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The 25 Best Wii U Games (Top 10)

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10. Pikmin 3

Gorgeous greens and subtle blues paint the beautiful world of ‘PNF-404’, an emotionally aggravating planet of wondrous wilderness filled with exotic life forms. As an alien that’s exhausted all resources on your home planet, you visit merely to exploit it. The incredibly cute, but helplessly naive, creatures called Pikmin follow you curiously like you’re their messiah sent from the heavens. They will fight for you, protect you, and sometimes even die for you and your selfish cause. The poignant connection you establish with the Pikmin only make the game more uneasy as you watch them be devoured by the predators of the planet. Your march through the luscious forests and the ponderous ponds, in search of the cosmic drive key to send you and a bountiful of fruit back to your home planet, is a treacherous task; you’ll need the Pikmin help to solve the puzzles. The addition of more species of Pikmin, with new abilities such as flight, create much more complicated puzzles than the previous installments. (James Baker)

Super Mario Maker

9. Super Mario Maker

As the name might suggest, Super Mario Maker allows players to make their own Super Mario Bros. levels—specifically, levels that fit within the aesthetics of four games in the series: Super Mario Bros.Super Mario Bros. 3Super Mario World, and the recent New Super Mario Bros. U. Creating levels can be a daunting task but what helps Super Mario Maker stand apart from other games, like LittleBigPlanet, is how easy it really is. Super Mario Maker keeps things simple by removing complicated elements like logic programming, and features an incredibly accessible level construction kit that anyone can easily enjoy. The well-designed interface makes learning easy, and once you are finished, you can share your creations online with a passionate community of fans from around the world. And that is what makes Super Mario Maker so great— the play hub, where you can simply enjoy Mario Maker levels made by other people. With such an active and passionate community, Super Mario Maker has provided Wii U owners with countless hours of gaming. Whether creating, exploring, watching others play and create, or just playing other people’s levels, Mario Maker has provided us with an exceptional experience, all while offering insight into three decades of platforming brilliance. (Ricky D)

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8. Splatoon

An untraditional console needs an untraditional standard-bearer, and so Splatoon just may end up being the game that most defines the Wii U. Instead of racking up kills, the goal of regular battles is to cover as much of the area in your team’s ink as possible, while preventing the opposing side from doing the same. Leave it to Nintendo to create not only an online multiplayer shooter where aiming your gun at another player isn’t the way to win, but also generating some refreshing inclusiveness in a genre noted for being harsh on newcomers. Part of this brilliance lies in the game’s accessibility: though some players may not have the precision sniping skills to pick off their half-squid/half-human mutant opponents one by one, reveling in the gurgling death throes, anyone can pick up a paint roller and cover the ground in inky goodness. This doesn’t mean that smart tactics and expertise aren’t rewarded, but instead that no one is useless, coldly abandoned by their mates to simply become stats for the enemy. Technique still reigns supreme on the battlefield, but at least rookies aren’t simply relegated to cannon fodder. Quick matches also keep things moving along, ensuring that those getting painted into a corner won’t have to endure the punishment for long, and a wealth of other modes cater to all skill levels and play types. Anyone can have fun making a glorious mess in Splatoon, and this philosophy is a huge part of what makes it so special.

The rest of the credit goes to some of the most satisfying gameplay found this side of a Mario game. Rarely does the simple act of controlling a game’s avatar feel this good, but the intuitive controls in Splatoon entice players to keep running, jumping, and swimming through globby battle after globby battle long after bedtime. The ability to dive into the murky splatter to cruise underneath fences and up walls, creating one’s own path with nothing more than the standard ammunition, opens up arenas to all sorts of approaches, providing big payoffs to those who ink outside the box. This freedom of movement, coupled with the multiple weapon types with strengths and weaknesses that all feel distinct, leads to a sense of gleeful liberation, turning matches into less a predatory competition than delightful chaos, where surprises lurk under the surface and the restricting rules of “hardcore” gaming are thrown out the window in favor of utter enjoyment. In the end, Splatoon is destined to be looked upon as the hallowed beginning of a (non) killer franchise, an experience that ranks among the best on the Wii U. (Patrick Murphy)

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7. Bayonetta 2

Nobody could’ve predicted the story of Bayonetta 2. The first game came out on the PS3 and Xbox 360, introducing the world to it’s loud, proud and unflinchingly provocative protagonist. It definitely came off like the type of game that you’d never find on a Nintendo console, so little did anyone know that not only would the sequel be on the Wii U, but that it would be exclusive to the console.

