Like boss battles, the weapons and tools you use in a video game have the potential to really stick with you long after you’re done with them. But not many people tend to look back on the typical gun or sword, even if they can get you through a game just fine. The ones that stand out are made with the same level of creativity that went into the character designs and world building of the games they’re featured in, or have a story to tell all their own. Here are my favorite examples of that ingenuity, my most memorable weapons in gaming:
Insomniac Games, the creators of series like Ratchet and Clank, Resistance, and Sunset Overdrive, have quite the knack for ingenious weaponry. From multiple arsenals of brilliant/wonky guns, the Bullseye has to be my favorite though. It’s primary fire is nothing too unusual (well, as far as alien assault rifles go), but it’s secondary firing mode certainly is. Hitting an enemy with a tag round attracts every shot of your primary fire until the target is dead. It was a great mechanic in the Resistance games’ campaign modes, and downright hilarious in multiplayer. Watching a hail of laser bolts fly around a corner into an online foe from behind “cover” was one of my favorite competitive multiplayer gaming experiences from the previous console generation.
The Buster Sword, carried by Final Fantasy VII’s protagonist Cloud Strife, is arguably one of the most iconic weapons in gaming. It’s synonymous with one of the greatest video games of all time, and helped popularize the fad of fictional characters carrying absurdly large swords. This gigantic blade was made famous from it’s initial outing, but that isn’t why it’s on this list. In the prequel Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, you learn about the two heroes who wielded the Buster Sword before Cloud, which instills a strong meaning behind it. It’s a sad tale, but leaves the player with hope and makes the beginning Final Fantasy VII even more amazing because you understand the legacy that Cloud had been given, and adds a surprising level significance to what was previously just an inanimate (but oh so cool) object.
The Gjallarhorn, or “Gally” is a storied rocket launcher, both in the Destiny universe and reality. In the the game’s lore, the exotic rocket launcher was created with the armor and light/power of fallen heroes. Minions of the Darkness are weak to the light, so a weapon powered by it inflicts absolutely massive amounts of damage on them. Gameplay-wise, players and developer Bungie quickly learned that it was enough damage to make most of Destiny’s endgame content a cinch. The Gjallarhorn was eventually weakened in a patch, and then left out of Destiny’s later updates for over a year. With the game’s final expansion, Rise of Iron, the beloved weapon returned. While it was no longer capable of bringing powerful raid bosses to their knees (which isn’t an exaggeration, it literally did that), it was still strong enough to be the go-to heavy weapon for most of my fireteam.
The Gears of War games belong to little a subgenre I call “badass simulators.” Each entry in the series puts you in the boots of ridiculously buff soldiers who drop tough/cheesy one-liners almost as often as they drop bad guys. Adding to the macho factor is the soldiers’ default firearm, a full auto rifle with a chainsaw attached to it. The Lancer is a fairly versatile gun and is capable of downing almost any opposition from most distances, but I was always looking for an opportunity to get up close and personal by running my motorized bayonet through an enemy. Nothing got me more excited in a Gears of War campaign than revving up my bayonet right behind an unsuspecting foe, and nothing made my blood run colder in the multiplayer than hearing that distinctive sound from someone else’s Lancer moments before my own demise.
Most weapons in video games tend to be exaggerations of their real-world counterparts. For example, shotguns in gaming usually aren’t too dangerous if the target is outside spitting range, but will instantly kill anything in front of the wielder. The Sawed-Off Shotgun from Gears of War 3 is an even further exaggeration, to the point that it’s comical. It did almost nothing to enemies that were more than a few feet away, but turned anything in its small area of effectiveness into teeny tiny giblets. It was the bane of my virtual existence and many of my opponents’ in competitive multiplayer. Turning around a corner only to watch someone else transform the top half of my character’s body turn into bloody confetti was incredibly frustrating, but it was equally gratifying when I was the one waiting around that same corner (and even better with multi-kills). While it still exists in newer entries in the series, the Sawed-off Shotgun was strongest, and most memorable, in Gears of War 3.
