Today is Valentine’s Day, and you know what that means: pre-packaged romantic gestures, depressed single people and the usual round of sappy articles from gaming websites for whom holidays are a convenient substitute for actual ideas. We’re no different, having used Valentine’s as a springboard for our own custom Valentine cards, as well as pieces on gaming’s best couples and some of its worst. But Valentine’s Day is about more than just candy and flower sales; at its core, it’s about honoring a Catholic saint who was martyred in ancient Rome.
Above: Probably the guy we’re talking about
While there were several saints who went by the name Valentine, the one we’re thinking of was a priest who married Christian couples at a time when being a Christian was pretty damned illegal. After trying to convert Emperor Claudius II himself, Valentine was beaten and beheaded. And who else do we know that gets beaten and beheaded on a fairly regular basis? That’s right: videogame characters. And that’s pretty much all the justification we needed to do this.
The game: X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Wolverine may not be the greatest movie-adapted superhero game we’ve ever played, but it’s the most unexpectedly bloody, with a digitized Hugh Jackman who cuts loose from the movie’s PG-13 restrictions and just carves dudes the hell up. As Logan does his thing, blood and limbs fly everywhere in a spectacle that’s so remarkably violent as to make the film seem cartoonishly neutered by comparison.
Amidst all the severed arms, impalements and eviscerations, there’s one moment that makes XMOW particularly worth playing, and it happens in the early moments of the game. While strolling around some cliffside ruins, Logan is suddenly attacked by his natural enemy: a helicopter. Literally leaping into action, he stabs the shit out of the chopper’s fuselage, punches through its windshield and… well, this happens:
As in-game decapitations by whirring machinery go, it’s over just a little too quickly, and the purple blood on the rotor seems like an odd step back for a game that so frequently revels in dismemberment. Still, we can’t really think of any more awesome way to dispose of an enemy chopper pilot than to feed him to his own bird. If anything, this was long overdue.
The game: Mortal Kombat II
The Mortal Kombat series has always been rife with decapitations, each seemingly messier than the last. In MK’s 19 years(!!!) of existence, we’ve seen heads torn off (frequently with the spine still attached), sliced to pieces, swallowed whole, melted, burned, skeletonized, transformed into a vomited spume of femurs and bisected with razor-sharp hats. Choosing just one out of that awful mess is no easy task.
But even with this incredible wealth of gruesome decapitations to choose from, there’s one that sticks out in our minds more than any other: Johnny Cage’s spine-severing uppercut from Mortal Kombat II. Specifically this version:
That’s right: Johnny Cage, blue-eyed actor from Venice, California, is so fantastically badass that not only can he punch with enough force to knock off a grown man’s head, but he can do it three times (apparently creating a new head with each subsequent punch). We don’t know why it happens, but we do know there’s no feeling quite like brutally murdering your opponent three times in quick succession and leaving heads littered everywhere. Particularly at an arcade in 1993, back when that sort of thing was considered cool.