Had Bayonetta’s second adventure been as watered down as many expected it to be due to Nintendo’s family friendly stance, it wouldn’t have been a true sequel. Luckily, not only did Nintendo allow Platinum Games to make Bayonetta 2 the way they wanted to, but they actively encouraged them to go wild. As a result, Bayonetta returns as her crude, violent, and highly sexual self, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Bayonetta 2 takes everything the original set up and improves it greatly. Comboing split-second dodges and consecutive attacks feel even more satisfying than the original, and the Wii U allows the visuals to shine, making the original look inferior in comparison. Nintendo-based costumes also add an extra visual flare, allowing you to pummel demons with Bowser’s limbs, or slice angels with the Master Sword.

But above all, the greatest part of Bayonetta 2 is its protagonist. Bayonetta is honestly one of my favourite characters of all time. Her unrestrained enjoyment for battle definitely rubs off on the player, encouraging you to utterly destroy and humiliate your opponents. The story itself isn’t breaking any new ground, but Bayonetta’s lovable personality and interactions with other characters never stops being entertaining, and only enhances your enjoyment of the game. Upon release, Bayonetta 2 received rave reviews, making it easily one of the most positively-received games in the Wii U library. We can all thank Nintendo for providing not only the creative freedom, but the funding necessary to bring us this absolute gift of a game. (Ade Adeoye)

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6. Shovel Knight

Sometimes an axe is too heavy, or a sword is out of reach, and so you’re left to fight like a peasant with a shovel. Occasionally, the ridiculous can be an utter genius, and Shovel Knight blurs the boundaries of ingenuity. Shovel Knight is equally humble in its celebration of retro gaming and innovative in its fresh approach to game design. Your shovel is a versatile piece of equipment that isn’t just used to defeat foes. Much like in real life, its capability to dig provides opportunities to find treasure which upgrades your equipment. This furthers your valiant mission to defeat the Enchantress and save the Order of No Quarter from themselves. An Indie game published by Yacht Club Games, it began as a successful Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign and has since created a legacy of its own. (James Baker)

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5. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Masahiro Sakurai really outdid himself with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, giving fans of the series just about everything they could want and more. It’d be easy to take Super Smash Bros. to task for having changed so little since its debut three console generations ago, but putting aside the problematic online mode, Smash delivers more fighters, more stages, more songs, more moves, more modes, more everything! There is a laundry list of things to love about Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, and topping the list is the game’s confidence, which allows it to cater to anyone who might be interested in duking it out with Nintendo’s beloved character roster. This new Smash Bros. is perfect for beginners and experts alike, and features a lineup of more than 50 mascots from Nintendo, Sega, Bandai Namco and Capcom.

Just as impressive as the character roster is the arena line-up, with over 50 beautifully-crafted stages (counting DLC) from which to choose. These stages provide the perfect battling ground, and in some cases, the arena will fight back. Smash Wii U is the great equalizer of games—a game that embraces the series’ hyper-competitive side, all the while still managing to deliver one of the most enjoyable party games in years. It’s a bottomless toy box, never getting old, and much like the very best Wii U games, Smash is the best game to play with family and friends. And this time around, you can play with up to eight players. What more can you ask for? (Ricky D)

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4. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Good things do come in big packages. The trick for any game developer is to find the small game within the big one, which is exactly what Retro Studios did with Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze. Tropical Freeze is the fifth Donkey Kong Country sidescroller, the second made by Nintendo’s Austin, Texas-based studio, and the best of the bunch. The game doesn’t deviate much from the established formula, but Retro Studios has done more with this latest DKC than a simply change of scenery. The most striking improvement is that Donkey Kong is in HD for the very first time, and he looks great. But don’t be fooled by its beauty; Tropical Freeze is a tough platformer, seemingly designed to frustrate even the most gifted gamers. Here is a game made with wit and excitement, boasting plenty of moments of visionary beauty, but also a game that will drive you mad. I lost count keeping track of the number of times I died while playing, but it was all worth it.

