Just in case you forgot, Easter was this past Sunday. We do not make any value judgments on religious beliefs or customs, but we do like to take time to recognize some of the more popular ones and how they relate to videogames and media that we enjoy.
Easter, as you may know, will always be linked to the concept of resurrection. This idea is something that is explored quite often in popular games, especially ones featuring a strong morality system and impactful choices. Characters are resurrected, giving them a second chance to make up for past mistakes. This morality-driven narrative often leads to weighty, difficult choices and very high levels of replayability. After all, who doesn’t want to see how the game changes when you act evil? Occasionally, however, you’ll see games that do not feature this morality system and instead use the resurrection of a key character to drive the pre-determined plot in a specific direction.
Below are my picks for gaming’s five greatest resurrections, spanning multiple decades and consoles. Enjoy!
5. Altered Beast
Let’s start very literally, with those four iconic words: “RISE FROM YOUR GRAVE.” The classic arcade game of “buff Greek man becomes progressively more buff and shirtless until he is a superpowered beast killing mythical enemies in a non-stop left-to-right scrolling beat-em-up” starts with a distorted voice summoning your nameless character. Technically, the scrolling words in front Zeus read, “I command you to rise from your grave and rescue my daughter” but the actual words said aloud are a commanding “RISE FROM YOUR GRAVE.”
You do eventually learn that Zeus resurrected you to become his champion to save his daughter Athena from Neff, the ruler of the Underworld. The game is incredibly difficult, yet quite short if you can avoid dying. It only includes 5 stages. It is also… not great. The Game Boy Advance sequel is a lot of fun, but the original version is repetitive and bland. There is a co-op mode, but extraordinarily little replay value.
Ultimately, Altered Beast was another in a long line of repetitive arcade games that artificially padded its length with punishing difficulty. While it was not fun outside the first one or two times you play it, the rousing “RISE FROM YOUR GRAVE” is seared in the memory of everyone who played the game.
4. BioShock 2
The original BioShock saves one of the most powerful and shocking moments of the game for the end of the story (“Would you kindly?”). BioShock 2 took that feedback and decided to start the game with a bang… Literally. You are Delta, a Big Daddy, who has developed a close bond with Eleanor, his Little Sister. Too close, in fact. You have grown so close that Sofia Lamb, Eleanor’s “true” mother, that Lamb separates you two and forces you to kill yourself in front of them. You awaken 10 years later to find that Eleanor has resurrected you with the help of the other Little Sisters. You are tasked with rescuing Eleanor and escaping the decaying Hellhole that is Rapture, dealing with the fallout of the events of the first game (8 years have passed since the original ended).
BioShock 2 includes tons of quality-of-life improvements over the original, such as being able to use plasmids and weapons simultaneously. As with the original, BioShock 2 has multiple endings – these are determined by your decisions to harvest or rescue little sisters and whether you kill or spare the important NPCs. While not quite as good as the original BioShock (which had the added “what the Hell happened here” feeling aiding the story), BioShock 2 is still a masterpiece of a game. The bond between Big Daddy and Little Sister is explored in depth to the point that it changes how you view the events of the original.
BioShock 2 was re-released as part of BioShock: The Collection, which also included the original and BioShock: Infinite. If you haven’t played any of the games, I have two questions: 1. Why are you reading this entry? And 2. WHY ARE YOU READING THIS ENTRY AND NOT PLAYING BIOSHOCK?
The entire series is absolutely worth a play. Be on the lookout for me to stream them all in the future over at www.twitch.tv/KParkour
3. Mass Effect 2
Commander Shepherd’s ship is attacked and destroyed by an unknown alien craft. Shep dies but is recovered by agents of Cerberus. The Illusive Man resurrects everyone’s favorite [insert gender here] Commander to find out why colonists are disappearing. What follows is one of the greatest sequels in gaming history, as the player is forced to work with someone who is clearly a villain. It’s clear you have no choice but to work together as you come to grips with what you must do and who you need to trust to save the galaxy, wondering the entire time just how far is too far.
As with other excellent RPGs, your choices and morality drastically affect the game. Where Mass Effect as a series stands out, however, is that it affects sequels as well. Mass Effect 2 brilliantly balances excellent gunplay with Shep’s journey through rediscovering his (or her) humanity and grappling with the fallout of decisions made in Mass Effect 1.
