Artistry in Games excalibur_featured The Art of the Kill: Top Ten Most Memorable Video Game Weapons Opinion  weapons combat

Talking things out is all well and good, but sometimes you just gotta shoot – or bludgeon, or shred, or impale – something. When the time comes, it’s best to be prepared. Forearmed is forewarned, right? Of course, not just any old weapon will do. Like an artist choosing a brush, one must always choose the right weapon for the right attack. If you’re in the mood to bash in some skulls, even the most high-powered sniper rifle is about as useful as a vorpal blade in a gunfight. On the other hand, top-secret revenge is a dish best served with a silencer, not a chainsaw.

The best video game weapons are reliable, effective, and most of all, memorable. They’re the friends that never leave you, the bodyguards that won’t betray you for better pay. They’re your lifesavers when you’re adrift in an overwhelming sea of enemies, and they’re a light in the dark when the darkness itself is out to get you. It’s dangerous to go alone, after all – here, take one of these.


Artistry in Games fear_penetrator The Art of the Kill: Top Ten Most Memorable Video Game Weapons Opinion  weapons combat
Nailed it.

The pinnacle of accuracy in a world of chaos and F.E.A.R., the Armacham 10mm High Velocity Penetrator was both a comfort and an unexpected source of dark comic relief. This deadly, sniper-style nail gun did exactly what its name suggests: penetrated flesh at high velocity, inflicting high (often lethal) damage. As an added bonus, enemies could literally be nailed to the wall, or floor, or ceiling – which sounds gruesome enough in theory, but in practice had the unintentionally surreal (read: hilarious) effect of turning Replica soldiers into rag dolls hanging in the halls like some mad billionaire’s freakish decorations. An unforgettable sight, to say the least.


Artistry in Games alice_demondice_lord The Art of the Kill: Top Ten Most Memorable Video Game Weapons Opinion  weapons combat
Straight out of a heavy metal album cover.

A rose in a rose garden, the Demon Dice, also known as the Diabolical Dice, are but a single, singular specimen plucked from one of the most artistic arsenals found in gaming. All of Alice’s weapons (with the exception of the vorpal blade) consisted of warped childhood toys, creating jarring juxtapositions of false innocence and murderous intent. The Dice, however, were on a whole other level of dangerous. Tossing them summoned powerful demons to fight on Alice’s behalf, but as the Cheshire Cat warned her, “Don’t throw them when you’re alone. The fiends lack loyalty and their notion of nourishment is quite disturbing.” He wasn’t kidding. If the player used the dice by mistake (or out of curiosity – which killed the Cat, you know) when no enemies were within range, the demons had a n**** habit of turning on Alice instead.


Artistry in Games doom_chainsaw The Art of the Kill: Top Ten Most Memorable Video Game Weapons Opinion  weapons combat
“How sweet. Fresh meat!”

Though the much-beloved BFG9000 from the same series might just as easily have snagged this spot on sheer popularity alone, in the end nothing quite says Doom like the revving of a chainsaw. Often (and I mean really often) replicated in other games but never quite duplicated, this video game weapon existed for one purpose, and one purpose only: killin’ stuff. Though there’s nothing particularly special about the chainsaw in terms of visual design or animation, it remains one of the most memorable sound effects of the franchise, right up there with snarling demons and screaming souls.


Artistry in Games skyrim_thuum The Art of the Kill: Top Ten Most Memorable Video Game Weapons Opinion  weapons combat
“Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!”

What’s the best weapon? The one they can’t take away from you, even by prying it out of your cold, dead fingers. In addition to a plethora of ranged and melee weaponry and more magic than Merlin himself could shake a staff at, the game designers over at Bethesda got extra creative and tossed a new ingredient into the alchemy pot and came up with something fabulous: turning the player’s voice into a weapon. Honestly, there are few things more satisfying in any world, real or digital, than literally shouting an enemy off the face of the earth. It doesn’t hurt that the iconic Unrelenting Force shout, “FUS RO DAH!” sounds an awful lot like some sort of really offensive medieval expletive.


Artistry in Games zelda_mastersword The Art of the Kill: Top Ten Most Memorable Video Game Weapons Opinion  weapons combat
“Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil is likewise Hero of all Hyrule.”