Tropical Freeze‘s six islands contain some tense challenges and lots of unique level ideas. Each level delivers a sense of scale that feels bigger than most two-dimensional games, and the constant switches and level variety keeps it fresh and interesting throughout. Tropical Freeze is full of astonishment, thrills, chills, spills, kills and ills. The lengthy boss fights and multitude of well-placed secrets and collectibles stand out as some of the best parts of the game, and like many Wii U titles, Freeze also features a couch multiplayer mode where player two can choose between Diddy, Dixie Kong, and Cranky Kong. Meanwhile, original series composer David Wise returned to create one of the best video game soundtracks of this generation. Brawling, magnificent, heroic: That’s Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze. (Ricky D)

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3. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

Originally released on both the GameCube and the Nintendo Wii, and helmed by Eiji Aonuma (Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker), Twilight Princess is visually breathtaking, emotionally powerful, downright exciting, and brings you in as close as a whisper for scenes of startling emotion. Like most other Zelda games, Twilight Princess is a retelling of the same basic tale, though this one is not without its twists. The game is unique among Zelda titles because of its pervasive darkness, a theme that informs the aesthetic, the character design, and the overall tone of Link’s journey. The twilight that’s infected the land is an alternate reality of sorts, serving as the game’s equivalent of A Link to the Past‘s dark world. It’s beautiful yet disturbing, vibrant yet bleak, and the events that transpire are equally unsettling and inspiring. Twilight Princess also features Link’s best sidekick, Midna, who is one of the freshest concepts in the long-running series, and the best showdown between Ganon and Link. And yes, Link can transform into a blue-eyed wolf. What more could you want? (Ricky D)

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

2. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD

Of all home-console Legend of Zelda titles, GameCube’s The Wind Waker has perhaps aged the best. Its cel-shaded world, expressive, cartoonish characters, vibrant, simple-yet-beautiful art style, and near-perfect gameplay ensure that ten years after its initial release, it remains as breathtaking now as it was then. Ironically, this is the first Zelda entry Nintendo selected for the full HD treatment, and thank the Fierce Deity they did! Wind Waker HD’s narrative is just as emotionally gripping and swashbuckling-ly engrossing as the original. Rather than cutting straight to the fantasy adventure Zelda is known for, The Wind Waker takes a slower, steadier approach, grounding the story in a familial plight before launching into the expected tropes of the series, this time on the high seas. As a result, Wind Waker, with its charming, expressive characters, is one of the most relatable entries in the entire franchise, while simultaneously carrying some unexpectedly heavy, moving themes that never weigh the game, thanks to its charming exterior.

Speaking of which, Wind Waker HD comes equipped with staggering updated visuals, making this one of the most visually striking games I’ve ever played. The textures look nearly seamless, the vivid colors pop like never before, and above all, the lighting effects bring this gorgeous cartoon world to life in the most appealing way. While the cel-shading of the original game helped preserved that entry for over a decade, the updated HD visuals are certainly the way the game should be experienced. Despite some initial hesitancy on the part of fans, the original was received exceptionally well but wasn’t without some player grievances. Nintendo heard the moans and adjusted aspects of the game. With a new item, sail times are faster, and the infamous Triforce fetch quest has been diminished. On top of that, overall animation speeds have been quickened, making for a smoother experience. Plus, being ported to the Wii U come with its own set of perks, including a hyper-convenient inventory menu on the gamepad, and always open maps on the second screen. Further, with the Wii U comes Miiverse, and The Wind Waker HD features my favorite Miiverse integration yet in the form of shareable selfies utilizing the previously uninteresting camera item. The results are hysterical and entertaining beyond reason; every game should feature silly selfies. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD represents everything an HD remake should be and then some. It features the same exceptional gameplay that made the original so notable, visually it blows expectations of what an HD update looks like out of the water, and the other adjustments are perfectly minimal yet greatly enhance convenience and user experience. The Wind Waker HD is undoubtedly how Wind Waker should be experienced, is one of the most gorgeous games ever made, and will forever be remembered as one of the best experiences the Wii U has to offer. (Tim Maison)

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1. Super Mario 3D World

Super Mario 3D World had a lot to live up to at its launch. The previous three 3D Mario titles on N64, GameCube, and Wii had all cleverly innovated on (or in Super Mario 64’s case, even invented) the traditional 3D platformer. As a follow-up to the critically acclaimed Super Mario 3D Land on the Nintendo 3DS, Super Mario 3D World wasn’t the 3D Mario game that gamers expected, but it proved subtly brilliant, providing the Wii U with one of its finest titles in the process.

