Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara
Need to quaff a potion before a charging goblin stabs your spleen? Hope you have quick fingers, because flipping through your inventory slots (which pop up above your head) in this classic beat-'em-up was all done in real-time, on the fly. There's a good chance that at least half the people who played this brawler weren't even aware that there was an inventory whatsoever.
This pivotal RTS introduced Hero units into the mix--beefy army leaders that could cast spells and carry items. Their six-slot storage space was an ingenious way to add gear to an RTS interface without overcomplicating things. This simple design also paved the way for
Six item slots, a stupidly large amount of possibilities. Managing the activated items in your inventory is as important as mastering your hero's skills, and DotA's limited inventory spurred the then-necessary design of couriers. Those little buggers are still ferrying around item recipes and secret shop loot to this day.
Mass Effect's inventory system is so great because it's so, so terrible--an example of how not to do things for all games that came afterward. With the frustrations of the long-unorganized-list inventory system and the MAKO missions, it's a wonder how this game started a franchise at all.
One of the most suave secret agents in the world can't remember what he's carrying in his pockets unless he stares into his watch. And what--can James Bond freeze time? You'd think his enemies would blast him to bits while he stood completely still, gazing at his high-tech timepiece.
A Boy and His Blob
You might assume that a pouch full of flavored jellybeans would be entirely useless during a mission to save the world. But those are just the ends to a mean: morphing your blobby buddy into a variety of useful forms.
Poker Night at The Inventory
Telltale's star-studded poker game is literally hosted in an inventory. To be fair, The Inventory is actually the name of an underground club built beneath a video game warehouse. Good enough for us.
This stark inventory immediately tells the player a crucial piece of information: Minecraft is a game about crafting. Those crafting slots will always be staring you in the face every time you open up your inventory, just begging you to experiment with building materials.
Super Mario World
Even though Mario can only carry a single item, he's somehow able to keep it magically suspended in a box high above his head. And those precious moments between summoning the item and nabbing it in mid-air can make the difference between life and death.
This retro-themed tomb raider is a tribute to the MSX, an 8-bit console with a library of absurdly difficult games. So it's only fitting that our intrepid hero Lemeza manages all his gear via a mock MSX computer interface (or in the case of the WiiWare version, Mobile Super X).