Nom Nom: 12 Videogame Foods to Die For
(Menu suggestions: James Fudge, Scott Jones, Kyle Orland, John Teti)
Rumors of our addiction to potato chips and cheese snacks are greatly exaggerated. What's a typical gamer to the layperson? A sedentary slob with one hand clutching a controller and the other stuck perpetually in a Frito-Lay bag or down his trousers. But we're no mere coach potatoes blithely watching the day's excitement pass us by. We conquer worlds. And in those worlds, we gorge ourselves on foods for well-traveled folk, foods fit for a rich life. From a gastronomic perspective, we're sophisticates. So if "gamer grub" ever becomes something more than a marketing concept, you can bet it'll be served in an honest-to-god restaurant.
With that manifesto laid out, here are 12 of my favorite videogame eats. Nom nom!
12. Curry Rice (Castlevania: Symphony of the Night)
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a cold game, comprised of dank caverns, the sound of blades scraping metal, and a chilly gothic soundtrack. Is it any surprise that its menu, in contrast, is so heartwarmingly tasty? It may only return 28 HP, but I'm most tempted by the Curry Rice, which is cooked with coconut milk for that potent combination of spicy and sweet. The reward is greater than the sum of anyone's hit points: an instant ticket out of bleak Transylvanian mountaintops into warm, welcoming Southeast Asia.
Best served with: Fresh mango slices, topped off with the game's delectable orange, red and blue Ice Cream.
11. Roast turkey (Final Fight)
Thugs in Metro City are depraved and hungry for violence. Having taken to the streets to teach them a lesson, you're hungry too -- for justice, and for the tender morsels of meat that are hidden inside the city's rampant oil drums and trash cans. Final Fight arguably set the blueprint for a decade of arcade beat-'em-ups, including their life-restoring cuisine -- a high-protein, high-fat assortment of burgers, hot dogs, steak and candy bars. In Final Fight and its clones, the only more compelling sight to a vigilante than some back-alley punk's collar is a roast turkey. That golden-brown bird never fails to make my street-hardened stomach growl involuntarily.
Best served with: Pizza, a soft drink and a big red apple on a platter.
10. Pork bun (Warriors of Fate)
One notable exception to the above is Warriors of Fate, a beat-'em-up based (loosely) on the classic Chinese novel, "Romance of the Three Kingdoms." This teenager-friendly dramatization is a culturally sensitive one, replacing American lead pipes with iron kung-fu hammers, and roast turkey with crispy Peking duck. For me, a plate piled high with juicy pork buns, sitting among the bodies of slain foes, is the best appetizer yet committed to pixels.
Best served with: Sliced fish in wine sauce, braised eel, saut?ed Chinese broccoli, Shanghai-style deep-fried mini buns, oolong tea.
9. Pink berries (Super Mario World)
Your dinosaur friend and guide Yoshi can't help munching on delicious berries in between crushing Goombas with his boot and spitting out turtle shells. Eat enough of the typical red berries and Yoshi "gives" you a mushroom. But when he eats two pink berries, he poos a cloud that rains coins. The appeal is self-evident.
Best served with: Spicy red turtle soup.
8. Bouillabaisse (The World Ends With You)
Square Enix's existential role-playing game offers a cosmopolitan menu appropriate for its chic Shibuya setting. Videogame food doesn't get much classier than Bouillabaisse, a flavorful French stew served with a variety of fish, shellfish, vegetables and bread covered with dollops of rouille (a rich mayonnaise of garlic and olive oil). In this game, as in life, food needs to be digested before it can take effect; you literally have to take your time to eat well. Sadly, the Bouillabaise here goes down far too fast -- in five "bytes" (compare that to 13 bytes for a chili dog) -- leaving little time to truly savor its subtle flavors.
Best served with: Wine, escargots, nihilism.
