Monday, 31 August 2020

Super Adventures: Game Over

Bad news, you just lost the game. It's all over, you've failed, the princess is dead, humanity is doomed, and you'll never get all your bananas back. But it's not all bad, as video games often include special exclusive content that can only be accessed by screwing everything up. Game over screens, continue screens, excessively well-animated death scenes, sometimes even a catchy song.

So this week's Super Adventures is going to be a celebration of bad endings! Mostly because they're far easier and quicker to get a screenshot of than good endings, and also much less spoilery! Oh, I realise the picture up there's a bit ominous, but the site itself isn't ending any time soon. Not permanently anyway, though I am taking another break after this for a few weeks.

You may be thinking 'How is this any different to one of those "Top 30 Game Over Screens" posts you'd find on other sites?' The answer is... it's not any different. It's exactly that. I have no shame. Though I might be the first site not to include Total Distortion's "You Are Dead" song... except that's a YouTube link I just gave you, so I suppose I kind of did. I won't be including Chrono Trigger's "But... the Future Refused to Change" screen either, because it's not really much to look at. It's just really grey.

First up I'm getting Dark Souls' game over screen out of the way. Though it's more like game over text really, as there's no unique art on display here. They could've had a little cartoon come up showing your poor hero getting killed in hilarious ways, a different one for every kind of monster that slays you, but I guess that would've clashed with the gritty, melancholy atmosphere.

Dark Souls' game over screen has become genuinely iconic, to the point where it's become a meme. It might just be "YOU DIED" in red text over the hero's perforated corpse, but it's so recognisable that Dark Souls basically owns the idea now and it comes off as a bit cheeky when other games try to pull the same thing.

My second game over screen is from Resident Evil: Director's Cut, though I expect it looks a lot like what you get in regular Resident Evil.

The thing about Resident Evil, is that I'm really really bad at it, so I saw this screen more often than I would've liked. It wouldn't have been so bad if the game had been more reasonable with its save system, but nope you have to go find a typewriter and use up one of your precious ink ribbons each time, so you're encouraged to avoid it for as long as you can. That means more to replay when you're killed!

SNAKE? SNAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE! Man, it's just not the same without sound. But I couldn't put up Resident Evil and then leave out the legendary Metal Gear Solid!

This particular game over screen is from the original Metal Gear Solid, but it also shows up (in a higher resolution!) during the Tanker chapter in Metal Gear Solid 2. This game over screen's so flashy and perfect that it couldn't have been easy for Hideo Kojima's team to come up with a better one for the game's second chapter.

Metal Gear Solid 2 fission mailed game over screen
Instead of flashy effects they went in a different direction with Raiden's game over by showing a bunch of gameplay stats instead, like... hang on, this isn't even a real game over screen! I'm still playing it in the tiny window. Kojima you mad bastard!

Also, I've noticed that there's been lots of text in these images I've shown so far but no actual game over artwork. I should do something about that.

Here's some proper art for you, from Shadow of the Beast II on the Amiga. I'm not sure what's actually going here, all I know is that it took me forever to screenshot. I mean it's incredibly easy to die in the game, there's no lives or continues and you can get permanently annihilated in about a second once you've found your first enemy, but the unskippable intro cutscene and all the loading took a while to get through.

It was worth it though, as the game over screen's probably the best part of the game, with its moody visuals and Pink Floyd sounding guitar riff. There's some strange muscles on that guy though; they apparently hired one of the few artists out there that's better at hands than they are at torsos.

This one's from Egyptian-themed first person shooter PowerSlave (the DOS version not the console version). I didn't play either of them, guest poster mecha-neko took this screenshot, but it looks like Anubis and his three clones are currently mummifying the hero alive. Which means they've totally skipped the stage where they remove the organs!

Here's another mecha-neko shot, from Nightbreed: The Interactive Movie on Amiga, and... hang on, are these the same person? Does PowerSlave take place within the mind of the protagonist of this entirely unrelated game? I can reveal exclusively in this article that no, no it doesn't.

