances of a game becoming completely unavailable for re-downloading from your library even if you had previously added it. So, yeah, be careful with that hard drive, people! This one is officially lost indefinitely to the fog.
Number 7 – Twisted Metal – Calypso’s Cruelty
Do you suffer from road rage? Do others suffer from your road rage? We here at HNIC certainly don’t endorse such behavior, so allow us to suggest the perfect car-tharsis for you! Twisted Metal!
With over ten entries and spin-offs to its name, the Twisted Metal video game franchise first debuted on the PlayStation back in 1995. Inspired by the likes of the movie Death Race, Twisted Metal is a vehicular combat game that pits the player against a host of competing drivers in an arena-style battle royale were only the best driver survives. Over the years, the Twisted Metal games have subtly morphed in style and presentation, but one this remains consistent: you must drive to stay alive…and shoot to stay alive…don’t forget that part, trust me. Twisted Metal provides the player with a cornucopia of mentally questionable and equally aggressive drivers from which to choose—each with their own rides that look like they were tricked out by Tony Stark or Mad Max. Players fight their way through a multitude of locales and are equipped with everything a savvy car combatant needs—rockets, bombs, mines, and, of course, each vehicle’s special weapon.
At the helm of the titular Twisted Metal tournament is the enigmatic and seemingly omnipotent Calypso. Shrouded in secrecy and possibly inspired by demonic folklore, Calypso is the creator of the Twisted Metal contest and promises to grant the wish of the contest’s winner, regardless of what they desire. Wishes that would normally be considered impossible are not outside his power and influence. Therein lies the rub, however, because Calypso has a sick sense of humor when granting these wishes. See, Calypso has somewhat of a Faustian nature about him, so he takes immense pleasure in punishing the winner by twisting their wishes to suit his sadistic pleasures.
For example, when Stu and Mike, the drivers of Hammerhead the monster truck, win the tournament, they demand that Calypso grant them the power of flight. Calypso complies and the duo immediately drives off the side of a towering skyscraper to test their new power. Unfortunately, the two fail to fly and only plummet to their deaths. In the aftermath, Calypso calmly explains that he had purchased them airline tickets.
Another example is that of Charlie Kane, driver of the taxicab Yellow Jacket. Upon winning, he asks Calypso to reunite him with his estranged son. Calypso does so and Charlie immediately discovers that his son was really the homicidal ice-cream truck driving clown, Sweet Tooth—whose real name is Needles Kane. Charlie reflects upon having unknowingly killed his own son in the course of the tournament. If that weren’t tragic enough, the final text reads that Charlie is “filled with a sense of anguish and regret [he] never thought possible. Perhaps [he]'ll compete in the next Twisted Metal contest and ask Calypso to take away [his] suffering..." All that racing and chasing and hugging the turns…all that car carnage…and for what? Only to be emotionally tortured by the tournament’s organizer upon winning!
But perhaps the most heart-wrenching ending is that of Grasshopper in Twisted Metal 2. Grasshopper is a weaponized dune buggy driven by Krysta Sparks, a renegade teenager with an axe to grind. When she wins the tournament, it’s revealed that Krysta is Calypso’s long-lost offspring.
For years, Calypso has suffered under the presumption that she had perished in a car accident many years prior. In fact, she did die, but was subsequently rebuilt by the Los Angeles Police Department. Hold our beer, Robocop! But the good old LAPD didn’t intend for Krysta to be a crime-fighting cyborg, but rather a living bomb for the purpose of getting as close as possible to Calypso in order to assassinate him. Upon learning this grand plan, Calypso uncharacteristically and calmly accepts his fate. He embraces Krysta in a moment of tenderness as the two explode in unison. In a series that seems to take palpable enjoyment in messing with the player’s expectations and emotions in unique ways, this one might be its most poignant example. Perennially twisted not just in name alone, but in plot as well.
Number 6 – Portal – GLaDOS
Let’s be honest here. There was no way GLaDOS wouldn’t make this list. Recurring antagonist GLaDOS—an acronym for Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System—basically the most evil and frustrating operating system ever conceived…well, except for maybe Windows Vista…I think we’ve all blocked that out of our memories by now, right? Good therapy will do that.