From the adorable Super Bell, which transforms Mario and Co. into lovable catsuit-wearing adventurers, to the story-book plot involving Bowser kidnapping the Sprixies, every aspect of Super Mario 3D World feels cozy. Expertly-designed landscapes beautifully rendered in high definition complement the charm evident from the game’s inception. Such beautiful design, combined with a spectacular jazz-inspired score, and excellent controls cement what is one of the best 3D Mario games to date. (Izsak Barnette)

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‘New Super Lucky’s Tale’ is Polished, Pleasing Platforming

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Streamlined, focused, and tons of fun, New Super Lucky’s Tale is a fantastic reworking for the Switch that absolutely nails the lighter side of Nintendo-style 3D platforming. Tight controls and a nearly flawless camera support running and jumping challenges which more often than not emphasize creativity over complexity, and it’s all set against a colorful, pun-filled, charming world full of quirky characters and light satire. Though the experience is not as epic or razzle-dazzle as something like Super Mario Odyssey, developer Playful has wisely trimmed the collect-a-thon fat that so many others in the genre employ in order to pad play time. The result lasts long enough to satisfy, yet also instills a fervent desire to see more adventures from its fearless, furry hero.

New Super Lucky's Tale carnival

In the fine tradition of its gaming ancestors dating back to the N64 days, the basics of New Super Lucky’s Tale revolve around acquiring arbitrary objects sprinkled through various stages in order to unlock doors and move on to the next area. This time it’s pages from the mystical Book of Ages, which contains the power to travel between worlds, and is the endgame of an nefarious cat sorcerer named Jinx and his gang of cartoonish thugs, the Kitty Litter. As part of a secret organization sworn to defending this kiddie-friendly Necronomicon knockoff, it’s up to Lucky to track down as many of these clover-embossed pages as he possibly can, and hopefully complete the book before his nemesis can get his claws on it.

It’s doubtful that the story will be what compels most players to keep going, and to that end, New Super Lucky’s Tale‘s simple setup also fits right in with its genre brethren. Still, Lucky is an amiable and upbeat fox to follow around, and Playful does an excellent job of surrounding him with a cast of gibberish-spouting weirdo goofballs that includes hayseed grub worms, supremely zen Yetis, loyal rock golems, and slick carny ghosts. Though their dialogue does little to drive any sort of narrative, it is endlessly amusing and often witty in its cheesy wordplay. In other words, the writing has a very Nintendo-like feel in its eccentricities that adds to the overall fun.

New Super Lucky's Tale factory

Those jokes would be less endearing without fantastic gameplay, but New Super Lucky’s Tale delivers some of the best running and jumping this side of Mario. Though this fabulous fox can’t quite match the plumber’s precision, Lucky does feel extremely responsive, and has a nice sense of weight and momentum that never feels out of control. He also comes out of the den with a well-rounded moveset, including a nifty double jump, a swishy tail (a la Mario’s spin punch), and the ability to burrow under ground. These moves can be chained together to create a satisfying flow both when exploring 3D stages and side-scrolling ones alike, and will surely inspire players to use them in creative ways in order to access seemingly out-of-reach spots.

And they’ll have to if they want to find all four pages hidden in each stage. New Super Lucky’s Tale requires a bare minimum of these leaflets to be found (and simply beating the stage merits one as a reward), but it’s in rooting around those nooks and crannies where much of the fun lies, and it gives the developer a chance to squeeze every ounce out of the unique mixture of environments they’ve created. From the assorted carnival games of a haunted amusement park to a beach party dance-off, there are a surprising amount of different things for Lucky (and players) to do here, with hardly any two stages ever feeling alike. One 3D level might task Lucky with casually exploring a farm as he gathers up the members of country jug band, while a side-scrolling obstacle course sees him dodging canon fire from an airship piloted by a feline Napolean. Some stages have a platforming bent, while others emphasize searching out secrets tucked away in mini puzzles.