By the way, I like how even the lock seems to be padded. I mean it makes sense: why go to the trouble of putting padding on the floor and three of the walls, and then make the other wall out of bare metal bars?

I'm fairly sure Kevin McCallister isn't dreaming of being embalmed alive in Home Alone on the NES either, but I can't explain why he's stripped off for his game over screen. I mean I know why, it's because it's a shot from the movie, but they didn't have to use this shot. They didn't have to use WordArt to draw the text either.

Man, I can't believe I remembered that his name was Kevin McCallister. I can't remember half the characters in the TV shows I'm watching right now, but I remembered that?

And this guy is the Sylvester McCoy incarnation of The Doctor in Dalek Attack on the Amiga. I actually chose to play as Tom Baker, but it switches back in the cutscenes... not that you can really tell from just a silhouette, an eye and a skeleton.

Don't worry, he's only stunned! He's be fine. Sure he's being held captive in the lair of his greatest enemy while they carry out the domination of the human race, but that just means it's a regular Sunday for him.

Don't worry about RoboCop either in RoboCop 2 on the NES. He always gets damaged like this in his films, so he can come back kicking ass in the third act.

Though this does actually look kind of bad. I mean they haven't even left him with an arm for that giant "System Failure" monitor to slide out of.

So many bad decisions in those RoboCop sequels.

Poor Dr D. Caine's not doing well either, in the game over screen to The Ooze on the Mega Drive/Genesis.

His boss caught him snooping on a secret project, so he injected him with something that turned him into green goop and then flushed him down the toilet. Then he recovered the goop and poured it into a lava lamp for his desk. He is not a good boss.

At least Caine can hope that someone will accidentally knock the lamp over and break it, giving him a second chance to expose the sinister plot and regain his humanity.

Meanwhile Guybrush Threepwood can only bloat, float, stare, bob, rot or order a hint book.

It's famously hard to die in a LucasArts adventure, but not always impossible, and The Secret of Monkey Island provides an opportunity right here. You have to fail to solve this puzzle in 10 minutes though and it's really not that hard, so this is pretty much a secret Easter egg.

These days it can feel like these LucasArts games basically defined the genre, but back in the day they were the exception. In the early days, adventure games were cruel.

It's piss easy to get yourself killed in Beyond Shadowgate on the PC Engine, for example. Which makes sense, as it's the sequel to the notorious Shadowgate. This was my punishment for cleverly setting a fire in my prison cell and then utterly failing to take out the guard when he came to investigate.

There's something really familiar about this scene though...

Here's the game over scene for cute platformer Elf, on the Amiga. Sadly I couldn't screenshot the maniacal laughter that goes with it. Imagine if a Sonic or Mario game had a game over like this? Actually there are enough sequels out there now that one of them probably does.

Elf came first, in case you were wondering. Though I have to wonder if this is a homage to a specific shot in a certain movie, because it's really suspicious how close the two games are, and I can't imagine the Shadowgate developers were big fans of Elf.

Here's a slightly more graphic death scene for you, from Isle of the Dead, for MS-DOS. I don't even notice the gore though as I can't take my eyes off the shading. It makes the art look like it's a stained glass window come to life.

Despite the point and click adventure interface, this one's apparently more of a first person shooter. At least, that's the impression I got from reading mecha-neko's post, I've never played the game myself.

Quik the Thunder Rabbit is in for a similar fate here and he knows it. Look, one of the monsters has even got a knife and fork ready! The sad thing is, the way Quik's metabolism is like in game, he'll probably die of hunger before those things have even reached him.

But if you think Quik's got problems, look at poor Jazz in the Jazz Jackrabbit GBA game.

He's been locked up in the Looney Tunes opening titles and the gap between those bars is barely even big enough for him to slip through effortlessly! I don't blame him for not trying though, as the only thing he's got waiting for him out there is more of the GBA game (it's not very good).

Anyway, enough sad bunnies, here have some sinister blobs:

This one's from the arcade version of Puyo Puyo. I got my ass kicked by the strangest damn fish on level two.

