Death is inevitable. That much is true. Death in video games, however, well — that’s avoidable at best. Although, oddly, some graves are worth digging, just to see what would’ve been if we did allow that extra bullet to take us. And fortunately for us, that iconic game over screen can be nothing more than a minor inconvenience before giving us a second shot at belittling our defiler. And so, weirdly enough, sometimes it is worth taking the extra damage — just to see what awaits behind the shadowy gates of the afterlife.
From the traditional letters drizzled in blood to the unnecessary beatings we have to witness before being given a second lifeline — game over screens have always been trying to one-up the competition with fresh takes on failure. But having said that, what are the best game over screens we’ve ever encountered? What deaths have been worth dying over just to see a few seconds of extra material from beyond the grave?
5. Theme Park
Having a concept as simple and as warm as theme park building, you’d expect the game over screen to be nothing more than a gentle reminder of your losses and nothing more. But unfortunately, Bullfrog Productions didn’t seem to want to venture down that road when constructing the final piece of their rollercoaster tycoon build. In fact, the route they did end up travelling, morbidly enough, was a far cry from the family-friendly premise Theme Park probably should’ve had.
Go bankrupt and you’ll quickly find your managing player leaping from a building with the bleak funeral march playing over your descent. After a couple of seconds, fortunately, the character pops back up, all while the music continues to play, and the screen ultimately cuts to black, leaving your vacant silhouette in the reflection printed with a slumped jaw. Worth watching? Sort of. Worth risking the future of your theme park for? Not really.
4. Zombie Army 4: Dead War
Ever wondered what would happen if you allowed your fleshy remains to rise from the dead after yielding to the bite? Well, now you can see exactly what lurks above the surface — as a braindead meatbag with nothing to do but endlessly bark, bite and bludgeon your closest friends to death. And what’s more, you can even spectate the rest of the game through the blood-soaked eyes of your rotting leftovers. The only way out, of course, is to have another player put a bullet right between your eyes. Or hit the reset button. But that’s beside the point.
Zombie Army 4: Dead War is a true credit to the Left 4 Dead series, with plenty of bows to the franchise and its overall structure. And, having a roster that combines Rebellion’s finest and Valve’s choicest characters, it’s clear the two factions share a rather close-knit relationship, with plenty to keep players drawn to each undead tale. Only, when it comes to the game over screens — Zombie Army takes the lead and snags the vote for innovation alone.
3. Batman: Arkham
There’s nothing more frustrating than having to witness the dreaded game over screen unravel before your very eyes. But it happens. A lot, to be fair. Only, what we’re not entirely used to is having our rivals stand over us and taunt us for failing our goals a million times over. And annoyingly, that’s exactly what the Arkham series brings to the table every time. Every…single…time.
Don’t get me wrong, Rocksteady Studios does a stellar job by making us physically want to endure the game and come out swinging. But having said that, with every single enemy in the Arkham roster lining up to shell out a few moments to mock our efforts — we do have to start questioning our overall skill sooner or later. Still, we can’t help but give top marks for each and every cinematic the beloved Batman timeline shovels in — even if they’re only to kick us while we’re down. And then bury us.
2. Metal Gear Solid
In case you haven’t memorized the name of the protagonist you’ve been embarking on deadly quests as these past however many years — then let us remind you. It’s Snake. Or, in other words, “Snaaaaaake!” We know that because, well — we’ve heard it play out at least six thousand times over our long and winding journey with the elite soldier through the various game over screens. Only now, it just kind of plays on a loop in the back of our minds, even when we’re not thinking about anything remotely Metal Gear related. So, you know — that’s not good.
While the death scenes in Metal Gear aren’t stuffed with explosions and artificial outcomes, they are strangely satisfying to witness. At least for the first few dozen times, anyway. After that, we just sort of accept the fact that Snake is the only thing we’ll ever hear for the remainder of our days. But despite its simplicity and repetitive theme, each game over Metal Gear serves up is still adored by fans all over the world. We just don’t really know why.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
While working against the clock can automatically put your cogs to work at a ridiculously high speed — it can also fill you with that reckless feeling and urge you to surrender to the weight of the world slumping down on your shoulders. And for The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask — that’s often something that comes into play — especially when having an incredibly sinister moon gazing over you every waking moment. That, my friends, is when we just want to throw in the towel and bide our time with the stars.
It seems slightly odd, having melodic marketplace anthems drizzle over the world when having to watch a devilish crater slowly hone in on you. But it ties in rather beautifully, and it’s something only The Legend of Zelda can really get away with. I mean, sure, it’s incredibly dark, knowing the world trickles through an hourglass and you’re the only one who can stop it — but it’s something we strangely want to watch come to fulfilment, just to see Hyrule in flames. If only once.