New Super Lucky's Tale farm

It’s an absolutely delightful mix, and that sheer variety keeps New Super Lucky’s Tale fresh all the way through to the epic battle with fat cat Jinx himself. And though platforming veterans might find the overall challenge a bit too much on the friendly side, a few of the later bosses and and bonus stages may make that 100% goal a little tougher than it at first seems. And yet, it’s hard not to want to go back to incomplete stages or that block-pushing puzzle that stumped the first time around; the brisk pace and clever design will likely compel many players to find every scrap of paper out there.

No, Lucky isn’t the second coming of Mario, but there are few 3D platformers that offer such a polished, concise, joyful experience as New Super Lucky’s Tale. It may have taken a couple of efforts to get there (and for those who have played the original Super Lucky’s Tale, levels and bosses have been reworked here), but Playful has nailed a balance between creativity and efficiency that begs for more. 

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How Do ‘Pokemon Sword and Shield’s’ Max Raid Battles Measure Up?

Max Raid Battles are one of Pokemon Sword and Shield’s premier new features. Do they live up to their full potential? Let’s find out.

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max raid battles

One of the most heavily promoted new features of Pokémon Sword and Shield have been their Max Raid Battles. These gargantuan fights are both a key part of the online experience and likely the first taste most players will get of Dynamaxed Pokémon in-game. So, how’d this take on Pokémon Go’s raid system pan out in the series’ first mainline entry on console?

Well, on the plus side, getting into the thick of a raid is super straightforward. After the opening hour or two, players are introduced to the Wild Area and can access Max Raid Battles straight away by walking up to a pillar of red light on the field. From there you can invite others, challenge the raid with NPCs, and choose which Pokémon you want to use.

Real Friends Raid Together

Playing with friends online, though, is a bit more convoluted. There’s no “Invite Friends” option to be seen. Instead, all social features are handled through the Y-comm (literally accessed by pressing the Y button). It’s here that players can Link Trade, Link Battle, exchange player cards, and more.

After actively connecting to the internet–which has to be done each play session and each time the Switch is put into sleep mode–it’s up to the host of the match to find a portal and send an invitation to everyone. A notification will pop for friends on the side of the screen, and then it’s up to everyone to join the match directly through the Y-comm interface.

If players want real people to fill in any remaining slots (all raids are four-person affairs), they’ll need to join before the room fills up. Setting a Link Code avoids this hassle by creating a room but, unlike Salmon Run in Splatoon 2, only computer players can fill remaining spots after friends finish joining this way.

After some experimenting and fudding about, my buddy and I were able to hop into matches fairly quickly without much issue. Nonetheless, it’s hard to shake the feeling that creating friend lobbies is only such a headache because it had to be tied to the Y-comm. Pair this with the fact that battling while waiting for a friend to create a room can cause the notification not to pop, and getting a group together is a bit more painful than it should be.

Max Raid Battle Rundown

The raids themselves are a surprisingly engaging twist on the classic Pokémon battle formula. Groups of four challengers work together to take on a Dynamaxed raid boss. Each raid boss has a different star rating, and even the 1-star battles are no joke the first few times around. These boss Pokémon are merciless, and regularly one-shot lower leveled ‘mons with ease.

To combat these monstrous foes, one random trainer in every group is granted the ability to Dynamax their chosen Pokémon and lead the charge. The Dynamaxed Pokémon gets the benefit of having extra-powerful moves and increased HP, though it’s rather disappointing that there only seems to be one Max Move per move type (one Grass move, one Dark move, and so on). Each of these has a secondary effect on the battlefield; some trigger sandstorms, others trigger a health regeneration field that heals everyone a bit each turn. Regular moves with type advantages deal a significant chunk of damage, but it’s Max Moves that can truly turn the tide of battle.

If one of the group’s Pokémon faints, that trainer has to sit out for a turn before it automatically gets revived (a smart design choice to keep all trainers actively involved). However, the fainting of each Pokémon triggers the storm above to become more and more vicious. After four faints or ten turns, everyone is booted out of the raid sans rewards.

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The Fruits of Victory

Two of the easiest ways to better your odds are 1) Choose a Pokémon with a type advantage going into battle, and 2) Manage who Dynamaxes when. Each trainer’s Dynamax meter grows periodically and, though only one trainer can use it at a time, multiple players can activate it over the course of a raid. It also seems like each raid’s star rating is tied directly to the raid boss’ level, so bringing a generally powerful Pokémon to a lower-level raid is another viable strategy for success.

