Why does he wear the mask!?
Nobody would brand you a freak for hiding your face behind a vacant, macabre mask on Halloween night. But what about those disturbed individuals who wear a mask for the other 364 days of the year? What kind of psychological turmoil could compel them to obscure their faces so vehemently? Call us sheltered, but it seems to us that no mentally stable person could stand reducing their appearance to a hollow, lifeless expression at all times.
Were switching things up this spooky holiday season, as we delve past the masks and into the minds of some of gamings most mysterious, unknowable characters. Super villains and pop culture icons are off limits--were honing in on the masked maniacs whose origins lie in video games. Join us as we uncover what drives these walking anomalies to keep their visage perpetually hidden, no matter the price to their sanity.
Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid)
The boss who enabled one of the most memorable moments of Metal Gear Solid has led a rough life. As the gauntest member of FOXHOUND, he uses his telekinesis to read thoughts and manipulate foes--a supernatural ability he discovered as a child when his mental powers burned his entire village to the ground, melting the majority of his face in the process. He attempted to use these mind-control capabilities for good, aiding the FBI in criminal investigations. Unfortunately, probing the mind of a serial killer grafted a psychotic personality onto Mantis, causing him to develop a bitter hatred for all of humanity.
But why does he wear the mask? To protect his mind and conceal his gruesomely deformed face. Mantis sees his gas mask as a barrier, one that blocks out the thoughts of others from seeping into his brain. Hes also repulsed by the sight of himself, on account of the aforementioned face-melting incident. Now that we think of it, we feel really bad for the guy, even if he did try to make Meryl kill herself.
Sweet Tooth (Twisted Metal)
If you see Sweet Tooths flame-headed, viciously grinning mask, its already too late to run for your life. This psychotic, serial-killing clown has taken many forms during his car combat franchises long history: Twisted Metal 3 painted him as a laughably unintimidating circus freak, while Twisted Metal: Black explained his burning cranium as a curse placed by the fanatic Preacher to punish him for his countless sins. Whether inside his trademark ice cream truck gunning down opponents, or slaughtering innocents with a knife in hand, Sweet Tooths horrific deeds have no doubt evoked coulrophobia in many a PlayStation owner.
But why does he wear the mask? To allow his murderous persona to assume control. Both Twisted Metal 2 and the 2012 reboot depict Sweet Tooth as a dominant personality, dubbed Needles, inside the mind of Marcus Kane, a deeply disturbed ice cream man. Upon donning the mask, the Marcus personality ceases to exist, and the ruthless killer Needles takes over both his body and truck.
Dr. Faust (Guilty Gear)
The doctor is in, and hes patently insane. This nine-foot-tall maniac didnt always wear a paper bag over his noggin, though. Before losing most of his marbles, he was Dr. Baldhead, a genius physician renowned for his medical prowess and healing power. But when a little girl mysteriously died during one of his operations, he blamed himself and was consumed by guilt. That guilt grew into full-on madness, spurring Baldhead to take up a gigantic scalpel and murder strangers for seemingly no reason.
But why does he wear the mask? To atone for his sins and reform his identity. After a visit from the ghost of the girl who died under his care, who explained that her death wasnt his fault, Faust shed the serial killer persona of Baldhead and endeavored to save lives instead of ending them. From then on, his moves took on a more comedic tone, and he somehow developed powers of teleportation. The lesson here, kids, is that wearing a paper bag over your head builds character.
Darth Nihilus (Knights of the Old Republic II)
Millennia before Darth Vader was terrorizing a galaxy far, far away, Darth Nihilus was the masked Sith Lord to fear. You dont become a master of the Dark Side by leading a normal, not-riddled-with-misery life--Nihilus was one of the only survivors of a planet-destroying weapon of death called the Mass Shadow Generator. Everything he knew and loved was destroyed; with nothing left to live for, he quickly succumbed to the afflictions of exposure to mass shadow. This corruptive force imbued him with the power to suck the very life out of those around him, turning him into a sort of eternally starving Force-vampire that would eventually label himself the Lord of Hunger.
But why does he wear the mask? To preserve a physical form. Nihilus human body was consumed by his incessant feeding on the Force, so to prevent being absorbed into the aether, Nihilus bound his consciousness to his robes and mask. The spooky, skull-like mask acts as a tether for Nihilus to continue satisfying his destructive thirst for power on our plane of existence.