Much like with BioShock, the Mass Effect series was re-released in 2012’s Mass Effect Trilogy. The games remain so popular to this day that a remaster of the trilogy, Mass Effect: Legendary Edition was announced for release in 2021. Since these were some of the best games ever made, you can bet I’ll be stepping into the boots of Commander Shepherd once more.
2. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Star Wars KOTOR is one of the best Star Wars games of all time. Star Wars KOTOR is one of the best Xbox games of all time. Star Wars KOTOR is one of the best role-playing games of all time. Star Wars KOTOR is one of the best games of all time. Yes, I felt like typing that all out. I wanted to hammer home my point. KOTOR is really freaking good.
I know what you’re thinking here: “wait, who is resurrected in this game?” I’ll tell you who – YOU! Spoiler alert for a nearly 18-year-old game, but the Dark Lord of the Sith Darth Revan was “killed” and “resurrected” (by Star Wars standards) as your playable character.
In A New Hope, Obi-Wan set the Star Wars universe’s rules for death. According to Old Ben, his friend, Anakin, died. We learn that Anakin is in fact alive as Darth Vader, but he is not Anakin any longer. Thus, he technically died and was reborn as Darth Vader. The Prequel trilogy runs with this idea and expands on his fall and eventual death/rebirth.
BACK TO KOTOR. Darth Revan is critically wounded and captured in an attack (and betrayal by apprentice Malak) and her mind is wiped by the Jedi. Canonically, Revan is female, though you can choose male or female at the start of the game so I will always refer to Revan as female. You spend the game regaining your memories and force powers, making friends and enemies along the way. Upon learning your identity, you can choose to return to life as Darth Revan again, or find your way back to the light – becoming again the Jedi that Revan was before she fell to the darkness during the Mandalorian Wars.
KOTOR’s morality system alters everything about how the game unfolds around you, making every action feel like it has weight. BioWare takes your character’s second chance at life and makes you aware that everything you do has meaning, long before you ever learn that you were resurrected. The sweeping, world-hopping adventure never forgets to take the time and check in on the player, reminding us of all the good (or evil) we’ve been up to. Without the bombshell that the player is Revan resurrected, KOTOR would be an excellent game. With the added weight and responsibility of the Revan reveal, KOTOR firmly catapulted into “all time classic game” territory.
1. Halo 5: Guardians
Halo 5 is not my favorite Halo game by a longshot, but it has two things working in its favor: it features a prominent resurrection (thus making it eligible for this list), and it has one of my favorite twists in all of gaming.
Cortana, Master Chief’s trusty companion and exposition machine, sacrifices herself at the end of Halo 4 to save Master Chief and stop the destruction of Earth. This sacrifice was a decision that left a lot of Halo fans angry and 20-year-old Kevin in tears. Cortana had been the lovable voice in Chief’s head for 11 years! Most of Halo 3 was dedicated to trying to find and save her, and the entire story of Halo 4 was colored by dealing with Cortana dying of rampancy, an affliction where an AI literally thinks itself to death. It’s been emotional. We’ve been through a lot, OK?
Halo 5: Guardians felt like it was going to be quite depressing, with Chief struggling to adjust to life without his favorite “shipboard AI.” We are immediately (and, quite frankly, annoyingly – more on this in a future post) dropped into a loud, explosive war between the Covenant and the Prometheans as Spartan Locke. Fun on the surface, but narratively quite jarring until you piece together what’s going on.
Eventually, you play as Chief again, who is visited by a vision of Cortana. While we can’t tell if it’s real, Chief thinks it is and none of his team challenges him on it. The hunt is on! Eventually you really do find Cortana. Alive, no longer rampant, and ready to slaughter all sentient life in the galaxy to bring peace and harmony. Wait, WHAT? Yes, Cortana’s resurrection brought her back much like a Black Suit Superman. Ready to kill. Cortana immediately positions herself as the biggest threat in the universe, but one that I am having trouble wanting to stop. She’s been such a huge part of my gaming life and now she is poised to destroy everything, leaving us on a cliffhanger where she has convinced all UNSC AI to turn on their commanders (except Roland – yaaaaaay) and has disappeared into parts unknown with her new army. I can’t wait for Halo: Infinite.
And that’s it! Five of the absolute best resurrections that gaming has to offer. Let me know what you think. Did I forget anything? Do you agree or disagree with how I ranked the entries below? Be sure to follow me on Twitter for loud opinions and Twitch for streaming content.
Also be sure to check out our other excellent Easter post: https://pixelpricks.com/2021/04/04/10-best-gaming-easter-eggs/