Portal is a puzzle-platform game in which you play as the entrapped Chell throughout the single-player campaign mode. You play from the first-person viewpoint within the fictional Aperture Science Enrichment Center, which is chock full of test chambers where Chell must run, jump, and interact with various devices in order to solve puzzles that ultimately lead to the net exit door and, hopefully, Chell’s freedom. The player must also contend with a diverse array of potentially deadly obstacles including crush hazards, laser grids, gun turrets, toxic water, and Goombas. Kidding.
There are no Goombas…just making sure you’re still paying attention there. Portal is a game whose entire purpose seems to be relentlessly messing with the player on many levels…literally. And GLaDOS plays her role with terrifying efficiency. But fear not, Chell, because you’re armed with the handy-dandy Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device (or portal gun, as most of us call it). As opposed to traditional FPS games with traditional FPS guns, the portal gun in the Portal series is more of a tool than a weapon—a tool which can be used to place two conjoining warp portals through which the player or other items can pass. With the use of the portal gun, a rudimentary understanding of basic physics, and a lot of trial and error, the player is tasked with escaping the facility.
Even without the presence of GLaDOS, the Portal games can be nerve-wracking on their own. Escaping the various test chambers is an ongoing exercise in critical thinking and patience. Enter GLaDOS and now you have a considerably more stressful affair. See, GLaDOS is the consummate troll, as the kids say…the kids still say that, right? Always monitoring from afar, she ritualistically pokes and prods the player verbally with her dark sense of humor and cruel wit. While seeming relatively welcoming and non-threatening at first encounter, we gradually discover that GLaDOS’ whole existence is to make your own a living hell while you scramble for escape.
Her disembodied verbal interactions range from benign commentary to deprecating barbs to thinly veiled threats, all while dangling the rewards of grief counseling and cake to bait the wary player. GLaDOS slow and deliberate de-evolution from seemingly helpful robot to maniacally lethal robot nemesis continually keeps Chell in the dark and begs the question: what could possibly be next?
It's hard to choose a single moment or even handful of moments that stand out as “messing with the player” when the whole game messes with the player the entire time. Like a rat in a maze, Portal is a brilliant mind-[BLEEP] that just never lets up…and like the rat, we’ll never stop until we find that cake.
Number 5 – Ghosts ‘n Goblins – Do It Again
It’s said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. While that may be true, Capcom’s 1985 arcade platformer, Ghosts ‘n Goblins, demands just that—not just the part about “insanity”, but the “doing the same thing over and over…and OVER” part.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins tasks our knightly hero, Arthur, with rescuing his beloved princess from the clutches of the demon king, Astaroth. Throughout his quest, Arthur runs, jumps, and fights his way through the throngs of evil denizens spanning its six levels. Sounds straightforward enough, but that’s before you truly understand how insanely difficult this game can be.
See, Arthur doesn’t have a health bar—he only wears a suit of armor that can withstand a single hit. Once his armor is removed, he runs around Full Monty-style in nothing but his underwear.
It’s at this point when he is rendered further susceptible and will perish if hit once more. This means the player must be keenly aware of all approaching attacks and frantically work to dodge each one. Furthermore, the game is relatively unkind when it comes to checkpoint saves. Should Arthur lose a life, he will either restart at the beginning or the level or at the midway point of the level, if he managed to make it that far with his previous life. Yikes! That’s incredibly harsh, especially considering this game originated as a coin-op arcade.
We can only surmise that quite a few gamers’ lifesavings were spent on this one. Further diving the game’s sadism meter into the red is the presence of a time limit that ticks away each second! That’s right—should the timer hit zero, you lose a life regardless of whether you’re wearing your armor or not. Another facet of the game that makes things all the trickier is that about half the weapons to which you have access are admittedly not fantastic…and some are downright plops. The javelin and dagger are fine, we suppose, but given the arcing and short-range nature of the axe, torch, and shield, they’re nearly useless in most scenarios.
To top it off, the game makes you obtain some of those weapons to pass certain sections. Once you pick up a new weapon, the old one is gone, so…yeah…deal with it.
Cruel checkpoints, lack of defense, difficult jumps, bad weapons, treacherous level terrain, unyielding enemies, and a seemingly needless time limit mechanic all serve to make Ghosts ‘n Goblins one of the most notoriously difficult games to have ever existed. Those elements in and of themselves would normally be enough to constitute a game worthy of this list, but wait…there’s more!
