Continuing with my 2020 monthly goal, enjoy my Top Ten instances of food in video games for Food-uary! What are some of your favorite versions of digital nourishment? Let me know in the comments.
10) Peach’s Cake in Super Mario 64 (N64 1996)
“Please come to the castle. I’ve baked a cake for you,” promises Peach’s letter. Immediately, Mario pops out of a warp pipe and runs straight toward the castle to claim his prize. This game should really be titled “Mario 64 and The Quest for Cake.” Even the dialogue box that pops up tells you that “using the controller is a piece of cake.” Of course, Mario’s cake plans fall short when he finds out that Bowser, again, kidnapped the Princess. Honestly, this was really bad timing for Bowser. Mario wouldn’t have even gone to the castle if he didn’t know cake was going to be there. Bowser should have waited till after the cake party – or tried to plan ahead to capture Peach before the cake letter was sent. Meanwhile, when you do finally defeat Bowser, Mario is awarded with…cake! Wait. Is that the SAME cake that’s been waiting for him since the beginning of the game? At least Peach makes good on her promises!
9) Ice Pops in Kickle Cubicle (NES 1990)
According to the original NES instruction manual, “Kickle gets big points picking up these.” I first played this game, I’m pretty sure, when my cousin was babysitting me and brought over a pillowcase full of Nintendo games from her house. I was enthralled. I had played Lolo before, and Kickle Cubicle definitely gave off strong Lolo vibes. But, I especially enjoyed the ability to turn enemies into ice blocks and then use them as platforms to get to other parts of the level. While collecting Ice Pops isn’t the main objective of the game (the main objective is to collect all of the “Dream Bags” where the people of Fantasy Kingdom were entrapped by the Wicked Wizard King. How’s that for a game premise?), I distinctly remember being enticed to go after them – mostly because they were always clumped together and it was really rewarding to see all those points pop up in a row. Another reason this game makes me think of food is that many of the stages had food themes, like Fruit Land and Cake Land, and were shaped like items from its given theme. If you haven’t played Kickle Cubicle, definitely check it out!
8) Apples in Disney’s Aladdin (SNES 1993)
Disney video games have had a history of, generally, being pretty terrible – UNLESS they were made by Capcom. Ducktales, Darkwing Duck, Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers, and Goof Troop are just a few examples of the games that fit into this category. My favorite of all, though, (narrowly beating Ducktales and Rescue Rangers) is definitely Aladdin. I played it initially on the Super Nintendo and was later confused when I saw it on the Sega Genesis where Aladdin was able to use a sword. So, until that time, apple throwing was the most violent act I could bestow upon an enemy. And, unless you were a bird or a magical walking pot, it would only stun them. I never minded this style of gameplay. It felt like an advanced version of Mario because you could jump off of your enemies and then use a carpet to glide around the stage. I remember distinctly climbing to the tops of buildings and then seeing how far I could glide (pre-empting the same feeling I’d get when gliding around Hyrule in Breath of the Wild). Despite the ineffectiveness of apples, I found it iconic that they chose to include them in the game when really they’re based off of one scene in the movie where Abu is seen eating an apple. Props to Capcom for catching those small details!
7) Pizza in Yo! Noid (NES 1990)
More company mascots should have video games made after them. Can you imagine? The Jolly Green Giant? The Pillsbury Doughboy? The Spot from 7up? (Oh, wait.) There’s something about Yo! Noid that just works. Honestly, given the circumstances, it should be not be a good game at all. But…lo! Who developed this work of art? Why, could it be!? Yes! Verily! ’Tis Capcom! Is there a bad game by Capcom? Next list: Top Ten Worst Capcom Games. Anyway, back to the Noid. So, I love this game! It has platforming, pogo sticks, and PIZZA! At the end of every stage, a “bad” Noid challenges you to a pizza contest, and you have to outsmart him (her?) by strategically picking low or high numbers of pizzas and then sabotaging evil Noid with hot sauce or pepper (On a pizza? Ewwwww!). If you lose, you die…AND you go back to the beginning of the stage. Along with the one-hit KO’s, this game is terribly unforgiving, but stages are short enough where it doesn’t become too huge of a nuisance. It’s interesting that a game based on a company mascot doesn’t really do anything to promote players to eat more pizza. Yes, there’s a pizza eating contest but… look at that picture. Can you tell that those are pizza boxes on those cards? I sure can’t. And when you select those cards, these red dots fly across the screen into your mouth. They equally do not look like pizza. There aren’t any pizza power-ups in the game either. Noid can skateboard, ride a pogo stick…I think there’s even an airplane level. He also can unlock magic spells by collecting scrolls. You know – just like a real Domino’s experience. Part of me makes me wonder if this was a different game in Japan and then they just re-skinned it for American audiences. In any case, the Noid doesn’t disappoint, and Capcom flexes their game-developing muscles once again.