Also known rather ominously as The Blade of Evil’s Bane, this is the iconic image of both Hyrule and the Legend of Zelda franchise. A symbol of heroism and pure intent through the ages, this sword saw it all, appearing in pretty much every Zelda game ever and preventing catastrophe after catastrophe after catastrophe. Sporting a complex, mystical origin story and gorgeous design to boot, the Master Sword is inhabited by a beautiful and loyal female spirit known as Fi. Put simply, the Master Sword is to Link as Excalibur is to Arthur. Yes, it’s that mythic.


Artistry in Games finalfantasy_bustersword The Art of the Kill: Top Ten Most Memorable Video Game Weapons Opinion  weapons combat
Whatever you do, Cloud, don’t drop it on your foot.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you what could be the most obvious overcompensation of all time: the Buster Sword. Was it super sharp and shiny and satisfyingly deadly? Heck yes. Was it also unnecessarily, not to mention impossibly, oversized? Um, yeah, pretty much. The design isn’t even all that memorable aside from the sheer bulk of it, but trying to picture Cloud Strife without his trusty Buster Sword (try saying that five times fast) is as difficult as trying to imagine anyone in the real world actually being able to wield the b***** thing.


Artistry in Games turok_cerebralbore The Art of the Kill: Top Ten Most Memorable Video Game Weapons Opinion  weapons combat
Anything but boring.

Possibly the most gruesome game weapon ever conceived, the Turok series’ Cerebral Bore sounds at first like a joke weapon, an Easter egg gun that might be loaded with something like densely pedagogic textbooks or intense higher math problems. You know, something boring (har, har, har). The actual ammo turned out to be much worse. When fired, the Cerebral Bore shot out projectiles which latched onto enemies’ heads, drilled into their skulls, and then exploded for good measure. Aside from inspiring queasy feelings in many an unsuspecting player’s less-than-iron stomach, it also lent a new, terrible significance to the phrase “bored to death.”


Artistry in Games armedanddangerous_landsharkgun The Art of the Kill: Top Ten Most Memorable Video Game Weapons Opinion  weapons combat
“I’m just a dolphin, ma’am.”

Speaking of joke weapons, the Land Shark Gun offered those unlucky enough to get caught in its crosshair one of the most hilariously ridiculous ways of kicking the bucket imaginable. The gun itself was a beauty to behold, crafted in an oddly badass likeness of the marine life for which it was named, but better still was the live ammo. That’s live as in live sharks, which popped out of the gun and swam through the ground, circled the targeted bait, then leapt up and chowed down like Jaws on the Fourth of July. Chevy Chase would be so proud.


Artistry in Games halflife-crowbar_silenthill-pipe The Art of the Kill: Top Ten Most Memorable Video Game Weapons Opinion  weapons combat
If you can’t beat ’em, hit ’em harder.

It might be cheating to include two in one spot on the list, but hear me out. Equally memorable to fans of either franchise, Half-Life’s Crowbar and the Silent Hill pipe are as iconic as they are similar – so similar, they’re practically interchangeable. Both are basic, blunt metal melee weapons introduced early on in most, if not all, of the games in their respective series, and both deal relatively low but reliable damage without the hassle of stocking up on ammo or reloading. In a lot of ways, they were, and are, the duct tape of the survival horror arsenal. Headcrabs? Pry them off and bat ‘em away like a baseball pro. Zombies? Bash their brains in before they start munching on yours. Pyramid Head? Not so much. But you get the idea. If you can hit it (preferably without it hitting you), you can kill it, simple as that.


Artistry in Games kingdomhearts_keyblade The Art of the Kill: Top Ten Most Memorable Video Game Weapons Opinion  weapons combat
Possibly the least threatening-looking weapon in video game history. And yet…

If crowbars and pipes are the duct tape of video game weapons, Kingdom Hearts’s Keyblade is the swiss army knife. Despite its fairly benign appearance, the Keyblade does more than unlock things – though opening doors between worlds is pretty cool in and of itself. As a physical weapon, the Keyblade is capable of striking down even the largest of foes with a little time and a lot of patience, but it is also a potent magical conduit and can dish out some serious (and seriously flashy) elemental attacks as well as calling up summons, healing party members, and conjuring up reflective force fields. Unique in design and diverse in function, this one-of-a-kind creation is one of the most widely known and recognizable video game weapons of all time. Its legacy is likely to live on long after the games themselves have been released and remixed for the final time.

By Kim Berkley

Future novelist, present-day video game journalist, and a lifelong lover of books, cats, and Middle-Earth.

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