The Dorklyst: 7 of the Greatest One-on-One Battles in Video Game History

By Mark Filipowich / August 10, 2011


All games need conflict. Most of the time the player's objective is blocked by several thousand faceless, nameless mooks throwing themselves in the path of danger with all the fervor of a headless chicken. But behind those mooks lies the antagonist, the figure that has been working against the hero all along. The best rivalry showdowns are between two solitary figures, foils of one another. These are the kinds of rivalries the player waits the entire game (or series) to settle once and for all. Here are some of the best one-on-one showdowns in gaming history.

7. Solid Snake vs. Liquid Snake in Metal Gear Solid


Cut from the same cloth—or rather, grown from the same Petri dish—Solid and Liquid are both clones of the same super-soldier. Liquid Snake was created from all the best aspects of the cold-war hero Big Boss, while Solid Snake was made from the inferior genes of the same man. However, because the American government couldn't justify keeping a soldier with such a sinister British accent on staff, Solid Snake became the series' hero, and the perfect-on-paper Liquid was kept from his birthright. Believing himself to be the genetically weak twin, Liquid's inferiority complex drives him to do what any of us would, take over a secret Alaskan military base and hijack a doomsday device.

Snake (the solid one) must wind his way through Liquid's facility, defeat an animal-themed squad of super soldiers and disarm Metal Gear, a nuclear-powered robot T-Rex (did I mention this was a Japanese game?). But before Snake can hang up his skin-tight rubber jumpsuit and call it a night, the two rivals settle their dispute the way they both knew they inevitably had to: a man-to-man fist-fight on the head of a metallic dinosaur's corpse. Never change, Japan.

6. Kratos vs. Ares in God of War


Anybody with even a tangential understanding of Greek mythology can tell you that it's a collection of stories about a family of warmongering incestuous pricks all trying to win gold in the Asshole Olympics. Greek mythology is the only context where a character like Kratos can be called a hero: he's brutally violent and self-centered, and only compared to Ares—an even more violent and self-centered character—can he seem even remotely sympathetic.

The god of war tricks Kratos into killing his own family to make him into the perfect warrior, because apparently he couldn't think of a better motivator. Later Ares lays siege to Athens, because he's a giant dick, and gives Kratos the chance to earn his revenge. Kratos pushes back all Ares' legions to throw down with the patron of war himself. The kind of horrible squishy vengeance Kratos exacts is the kind that will get you to the top of the international war criminals list. Or, in ancient Greece, a promotion to immortal deity.

5. Red vs. Blue in Pokemon


So you've just reached adolescence and as your first ritual into adulthood you can finally decide on your own name and sex. After that, you're given the choice of one of three Pokemon to start your very own career in pet monster fighting. With your new best friend and stars in your eyes, you're ready to shove off and see the world. Just as you take your first steps to fortune and glory, that asshole neighbor kid snatches up the pokemon that perfectly counters yours to fulfill his own dream of stalking you and wrecking your shit.

Your pokemon rival always shows up at the most inopportune times, when your pokemon are held together by nothing more than dental floss and a can-do attitude. He's always lurking in the shadows, waiting for that glimmer of hope to sparkle in your eye, just to pop out and dash it on the ground.

4. Cloud vs. Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII


There's a lot going on in Final Fantasy VII: an extinct race of enlightened mystics, a corporatocracy that's harnessing said mystics' knowledge and manufacturing it into electricity, and a genetic super-soldier fused with the cells of an alien parasite (never change, Japan). But brushing all that to the wayside, there's one thing that's immediately clear: the rivalry between Cloud and Sephiroth. The former is an insecure disappointment that masks his self-loathing with a cool, detached demeanour. The latter is an internationally respected war hero fallen from grace into destructive madness. When the planet's fate must be decided, Cloud is forced to take on Sephiroth alone. No mako-warped mutant, no sub-conscious lifestream manifest, just a young man and his corrupted hero. The hatred is so intense that Cloud unlocks the greatest power in the game: attacking out of turn.

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