The problem with having to save the world is that, more often than not, it doesn’t wait until you’ve had a full nights sleep. The eldritch abomination, the never-ending war that has reached your doorstep, the great civilization threatening calamity, a doting mother- these are all things that are sure to pull a hero out of his or her much needed slumber. They are all also very likely to appear in role-playing games. This may seem like a cheap plot device, but it actually makes a lot of sense- it is scientifically proven that you are 60% more likely to participate in an important adventure if you are woken up first, as opposed to just waking up naturally. That must explain why so many games start off with someone rolling out of bed.
To the younger crowd, or to the vile casuals, LucasArts is just the company that makes all the Star Wars and Indiana Jones games and SCUMM is just the name of a Napalm Death album. Well, maybe they don’t think the Napalm Death thing, but they probably think the LucasArts thing. That is a definite shame, as LucasArts were the creators of some of the most important and entertaining adventure games in history including Maniac Mansion, Grim Fandango, and the Monkey Island series to name a select few. One game that gets sort of lost in the shuffle is Loom.
Loom was an ambitious game, and one that took a lot of chances with the adventure genre. It was one of the rare LucasArts adventure games to take itself seriously, and its gameplay was a departure from the conventions of the genre. Instead of using objects to interact with the environment and advance the game’s plot, you used your trusty distaff to play enchanted notes. Think of it as a distant cousin to Ocarina of Time except with way more weaving.
It also started with the main character, Bobbin Threadbare, being woken up on a cliff side by a messenger fairy. Actually, I guess the Ocarina of Time comparison is more apt than I thought. Although Link wasn’t waiting for a swan that visits him on his birthday every year. At least I don’t think he was, sometimes I’m not very observant.
Possibly unpopular opinion time; I really liked Final Fantasy VIII. Despite my cold, tough, grizzled exterior and my overwhelming manliness, my distaste for gender roles begets a soft spot for well told love stories. That was all Final Fantasy VIII was to me, the first real love story in the series. I liked the characters, the story had more than a few genuinely emotional moments, and I’m pretty sure Quistis Trepes is the reason I developed a teacher fetish.
Final Fantasy VIII first gives you control of Squall after he finds himself in the infirmary due to getting the business end of a sword to the forehead in a training session. You would think after a steady dose of head trauma they would encourage you to stay in bed for a little while longer, but not in Balamb Garden! There are dastardly reality threatening plots to unravel and wars to fight- after class and acting like the world’s worst loner tour guide of course.
Arguably the most well known entry in Namco’s legendary Tales series, Tales of Symphonia continued many of the trademarks of its predecessors while updating them for the 3D world of the 2003- spirit summoning, oodles of character development, and bad guys who actually have real reasons and depth to what they do, it was all here. It also featured the generally great Tales battle system, as well as a plot so intricate and well done that it may as well be an anime. Actually, they ended up making it one.
It also features one of the most enduring hero types in RPGs, the dense one. Lloyd Irving might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he makes up for it with logic and loyalty, and also awesome fighting skills. Fighting isn’t the only thing he is adept at though, he can also fall asleep standing up, which is where Tales of Symphonia starts off. I’ve had some boring classes before, I’m looking at you every math class I’ve ever had, but even I don’t think I could doze off on my feet during them. I also don’t think I could protect my friend as she goes on a quest across the world in order to awaken a goddess and save the world. There is way too much to do on the internet first.
Originally scheduled as a launch title for the PlayStation 2, Dark Cloud ended up being released a few months afterward. It became one of the first “must have” RPGs on the console and is remembered pretty fondly for its unique combination of action-RPG and city building mechanics. I’m hard pressed to think of a game released between Dark Cloud and Fable 2 that attempted to mesh the two, let alone succeeding at it. I’m sure you fine readers will remind me of a few in the comments though. Most likely angrily.
Dark Cloud takes a while to get to it, but the game proper starts off after the main character, Toan, is knocked unconscious when his village is destroyed by a giant flying genie who shoots energy beams from his legs. It isn’t all bad though, as a Fairy King wakes him up after transporting all of the villagers away before they can be killed. He also tells Toan that he has to go save the world and rebuild civilization against enormous odds and at a great risk to himself and the friends he makes on his journey. There is always a catch with these magic fairy types.
I vividly remember purchasing this game the day it was released in America, which was now over a decade ago. There are some other games on this list I played before this, but I definitely forgot how old this game was now. Nothing makes you grapple with your own mortality more than video games. Maybe music I guess. Did you know “Calculating Infinity” and “Domestica” both came out over ten years ago now as well? I can’t even fathom how I would have turned into the
pretentious musical elitist aficionado I am today without those two albums. If they don’t invent immortality pills soon I’m going to be so pissed.
