Beat The Heat With Gaming's Best Versions Of Hell
In the summer, we do things that cool us off. That’s just conventional wisdom. We jump in lakes and lay in front of fans and eat gazpacho. Suggest hot chocolate in July and people scoff. But what if we’ve been going about it all wrong? What if the solution is leaning in to the heat, diving into even hotter activities to show the summer we’re not scared? What if doubling down on heat is the ultimate life hack?
Welcome to hell – at least, the video game version. Games are all about escaping to impossible places, like the beautiful mountains of Skyrim, or the creepy caves of Brinstar, or in a surprising amount of cases, the bowels of Hell itself.
Just like video game designers, I understand the appeal of hell. Sure it’s a life of extremes, but at least there’s no faffing around with the banality of everyday life. There’s probably less, “Oh it’s Tuesday again, do I have rice or quinoa tonight?” in hell. Plus, it’s a dry heat.
Let’s beat summer at its own game here. Whether you want to murder your way through hell or skate over it, gaming has got you covered.
Guitar Hero 3
No one could forget Guitar Hero 3’s iconic story. You know there’s that part where, uhh, you film a music video? And you go to prison at some point I think.
Anyway, ultimately you sign a deal with the devil, and go play some sweet shows down in his sweet venue in hell. There are big spikes on all the amps, and demon dancers, and some dude swinging a big hammer around in the background. It’s all quite middle-school-sketchbook, which matches pretty well with the rest of Guitar Hero’s aesthetics.
The best part of this version of hell is that Satan is a jealous little goat. Not content to simply let you party in his digs for the rest of eternity, he eventually comes down and challenges you to a guitar battle; “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by The Charlie Daniels Band, naturally. Once you win, your motorcycle sprouts wings and you fly right back out of hell (presumably to a sponsorship with an energy-drink company or something).
- Lots of adoring fans
- Easy to leave
- Seems more like a party
- Having to tiptoe around Satan’s jealousy
- If you don’t like heavy metal or The Charlie Daniels Band, you’re really out of luck
Doom isn’t the first time hell appeared in games, but it does feel like some sort of baseline for the medium. Heavy metal, demons, chainsaws; all the hits are here. Throughout the series, hell has varied quite a bit though. From the long, skull-filled hallways of the first game to the unsettling ethereality of the third, right up to the unrepentant gore of 2016’s release, Doom has never steered away from hell’s abstract horror.
There’s never a dull moment in Doom’s hell. Whether you’re finding keycards, punching cyberdemons, or tricking different factions into fighting each other, Doom provides a wealth of variety in its day-to-day Hell activity.
Even better, hell provides a source of renewable energy! Who would have guessed that the solution to our climate problems could be solved instantly, simply by surrendering our bodies and souls to the demons below?
- Environmentally sustainable
- Ages well
- Your armor seems like it’d get really sweaty
- Seriously, where is that blue keycard?
God of War, God of War 2, God of War 3
Before anything else, Hades is an interior designer. That’s the only lesson I can take from the original God of War trilogy, in which Kratos goes to a completely different Hell three separate times. Hades just can’t decide on his aesthetic!
So let’s run through our options:
Spiky Hell (God of War): It’s very pink. That’s my main takeaway. It also has rotating blades and platforming challenges that are incredibly hellish. Structurally, it doesn’t make a ton of sense; why would Hades suspend a bunch of vertebrae to run across? But really, the main takeaway here is pink.
Limb-y Hell (God of War 2): ARMS. That’s pretty much it.
Underworld (God of War 3): Now this is a hell. Big, ugly architecture, brambled vines you can use to burn people alive, and multiple cerberuses (cerberi?). If I was Hades, I would definitely choose to live here. Also, this version of Hell is notable because it’s the only time you actually meet the god himself. Kratos doesn’t have great people skills, so you end up repeatedly smashing him against his own ceiling. But oh, what a lavishly designed ceiling it is.
So, to sum everything up,
- Lots of variety
- Never a dull moment
- Two of the three choices are real bummers
The Binding of Isaac
“Sheol” is a Greek version of a Hebrew word that translates very roughly into some sort of underworld – the old testament wasn’t particularly clear on the details of hell. However, making abstract concepts grossly literal is one of The Binding of Isaac’s fortes. So, after descending through several layers of basements, caves, and wombs (yup), Isaac can enter Sheol. And then he can kill Satan.
Sheol is dark, big, and confusing. Odds are, you’ll stumble around in the shadows for quite a while before finding the boss room. Once there, you’ll fight three different incarnations of the devil: a lil’ guy, a big guy, and some giant feet.
- Better than spending time in a womb, I guess
- Good if you like large cloven hoofs
- Dark, cold, presumably smelly
- You really thought this Binding of Isaac run would be done 20 minutes ago and you have to use the bathroom
Tony Hawk’s Underground 2
For a game that calls itself “underground,” you sure do a lot of skating in parks, cities, and other ground-level locations here. What ever happened to truth in advertising, Tony???
Thankfully, there’s at least one place that’s truly underground. That’s right: it’s hell. After defacing some sort of ancient temple with cool skater graffiti, Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 flashes “Burn in hƐㄥㄥ!!” on the screen, and opens up a whole new fiery area. In this area there’s ... well there’s a lot of concrete and half pipes and stuff. It is a skating game.
But there are also demons that give you gnarly missions like “ㄥip Trick on toppa da two brokin ribs to nok em ovva.” To be honest, I have no idea what that means. But it’s probably because I haven’t lived the skater lifestyle. Meet me at the local Vans store, I have a lot of catching up to do.
- Sweet grinds, lips, and slaps
- Demons seem chill
- Entry requires the defacement of historically important sites
- Every L has been replaced with ㄥfor some reason
Like the best kinds of dip, hell has many layers in Dante’s Inferno. Although some of the levels are more questionable than others – does “fraud” really deserve the same spotlight as “violence”? – you’ve gotta admire the title’s comprehensive catalogue of all things hell.
Perhaps most infamous for the giant Cleopatra-like manifestation of lust that shoots enemies out of her nipples (yup), Dante’s Inferno spares no expense in showing off all the ways that hell can make things weird. There’s plenty of variety here, but it all seems outright unpleasant. It’s hard to imagine finding a little corner of this hell to settle down in.
- Can cater to your every sin
- Colorful neighbors
- Basically like the Jared Leto-Joker version of hell
- God of War is a better game, sorry
The Worst Version Of Hell
Play Agony, the recent game we awarded a 3.5 out of 10.