Lighten up, man
Stop me if youve heard this before: Games have lost their way. They used to have a lark. They used to be funny. Modern games are too serious with all their death and grimacing and murky shadows. Damn those killjoy shadows.
All a nonsense cliche, of course. Except sometimes its true. Some franchises just dont bring the laughs the way they used to, swapping their wacky cheats and outlandish characters for photorealism and moral questioning. Its like they grew up and matured, except without the spots and I DONT NEED TO LISTEN TO YOU, MUM. So read on to discover the games that left their silly side behind.
From this: The game that defined multiplayer shooters and left a legacy larger than George Bush and Tony Blair combined (I call them Blush), GoldenEye knew not to take itself too seriously. Shooting scientists with live ammunition making you feel guilty? Pepper them with paintball pellets instead! Paintball pellets that still kill, but never mind! Cant seem to get a headshot on that stationary guard facing the wrong way? Turn on big head mode! And miss him again! GoldenEye captured that perfect combination of genius gameplay and hilarious cheats, deservedly assuring its place in gaming lore.
To this: In 2010 came the rather joyless remake of GoldenEye 007 and from then on Bond has been losing his sense of humour faster than an unemployed clown. The next game, 007 Legends, did not go down well, being panned for its shoddy gameplay and crummy AI. Though it features villains from five of the franchises most famous films, in the end it bows to the gun-totin, flag-wavin stab-your-guts-out-with-a-rusty-screwdriver behemoth that is Call of Duty. The war blockbuster left its indelible skidmark on this Bond flop, with the developers sacrificing all that makes 007 great in an attempt to cash in on the blow-em-up bandwagon. In the end 007 Legends was just a poor imitation, and without a paintball smear in sight.
From this: Perhaps not the first game youd think of to fit this category, but bear with me here. The original Baldurs Gate featured all manner of comical characters and items, from talking chickens and exploding ogres to the tragicomic elven mage Xan and the Girdle of Femininity and Masculinity, a belt that instantly changed the users sex. And lets not forget Minsc, a possibly insane ranger with a companion he believes is a miniature giant space hamster. Yeah, lets make that definitely insane.
To this: The second game sadly features less of the laughter and more of the brutal stabbing. Theres live bodily experimentation, torture, bodily experimentation, death, emotional distress, bodily experimentation, and possible vivisection (i.e. bodily experimentation). All a barrel of laughs, then!
Quest for Glory
From this: Who would have thought becoming a hero would be so funny? Try lockpicking your own nose and you either successfully unlock it or prod your brain, killing yourself. Telling your character to put down lamp will result in a hail of insults aimed at the unfortunate lantern. Its an entertaining quest for the ultimate reward, like working jokes about your boss into articles about funny games that went serious.
To this: Sierras adventure franchise was renowned for its humour, and that survived from beginning to end. But as the series progressed the plotlines became darker, with Quest for Glory IV being the most depressing. It resulted in characters dying, being freed and then dying, dying to save someone else, being reunited only in death, and generally all having a miserable old time. The puns remain, but its a bit like telling jokes at your grandmothers funeral: they cant take away the pain of loss, as only alcohol can do that.
From this: Right from the off, when the booming voice beats you into submission and tells you that it most certainly is in the game, youd be forgiven for thinking that everything about FIFA is SUPER SERIOUS. But it was not always so. Whether it was alien abductions, lightning strikes or radioactive poisoning, early versions of the game allowed you to mess with the players in ways unimaginable today. And the game is weaker now without these toys--how many players would request a pay increase when you have lightning at your fingertips? Im looking at you, Mr Rooney.
To this: To see how far the franchise has changed, you need only look at its announcement at this years E3 conference. Some of the key selling points of FIFA 15 included boots making marks on the pitch, animated advertising billboards and--wait for it--corner flags that move when struck by the ball [pause for applause]. No easter eggs, no secrets, and certainly no nuclear disaster-based cheats. The series has become so serious that it cant even add it a little death here or a little abduction there. Footballs not just about scoring goals and sleeping with your teammates wife, guys.
Call of Duty
From this: Early Call of Duty games knew how to have a laugh and distract you from the relentless death and face-stamping. Finest Hour, for example, was packed full of easter eggs, most of them utterly bizarre. Players could stumble upon explosive bouncing teddy bears, a UFO hidden inside a gigantic apple and even a secret dance party featuring German and American officers. So at least when you died you went down laughing. Or screaming in agony, whichever.
To this: Since those heady days, Call of Duty seems to have swung hard in the opposite direction. Nowadays the games contain scenes so graphic and controversial that gamers can opt out of playing them (No Russian in Modern Warfare 2), and weapons so serious they threaten to blow the planet to pieces (ODIN in Ghosts). The detonating teddy bears have been replaced by sticky bombs and killer RC cars. Sounds to me like giant apples no longer seem like viable weapons to CoD developers. Pff, more fool them.
Sonic the Hedgehog
From this: A bright blue mammal of some description (calling him a hedgehog is stretching it) who races around absurd levels at ridiculous speeds, collecting floating golden rings that disappear into the ether when he touches them. Hes either on drugs or dreaming, but no one questioned any of that. Why would they? Sonic was weird and he was proud of it, even if he was probably running around in some kind of demonic roid rage.
To this: All thats changed with the upcoming Sonic Boom. Sonic and his colourful chums now sport fetching scarves, and athletic tape around their wrists. Their head, feet, and hand proportions have been tweaked as well. Its almost as if the developers felt Sonic and co looked too unrealistic before. But old Sonic wouldnt have cared about looking like a person who wears clothes, he would have flaunted his weird, blue nakedness and shunned the world of sensible garments. Or sold them for more speed.
From this: What is it about mammals and serious drug abuse? First Sonic, now the trippy LSD-haze of Star Fox on the SNES. The game contains an alternate ending level called Out of this Dimension, which sees you floating through a bizarre space region filled with shape-shifting planets and classical music to confront a missile-firing slot machine. Its so damn insane you wonder how it ever made it into the game, but Im glad it did. What else would teach me the evils of gambling? Certainly not the impending repossession of my house.
To this: Its hard to see such a suspect level being repeated today, and so far theres not been a peep about any drug-themed levels in the upcoming Star Fox game for the Wii U (so far, that is). The storyline of the last game in the series (not including Star Fox 64 3D, a remake) got all heavy with its tale of Fox McClouds frustrated pursuit of love. And as we all know, love is all pain and no fun. Better to stick to gambling and drugs, they never take the kids and file for divorce and leave me all alone in my empty house that will soon be taken away. Ahem.
From this: Myths abound when it comes to so-called secret Nazi technology, but theres one thing the conspiracy theorists forgot: Mecha Hitler. Luckily Wolfenstein 3D didnt, so when youre done navigating his secret maze lair and killing his floaty fire priests, out pops old Adolf in a giant robotic suit. That he spends most of his time stomping around and glaring at you rather than actually shooting is unimportant when youre rewriting history in the most ridiculous way possible.
To this: The Nazi pantomime is still there in Wolfenstein: The New Order, with robot dogs and giant mechas in abundance, but somethings missing. Cant quite put my finger on it. Could be Mecha Hitler. Worse, theres no true replacement. No Robo Himmler or Cyber Goebbels. Not even Bionic Speer. Very disappointing.
Funny old world
Its not all bad. Some games like Shadow Hearts went the opposite way and became funnier over time. Titles like GTA and Saints Row continue to ensure that laps and controllers across the land maintain a healthy coating of spat-out beverage. So if there are any you think we missed, be sure to let us know in the comments!