If all of that weren’t enough to sufficiently mess with the player, the coup de grâce is still to come! If you’re somehow lucky and/or skillful enough to conquer Astaroth, you are immediately and cruelly prompted to replay the whole game on a significantly higher difficulty level to obtain the real final ending!
So, yeah, multiply all that bad stuff we mentioned times two and then you get the actual ending! F…M…L…, indeed.
And what of that “real” ending, you ask? Since you’re never going to see it anyway, we figured we’d spoil it for you right here and now. For all your efforts, this is the ending you get—and we sincerely wish we were kidding: “Congraturation! This story is happy end. Thank you. Being the wise and courageour knight that you are you feel strongth welling. In your body. Return to starting point. Challenge Again!” Yup. There it is. Enjoy. Or don’t…we certainly didn’t.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins received incredibly positive reviews upon its launch and spawned a successful franchise of games that lives on to this day. Capcom seems to take great delight in messing with the player because nearly every entry in the series happily follows the original’s legacy of player trolling vis-à-vis their difficulty by design. Nonetheless, given the franchise’s popularity, it seems to be one of our preferred forms of masochism…well, that and Windows Vista. Yeah, we still hate it.
Number 4 – Batman: Arkham Asylum – Scarecrow Resets Your Game
We’ve all been there. You’re in the midst of an intense gaming session when, all of a sudden, things go awry. Out of nowhere, the game does something unexpected or behaves in a way that wasn’t intended by the developer. This is known as a glitch or a bug. Glitches can range in magnitude and effect from a minor, innocuous graphical texture not loading to something much more insidious like the game completely crashing and [gasp] corrupting your save data! God forbid.
On occasion, glitches may even act in the gamer’s favor by allowing them to bypass certain obstacles or increase their inventory by way of an exploit. Either way, these phenomena can provide for some real visceral reactions from the unexpecting player. Just ask anyone who played Cyberpunk 2077 at launch, am I right?
But what about a glitch that isn’t a glitch? Enter 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum. Imagine you’re in the midst of fighting crime while donning the classic cape and cowl, minding your own business, when suddenly…WHOA! What the…? Holy Hideo Kojima, Batman! The game glitches, freezes, and…resets?!?
That’s right, kiddies. Just prior to the third and final battle with Scarecrow, Batman encounters a jarring fake glitch where the game appears to encounter a graphical bug followed by the game completely freezing momentarily. It proceeds to get seemingly worse when the game crashes and resets back to the introduction cinematic sequence. Still in shock, we’re treated to an alternative version of the intro movie depicting Batman being arrested and committed to the titular asylum by his longtime nemesis, the Joker, now under new management by the game’s villains.
Upon eventually realizing this to be an elaborate ruse inflicted upon Batman by way of his hallucinogenic gas…and once our pacemakers kicked in…it’s back to business as usual and the game continues where we left off, but OMG did this moment cause a lot of kicking, screaming, and cursing when first encountered! Fans of the Caped Crusader weren’t this upset since that time the Batmobile lost a wheel and the Joker got away.
Other games have accomplished similar fake glitch feats, like Metal Gear Solid 2 with its “fission mailed” and Eternal Darkness’ game save data deletion moment, but Batman: Arkham Asylum used this trick to mess with the player in an unparalleled fashion.
Batman: Arkham Asylum was met with instant critical acclaim upon its release and is still widely considered as not just one of the best comic book video game adaptations, but one of the greatest video games ever made. Critics and gamers lauded the game for its story, presentation, and unique boss fights. So, yeah, while the Scarecrow glitch scared us into losing four years from our lifespans, we came to realize the brilliance of this fake glitch in retrospect. We forgive you, Scarecrow! Just don’t do it again.
Number 3 – Desert Bus – Endless Drift
Oh…oh, for the love of… Yeah, Desert Bus. No, you know what…I don’t want to talk about Desert Bus. Let’s talk about something else. How was your day? Are your fingernails growing at an expected pace? Care to watch some paint dry with me? Or perhaps we can observe the grass grow? Literally any of those things are more exciting and emotionally rewarding than playing Desert Bus.
