People who work on video games from start to finish are incredibly creative groups of professionals. Sometimes, those groups decide to mess with the players' heads by making the characters or the games themselves aware of the fact that they are a work of fiction, by breaking the fourth wall.
Hi there. I hope you're having a great day. It's a Saturday, and that means I get to sleep in and then eventually make another list for you. This week, I've chosen to list a couple of games that did an amazing job bringing the fourth wall crumbling down. Let's first take a moment to define a "fourth wall break".
According to the Urban Dictionary: "In fiction, "breaking the fourth wall" often means having a character become aware of their fictional nature".
You won't find Psycho Mantis from Metal Gear Solid here, as my grandmother who is afraid of leaving the water heater on for too long knows about that one. That said, let's dive in. Again, this list is in no particular order. Disclaimer: some of the games are currently a part of Steam's summer sale, which ends 05 July.
Before the game begins, the player finds a real letter inside the game box. The letter talks about the game's plot and tells the player what to do when the game begins. The player does as the letter instructed him or her to do and continues to play the game blissfully unaware that this sort of obedience will lead us into a world run by sentient AI.
As soon as the player forgets all about the letter, the game asks him or her to dip the letter in some water. When the player does this, a code becomes visible. The code is useful later in the game as it reveals the three digits you need to advance in StarTropics.
High Moon Studios
The original fourth wall wrecking ball.
Start with the fact that he wrote the proposal for the game you're currently playing. And he did so in crayon. When he finally gets the script, he changes a bunch of things, after which he addresses the players.
Oh and he also ignores friend requests from a certain Ryan. Not to mention the fact he slaps Wolverine repeatedly after they crash-land on the Genosha island, telling him he's doing that because "The player keeps mashing the button".
There's loads more where that came from, but all the fourth wall breaking in the world couldn't have saved Deadpool's game from the less than favourable reviews having to do with repetitive gameplay, controls and combat.
The Stanley Parable (2013)
This game had me confused. I want the narrator to narrate my life and read me bed-time stories. But it's not about me. It's not about Stanley either. Except for when it is. I don't think the phrase "breaking the fourth wall" can even be applied here. The wall is not broken, and I'm pretty sure it has never even existed.
"Stanley would go through the door on the left". If he doesn't, the Narrator gets mad. Also, there's a museum dedicated to the game's development process. The game will all of a sudden load Portal. At one point, the Narrator himself gets confused and has to restart the game just to get back on track.
I know my sentences are not coherent, but have you seen the game I'm talking about?! It's all very trippy, but also great fun. If you want to check it out for yourself, it's on Steam's summer right now.
Even this game's Steam page breaks the fourth wall. This is not a game about a kid trying to find a way out of an underground world full of monsters. This game brings into question your behaviour in every game you've ever played. How did you treat the characters from those games?
Undertale lets you go through its world without killing the characters. Instead, you befriend them. You may even "date a skeleton", but you don't have to. The point is, when the time comes, Undertale will ask you to kill everyone you've come to love in the game in order to experience its ending.
You can either give in to completionism and do the unethical thing just to see the ending, or walk away, leaving the characters you met alive and well. And you could do either of those things. No one else has to know what you did. After all, they are only fictional characters in a video game. But you'll always know that you were capable of killing your virtual friends just to see the ending of a game which is as real as they are.
Tomb Raider 2 (1997)
That got dark. On a more fun note, you've probably heard about the infamous "nude" cheat code from the first Tomb Raider game, which, instead of letting you see Lara naked, only caused her to explode into bits. This one plays off of that. At the end of the game, after defeating everyone who was after her dagger, lady Croft decides she wants to take a shower.
A moment before she disrobes, she notices you and shoots you with her shotgun, but not before saying: "Don't you think you've seen enough?".
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge (special edition 2010)
This is not about that stump joke. This is about calling the developer hotline. Guybrush is lost on the island and decides to call the LucasArts developer hotline in order to get some help. There's even a reference to Star Wars: the hotline phone number is 1-900-740-jedi.
During the call, the operator tells you to walk off the edge of the screen, answers your question about another LucasArts game that has been out for "some time now", and calls you a pervert after you ask him where babies come from.
Eternal Darkness: Sanitys Requiem (2002)
This game came equipped with its own sanity meter. Whenever the meter got depleted, weird things would start happening. The weirdness ranged from the smaller things like camera angle taking on a slight skew or the sound becoming muted, to the batcrap crazy stuff like the game faking a glitch or throwing up a Blue Screen of Death.
It would even change the Video input channel or take you all the way back to the GameCube start-up screen. Not to mention making you think you've accidentally deleted your save files. Sometimes, when the character had a gun equipped and was facing the player, there even would be bullet holes visible on the screen.
And that's it. I know there are more, but I found these to be the most interesting. There is a comment section below if you want to tell me how good of a job I just did.