She can get out of this though. All she has to do is assemble them in matching groups of four and they'll disappear. Wait, there's only two or three of each colour! Well, she's dead.

You think I'm joking about Puyo Puyo blobs being a threat?

This is the game over screen for Puyo Puyo 2 on the SNES. That poor girl just got crushed!

Squishing the hero is a theme that shows up over and over in game over screens.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;birth 1 dogoo game over screen
Here's the hero getting crushed by some kind of dog-slime in Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 on PC.

And here's Jackie Chan in Jackie Chan Action Kung-Fu NES, trying to hold up a giant sack of, uh, game over? I have to admit, I don't actually know what this is meant to be.

He's doing better than most, as he's managing to keep the thing from slamming down onto him.

Here's maybe the earliest appearance of this trope though, in Manic Miner on the ZX Spectrum. I haven't actually done the research here, but the game came out in 1983, so it seems plausible. It might even be the first game to totally rip off Monty Python, as it's blatantly stolen its famous foot.

I should mention that this is a special edit, specially made to save you from the flickering that's usually going on in the background. The authentic GIF is available if you click the image.

Most of the games so far have been fairly light on text, but some games like to go the other way and pen an essay on your failures.

Here DOS shooter Interpose demonstrates how to drop a block of text on the player to make them miserable. The game is set during prehistoric times, where an advanced utopian civilization of cats are trying to stop mankind from taking over the Earth, so the bad ending is just our present day world! And even if you beat the game you still have to live in that bad ending when you turn it off.

Though to be honest I like humans, so I'm okay with the cats losing this time.

James Bond always saves the day and gets the Bond girl... unless I'm playing as him in Amiga point and click adventure James Bond: The Stealth Affair, in which case it's more likely he's going to be locked away in a very dark room for the rest of his life by a pair of Rambos.

Still, it could always be worse. He could be this guy from Death Duel on the Mega Drive:

I only lost one fight!

In Death Duel's dark future, disagreements between galactic superpowers are resolved by having two fighters shoot at each other in an arena. Entire empires can fall in a single round, because there only is one round; it's not best of three.

Of course a game doesn't need all that text to mock the player for their failure. Sometimes less is more, especially if it comes with a picture of the villain looming over the defeated hero.

Like in Guy Spy and the Crystals of Armageddon on the Amiga.

Man, I can't believe that supervillain Baron Von-Max came all the way over to level one just to gloat over Guy Spy's shirtless dead body! I suppose it shows how much he really cares.

I wonder if he's really called Guy Spy, or if that's just a nickname. Either way he's probably the first video game hero to share his name with a "location based online social network, gay dating app". I mean I haven't done the research but it seems plausible.

The Arkham games turned this type of game over screen into an art form, with each of the villains getting a chance to mock you for proving that basically anyone can take the Dark Knight down in a straight fight. Here's Deathstroke in Batman: Arkham Origins getting his turn in the void of shame.

This guy's the first difficulty spike in the game, he's a real bastard. Though I can't say that's not faithful to the comics. And at least he's not a naked demon man, like whoever this guy is:

This is from Deliverance on the Amiga, and it's actually the 'you lost a life screen' not the game over screen, but whatever, it looks cool. I like the dramatic lighting.

Hurricanes Sega Genesis Mega Drive Game Over screen
Not much dramatic lighting in Hurricanes on the Mega Drive, but the mockery's off the charts. These three are practically pissing themselves with laughter at your pitiful attempts to defeat their evil football-related schemes.

This villain from Barbarian II on the Amiga doesn't have a smile anymore (he burned his own face off in the intro because... I don't even know), but I'm sure he's laughing on the inside.

I don't think this character from Samurai Ghost on the PC Engine is even a villain, but they like to mock me all the same.

Why can't I ever find anyone who's encouraging on the game over screen? Or indifferent at least!

Oh no, I take it back, that's almost worse. Jackie Chan just shrugs at my ultimate failure in arcade fighter Jackie Chan: The Kung-Fu Master.