…You’re still here…? Sigh…
I guess we need to talk about this. Alright, as per page eight, paragraph G, subsection 3.17 of the HNIC by-laws, I am contractually obliged to talk about Desert Bus as it pertains to this list.
Remember the Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock thriller, Speed, with all the action and intrigue and excitement and chaos on what was to be a normal bus excursion? Sorry, yeah, there’s none of that here. Desert Bus is essentially the antithesis of Speed in every conceivable way. Originally conceived by the famed American magician duo, Penn Jillette and Raymond Teller, 1995’s Desert Bus was part of a previously unreleased Sega CD game titled Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors that tasked the gamer to drive a charter bus from Tucson, Arizona through the arid United States landscape to Las Vegas, Nevada.
Yes, my friends, that’s it—you drive a bus…through a desert. Talk about truth in advertising. Desert Bus consists of a single highway completely void of anything of interest—that includes turns, detours, animals, or even other traffic. In fact, the bus’ passengers offer no interaction whatsoever, thus only amplifying the monotony.
The trek through the arid vista takes approximately eight real-time hours because the vehicle’s top speed is a mere forty-five miles per hour (or 72.42 kilometers per hour, if you want to get metric about it). And, yes, we said “real-time” hours. That means you could theoretically watch the 1991 Oscar-winning classic, Dances With wolves, two and two-third times in the time it would take to make one commute from Tucson to Las Vegas! Completing a single leg of this trip demands both unwavering concentration and physical stamina because, in a cruel twist of fate, the titular desert bus constantly pulls to the right, making it so that the player must always have their hands on the wheel to correct the vehicle’s direction.
Veering from the highway causes the bus to stall. This, in turn, tows the bus back to the start of the journey and therefore makes the player start over from the beginning! No checkpoint saves for you, desert bus driver! Equally infuriating is the noticeable absence of a pause feature, so once you’re driving, you’re not stopping. This game certainly wasn’t made for those with small bladders, so it would be best to just keep a bucket in the vicinity when bussing through this desert.
Eight hours later, you and your passengers arrive in lovely Las Vegas, Nevada where you are graciously awarded a single point! Wait…one point? Am I reading this right? Oh, for the love of… See, this is why I didn’t want to talk about Desert Bus. Not only does it mess with the player for hours upon hours, but its tawdry reward makes the mental masochism all the less worthwhile. Unlike the other games in this list, Desert Bus is objectively unfun, boring, and is essentially nothing more than an exercise in unadulterated tedium at the sadistic amusement of Penn and Teller. Gee, can’t understand why such a gem was never officially released.
There is a glimmer of decency in Desert Bus; however, as in 2007, sketch comedy troupe LoadingReadyRun produced a series of videos Desert Bus gameplay as part of a fund-raising charity event. The event, aptly named Desert Bus for Hope, has become a recurring feature of theirs for over 15 years straight and has managed to raise several million dollars…and lots of laughs…for their efforts.
Desert Bus for Hope has since become the internet’s longest running fundraising event and has garnered support from Penn and Teller themselves. Additionally, Amateur Pixels released Android and iOS versions of Desert Bus in 2011 with the proceeds also benefiting charity. So, while Desert Bus may have well-earned its place in the pantheon of glorified video game April Fools jokes, it’s undeniable that some goodness has come of its creation.
Number 2 – Super Mario Bros. – Level 8-4
It’s not easy being a plumber. What with all the Piranha Plants, Bullet Bills, Hammer Bros, Buzzy Beetles, and Goombas with which to contend. Not to mention that blasted time limit and nasty pitfalls seeming ever-present. All in the name of rescuing royalty. Lest you haven’t caught on, we’re not describing the actual vocation of being a real-world plumber, but rather the scenario laid out before our courageous plumbing pals, Mario Mario and Luigi Mario, a.k.a. the Super Mario Bros. Look, the 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie first revealed their last name as “Mario” and franchise creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, further confirmed it in 2015, so it’s canon now, you hear me?!? Canon! Don’t make me count to three.
