The exploding red barrel: a staple in video game design throughout the ages. Its unassuming, cylindrical shape belies the volatile contents hidden within, while its bright red color draws in the eye and invites viewers to shoot at it with guns. Few objects - fictional or real - can match the elegant efficiency of the exploding red barrel's design. It was made to be blown up, and dammit we blow it up every time.
Exploding red barrels are dotted across the video game landscape, but the ones in the following slides do something a little extra. Something that sets them apart from their peers, be it a bigger explosion or a creative means of delivering destruction. Or maybe they just look really cool. Whatever the case, these are the barrels that set the exploding red standard for all others.
Used to explode: Combine Soldiers, Headcrabs, physics
Half-Life 2 did for red barrels what Equilibrium did for guns: treated them as "total weapons (opens in new tab)." No longer are red barrels a static, environmental hazard for bad guys to crowd around. They can be pushed, thrown, or even rolled down stairs. Who needs rockets when you can toss an explosive barrel at an opponent and watch it send their ragdoll body cartwheeling through the air? These barrels can also be 'cooked', meaning they won't detonate right away, thus transforming them into an impromptu grenade. Deadly, and versatile.
Resident Evil 6
Used to explode: Zombies, monsters, your eyes
Red barrels are your friends in the Resident Evil universe. They say, "hey buddy, shoot me instead and save some ammo" to which you reply, "OH GOD THEY'RE EVERYWHERE SHOOT THE BARRELSHOOTTHEBARREL!!" They're life savers, especially in those early games when ammo ran thin. Today, ammo literally falls out of dead zombies, and so the barrel has evolved into an explosive spectacle approaching Michael Bay-levels of pyrotechnics. It's pure eye candy that burns so bright even your on-screen avatar is sent reeling from the blast (opens in new tab).
Used to explode: A whole lot of angry, mutated people
Bulletstorm is a first-person shooter that rewards you for being stylish with your kills. Hoisting a dude into the air and kicking him into an oversized cactus? Points for that. Hoisting a dude into the air and kicking him over a ledge? Points for that. Hoisting a dude into the air and kicking him into an exploding barrel (and then shooting the barrel)? You better believe it. In this game, exploding barrels aren't just a mere environmental hazard, they are a means to rack up extra points and improve your weapons. These barrels pull double duty.
Command & Conquer Red Alert 3: Uprising
Used to explode: Allied troops, Soviet troops, Imperial troops
Red barrels do not discriminate. They do not care which side of a conflict you're on; everyone blows up just the same. The Command & Conquer series has a long-standing habit of littering the battlefield with these explosives, which can become powerful allies for the discerning commander. This practice gets flipped on its head in Uprising's Crate and Red Barrel challenge map. In this one-on-one duel, explosive red barrels are randomly warped in all across the map. One false move and your troops could set off a chain reaction that leaves both sides in shambles.
Used to explode: anything you can imagine
Instead of shooting red barrels with your gun, what if the red barrels were your gun? Yeah, you feel that? That's what it feels like to have your mind blown. Scribblenauts' Barrel Launcher - a barrel with a gun hilt that shoots explosive barrels - turns the ultimate destructive tool into the ultimate destructive weapon. Not even dinosaurs (opens in new tab) can withstand its awesome power. Fun fact: the barrels it fires aren't affected by gravity, because the Barrel Launcher also explodes gravity along with everything else.
Used to explode: Cars, buildings, your shot at first place
Split/Second's race tracks come pre-loaded with explosive hazards for players to detonate on one another. Red barrels are in the mix, of course, suspended above the track by helicopters ready to drop them on unsuspecting racers. There's also a challenge mode in which racers lap a couple of big rigs that randomly drop red and blue barrels onto the track. Both types explode, however the blue barrels paradoxically make your car go faster instead of blasting it off the road. Logic be damned.
Honorable Mention - Doom 2
Used to explode: Huge demons with huge guts
When RIP AND TEAR just isn't an option, you can always count on exploding barrels to get the job done. Doom 2's map 23 - the aptly-named Barrels o' Fun - drops you into a string of hallways and corridors lined with explosive barrels. The game throws so many of them into such a tight space that they become just as hazardous as the enemies themselves. One stray bullet, and everything goes up in flames. So why only an 'Honorable Mention'? The barrels aren't red.
Honorable Mention - Orcs Must Die 2
Used to explode: Orcs, orcs, more orcs
Exploding barrels make problems go away. They're like that shady friend your uncle knows but no one likes to talk about, except that friend is also an exploding barrel. Among the many applications already listed in the feature, exploding barrels are also great for killing orcs - lots of orcs. Orcs Must Die 2 has not only exploding barrels that you can set up to gib your enemies, it even gives you an exploding barrel dispenser so that you never have to go without your most reliable companion. It's just a pity they don't come in red.
Warning: highly flammable
Of course, there are many more instances of exploding barrels than the ones listed here, but how many of those do something unique or different with our favorite flammable canisters? If you've got a good one in mind, drop it in the comments below and it might just blast its way into this feature. Otherwise, good hunting, and keep an eye out for our most volatile friend.
And for more explosive fun on GR+ be sure to look up 16 hilariously bad video game retro ads and 8 iconic game gadgets that, logically, would be worse than useless.