The fireball-tossing martial artist. The lithe female acrobat. The guy who turtles in the corner waiting to nail you with an annoying Flash Kick. Escapism has always been major part of the medium’s appeal, and every player has a favorite archetype. From my vantage point, most want to play as the muscle-bound supposedly-everyman or the sexy femme fatale. Totally valid choices! However, as Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine recently reminded me, I love playing as the bruisers, the Zangiefs of the gaming world. With my ludicrously large clodhoppers and gorilla hands, the “Tree Trunk” style might not be a huge departure from my day-to-day, but I love barreling throughlevels with reckless abandon regardless. Below are a few favorites that do the “bull in the china shop” thing remarkably well.
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine (2011) – As mentioned, this collection was loosely inspired by Space Marine, and with good reason. While Marcus Fenix and crew are content “roadie running” to find cover, Space Marine’s Captain Titus dispatches orcs without fear or hesitation. Each swing of your chainsaw or (Thor’s) hammer can take out enemies in an instant, and that power is amplified greatly when Titus comes crashing down from a jetpack jump. The weaponry on hand is just as lethal and overpowered – the sniper rifle functions as your own handheld howitzer, with shots that vaporize most enemies into a red mist. The violence is definitely over-the-top, but at least it establishes Titus as a force not to be trifled with.
The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (2005) – I know some of you cling to some of the older Spider-man games or the Capcom Vs. series, but THIS is the best superhero game ever made. Hulk’s superpowers on their own don’t offer much variety – kicks and punches, mostly – but the player can put them to all sorts of creative uses in the game’s open-world city. Cars can be smashed down into skateboards, missiles can be tossed back at evil helicopters and buildings can be scaled even as the crumble beneath Hulk’s feet. Not only is Hulk the ultimate smasher, but he’s remarkably resourceful and agile for someone his size.
Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat (2005) – Several other games starring Nintendo’s famous gorilla could have made this list, but none of them have you beating a bongo and making a racket in your apartment until the wee hours of the morning. Jungle Beat builds momentum with each tap of the bongo, so much so that coming to a complete stop is tricky, but it’s still impressive how much control you have with just three inputs (both drums, clapping). At least a couple times during each level, you’re asked to pound the bejeezus out of the drum to collect bananas or punish a boss. Even with the extra fluffy fur-shading, Donkey Kong is a beast in this particular experiment.
Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 (1994) – A golden oldie that you’ll soon be able to play on the Virtual Console, thank goodness. I love Wario Land II and 3, perhaps even more than this entry, but there’s something to be said for shoulder charging through everything instead of strategically getting bee stings and zombie bites to crawl through each stage. Honorable mentions go to Virtual Boy Wario Land, Wario Land 4 and the underrated Wario Land: Shake It! for building on this awesome series.
Steel Battalion (2002) – This game stands out from the rest in part because of its extreme difficulty or absurd controller, and also because I actually don’t enjoy it very much. But while I have issues with its methodical pace and busted continue system, you can’t take away from the sense of awe you get when you step into your tank for the first time. Crank up to the highest gear and stomp down on the pedal, and you’ll feel like you’ve boarded a runaway train. Shame that the Kinect sequel apparently only made things worse, because the concept has so much destructive potential.
Katamari Damacy (2004) – Forgive the obviousness, but you don’t get much heftier than a pile of garbage roughly the size of the moon!
Of course, there’s really no end to this list. From the players in NFL Blitz to King Hippo, Bear Hugger and Mad Clown in the Punch-Out!! series, I could spend all day reminiscing about my favorite slammasters. But I want to know who would make YOUR list! Let me know in the comments!