Never has there been a word more abused in media than extreme. It's been this way since the '80s, when it became just one of many go-to phrases kept on standby for when a sense of excitement needed to be generated in a hurry and finesse wasn't a priority. But while 'radness' and 'tubularity' dropped out of usage during the '90s, for some reason 'extreme' has remained, particularly in games.
As Louis CK has oft pointed out, we dissipate the power of words by over-using them in non-applicable scenarios, and alas video games do that to the 'extreme' all the time. To prove the point, we've dug out an absolute raft of allegedly extreme games and held them up to staunch linguistic scrutiny. Our suggestions for improvement are also available in case they're really serious about earning the label.
Ricochet Extreme | PC | 2001
How extreme is it, really? Its a 2001 Breakout clone. A quite pretty one, as far as 12-year-old clones of 37-year-old arcade games go. But its still Breakout.
How could it be made truly extreme? The balls are actually planets, and you are an angry god playing with them for your own dark amusement. You hear the screams of whole nations every time you score a hit with the bat.
Extreme Rise of the Triad | PC | 1995
How extreme is it, really? Its an expansion pack for Rise of the Triad, which was a pretty cool and notoriously gory FPS back in its day. The new levels are a bit harder, but considering that RotT was a blood-drenched game littered with exploding corpses, execution kills, and jump-pads back in 1994, youd have needed to have gone a fair bit further than just harder in order to make an extreme version.
How could it be made truly extreme? By building the entire game out of gibs and having you shoot a gun that fires gibs and is made out of a severed arm which screams at you for the entire duration.
Mega Man Xtreme | GBC | 2000
How extreme is it, really? Its a Game Boy Color (i.e. NES-powered) remix of some levels from the SNES Mega Man X and Mega Man X 2. So actually a bit less mega than Mega Man X previously found himself. Which is basically the opposite of extreme.
How could it be made truly extreme? Given that Mega Man games exist almost solely to be hard, we can only imagine that an extreme one would have to explode in your face the instant you opened the box, whereupon it would immediately start taunting you to complete it without the hands that it has just seconds before blown off.
Baby Maker Extreme | Xbox 360 | 2010
How extreme is it, really? Its an Xbox Live Indie Games reproduction of those launch a character, see how long you can make them fly games that were all over the Internet in the 90s. But with a newborn baby being fired out of a ladys spawn-point. Extreme pelvis muscles, but pretty basic game concept.
How could it be made truly extreme? The thing is, the games title is inaccurate. Baby Launcher Extreme would make sense, but Baby Maker? Thats a different game entirely. Take the title literally, thats how you make it really extreme. And also ensure that it gets banned.
18 Wheels of Steel: Extreme Trucker | PC | 2009
How extreme is it, really? Its a truck driving sim. You drive simulated trucks. Sometimes over ice and along the edge of cliffs and stuff.
How could it be made truly extreme? By swapping the ice and snow for trampolines, filling your trailer with gas and matchboxes, and giving you a rabid hyena for a co-driver, who must be kept subdued by way of a persistent motion-controlled mini-game.
Dance Dance Revolution Extreme | PS2 | 2002
How extreme is it, really? Its Dance Dance Revolution. It has a bunch of minigames and EyeToy-related tomfoolery going on too. Otherwise, its just another Dance Dance Revolution.
How could it be made truly extreme? By having the soundtrack consist solely of Mobys 1000, replacing the visuals with a constant strobe light, and electrifying the dance pad upon the first instance of a missed beat.
Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure | multi | 2003
How extreme is it, really? Its a cut-down Tony Hawk, featuring Buzz Lightyear, Tarzan, and Simba. You know, for kids.
How could it be made truly extreme? Make it the truly adult reimagining of the Disney universes that Epic Mickey initially hinted at being. Weave a tale of darkness, lost innocence, and depravity, made all the more affecting through its juxtaposition with the previously perceived trappings of the subject matter. Make it Kingdom Hearts meets Heart of Darkness meets Saw. But you know, with skateboarding in it too.
Every Extend Extra Extreme | XBLA | 2007
How extreme is it, really? Not very. In fact its basically just the PSPs shooter/firework display simulator Every Extend Extra on the Xbox 360. But made way easier.
How could it be made truly extreme? Make it harder. Obvious really.
Nuclear War Extreme | iOS | 2012
How extreme is it, really? Its sort of like a 3D Missile Command, with the player tasked with stopping a barrage of incoming nukes from flattening Earth. So it's pretty extreme really. Though given that thats pretty much just the (admittedly already extreme) reality of normal, common-or-garden nuclear war, maybe its not.
How could it be made truly extreme? Make the Earth itself a giant nuke. And make the player shoot down the incoming nukes with more nukes.
Bloody Roar Extreme | multi | 2002
How extreme is it, really? Depends. Out of context, the idea of people transforming into slavering were-beasts while beating the crap out of each other is pretty extreme. But within the context of a fighting game series built entirely around the concept of said combat-ready were-things, the fourth entry is probably a bit too late to start shouting about extremeness.
How could it be made truly extreme? Make it about were-were-things. Yeah, you heard that right. Monsters that transform into monsters. Just imagine the kind of monster that a monster would need to turn into in order to intimidate another monster. It would have to be a really big monster.
eXtreme Sudoku | iOS | 2011
How extreme is it, really? Not very extreme at all really. Its sudoku. Its just pretentious noughts and crosses really, isnt it?
