One day robots will rule the world, not because they will harvest our organs or terminate human existence, but because they will be able to survive any environmental disaster through perpetual memory dumps until the memory of Earth will be the footnote of a footnote on some obscure drive somewhere. Not that an AI ruled world would be so bad. Check out Motavia from Phantasy Star II before and after a super computer called Mother Brain took over, changing a desert planet into a utopia. Here are some of the strangest robots in gaming because we love robots, especially the big ones so much. Sorry, Mega Man isn’t included in our list!
Spoilers to follow for the games listed below
Chrono Trigger has a lot of things going for it, but Gato is not one of them. The giant, red cat-robot may be no small feat in spherical engineering design. Oh sure, he may be kind enough to give you a tutorial on how to fight. He may also be kind enough to give you 15 silver points to be used in acquiring live versions of his kind—and right, that chance to change a moment in history with a doppelganger doll. But he’s also got some awful battle entrance and exit music.
Before you riot, it’s true Yasunori Mitsuda created one of the best soundtracks in video game music history, but that’s one ear-worm of a track that we could do without. It’s just as bloody catchy as it is grating. And weird, much like Gato and his inventor, Lucca. It takes a mad genius to implement two deadly functions into its sole mission objectives: a robot that can not only show you the ropes of fighting, but then best you at karaoke too. Gato is a complete entertainment and fighting robot unit that is a symbol of ever-lasting pop culture’s strangeness at its finest. Quite fitting really as cats are still relevant to this day, and pop music still thrives.
We couldn’t help but feel sorry when Chrono Cross killed our cat visual and audio robot star—by letting it die in a fire.
Aigis is one of the best characters in Persona 3. She plays a pivotal role not just throughout the story, but in the history that leads up to the game. She is both lethal fighting companion and the executor of one of the worst defeats for the party when her programming gets taken over and she hangs all of you on cross. Interestingly, her headphones were designed to visually evoke one of the very first computers, the Antikythera mechanism, an actual analog computer that dates more than 2000 years back and helped predict astronomical positions and eclipses for the Greeks. The anti-shadow weapon with its sophisticated weaponry had its beginnings in Greek attempts to decipher the heavens. But what’s most compelling about her is her desire to chart human nature, growing on an emotional level from logical automaton to a caring guardian. The strangest part of all was how an android, even with stiff mannerisms, could seem more human than the actual humans.
Robot? Not exactly. A cyborg seems the more appropriate term for Labor 9, who is a Labor of Love. A really messed up Labor of Love. What else did we expect from a pigeon dating sim game? Well it certainly wasn’t the shocking turn of events which Hatoful Boyfriend dished out.
The Scarecrow Experiment with the mechanical body which clicks and clacks as a horrific warning, chases every birdie around St. Pigeonation’s apocalyptic halls. All of the days spent wooing and cooing the rock doves and other birds are long gone. Those were happier times, quickly turned dark in this secret dating route which reveals one bizarre twist. As it turns out, there’s a lot more hidden under the suspiciously red tinted burlap sack for a head. It’s not hay, and that red tint is not dye. But when the only human in the school is you, the main playable character, and you meet a grisly fate in which your head goes missing, then that means... oh.
We said Mega Man wasn’t included, but Mega Man X’s archenemy, Sigma, should be. He wants to lead a reploid revolution against humanity but ends up getting destroyed by Mega Man X every single time. We seriously think he should consider a job change. Sigma’s goal is to splice together his sigma virus with the zero virus from Mega Man’s stalwart companion, Zero, so that he can become invincible.
Zero is one of the best characters in the series. Designed originally as a new take on Mega Man by Keiji Inafune, he was written in a way to steal all the best scenes. And he does that in the opening of Mega Man X, who takes a beating from Vile, only to be rescued by Zero. We loved the guy and enjoyed even more playing as him, swinging his Z-saber to slice foes into robotic mincemeat. All this time though, we never knew Dr. Wily, the arch villain of the original Mega Man games, was the one who actually built Zero. Zero has the sole distinction of being the only robot created by Dr. Wily that doesn’t have an obvious weakness and is, as a result, a badass. It does make for an awkward family night and we’re sure reminiscing about his creator, Dr. Wily, isn’t easy on the psyche, robotic or not. PSA time, Dr. Wily and Sigma. Don’t build your reploids with easily exploitable weaknesses!
