If we could turn back time
These days crusty gamers are constantly complaining that the industry is in a downward spiral, abandoning everything that once made gaming great. 99% of the time we think those people are being far too cynical, but not when it comes to unlockables. Todays hidden extras are nothing compared to the good old days of our youth.
If it were up to us, current cheats wouldnt assist in getting some Achievement or grant our avatar a new hat. Instead, it would unlock some wacky new character or light random objects on fire. So for all the developers out there reading this, heres a short list of how to make your games exponentially more radical and/or bodacious, starting with
7. Big head mode
When most developers made the switch from pixels to polygons in the mid-1990s, it was a boon for playing in three dimensions, and it also meant it was much easier to mess with a characters art assets. You could stretch the polygon to the point of absurdity, which is what happens with big head mode. The ridiculous extra-expanded skulls appeared in games as diverse as Tony Hawk, Madden, and Mortal Kombat, as well as most Rare-developed games like GoldenEye and Banjo-Kazooie. But as the 2000s rolled on, those giant craniums werent seen as often.
Most first-person shooters dumped the mode for practical reasons, because apparently its way easier to get a headshot on a giant face than a normal one. It fell out of favor in other genres likely for being too silly, but its sporadic appearances in a few recent games gives hope that the industry hasnt gotten too serious. And yet, as much as we appreciate the addition in games like Arkham City, those new heads just arent big enough! We want to be able to spot some punks swelled noggin from 100 yards away.
6. Always on fire
In the 90s, kids had crazy slang. Bad meant good, shake your booty meant to wiggle ones butt, and on fire meant doing well. In fact, when we were playing NBA Jam particularly well, the announcer would shout, Hes on fire!--and to prove it, the ball would actually get set ablaze. If players wanted to experience that for an entire game instead of a handful of baskets, the Always on Fire cheat was just the trick.
Always on Fire gave the in-game benefit of unending turbo and better shot precision, but we mainly switched it on to see the implausibly unending flames. The NBA Jam reboot from a few years ago brought this back in some ways, but the ability to have a protagonist constantly on fire would add much to a second playthrough of most games. Just imagine playing this years Tomb Raider with Lara burning in every single cutscene, and neither she nor the supporting characters acknowledging that fact. Plus, it would save her the trouble of having to constantly carry torches.
5. Paintball mode
We spend so much time in games shooting guns that firing ammo has become incredibly pedestrian, with the sounds of gunfire becoming white noise. As the audio gets increasingly boring, devs should dig up the Paintball mode that was seen in multiple late 90s shooters. The colorful power-up transformed GoldenEye and Perfect Darks weaponry into paintball guns, and every shot painted the environment in primary colors one dot at a time.
Paintball is still relatively popular in the real world, but the FPS genre has grown out of it. And thats too bad, because shooters have become far too grey and brown over the last few years. The next battle in Call of Duty would look so much more visually appealing if corpses and walls were painted in bright red, blue, and green every time someone got gunned down.
4. Mirror mode
Racing games emphasize realism more and more with each hyper polished, reflective chrome-embodied entry. That not only goes for accurate car controls, but also for emulating real world race tracks down to a stop sign or a blade of grass. For all this impressive realism, we miss the days of finishing all the courses in a racing game, then immediately playing them again, only backwards.
Using Mirror Mode in games like Mario Kart 64 didnt make the tracks feel brand new, but navigating the reverse of courses wed committed to memory did mess with our heads. And if the mode became popular again, theres no need to stop with racing games. FPS campaigns played backwards would be good for a laugh the second time around, as would exploring the open world of Grand Theft Auto if the entire map was flipped.
3. Pedestrian riots
Grand Theft Auto started a revolution in gaming due in large part to the appeal of its sandbox gameplay. Sure, the stories were well written, but having an entire city full of civilians to incinerate with no consequences was as much excitement as many needed from GTA. And if fighting average pedestrians ever lost its appeal, you could input a code that would make everyone in town go completely insane, attacking whoever was closest to them. At that point GTA just became about survival.
Crazy pedestrians/riot mode was missing from GTA IV, likely because it didnt fit the more serious tone of the current-gen entry. We want to believe riots could return in GTA V, but that still doesnt seem to fit with the tone of what weve seen so far. Then again, if were ever missing it, we can just play Saints Row and get basically the same experience. We feel safe in assuming Saints Row IV will have crazier mayhem than we could ever dream up.
2. Bo Jackson
Bo Jackson was a god among men in the late 80s. He played baseball and football on major league levels, starred in Saturday morning cartoons, and, according to Nike, he seemingly knew everything. Meanwhile, in Tecmo Bowl, he was easily the best player football had ever seen, giving gamers a distinct advantage over the guy who didnt pick the Los Angeles team. He later became an unlockable in 2004s NFL Street 2, but that should just be the beginning for Bo.
These days, Bos basically a footnote in sports history, but his awesome-a-tude means he deserves to be a playable character in every sports game released. Hell, lets not limit ourselves to just Madden, FIFA, or UFC. Instead of a difficulty level labeled Easy, every hero in a game should just transform into Bo Jackson, a character thats invulnerable and can only do instant kills. Hes earned it.
The Resident Evil games stumbled onto its greatest unlockable by testing the hit detection in Resident Evil 2. When the title finally shipped the devs included a mode that replaced the character models with boxy collections of soy. This not only made the main characters of RE2 and RE3 look like total goofs, but the soy made the game harder than ever. In Tofu Survivor mode, you were trapped as the health food and only had a knife to protect you while you searched for a helicopter.
Later Resident Evil games referenced the transformation, but tofu shouldnt just be limited to survival horror. Honestly, any action, fighting, racing, or shooting game would gain hours of replay value if the protagonist was replaced by a nondescript block of tofu. Maybe Capcom has the copyright on that feature, but thats no excuse for tofyu not extending to every single game Capcom publishes.
Did we forget any other special modes that should be dusted off and added to todays games/ Tell us in the comments or forever hold your peace.
And if you're looking for more, check out if old-school game heroes invaded current-gen games and our pick for video game characters' school report cards.