7. Jar of Diet (Metal Slug series)
Starting with Metal Slug 2, the Metal Slug series also demonstrated that stuffing oneself endlessly should have consequences. Eat too much of the food that's strewn about the stages, and your little soldiers balloon into shambling obese monstrosities. Yes, their guns get bigger, but so do their bellies, making them an easy target. That's why you need a jar of Diet -- a bubbling brown sauce that instantly shrinks a soldier down to normal dimensions. Because it loosely resembles barbeque sauce, I inevitably find myself fantasizing about slathering thick, savory Diet sauce over a plate of beef brisket and fries.
Best served with: Anything from thisiswhyyourefat.com.
6. Mecha-sized pineapples (Bangai-O and Bangai-O Spirits)
In Treasure's off-the-wall shmup, you pilot a big, ludicrously overpowered mecha (Bangai-O) that can launch hundreds of napalm missiles and swing a baseball bat of cosmic power. Each foe that you annihilate leaves a big, bright fruit in its wake that drips with robot-powering juice and -- when you pause to think about it -- is actually as big as Bangai-O itself. Imagine digging into a 10-story-tall pineapple that practically generates its own sugar atmosphere. It may sound disgusting, but it's no job Bangai-O can't handle.
Best served with: Napalm-seared elephant skewers.
5. Very hard candy (Little Nemo: The Dream Master)
Rather than provide health or temporary powers, in Little Nemo: The Dream Master, food is a potent weapon with which Nemo subjugates his animal adversaries. Nemo's little wrapped candies stun creatures as formidable as giant snails and ambulatory trees. Other animals are addicted to them, gobbling them up and falling into a slumber. Once they're asleep, Nemo uses their unconscious bodies as a mount, riding on their backs or wearing their bodies like a skin. It must be really delicious candy!
Best served with: A stiff drink and a blindfold.
4. Corn Chiwa (Sexy Parodius)
Perhaps the most thoroughly scrumptious boss yet conceived, Corn Chiwa is a gargantuan, sentient corn-on-the-cob who seeks your destruction in Konami's risqu? Gradius parody. The joke's on him. Instead of energy bullets, he sprays fresh (very fresh) popcorn from his own body at you, thus presaging his own doom. I'd try to gnaw right into him if it weren't so dangerous.
Best served with: Seething hot butter poured from a large cauldron by Kratos.
3. Helpless people (Rampage)
Rampage may, ironically, have been the first game that made me contemplate my belly. As a towering lizard, ape or wolf, you're perfectly free to crush entire skyscrapers from the top down. You don't need to climb up their sides, poking your head into each building window-by-window. But you can't help rooting out the bite-sized tenants, whom you pop into your mouth without the slightest hesitation. I bet they go down smooth. Look, it takes a lot of energy to raze whole city blocks.
Best served with: Scraps of steel, concrete, glass and asbestos.
2. Apple Kid (Earthbound)
Speaking of people: In the town of Twoson, you meet a kid inventor named Apple Kid. He lives in a little pink-and-red candy house and gives you a useful machine. There's plenty of food to be had in Earthbound -- but with those round, red cheeks and that cute stem on his head, you'd be lying if you denied ever wanting to have Apple Kid himself. There's nothing on a long journey like a crisp red apple. The list is now taking a turn for the worse, so I'll stop there.
Best served with: Gourmet Yogurt.
1. Birthday Cake (Animal Crossing series)
Unlike the empty concept invented by Portal's GLaDOS and perpetuated by Portal's fans, this cake is certainly real. It's handed to you by one of your neighbors on your actual birthday; and since you only get one each year, it's something you really treasure. Display the Birthday Cake in your home and its mouthwatering layers give you a reason to stay in. It never goes bad, and it's immune to cockroaches. Eventually, you develop an attachment to it. The cake comes to stand for the months, even years, you've spent making a home in the village; for the animals that greet you there day after day; and for the ones that are long gone -- in short, for true friendship. That's something GLaDOS never understood.
Best served with: Peaches, pears, apples, oranges and coconuts. Maybe some fish.