We may remember a game for its great story or amazing graphics, but all games live or die by their mechanics, regardless of how simple or complex they may be. Sometimes, though – as we were just reminded by the most recent gameplay trailer for Death Stranding – a game’s mechanics can be straight-up weird.
Whether a fun gimmick or a totally buck-wild mindf***, plenty of developers have tried to differentiate themselves from the rest of the industry with unique gameplay mechanics – here are some of our favorites.
Click through the gallery above or scroll down the page for the full list.
Metal Gear Solid
Let’s get this one out of the way first. Considered one of the most unique bosses in gaming history, Psycho Mantis tested the mind of not just MGS1’s protagonist, but its player. Breaking the fourth wall in a way only Hideo Kojima could, the FOXHOUND soldier would “read Snake’s mind” by looking at data on the player’s memory card. Defeating the boss required players to actually switch controller ports, and who could forget the first time our TVs “lost the signal” and went into H I D E O mode? This isn’t Kojima’s only appearance on this list, but it’s definitely his most memorable – though maybe Death Stranding will give it a run for its money.
No More Heroes
Suda 51’s quirky hack-n-slash action game No More Heroes proved Nintendo’s hyper popular Wii console could provide mature thrills in spite of its family friendly motion controls. Causing chaos with Travis Touchdown’s beam sword is constantly paused by its need to be recharged by shaking the Wii’s Wiimote in a way that can be generally described as as “suggestive” to say the least. Having a symbol transition on-screen from limp to hard makes things even more clear – just in case you’d somehow missed the subtlety of the gag.
Most fighting games offer hyper-complex controls that are normally difficult to grasp as a beginner. Co-developed by One True Game Studios (a studio made up of competitive fighters) and Iron Galaxy, Divekick focused on finding an opening for one-hit rounds using just one button to jump and one to kick. The 2D fighter was simple to grasp, allowing matches to become extremely tense even if nobody playing was a “master”.
One of the few uses of Gamecube’s microphone accessory, Odama was Nintendo’s experiment to see what happened when you mixed a real-time-strategy game mixed with… pinball. In this world, the battlefield was a pinball table, and the ball was a god helping to assist a war in Feudal Japan. Though the game never caught fire and earned only average reviews, it was also dubbed IGN’s Most Innovative Design for a Gamecube game in 2006.
Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand
We told you he’d be back. Talking to IGN in 2003, Hideo Kojima said he wanted to create a game that involved sunlight when he spoke about Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand, and he did just that. Utilizing a special game cartridge that featured a light sensor, the Gameboy Advance action-RPG required actual sunlight to power solar weapons for fighting vampires. Playing at night made the game significantly harder, and artificial light wouldn’t work, either.
One of the rare first-party games to tackle mature themes on Nintendo’s Gamecube, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem was a horrific gem. The psychological survival horror title featured an insanity mechanic that not only affected the various characters, but players as well. As your character’s insanity meter emptied, the game would start to mess with you in real life. This included turning the television off and on, wild shifts in volumes, apparent glitches, and even a memory card error message (don’t worry, you didn’t actually lose all your progress – you just thought you did).
When the King of All Cosmos accidentally destroys the stars, moon and constellations,it’s up to the prince to put everything back in order. To do that, the small prince has to collect materials to remake the cosmos, and does so by rolling around a large katamari ball picking as much as possible. He starts small, from food scraps and thumbtacks, but eventually graduates to balling up everything from people and cars to buildings and even mountains. It’s a horrifying premise, to be sure, but it helps that the tank-like controls are both intuitive and overwhelmingly entertaining thanks to its stylistically simple art style.
Typing Of The Dead
The House of the Dead could be considered one of Sega’s best light-gun experiences since the series debuted nearly two decades ago, but that didn’t stop the team from thinking “what if we turned this into the scariest Mario Teaches Typing clone ever?”. Initially created as a modification of The House of the Dead II, Typing of the Dead replaced guns with keyboards. Though light-gun experiences normally wear out their welcome overtime, typing to destroy zombies was way more exciting than Mavis Beacon.
There’s basically no point to Goat Simulator. Players are given access to an open world to explore and destroy as a goat – that’s it. Points can be earned for how creative the destruction gets and golden goat statues can lead to some interesting game modifiers. However, the amount of hilarity due to actions from the goat alongside the crazy amount of glitches that were purposefully left in made Goat Simulator one of 2014’s best.
More of a demonstration of Nintendo Switch’s Joy Con functionality, 1-2 Switch was a minigame collection that featured everything from revolver duels and samurai training to answering a telephone. Arguably the weirdest minigame was Milk, which had players competing to see who could milk a cow faster. The Joy Con controllers gyroscope and HD rumble gave a suitable feeling of the farm activity. Nintendo even marketed the game by participating in an actual cow milking competition on a dairy farm.
It’s safe to say Sega’s final piece of hardware in the console wars, The Dreamcast, lent itself to some inventive ideas including online play. The Tamagotchi-like game Seaman utilized a special microphone accessory to interact with a humanoid fish voiced – in one of the strangest casting decisions of all time – by Leonard Nemoy. Players would need to literally talk to the creature in order to help grow this bizarre amphibian from tadpole to its adult state as a frog-ish creature with a human face. (but sadly not Leonard Nemoy’s).
Octodad: Dadliest Catch
If an octopus pretending to be human isn’t a crazy enough concept by itself, the control scheme for Octodad made it one of the silliest games of this generation. Forcing you to control pairs of the paternal cephalopod’s tentacles independently, the developers at Young Horsesbuilt a physics playground that was guaranteed to ensure that both calamity and hilarity were served up in equal measure.
How does a developer create a game based around a character with invincibility? Developer Rebellion attempted to answer that question through NeverDead. Players controlled Bryce Boltzmann, a demon hunter who could sustain almost unlimited damage so long as his head remained intact. Though the execution may have been flawed, there’s something hilarious about tearing off your own gun arm and throwing into the mouth of a creature to blast it from the inside out, or flopping around as a severed head trying to re-assemble all the bits of it’s dismembered body. Gruesome, sure – but funny.
This is the one that got us thinking about this crazy list in the first place – why TF is peeing a social game mechanic in Death Stranding?! According to Kojima, a mushroom will grow on spots where multiple players have peed on, and if enough people participate in UrineFest 2K19, he says “you will have something good later on.” We have approximately zero idea of what that means, but he also claims that you can use Sam’s pee as a weapon, so we have to assume the “good thing” is equally wild (and probably hilarious).
Watch the gameplay video above to see Kojima’s newest… “stranding” mechanic… in action.
What are some of your favorite weird, wild or totally crazy game mechanics? Did they make our list or no? Let us know in the comments!
Ural Garrett is an Inglewood based writer, photographer, and content curator. Follow him on Twitter.