Moving on… When Super Mario Bros. debuted on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, it nearly single-handedly revitalized what was previously considered to be an industry on life support in the post-video game crash of 1983. Outside of Japan and predominantly within the United States, video gaming had become stagnant. Sales diminished to the point where overproduced and unwanted game titles found themselves entombed in landfills. Companies like Atari, Mattel, and Coleco were on the outs, and it seems as though the once billion-dollar tech fad was forever doomed.
But across the pond, things weren’t so grim. In fact, Nintendo was celebrating continued success in the video game market with their Famicom gaming console thanks to the ongoing production of quality titles and accompanying hardware. Perhaps the most recognizable of these titles was that of Super Mario Bros. Upon their release of their Famicom for North American consumers in the form of the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES for short, Nintendo brilliantly decided to include Super Mario Bros. as the pack-in title with each new console purchased. And the rest, as they say, is history. As an incredibly high-quality and timelessly entertaining action-platformer, Super Mario Bros. immediately captured the hearts of gamers around the world, thus skyrocketing the sales of NES consoles which, in turn, resuscitated the market and marked the beginning of what would eventually be recognized as the third generation of video gaming.
Super Mario Bros. consists of eight levels, each with their own set of sub-levels, bringing the grand total to 32 official levels in all before counting glitch levels and bonus worlds. The Mario brothers set out to rescue the captured Princess Toadstool by running and jumping their way through a series of obstacles and enemies with the aid of various power-ups and shortcuts whenever possible.
All is well and straightforward until our plumbing pals reach level 8-4. When you first play through level 8-4, you might begin to ponder why this level is so incredibly long. I mean, it seems to go on forever, right? Seriously…seriously…like, what is this? Why am I not making any progress? And that timer is about to expire! And I’m dead.
Dissimilar from all prior levels in the game, 8-4 demands that the player take a very precise route to the end. If you deviate from this course, you will inevitably find yourself in a loop, doomed to replay certain sections of the level in perpetuity. Stop messing with my mind, Miyamoto! In the pre-internet, pre-strategy guide world of 1985, there was only one way to navigate this conundrum: The Game Genie, of course! Oops! No, I’m sorry…read that wrong. It’s trial and error. Trial and error is what we were looking for. No points for you.
So, wanna know a secret?
Here’s how to beat level 8-4. In the first area, the first pipe the player encounters is the pipe the player subsequently exits from in the event they take the incorrect route ahead. The next pipe leads back to the start and the following pipe after that will lead to the next area. Yay! Now, you’re in the second area where the second pipe from the one you exited from leads back to the beginning, as previously mentioned.
The floating pipe you eventually encounter leads to the next area, so do that. It’s at this point that you’ll start worrying about that time limit rapidly ticking away. Third area! Cheep Cheeps are attacking from below, but pay them no mind. The second pipe you find leads back to the start again, so don’t do that! The pipe you see after navigating the lava gap leads to an aquatic location chock full of Bloopers—and I’m not talking about all the ones I made while attempting to repeatedly narrate this part of the video at ludicrous speed.
The pipe at the conclusion of the underwater area leads to the section of level 8-4, where you will encounter the final boss, King Koopa (a.ka. Bowser). Defeating him brings our heroes’ journey to an end where he is successfully reunited with the princess. Now, just do this 8,000 more times throughout the course of all the future sequels and spin-offs and you’ll be right as rain!
Number 1 – Metal Gear Solid – Psycho Mantis Encounter
Admittedly, we would be completely remiss if we didn’t include it once again here amongst the nine games that messed with the player. When it comes to moments such as these, the Psycho Mantis encounter from the first Metal Gear Solid game set the benchmark by which all future player trolling moments of its ilk would strive. As teased earlier, there was no way Hideo Kojima’s 1998 tactical espionage action game wouldn’t make it into this list. And here it is at the number one slot.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a cardboard box for the last quarter-century, you’re probably familiar with the Metal Gear franchise to at least some degree. Following in the stealthly footsteps of the prior two games in the franchise, Metal Gear and Snakes Revenge 2: Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid finds our gruff hero in an alternate historical timeline where the Cold War continued well into and beyond the 1990s. This time, Solid Snake is ordered by his commanding officer, Colonel Roy Campbell, to infiltrate the Shadow Moses military compound in a remote part of the Alaskan Fox Archipelago region to surveil and thwart the terrorist organization known as FOXHOUND.
