The archetype of all arcade fighting games had a truly brilliant game over screen. It starts when you lose to a fighter and you see their sprites side by side, the victor with an arrogant pose and your character bruised, bloodied and cut. Following this the winner comes out with a memorable putdown such as ‘attack me if you dare, I will crush you!’ before the countdown begins. During the countdown your character breathes heavily, let it expire and the screen fades to grey with a cry of agony as your game ends. A nice drawn out way to lose, and a fitting opener to this list.
In my intro I mentioned how most game over screens are just black screens saying game over. So a lot of you might be puzzled as to why this makes the greatest list? Well in the game, having lost all the camp counsellors to Jason, this screen appears and the text writes slowly simply saying “you and your friends are dead, game over”. It is such a brutal and cutting screen, especially for the time it was released. It was essentially the game saying “you suck at this game.” Mocking you in the hope you’ll carry on, it might be simple, but for the time, it really broke the mould and is still being quoted on the internet even today.
This late 80‘s game had a superb and rather grim game over for the time. it was basically a first person shooter, with the screen serving as a live video feed of the character you controlled. At the base of the screen was the face of your character, very similar to Doom. When you were killed by the Alien, the screen cut to static and your character’s face was bitten in half with the Alien’s showing between it. As this was an early system, it was primitive but such an effective screen. An early example of games showing more than just text when you failed.
This superb stealth ninja game had a very grim mood to it, reflecting the feudal timeline superbly. So it is only fitting the game over screen should too. If you die against a regular enemy, you are treated to the sight of your character bleeding to death and desperately clinging to life before expiring. Die on a boss and the boss mocks you with phrases like “so much for your big mouth”, after this the screen cuts to a cherry blossom filled orchard. Where there is a burial mound with your character’s weapon stuck in the ground and then a paragraph that says, to quote "the ninja Ayame returns the shadows from where she came, to be forgotten forever as a failure". Dismissive, dark and cruel, a fabulous entry on the list!
Well all the early resident evil games could feature on this list, so how does RE2 stand out as better than the others? Well the reason is continuation of how you bow out of the game. If you are bitten by a zombie with too low health, it shows your character collapse to the floor, be bitten repeatedly until they cry out in death, continue to be eaten and then blood writing appears saying “you died”. Let the guard dogs do this and they howl in unison with your death cry, before continuing to eat you. Let the trenchcloak tyrant punch you up close, and you see a scene of him repeatedly beating you up, before knocking your head off literally. It’s just such a great screen in that you see your characters last moments before the game decides to basically go “you kmow you’re dead but I’m going to tell you anyway.”
#5: Comix Zone (GEN)
First of a couple on this list because of how they provide an alternate outcome to the story, almost like a bad ending. In this excellent comic book inspired side scrolling fighter, your character is an artist named Sketch Turner who is sucked into the world he created for his comic by the villain Mortus. So after fighting for a while at some point you will die, and on screen a hand appears to cross out your character. It then cuts to a screen in sketch’s apartment of the villain Mortus who becomes solid and human, before standing on a rooftop promising to rock this world on a stormy night. Fantastic, cheesy and totally over the top, superb.
On the list as the second of the titles that provide a superb alternate outcome to the story. In this it cuts to the hideout of the witch who finally completes the transformation into a beautiful woman by stealing the beauty of Banjo’s sister. Just to compound your failure, the second pod opens and it shows the sister looking horrible and ugly, whilst demanding a word with you, played over some low end music that sounds like people laughing at you. Grim, humorous and entertaining.
Everyone knows how unfairly hard the original ninja gaiden games were, the arcade was no less unfair than the NES version. So naturally you would be forced to continue, and this screen leads into one of the greatest game over screens ever. It shows Ryu Hyabusa tied up and surrounded by demons, as a saw blade slowly descends towards him. If you let the timer run out you heard a cry of agony, the screen goes red as if covered in blood, and then the words ‘game over’ come on screen with a really incisive and dark electro tune playing. If you’re gonna die, do it in style, great screen.
#2: Theme Park (PC)
This game over screen is just amazing considering how outwith the game’s mood it was. For those who haven’t played this, it is essentially a sim game where you own a theme park. The idea being that you build rides, employ staff, sell french fries and so on, all in the name of making enough cash to move on to the next theme park. Primarily this was a kids game, with ride FMV’s and so forth. So the game over screen; it cuts to an FMV of an office, on the desk is a framed portrait of a family. Silouhetted in the glass is the owner of the theme park attempting to commit suicide due to bankruptcy. To compound this is the music, which is that classic death music from multiple cartoons. Nowadays there is a not a chance in hell they’d get away with this in a game for such a demographic. So for that reason alone, it is high on the list.
This obscure PC adventure has shot onto my radar courtesy of that glorious video sharing site youtube. I haven’t actually even played the game this is taken from, but my god, what a fantastic game over screen. It starts with yellow writing simply saying “you blew it!” before a cyborg carrying a guitar laughs at you. Just to compound your misery, you are then treated to an incredibly catchy song that totally mocks the player’s failure; including such lines as “you thought you were so hot, guess what? You’re not.” and “your heart has stopped and your brain is cold, you’re so deeeead.” and finally “you’re through, you’re history, game over!” Absolutely brilliant, so not only do you lose the game, but the game takes a royal dump all over your efforts, pure class. Check it out on youtube now if you haven’t seen this.
To conclude then, the game over screen. Many gamers hate this screen, validly pointing out that the data is already loaded, so why does the game need to tell you that you failed, before forcing you to wait for it all to load again? I, however, think these screens are needed. Often when you get a game over, you’re tense and raging at not making it, so the screen gives you time to blow off some steam. But the main thing is how most screens are blase and swift, as if to say ‘you’ve failed, now get on with it!’ What this list highlights is how games really should try more often to connect with the player. Either by sticking the boot in at their loss, or giving an alternate outcome to the story that encourages you to try again. However, most don’t, and for me, that’s a real shame.
List by enemy of the public (08/23/2012)
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