Some might say I’m cheating by including Nightmare on this list, but he IS a weapon. Long story short: Evil sword possesses good guy, good guy temporarily becomes bad guy, good guy breaks free, sword possesses empty armor. Soul Calibur may the titular blade of the series (except for the first installment, Soul Edge), but its evil counterpart is just way cooler. It was once a regular blade, but it grew an evil soul after being bathed in the blood and hatred of battle. Soul Edge’s origin alone earns it a spot here, and Nightmare is just a bonus. Together, they are one of the most powerful and memorable characters/weapons in the long-running series.
In my previous list, I mentioned that Necromorphs, the terrifying enemies encountered in Dead Space, require nothing short of dismemberment to stay dead. That makes conventional firearms and the soldiers using them a lot less useful than you’d imagine. Luckily you play as Isaac Clarke, an Engineer who quickly finds a “tool” that’s capable of severing limbs like it’s going out of style. You can find a good number of other weapons in the first two Dead Space games, but none of them are as effective at dispatching space zombies as the first. There’s even an Achievement/Trophy in the first installment earned by completing the story with just the Plasma Cutter, which is surprisingly easy to do. Unfortunately, Dead Space 3 was more of an action game instead of a survival horror (it’s still great), and the Plasma Cutter became less viable once you could build a plethora of super weapons. I’ll still never forget running through the dark halls of the U.S.G Ishimura with my trusty Plasma Cutter though.
Ironically, the most useful weapon in a game titled “Bulletstorm” doesn’t use bullets of any kind. The Energy Leash is a tool that allows throw your enemies into the air or pull them towards you. Whichever action you choose stuns your victim and slows them down in the air, setting them up for countless opportunities to be dispatched. Depending on what you do from there, the Leash grades you on creativity. Pulled someone towards you and kicked them off a cliff? VERTIGO, fifty points! Pulled a gyrocopter pilot out of his vehicle and blew him away before he hit the ground? PARASHOOT, another fifty! The dark humor behind the Skillshot System is a huge part of why I think Bulletstorm is one of the most underrated first-person shooters ever made (if not THE most), and it wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun without the Energy Leash.
I mentioned my excitement for the next chapter in Sony’s Godslaying epic earlier this year, but there is one small part about it that kinda bums me out: He won’t be using his most iconic instrument of death (well, other than his unfathomable rage). The God of War series has had many awesome weapons, but I mostly ignored them because the Blades of Chaos, Blades of Athena, and Blades Exile were all I needed. Dagger-like blades attached to chains attached to… Kratos (ew) allowed for a fluid, brutal combination of close-range and distanced attacks. The Ghost of Sparta uses a different pair of chain blades in each main installment, but they all work the same way. I have an awful time remembering button combinations (which is why I absolutely suck at fighting games), but Square-Square-Triangle was one both simple and effective enough to get me through almost every battle against the Pantheon of Greek Gods. Kratos’ new axe has some some serious work cut out for it (heh) if it’s supposed to replace Blades of Chaos, Athena, or Exile.
Stat-wise, the Bane is the most powerful submachine gun in Borderlands 2. It even has a mission that builds up how dangerous the cursed weapon is, but that’s not why I love it. No, the reason I’ll always remember the Bane is the same reason nobody I know ended up using it. Despite its great accuracy, insane reload speed, and a damage output that dwarfs any other SMG, its two “perks” were significant enough to make us put it in our storage vaults (or sell it) fairly quickly, but still feel like the work to obtain it was worthwhile. The first drawback is that you can only move a fraction of your character’s walking speed when the Bane is equipped. As strong as the weapon is, being unable to evade incoming enemy fire makes it useless in almost any situation. The second of the Bane’s unique traits is that it screams at you in a hilariously high-pitched voice whenever you shoot, reload, or swap weapons. Even if you turn the sound effects volume off in the game, the Bane won’t stop yelling at you and your teammates. While these drawbacks might make the work required to earn The Bane sound like a waste of time, I think it’s a great example of developer Gearbox’s unique sense of humor. Instead of finding a weapon that wouldn’t have left any impression on us days after finding it, my friends and I got a hilarious story we still fondly look back on, and laugh at, years later. The Bane isn’t a very useful gun, but it’s a damn memorable one.
Also: What is taking Gearbox so long with Borderlands 3?!