Are you serious?
You're all familiar with the term 'trolling', right? It's where one person says or does something deliberately controversial or contrary with the express intention of getting a reaction from someone else. It's a joke. Well, despite the fact that gamers have something of a reputation for being extremely vocal and not having a great sense of humour when it comes to games, some developers still like to have a joke at our expense. They troll us to deliberately provoke a reaction.
Here are some of the games that troll their own players most effectively. I've tried to include titles that do it deliberately, rather than games with poor design that simply appear to troll, when they're actually just broken.
GTA 5 loves to troll its own players. Loves it. On the serious end of the spectrum, the torture scene with Trevor stands out as a real sobering moment half way through the story. Until then Rockstar encourages you to have fun, to be a naughty virtual criminal, to laugh in the face of the law. Then, suddenly, all the humour disappears as you're forced to brutalise a man with little or no explanation why.
On the other end of the trolling spectrum, there lies the submarine mission that asks you to collect 30 pieces of evidence from the sea floor, to clear a stranger's reputation. It takes HOURS, as the pieces are scattered all round Los Santos. And your reward? $10. Rockstar is clearly laughing at us, and the very idea of random collectables in games. And I--for one--fell for it.
Metal Gear Solid 2
Oh, Koj--how you tease us. Metal Gear Solid 2 was one of the most highly anticipated games on the PS2, and when it finally arrived fans were delighted to be back in the boots of bearded badass Solid Snake. Or were they? Because after the prologue level, set on a tanker, which did indeed star Snake, the rest of the game forced everyone to play as new boy Raiden.
Fans were understandably upset, especially as they'd fully expected a full game with Snake following the prologue. Despite everything MGS2 is a great game in its own right, and we've since learned to love Raiden. Kojima even trolled players in MGS3. If players select the 'I like Metal Gear Solid 2' option, then before HALO jumping from the plane at the start of the game, Naked Snake wears the Raikov mask (which looks an awful lot like Raiden) to 'hide his identity' from the crew. And have a massive joke at our expense too.
Batman Arkham Asylum
Although Batman doesn't spend long trolling its players, the moments when it does are extremely well implemented. The first time you're infected with Scarecrow's gas, Arkham Asylum appears to crash and reboot itself, and it's only when you see Bats role-reversed with the Joker from the game's opening scenes that you truly realise that you're being played. Interestingly, the artifacting you see on screen is identical to what happens when your Xbox red-rings. Ouch.
After that you're kind of expecting all the Scarecrow elements, so they don't really count as 'trolling'. What definitely DOES count as trolling is the fact that Rocksteady hid a secret room within Arkham Asylum that contained blueprints for Arkham City, the subject of the next game. Nobody found it, but the developer had cleverly hidden the identity of their next game within the Asylum. Well played, chaps. Well played.
Alongside the traditional health bar, Eternal Darkness has a sanity meter. Beaten down after witnessing too many of the games scuttling nightmare creatures without performing cathartic execution kills, a low sanity rating eventually causes your character to go guano bonkers all over the place. Blood will drip down the walls, camera angles will skew, and Lost will become a worthwhile televisual experience. But at extreme levels, the game starts monkeying around with the player in the real world.
It will pretend the TV has switched off. It will simulate a deleted memory card. It will reduce or mute the sound output. The credits will roll, followed by a teaser for Eternal Darkness 2. Whole sections of the game will reset, turning out to have been hallucinations, often after putting the player through a brutal unwinnable fight. And then, later on, youll doubtless really die after not taking certain tough fights seriously. In Eternal Darkness, its hard to react accordingly, because youre never entirely sure what youre reacting to. In a way, the games cruel manipulations effectively make you troll yourself. Its a bit like The Joker, in that respect, only with fewer whimsical purple suits and more seething cosmic horror.
When hardcore Diablo fans first heard that Diablo 3 would feature rainbows, there was an outcry. Beautiful rainbows in our very dark, very serious dungeon crawler? NOT ON MY WATCH, BLIZZARD. In response to this rather knee-jerk reaction, Blizzard created and hid the world of Whimyshire within Diablo 3.
