Ever since Mario found his first hidden power-up, collecting items has been a staple of the gaming landscape. It has gotten to the point where developers throw item collection into games that have NO EARTHLY REASON for it. Why does Spider-Man care if he visits all 15 famous landmarks in New York? Will it help defeat the infamous criminals with which he does battle? Who cares! He still needs to collect all these tokens (and others) to unlock new costumes! Here are the top 10 modern games that make item collection an integral part of the experience...

What more does an ultra-violent shooter need than great maps, fantastic weapons and frenetic gameplay? Why, collectibles, of course! You get nothing in-game for hunting down the COG Tags; but, you do earn Xbox Live Achievements and Gamerscore points, which is exactly why people go to all the trouble of digging them up and rooting them out.

There are only a little over a dozen of these artifacts, and you can only get them at Legendary difficulty. And, some of them actually have a negative effect on you (disappearing HUD, more grenades thrown by enemies). Why anyone would even want to make Legendary Halo even more difficult is beyond the mind of mortal man. Which is why collecting skulls makes this list--only the truly insane would do it.

It's a given: as soon as any experienced player starts an Elder Scrolls game, they're going to be digging up the local flora, scavenging bread crusts and bits of ham off tables and otherwise gleaning every bit of useful waste they can find. All so they might mix up some potions or poisons and, simultaneously, raise their Alchemy skill. It's even one of the most frequently asked questions about the games, "Where can I find more [name of ingredient]?" The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion even put in a whole side-quest that involves nothing more than harvesting as many of a rare, and irreplaceable (i.e. it doesn't grow back) ingredient, just so you can get a potion that's only moderately useful. Item collection to the max, dude!

Ah yes, a game where item collecting isn't just a side-bar, it's an all-consuming passion. Whether you're farming for uniques or sets, questing for those special items, or gathering gems for use in socketed weapons and armor, Diablo is more about the item-gathering than actually completing the game. In fact, more has been written about magic items than about the main quests. Other fantasy action/RPGs (Dungeon Siege, Sacred) have tried to emulate Diablo's item-collection scheme, but the grandaddy of them all is still the best.

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, collecting tokens like a spider can...While swinging around Manhattan, Spider-Man can find tokens of all types...on the tops of buildings, on the SIDES of buildings, hiding under signs and awnings, etc. Collecting tokens awards Hero Points, which you then use to buy upgrades to make the game easier. (The PC version of SM2 offers escaped criminals and exotic spiders to collect and they award you nothing.) Ultimate Spider-Man and Spider-Man 3 continue the tradition of mindless token (or, in SM3's case, meteorite fragment and spider emblem) hunting. At least it's an excuse to swing around the city doing absolutely nothing.

Is there any feeling in the world as bad as knowing you missed your one and only chance to scan the ice burrowers in Phendrena? Scanning objects in Metroid Prime (and MP2: Echoes) is important to the game; getting a 100% complete logbook is a task for the truly obsessed. There are numerous one-time-only scans needed to complete your logbook. You must be dedicated to get them all without using a guide. Good luck!

Oh sure, you get a heart each time you defeat a dungeon boss. But, unless you want to spend most of your time running for your life, you'll want a few more hearts. The original Zelda game had some bonus heart containers; Zelda 3 (A Link to the Past) on the SNES created the notion of heart pieces--collect 4 heart pieces and you get a bonus heart on your life meter. Gamers have been hooked ever since. And Nintendo seems to pride itself on making those heart pieces as hard to find as humanly (or, perhaps, inhumanly) possible.

X-Men Legends is a standard beat-em-up action/"RPG" that features level-after-level of massive fights against swarms of enemies. And, oh yeah, while you're saving the world from destruction by the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, don't forget to pick up comic book covers, Danger Room scenario discs, sketch books, bonus skill points, etc. The sequels (X-Men Legends II and Marvel Ultimate Alliance) upped the ante by tying unlockable characters to the items you collect. In XML2, you have to find homing beacons to unlock Iron Man and the Danger Room discs allow you to unlock Professor X. MUA went even further by making Silver Surfer, Black Panther and Daredevil playable only if you collect enough items and then throwing some necessary items into play-them-once-and-you-can't-go-back levels. Fun.

In the world of Psychonauts, you do most of your playing in the minds of other people. Here you encounter figments of their imagination. THOUSANDS of them. Collecting figments helps you level up; but, getting 100% of all the figments in the game is a masochistic endeavor only the few, the brave, the obessively compulsed will attempt. Figments blend into the background, float in the air, hide behind scenery, flash past as you blast through a no-return area, etc. Anyone who's actually managed to grab every figment in the levitation-ball race should be honored as one of the greatest gamers of our age.

Could there be any doubt as to which game would be #1? Collecting pokemon IS the game! There is, quite literally, nothing else to do except capture and train pokemon. Yet millions (literally) of boys, girls, men and women play this game, trade pokemon and talk about it endlessly. If item collection is your thing, and you've exhausted the list above, pokemon is all you have left. You'll never be able to get enough. After all, as soon as you find all the pokemon in on version pair, Nintendo releases another. Talk about your hook, line and sinker...

With few exceptions, item collection is a bone thrown by sadistic developers to gamers who are obsessed with that 100% completion statistic. It's the OCD person inside all of us that compels us to "finish" games completely, so devs use item-collection as a cheap way of adding a few hours (or dozens of hours) to our gameplay experience. And we eat it up. So we say to these evil game developers, "Bring it!"

List by PapaGamer (07/10/2007)

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