The Most Underappreciated Meta Moments In Games
This feature was originally published on April 5, 2016.
Quantum Break is out today and looks to be a pretty good time. Its developer, Remedy Entertainment, is known for stocking its games to the brim with neat little Easter eggs that often hint at a connected universe shared between games. The studio's franchise-development director talked about "a bigger Remedy universe" back in 2014, when early footage of Quantum Break revealed the protagonist wearing clothing that referenced Remedy's previous game, Alan Wake.
While Remedy may be known for these sorts of hi-jinks, it's certainly not the only developer that likes playing around with its audience. With respect to the greats like the Psycho Mantis fight in Metal Gear Solid, and nearly all of Eternal Darkness, we've decided to focus on moments and games that aren't recognized as often as the obvious, classic sequences (you can find our rundown of those here).
Alan Wake is an author of thriller novels who's been suffering from a long bout of writer's block. He and his wife, Alice, travel to the sleepy town of Bright Falls for a vacation. After Alice is captured by a mysterious entity, Wake goes on a quest through a transformed Bright Falls to get her back. During the game, all sorts of cultural references are made, several of them explicitly paying homage or lampooning the game's inspirations (like The Lady of the Light serving as an analog to Twin Peaks' Log Lady). There are also references to Remedy's Max Payne series. A particularly amusing one involves tracking down a QR code in the PC version of the game that leads to a gif of Sam Lake, who not only wrote Max Payne, but whose face served as the character's portrait in the original game, putting on his best Max Payne impression.
Another more serious and fitting homage to Payne involves a book Wake wrote that the player can find called The Sudden Stop. The pages, narrated by the same actor who voiced Payne, describe a man dying, thinking about painkillers and how nice it is that he'll finally be reunited with his wife and child. The last Max Payne game that Remedy developed was Max Payne 2. While the series would continue with Rockstar Games taking over, there's something about this little Easter egg that feels like a heart-felt goodbye from a creator.
The Curse of Monkey Island
Monkey Island is one of the highlights of the point-and-click adventure genre, with a large part of its appeal stemming from its zany humor. The Curse of Monkey Island, the third game in LucasArts' series, has a brief fourth-wall gag that pokes fun at LucasArts adventure games, acknowledging criticisms levied at the games for being too easy as well as skewering storytelling conventions:
What makes this so great is that it's a funny scene that succinctly points out what's goofy about these conventions without being self-important about it.
Metal Gear Solid V
From its wacky fourth wall breaking moments to convoluted plotlines about shadow projects and clones, Metal Gear Solid is one of the most tantalizing games out there for those who enjoy interacting with games outside of actually playing them: talking about them, writing critical studies of them, and finding hidden meaning in small moments. Is it all just bizarro sci-fi nonsense or a philosophically deep, complex tale that spans decades? Perhaps something in between? Regardless, people love to break apart Metal Gear Solid and examine each and every piece, and it's a series that loves giving them fodder to do so. An early moment in Metal Gear Solid 3 showcases Snake and Revolver Ocelot's meeting and dramatic stand-off, with Snake suddenly taking on the role of mentor for Ocelot, admonishing him for using an automatic pistol instead of a revolver.
The scene gets a nice callback in Metal Gear Solid V that gives us insight into how Ocelot has grown as a soldier:
It's a small segment but also a nice acknowledgment of character growth during the series' long journey and fans' awareness of those character arcs.
Firewatch and Gone Home
Do Firewatch and Gone Home, two games by different developers, take place in the same universe? Maybe! In Firewatch, The Accidental Savior is a book you can find in one of the storage caches littered across Shoshone National Park. The author's name, Terrence L. Greenbriar will be familiar to fans of Gone Home, since he's the father of the game's protagonist, Kaitlin.
For Gone Home's console release, Fullbright snuck in a little reference to Firewatch, possibly to pay back Campo Santo for the Greenbriar nod.
Though it's not quite as fourth-wall breaking heavy as Alan Wake, Remedy still loaded down both Max Payne games with playful, mind-bending sequences that draw attention to Max Payne as a game. Maybe that's underselling it a bit since there is a literal sequence in the first game where Max, under the influence of some nasty drugs, realizes he's in a computer game and has to come to grips with that.
Remedy's tradition of creating in-universe television shows (something seen in Alan Wake as well) began with Max Payne's Victorian soap opera Lords and Ladies, which has several episodes you can watch on TV sets at various points in the game. Though Max Payne 3 was handled by a different developer, the game had its own modern-day interpretation of Lords and Ladies called Amor e Damas (roughly translated: Love and Ladies). These shows help give Payne, and the rest of Remedy's oeuvre, its own unique and off-kilter tone, helping set it apart from all other action titles.
Did we miss any of your favorite meta moments? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check out our list of our favorite fourth wall-breaking moments for more meta zaniness.