The Dorklyst: The 8 Best & Worst Gimmicks In Videogame History

By Andrew Bridgman / August 3, 2012
The Dorklyst: The 8 Best Worst Gimmicks In Videogame History - Image 1

Gimmicks have always been a mainstay of the gaming industry – what better way to separate your game from the rest of the pack than by adding some weird, unique, maybe pointless feature? Sometimes the gimmick adds another layer of depth and makes your game more memorable – other times its annoying, stupid, or just plain bad. These are 8 of the best and worst gimmicks in videogame history.

Best – Sanity Meter (Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem)

Eternal Darkness was doomed from the start – playing as multiple characters (most of whom died grisly deaths no matter what you did), a surreal Lovecraftian plot (ending with ancient gods battling in outerspace while you fought a resurrected Roman centurion), and one of the most mind-bending gimmicks ever introduced into mainstream gaming: the sanity meter.

What it was (for those of you who didn't play, which based on the sales number is pretty much all of you) was your character would gradually go crazy every time they were seen by something…well, crazy. As the meter slipped, weird effects would start taking place – it appeared like there was a fly on your screen, the volume on your TV would lower, your save files would delete themselves. The game didn't see fit to only make the character feel like they were going crazy – they made you feel crazy too. The result was scarier and more immersive than almost any game ever, but most people ignored the game. Remember, developers: purposely trying to screw with gamers' grasp on reality – not the ticket to success.

Worst – Solar Sensor (Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand)

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It's hard to think of a gimmick more ill-conceived than Boktai's "solar-powered" one. Essentially, there was a sunlight sensor on the actual game cartridge, requiring you to play the game in direct sunlight in order to charge your weapon in the game. There was probably a few thoughts behind this gimmick:

  1. It will force gamers to go outside and be exposed to nature, which is good.
  2. It will set us apart as a unique, interesting game, which is also good.
  3. Those idiots will play with constant glare and it will be awful and then they'll want to play at night but won't be able to charge their weapon at all, which is whatever the opposite of good is.

It's that third point that was the major problem – to charge your weapon and play the game as it was meant to be experienced, you pretty much had to force yourself to deal with glare (which the Gameboy Advance did not handle all that well). Not only that, but if you ran out of weapon charge in the middle of the night, you were stuck playing the game in panic mode, hiding from enemies. Not exactly an ideal way to set up a game, but at least a lot of frustrated gamers probably got sunburn.

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