6 of Gaming’s Most Depressing Game Over Screens (2014)
I don’t care how good a retro gamer you are, every single one of us has had to choke down the indignity of witnessing the Game Over screen in games – the more dull-witted gamers have probably had to suffer this embarrassment time and time again. NES-era Game Over screens tended to be simple white-text-on-black-background affairs and more often than not were plagued with some questionable grammar (even apart from “Game Over” itself, as if that phrase makes any sense).
But as games became more imaginative and interactive, the Game Over screens followed suit. Here are six of the more depressing retro Game Over screens that many of us have had to sit through before we could endeavour to try again. Whichever of the games on this list you’ve played, you’ve probably seen the Game Over screen to it at least a dozen times. Enjoy!
6. Donkey Kong Country (SNES)
Actually, the whole SNES trilogy of Donkey Kong Country games featured some depressing Game Over screens. The second in the series featured Diddy and his girlfriend Dixie being thrown in a pirate jail, whereas the third game saw Dixie and Kiddy consigned to a baby’s cot (not too frightful, until the eerie theme begins playing). Even Donkey Kong 64’s view of the idyllic DK Isles shortly before they get vaporised by the Blast-O-Matic deathray is pretty goddamn bleak.
But the crown goes to the first game, which features lifelong pals Donkey and Diddy looking battered, bruised and utterly defeated against a black background, while a sombre dirge plays them off, sort of like Keyboard Cat playing off a particularly depressing fail. Why even try again after seeing that? Just let the Kremlings keep the damn bananers.
5. Resident Evil (various)
Gosh, really? I thought I’d survived being pulled into the lava!
YOU ARE DEAD – It’s simple, it’s effective, and you’ll see it dozens of times as you play through the Resident Evil games. If anything, half the fun in these types of games is seeing just how many crazy ways you can die (Dead Space later stepped this up). Resident Evil 4 in particular was great for this: when I first played through the game, I almost rejoiced when I saw a chainsaw-wielding Dr. Salvador enemy. Finally! I get the chance to see what all this decapitation fuss is about!
The Resident Evil Game Over messages succinctly explaining your mortality may not possess many bells and whistles, but the bloody writing and the creepy jingle speak for themselves. You are dead, alright, and although you can’t see it, the doomed corpse of your player character is probably being eaten as a starter before the main course (the person you were trying to rescue). Some bad!
4. Banjo Kazooie (N64)
It could be worse Tooty, you could have been given a tash
The Game Over screen of Banjo Kazooie may not involve an entire race of people being slaughtered or your player character dying by slow torture, but it does make one feel a little uncomfortable. The story of the game is that ugly witch (aren’t they all?) Gruntilda wants to become the fairest of them all, but will never manage to do so while cute little Tooty is around. The witch kidnaps Tooty, prompting her older brother Banjo and his friend-of-sorts Kazooie to take action and save her.
It’s a simple tale, but the price of failure is immense: Gruntilda and her accomplice Klungo have set up some sort of doodad that allows Gruntilda to absorb all of Tooty’s beauty – and, if you even decide to quit the game while playing it, you’ll get to see the result of this absorption. The Gruntilda that emerges from the machine is quite a looker, no doubt about that, but the horribly deformed Tooty that comes out and makes demonic noises really hits home. All Banjo wanted to do was save his sister! Talk about a depressing loss of innocence…
3. Metroid Prime 1/2/3 (GameCube, Wii)
Samus can run around in lava all she likes, but crack her visor and that’s seemingly it for her
Metroid’s jump from 2D into 3D was an absolute triumph, with Metroid Prime reigning as one of the finest games ever made. Everyone remembers the Game Over from Super Metroid (the curvaceous Samus being broken free from the Power Suit before the Baby Metroid taunts us), and you might even remember the original Metroid where Samus simply fragmented into pieces.
God help you if you should get killed in any of the three Metroid Prime games, however. They all have slight differences, but the basic premise is the same – Samus, voiced by Jennifer Hale (a big-name voice actress for a few hoarse grunts), lets out an absolutely blood-curdling scream as her visor switches off like a worthless old television. The first Metroid Prime game provides the worst aftermath – you see a massive crack in her visor, as her heart begins to give out and her life support system goes offline. Yikes! The worst part is, Samus is a lone wolf by nature – no-one even knows she’s there (to be fair, no-one really cares either).
2. Friday the 13th (NES)
Yeah well, so’s your face
There’s not a lot I can even say about this one – the picture basically says it all. Have you ever seen something so absolutely crushing? What I like the best is how, after cheerfully informing me that not only am I dead, but that all of my closest companions are brown bread as well, the game sees fit to tell me that the Game is also Over. Wow, and I’m too dead to even care!
1. Theme Park (various)
Golly, cheers for the condolences
Theme Park seems like such a bubbly, jubilant game. Yes, the objective may to be con as much money out of children as is humanly possible, but they’re having a great time anyway, so you don’t owe them nothing. You’ve got bills to pay, though – staff to keep happy, for one (and the grubby buggers wangle for pay rises every 5 minutes), new rides to build to keep your regular visitors happy (the ones who literally stay in the the park for 400 days plus) and even grown-up responsibilities like loans and land tax.
Poor businessmen, like myself, will be having a blast playing Theme Park, buying all and sundry and paying for it ‘further down the line’. Does this remind you of anything? Suddenly the cash flow proves as stubborn as a mule and your creditors are at your door like hungry wolves. The park falls into disrepair, there are no new attractions to keep these snotty kids happy, and your staff want even more money so that they can cook their endangered tiger meat on a wad of banknotes. Bankruptcy comes at you like a truck, and the dream is over. So what does your character do? He throws himself off a cliff and commits suicide, with a picture of his family in view and the Funeral March playing in the background. Excuse me?! I’m sorry? It may not be strictly necessary, but at least it provides us with a life lesson. Which is… don’t try to rip off kids, maybe?