#2. Final Fight Meets Final Fantasy
The beat-'em-up genre is a bit of a lost art: I'm talking about those old school games like Double Dragon and Final Fight where all you did was walk down the street punching people until you reached the boss, then did it all over again. You never had to ponder which way to go or what item to use. Whenever the game put something new in front of you, you always knew what to do: punch it until it dies.
Metro City's mayor has a low tolerance for double parkers.
On the other hand, role-playing games like World of Warcraft and Fallout remain popular to this day, but the entire genre faces a major, devastating crisis: I don't like 'em. I haven't tried to get into RPGs since that one time as a kid when I rented one of the early Final Fantasy games for Super Nintendo, but got bored during the intro sequence and decided to go watch my dog eat stuff, then poop it, then eat it again (it was a dumb dog). The complex stories and mythologies look intriguing to me, but the whole "constantly stopping the game to craft gems/pick attacks/look at numbers" thing always loses what little attention I have. Come to think of it, the dog may not have been the dumbest one in the house.
Whoa, whoa, slow down there! Who do you think I am, Stephen Hawking?
Luckily, I have a way of fixing both genres, the one too simple for most modern gamers and the one too complex for me: merge them. Give me an elaborate meta-narrative presented in the form of a 2D beat-'em-up game. You're walking down the street, but instead of instantly resorting to violence, you can have meaningful interactions with the characters you come across, and the decisions you make will affect the outcome of the game. Or you can just punch them, and that too will affect the outcome of the game: You'll probably end up in jail, but then you can punch your way out and spend the rest of the story on the run from the law.
You can befriend other characters and form a party, like in Final Fantasy, but there's no tedious RPG-style combat: there's just punching, and hitting people with stuff you pick up from the floor. The bigger your party, the more your boss fights will resemble drunken brawls. There's a map, like in Final Fight, with the difference that you can actually choose where to go or return to places you've been before, even if you've pissed off everyone there (which will increase the difficulty).
We all fantasized about reaching the secret "Atlantic Ocean" stage and punching all the fish, right?
The closest thing we have right now to an RPG/beat-'em-up mashup is Capcom's awesome Dungeons & Dragons arcade games, but they didn't go far enough. Those are still mostly regular beat-'em-ups where you can occasionally choose which way to go. The ball is in your court, game makers: You can either continue making shitloads of money by leaving RPGs as they are, or you can change them to please one dumb guy on the Internet. I think we all know what the correct answer there is.
#1. Zelda: A Link to the Past Meets Maniac Mansion
Nintendo, Lucasfilm Games
(Another full disclosure: I came up with this idea with my frequent Cracked co-conspirator Ashe "T-Pain" Cantrell, so be aware that if you're a game developer and you contact us about making this game, we will be forced to fight each other to the death so that only one gets the money.)
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is one of the imagination-expanding games that I'm glad I played as a kid, because it conditions your brain to think that the world is full of amazing secrets and that there's always something interesting just outside your reach. Maniac Mansion, on the other hand, is a point-and-click adventure game that I'm glad I played when I was older, because most of the humor would have flown right over my head, and also I'm pretty sure I would have felt bad and cried after making Syd microwave that hamster.
Or I would have grown into a serial killer. It's a 50/50 chance.
The coolest part of Link to the Past was the light world/dark world dynamic, where you could jump back and forth between two separate dimensions. I still remember stumbling into the other dimension for the first time and being completely blown away -- the game's world already seemed inconceivably massive to me, and now they were telling me there were two of them? It was largely the same shit with a different color palette, but still.
A crucial difference was that one of the worlds had a way poorer sewage system.
But, as great as that concept may be for action-oriented games like the Zelda ones, I feel like it would work even better in a point-and-click adventure. In games like Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island, you spend most of the time clicking at things so that your character will say something witty like "That is a lamp" or "I can't use this orange juicer on that telephone." Eventually, however, you get tired of staring at the same places over and over when you can't figure out a puzzle, and you turn off your computer and then turn on your other computer to play another game (or play both on the same computer, I guess, if you're some sort of weirdo who doesn't have one for each game).
So, here's the idea: a point-and-click game where the other game you go play when you get bored of point-and-click games is the same game that you're already playing! In other, less confusing words, you can explore the game's world in two different dimensions: the regular reality of a Maniac Mansion-style house where you can take your time to examine different objects and figure out puzzles, and a Zelda-ish dark world with the same spatial configurations, but filled with monsters and evil shit trying to kill you. Some puzzles would require jumping back and forth between the two dimensions, but in general, the dark world will be designed to give your brain a break by providing a more active method of exploration (plus, bitchin' boss fights).
"I can use this orange juicer on that pig demon, and it just took his fucking eyeball off!"
What type of crazy-ass story could possibly justify using this game mechanic? Unfortunately, Ashe won't let me share the plot we came up with unless someone hires us to make this game. What a greedy fucking bastard.