6) Meat in The Legend of Zelda (NES 1986)
“Grumble, grumble.” A Goriya (the red enemies that throw boomerangs) is hungry and it’s your job to go to the “local” supermarket to buy him some meat. Never mind that you’ve been killing Goriyas the entire game, but THIS Goriya, the true boss of the game and strongest Zelda enemy in the entire series, won’t let you past unless you feed him. What makes this Goriya so special? Can we get a backstory on this guy? Maybe he’s not even really alive? Yes. This Goriya is the spirit of all the defeated Goriyas and they are banished to a dark room forever until someone brings them meat to set free their souls. Let’s go with that. Regardless, this meat takes up an entire item slot in Link’s inventory, and it only has one use (though, I think it does “attract” enemies to some extent. Is that true?). Of all the possible puzzles they could have put in their star adventure game, they decided on buying food from a store to feed to a hungry enemy. To quote the commercial, “It’s the Legend of Zelda, and it’s really rad!”
5) Kong’s Banana Hoard in Donkey Kong Country (SNES 1994)
Okay, real quick – let’s get this out of the way… Cranky Kong is the original Donkey Kong from the arcade games. Donkey Kong Jr. appears in the the sequel to Donkey Kong and is also the racer in the original Super Mario Kart. This means that the current Donkey Kong, the grandson of Cranky Kong, is the son of Donkey Kong Jr. (confirmed in an officially licensed Nintendo book put out by Prima Games). Where did our current Donkey Kong get his love for bananas? Right here:
See that pair of bananas below the fifth vine? That’s where Donkey Kong Jr. first found bananas. He loved them so much that he would use them as weapons here:
Why did Donkey Kong Jr. have UNLIMITED bananas every time you got in front of him? BECAUSE HE HAD A BANANA HOARD!!!!! I imagine that sometime after OG Donkey Kong battled it out with Stanley the Gardener (of Donkey Kong 3), he and DK Jr. took a family vacation to collect bananas and store them in a cave on Donkey Kong Island. The banana hoard became the pride and joy of the Kong family. THIS is the next DK game that needs to be made. Donkey Kong 4: For the Hoard! Or DK4TheHoard for short. I can see the logo now with a shared 4 in the middle. (Will one of my art friends please make this?). Perhaps they got a majority of their bananas from Crocodile Island and that’s the reason King K. Rool decided to steal them in the first place?? A plot twist! DUN DUN DUN! In all seriousness, though, when I think of Donkey Kong, I think of bananas, and that’s why they’ve earned a spot on my list!
4) Special Jurassic Pork Soup in Chrono Trigger (SNES 1995)
Wait…did Chrono Trigger make a Jurassic Park pun?!?!?!?! Fun fact: in the Japanese version of CT, they’re not having soup. It’s sake (Japanese rice wine)! Alcohol is evil, though, and shouldn’t be served to underage kids like Crono (he’s 17), so Nintendo of America had to bring out the censors. Man, Japan gets all the cool stuff. (Another future top ten list idea: top ten instances of censorship in video games.) Anyway, during this part of the game, Ayla challenges our hero to a….soup….eating…contest that you HAVE to win in order to continue. How do you win? Easy. You muster all the skills you haven’t yet built up from Mario Party games (because it’s only 1995), and you SMASH THE HELL OUT OF THE “A” BUTTON. This, my friend, is not a simple task. Eventually, after your fingers are whittled down to nothingness, Ayla will concede to Crono, and you, the player, can go cry in a corner while wrapping your hand in numbing agents. Yay, time travel!
