Most "game over" screens are pretty self-explanatory. They generally say the word "game" and then indicate to you that it is, in fact, "over." That is all that is needed to communicate your failure without being a total dick about it. But that's not enough for some games. When a simple handwritten "Fuck you, player" would have sufficed, these jerks built a laser, carved the letters into the moon, then bombed NASA so nobody could ever erase it.
Arcade games have to strike a fine line with their "game over" screens. They need to get the message of defeat across while still convincing gamers that they should put in another quarter and try again instead of giving up and going to a rival machine. Lots of games accomplished this with an encouraging message, but apparently it used to be official Capcom policy that kids should be confronted with the grim specter of death whenever possible.
For example, in the beat-'em-up game Cadillacs and Dinosaurs (weren't the '90s great?), defeated players literally had a gun shoved in their face as the countdown blared.
"Are ... are you mugging me?"
Fail to ante up and you get shot right in the face. You thought this was a fun-filled romp through a land of big reptiles and even bigger cars? This is serious, life or death shit, kid.
At least the villains of Final Fight disposed of their defeated enemies in a suitably cartoonish fashion.
"Please, God, I swear this will be the last time I check the Casual Encounters section."
This wouldn't necessarily have been traumatizing on its own. It's no worse than a Bugs Bunny cartoon. But there's something about the way Haggar tried to blow out that bomb's fuse. There's so much fear and panic in his face -- you know he wants to live, and it is only your miserly quarter-guarding that is dooming him.
"Mayor Haggar is survived by his daughter and his mustache."
Then there's the Punisher arcade game, where the Punisher's sidekick frantically attempts to resuscitate his boss' battered body. It does not appear to be working.
"This is the most cardio work I've done in a decade."
That's because what the Punisher's dying body really needs is a 25-cent infusion, stat! We know it's only a handful of pixels, but if you squint at just the right moment, you can watch a man's heart break as his friend and mentor dies right there on the street.
"YOU CAUSED THIS! JUST LIKE YOUR PARENTS' DIVORCE!"
Mark Hamill has had a long and varied career, but he'll always be remembered for playing a single iconic role: an ordinary farm boy who grows up to be one of the greatest space fighter pilots the galaxy has ever seen. We are of course referring to Christopher Blair from the Wing Commander series.
One of the selling points of Wing Commander IV was a storyline that branched based on your decisions, actions, and accomplishments. By this point in the franchise, Blair is already a bona fide hero to humanity, but continued failure to meet your objectives leads to the worst fate a fighter pilot can suffer: a poor performance review from Malcolm McDowell.
"So, it's come to this. Your performance, I mean, not our respective careers."
McDowell lectures Hamill with the exacting precision and terrible viciousness that only a man who looks like Sting from the future can muster. At the end of the berating, Hamill is stripped of his commission.
His dignity having already been stripped by signing to this franchise.
Ever the gentleman, Hamill offers a farewell handshake, but McDowell has to be all McDowelly about it.
You should be used to getting shot down by now, Blair.
That should be it. That's waaay more than enough humiliation for a simple "game over" screen. You've taken your lumps, and you're ready to jump right back into the game to- no? It's still going? Jesus, is this a tactical space fighter or a disappointed mother-in-law simulator?
The humiliation continues on, as the scene jumps to a desert bar on Blair's home planet. The bartender pours him a generous splash of space booze, and the utterly defeated Blair slumps into a drunken depression that surely ends with him placing the business end of a blaster in his mouth.
"Blair, want a shot?"
"No ... That's later."
The finale of The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin has the titular villain dangling Mary Jane over a kiddie pool of acid. Here's what happens if you lose the fight.
The Kingpin hasn't been this happy since the McRib came back early.
Oh no! Clearly you're about to be dipped in acid. Well, you get the gist, time to hit "continue" and try again ... just as soon as you finish watching both your favorite hero and his sassy lovable wife melt into a fine slurry.
"... the hero was dissolved into an unrecognizable meat-goo. In other news,
McDonald's has suddenly announced the return of the McRib."
There was nothing unclear about that first still. Nobody lost that boss fight, saw Spidey and MJ up there about to go skinny dipping in the deepest end, and thought, "I wonder what happens next?" And yet they showed us anyway. The act itself isn't graphic. There's no blood or gore, but you definitely see Mary Jane's bare legs being submerged in acid, leaving little doubt that your favorite superhero and his wife died a horrific and agonizing death because you personally failed him. That's maybe a little heavier than we were prepared to deal with when we popped in our cutesy cartoon Spider-Man game. It made for some pretty philosophical Saturday mornings, all staring gloomily into our Alpha-Bits and only seeing the words "inevitable" and "mortality" spelled out there.