Breaking the fourth wall in movies or video games means that the character (or characters) are aware of their fictional nature and that there is an entity out there controlling them or watching them. Fourth wall can loosely refer to the screen on which the player or viewer is receiving the visual feed. Breaking the fourth wall sometimes catches the player/viewer off guard and often is done with a comical effect. The most conventional violation of the fourth wall is when a character (or the game itself) acknowledges that they are in a video game or directly refers to the player.
Today we list our top five choices of video games that break the fourth wall. Be advised that spoilers may follow the list.
5) Assassins’s Creed II – Minerva’s Reveal
Assassin’s Creed II is the most critically acclaimed Assassin’s Creed game in the franchise to date. According to the gamers and the fans, no other Assassin’s Creed game came close to Assassin’s Creed II (well perhaps Brotherhood did as it was a good sequel too). From the moment you are required to press a sequence of buttons on the screen to be born as an assassin to all the way throughout the game experiencing the life of Ezio Auditore to finally reaching the ending of the game where you are thrown back by the quite futuristic reveal that Ezio receives by an entity known as Minerva. Throughout the series, the player in the real world is aware that the game is taking place in a virtual reality by accessing Desmond’s memory via the Animus.
What breaks the fourth wall during the ending is when Minerva starts to reveal the fate of the world and the history of her race. The twist? She isn’t talking to Ezio, who is standing right there infront of her, dazed and confused, but addressing to Desmond by the extension of the player. She even tells Ezio that he has “played” his part and that he is not important as he is being controlled. This breaking of the fourth wall also excited us a lot as it was good to feel that we were directly being talked to about everything even if Ezio was left there fazed.
4) Tomb Raider 2 – Shower and Shotgun
Lara Croft redefined the image of female characters in a video game. Known to be the sex symbol for females in video games, wherever there was mention of Lara Croft, perverseness followed in the mind of the gamer. That was not all, even the game designers openly admitted that they enlarged those breasts to be humongous as it will boost the sales of their game. Donning a sports bra and short, very short shorts, Lara Croft revolutionized female characters in the gaming industry. Not soon when Tomb Raider came out, perverted minds of the gamers started an urban legend where you can actually see Lara Croft naked. With such a rumour floating around, developers of the game also caught wind of it and treated the gamers a nice surprise in the sequel Tomb Raider 2.
At the end of Tomb Raider 2 comes a scene where Lara Croft is shown in what is ridiculously short bathrobe inside a shower. With the gamers at the edge of their seats, eyes googling and desperately waiting to get lucky came a serious shocker. Lara Croft turns her head towards the camera and utters heartbreaking words to gamers: “Haven’t you seen enough?”, picks up her shotgun which she placed down beside her and shoots the camera hence shooting our hearts and killing all life. This was an effective way to deliver the message to gamers to call out their shame on their perverted way of thinking. We were ashamed. We apologize.
3) Batman: Arkham Asylum – Game freeze and crash indicating a hardware issue
This part in Batman: Arkham Asylum literally, and we mean literally (well not that literally), gave gamers a serious heart attack with many gamers shouting at their consoles or PC, immediately going forward to restart their device when the game resumes right back at where the game starts, infuriating even more before actually seeing and cooling down and then hitting their heads and calling themselves idiots for believing such a thing. Rocksteady, developer of the title really pulled a fast one on the minds of the gamers literally giving them a scare.
When Batman: Arkham Asylum was first announced, people weren’t thrilled as there have already been a lot of superhero games on the market and Batman franchise has already seen its video game debut. But the game surprised the masses, a lot. With its fluid combat system, encountering Batman’s enemies unlike in a movie where you usually encounter a main villain or a side villain along with the main villain, the game was filled with Batman’s villains. And with this scare tactic thrown at us which reveals that Scarecrow was using the game’s mechanics against us really puts this game at the third position in our list.
2) Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem – Several moments
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is an exclusive title for the Nintendo’s Gamecube. Taking on the survival horror genre, we guarantee it is a survival horror game that surpasses many others. The game not only messes with the character’s head in-game but breaks the fourth wall and messes with yours as well and quite effectively we might add. As the character encounters enemies in-game, the sanity level goes down which in turn makes the character “hallucinate” which in turn is directed more towards the player themselves. Sometimes it will show you monsters that don’t exist, sometimes subtly a painting’s eyes will start following you, sometimes it will cut off your arms along.
The game is filled with such instances with most notable one being when one saves their game. After saving the game, a prompt pops up asking the player if they want to delete their saved games. Of course everyone will answer with “no” which in turns does exactly the opposite of it and starts a loading bar which shows that it is now deleting the saved games and upon completion prompts that they are deleted. The game also features messing with the Gamecube as well as TV anomalies appearing on the screen. We can’t express all of this in words except that one needs to experience all of this by themselves to really enjoy and understand how it all works.
1) Metal Gear Solid – Psycho Mantis Battle
It would be utterly insulting if we would not include Hideo Kojima’s masterpiece of a franchise that redefined voice acting and gaming along with introducing the world to a new genre of Stealth-Action. Metal Gear Solid series is filled with content that breaks the fourth wall time and time and time again. From codec moments telling Snake to press a designated button to perform the action to some codec conversations prompting to turn of the video game console to instances where a character states that the player should not even think about using autofire (on a controller) to easily pass the tests in-game or swapping of discs whereas realizing that the technology is modern and that the whole game is on a dual-layered Bluray Disc.
From finding the desired frequency to advance in game on the real packaging in which the game was shipped to memory card reading and “moving” the controller by itself are perhaps the most best known fourth wall breaking instances. It is injustice to just state one such instance but we will have to go with the battle of Psycho Mantis in the original Metal Gear Solid (you can also count the remake; Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes). During the battle, Mantis asks the player to put their controller on the ground flat and he will move it magically with his mind which results in Snake looking directly at the camera and nodding at the player themselves to do as instructed. During the battle Mantis also reads the content of the memory card and especially comments out on if you have save files from Konami games or if you have saved frequently within the game itself. The game also changes to a black screen with Hideo on it which also indicates that the AV screen of the TV has been changed. Finally to beat Mantis, Colonel Campbell on codec tells Snake to take out their controller from PORT 1 and connect it to PORT 2, this way Mantis won’t be able to read the “player’s” mind and Snake can defeat Mantis easily.
Such instances do make the experience far better for a gamer if pulled correctly and it is always good to hear from within the game and characters themselves that they somehow know they are being controlled. There are several other titles as well that do break the fourth wall occasionally. You read our list of top five games, we would like to know yours as well and how you would rank your titles.
Do let us know via the comments below.