Video game experiences are often littered with game over screens as reminders to check a corner or sharpen some in-game skill a little more. While some of these are simply used as seams between sessions, some games incorporate this process to give some extra motivation, tug at your heartstrings, or offer a glimpse into the world that the dead protagonist did not stop. Titles that have their death scenes integrated tend to be remembered for them, even if there are not many ways to die inside a certain game world. Below is a showing of some of the best uses of the game over screen in all of gaming.
Dear Esther, an example of a video game where death is not meant to happen too often, uses the brief experience to leave an impact. This is a title that seems tough to characterize in the same vein as Gone Home as there is no structured objective system or enemies, but only a story to drive players through. Unlike Gone Home, Esther does leave a few drowning opportunities for the player’s avatar, and taking any of these offers a heartfelt, sorrowful “Come Back” to come from the narrator. With this simple plea, players now see that this person who slowly walks a desolate island alone does so with a purpose and will not relent on that goal quite yet.
Batman games are in the midst of a renaissance with the Arkham series, and some of the best game over screens available in a video game is a part of the reason why. Being the Bat himself, users can float through weighty combat scenarios that can be stealthy, direct or a mixture of the two depending on play styles. Losing all of Batman’s health, however, will still result in one of a carousel of super villains, depending on which gang of henchmen put Batman down, proclaiming their victory under a spotlight with a short monologue. One of the more memorable instances involves Clay Face and, now that he “killed” the Dark Knight, changing his body to become the new Batman, probably to much more violent results for Gotham.
Another non-violent game over screen can be seen in Banjo-Kazooie, a video game about a bear and his backpack bird. This Super Mario 64 clone matched this couplet against Gruntilda and her mission to suck the “cuteness” out of Banjo’s sister and into her own body. Losing his stock of lives meant seeing this plan carried out, Gruntilda becoming a polygonal beauty and having her youth. This “what-if” conclusion is one of the few available in gaming and gave plenty a smiling motivation to players upon their return.
A video game that popularized a whole line of game over screens, Resident Evil 4 decided to go the violent route. Early in this survival-horror adventure, a villager with a chainsaw smashes through an open door with speed. Should his wound-up strike land, that spells the end for Leon, but what a lot of gamers did not expect is that the game actually shows the follow through. This bloody, somewhat shocking action continued throughout that title with other kills being shown in their entirety, and also continues through that video game lineage to games such as Dead Space 2 and The Evil Within.
Opinion by Myles Gann