Aside from the chance to capture the raid boss itself (and some Pokémon are Max Raid Battle-exclusive), winning a raid nets players some very worthwhile rewards. These include everything from EXP candies and berries to nuggets and TMs. It’s not so much of a haul that it hurts the overall balance of the game, but there’s enough to make getting a few friends together and grinding raids for a couple of hours worth it.

max raid battles

Though Max Raid Battles are just a small part of the overall Sword and Shield package, they’ve ended up being a rather fun take on Pokémon’s traditional multiplayer offerings. For as unnecessarily complicated as playing with friends is, there are also a few cool ideas here, like being able to join a raid from anywhere on the map as long as the host is at the raid pillar. There’s some good fun to be had here if you prefer to battle alongside your friends instead of against them.

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15 Years Later: ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’ Is Kojima’s Espionage Love Letter

On November 17th, 2004, ‘Metal Gear Solid 3’ was released, marking the first entry in what would become a major part of the Metal Gear Saga.

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Metal Gear Solid 3

“After the end of World War II, the world was split into two — East and West. This marked the beginning of the era called the Cold War.”

On November 17th, 2004, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater released in North America and Japan marking the first entry in what would later become a line of prequel games within the Metal Gear Saga. Big Boss’s story would finally be expanded upon in the Hollywood action game that forever changed the course of video game storytelling.

The legendary mercenary’s journey began in Kojima’s espionage love letter to the ’60s that broke the primordial gaming standards of both interactive design and visual storytelling through immeasurable gameplay depth piled onto a mind-boggling top-notch origin story. Snake Eater was only the beginning of a tale of how one of gaming’s greatest heroes descended into a villain through what is not only arguably the most compact and well-executed Metal Gear story, but Kojima Productions story ever conjured up to date.

Taking the Narrative Back

Metal Gear Solid 3
“Snake, try and remember some of the basics of CQC.”

Snake Eater ditched Solid Snake and Raiden’s current predicaments in a postmodern world to provide audiences with background knowledge and explanations for the previous chapters that came before it in what was intended to be Hideo Kojima’s final Metal Gear game at the time. Cold War political fiction and espionage thrillers from the game’s time period such as the Sean Connery and Roger Moore James Bond 007 films became the foundation for this entry’s story and tone; a balance of both goofiness and seriousness that is simply unmatched when compared to the rest of the series.

Metal Gear Solid 3 marked the beginning of a prequel series of games that would later proceed to continue after Solid Snake’s story had concluded in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the PatriotsSnake Eater threw players back in time to tackle the story of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake villain Big Boss, who was formerly referred to as three different names being John, Jack, and of course the iconic codename Naked Snake — the first character to take on the reptilian infiltration name.

Revolver Ocelot’s gun-slinging pre-boss cutscene was completely animated through motion capture footage.

Whereas Metal Gear Solid and Sons of Liberty questioned the fantasy aspects of the story, Snake Eater fully embraced the campiness that it provided. A gun-slinging, cat-growling GRU Major or a man who is able to manipulate bees are never questioned by the game’s characters. Nothing feels out of place due to how accepting everyone is of what is going on in their interpretation of history. The first fantasy aspect that players encounter is during the opening 5 minutes of the game when Naked Snake makes the HALO jump. The location the game takes place, Tselinoyarsk, is not the actual name of the location and isn’t an area of the world that has jungles.

Political fiction often comes into play during the story by incorporating real figures and the game’s characters into events that actually happened during the height of the Cold War. For example, Eva and Ocelot are depicted as the two NSA codebreakers, Martin and Mitchell, who defected to the Soviet Union. Weapons and designs featured in the game such as the hybrid screw-propelled metal gear, the Shagohod, are based on real blueprints for military weapons of the time period. While the story incorporates science fiction and fantasy aspects, the story still remains grounded and has its own limits even in gameplay.

