Six Old-School Video Game Characters You Don't Want To Be

by Scott Lydon

Those of us who came of age as the game industry was being born, we know how to forgive a lot. We're the generation who convinced ourselves that Dragon's Lair was a cartoon you could play, that vector graphics were the future, and that those crappy snack bar pizzas were totally worth eating. But even our hive mind knew there were still sins beyond the pale. Inside, we're taking a look at six old-school videogame situations you didn't want to be trapped in. Here's a taste:

6: The Bomber In Atari's Combat

 

combat

 

There were only two situations when you played the bomber. One, because you were tricked and had never played an an Atari before, and two, when Mom and Dad got tired of your younger sibling crying and hinted that maybe you should let the poor kid win once in a while if you wanted to keep your game. Yes, it was possible to win against those three fighter jets if you got the timing just right, but the feeling is just eerie, like you've broken some universal law, and there's never the rush of victory that comes with tank vs tank or head-to-head biplanes. Even still, you have to give Atari credit for trying to invent something that nobody's ever tried since: reverse God mode.

More inside!

5: Second Player Superman, 1988

After the rather meh Atari game (which you can probably play right here) fans were extremely excited about their chance to see high-res Arcade Superman in all his glory. And if you were first to the machine, terrific! You got to fight bad guys all Double Dragon style! There was even a level where you could fly!

 

 

But if you were the second guy? You got conned into a palette swap so lame not even the Killer List Of Video Games bothered to save a copy. Even if he played exactly the same, nobody wanted to be some Superbozo in a red costume and grey cape. It was cooler to just put your quarter up and wait for the real McCoy.

4: Player Two in Fire Truck

If you haven't heard of this one, there's a reason. Fire Truck was a rare and unique game where you and a friend had to drive a fire truck in cooperation. Player One sat down and handled all the important stuff. Player Two acted like a brontosaurus brain and tried to keep the rear of the truck stable. Most of the time it looked like this:

 

 

Of course, the game just REEKED of hippie educational team building, so it usually sat empty and alone. But when two kids did take the chance, Fire Truck quickly turned into a game called "How Did Player Two Make Us Crash This Time?" which turned out to be nowhere near as fun as just walking over and playing Defender instead.

3: The First Player To Lose In Four-Player Warlords

It's one thing to die in, say, Joust, where a clear winner and loser is expected. But as one of the very first four person games, Warlords offered a different sort of option: playing for the middle. Warlords, like life, offered you the chance to make a respectable showing. If you came in second or third, hey, great! You're not the best, but not the worst either! Walk kinda tall!

But for the player who lost first, things were very different. The first loser only had three options, either sit at that cocktail cabinet and watch your friends battle on while knowing you'd never be in their league, walk off to another game and look like a crybaby, or stay in your seat and try to psyche out the guy who beat you so he dies next. In this way, Warlords pre-discovered what was to become a major part of today's videogame experience: the power of IRL griefing.

2: A Person Playing Chiller After 1986

 

chiller

 

When it first showed up in 1986, Chiller was the must-play game of the year. There was violence, and nudity, and adults were super worried about it, and so every kid HAD to try it out. Lines were long, and as you can see from this maybe nsfw video walkthrough, the game really did deliver on scandal. Playing Chiller those first few months wasn't about having fun, it was just about being able to say you'd done it.

But the actual gameplay? Just in case you can't watch that video, Chiller basically gives you two options. You can shoot naked people to death, or you can shoot torture devices the naked people are trapped inside, force them to scream in pain, and THEN you can shoot them to death. And after the shock wears off, there's not really much gameplay left. The dog in Duck Hunt has left us more of a legacy than anything in Chiller. By 1987, this shooting game was either completely gone or stuffed in the dark back corner to be played by some creepy dude who looked like Silent Bob. Much like a certain zombie game, if the character sprites were different, nobody ever would have bothered to play it in the first place.

1: Anyone Near Jr. Pac-Man Ever

How is it possible that a Pac-Man game is less fun than the one where you shoot torture victims? If you can ask that question, you've never played Jr. Pac-Man. The joy of discovering the level stretches past the screen is immediately crushed by how unplayably difficult the whole thing is. Here, take a look at this guy's game.

 

 

He plays it like a master, but look how much work it takes even a pro. He's got to herd up all the ghosts like sheep before he can do anything, and almost two minutes in he's still only cleared out this tiny little space in front of the starting point. By 4:44 he actually has to speed up the video, and even faster, there's still almost SIX MINUTES before he's done with level one! Compare that to this video of the original game's first level that's only 2:42 minutes long, and also includes level two, the first intermission, and the introduction screen before you put in a quarter. Supposedly Jr. Pac-Man ends at the 146th screen, but the idea that someone would endure so much misery just to find closure is so mind-boggling that it's easier to just assume it an unsourced urban legend.

Basically, all Jr. Pac-Man was good for is making you want to find the original Pac-Man and play that instead. If you ever get to play it this sad, sad insult to the franchise, you'll understand why this game is rarely seen, rarely praised, and helped Midway lose the Pac-Man license. And we'd rather drop quarters into Red Superman all day long then spend one more here.

We know we missed something, so help us out. What video game situation would you want nothing to do with? Tell us in the comments! Just don't say Tempest or we'll fight you.