When gaming gets raw — the best owns in video game history (part 1)


The first time I got busted for stealing in a video game was when I played Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening on Game Boy Pocket in grade school. Once you steal from the shop in Mabe Village, you can never enter it again; the shopkeeper will smite you with lightning and kill you instantly, no matter how many heart containers you have. 

You have to hand it to Nintendo's programmers. They took the time to goof on anyone who actually managed to steal something from the shop.

The serial nature of games and game studios makes it easy for developers to sneak in callbacks and references to earlier games, forming a kind of coded language of in-jokes that only die-hard fans understand. Often, the funniest moments are when the joke is on the players. Games love dunking on us.

Developers add everything from joke achievements to enemies who taunt you after you die. There's even the theory that Nier: Automata's fishing minigame is so easy because it's a slow-burn joke on Polygon writer and podcast maven Justin McElroy, who had a little bit of a temper tantrum while fishing in the first game. 

With that in mind, we've compiled some of our favorite owns and insults our favorite games have used to roast the people who play them.

There's a special achievement for losing a hero to the game's weakest enemy in Darkest Dungeon

While we're still waiting for Red Hook's Lovecraftian fantasy dungeon crawler to release its Crimson Court expansion, the game has earned a reputation for being incredibly hard, especially its boss battles. One in particular, the Swine Prince, is tricky until you figure out his gimmick — there's a small pig named Wilbur behind him who will direct the Swine Prince's attacks by marking your characters, but finding a way to clear those marks will leave the Swine Prince flailing helplessly about.


Although it seems like the most expedient route, taking out Wilbur first will send the Swine Prince into a blind rage, which will probably result in a total party kill. So don't do that. Blast down the Swine Prince proper and then exact your revenge on the little piglet. 

However, even after you've toppled the Swine Prince, Wilbur will squeal at your party members for a paltry amount of damage, which despite all odds might kill them if they're low enough on health. If this misfortune befalls you, you'll have the distinct pleasure of receiving the secret achievement: "That'll do, pig..." It's one of four achievements you can receive for having a hero meet a particularly ignoble end.

Nier: Automata's ending W breaks your wings

Nier: Automata, the semi-sequel to 2010's Nier, takes director Yoko Taro's obsession with endings (the original Drakengard had five and Nier had five as well) to its natural conclusion with 26 discrete endings to collect — one for each letter of the alphabet. One of the first ones you can get in the game comes when you die during the tutorial mission — not hard to do considering it switches between about four different on-rails shooter modes within the first five minutes.

If you die during the tutorial mission, you get the following text dump:

The YoRHa force was annihilated ...

The credits will then roll by super-fast, and you'll get the ending "broken wings." 

It would be a fun little nod to the fact that most games don't acknowledge what would happen in the game if the main character died unceremoniously, except for the fact that there's no autosave or checkpoints during the tutorial. So if you die at any point during the tutorial, which includes multiple robots and a multi-stage boss fight, you have to start over from the beginning. 

There is no shame in switching the game to easy for this part. We promise no one is going to question how hardcore you are if you do this.

Wolfenstein: The New Order's very easy difficulty has, um, an interesting name

2014's Bethesda-published Wolfenstein: The New Order, by contrast, has no compunctions about roasting gamers who want to have an easier time wading knee-deep in Nazi blood. 

Eschewing the normal rankings of easy, normal, hard, etc., Wolfenstein instead opts to call them "Über," "I Am Death Incarnate," "Bring 'Em On," "Don't Hurt Me" and "Can I Play, Daddy?" in declining order of difficulty.

As if that title itself weren't already insulting, each difficulty setting gives you a picture of series protagonist B.J. Blazkovicz on the right-hand side of the screen indicating how he feels about each difficulty setting, and the one for "Can I Play, Daddy?" is, well... we should probably just show you:


It's Blazko wearing a baby bonnet and sucking on a pacifier. Also, the description for the mode reads, "Very easy difficulty setting for the spineless gamer." Ouch.

Breath of Fire 2 will let you refuse to finish your fantasy quest and then make you feel really bad about doing it

Before the series tanked in 2003 with the ambitious but ill-fated Dragon Quarter and was sadly reborn as a mobile game, Breath of Fire was a long-running Capcom Japanese series best known for having multiple ending conditions and a blue-haired protagonist named Ryu who could transform into a dragon. 

Although pretty much every game in the series has multiple endings, Breath of Fire 2 takes the cake by allowing you to refuse what should be a "but-thou-must" choice. When confronted with entering the game's final dungeon, you can say, "That's too hard, I don't want to do that," and simply adopt a wait-and-see approach about the evil god who's preying on people's negative emotions.

Scintilla/LP Archive

If you choose to wait for this evil god to come up and attack the surface world, you're treated to this total downer of an ending where you're basically told, "You waited too long, and the god got too strong, and he killed everyone. Good job."

Scintilla/LP Archive

This is especially insulting because you still have to play the game to the end to even get this extremely dissatisfying conclusion. At least you can restart from your last save point and do it right. However, if you didn't save an old man in the basement of an evil church earlier in the game, you still end up having to permanently transform into a dragon to guard the entrance to the evil god's underworld palace forever. Weak.

Want more? We have a much longer list. Stay tuned for the best owns in video game history (part 2).

More features from the Multiplayer launch

Check out the latest from Multiplayer, including a feature about the need for more diversity in game development, an essay about how Efi Oladele was a missed opportunity for Overwatch, a nostalgia-fueled essay about how World of Warcraft lost its heart when the game improved, a plea for better character customization options for black characters, a takedown of the beloved original 151 Pokémon and an analysis of the gender inequality in Uniqlo's new Nintendo T-shirt line.