There are some things in life that people just know, whether they actively seek that knowledge or not. Everyone knows that Bruce Willis is a ghost, that Paul McCartney sings “Yesterday,” and that Darth Vader is Luke’s father. These things are all a given. But what about video games? What kinds of legends, facts, myths, and elements from our favorite games are so insanely popular that even those outside the gaming community are well aware of them?
I asked one hundred people of various gaming experience, from none to expert, questions about video game history, music, lore, and gameplay. The following are the top 10 most common things that people alluded or made reference to. It’s time to play Video Game Feud!
10. The Lavender Town Suicides
This was a surprising one, considering it is more of a Pokémon urban legend than a true story. If you aren’t familiar with it, the tale usually goes something like this:
In Japan 1996, after the launch of Pokémon Red and Green (but before the Red and Blue launch in NTSC and PAL regions), an eerie phenomena began to take place. A record high spike in children committing suicide was recorded, and allegedly, the cause of most of these suicides was Lavender Town, the ghost town in the very first Pokémon game. Researchers discovered that a combination of the town’s eerie purpose (a place to bury dead – not fainted – Pokémon) and its background music were the driving factor in the suicides. The music is said to contain harmful frequencies and tones that young ears were especially sensitive to. These frequencies led to children feeling sick, nauseated, and depressed. Prior to the worldwide release, this music had to be altered accordingly.
It’s true that the music was changed after the Japanese release, and it is understandable that some people may have negative feelings towards the song. Having listened to the unaltered Japanese music track myself, while it is slightly unsettling and perhaps a little hard on the ears, I’m still here. But, like all urban legends, perhaps the sick and twisted Pokémon trainer inside of each of us want it to be just a little bit true.
9. The Laugh
Cringe. Mute. Skip. Just kidding, you can’t skip this cutscene, because it’s Final Fantasy X! And why on earth would Square Enix allow you to skip a cutscene?
Now, before we dive into the scene, it has to be said that FFX is an amazing game and an absolute classic. The battle system is top notch, the visuals (especially for the time) are gorgeous, and the story is incredible and emotional. If you watch that final scene and don’t get at least a single tear in your eye, then you’re at heartless as an enemy from Kingdom Hearts. FFX is also the first Final Fantasy to feature spoken dialogue, and while that was a huge step for the series, the script and voice acting are, well, let’s just call them “Sin”ful. At no point in the game is the terrible dialogue and awkward delivery more apparent than in this classically awful scene. In attempt to cheer up a depressed Tidus, Yuna urges the protagonist to laugh out loud, even if he doesn’t feel like it. This will apparently make him feel better, but all it does is make me feel uncomfortable.
However, if you manage to get through this scene and pay attention to the feel of the game rather than the awful voice acting, you can really appreciate FFX for the gem that it is.
8. Prepare for humiliation
I gave up first-person shooter games a few years ago, and it’s time for me to make a confession. My giving them up didn’t really have anything to do with my feelings about the genre in general, or even the pervasive opinion that the Battlefield and Call of Duty franchises have turned into a simple re-hashing of the same game over and over. I actually find them quite fun, and consider them to be stunning visual achievements. So, no, I don’t think CoD deserves the bad reputation it has obtained, and the games themselves are not the reason I stopped playing.
It’s the players. And I don’t mean the ones who are so good that I can’t even breathe without getting shot. I expect that when I go online. But what I don’t expect, and cannot handle emotionally, no matter how hard I try, is getting destroyed by a rampaging 7-year old.
I am strong enough to admit that it’s a matter of pride. I’ve been playing games since 8-bit graphics were considered incredible! I’ve been playing since being able to actually save your game was a stroke of genius! There is no reason to get my arse handed to me by a child! Yet, that’s the world we live in, cruel as it may seem. I miss GoldenEye…
7. Mario is a red plumber and a dick to physics
While conducting this survey, a few Mario themes came up time and time again:
1. Mario wears red
2. Mario is a plumber
3. Mario is a douche when it comes to obeying the laws of physics.
Mario is probably the most recognizable video game character of all time, so it makes sense that his colour scheme and occupation are common knowledge. And then there is his uncanny jumping ability that would send LeBron packing with his head hung in shame. I realize that, originally, Mario was called “Jump Man,” and that’s just dandy. But if Mario is the height of an average man, it is estimated that he can jump over 35 feet in the air, with no bodily harm coming to his otherwise frail, chubby body. Come on, Mario. Either those mushrooms are seriously good stuff, or you’ve got yourself an at-home workout/training video to produce, because that vert is ridiculous.
6. E.T. + Atari = Fail
In 1982, the most influential sci-fi film since Star Wars was released, and the big wigs over at Atari saw E.T. as a potential gold mine for their increasingly popular Atari 2600 home console. A deal was struck and, in order to cash in on the upcoming ’82 holiday season, the game was quickly created and rushed to stores with only six weeks development time behind it. Atari created more E.T. units than there were actual consoles in existence, hoping that the game would be successful enough to give the 2600 a second wind. What happened next is not easy to read.
