Iconic weapons hold a special place in our hearts. Unlike the myriad pistols, swords, and baseball bats that litter a videogame universe, these weapons are more than just set dressing; in fact, they are often as unforgettable as the protagonists who wield them. It is impossible to talk about Half Life’s Gordon Freeman without his trusty Crowbar, or discuss the intricacies of Dead Space without the Plasma Cutter. For many players, iconic weapons are an inextricable part of the gaming experience.
But more than just adding to the fun of videogame carnage, the weapons also reflect useful information about the universe around them, from the wielder’s personality and motivation, to the conflict that drives their motivation. A scythe, for example, is strongly associated with death; if the player protagonist is using one, you may very well be the villain in a hellish universe, or even the Grim Reaper himself.
Some may seem unconventional, but in the right hands, they can pack a hefty punch to the guts. Here are some examples of the finest and most significant weapons in videogames.
Your first introduction to the underwater city of Rapture is watching a man get helplessly disemboweled by a roving splicer. After the murder, the killer glances about, wondering aloud if you are new to Rapture, and lets out a blood-curling scream. Then, she disappears.
And you are alone. Weaponless. With a murderer on the loose.
Luckily, the rebel leader Atlas is there to lend a hand, guiding you towards a wrench lying abandoned next to a toolbox. You pick up the tool, its heavy weight a welcome relief after witnessing such a gruesome murder. From that moment on it proves to be a reliable weapon, deadly enough to slay most foes with a few well-timed swings.
Presumably left behind by a fleeing worker, the Wrench is a symbol of the working class of Rapture. Disillusioned with the oppressive governance of Andrew Ryan and stirred by the growing frustration of class conflict, a civil war erupted in Rapture, and the city eventually descended into a state of anarchy.
In Dead Space you play as Isaac Clarke, a ship systems engineer working for a deep space mining company called the CEC. When a ship called the USG Ishimura launches a distress signal, Clarke volunteers to investigate, and things quickly get dicey from there. Separated from the rest of his crew, you pick up a Plasma Cutter from a bloody workbench, hunker down to carving through waves of mutated corpses and extraterrestrial beings known as Necromorphs. It’s loads of fun.
Originally used to slice through minerals in mining operations, the Plasma Cutter is a perfect fit for Clarke, who is first and foremost an engineer and not a trained soldier. What the weapon lacks in firepower, it makes up in accuracy, an extremely vital component to the game’s combat, which required slicing of all the limbs on attacking Necromorphs in order for them to stay dead. No longer can the player unload a storm of bullets in a blind frenzy; staying alive requires a methodical approach and a degree of cool-headedness. Just like Clarke, who hardly ever loses his cool.
Gordon Freeman has shown us that scientists, too, are capable of saving the world, so long as they are armed with a trusty melee weapon. After unwittingly triggering a Resonance Cascade and flooding the world with hostile alien lifeforms, Freeman has to defend himself and find a way out of the Black Mesa complex, armed with his trusty Crowbar.
In the hands of Freeman, the Crowbar can be used to pummel headcrabs into a mushy pulp, kill lone zombies when low on ammo, or get out of sticky situations that involve smashing wooden crates. Traditionally used to pry apart objects or remove stubborn nails, it is extremely sturdy while still being light-weight enough for a theoretical physicist to brandish. This versatility made the Crowbar a reliable backup weapon and a fuss-free tool for Freeman—whose adaptability and smarts help him to survive the events of the Half Life series.
Set in the same universe as Half Life, Portal takes place in the laboratories of Aperture Science, a scientific research company with an ongoing rivalry with Black Mesa. Driven by the desire to outpace their competitor, Aperture Science instigates a cold war, developing a massive research ship called the Borealis. In the ensuing rush to secure government funding and beat Black Mesa, the ship disappears in a freak accident, taking with it part of its dry docks.
The Portal Gun is another example of Aperture Science’s competitiveness, an object borne of its founder’s ingenuity and desperation. A portable teleportation weapon, it can be used to create two portals, which will allow any object to pass through from one to another. Chell, a company test subject who awakes after years in cryostasis, uses the gun aid her escape, solving brain and physics-based puzzles while evading the evil AI, GLADoS. Her agility and tenacity help make the Portal Gun the unique weapon that it is.
