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When games break the fourth wall, it allows for a deeper sense of interactivity that no other medium comes near to accomplishing. These moments can include acknowledging the presence of the player, self-aware mind tricks, and clever commentary on video game tropes. Games like Pony Island dabble into metafictional territory by being a video game inside a video game, and others like EarthBound reach out to the player on a personal level to help defeat a boss battle. Breaking the fourth wall is by no means a new concept, and several games have tackled it. This list aims to single out the more memorable moments that we believe are handled in a way that is skillful, and many times comical.
Honorable mentions: The Beginner’s Guide (the narrator speaks directly to the player, but not much of a “wall” is put up in the first place), the Tomb Raider II shower scene, and Jak 3.
Spoiler warning: If you haven’t played these titles, read at your own discretion.
10. Conker’s Bad Fur Day — Alien Spoof Boss Battle
In a scene that spoofs the Alien film franchise, Conker goes head-to-head against a creature that resembles one of the iconic alien monsters from the movies. During the fight, however, everything suddenly freezes. Conker removes his spacesuit and exclaims that the “game’s locked up.” He then taps the screen, trying to get the attention of a software engineer. This turns into a chat between the two, where Conker asks for the background to be deleted and for a rack of weapons that he can choose from. It's a short but funny scene that shows just how self-aware Conker is.
9. The Stanley Parable — The Narrator's Video Game Prototypes
This 2013 indie game loves to mess with your head. The Narrator, an omnipresent character who tries to dictate your every move, is well aware that he is inside a video game. One of the game's many endings is achieved by disobeying every one of The Narrator's commands. He becomes irritated with you, pointing out that you have no respect or interest in this video game. So instead, he presents video game prototypes that he's working on, including a baby game where you press a button for hours to keep it from dying in a fire. If you don't have the patience of a saint and fail this, you are then sent into new areas that resemble games like Minecraft and Portal.
8. Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge — Guybrush Phones LucasArts
In the joke-filled adventure game LeChuck’s Revenge, Guybrush Threepwood gives a call to the LucasArts development team in-game to complain about certain features. With the dialogue options, you can have him ask about the origin of the stump joke, or try to gain some guidance from the developer. This isn’t the first time a LucasArts adventure game breaks the fourth wall. Day of the Tentacle similarly featured a call between LucasArts and character Dr. Fred Edison about the game’s budget. These moments are entertaining and portray the developers' ability to laugh at themselves.
7. Undertale — The All-Knowing Flowey
Undertale has plenty of amusing fourth wall breaks, with the majority happening in the presence of the crazed talking flower, Flowey. He is aware of all your decisions, even if you try to rectify bad ones. For example, if you kill Toriel then later decide to backtrack and undo her death, Flowey will know that you cheated when you later confront him. Another example is during the neutral ending while battling Flowey. He seemingly messes with your save files and crashes your game — though these are all narrative tricks.
6. Deadpool — High Moon, We Have A Problem
What would a Deadpool game be without the superhero breaking the fourth wall? This 2013 action game featured many fourth wall breaks, from Deadpool rearranging the game’s script himself, to contacting High Moon’s developers just to insult them personally or criticize the game’s design concepts. Deadpool knows well that he’s in a video game, and while these moments are funny, they become rehashed and overdone as the game progresses.
Up Next: An indie game's unique mechanics use Steam's interface to mess with the player, and more.
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