A Whole New Meaning to Survival

When Hideo Kojima and Yoji Shinkawa saw the 1987 movie Predator, one concept from the film that stuck with them was how the technologically advanced alien Predator used camouflage within the jungle setting to stealthily take out a military rescue team lead by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Camouflage became part of the foundation for Snake Eater‘s gameplay that delved into the realism and campy side of the series. Players could swap outfits and face paints at any given moment to adapt to their current surroundings. The top right-hand corner has a camouflage index that constantly keeps track of how well-hidden you are in the environment.

Just as gadgets are a critical part of James Bond’s arsenal of weapons, Snake Eater saw the Metal Gear Solid series expand on the variety and utilization of items. The number of different ways to tackle standard environmental obstacles and boss battles was exponentially increased due to how many ways one could actually use their equipment. Grenades, lethal firearms, night-vision goggles, cigarettes, and even cardboard boxes all inherited a multi-functional philosophy that most players would never even discover unless they had experimented during their playthrough or were told to do a specific action. Even food became a weapon of war that could be used to poison and distract guards if it had gone spoiled.

On the topic of food, alongside the standard health bar, Snake has a stamina meter that must be ministered to constantly by eating foods found on-site and administering proper medical treatment. Animals, fruit, medicinal items, and various packaged resources must be collected and watched over throughout the game. All food items ran on a real-time clock leaving food to go unsanitary and rotten after a matter of real-time days.

The Beginning of Product Placement

Fun Fact: Kojima has gone on record saying that Naked Snake’s favorite CalorieMate Block is the chocolate-flavored line (rightfully for promotional reasons!).

The Metal Gear Solid series kickstarted Hideo Kojima’s constant usage of product placements within his games that are still ongoing today. These products include but are certainly not limited to clothing, accessories, toys, household items, and of course, food. Snake Eater began a trend of future Kojima Production games featuring real-life items that are purchasable in many small scale and large retail stores throughout Japan through the brand of nutritional energy bars and gels, CalorieMate.

The chocolate-flavored CalorieMate Block appeared in the original version of Snake Eater, while the maple-flavored kind replaced it in the HD Collection due to it being the latest flavor release at the time. Advertisements for CalorieMate during the game’s release showed Naked Snake holding a chocolate-flavored Block saying “If you wanna survive in the jungle, your going to need one of these.”

When initiating a Codec call with Paramedic after eating a CalorieMate Block, the character will question the legitimacy of the food. In reality, CalorieMate first released in 1983, contradicting the 1960’s setting of the story, therefore, making its placement in the game an anachronism; an object or person that is displaced in time.

A Legacy Worthy of The Big Boss Rank

At the time of Snake Eater’s release, although the game garnered a completely positive reception from critics with a 91 Metacritic score, it was highly debated whether the sequel-prequel was superior to the entries that came before it. Critics commonly praised the graphics and cinematics the game had to offer but questioned whether the gameplay was too complex for its own good. Snake Eater also had to ride the coattails of unsatisfied audiences originating from the previous entry’s lack of Solid Snake being the protagonist which ultimately lead to sales of the game being significantly lower than the previous Solid entries.

Over time, Snake Eater became the fan-favorite entry of the series and would go on to receive the most re-releases out of all the Metal Gear games to date. Most notably, in 2006 Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence expanded upon the online mode in the game and added a completely new third-person controlled camera system that enhanced the overall experience and became the right analog stick standard for future entries. Buyers of this version were also treated with the original two MSX Metal Gear games found on the main menu- the first time the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake had ever been localized outside of Japan.

Snake Eater 3D Limited Edition Bundle included a ‘Snake Skin’ themed standard 3DS (only released in Japan).

2011 saw the release of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collectiona compilation title that included an updated version of Subsistence — arguably the best way to play Snake Eater today. In 2012 the game also saw a release on the Nintendo 3DS dubbed Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater which included a new real-life camera camouflage system and multiple gameplay changes inherited from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker to accommodate the 3DS’s lack of dual analog sticks.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a true patriot that definitively holds its ground against the rest of the series today due to its creative liberties that the series never quite revisited in complete depth. Hideo Kojima and his team of masterminds behind Kojima Productions are well deserved of a salute for the tremendous efforts they put into creating a groundbreaking title that forever changed what it meant to be a cinematic video game. From its action-packed plot to its cinematic orchestra inspired-score, even after 15 years the pure indigenous nature of creativity from the studio never ceases to amaze audiences.

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