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.
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.
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 [nunchuck/controller] 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.
( PC / PS3 / PS4 / PS Vita / Xbox One)
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.
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 [terrifying/horrific/delightful] 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.
(Dreamcast / Windows)
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…