Note: The Wordpress Version of this Article is located here - https://geminiweavermusings.wordpress.com/2016/09/07/five-depictions-of-the-afterlife-in-video-games/
Disclaimer: Jessica Kylie "HawlSera" Nichols-Vernon does not own the rights to any of the games listed below and wasn't paid, endorsed, nor is affiliated with the related companies. If you'd like to support her, please check out her works on Smash Words - https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/646071
Being a spiritualist and someone who is on-again off-again suicidal the afterlife is a subject that I like to think a lot about. Honestly, I really don't know if there's an afterlife. The scary thing is that I'll never forget out that there isn't one I can only learn that there is. I say that's scary because if there isn't one then when I die I'll cease to be entirely, there won't be anything of me to recognize that there isn't an afterlife, and if that's not the scariest damn thing you've ever heard then you're a braver woman than I.
However in the world of video games we don't have to ponder such meta-physical quandaries because they are pretty much a given if the writer wants them to be and normally he does because it usually makes for a better story. So I bring you five of some of the better looks at life after death in video game history.
5. Deadside From Shadow Man
Shadow Man is a little known game on PC, Playstation, and Nintendo 64 featuring an African American protagonist and a lot of themes buried from Voodoo practices which of course includes the afterlife. One thing I always found amusing about this is that being the Shadow Man, the living ambassador to and from the land of the dead here called Deadside, you play as a character who can use a magical teddy bear who can traverse to and from the afterlife. Why do I find that amusing? Quite simply because the game actually pays attention to its own details in a rare moment of the programmers thinking their shit through before releasing it to the masses. Meaning that if you get killed by someone or something in the living world, you just end up in Deadside and have to use the teddy bear to get out again. If you die in Deadside, you just re-appear in Deadside, are already dead so where the hell were you going to go? Detroit.
Anyway onto Deadside itself, Deadside is probably one of the more morbid locations I've seen in a video game. Everything is dark and cold with the pained husks of the damned wondering in search of any life they can to ease their suffering and try to regain any semblance of lost humanity like a game of Dark Souls. It is as the name implies a land of death completely devoid of life, if Death had a face it would be this desolate hell hole. Sadly I can't say much because I never got far into this game, each time I try I wind up in Deadside, talk to the snake guy, and after hours of wandering find myself going in circles over and over again only to keep winding up at the entry. It's on Steam if anyone else wants to give it a shot.
4. The Underwhere and Overthere from Super Paper Mario
Ahhh... Super Paper Mario. One of the biggest debates amongst Mario RPG fans is whether Super Paper Mario or Paper Mario Sticker Star did more lasting damage to this once great series. Personally I think Super Paper Mario is worse but came out in a time where Nintendo was still the Emperor wearing his New Clothes. See Nintendo had come out with the Wii and it was definitely the best console of all time, because Nintendo is wonderful and made all the games we grew up with like Super Mario 64 and A Link To The Past, thus are incapable of wrong doing. The Wii is definitely not an under-powered version of the Gamecube with even worse controls. So when Super Paper Mario came out most reviewers gave it high scores and big thumbs up. "The best one yet!" and a "Refreshing take on the series!" Now when Nintendo screws up people are quick to say PIKMIN 3 WAS A STEP BACKWARDS FROM PIKMIN 2 and OTHER M IS A MISOGYNIST PILE OF BILE THAT INSULTS SAMUS ARAN when they're true enough statement to make.
In reality the game was an unfinished mess of holding right while going through dialogue trees of what's legitimately a good plot, but if I'm playing a Mario game I want to jump on Goombas and make tired jokes about Mario being a drug addict that stopped being funny after the eleventh time, I don't want to stand there pressing one over and over. Personally I'd have just made the game a manga series instead of actually bothering to release an RPG that was devoid of gameplay of any kind. Say what you will about Sticker Star, at least it had a functioning battle system and actual puzzles to solve unlike Super Paper Mario. I never finished the game because of how utterly boring I found it. As good as the story is, I'd rather just look all the cutscenes up on youtube than play through stages that are the video game equivalent of watching paint dry.
Still it had positive moments, an interesting artstyle, a 2D - 3D flip gimmick, and the option to switch to Peach, Luigi, and Bowser for about 30 seconds before you need to switch to Mario to 3D flip for maneuvering through most locations in the game making the characters pointless, and most importantly a lot of interesting settings and characters like Francis and Squibbs. The most interesting setting is a location based on the -1 World glitch in Super Mario Bros. called The Underwhere and The Overthere respectively. Basically it's an Afterlife world that Mario and friends go to when they are killed by Cosmic Evil Jester Dimentio and can talk to people who regret how they die mostly in Mario fashions by either failing a jump or accidentally running into a goomba. You don't really expect to see Mario actually dying in one of these games so it takes the player kind of off-guard, plus the fact that the Underthere keeps Super Paper Mario's theme of running a world based on video game logic makes it quite comedic. How does Mario eventually escape the afterlife? By finding the extra lives code!
