Updated: Feb 2
Admit it, most ‘core’ gamers like their in-game weapons. I know I do. Shooting terrorists, beheading zombies, blowing up aliens or reducing robots to heaps of perforated scrap are all in a day’s work for the average gamer. It's all good clean fun - and no (INSERT REACTIONARY POLITICIAN) violence in games does not create violence in real life.
That said the bread and butter weapons of most games can become a little repetitive, especially when many games use essentially the same arsenal of weapons. Some games, however, do not use the typical loadout. Instead, they equip both protagonists and NPCs with death dealers that are a little off-the-wall. This is what we will be investigating today.
When I was first thinking of this topic, I was planning it to be called ‘Top 10 most imaginative weapons in games’. However, it soon dawned on me that some franchises have so many weird and wonderful weapons that choosing only one from each would be doing their designer a great disservice. Therefore, I decided to mix things up a little and list the franchises that feature the most imaginative weapons. So, in no particular order, let's dive in.
Halo’s weapons are a curious mix of the fantastic, the mundane and the downright nasty. The weapons of the UNSC are little different from what modern-day militaries use today. Pistols, SMGs, Assault Rifles, Battle Rifles, DMRs, shoulder-launched rockets, Anti-Material Rifles, grenades, etc. So far, so boring.
The weapons of the Covenant are far more interesting. Granted, they have analogues to human weapons such as the Carbine, but they also wield weapons that humanity cannot match. One of the most innovative was the Needler. Do you have terrible aim? No problem, just point the Needler in the general direction of your foe and fire. The homing crystal shards will do the rest. Impale a target with enough of them and they will explode, thus spreading your foe over a wide area.
If you want to get up close and personal, then an Elite’s Energy Sword has you covered. Think ‘lightsaber on steroids’. A lightsabre might cut off a limb, but the Energy Sword can make some enemies explode in a satisfyingly gory fashion.
Halo 2 introduced the Brutes with their brutal weapons which includes a dirty great energized War Hammer. If this isn’t barbaric enough for you then perhaps try the Spiker. It’s a gun. That shoots superheated spikes. Which pin enemies to the wall.
Halo 3 - TMCC - All Weapons, Reloads, Idle Animations and Sounds
Needler at 09:30, Energy Sword at 11:43 and Spiker at 14:12
Video by Hectorlo
Blood is a homage to horror comedies of the 80s such as The Evil Dead. It is fitting then that Caleb - your wisecracking semi-demonic avatar - has a suitably warped set of 1920’s era weapons with which to fight your demonic foes.
Grenades? Nah, those are for wimps. Real men just light the fuse on a bundle of dynamite sticks and chuck them whilst cackling like a mad man.
Pistols? Nope, too boring. Caleb chooses the flare gun, it’s so much better for setting zombies and cultists on fire. Flamethrower? Nah, too bulky, Caleb immolates the undead with aerosol cans and a zippo.
Running low on health? Then brandish a skull on a stick to leech the enemy's life force to top up your own. And if even that isn’t black magic enough for you then how about a Voodoo Doll? Just make sure you have an enemy in view when you stab it with your pin, otherwise, it will hurt you instead.
The Weapons of Blood (1997)
Dynamite at 02:22, Skull at 03:52 and Voodoo doll at 04:30
Video by llIlIllIlllIllIlIllI
3. Clive Barker’s Undying
Clive Barker's Undying is also set in the 1920s and it too features a combination of horror and FPS gameplay. This is where the similarities end. Clive Barker’s Undying trades humour for atmosphere and sheer blood-curdling terror. Patrick Galloway, your protagonist from the emerald isle, has a few tricks up his rolled-up sleeves to help him survive the evil entities summoned by the Covenant clan.
One is the Tibetan War Cannon, a golden dragon head that shoots shards of ice to lacerate and freeze enemies. For reaping the souls of the undead Galloway can wield the Scythe of the Celts - which can separate a soul from an enemies’ body whilst doing likewise with their head.