What’s worse than a Sith Lord? A hunter-assassin droid built by a Sith Lord, programmed to kill, destroy, and even disturb said Sith Lord. HK-47 kills just as often as he loses his memory and you could say that makes for a convenient absolution. Murder a bunch of “meatbags” (thanks Ishamael!), wipe the memory away, and repeat. But what’s strangest of all is that despite his bloody appetite, his guiding principle, at least when he remembers it, is to unite with his master and creator, giving him an uncannily understandable, if ultimately tragic, goal. We guess even robots get lonely.
Your whole goal in the game is to make people happy. The biggest crisis American’s face can be confronted secretly by this miniscule, battery powered machine that solves marital woes and existential angst with a toothbrush. If only one of the presidential candidates could make Chibi-Robo part of their platform, we could solve all the flaws in the American dream. Thank you Chibi-Robo!
When the world is threatened by an evil dictator, our only hope for survival is a robotic janitor called Vectorman. The games’ visuals were stunning for its time, especially when you consider the hero is just a group of polygonal spheres. Both him and the archvillain, Raster (as in raster graphics) are nods to the jumps graphics would make in gaming. In a sense, then, Vectorman was a glimpse into what the future might be. That is, a world full of sludge, escapable only in the virtual confines of orbital gameplay, hoping the sun wipes away all woes, leaving hope in the hands of trashmen (sorry, trashrobots).
We can’t make up our mind on who makes the stranger robotic pet; Dog from Half-Life, or Rush throughout the Mega Man series? Rush is a great sidekick with his ability to help you get impossible platforms by turning into a spring board and even fly over impossibly long chasms. Dog is the best companion a person could ask for, a canine with a Zero Point Energy Device that would make trips to IKEA convenient since you wouldn’t have to wait in the impossibly crowded parking lots honking at one another to get a space, hoping the sofa will fit in your friend’s borrowed truck as Dog can lift it all for you. Dog is fiercely loyal, launching himself at Combine troops and coming to rescue you right when you need him most. Even if we’d pick Rush over Blade Wolfe in Metal Gear Rising, we’re going to go with Dog overall since despite his advanced intelligence, he still likes playing “catch” with your gravity gun.
Wren was one of our favorite robot/cyborgs in the entire Phantasy Star series. We know a cyborg isn’t a robot, but as he’s considered part of a line of Wren combat models that appears in both Phantasy Star III and IV, it’s safe to assume he’s part of a series of androids infused with organic parts unless there just happened to be doppelgangers throughout the galaxy similarly infused with mechanical parts. He was the best companion you could get in Phantasy Star III, anchoring the party through the generations, kind of like a bad-ass warrior version of the Star Wars droids. My favorite part was that he could transform into an aerojet, a submersible, and an aquaswimmer, making transportation convenient. But we never understood, how in the world did he fit all four other party members inside his body?
Both strange and terrifying, GLaDOS is kind of like a horrifying Siri who you think is helping you but is actually leading you to your death, all in a pleasant voice. Everything she tells you has a darker undertone, and even the Companion Cube isn’t what it seems, as suggested by this Game Theory video above. Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System is like standardized testing mixed with Running Man. Both can ruin your life if you fail. But at least GLaDOS has a catchy voice as she sings to you at the end that she’s “Still Alive.”
Tell us in the comments about the robots we missed as we’re always in the mood to learn about strange robots.
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N. Ho Sang has made contributions to Entropymag, and SF Signal. She is currently a regular contributor to Talk Amongst Yourselves, rambling about life, and JRPGs under the username
Zarnyx. Follow her on Twitter at @Zarnyx if you’re feeling adventurous, or you can read her articles here.