A whip is hardly practical as a weapon in real life, limited mostly to herding cattle. To the Belmont clan from Castlevania, however, the whip is perfect for vampire slaying.
And they are right.
Aptly named the Vampire Killer, the whip is instrumental in defeating undead Dracula, and was also effective against a wide array of demonic creatures, including Death himself. A family heirloom passed down from through the generations, the Vampire Killer was imbued with even greater powers after Sara Trantoul, the betrothed of Leon Belmont, sacrificed herself by letting herself be killed with it. The weapon can also be dangled, providing slight protection against demons dumb enough to rush headfirst into the whip without looking at where they were going.
However, those who weren’t a descendant of the Belmont bloodline can not wield the whip, as it gradually saps their life away. Like its real-life counterpart, only the most experienced of whip handlers could use them without hurting themselves.
Known as professional monster slayers, witchers are famous for their tools of the trade: a pair of blades, one of silver and one of steel. While the steel blade is more for fending off humans and humanoid beings like elves and dwarves, the silver blade is more effective against monsters, who were typically weak against silver.
One may think that the silver sword would see more use, seeing as how Witcher is rife with monsters, but in the morally ambiguous world of the witcher, corruption can be found everywhere. Some may even find the steel sword redundant. The duality of silver and steel, however, is symbolic, highlighting the moral duality of humans themselves.
Nonetheless, the legendary witcher Geralt is not too bothered by this distinction. When cornering Jacques de Aldersberg, the Grand Master of the Order of the Flaming Rose, Geralt is disarmed of his steel sword. As he draws out his silver blade, Jacques protests, “But that sword is for monsters…”
In response, Geralt wordlessly stabs the Grand Master to death.
The members of the Assassin Order are a secretive bunch, believing in a set of values that heavily emphasize discretion. This is no more evident than the three tenets of the Creed:
“Stay your blade from the flesh of an innocent.”
“Hide in plain sight, be one with the crowd.”
“Never compromise the Brotherhood.”
The Hidden Blade is the physical embodiment of the Creed. The signature weapon of the Order, it is easily concealed under a long sleeve, and exceptionally useful when it comes to stealth assassinations. Even though some Assassins are highly skilled in close combat, most regard it as a last resort, avoiding any potential for drawing attention.
Recognizing their symbolic value, some from the Templar Order, the sworn enemies of the Assassins, have even taken to keeping Hidden Blades as trophies.
Hair is often an expression of individuality, but with Bayonetta, it is so much more. The Umbra Witch dresses herself up with her hair quite literally, with a skin-tight hair suit that extends down to her legs. When necessary, her follicles can reach the height of skyscrapers, and even summon demonic aid in battles to help her eviscerate her foes.
As many have noticed, Bayonetta is extremely comfortable with her sexuality. Long hair is usually a mark of feminine beauty, but the fact that Bayonetta’s tresses are long and plentiful enough to flood the entire screen, coupled with its uses as a lethal weapon, shows that she isn’t afraid to flaunt what she has.
There are few scenes in entertainment as iconic as the image of young Link pulling the Master Sword from its pedestal, a virtual, modern retelling of The Sword and the Stone. More than just a weapon, the Master Sword came to be a symbol of Link’s destiny, sealing him to the split timeline dividing the fate of Hyrule in the Legend of Zelda series.
Too big for young Link to carry, but perfect for the “normal” adult-sized Link who wields it, the Master Sword, with its time-travel abilities and bright blue hilt, is iconic both as a weapon of choice and as a symbol of the maturing process Link endures as he grows into the role of Hero of Time.
This list is full of tool and implements, sometimes quite literally (hey there, wrench). Samus’s deadliest tool in the Metroid games isn’t an external object but her own body. The Screw Attack, a powerful somersault charged with electricity that can instantly kill almost any enemy and can break through walls and floors,, has been around since the original Metroid, and has only skipped two installments since. It’s as iconic as her ability to roll into a ball, and has actually become the official logo for the series. That’s about as big as a videogame weapon can get.