Patrick is a dab hand at spells too, some of which are weaponised. One standout example being 'Ectoplasm', which involves Galloway throwing poorly aimed globs of goo. Far more effective is 'Skull Storm' which sees our Patrick unleashing his inner Pain Elemental by launching cackling flaming skulls at anything that looks at him funny.
The most innovative ‘weapon’ however, is a spell called ‘invoke’. It affects different enemy types in different ways. Animated skeletons turn to dust, which is handy as it’s the only way to kill them. Using it on the recently slain revives them and forces them to fight for you. Its effects on the living are far more spectacular, however. It forces them to commit suicide! This never gets old.
Clive Barker's Undying - The Spooky Button (NFSC)
Invoke Shenanigans from about 14:20
Video by Civvie 11
4. Armed and Dangerous
Armed and Dangerous is often cited as the game with the most imaginative weapons, and for good reason. Its arsenal is as imaginative and fun to use as it is wacky. One weapon turns your enemy’s world upside down - literally. This causes them to fall down (or fall ‘up’?) to their doom.
#36: Topsy Turvy Bomb (Armed and Dangerous) - IGN's Top 100 Video Game Weapons
Don’t. Look. Down. Or Up.
Video by Top100IGN
But for sheer comedic glee, you can’t beat the Land Shark Gun. It is a gun. That shoots sharks. The sharks then ‘swim’ through the earth. Upon reaching their target they burst out of the ground and gobble up your unlucky foe.
#29: Land Shark Gun (Armed and Dangerous) - IGN's Top 100 Video Game Weapons
Just when you thought it was safe to stay on dry land…
Video by Top100IGN
5. Unreal Tournament
Its iconic line-up of weapons has remained largely unchanged to this day. Why? Because change wasn’t necessary - UT99 got it right first time. UT99’s arsenal has a weapon for every situation, partly due to every weapon possessing a secondary fire mode which grants it extra utility. A gun shop in the world of Unreal would probably sound something like this;
“I’ve got a bit of a Skaarj problem. Do you stock rocket launchers that can fire whole salvos of rockets in either a spread out or concentrated pattern?”
“Yes, Sir, we do. We have one right here. Would Sir like a demonstration?”
“I also need a grenade launcher for bouncing grenades around corners, down shafts and into water. The village duck pond has a Slith problem too.”
“Sir is in luck, the rocket launcher does this as well.”
“I need to lay down a quick minefield to discourage Nali evangelists from knocking on my door. Do you have anything like that?”
“Of course, sir. The GES Bio-Rifle will lay down a temporary field of glowing toxic sludge, guaranteed to deter even the most persistent of Nali cold callers. It even cleans itself up afterwards so you don’t have to.”
“I’m into Ultimate Frisbee, but it’s too tame. Do you have anything that would make it more ‘extreme’?”
“Perhaps sir would be interested in the Ripper? Imagine fully automatic Ultimate Frisbee using alloy discs with razor-sharp edges and a filling of explosives. Would this make sir’s ultimate frisbee ‘extreme’ enough?”
“Might Sir like to see the Flak Cannon? It is like your 12 gauge, except it is much larger, it shoots red hot razor-sharp jagged pieces of metal and its use is considered a war crime in twelve systems.”
#41: Flak Cannon (Unreal) - IGN's Top 100 Video Game Weapons
This thing is just plain nasty…
Video by Top100IGN
6. Amid Evil
Amid Evil is a modern-day retro game, harking back to the glory days of Doom. Its weapons are largely magical, clearly taking cues from Hexen and Heretic. All Amid Evil’s weapons are worthy of note, but the clear star of the show is the Celestial Claw.
What does it do? It pulls planets out of orbit from somewhere, shrinks them down to the size of a bowling ball then launches them at your enemies. When sufficiently powered up it literally becomes the star of the show, since it starts pulling stars out of space before launching them at your soon-to-be-very dead foes.
