#3. Monster Party
Monster Party was another horror parody game about a boy named Mark and his gargoyle-griffin friend, Bert (shut up -- it's a traditional gargoyle name). Bert's home world is overrun with evil monsters, and because children with baseball bats are far better at fighting demons than, say, an entire race of vicious gargoyle-griffins, Bert needs Mark's help to defeat them. The levels are your standard video game pick and mix, including a sky castle, a sewer, a tower and a crystal cavern. But if you beat those levels, you see ...
... the level-transition screens featuring skeletons bathing in blood.
"Mmmm ... taste the liquid remnants of the child heroes who fell before you."
Which is ... a little unexpected, considering Nintendo's aforementioned content policies. But what really puts this on the "hamster in a microwave" level of disturbing is the ending of Monster Party. The king of the evil monsters is beaten, and Bert thanks Mark by giving him a box containing a beautiful princess. So, uh ... you just keep this girl in a box, Bert? OK, you're a gargoyle and we don't want to disrespect your culture. We shall accept your strange gift with humility and graciousness. Let's just open this sucker up and get this girl some air -- hey, look! The princess pops right out of there, unharmed.
And then her face rots away, the room fills with horrible monsters and the player gets a gruesome screen of Mark screaming while the flesh melts off of his body, like he'd just opened the Ark of the Covenant.
Again, that would be Mark the child.
This ending marked a lot of significant firsts in video game history: the first time a child felt betrayed via digital means, the first recorded instance of pixelated night terrors and the very first Nintendo-sponsored psychiatric visits -- truly, it was a groundbreaking moment in gaming.
Lemmings did more to disparage the good name of Arctic rodent migration than Disney's White Wilderness, but video games didn't come much cuter. The original box art was a veritable Where's Waldo? page of adorable lemming antics.
"No Fraggle Rock copyright infringement anywhere!"
That wasn't incongruous cover art: In the game, they were all bright colors and shenanigans, too:
Don't you just want to pinch their cheeks until the police show up and make you stop?
And sure, we guess there's something kind of dark in that half of the game is watching the little buggers get maimed, but they just pop into a spray of pixels when they die. You don't watch them get dragged into R'lyeh to have their souls flayed by Cthulhu or anyth-
This demonic hellhole is Tricky 14: MENACING!!, and is the only one of the game's 120 levels that look anything like this. The rest are fluffy clouds and waterfalls and forests, but for just one stage, your squeaky-voiced, bathrobe-clad man-rats trundle to their doom along a twisted mass of snake tentacles while blood drips down from above and gore-soaked skulls ooze from the ceiling.
On the plus side, you can only cry so much before you pass out from dehydration.
So what the jumping crap was that all about? Did somebody get so sick of programming cute deaths that they snapped and damned the Lemmings to rodent hell for the sin of mass suicide? It was actually recycled graphics from an earlier Amiga game, Menace, that the developers threw in there as kind of an inside joke for the fans. But unless you were intimately familiar with the entire Amiga catalog before firing up your cuddly rodent migration simulator, the casual player was just left to assume that they'd tripped over a root in Candyland and stumbled right into the Pain Dimension.
EarthBound was a quirky SNES RPG based on the childhood of Shigesato Itoi, who apparently wrote the entire game as an incredibly roundabout way to report psychological child abuse. But let's disregard the greater implications, and just go with the game as it's presented: EarthBound is a very colorful adventure that stars a group of young friends battling trash-can monsters with baseball bats. What more could a child ask for?
Ness knows some bitches who are about to pay for their insolence.
Now, we've talked about the game's nightmare of a final boss before, but we really should have seen that stuff coming earlier. In a previous section, Ness, Paula and Jeff find themselves in the resort town of Summers, where a New Age woman gives Ness some "magic cake." Like all magical pastries, eating it causes Ness to envision a far-off land where the young, unfortunately named Prince Poo is completing his training in the mystic art of Mu. His last trial is to climb a mountain, meditate for a bit, ignore all distractions and temptations, then get his spiritual anus ripped apart by the ghosts of his ancestors:
Piece by piece, the ancient ghosts dismantle Poo's body. All throughout the systemic maiming, the spirits ask Poo if he accepts the loss of his appendages and senses -- bluntly stating things like "I am going to break your legs. You will lose the use of them." But here's the twisted part: This is not just a cut scene. If players want to finish the game, they have to keep agreeing to let ghosts mutilate them virtually. They have to select each answer to the spirit's questions manually, and every answer has to be "Yes, please continue mauling me, ghost."
"Also, I may or may not fart into your open mouth."
For how primitive the technology was at the time, the game handled the maiming scenes with terrifying efficiency. When the ghost cuts your ears off, all sound in the game abruptly cuts out. When it gouges out your eyes, the screen goes black. It was a simple trick, but not one that we as young gamers were ever prepared for: It really drove home what amputation and mutilation felt like ... to a bunch of children way too young to even spell either of those words.
For more from Codie, including a hell of a lot more Lemmings, visit her site at Codiekitty.com.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The Horrifying Truth About Facial Remapping Software.
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn the proper way to make children poop their pants.
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