Five of the Best is a weekly series about the small details we rush past when we’re playing but which shape a game in our memory for years to come. Details like the way a character jumps or the title screen you load into, or the potions you use and maps you refer back to. We’ve talked about so many in our Five of the Best series so far. But there are always more.
Five of the Best works like this. Various Eurogamer writers will share their memories in the article and then you – probably outraged we didn’t include the thing you’re thinking of – can share the thing you’re thinking of in the comments below. Your collective memory has never failed to amaze us – don’t let that stop now!
Today’s Five of the Best is…
Game Over screens! Too bad, you lose, put some more money in. Game Over screens might have been a necessary way for arcade machines to wring a bit more money from our juvenile jeans but they didn’t end there. Their influence carried over as games entered our homes, and crushing finality of the Game Over screen, which you can do little more than gawp helplessly at, can still be seen to this very day. It might not look the same, it might not use those iconic words, but it’s there. Question is, which is the best? Happy Friday!
Game Over Yeah! – Sega Rally
It’s long been a belief of mine that more video games should have their own theme tunes, and Sega Rally’s got one of the best of the lot – the absurdly titled, joyously upbeat My Dear Friend Rally. It’s another ditty from Sega’s mud-caked 1995 classic that’s stuck in the collective consciousness, though – that syrupy ‘Game Over, Yeah!’ screen that echoed out across arcades of yesteryear. It’s a weirdly upbeat way to let you know you’ve failed, but such was the sunshine goodness of Sega’s output in its 90s pomp.
Monologuing – the Batman Arkham games
Batman doesn’t just have the best outfit, the best gadgets, the best car and the best house of all superheroes. He has the best villains. This is the secret reason why the Arkham games work so well – for a lot of the time you’re up against people who are just as interesting as you are.
This comes together with another of Arkham’s central achievements – that Batman is a glass canon, great in a fist-fight but vulnerable under gunfire – to create some of the most memorable game-over screens in games. You mess up. You die. You collapse to the floor, and then a super-villain leers over you in the darkness, offering a few mean-spirited lines to see you off. It’s wonderfully theatrical – the shadows, the face up close and ghastly – and it’s also wonderfully true to form. What do supervillains do? They monologue. Well played, Rocksteady!
G.A.M.E. O.V.E.R. – Daytona
Takenobu Mitsuyoshi gets another shoutout – as Sega’s talented composer and vocalist should – for something of a deeper cut. The Daytona USA soundtrack is full of bangers (Sky High is such a delight just listening to it makes me want to weep with joy) but it’s the oddness of its Game Over screen that’s always stuck with me. There’s a lumpiness to the original version that’s simply adorable. GEE AY EM EE OH VOO EE ARE! Quite…
You Died – the Souls Series
Those two words have become synonymous with the Dark Souls series. In the modern era, in fact, Dark Souls sort of owns the Game Over screen, and there’s something chilling about the old school text effect that’s used on You Died, which, in another game, would be unbearably naff or suggest the kitsch of Pearl and Dean and the glory days of cinema advertising with its weird slogans and font effects. (Looking for bedding? The place to be heading is Reading Bedding!)
The thing is, though, that You Died is never the end. Souls games have an unusual approach to what you can do in a video game life – you basically use your remaining health to move a lens of attention over this complex world, seeing if you can make it from one bonfire to another. Mistakes along the way always lead to a bit of understanding. So maybe You Learned would be more appropriate. Not as catchy though. Let’s leave it as it is?
The Red Ring of Death
You know how it goes: you’re deep into an absorbing new adventure on Xbox 360 – maybe Lost Odyssey, an underrated gem – and you rush home from wherever to carry it on. You grab yourself a drink and a snack for the long haul and you settle into your favourite chair. A cozy feeling comes over you – you’ve looked forward to this.
Then you turn your Xbox 360 on. But it doesn’t turn on. In the place where you should see a familiar green glowing light around the power button, you see instead see red. You know what this means because you’ve read about it. It’s the infamous Red Ring of Death. Your machine is broken. How’s that for a Game Over?
Fortunately Microsoft footed the bill for the replacements and repairs, but it would go on to become such a widespread problem that the RROD bill ended up at more than $1 billion! I went through three Xbox 360s – how about you?