The Weapons of Amid Evil
Were any of these celestial bodies inhabited at the time? Err, pass…
Video by Game Intros & Finales
Since its inception in 1995, the Worms franchise has had some of the zaniest weapons in any video game franchise. That arsenal has been expanded over time with even more outlandish and comical weapons. Examples include The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch - straight out of Monty Python’s The Search for the Holy Grail - flatulent kamikaze OAPs, weaponized fruit and of course going carpet bombing with bovines. Great fun for all the family.
Worms Battlegrounds: Legendary Weapons
video by Scratch Plays
Half-Life’s weapons can be split into three major categories, 'standard' human weapons, 'experimental' human weapons and 'alien' weapons used by the Xenians and Race X.
'Standard' human weapons consist of the usual mix of SMGs, grenade launchers, shotguns, shoulder-launched rockets, grenades, and trip mines.
The experimental weapons a far more interesting. Most take the form of high energy beam weapons, but the displacer cannon is different. It ‘shoots’ a portal. Any life form that it connects with will be teleported to a random location in Xen. Its secondary fire mode is even more intriguing. It teleports the user to a random area in Xen. This can be a great way to bypass otherwise difficult sections of the game and to stock up on supplies. Be aware, however, that you might be teleported into the middle of a void.
The weapons used by the Xenians and Race X are often biological. One spits toxic spores at targets, the hive hand launches stinging insects which home in on unseen targets, whilst the shock roach electrocutes enemies at a distance.
Most hilarious, however, are the Kamikaze Snarks. These alien beetles squeak hilariously whilst they jump around biting enemies on the butt. Then they explode. Be careful how you use the capricious little bugs however, as they will attack anything they can see, and that includes you.
Half-Life 2 and its episodes introduced the 'Gravity Gun', a multipurpose tool that comes in very handy when ammo is scarce. Ever wanted to weaponize a porcelain throne by turning it into a high-speed projectile? Now you can! Weaponised saw blades and the obligatory red exploding barrels are more devastating still.
All Eeapons in HALF-LIFE: High Definition Pack (Comparison video)
Video by MouseSentinel
All Weapons in Half-Life: Opposing Force
Video by MouseSentinel
Half-Life 2 - Gravity Gun Only Gameplay
Video by vertigo
9. Metro 2033
Metro: 2033, Metro: Last Light and Metro: Exodus all feature a range of imaginative weapons. The reasons for this innovation is almost the exact opposite of the reasons behind some of the previously mentioned franchises. In those, the exotic weapons are the result of technology that is beyond what is available in the real world.
Metro is different. The denizens of the Moscow Metro have had to innovate because they lack much of the technology we have in the real world - or more accurately, they lack the means to recreate it, and thus must improvise with the materials available.
This has resulted in some decidedly odd weapons. For example, the aptly named Big Gun revolver shotgun is fashioned from pipes and bicycle parts - the former bicycle’s seat now serves as the weapon's stock. Other improvised weapons include pneumatic weapons that shoot ball bearings and a grenade launcher that lobs grenades via a spring.
“You survive the Metro with the weapons you have, not the ones you want” could be the tagline for the entire franchise. This ‘Make do and mend’ mentality suits the franchise perfectly, since this mentality informs every other aspect of life in the Metro too.
Metro Last Light Redux - All Weapons Showcase
Video by Gamer Max Channel
Those were my picks for the video game franchises with the most imaginative in-game weapons. What are your thoughts? I’m sure there are plenty more franchises that could be added to the list if we were to run a notional part two. Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments section below.
Iain is a 40+ author and gamer from England, who started his gaming journey on the Atari 2600 36 years ago. His specialities include obscure cult classics, retro games, mods and fan remakes. He hates all sports games and is allergic to online multiplayer. Since he is British, his body is about 60% tea. He can be reached via Twitter at https://twitter.com/IainBaker17, and contacted via email at email@example.com
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