In case you haven’t been paying attention to bullshit that dumb people believe lately, there’s supposedly a Mayan prophecy that says that the world will end tomorrow. Of course, actual Mayan archaeologists and researchers all say the supposed “prophecy” has no basis in actual Mayan beliefs, and as any astronomer will point out, the supposedly rare celestial alignment between the Earth, the Sun, and the galactic core that’s at the center of the prophecy actually occurs pretty regularly. Still, stupid beliefs aside, there is always the chance that the world could just coincidentally end tomorrow (or any day really,) so it always helps to be prepared. Fortunately, games have spent decades preparing us for this very situation.
If there’s one thing that games have taught me, it’s that you should always be prepared for the worst. Always carry a second weapon with a lot of ammo in Resident Evil. Always go into a new dungeon at least one bottle of health potion in Zelda. Check your motion sensor before you duck out of cover in Halo. Remember where the save points are and use them often. Never, ever pick up a key in Mario 2 until you’ve already figured out the fastest way to the exit, just in case that freaky mask starts chasing you. Some may say that games have made me neurotic. I say they’ve turned me into an cautious survivor.
While morons everywhere are currently running around in a panicked state about the imaginary apocalypse, I’m not worried, and that’s because of two reasons: 1. I don’t believe in that crap, and 2. I’ve experienced hundreds of apocalypses in video games, ranging all the way from the doomsday portrayed in the NES classic action RPG Crystalis to the Reaper invasion in Mass Effect 3. Video games have been subtly conditioning me for The End Times since I was old enough to pick up the controller.
Since the apocalypse is such a common theme in video games, I thought I’d compile a list of five of my favorite games that use doomsday as a central theme. Sure, in case society does collapse and the Earth is turned into an arid wasteland, I’m pretty sure experience playing video games won’t give you advantage over people who actually know how to hunt or start a fire, but at least you’ll be able to appreciate how goddamn cliché the whole situation is. And honestly, if the apocalypse did happen, would you want to live through it? Living in a world without electricity — and thus, video games — isn’t any world that I would want to live in.
Anyway, here are six games that will help you cope with your upcoming absolution:
If you know when the world’s going to end — as believers in the Mayan prophecy think they do — why not do something to prevent it? That’s the central theme behind Squaresoft’s 16-bit magnum opus, Chrono Trigger, which is about a group of idealistic, time travelling kids (and a robot, a frog, a cave woman and a wizard,) who alter the entire history of their planet in order to save it from its eventual destruction.
Chrono Trigger is often regarded as one of the best Japanese RPG’s ever made, and it completely and absolutely deserves that reputation: it isn’t hyperbole to state that Chrono Trigger, with it’s light hearted but frequently touching story line, its fun cast of characters, and its fast but strategic battle system, is simply one of the best games ever made, period. Chrono Trigger is almost 20 years old at this point, but it has aged beautifully, and to this day I’ll still prefer the quick, punchy pacing of its story and its iconic pixel art over the flashy visuals and overwrought drama of most modern RPG’s.
Picking up Chrono Trigger on the SNES might run you anywhere between 80-100 dollars on eBay, but hey, if you honestly believe that the world is going to end soon, you might as well splurge. More value conscious gamers (or anyone who doesn’t believe that they’re going to die tomorrow,) would probably be better off picking up the excellent DS port of the game, which includes all of the content from the original SNES game and the later PSOne port (minus the terrible load times that ruined that version,) plus some additional new content, like a new dungeon and an unlockable movie player.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Like Chrono Trigger, Majora’s Mask is another time travelling adventure about trying to prevent the end of the world, though instead of travelling to various epochs throughout history, you’ll spend the entirety of Majora’s Mask reliving the same three days over and over again. With each cycle you get slightly closer to unraveling the mystery of why the (very angry looking) moon is about to smash into the country of Termina, which itself seems like a bizarrely twisted version of the usual setting of Hyrule.
While you’ll still spend a good chunk of Majora’s Mask engaging in Zelda’s traditional dungeon crawling and puzzle solving, everything in the game is governed by the 3 day cycle: you’ll generally need to complete each side quest or dungeon within the game’s three day limit, because at the end of day 3 the world ends and you’ll be forces to travel back to the beginning of day 1 with only your key pieces of equipment as proof of your progress. Adding a time limit to Zelda doesn’t sound like it’d be a massive change on paper, but the constant threat of running out of time lends the game a sense of tension and overwhelming dread that completely changes how you play the game.
