Posted by: Matt Y | 07/08/2017

Twenty Core Video Games That Every True SciFi/Fantasy Fan Should Know – Part 4


Now we’re approaching the more modern era, so the next two I dedicate to a couple games that managed to bridge the early console generations and the current generation and are still continuing to tell their stories.

10. Metal Gear SolidImage result for metal gear solid

Trying to explain the plot of Metal Gear Solid and sequels is like trying to summarize an entire soap opera while high on LSD.

Here’s my best attempt. In the 70s a shadow cabal within the government decided to clone Big Boss, essentially a natural born super soldier, under the fear that someday he might leave them. The cloning process ended up with several aborted attempts but resulted in the birth of Liquid Snake and Solid Snake which were clones made of prominent and recessive genes respectively.

Big Boss, also nicknamed Naked Snake, was not aware of the project and left the shadow group when he found out. The early Metal Gear games revolved around Solid Snake infiltrating Outer Haven, a militant group in Africa, and finding out about bi-pedal Metal Gear tanks that could launch a nuclear strike anywhere in the world. It turned out that father Big Boss was behind Outer Haven and in the end he killed him. But wait, it turned out that wasn’t Big Boss but Venom Snake a body double!

Image result for metal gear nes

Solid Snake ended up with depression and nightmares over his sort of fathers betrayal. He would be recalled to action when another Metal Gear tank was discovered to be in development in Asia. Turns out Big Boss was involved and this time Solid Snake was able to take out his genetic predecessor. After that he retired due to PTSD and trying to come to terms with if he had committed fratricide or suicide by proxy, for which he decided to see if the answer was at the bottom of a bottle. If anyone had a reason to get massively drunk it was this guy.

Then in 2005 an arctic base in Shadow Moses, Alaska was taken over by a rogue group that in the past had been led by Big Boss and was now being led by the other clone Liquid Snake. Liquid wanted the remains of his father turned over to his group and threatened a nuclear strike. Solid Snake was forced out of retirement by the US Government to infiltrate the group which brings us up to Metal Gear Solid.

The series overall is one long cyberpunk story that often brings up themes of genetic destiny, memes, similarity between genes and memes, and what it means to pass those along to the next generation. It questions the need for war and what it does to those who fight in wars. The developer Kojima has implied that the games also questions Americas place in the world. The various Russian nesting doll of shadow agencies, clones, technology and crazy level of trying to keep track of all the characters would make a Neal Stephenson fan proud.

Image result for metal gear solid psycho mantis left handed

Metal Gear Solid for the Playstation is one of those titles that really put the series on the map. The game didn’t hold back questioning the philosophy or motivations of the main character throughout the game and it had an oddly complex narrative for a stealth action game. The game also managed to add things that were just unheard of at the time and rarely duplicated since. During one encounter with an enemy named Psycho Mantis the game breaks the fourth wall, something the series is known for. Psycho Mantis will ‘read your mind’ by the game literally accessing the memory card plugged in and then tell you what games you like to play. While playing Mantis said ‘you’re left handed’ which floored me when I played. In the game Mantis can read your thoughts and therefore know the button input you choose, and the only way around it is to plug the controller into the player two controller port.

There’s a lot of small ways that the series breaks the fourth wall though Metal Gear Solid 2 takes it further than most with the entire plot being interpreted as questioning the role between player and player character and who is being controlled. It’s the kind of story told in other mediums only with the type of feedback and interaction that only a video game can provide.

9. The Legend of Zelda series

Image result for legend of zelda box art

“It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.”

With that one line The Legend of Zelda began and remains one of the most popular high fantasy series in the medium of video games to date. The games typically feature the characters Link, the Princess Zelda and Ganondorf who are destined to encounter each other in a viscous cycle over thousands of years.

The games all take place within an interesting continuity that shares tropes both familiar to fantasy and sci fi series. The games take place along different points of history in the land of Hyrule. In the beginning the world was created by three golden goddesses representing Power, Courage and Wisdom. They also created a pocket dimension called the Sacred Realm that was connected to the world they created. After they finished their creation they infused their power into a symbol of three connected triangles called the Triforce an placed it on the top of the temple of light in the Sacred Realm and left. It was spread that whomever held the Triforce and could balance the forces of Power, Courage and Wisdom within their heart would be granted their heart’s desire forever.

Which created too much temptation for a demon named Demise to resist. Demise tried to obtain the Triforce for itself, only to be defeated by a reincarnation of a Goddess named Hylia who was reborn as a mortal named Zelda, along with a boy named Link who fought to help Zelda.

Image result for legend of zelda it's dangerous to go alone take this

The demon stated his hatred would be reborn and that the descendants of Zelda and of Link would suffer. This started a cycle of events similar to something like The Wheel of Time, though with less braid tugging. The hatred of Demise was reborn in Ganondorf who broke into the Sacred Realm to steal the Triforce. Reincarnations of Zelda and Link would defeat him and seal him away, only for the cycle to repeat when he would brake free later.

Evil breaks free, sets loose across the land in a quest for power, young guy has to find the  courage to become a hero and a goddess reborn has to find the wisdom to stop it. Not only physical manifestations of the Triforce but similar to many fantasy stories.

One of the interesting things about the game series is it not only the different fantasy tropes but how it infuses sci-fi into if over the course of the events. The different games have various methods of time travel, from changing things in the past to affect things in the future, to Groundhog’s Day style time loops, to the timeline itself fracturing and splitting into parallel worlds based on the potential ending of one game. The most recent game has caused some confusion because it’s a dystopian future that features references to all three of the existing parallel timelines and is depressing to think that it might be the end state of all of them or they might have another game that shows how the parallel lines come together.

Image result for legend of zelda ganondorf link zelda

The title of the games is odd in that it’s called The Legend of Zelda however when looking at the games as a series Zelda is the most interesting character. Link, the player character, is always presented as a younger boy/teen who is often called lazy who must always find the courage to grow into the hero the world needs. Ganondorf is always just on a quest for power on control. Zelda while needing to be rescued in many games has shown to have more  free will in her different incarnations. She has been a princess, a pirate, a swordswoman, magician, sage, musician and military commander. It’s she that seals away the evil often. It implies that the legend is actually about the goddess who is continuously reborn as a mortal and that Link and Ganondorf are part of her overarching story. This is no monomyth, Link is not the sole hero on the journey even if that’s the player character, it’s an ongoing expression of how courage and wisdom need to reign in power when it becomes out of control

As a game it has captured the minds, hearts and imaginations of video game players. Every new generation of technology the games blend those adaptations within the larger narrative, whether it’s switching between world, or points in time, or from dimensional perspective. The cycle of Ganondorf, Zelda and Link has been constantly refreshed by a new elements, like controlling time, controlling the weather, dimension hopping, motion control, to utilizing voice and touchscreen to interact with the world. It’s worked from 2D, top down perspective, side scolling perspective, 2.5D, 3D, a game where you play as Link who can turn himself into a 2D image and slide across walls, and where you can shrink to a tiny size.

The game has managed to accommodate new technology and make it a part of the cyclical Hero’s Journey while remaining true to the core concepts fans enjoy, which is why it uniquely works as a video game. Telling it as a movie or in a book would lose part of the identity of the series. The game should be required knowledge for SFF fans because of how it plays with genre tropes along with how it manages to incorporate new technologies to continue to tell its tale.


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