3. Purgatory - Hopkins FBI
Hopkins FBI is a game that exists, and honestly that is one of the more positive things I can say about this
Here included Retsupurae (talented and amazing people) and their commentary on the entirety of Hopkins FBI
If you really need to know more, watch Retsupurae. But essentially it's a very tonally confused game that believes it's a Romantic Comedy but then proceeds to have our hero indirectly cause the deaths of every female character in the game and accidentally murder his own girlfriend. A game that's clearly rushed to shit as it lacks any kind of ending going from a dead final boss to a "You win!" screen which is only acceptable on an 80's NES game, definitely not a 90's PC Game and honestly feels like it's missing a dozen cut scenes.
Of course it's one of those games that completely believes it's the real deal, that it is definitely worthy of being placed on the same shelf as the Monkey Islands, Clock Tower:First Fears, and Grim Fandangos of the world. The game's box and website both boasting that "If Quentin Tarantino made a video game, it'd basically be Hopkins FBI!" and I legitimately hope ol' Quentin sued the HELL out of the developers for defamation.
One of the most bizarre moments in the game is where Hopkins, the lead character, gets shot and killed by some bank robbers as part of the game's first act and minds up in Purgatory. Once here no one can talk about what this place is or why you're here, just to sit and wait around. It's heavily implied that you're waiting to go to Heaven. Your goal is to find a way to escape by dressing up like a woman, telling a guard you'll meet him at the bar, and use a machine to teleport back into your body at Earth. Hopkins has no reaction to getting first hand proof of the afterlife nor does he seem to acknowledge anything that just happened to him, he doesn't even shrug it off and say "That was weird." he just doesn't acknowledge it. When I first saw this scene I figured it was filler to make the game longer, but no, it isn't.
Turns out the lead villain created a machine to transport people's minds from purgatory into bodies on Earth, a machine that's located in purgatory so I have no idea how the fuck he built it or even knows there's a purgatory for him to build a machine in. You have actually clone yourself, kill the clone, and then have the clone disable the machine so that when you have the final confrontation with the big bad he doesn't come back to life and curb stomp you. Which somehow results in a game over, when logically you should just use the same machine and come back locked into immortal combat, but the game makes no sense.
So.... I don't even, it made the list mainly because I have more questions about this game than I do about the actual afterlife.
2. Hades - Kingdom Hearts 2
Oh finally I get to talk about a game I actually like and have beaten. (I like Shadow Man, but I never got far in it, I don't hate Shadow Man. I do hate Super Paper Mario and Hopkins FBI though)
Greek Mythology has always been a favorite subject of mine, I actually thought about changing my name to Tiresias or Circe for awhile, no joke. Ultimately I settled on Jessica because the name isn't as questionable on a job interview. Plus with the rise of Trump I wouldn't want someone deporting me to Mexico because they think Circe sounds too close to a Taco name. So of course Hades, the location of the River Styx were souls flow endlessly through the river of the dead is going to make the list.
I could have used the God Of War version, but I don't like God Of War and the God Of War version is far closer to the Christian Hell than the actual home of Hades and Persephone, guarded by Cerebus the Spotted. Plus the Kingdom Hearts version not only has the most badass man who ever lived and died, but he gives our man Hades one of the sickest burns ever spat by a man with a big giant sword.
"You're lord of the dead? No wonder no one wants to die."
1. Animatronica - FNAF World
Okay okay, I know what you're thinking. "Man forget that shit, give me a real FNAF game. Thank God for Sister Location." calm down, calm down. I feel FNAF World is a heavily underrated game and is far more brilliant than people than people make it out to be. Sure it's a pretty mediocre and blatantly unfinished RPG, the bosses look just like the mini-bosses, it's got more bugs than an Entomologist convention, and even the creator of the series Scott Cawthon pulled the game from sale and distanced himself from this spinoff.
However if you actually played the game what you'd find is, yes, a buggy unfinished mess. Beyond that though, a genuinely creepy and disturbing experience. See, Animatronica is described as a Safe Haven that somehow reflects horrible actions taken in a world that is similar but ultimately separate and it's loosely implied that this parallel world of horrible actions is the realm that the normal FNAF games take place in. As one continues to play through the game the world begins to distort and become glitchy, mini-games highly reminiscent of the ones you play in FNAF 3 pop up, and at the end of the game you ever face off against series creator Scott Cawthon himself, something that's followed up on in the game's creatively named DLC expansion "Update 2"
The game is free on Gamejolt - http://gamejolt.com/games/fnaf-world/124921 and not that difficult so I won't spoil things too much. Though it does have the first appearance of Baby and Funtime Foxy from the upcoming Five Nights At Freddy's Sister Location.
Ultimately what the game boils down to is the duality of the FNAF Cast being machines of joy and yet at the same time, children who mourn their own deaths. Happy and Sad at the same time, Alive yet Dead at the same time, and the duality of Scott Cawthon being happy that he was able to make a series as beloved as Five Nights At Freddy's and the fear that success will make him a terrible person. Both of these dualities are reflected in the very world the game takes place in, and if that's not clever and chilling to the bone then I am a salmon with no ability to see beauty if it personally shoved me into the void.
I really wanted the destroyed Heaven from Diablo 3 to make this list, but I've only played the first act because I only have the starter edition. If you want me to write a Diablo 3 article, paypal me the money to buy the game at [email protected] and I will.