"Don't worry, we won't hurt you"
We've grown alarmingly accustomed to killing animals in video games. Like Nazis, zombies, and aliens they seem to be 'fair game', even built into certain RPG systems and side-quests. And it's not just creatures with pointy teeth and a primal desire to ingest your character - it's the rather cute, harmless beasts too. Hey, nature's cruel, I guess.
Still, I can't help but feel uneasy when I'm air-assassinating a rabbit in Black Flag, or skinning yet another young deer to build a slightly larger arrow quiver in Tomb Raider. Feels like I've 'gone beyond' the realm of survival into something a little darker. So, as part of my therapy (just kidding) here are 11 of the cutest animals that we've all hunted - the ones that made us all feel a little guilty when we shot them in the face at 700 rounds-per-minute.
Deer (Tomb Raider)
"I'm only doing it to survive," insists Lara, as she mops up the last of her venison burger with a piece of bread. "Wow - I am full. Plus, I mean, I'd never have gotten through that last boss fight without my rabbit-skin coat with leather lining. Ok, so I left it in my back-pack the whole time. It's so cosy and luxu... wait... did you hear that? Is that a monkey? I only need one more of those to complete my new hat. Be right back."
Pigs and boar (Far Cry 3)
Ok, vegetarians aside, we eat bacon because it's delicious. We farm pigs and kill them in a humane manner. That's life. However, when we say 'humane' that doesn't usually include chasing pigs around a tropical island with an RPG or machine-gunning wild boar in the snout. Sure, the boar can play rough, but don't you just feel a tiny pang of guilt when you're barbecuing a random, minding-it's-own-business pig with a military grade flame-thrower?
Ducks (Duck Hunt)
When you think about it, Duck Hunt is pretty sinister for a NES game. You're using a gun-shaped peripheral to indiscriminately kill wildlife, while your pet dog proudly holds your trophies aloft. Again, ducks are just something human beings eat, so it's tough to be too critical of Duck Hunt... even if its virtual fowl are comically cute.
Duiker (Cabella's Dangerous Hunts)
Yeah, you knew Cabella's was going to be in this feature. Here it is. While most of the beasts you spend hours in a bush trying to kill are genuinely fierce predators, some definitely aren't. Case in point: the duiker. Here's the duiker's Wikipedia entry, in case you've never heard of them, which speaks of their "rarity and interspersed population". Hmm... not really a trophy to brag about is it? Killed one of these in a Cabella's game have you? Well done you.
Beaver (Assassin's Creed 3)
Who here air-assassinated a beaver in Assassin's Creed 3? Hands up. Yeah, I did too. It seemed like something so ridiculous, I just had to do it. Now I'm looking at the beaver's sad eyes, all glassy and lifeless, and all of a sudden it isn't that funny. Come on, Connor - crack a joke to lighten the mood. Oh, that's right, you don't do jokes. I wish Ezio was here...
Yoshi (Metal Gear Solid 3DS)
Fact. You can hunt Yoshi in Metal Gear Solid 3DS. Ninty's little green mascot is hidden in several places throughout the game's jungle, and Snake can track him down like the delicious little Easter Egg that he is. And as we all know, Snake can eat everything he hunts in MGS3. What does Yoshi taste like? No-one knows for sure, but I think he'd taste like turkey and After Eight mints...
Jackalope (Red Dead Redemption)
Interesting one, this. Jackalopes are mythical creatures - part jackrabbit, part antelope - rumoured to exist in the American mid-west. Naturally, Red Dead lets you bag one as part of its legendary hunting challenges. Hardly seems fair to hunt something so cute and rare. Well, by rare, we mean non-existent. Want a good chuckle? Google 'jackalope' and check out some of the amateur taxidermist efforts to recreate the beast.
Crunchy chick (Fable 2)
While crunchy chicks aren't exactly mighty prey, you still get to hunt them in Fable. In fact, one quest for the Brotherhood of Shadows sees you tracking down a bunch of chicks for, er, sinister purposes. If you decide to eat one of the crunchy chicks you find, it makes you slightly more evil. I scoffed plenty of crunchy chicks during my playthrough, which probably explains the epic horns on my head... [Insert joke about being horny for chicks here]
Baby seals (Overlord 2)
Not one to shy away from controversy, Overlord 2 features a level where you travel to the arctic to club a few baby seals. Wait, WHAT!? Yup, this totally happens, and it's something that raised eyebrows high at animal welfare groups all over the globe. I've done my fair share of shitty things in games, but even this troubled my rusty moral compass.
Chubby Spiderants (Borderlands 2)
If you're wondering, Borderlands 2 occasionally throws up a 'chubby' version of its standard beasts. The cutest by far is the chubby Spiderant, that crawls slowly around wishing it could fit into skinny jeans and drink Pepsi Max with hot girls, like all the cool Spiderants on TV. You even get an Achievement / Trophy for finding and killing a chubby creature. It assuages the guilt. A little.
Tanooki (Mario Kills Tanooki)
Ok, so I'm throwing a slight curve-ball to end this feature. The game Mario Kills Tanooki, which I won't link to, was created by PETA to draw attention to the fact that Mario dresses up as a Tanooki in SMB3 (and in several games since). Quite how PETA made the leap from 'dressing up like a tanooki' to 'hunting and skinning them for sport' remains unclear. Still, didn't stop them from creating a game where a skinned Tanooki chases Mario to try and get its fur back. I wouldn't recommend it.
Well, there you have it - 11 insanely cute animals that games ask us to hunt. Don't know about you, but reading this list makes me want to become vegetarian. Well, a vegetarian who eat fish. And bacon. And burgers. Oh sod it I've learned nothing. Have you? Let me know below.
While you're here, why not check out some other fine GamesRadar features. Here's 25 Amazing Things We Did In Assassin's Creed Black Flag. Alternatively, here's our Red Dead Redemption Hunting Guide because... well, yeah.