3) Chicken from Tekken 3 (PSX 1998)
I need you to click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEGymfKWXt0. Now, listen to it like 10 times in a row. Chickennnn. CHICKENNNNNN. Also, let’s hear it for that chomp/glug sound right before your character says it. Tekken 3 wasn’t anything special. It was your typical fighting game, but this time around you could play as an unlockable giant panda. What really stood out from the standard versus mode, though, was that Tekken 3 also included a beat-‘em-up style sub-game that you could try as any of the characters – kind of like Streets of Rage or Fatal Fury. However, the developers chose to keep the standard controls of the versus mode which did not transfer to the 3D perspective that you have in most beat-‘em-up games where you can walk freely into the background or foreground. So, this means that that when you hit “up” on the controller, instead of moving toward the background, you perform a jump like you would in the regular game mode. In order to move into the background or foreground, you have to double tap up or down respectively and this will shift your character in that direction. Of course, if you do it too slowly, then your character ends up jumping – usually into the attack of one of your enemies. Thankfully, there’s plenty of CHICKENNNNN to keep your health up. How fortunate that fully-cooked Thanksgiving dinners are so easily available in the world of Tekken 3!
2) Meat in Castlevania (NES 1986)
Have you ever been trying to lose weight but the temptation to eat was so strong that you decided to hide all of your food in the walls of your castle? This strategy was adopted by Dracula, and to his credit, I think it worked! He looks great! Of course, if you elect to hit him several times with your whip while simultaneously throwing crosses into his face, then he turns into the Cookie Monster (a side effect of not having access to his prized meats). For Simon Belmont, though, Dracula’s diet plan works in his favor. Apparently, Simon had it in his mind that he would trek across 18 stages with ONLY his “legendary” Vampire Killer whip. Legendary…ha! Without upgrades, it’s just a measly leather rope. Are upgrades for this whip ONLY in Dracula’s castle? Why didn’t he think about upgrading the whip before he got there? What about sub-weapons? “Oo, maybe I should grab this dagger, too, before I head out…!” Also, did he not think to pack some food for himself? How lucky is he that there just *happened* to be meat hiding in the walls and weapon upgrades in the candles? Did he think this through at all!?! Ladies and gentlemen, the world-renowned Belmont Clan! Simon would be great on a road trip. “Eh, we’ll just find what we need when we get there. Now, remember, we can ONLY look at the map after we get through this next section.”
Vegetables in Super Mario Bros 2 (NES 1998)
I found this picture and couldn’t help but include it. Wart embodies the child who loves blowing bubbles and hates vegetables so much that he would rather die than eat them.
1) Pizza in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Arcade 1989)
It’s no secret that I love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As I sit here writing this, I’m wearing my Turtles pajama pants, eating banana bread out of my Turtles Tupperware, and occasionally glancing over at my Donatello keychain which hangs from a hook on my desk lamp. My love for pizza stemmed directly from this show, and all elementary school birthday parties featured a few orders from Little Caesar’s. One such party took place at a local arcade where my friends and I frantically stuffed quarters into the original Ninja Turtles arcade machine during the final showdown with The Shredder. I remember at one point that I just barely jumped back into the game after all three of my companions had gotten “shell shocked,” and in order to ensure that we didn’t get a game over, I had to select whatever turtle popped up first (ugh, NOT Michelangelo!!!!!). I aggressively jumped all over the screen, taking care to avoid fire and ice and whatever else the kitchen utensil threw at me, as my friends scrambled to find more coins from their pouches. Just when I thought all hope was lost, Master Splinter appeared to me in a vision. “I am proud of you, my Sons. Tonight, you have learned the final and greatest truth of the ninja: that ultimate mastery comes not of the body but of the mind. Together, there is nothing your four minds can not accomplish. Help each other! Draw upon one another! And, always remember the true force that binds you, the same as that which brought me here tonight… that which I gladly return with my final words: I love you all, my Sons.” Suddenly there was a noise, and then Leonardo, Raphael, and Donatello were all beside me slashing away at what remained of Shredder’s diminishing health bar. He was powerless! The Gamelan sound of arcade buttons drummed in our ears, hearts racing, and soon… it was over. We had won! Our cheers rang throughout the arcade!! Victory! Turtle power!!!!! I’ll never forget that moment – just like I’ll never forget this sound every time I eat pizza: https://youtu.be/DLnHKRAipjQ?t=244