How could it be made truly extreme? By making the solution to each puzzle a dread numerological sigil, spoken in hushed whispers by druids and necromancers since The Early Times. Complete the puzzle successfully, and all the glories of the heavens are yours. Make a mistake and its chains, hooks, darkness, and a long, cramped future in Cthulhus digestive tract for all.
Antz Extreme Racing | multi | 2002
How extreme is it, really? Not at all. Its a kart racer. Based on the movie Antz. Which came out four years before the game and got instantly overshadowed by Pixars A Bugs Life. Theres a hell of a lot of brown in it, which is apt, because the game is poop.
How could it be made truly extreme? By dropping the ants and replacing them with wasps. Giant robot wasps with laser stingers, racing across a churning apocalyptic landscape of volcanoes and lightning to the sound of a heavy metal soundtrack. We would definitely buy that game.
NBA Jam Extreme | PS1 | 1996
How extreme is it, really? Not very, Its just the PS1 version of NBA Jam. So a more appropriate title would have been 'NBA Jam: Now With Polygons And A Camera That Tilts A Bit Sometimes'. Still it does go down in history as probably the only game with an officially labelled extreme button. Though it is admittedly just a slightly upgraded version of the old turbo button with a fancy name.
How could it be made truly extreme? By making the extreme button actually activate a random act of extremeness every time. Sometimes it might flip gravity, Sometimes it might turn the ball into an angry dog. Sometimes a woman in a floral dress named Julia might interrupt the game to deliver a passionate lecture about the failings of the Roosevelt administration, leaving only once one team or the other has successfully beaten her in either reasoned political debate or a bloody sabre duel.
Extreme Paintbrawl | PC | 1998
How extreme is it, really? It's a paintball game utilising the Duke Nukem 3D engine. Badly. As such it's a simulation of a simulation, and a shaky one at that. In fact it's one of the most broken games ever. So broken in fact, that it's tragi-comical. Like cynically laughing at a drunk tramp peeing himself on the bus, and then realising that youre stuck on a bus full of sloshing pee for the next 20 minutes so its not really as funny as you thought. Yeah, this game is that broken.
How could it be made truly extreme? By switching the 'ball' part for 'grenade' and the 'paint' part for 'concentrated sulphuric acid'.
Kayak Extreme | PC | 2001
How extreme is it, really? Of the two words in the games title, only one of them provides an accurate description of the games content. That word begins with 'K'.
How could it be made truly extreme? By attaching a rocket to the kayak and replacing the river with an underground lava flow. Slow down for a fraction of a second, you catch fire and die. And your mum is watching. Shes being forced to by ninjas.
Extreme Expose It! Bad Bad Doggie! | iOS | 2011
How extreme is it, really? Youd imagine from the urgency of the title and the proliferation of exclamation marks that this is a game containing some of the most dangerous, scurrilous and downright depraved behaviour ever committed by canine. Homes being wrecked. Children being eaten. Whole gangs of dogs roaming the streets, dressed up like The Warriors and intimidating old ladies back into their homes. But no. Its just Qix with some pictures of dogs being endearingly silly hidden underneath the puzzles
How could it be made truly extreme? Werewolves.
Peggle Extreme | PC | 2007
How extreme is it, really? Exactly as extreme as a version of Peggle utilising Half-Life, Team Fortress 2, and Portal-related background imagery can be.
How could it be made truly extreme? By putting it in first-person: You are the ball. And you can see from all sides at the same time. And its in 3D. Youll probably vomit.
Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball | Xbox | 2003
How extreme is it, really? DOA Extreme Beach Volleyball is a (standard, non-extreme) beach volleyball game that doesn't actually involve that much beach volleyball, concentrating instead more on various mini-games featuring large-breasted women in swimwear. So its level of gratuity is extreme, if nothing else.
How could it be made truly extreme? By dropping the volleyball excuse altogether and just making a good, old-fashioned, honest porn game that the devs clearly wanted to make.
Grandia Xtreme | PS2 | 2002
How extreme is it, really? Its a JRPG built very much around combat, level-grinding, notable difficulty boosts, and iterative repetition of dungeons. That does make it an extreme version of traditional JRPG gameplay, but being so combat-focused also makes it very light on story. Thus it's an extreme version of only 50% of the format. In purely mathematical terms, that means it breaks even at 'normal, non-extreme JRPG'.
How could it be made truly extreme? By making it the complete extreme JRPG experience. All Grandia, all the time, cranked up to a level that will make your head spin. Constant, ultra-hard combat coupled with the most talkative, emotive party characters and enemies in any game ever, conducting hundreds of thousands of lines of interactive dialogue during every moment of the game. Juggle fights while perpetually navigating deep, layered, exposition-filled conversation or lose track of absolutely anything that might be going on. And then die.
Extreme Bullrider | PC | 1999
How extreme is it, really? Its a pretty dismal bull-riding simulation' in which you waggle the mouse to stay balanced. Aside from being altogether not fun, it runs into the same problem as a few of the games on this list, in that it claims to be an extreme version of an already extreme thing but doesnt add any extra extremeness. In fact, it's so unremarkable that we couldn't even find a screenshot for it.
How could it be made truly extreme? By making the bull ride the man rather than the other way around. The challenge is to stand up for eight seconds without snapping one's spine like a cocktail stick.
Don't cross the extremes
So, have we missed any other gross disparities between claimed extremeness and actual, deeply disappointing levels of in-game extremeness? Let us know in the comments. And while we're on the subject of unintentional title-based hilarity, check out Same name, completely different game (opens in new tab) and 12 movies with the same titles as video games (that are nothing like those video games) (opens in new tab).