Wait, what was I talking about?
Oh, video games.
Golden Sun is a game for the GBA that still holds up as one of its better RPGs. An impressive feat considering the longevity of that lovable handheld. It follows another popular character archetype in the silent protagonist Isaac. Isaac has the misfortune of being awoken by his mom when a gigantic boulder is threatening to squash their town. On the list of things to be waken up for, “a huge rock is going to kill us” might be one of the least appealing. Right up there with “you have an appointment with the dentist” and “today is election day.”
Dragon Quest-slash-Warrior, while never as popular in America as its Final Fantasy counterpart, is more popular in Japan than slightly disturbing pornography. It is so popular in fact that, after Dragon Quest III was released, Enix decided to stop selling Dragon Quest games on weekdays because of mass absenteeism to places of education and employment across the country. Who knew the way to defeat wage slavery and the for profit education system was just to release Dragon Quest games?
Depending on who you ask, Dragon Quest III is either the best Dragon Quest game or the second best Dragon Quest game. It really doesn’t fall much further than that. It was such a great representation of traditional Japanese RPGs, and it was a fitting end piece to the original trilogy. It also begins with- you guessed it- the heroes mom waking him up on his sixsteenth birthday so he can meet with the king and be sent on an epic world saving journey. On my sixteenth birthday I got a PS2. Equally as important, honestly.
This could have just as easily been Ocarina of Time, but I’m a retro gamer at my core so I’ve always considered this to be the best game in the series. Besides, this whole list could have been Legend of Zelda games. It would probably be easier to pick a game that didn’t start with Link waking up.
How much do I actually have to say about A Link to the Past?
If your answer is “more than that” you haven’t played enough video games yet.
Where do you even start with Planescape: Torment? One of the single greatest gaming experiences in the history of our fine hobby, Planescape: Torment made breaking genre conventions its job. This game has so many choices and so many consequences that it makes Deus Ex look like a rails shooter. You could essentially avoid every combat situation in the game with the right amount of stealth and dialog choices. In a way, Planescape: Torment was one of the first examples of a successful narrative based game, and more of an interactive novel than a traditional RPG. This is why it was so perfect though.
If ever I could pinpoint the exact moment I decided I would rip my shirt off, bare my chest, and defend PC gaming to my very death, it would be the first time I played Planescape: Torment.
Of all the dudes-waking-up moments on this list, Planescape: Torment probably sports the darkest. The Nameless One isn’t woken up by his mom, he is woken up in a mortuary. He doesn’t need to meet the king for his birthday and save the world, he needs to recover his lost memories after being killed.
If you take anything from this list, it should be going out and playing Planescape: Torment. Oh, and also you should be entertained by the list. I forgot about that part.
Chrono Trigger is perhaps the best known example of this. Since it is considered to be one of the best RPGs ever made, it is understandable. I certainly wouldn’t argue anyone who told me it was, although since this is number two you have probably deduced that there is a game I would rank above it. We will get to that.
In Chrono Trigger, the titular-minus-the-H character is woken up by- you guessed it- his mom. Instead of being sent directly to save the world from the time devouring evil, he is sent to the Millenial Fair for merrymaking and a good time.
Until the whole rip in the space-time continuum sends him to save the world from the time devouring evil.
Better than most state fairs I’ve been to. Usually they just have funnel cake.
Earthbound is my number one choice for every list ever. Best RPG? Earthbound. Best quirky game? Earthbound. Best first person shooter? Earthbound. Best vegetarian Mexican restaurant in the Philadelphia region? Earthbound. Luckily for me, Earthbound is actually relevant to this list so I don’t have to bullshit you about how good its veggie burritos are.
Ness, the quiet hero of Onett, is just a normal kid with a hyper-intelligent dog until he is woken up in the middle of the night by a meteorite crashing to earth in the hills outside of his home. As any curious kid would do, he eventually goes to explore before being turned back by the long arm of the law. With nothing else to do, he goes back to sleep.
A full night’s sleep is not in the cards for Ness, however. When his frustratingly annoying neighbor wakes him up later on with the incessent knocking of “shave and a hair cut” he finally gets his chance to see the meteorite up close. Then he fights a huge silver robot and a time traveling bee tells him that he has to somehow save the world from an evil alien that might also be a fetus. Don’t worry, it all makes perfect sense in the end.
Oh, Itoi. Don’t ever change.
Did I miss anything? Are there any heroes that could have used a few extra hours sleep that I didn’t include? Let us know in the comments.