The game was an instant failure, and to this day is considered to be one of the worst video games of all time. Combined with other commercial failures, including the home version of Pac-Man, Atari found themselves at the bottom of a grave that they had dug for themselves – a $536 million dollar grave. With nobody buying E.T., and commercial retailers returning cartridges to Atari by the thousands, the now bankrupt ex-king of video games had little choice but to destroy the evidence of their failures. In 1983, truckloads of Atari cartridges were shipped to a New Mexico landfill, and subsequently destroyed and buried. It was believed that millions of games ended up in the landfill, but an Atari spokesperson confirmed a number closer to 700,000. Even still, ouch.
5. Death from above
We’ve already talked about a famously cringe-worthy Final Fantasy scene, now let’s talk about an infamously heartbreaking one.
FFVII was a groundbreaking game that helped cement the FF series’ place (and RPGs as a whole) in North American and European culture. The game’s rich story and lovable characters are the driving forces behind this PS1 classic, and fans are still clamouring for a full HD remake to this day.
In what is probably the game’s most memorable and emotional scene, Aerith (or Aeris. Whichever you prefer. But it’s Aerith) prays for the ability to use Holy magic in order to counteract Sephiroth’s plan to use the Meteor black magic. At the conclusion of her prayer, Sephiroth leaps down and drives his huge Masamune blade through Aerith’s body. She dies, the white materia bounces away, and Cloud lays her body to rest in a pool of deep water.
Aerith’s death was shocking in the most tragic of ways, and serves as the catalyst that sets the rest of the events of FFVII in motion. There are still those, ever hopeful, who believe that, despite all probability, “Aerith lives!”
4. The Konami Code
Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start
This widely known cheat code, known as the Konami Code or Contra Code, first appeared in the 1986 NES game Gradius. However, it wasn’t until 1987 that the code become as famous as it is, thanks to its inclusion in Contra. The code provided the player with 30 extra lives, an absolute necessity if you wanted to complete the game. And if Contra were made today, you certainly would get a platinum trophy for completing the game without the Contra Code, because that crap is impossible.
The Code was initally used by Konami in many of its games, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Gyruss, and NBA Give ‘N Go. However, due to its popularity among players (because honestly, who doesn’t love a good cheat code?) many game developers outside of Konami began to include it in their games as well. Notable non-Konami examples that use the Code include Assassin’s Creed III, BioShock Infinite, Borderlands 2, and Crash Bandicoot: Warped. At my last count, there were about 210 games that use the Konami code, and perhaps more.
So, if you’re struggling with a game you’re working on, or looking for some additional hidden content, try going to the main menu and throwing in the Konami Code. Who knows what kind of wild adventures you’ll end up on?
3. Nintendo ruins relationships
It’s no secret that video games can often be the cause of contention among players, and no company is more guilty of causing relationship rifts than Nintendo.
It’s one thing to get pissed off at an unseen player in an online match. That’s pretty normal and very common. But due to Nintendo’s tendency to produce great, fast-paced, couch multiplayer games, it’s not usually a nameless face that just passed you at the last possible moment on Rainbow Road. Instead, it’s your brother, sister, husband, or wife, and in a fit of uncontrollable rage, you shout out a string of expletives that would make Jordan Belfort blush, changing your relationship forever.
This is (kind of) avoidable with the setting of some ground rules and a patient attitude, but even the best of us have been guilty of this at some point. What’s Mario’s problem? He’s a dick to physics, and now he’s a dick to relationships. Probably because he can’t form a decent relationship of his own with Peach.
2. Cluck cluck, motherf…
Time for another confession. I have always loved the stories, characters, and lore of the Zelda games, but until recently, I had never really played any of them, with Hyrule Warriors being the exception. I decided to change that, and popped Ocarina of Time into my 3DS. As I strolled on up to Lon Lon Ranch, I entered a large barn full of chickens. And, despite never playing Ocarina or any Zelda game for any extended period of time, I knew there was one thing that I must not do: I must NOT attack those chickens. So what did I do? Yeah, I attacked the chickens.
The chickens will only tolerate a short beating, and if you take it too far you’ll witness a veritable hurricane of angry chickens that will relentlessly attack you until your lifeless body falls to the ground. And do you think it ends there? I don’t. The screen fades to black, but only to shield your eyes from the horror that awaits. I’m certain that the livid poultry aren’t done with you yet. They probably proceed to walk all over, peck, and scratch at your corpse with devilish pride in their eyes.
1. Ground Theme
It stands to reason that Mario would be prominent in people’s minds when asked about video game history, hence his many appearances throughout this survey. But even more well known than his outfit, his moustache, his insane jumping skills, or his relationship envy, is his theme song.
The “Ground Theme” or “Super Mario Bros. Theme,” composed by Koji Kondo, is, without a doubt, the most famous video game musical theme of all time, ahead of the “Legend of Zelda Theme, ” the “Prelude” from Final Fantasy, and other Super Mario themes. The song went on to be used in hundreds of other games, including titles outside of the Mario series.
Kondo has stated that the song was difficult to compose, undergoing an unprecedented number of revisions until it became the song that we know so well today. I remember getting my first cell phone and being ecstatic about the possibility of having this theme as my ringtone. So, to Kondo and the Super Mario Bros. team, kudos on a job well done.
What video game myths, legends, facts, or moments are your favorites? Do you have any that should have made this list? Let us know in the comments!