Majora’s Mask is also notable for having a story that’s a fair bit darker than your usual whimsical Zelda tale: Termina is a pretty dangerous place when you first arrive in it, and despite all you do to make it a better place over the course of the game, it’s still a pretty messed up place to live by the end of the game. Similarly, while most Zelda games shy away from permanently killing off characters, death is a routine and frequent occurrence in Termina, and one of the game’s core gameplay mechanics requires Link to assume the identity of several of Termina’s recently deceased denizens. While the game’s focus on time management means that its definitely not for everyone, Majora’s Mask bleak outlook and nihilistic tone might just be the kind of thing you’ll need to properly get in the mood of the end of the world.
Fallout: New Vegas
Maybe you don’t want to prevent the apocalypse. After all, like Chrono Trigger and Majora’s Mask have shown us, stopping the end of the world is a lot of work. Maybe you’re the type who just wants to ride it out and eek out a meager existence in the wasteland that’ll be left behind. If you’re one of those people, then any of the Fallout games should serve as a proper introductory course on how to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.
While all of the main, numbered entries in the Fallout series are great, I picked New Vegas because it’s my personal favorite in the series. It just has the most interesting setting, the most interesting cast of characters, and I think it does a better job of easing you into the series’ various gameplay systems than its immediate predecessor, Fallout 3, did. The game’s only major flaw was the incomplete and completely buggy state that it was originally released in, but a parade of patches have since fixed most of the game’s major game breaking bugs.
The Walking Dead
The apocalypses depicted in all of the previous games were the kind of disasters that wiped out human society in one cataclysmic event. The Walking Dead, on the other hand, depicts the slow death of the human race due to the appearance of the living dead. Just like the comic and the TV series, Telltale’s Walking Dead game portrays the hopelessness of trying to survive in a zombie apocalypse: no matter how many times you fight them off, no matter how far you run, as time goes on there’s just going to be more zombies after you and less friends around to help you out.
I’m usually not a big fan of point-and-click adventures, but I was absolutely enthralled by The Walking Dead: the writing (penned by former PC Gamer editor and Book of Eli writer Gary Whitta,) is top notch and is just as good (maybe even better) than the writing on the TV show or the original comic, and despite being an adventure game, the game features bits of action that are honestly more tense and exciting than a lot of the dedicated action games that I’ve played.
Morality in games is often a binary choice where you have to pick between the obviously good path and the obviously evil path; in The Walking Dead your choices are usually A. do something terrible in order to save yourself, or B. do something even worse in order to save yourself. Lots of games put players in dangerous situations, but The Walking Dead is one of the few games to accurately depict how low most people are willing to go in order to save themselves when they’re truly desperate. Of all the games on this list, The Walking Dead probably provides the most accurate depiction of what people will be like if an apocalypse does happen and society crumbles.
Let’s say we all do die in a hail of fire and brimstone tomorrow. Without humanity around to coddle them, what’ll happen to our pets? That’s the question that Sony’s Tokyo Jungle asks, and the answer is… well, our pets will engage in a surprisingly brutal and bad ass game of survival after we’re gone.
Tokyo Jungle mixes elements of stealth and platform games together to create one of the most bizarre games ever published on a console. After picking what animal you want to play as, you’re dropped into a post-humanity version of Tokyo and tasked with keeping your species alive for as many generations as possible. You’ll need to constantly hunt and eat in order to survive, and at some point you’ll need to find a mate, after which you’ll play as your offspring and the cycle will continue over and over until you finally fail to adapt and your genetic line goes extinct. It’s surprisingly engaging and tense, and it’s easily the best stealth-action game starring a Pomeranian that I’ve ever played. If you’re worried that the impending end of Man will leave your poor dog or cat alone and helpless, your fears will probably be soothed when you see a cute little beagle tear out a bear’s throat in one strike in Tokyo Jungle.
Okay, so Love Plus is a game about dating underage Japanese girls and it isn’t technically about doomsday. But let’s face it, if you’re playing Love Plus, you’ve probably already given up on any form of meaningful social interaction or integrating into society at large, so perhaps Love Plus can be seen as a sort of personal social apocalypse.
And hey, let’s say that the world really does end tomorrow and you’re the only one left alive. You’re going to need something to talk to, and that something might as well be a DS with an unrealistic, almost pathetically idealized stereotype of a girl on it. Hey, Tom Hanks needed that volleyball to keep him from going too crazy in Castaway, and maybe you’ll need some companionship from an inanimate object to keep you from going totally batshit after the rest of humanity dies. Hell, the game even has a special feature that tries to talk you out of committing suicide, so in case you get tired of being the last person on Earth and decide to off yourself, the game will hopefully get you to rethink your decision and convince you to soldier on.
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