Hurt me plenty
Pain and injury are usually so abstract in video games. Most of the time you only care if it lops off a portion of your health bar - and even then, only until you can find a medkit or engage in some self-healing breathing exercises. But some video games seem delight in injury so much that they transcend the beatdowns we've come to expect and willingly, enthusiastically, inflict sympathetic pain in their audience.
These are some of the worst games to leave you squirming in your seat, clutching at your ribs, and wincing in agony at the events transpiring before your eyes. Sometimes they do it to drive home a point, sometimes they do it to make you sympathetic to a character, and sometimes they just do it to make you uncomfortable. You might want to get some aspirin ready before you click on for these gruesome memories.
7. Animal Crossing's bee stings
Animal Crossing making its players wince in agony? I know what you're thinking, but bear with me for a second here. Yes, most of the game is chill and cheerful, with nary a concern in players' minds aside from when to sell turnips or how to make enough bells to pay off the mortgage. C'mon, is anything more zen than going from one tree to the next, lightly shaking it, and waiting to see what will drop from its branches? Yes. Many things are. Because some of the trees drop hives full of bees.
These bees aren't the kind of animal that will write you letters or ask you to bring them a peach. They're the kind of animal that chases you with kamikaze zeal until you dart into a neighbor's house and barricade the door or, more likely, the swarm catches up. When they envelop you, the awful KRSSSZZTTT sound that they make as they sting you right on the eyeball will echo in your mind forever. And the huge welt they leave where your eye used to be will stick around for the rest of the day or until you apply some medicine... assuming that bastard Nook even has any in stock.
6. Metal Gear Solid 3's torture and eyeball shot
It's kind of cool to be able to point at one of a character's most recognizable attributes and say, "Oh hey, I was there when he got that!" It really makes you feel connected, and it's the kind of thing you come to appreciate in time. But when you first experience stuff like, say, Big Boss being tortured and then having his eye shot out in Metal Gear Solid 3, it's a little harder to stomach.
You may be wondering about the absence of a certain other eye injury on this week's 'Top 7', but I had to give it to Big Boss, not least because the torture scene encompassing the incident goes on for nine minutes. Nine minutes of electrocution, bludgeoning, and near-eye-extraction topped off with the little misfire that plants a patch on the face of Big Boss and, in the grand scheme of things, on the faces of his progeny. It doesn't hurt that voice actor David Hayter really made an art of pained grunting in this performance.
5. Alien: Isolation's belly button piercing
Lots of painful things can happen to Amanda Ripley throughout the course of Alien Isolation. But I'm not talking about the deep-seated abandonment issues that stem from her mother leaving her at the daycare center and disappearing into space. I mean the terrible ways that she can meet her end from Sevastopol station's many threats. Among many other candidates, she can be shot to death by panicked survivors, have her neck snapped by unfriendly androids, or, y'know, that alien could show up.
The monster has so many ways of snuffing out poor Ripley's life, but the most painful is probably (and yes, this is a tough choice) the good old tail-through-the-guts maneuver. What makes it so bad? I have to give it to the brief pause before she looks down and sees the spear-like appendage quivering in her newly remodeled torso. You spend a moment thinking, "Wait, why did I stop running?" and then, "Oh, hello, that's my diaphragm". It's the anticipation that gets me.
4. Mortal Kombat's X-ray moves
Ok, fair enough, inflicting gratuitous injury is kind of Mortal Kombat's thing. I understand that. But there's a big difference between a pixelated fatality animation and the gratuitous cinema experience that are the X-ray moves, not least because almost every fight is interrupted for several seconds to dwell on them. That's not unusual for fighting games, but at least in Street Fighter it's just Ryu hollering as beams shoot out of his hands. He doesn't pause the game to show you some Un Chien Andalou-grade bullshit.
I can't be the only one who feels uncomfortably aware of their own bones after playing a match of Mortal Kombat. The way it zooms in deep to show the skeleton before and after it's shattered in multiple places, turning on the super-slo-mo so you can see bits splinter off and lodge deep inside the body it makes me ache all over. Drink your milk, kids, or this could be you the next time in you're in a scuffle.
3. God of War 3's Zeus face pounding
Do you ever put a few shots into a particularly nasty boss when you finally manage to kill it? There's no gameplay reason to do so - it's just as dead before as it is after - but it feels good to celebrate your victory with some macho depravity. Macho depravity is pretty much God of War's schtick, but the final battle of the final chapter takes the beefcake by letting you pound Zeus' face into a lumpy blob of minced meat for however long you want.
You might have noticed that this is the only example in which the player character is dishing out the pain instead of receiving it. But this article isn't about characters wincing - it's about players. And if you have even a shred of sympathy for Zeus after all the crap he's put you through, you'll feel every one of those punches even after his blood obscures your vision and you have to go by the crunching sounds. That didn't stop me from keeping it up for a good minute or two, of course.
2. Quake 4's Stroggification
There's only one reason the otherwise-forgettable Quake 4 keeps getting brought up around these parts. What else could it be but that damn Stroggification scene, in which id's contribution to the body horror genre is delivered with all the subtlety of a buzzsaw? The absolute worst part, though, is that you get to watch the assembly line of suffering have its way with the guy in front of you before you experience the agony in first person.
Take special note that, at multiple points in this scene, your vision blacks out and Quake 4 permits you to think that it's just gonna cut to the next scene. NOPE. Your eyes open again (I guess all those Strogg nanites keep you from going into shock and passing out from blood loss) and it's off from the leg-cutter, into the torso bolter! And when you're rescued just before the brainwashing begins, your fellow soldiers spend a whole 30 seconds on genuine concern. Then they run off and expect you to follow on the robo legs that were just attached to your bloody stumps moments ago. Screw you guys.
1. Metal Gear Solid 4's microwave corridor
Oh, God. Just try watching Metal Gear Solid 4's microwave corridor scene without feeling some... phantom pain. And then remember how unexpectedly involving it is to have to pound the triangle button throughout the whole thing. Hideo Kojima loves an over-long camera shot, but every second of this scene drives home the theme of self-sacrifice like another nail hammered through your hand - not a single second is wasted, much as we all hate Kojima for dwelling on our hero's unimaginable suffering.
Snake's already limping and grunting when he enters the microwave-trapped chamber, his prematurely aged body having been battered and burned throughout the course of the game. Once he's in, his high-tech octocamo suit starts smoking within seconds. Its panels turn red-hot and burst as he drops to his knees, then to his belly, and crawls. The health meter chirps its familiar little 'Uh-oh' sound as the door opens, revealing another corridor full of lethal radiation. By the time you reach safety, your thumb is so sore from button mashing that, silly as it sounds, you feel unified with Snake in his struggle. Then you both can have a good puke.
Everybody hurts, sometimes
Wondering why I didn't put any groin shots in there? Well, 1) they probably don't hurt as much to watch if you don't have testicles so, statistically speaking, the pain averages drop off, and 2) we already have another article for that. But what do you think? Any other truly agonizing games you think deserved a place in the Top 7? Let me know in the comments!