Majora (The Legend of Zelda: Majoras Mask)
In a game that essentially revolves around various masks, Majoras stands out as the most memorable. The only sentient mask on this list is also one of the most creepily bizarre-looking. Those piercing eyes and the spiked heart shape contain a malicious force, capable of controlling anyone unfortunate enough to put on the mask (as the poor Skull Kid found out). With the power to yank the moon out of orbit and an insane, inexplicable craving to consume and destroy everything around it, this is definitely one of the most fearsome and disturbing enemies that Links ever faced.
But why does he wear the mask? To ensnare people into becoming its puppet. Majoras essence is fused directly into the mask, which will only activate once it finds a face and mind to subjugate. When amongst the wares of the creepy merchant known as the Happy Mask Salesman, its practically a disaster waiting to happen.
Shy Guy (Super Mario Bros.)
With a diminutive stature and a blank-faced mask, its likely that Shy Guy is as unpopular with the ladies as his name implies. Though he (and his multi-colored robe-wearing ilk) eventually defected to the Bowser and Koopa camps, his origins lie in the original Doki Doki Panic, also known as Super Mario Bros. 2. Hes rather passive in his opposition to Mario, Yoshi, and company, but theres power in numbers, and taking on an army of Shy Guys has proven difficult in the past. When hes not pacing back and forth on grassy platforms, you might find him on the tennis courts or playing a rousting round of Mario Party.
But why does he wear the mask? To hide his hideous face, it would appear. Think about it: Shy Guys were once minions of King Wart, who mightve afflicted them with some skin-destroying frog disease that made them ashamed to show their faces. Plus, when Luigi is the sole witness to Shy Guys mask falling off at the end of Mario Power Tennis, hes frozen in a state of catatonic terror. That doesnt bode well for Shy Guys physical appearance.
Chainsaw-wielding maniacs who wear flayed skin over their faces are guaranteed terrifying; just ask Leatherface. But severed-swine-headed Piggsy ups the ante in so many revolting ways--namely, that he chases around protagonist James Earl Cash in the nude, letting his disgusting dong flap in the wind as he swings his chainsaw with an animalistic fury. Less of a human being and more of a murderous pet to main villain and snuff film director Lionel Starkweather, hearing his porcine squeals sends chills up our spine every time.
But why does he wear the mask? To shed his last vestiges of humanity and go full-on primal predator. Piggsy was likely a vicious freak when Starkweather found him, but being force-fed human flesh while chained up in Starkweathers attic couldnt have helped much. Perhaps covering his face in pig carcass lets Piggsy detach himself from any guilt brought on by his horrendous killings.
MASK de smith (Killer7)
As one of the seven personalities in the Smith Syndicate, MASK here is a lamb among lions. Unlike the other crazed and/or vicious master assassins on the team, he has a gentler demeanor and always stays cool under pressure. Thats probably because hes packing dual M79 grenade launchers, which he uses with impunity to blast those creepy Heaven Smiles into smithereens. Thanks to lucha libre expertise gained in his previous life, MASK doesnt rely on his powerful armaments, sometimes opting to suplex enemies to spice things up. He can also headbutt an incoming bullet out of the air--essentially what were trying to say is that MASK is a marvel of a man.
But why does he wear the mask? To take away the possibility of ever feeling exposed. MASKs first life came to a close when he was murdered while taking a shower, sans his luchadore mask or clothing of any kind. To compensate for the naked vulnerability of his unfortunate death, MASK stays masked to maintain a sense of readiness for the dangers that will inevitably come his way. That also means that he would get along great with Arrested Development's Tobias Funke, seeing as they're both never-nudes.
Kabal (Mortal Kombat)
Looking vaguely like Darth Vader with long hair and a trench coat, this speedy combatant is so ugly that merely gazing at his visage qualifies as a Fatality. Kabal could be thought of as a rare instance of chaotic neutral in the MK universe, seeing as hes sided with some of the realms most courageous heroes and notorious villains. His background as part of the Black Dragon clan (which Kano also hails from) explains his vicious fighting style, slicing up opponents with his twin hookswords, blasting them with purple gas, and running circles around them with his array of dash attacks.
But why does he wear the mask? To live. A near-fatal surprise attack by Shao Kahns death squads left Kabals face ruined; Hes now only capable of breathing with the help of his respirator. The mask also doubles as a cover for his ghoulish appearance, which can literally scare weakened opponents souls out of their body.
