When it comes to video games which feature driving or the main character owning a cool car, you will notice those are mostly titles from around the beginning of this millennium. It figures a game car needs to have some mileage if it is to be called iconic, or a classic, or have any renown at all. But, beyond that, games today rarely feature important cars or ground vehicles. Nowadays, we mostly see games with spaceships and aircraft, but rarely any ground vehicles, not counting that silly flying buss in Fortnite.
For this top 5 list, I picked ground vehicles originating in video games or at least being a very important part of the story and my picks are: Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal, Bone Wagon from Grim Fandango, a Kart from Mario Kart, Vulture from Starcraft, and Warthog from Halo.
I don’t know the reason for this but it is just an odd observation, as most of the iconic vehicles in our top 5 list do come from games which are at least more than a decade old, or even more. I think this is because, in the past 10 or more years, the market is dominated by MMORPGs and games that can suck players in and keep ‘em there for prolonged periods of time. You add some special in-game currency purchasable for real money, and –boom! You got yourself a hit.
Although even I could think up a few ways to fit driving vehicles into a good MMORPG marketing model, it is rarely done. The only example I can think of is World of Tanks, which is probably how that game came to be. Somebody wanted to put together MMORPG with a driving simulation.
But, that game features tanks, and I would like to include vehicles which only exist in games, or at the very least got famous by a game title. And, besides, I couldn’t simply say ‘And for my top 5 iconic video game vehicle picks- a tank!’…that would be stupid.
But, I feel World of Tanks does deserve an honorary mention as well as a few other vehicles from games, like all of the Transformers, Ferrari Testarossa from Outrun, Jet Turbine from Earthworm Jim, Buick Skylark from Driver, Hornet from Daytona USA, The Blue Racer from F-Zero, Infernus from Grand Theft Auto, the 4×4 from Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s Super Off Road, Suzuki Escudo from Gran Turismo, G-6155 from Spy Hunter, and countless other vehicles from old school racing games.
Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal
Games in which players control cars with weapons were seen more often back then, as Twisted Metal is now over two decades old. And, although such games were aplenty, none of them could match the firepower and destruction extravaganza this title offered.
Firstly, each car was unique in its own way, not just by name, shape, and appearance, but by performance. Each had a set of advantages and disadvantages over the others. I remember my favorite installation was TM 2, and my favorite character was the Warthog. See, I said ‘character’, with my point being that this game made the vehicles its characters.
Afterward, they included backstories for the cars which had a recurring appearance in later installations, and Sweet Tooth was naturally included. I think it was because of that elemental fear of clowns, that horror, and simply a cool vibe his ice cream truck gave off. Well, hell yeah… If you put an ice cream truck that shoots rockets and kills people in a game, you can bet it will have a cult following.
Sweet Tooth is a clown with a burning head, who is a mass killer. One of his victims, a girl, managed to escape after stabbing him in the eye. Needless to say, he made it his personal purpose for the rest of his life to find that girl, kill her, and freeze her in his truck. That is why he is competing in the Twisted Metal competition because the winner can get any wish granted from Calypso, who is a powerful, mysterious figure. But, Sweet Tooth’s mission is not so simple, as you will see for yourself if you play TM, or just type Sweet Tooth story on Youtube…
Bone Wagon from Grim Fandango
If you’ve never heard of Grim Fandango, turn off your computer, sell it, and go become a monk. Please, at least you will set yourself up for the afterlife. Well, that’s what Manuel “Manny” Calavera would have told you. He is the main character you control in this game which, all jokes aside, is one of the best games ever for me.
Developed and Published by LucasArts in 1998, and under Tim Schafer as the director, Grim Fandango is a point-and-click puzzler which shows us an interesting take on the afterlife. Manny Calavera is a sales agent, which is tasked to direct new arrivals to the land of the dead, and set them up with their adequate transportation. Things go awry when he discovers a conspiracy in his company and in the entire purgatory, and he embarks on a mission of uncovering it and earning his way to the land of the dead and his soul’s freedom.
On this adventure he is aided by Glottis, his personal driver, who operates the Bone Wagon, which is quite the versatile vehicle. It starts off pretty basic, but quickly gets upgraded as you progress with the game, and quickly becomes a powerful limo.
The Kart from Mario Kart
Not much needed to say about this game really. We all know it, have played it, love it, and still continue to enjoy it. Over the years, the game featured improvements and new mechanics, but I mostly liked the original ones on Super Nintendo (1992).
When I first saw Mario Kart, I was surprised, to say the least. To have a racing game with all the characters from Mario, it was unimaginable. And, the way they added unique abilities to the characters… For instance, Toad, the Mushroom, was the lightest and the fastest, but also the weakest when colliding with others.
On the other hand, Bowser, King Koopa, was the heaviest and the slowest but was the strongest one in a duel. Everyone bounced off of him and ended up in a ditch.
Mario Kart is also one of the few games that I know of where you can jump with your vehicle. And, I mean literally jump, upwards…weird.
Warthog from Halo
Personally, when I hear ‘Warthog’, Twisted Metal is my first thought rather than Halo 2, but that’s just because I’m an ignorant newb who missed the entire Halo joyride. All of the installations from the series are widely praised, and the Warthog is present from the very beginning (2001).
Many would even argue that Warthog gameplay completely redefined video game vehicles, and they would probably be right because it brought revolutionary physics and all-terrain driving capability. It is also mounted with an anti-aircraft or anti-tank gun and has room for up to 3 passengers, which meant 3 players could participate in this frantic enjoyment. Warthog has a key role in every single player campaign and is also instrumental for good multiplayer fun.
Vulture from Starcraft
Hat’s off to all other classical hits and great games, but Starcraft really rocked my boat, or should I say spaceship. But, it wasn’t about the sci-fi setting, which was more than cool, nor was it about the story, which was incredibly well written. It was about the units and how well they were integrated into the game.
Terran Vulture is just such an example, where we have a futuristic version of a biker, in space, riding a modern bike much like the Harley, which can set up spider mines and drive really fast. Capable of outrunning almost all units, the only thing that was faster than vulture were remarks the biker made about not liking your authority.