As the name suggests, Whimsyshire is a place of loveliness. A place of rainbows and teddy bears and unicorns. Getting into Whimsyshire is tough--you need to find the right items--so it's very much optional. Once there you can butcher all the fluffy inhabitants at will. It's a very bold, very brightly-coloured middle-finger from developer to player that says: "this is our game, buddy, and we'll do exactly what we want with it".
DMC: Devil May Cry
Fan reaction to the new look Dante in Ninja Theory's reboot of Devil May Cry was fierce. They hated him. This hatred was further fuelled when game director Tameem Antoniades told fans that he didn't think old Dante was cool or appealing. Much credit to Antoniades, though, he stuck to his design for new Dante while other developers like Sucker Punch were redesigning their leads (Cole from inFamous 2) to pander to fan pressure.
However, Antoniades probably went a bit far when he and fellow developers created a scene in the game where Dante crashes through a fancy-dress shop and ends up wearing a wig that makes him look like old Dante. He throws the wig away in disgust after seeing his reflection. First-class trolling, for sure, but the relatively poor sales of DMC suggest that Ninja Theory should probably have listened to the fans.
Penn and Teller's Smoke and Mirrors
This game was, sadly, never released. It was planned for the Saturn in 1995, but publisher Absolute Entertainment went bust before it could distribute the finished game. It contained a mini-game called Desert Bus, which is perhaps the ultimate example of player trolling. The aim of the mode is to drive a bus across the desert from Tuscon, Arizona to Las Vegas in Nevada--an 8 hour journey. With no checkpoints. In real time.
What's more, although the road is straight, the bus constantly veers to the right to prevent players just holding down a single button to accelerate. If the bus veers off the road, it's towed back to Tuscon IN REAL TIME. Reaching Las Vegas scores a single point, and you can score another if you choose to return to Tuscon straight away. Bravo Penn and Teller. Bravo.
Ghouls 'n Ghosts
Ah, sometimes the simplest trolls are the best. Ghouls 'n Ghosts is a legendarily tough game, and to make matters worse it works on a two-hits-and-you're-dead system. Getting through all five levels is tough. And, when you reach the final boss and defeat him the developer... tells you to go back and do it all again. Sorry.
Many games have pulled this trick, including Castlevania: Symphony of the Night--which asks you to play through the whole game again upside down, to properly finish it--but Ghouls 'n Ghosts is so bastard-hard to begin with, that being asked to start again is the cruelest of jokes. A joke at the expense of you, the player.
Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
The Assassin's Creed series has always played with the emotions of its fans. There's the giant squid Easter egg, a reference to the finger-chopping in the original game, and a cheeky claim that Ezio invented the latte--all in Assassin's Creed 2. However, it's Black Flag that trolls fans hardest.
During the Abstergo portion of the game, the player finds a list of possible locations and time periods for 'Abstergo projects'. All previous game locations are listed, along with a bunch of other places and time periods that might just be the settings for future games. Given the fact that there is always rampant speculation before the announcement of each AC game, this is clearly the developers poking fun at fans and conspiracy theorists. They're deliberately provoking debate. It's all a little pointless: we all know the next Assassin's Creed will be set in Victorian London.
Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards
Let's assume you made it past the age restriction system, which came in the form of answering trivia questions about subjects that children (and--as it turned out--anyone living outside North America) probably wouldn't know about. You were into LSL proper. The first thing you could do is approach a prostitute and have sex with her. Doing so results in game over: you caught a sexually transmitted disease.
There are loads of other cruel opportunities to lose your life in Land of the Lounge Lizards. Crossing the road--a staple in most games--sees you getting run over by a taxi. Entering the wrong street sees you getting beaten to death by a thug. It's a cruel game that delights in mocking its players. Perhaps that's why I remember it so fondly...
Well, there we have it. The games that troll their players the hardest. How many of these games have frustrated you over the years? Let us know in the comments below, or why not start a thread in our new GamesRadar forums? Just click the link in the top right of the homepage.
Want more features with games and stuff in them? Here's one about The Biggest Fan Outrages Of The Generation (opens in new tab), and here's another one, where we pretend to be Mr Darcy and Sort Of Review The DualShock 4 (opens in new tab).