The funny thing about Kung-Fu Master is that unlike in other Jackie Chan games (or movies, or anything) he's the villain and you can't play as him. In fact he's three villains, as you face versions of him based on his characters from some of his movies.

But there was an updated version called Fists of Fire: Jackie Chan Densetsu which lets you play as all three Jackies and his protagonist status was restored.

But the ultimate 'gloating at the hero' game over screen has got to be Demolition Man on the Genesis/Mega Drive. I mean just look at it! Gaze into its perfection.

My favourite part is how Simon Phoenix there looks more like he's posing for a holiday snap. He's just travelling around taking a tour of burning buildings and wanted to send you a postcard saying he's really enjoying himself and also you lose.

That's it though I'm afraid, it's done, it's over. There's no coming back from a defeat this comprehensive and absolute.


Oh never mind, Nintai Ryoko from PC platformer Super House of Dead Ninjas just broke free and now we're back in the game! Those Wolverine wrist knives are pretty handy.

Wow, making lists on the internet is great! I want to do another one about something else.

Hmm... how about the Top 5 Most Suitable Names for People Involved in Various Superhero Projects:
  1. Mark Hamill - Played notable Arkham resident The Joker in all kinds of cartoons and games.
  2. John Barrowman - Was a major character in the TV series Arrow, man.
  3. Marc Webb - Directed a couple of Spider-Man movies.
  4. Devin Grayson - Wrote comics about Nightwing, aka Dick Grayson.
  5. Uh... Hulk director Ang Lee maybe? No, I don't think I like that one.
Okay I'm bored of lists now. And video games.

In fact Super Adventures is going on a short break now while I recover my will to play. But it'll be back at some point in October (with any luck), and you can always hang out with us on the Official Super Adventures Discord while you wait.


  1. Interpose game over is so bizarre.

  2. You wouldn't like me when I'm Ang Lee.
    Also, you wrote "insane" instead of "inside", even though that kinda fits.

    1. Wow, that's an... interesting slip. Thanks, I've fixed it.

  3. I did get that Monkey Island death screen the second time I played it, because it had been a few years since I'd played it the first time, and I'd forgotten how to solve that puzzle. For some reason, that day my brain wasn't working right and I tried everything -- except the one thing -- and Guybrush drowned.

    That Deliverance screen is definitely not a proper Game Over, because it looks a lot like things are just getting started.

  4. The thing Jackie Chan is holding up in the Jackie Chan Action Kung-Fu is probably a Gourd, something used in China (and especially in chinese Action Kung Fu Movies) to hold alcohol in. For reference, you can see it being used in Jackie Chan's "Drunken Master" films, for example (and incidentilly it hangs from the belts of the "drunken Master Style fighters" Shun from Virtua Fighter 2 onwards and on some outfits of DOA's Brad Wong).
    Though depending on how you look at it this picture could also a bit... I dunno... 'scatological'...

    1. It's always great when I come away from my comments knowing more than I did when I started reading. I was thinking it might have been a gourd but I couldn't quite remember the name of it, and when I checked the cover of the Drunken Master DVD he's holding something that looks entirely different, so I gave up and moved on.

  5. I swear that for some moments my heart skipped one or two beats...

  6. When you started, I was expecting Limbo of the Lost et al but this is not a lazy list at all!

    I've never seen most of these end screens before and they are mostly awesome!

    That deliverance screen looks like a cosplay video from pornhub ...

  7. System Shock has a classic game over screen, in which SHODAN's minions find your body and give it new life. I was always creeped out by the way that your eyes turn white, as if the Cortex Reaver was boiling your head.

    It had a second game over screen that was hilarious - if you fired the mining laser before turning on the shields there was a little picture of a city on Earth being fried, and SHODAN thanked you for flipping the switch on her behalf.

    The other ending that springs to mind is Balance of Power, which had a snarky line about how there weren't going to be any fireworks because you just caused a nuclear war.


Semi-Random Game Box