Draw your heart on your sleeve
Ever since games graduated from rendering pixelated plumbers to creating more and more impressive art, tattoos have made their mark on gaming history. From visual histories, to symbols bearing magical power, to ridiculous drawings that have no reason to exist, video games are rife with some of the most interesting ink you're likely to see anywhere.
With so many awesome tats programmed into just as many games, I decided to seek out the best of the bunch. While there were a ton on display and some hard choices to make, the final selection is worth immortalizing. Here we have the 19 sickest tattoos in gaming, starting with...
Edward Kenway's self-expression
Getting serious ink always demands commitment, because it is one painful procedure that is even more painful to undo. Now, imagine that level of confidence, plus knowing that your artist will be an untrained sailor operating under horribly unsanitary conditions, and then getting it done anyway. Also, there's no way of getting that tattoo of 'Mary Read 4 Eva' removed in 18th century Kingston. That's how committed Edward Kenway is to his body art, and he may be slightly insane.
Though Edward's tattoos usually aren't within full view, take on a diving or whaling mission and you can get a good look at just how inked up this guy is. You dont get an explanation for what each means, but it's easy to wager some guesses: the ship and the skull-wheel scream loyalty to the pirate life, and the crown on his shoulder could be a mark of self-rule. Also, if you look closely, the tattoo on his left shoulder appears to be an image of his wife. Aww, what a sweetie.
Ronan O'Connor's life story
If ever there was a living (or, well, dead) canvas, this man is it. The story of Ronan O'Connor's life is told in his tattoos, literally--Murdered opens with a flashback of the major events from his life, with tattoos appearing on his body to represent each one. From an ugly, flaming dollar sign etched on in his youth, to a chest-piece inspired by his late wife, to a gigantic sleeve expressing not-so-nice thoughts about his line of work, looking at Ronan's ink says a lot more about his life than talking to him ever does.
While his tattoos don't play a huge role in the game's main storyline, they effectively establish his character, and come up a lot in the diary entries from his wife scattered around Boston. Learning what each means gets her thinking about what kind of person he is and if it's worth it to be with him. If the game had been executed a bit better, might have got us thinking about the same.
Jack's body suit
If anyone on this list is likely to go full Rick Genest, it's Jack, since she's about 9/10 of the way there anyway. So tattooed that some people actually think she's wearing a shirt, Jack apparently did most, if not ALL of her art herself, making her that much more badass. If asked the right questions, she'll tell Shepard her ink symbolizes a wide swathe of things, from prisons she's escaped, to people she's killed, to times she just felt like getting a tattoo and you can fuck off. Anything more specific than that, though, is left up to speculation.
As flippant as Jack can be, body art is one of the few things she takes seriously. If Shepard pursues a relationship with her that lasts through Mass Effect 3, in place of a sex scene she'll tattoo him, making sure he can be identified if he's injured or killed in battle. That's remarkably sweet, for her.
Garcia Hotspur's promise
If the skull-faced machine gun he's toting doesn't say badass, Garcia "Fucking" Hotspur's tattoos will, intimidating and masterful things that they are. Well suited to a man who kills demons with a smile and a raised middle finger, his ink gets shown off even before his face does in the game's opening sequence. Not surprisingly, most of his tattoos seem to reflect his battle against the forces of hell, with several All-Seeing Eyes, skulls and demon horns peppered into the mix.
The one with the most plot significance, though, is the calligraphy on his neck which reads, "I would kill the world before it did you harm." This clearly refers to his girlfriend Paula, and since he spends the entirety of his journey doing just that, it's safe to say that bit of art was a good investment.
Corvo Attanos Outsider mark
Though it may not be as elaborate or obvious as some of the other designs here, the Outsider's mark on the back of Corvo Attano's hand packs a big, magical punch. Like a college girl after a night of crazy binge drinking, he wakes up with this bit of art and a vague memory of how he got it. However, unlike that college girl, Corvo's gifted with an arsenal of magical powers as a result of getting inked, including possessing a fish, stopping time, and summoning legions of hungry rats. Score!
While the design of the symbol doesn't bear any obvious significance, it takes on such importance in Corvo's world that you wouldn't know the difference. It becomes synonymous with badassery, since all of the Outsider's favorite folks get one and use it to change the world to their liking. It's even inspired some real life imitators to boot. Sadly, magic isn't included.
Rei Kurosawas demon tattoo
When it comes to sick tats, you can't forget Rei Kurosawa, cursed by a vengeful spirit and being slowly killed by parasitic body art. Haha, get it? Sick tattoo?? okay.
In constant mourning for her fianc Yuu, Rei is a shut-in who suffers immense survivor's guilt and has broken off contact with the rest of the world. Sinking deeper and deeper into self-blame, she starts having dreams about an old mansion and wakes up with a tattoo which resembles a snake and holly vines. Leafing through old books found throughout the game world shows there's some specific symbolism here, as holly is meant to represent spiritual pain and snakes eat the hearts of those in deep mourning. Funny enough, it comes to light that Rei's tattoo used to belong to a dead priestess who haunts regretful survivors. Plus, the deeper Rei goes into the mansion the more it consumes her soul. But hey, on the bright side, it looks cool as hell.
Jason Brodys tatau
In an unprecedented move for Caucasian dude bros, Jason Brody gets himself a super sweet tribal tat on his vacation to the Rook Islands. What makes it even sicker is that he can use it to unlock his innate warrior-ness, getting smarter, tougher and faster as his "tatau" grows by some ink-based witchcraft. Ooooh, yolo swag, brah!
Receiving his first bitty armband from Dennis after being rescued from Vaas, Jason can make the tattoo grow by unlocking upgrades and collecting relics throughout the game. The design is centered on three animal figures--the shark, heron, and spider--who are all associated with different kinds of abilities Jason can learn. Expanding the tatau into an intricate sleeve turns Jason into a mighty warrior who can destroy anything that gets in his way. Citra also promises that doing as she commands with grant him the "final tatau", but he kind of has to break the bro code to get there. Decisions decisions
Kartos' war paint
Kratos' crimson swath is as much a part of Spartan's image as his Blades of Chaos and that manly kilt. It's the ideal tattoo for a murderous deity; a simple yet striking piece of body art that conveys a sense of blood-red rage that can only be tempered in the heart of battle or a mini-game orgy.
As any God of War historians can tell you, Kratos' tattoo represent more than his talent for brutality. In God of War: Ghost of Sparta, Kratos applied the trademark ink as a tribute to his late brother, Deimos, who bore a similar birthmark that wound up getting him snuffed out by the higher-ups out of fear he would burn Olympus to the ground. Kratos later repaid the favor by ripping the gods to shreds over the course of six games. Advantage: Kratos.
Reason #278 why you should drop what you're doing (unless it's caring for an infant) and play Ninja Theory's overlooked Enslaved: Odyssey to the West? Monkey's tattoos. Much like Monkey himself, these homemade etchings are understated at first glance, but take on a deeper complexity with each passing scene. Ninja Theory explained that the seemingly random tattoos are self-inflicted trophies representing Monkey's victories over his robotic foes. Think of them like PSN trophies, except a tad more permanent*.
Ninja Theory and Namco Bandai offered a heavily tattooed Monkey with special melee bonuses as a pre-order perk. The Classic Monkey look brought the character closer his Chinese fable roots, but we still prefer Monkey's natural style all the same.