Death is inevitable. Eventually, the Grim Reaper will catch up to all of us and end our lives. The Angel of Death also lurks in the gaming world, creeping up and waiting for the right moment to strike our heroic characters and put and end to their amazing adventures. Through the years, different games have come up with distinct ways to bring heroes to their demise, and some of those traps have been implemented in awfully devilish manners. Some people go down in awesome fashion, others leave this world in a not so glorious sighting. Welcome to a world of pain, frustration and tears as we look at some of the most annoying ways in which videogames can kill your virtual self.
Guilty as Charged: Mario sidescrollers
Everyone knows that the level design of early Mario games is downright brilliant, but it is not widely known that their mastery goes down to a nearly subconscious level. After spending many hours playing those games, it is only natural that players will develop skills that far exceed the challenge offered by the game’s early levels, and it is at that point where arrogance can – and will – turn against players.
More often than not, over gaps that can be easily surpassed with one jump, an apparently innocent Paratroopa will appear. Make no mistake, though: that green fellow is a killing machine. Either out of plain boredom, or to gain coolness points with whoever is watching us play, we will be strangely compelled to use those evil turtles as platforms to increase the awesomeness of our jumps, taking an unnecessary risk and occasionally turning an easy jump into a deeply embarrassing situation.
Guilty as Charged: Games featuring zombies
Zombies are a pretty lame enemy when one really thinks about it. They are ridiculously slow, and are somehow always willing to let their presence be known by making creepy noises, which while very effective in scaring players to death, are not exactly a good habit when one’s goal is to kill. Still, zombies keep being chosen as the primary enemy on at least one third of the games out there, and – even more surprisingly – the number of victims is very high.
The answer to this seemingly inconsistent equation is the great zombie wave. On the most unpleasant moments, when players are locked in a room with only one way out, zombies will find a way to storm into it from every single possible direction in an overwhelming attack. Their number is usually so big, and their strategy so cheap, that one will generally have no option but sit and watch as the character gets attacked every 5 seconds, giving players no chance whatsoever to fight for their lives.
Guilty as Charged: Sonic games
Gaming heroes usually have the amazing ability to stay underwater for long periods of time, even if their bodies are not biologically built to endure such a hostile environment. Mario did it successfully on his 2-D years, but his greatest rival gave players major headaches whenever water bodies came into play in one of his games’ levels. Sonic does not know how to swim; instead, the weird physics of his body make him behave, when underwater, like a very heavy rock would if it created legs all of a sudden.
His submarine slowness, and the fact that his lungs aren’t exactly big make up for some of the most annoying situations one could encounter on a videogame, as players struggle to adapt to the different physics while desperately looking for a source of fresh air. That is the reason why water-based sections have often been used as punishment for mistimed jumps on Sonic games for many years; and what an awful punishment that is.
Guilty as Charged: Sonic games
Sonic games are guilty of yet another evil way to bring gamers down: cunningly placed enemies that sit on zones, loops, and straightaways that invite players to speed like there is no tomorrow. After a section of slow-paced platforming that demands careful jumps comes an area that is seemingly free of baddies, and it is only natural that players allured to use the amazing legs the hedgehog has as if they were a rocket engines strapped to the back of a gravity racer.
Unfortunately, the thrill and the excitement die down as soon as all that forward motion stops gamers from spotting obstacles in the way. Suddenly, an insignificant enemy appears like a blur on the screen and Sonic’s momentum is instantly replaced by mad frustration. In the best case scenario, players will have plenty of rings to spare, which might allow them to survive such encounter; if that is not the case, though, a precious life will likely be lost.
Guilty as Charged: Mega Man games
If there is a franchise that has more evil twisted ways to murder players than one can possibly count, it is probably Mega Man. In fact, it would not be surprising if Capcom housed a special “Department of Devilishness” assigned to create and catalog cruel ways through which the blue bomber can be stopped, only to then implement those on future Mega Man releases. The worst of all those mean creations is probably the pit-lurking robots that are ready to spring out of nowhere and stop players as they jump over a gap.
They appear and go away without a warning, and what looks like just another bottomless pit is actually the most frustrating trap in any videogame out there. To make matters worse, Capcom has been invariably smart enough to place a sequence of those pits right in the beginning of the stage and another one close to the boss. It is a fine attempt to make players forget to approach jumps over pits carefully only to fall victim to those robots more than twice on the same stage, and it always works, regardless of how many times one has gone through the experience.
Guilty as Charged: Games with motion-sensitive explosive devices
It is the single most embarrassing situation someone can face while playing a videogame, and – even though it has happened to almost everyone – nobody is even close to willing to admit that it has happened to them. Place a mine somewhere on the battlefield, walk around for a while shooting enemies down, and forget all about the location of that explosive device.
Five minutes later, as they hear a nearby explosion coming out of nowhere, players will accidentally find out that nobody has fallen victim to what initially seemed like a well-placed trap, except for themselves, of course. Congratulations, you have just stepped on your own mine, fail to pretend it is not yours and you will be the subject of jokes for months to come.
Guilty as Charged: Menu-based RPGs
RPGs are full of boss battles that last longer than half an hour, most of which require flawless strategies and precise actions at all times during the battles. Therefore, making a mistake could be the difference between success and total failure. Things can get rather infuriating when that slip up comes from simple situations like not being powerful enough to beat an enemy. However, frustration can be taken to a whole new level when those defeats come from mistakenly picking wrong options out of the battle menu.
The boss has a clear weakness to water, but as both of you are on the fringe of defeat you press the confirmation button when the cursor is pointing to an ineffective thunderstorm; or you simply “choose” to make use of your antidote when you should have actually used a potion to recover some of your health. Make those mistakes and watch your character be crushed by a deadly blow, wasting thirty minutes of your life on a battle decided by a silly menu.
Guilty as Charged: Pokémon games
Pokémon have many different abilities, but putting adversaries to sleep has got to rank as the most annoying one. Sure, those attacks have a considerably slow chance of hitting, but as Murphy would have said: if a Pokémon that is much weaker than yours has a chance to go on a streak of successful hypnosis making your creature sleep for more than thirty rounds as it drains your Pokémon’s energy little by little, it will probably happen.
After that, all that one can do is sit back and helplessly witness a mighty and nearly scientifically trained monster be defeated by an insignificant creature that decided to meet the player on his lucky day.