Pyro (Team Fortress 2)
The Pyros motivations for charbroiling human flesh have long been shrouded in mystery, though our chance to Meet the Pyro did reveal a delightful twist to all the death-dealing. Though the poker-faced gas mask protects the Pyro from muscle-melting flames, it traps all expressive emotions save for victory shouts, in a game known for its vividly animated characters. To know the Pyro is to know a stone-cold killer who revels in cooked corpses, muttering gibberish with a homemade flamethrower held high.
But why does he wear the mask? Or do you mean, why does she wear the mask? The Pyros true gender is one of PC gamings hotly debated rumors, with nothing definitive backing any one side. Valves not one to stamp out a wildfire rumor, so its constantly teased leads like a suspiciously flowered purse in the team locker rooms, and random use of gendered pronouns to describe him/her. If the Pyro is female, then the mask no doubt serves to protect her identity Mulan-style as she wages war on an exclusively male battlefield.
Zant (The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess)
Whether you know him as the King of Twilight or the King of Shadows, Zant is not to be trifled with. When he was passed up to be the heir to the Twili races royalty in favor of Midna, Zant became consumed by covetous rage. After being bestowed with powers from a figure he mistakes as a god, he transformed Midna into a pixie-like creature, and set his sights on conquering Hyrule and the World of Light.
But why does he wear the mask? To maintain a sense of superiority. As Link and the player eventually find out, Zant is far less calm and collected than his masks placid expression would imply. Without it, he reverts to a child-like state of helplessness, throwing pitiful tantrums like a wailing toddler and serving as a mere pawn for larger schemes. So much for maintaining appearances in the hopes of intimidating Link.
Meta Knight (Kirbys Adventure)
With a shadowy reputation that surpasses even main Kirby villain King Dedede, Meta Knight is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Like Proto Man or Catwoman, Meta Knight flip-flops between ambiguous ally and adversary, helping Kirby take back Dream Land as often as he sabotages his efforts. Though his physique mirrors Kirbys, hes rarely seen without his trademark helm and golden spiked sword Galaxia. His magical Dimensional Cape only adds to his mystique, allowing him to teleport at will or morph into bat wings for some good ol gliding action.
But why does he wear the mask? To keep Kirby in the dark that the two are actually related. Meta Knight never willfully removes his mask, but hard-fought battles can sometimes damage and detach it. When we get a split-second glimpse at his true face before he Cape-warps away, its clear that Meta Knight is nearly identical to Kirby, but with blue skin instead of pink. At the very least, the two warriors are of the same genus, if not related by blood. Perhaps Meta Knight is the older brother, watchfully protecting his bright pink sibling even as he dishes out tough love.
Q (Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike)
Not to be mistaken for James Bonds gadget supplier, Q has to be one of the most mysterious playable characters of all time. A high-priority target for the CIA who only speaks in ellipses, Q has been sighted around crime scenes and disaster sites around the world, though its unclear if hes the cause behind them or just a strange, ever-watchful presence. Its even theorized that there may be multiple copies of Q roaming the globe, rocking a fedora and trench coat as they silently observe street fighters from the shadows before dash-punching into a fight.
But why does he wear the mask? Unknown. Having never been sighted without his expressionless metal mask, its uncertain if Q is even human; then again, what robot could brawl with such awkward brute strength? We desperately wish we knew more about Qs motives and origins--but that would shatter the fascinating mystery of his character.
Handsome Jack (Borderlands 2)
It takes a special kind of crazy to steal someone else's face and wear it as your own. The gaming equivalent of Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, Handsome Jack is a smarmy pretty boy who rose to control of Pandoras largest weapons manufacturer by covertly killing his way to the top. His mask mirrors his personality: A dapper faade which he can turn on to please the masses, hiding his repulsive true nature as a chauvinistic and opportunistic murderer.
But why does he wear the mask? We could just tell you--but we think you should find out for yourself by just playing the game. As our Borderlands 2 review would tell you, its absolutely worth the investment for fans of loot-happy shooters.
The mask is slipping
Turns out, there are far more reasons to don a mask beyond going door to door requesting candy. Do you have any favorite masked menaces that didnt make the list? Let us know in the comments which face-covering faades you remember most, and what strange or tragic circumstances compel them to wear their mask.
Want to spook yourself out with more Halloween-y features? Why not read our features outlining the 10 games to play on Halloween and cheap gaming Halloween costume ideas for the lazy gamer?