Sugar, spice, and OH GOD WHY
It's easy to get caught up in all the harmless whimsy of light-hearted games. After all, there's nothing intrinsically creepy about rainbows, smiling suns, and dancing flowers. But our recent investigations into the Mushroom Kingdom revealed some pretty disturbing facts, and we even discovered some downright terrifying things about the Pokemon universe. If these two bastions of carefree happiness are tainted with such horrors, then what other easygoing games might be inflicted with the seeds of terror? We did some more digging to unearth the darkest secrets of games with sugary outer coatings that hide a liquid evil core.
Some games are straight up adorable, while others, like Animal Crossing, are filled with so much cuteness that they become unsettling. Plus, we just don't trust anyone who'd willingly move to a village inhabited solely by anthropomorphic animals. Especially when those animals include the scream-happy Mr. Resetti or the crooked shopkeeper Tom Nook.
This expressionless Tanuki (basically a raccoon) is driven by greed, as he holds a monopoly over all commerce. Denizens of Animal Crossing are forced to do business with him, and their fixed, always-present smiles are mere facades meant to hide their loathing for Nook's shady dealings. The world of Animal Crossing is basically the woodland creature version of The Stepford Wives, where everyone is impossibly happy in their shallow-but-perfect lives. The sad truth is, those lives mainly consist of completing mundane tasks and building houses with basements full of plants, products, and wiggling, living fire hydrants.
Kirby's Dream Land
At first glance, planet Pop Star might seem like an awesome place to live. It's shaped like a star, has some truly beautiful scenery, and is home to some unbearably adorable creatures. Seriously--the king of Dream Land is a friggin' penguin that carries a mallet and wears a Santa hat! But Pop Star has some major problems. First, King Dedede is clinically depressed and quite possibly insane. He's constantly getting "possessed" by evil and trying to get his subjects to like him through the most inane means possible. Remember that time he stole all the food in Dream Land? Residents began to starve--who knows how many died because of the manufactured famine?
And then there's Kirby, an organic ball of fluff that's actually quite horrifying by nature. He inhales whatever or whomever he pleases, often completely ingesting his prey in seconds. Then, through some sort of demonic magic, he absorbs the essence of every being he consumes, adopting their characteristics like some kind of vampiric doppelganger. How many of these vile creatures exist? And what happens when one gets pissed off and consumes all of Pop Star--nay, the entire universe? Nothing would stop its insatiable hunger. Nothing.
Few games are as wacky and carefree as those in the Katamari series. Its delightfully aloof King of All Cosmos is a hilarious character, and, as it turns out, rolling a ball around to gather items and increase its size is a surprisingly goofy treat. But imagine how terrifying it must be to live on any planet within the King's cosmic reach.
We're talking about a god with a tendency to destroy everything he touches. Just look at Katamari Damacy, where the King went binge drinking, blacked out, and accidentally annihilated every star in the galaxy. To add insult to injury, his "solution" was to send his own son to nearby planets with an all-absorbing katamari ball and tasking him with rolling over everything in sight. These balls grow from insect-sized spheres to city-devouring forces of destruction in a span of minutes. If you get touched by a Katamari ball, you're pretty much dead. The weight of the ball will probably kill you outright, but if it doesn't, you're certain to meet your demise once the finished Katamari is launched into space to replace one of the stars the King had shattered in his drunkenness.
The first rule of Flight Club is you better give a damn about flying planes, because that's all you can do in the world of Pilotwings. Seriously, think about it. Does anyone in that universe do anything that's not related to aircraft? No. Ever dreamed of opening up your own business? Unless that business involves soaring through magical sky loops and earning pilot licenses, you're out of luck. Scared of heights? You literally have no future. Born blind? Sorry, there are no disability laws for anyone who can't fly, you worthless societal leach.
Today's economy is a tough one, to be sure, but it's nothing compared to that of a world where the only career choice is "pilot." And what happened to all those who can't fly? Our guess is they're liquified and used as biofuel for all those planes. The Pilotwings economy is rigged--it promotes conformity while annihilating any attempts at dissolution. As for those who dare deviate from the system...well, let's just say their ambition is what feeds the puree machines.
Sonic the Hedgehog
South Island's Green Hill Zone is paradise made manifest. Palm tree leaves sway in the light breeze that flows in from the nearby ocean, while birds happily chirp overhead. On the ground, woodland creatures scurry about, and gorgeous golden rings spin as if mounted on an invisible axis, tossing glints of sunlight as they rotate. It's all so very beautiful--until you take a closer look at what's really going on.
Those woodland creatures? Those are actually malicious robots programmed to commit heinous crimes; but what makes this even more terrifying is the fact that living, breathing bunnies and birds are trapped inside said robots, probably unwillingly fueling them with their life force. What's worse, if you cross a border between South Island's many zones, you might get sucked into a "special stage," one of the most devious, mind-shattering travel deterrents created. It constantly rotates, refusing to let you gain your bearings. Which ways is up? Down? It doesn't matter, because you'll be begging to be set free--until you begin to lose yourself to the deceivingly calming music and the backdrop of green birds and blue fish that repeat forever and ever through all of eternity.
Widely regarded as one of the best platformers of this console generation, Rayman Origins charmed gamers in droves with its vibrant, dream-like world. While running around and stomping out Darktoons is all good fun, Rayman and Globox have to deal with some pretty heavy stuff: freeing prisoners of war captured by the evil forces from the Land of the Livid Dead.
Just play through any level and you'll hear the pleas of Electoons as they yell out "Help me!" in muffled screams. It's truly heartbreaking to see such cuddly creatures--most of which are likely malnourished--trapped in a small cage secured by heavy chains and a giant padlock. The Electoons aren't the only ones in trouble, though. Even the beautiful Nymphs have been abducted. But instead of being shoved into cramped cages, these scantily-clad ladies are actually imprisoned in the mouths of horrendous creatures. Oh, and by the way, the entire world is at the mercy of some sleeping god dude whose nightmares become reality. That kind of sucks, too.
Susumu Hori is one of the best drillers the world has ever seen--not surprising, considering he's the son of the legendary driller Taizo Hori of Dig Dug fame. Susumu and his friends are all part of the Driller team, tasked with cutting through colorful cloud-like blocks while engaging in a bit of friendly competition. And they always do so with nary a complaint. But all that candy-coated cuteness is a mere illusion meant to disguise the suicide missions upon which each member of the Driller team embarks.
In reality, Susumu and company are loyal protectors of their planet, drilling through the invading blocks of the Undergrounders before they overwhelm all life. And as they do so, they plummet deeper and deeper into the planet's crust, thousands of miles below the surface. Oxygen is scarce. They're all alone--and there's no way in hell they're climbing back out. Take notice of the images that pop up as Susumu clears each level. They portray tragedy and ruin: Entire subway trains smashed by blocks; automobiles crumpled and inoperable. And as the team plows its way into oblivion, the inhabitants of the world above remain oblivious to their sacrifice. Tragic.
These are but a few of the harsh realities that inhabit unassuming games. But surely there are some we've missed. Have you played any other games that seem cute or innocent on the surface, but are actually pretty messed up when you think about them? If so, let us know in the comments below.