It would seem that FOXHOUND has been up to some unsavory activities—the likes of which include terrorism, abduction, unlawful human genome experimentation, not to mention the big-ticket item: the seizing of a towering bipedal mecha named Metal Gear REX capable of deploying nuclear armaments. The whole thing is a bloody shambles and the only one who can offer a glimmer of hope is our legendary, chain-smoking special forces protagonist.
Along the way, Snake must face-off against a host of lethal adversaries, the likes of which include Western-style gunslinger, Revolver Ocelot; the cold and calculating long-range assassin, Sniper Wolf, and the bigger-than-life, tattooed Inuit shaman, Vulcan Raven.
Each enemy is rife with their own artfully crafted lore. Each wielding their weapon of choice to profound effect. And each testing the might, fortitude, and creative problem-solving of Mr. Snake. Which brings us to Psycho Mantis.
To say that Psycho Mantis, real name: Tretij Rebenok, is an unorthodox character would be putting it laughably mild. This boss encounter is almost universally lauded as the finest in the lengthy list of bosses ever created by master game creator, Hideo Kojima. If you go into this fight expecting a straightforward fight, you will lose. If you go into this fight expecting fairness and convention, you will lose. The only way to beat Psycho Mantis is to expect the unexpected…and even if you do that, you’re still going to lose, trust me—at least for the first few attempts, at best.
Psycho Mantis will mess with you in ways never before conceived in a video game in a multitude of manners. He not only breaks the fourth wall, but he absolutely shatters it grand fashion. As a master of mind control, Psycho Mantis has no problem psychically controlling fellow compatriot, Meryl Silverburgh, prior to the onset of the impending battle. But, before the fight even gets going, Psycho Mantis displays the depths of his alleged psychic ability by reading and commenting on the contents of your PlayStation memory card, especially if they were fellow Konami titles! For example, if you had previously played Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and have that game’s data on your card, Psycho Mantis will exclaim “I see you like Castlevania.” Or if you had Suikoden, he would remark “You enjoy role-playing games.” In retrospect, it's a simple trick, but it’s admittedly unsettling when first experienced by the player.
Psycho Mantis further demonstrates his abilities by promoting the player to place their PlayStation controller on the floor. He then “psychically” makes it move and dance across the floor. Of course, this is achieved by activating the controller’s vibration mechanic, but it’s innovative and creepy, nonetheless. Shortly thereafter, the real fight begins, and this is when Psycho Mantis’ abilities morph from innocuous party tricks to lethal tactics.
Perhaps inspiring the player trolling tactic mentioned previously with Batman: Arkham Asylum, it’s at this point when Metal Gear Solid tricks the player into thinking the game has crashed or disconnected by flashing a black screen with the word “HIDEO” in the top-right corner, similar to the way in which older TVs would display the word “VIDEO” as a warning that they lost their video signal. Psycho Mantis proceeds to attack Snake by using his telekinesis ability to propel various projectiles from around the room. At first, Snake seems unable to retaliate because Psycho Mantis seemingly anticipates and reacts to our hero’s every move.
The entire encounter is specifically designed to mess with the player in ways that make the whole affair seem hopeless…at first. It’s only after you recall how your enemy only appears to be able to influence your controller in the Player One port that it eventually dawns on you that switching your controller to the Player Two port subsequently nullifies Psycho Mantis’ mental influence over you.
It’s at this point when you’re able to proceed as normal and fight Psycho Mantis on an even playing field. The whole Psycho Mantis segment is equal parts brilliant, hilarious, scary, tense, frustrating, creative, and ultimately rewarding. It transcends all expectations for first-time gamers and has rightfully earned its place in the annals of unique video gaming moments. Describing this visceral experience doesn’t do it justice, so you’re hereby instructed to pop in a copy of Metal Gear Solid and play it for yourself. We absolutely promise you won’t be disappointed…though you may have trouble sleeping for the next few nights. It’ll wear off after a while, trust us.
Feeling trolled enough now? Feeling adequately messed with? No? Well, you can always go out and play some of these titles for yourself…except Desert Bus…don’t play Desert Bus. In the meantime, I’m Brian ‘CIVICMINDED’ Lesyk from HNIC.