Breaking the fourth wall. Those moments in a game when the people behind the scenes take a moment away from the action to give the player a little nudge in the ribs saying “Get it? Huh? HUH?!” Sometimes it’s just a small joke, other times it’s the characters taking the time to comment to us directly…they can even scare us to death and make us think our console is ready for the scrap heap. These moments are often jarring and can take the player out of the narrative. However, there are those fourth wall breaking moments that just stick with us and become the stuff of legend.
Here is a list of five of our favorite fourth wall breaking moments. Beware of spoilers, of course.
Batman: Arkham Asylum – Joker’s Asylum
All of the Scarecrow nightmare missions from Batman: Arkham Asylum were memorable, but none more so than Joker’s Asylum. After taking down another group of thugs, Batman heads back into the Intensive Treatment ward, looking for a way down into Killer Croc’s lair. One moment, Batman is walking down an empty hallway. The next moment, the game system is locking up! Just before you hit the power button and hope the system comes back on, the game returns…all the way to the beginning?! All that time wast…wait, is that the Joker driving the Batmobile? What’s going on here?!
This is a moment that will not soon be forgotten. Rocksteady channeled another entrant on this list by making the player think their console was failing. (at a time when that was a legitimate concern)
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem – Memory Card Deletion
Eternal Darkness for the GameCube was full of fourth wall breaking moments. Called “Sanity Effects,” the moments would occur whenever the player character’s sanity meter was depleted. Some of these effects were muted sound, skewed camera angles, and even a blue screen of death.
None were more frightening, however, than the moment that the player was informed that the contents of their memory card were being erased. Months or even years of hard work seemingly gone in a blink of an eye. More than one gamer shed tears, shouted expletives, or even broke their controller in frustration and anger before realizing what was happening.
Tomb Raider 2 – Shower Scene
It may be hard to believe now, but gamers were clamoring for a nude code for Lara Croft in Tomb Raider on the original PlayStation. More than a little upset that the Tomb Raider fan base was more fascinated by Lara’s polygonal pair than the actual game, developer Core decided to have a little fun in the sequel.
At the end of Tomb Raider 2, the player is shown Lara’s bathroom as the shower is heard running in the background. Panning up from the floor, Lara is shown setting down her shotgun and is revealed to be wearing the shortest of bath robes. Just as she is about to remove her robe and show all her digital goods to the people at home, Lara turns and looks the player dead in the eyes before quipping “Haven’t you seen enough?” while picking up her shotgun and firing off a shot directly into the camera as the screen goes to black.
Well played, Core. Well played, indeed.
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