Sometimes you can’t win
Today is Friday the 13th, and aside from developmentally disabled serial killers with machetes, that means one thing: bad luck. And while continually playing as the hero in video games has taught us to have a generally optimistic outlook when faced with challenges to believe deep down that, whatever happens, we can overcome any obstacle there are about a million hapless losers in gaming who, try as they might, just cant win. Ever. Usually theyre the guys you thoughtlessly fill with bullets, but video games are littered with sympathetic nobodies who serve as a constant reminder that success doesnt come easy, if at all. Theyre just plain unlucky, and these are the unluckiest of them all.
WARNING: The following article is filled with all kinds of spoilers. Proceed at your own risk.
This article was originally posted on Feb. 13, 2009. It has been reformatted and updated with larger images and more current information.
13. Johnny Sasaki
From: Metal Gear Solid series
Unlucky because: The story of Metal Gears lovable whipping boy is long, sad and almost tiresomely gross, but it at least has a happy ending. Thats the main reason Johnny Sasaki is No. 13 on this list, instead of No. 1. Johnny wasnt always unlucky, either; in fact, to hear him tell it, he was on the fast-track to a promising military career, when all of a sudden he was swept up in the madness of Metal Gear Solids terrorist plot. Since then, his luck turned to shit. We mean that literally; his chronic, uncontrollably noisy diarrhea is the stuff of legend.
Sasakis been a running joke ever since his memorable first appearance in Metal Gear Solid. You might not have recognized him or his importance at the time, because in the end he was just another in a long line of incompetent armed guards in balaclavas. But you probably remember his catchphrase:
Above: If Metal Gear Solid were a sitcom, this would be followed by a wild burst of audience applause
Even if you dont, you probably remember seeing his bare ass lying on the freezing Alaskan concrete after one Meryl Silverburgh bonked him on the head and stripped him of his uniform, dignity and health in one fell swoop.
For all his horrible luck, Johnnys blessed with the ability to survive just about anything. So not only did he resurface later in the game with a cold and his first case of the runs (only to be bamboozled by Solid Snake and a bottle of ketchup), but he escaped the destruction at Shadow Moses and resurfaced in Metal Gear Solid 2. He was a little hard to find, but hed show up from time to time to complain, if you knew where to look and where to listen.
It wasnt until Metal Gear Solid 4 that Johnny now codenamed Akiba really played a major role in the series. Granted, it was still a role that revolved largely around farting loudly, pooping his pants, exposing his ass and basically being a clown, but it was major nonetheless.
Above: This is like 90 percent of what everyone remembers about this game
We did say his story has a happy ending, though, and if youve finished Metal Gear Solid 4, you already know what that is. Apparently, all he had to do to dramatically reverse his fortunes was to take off his mask and sunglasses, proving that bad things only happen to supporting characters who cover their faces. Thats a lesson someone else down this list could stand to take to heart.
Above: Johnny Sasakis finest hour
12. Larry Butz
From: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series
Unlucky because: Somehow, Phoenix Wrights feckless childhood friend cant seem to keep from being involved in murder cases, at least peripherally. Its not that hes a bad person, or even particularly suspicious; its just that he has an unusual knack for always being in the exact wrong place at the exact wrong time. And also for being gullible, easily manipulated, more than a little dim and prone to hiding key facts if he thinks theyll get him in trouble.
Consequently, hes always in trouble, to the point that theres a running joke among Wright and his friends that if something smells, it must be the Butz. And never is he in greater trouble than in the games first case, in which hes been framed for murder. Even after his name is cleared, Butz cant seem to keep his nose clean.
Huge chunks of his time throughout the series are spent sitting on a witness stand, blithely stumbling through cross-examinations with no clear idea of how he got there or why people keep asking him all these questions. He means well, but somehow he just keeps (unreliably) witnessing crimes, accidentally tampering with crime scenes and involving himself with people whove committed crimes and/or tampered with crime scenes. And while thats going on, he somehow finds time to be dumped by an endless series of models and celebutantes with names that vaguely evoke real-world celebrity couples.
Despite his frequent, irritating and mildly loathsome appearances, Larry is, in the end, a nice guy. Its hard not to feel sorry for him on some level, if not exactly like him outright. We just wish he had the ability to learn anything from experience, ever.
11. Larry Laffer
From: Leisure Suit Larry series
Unlucky because: The original 40-year-old virgin, Larry Laffer has exactly one goal in life: to get laid. Its not easy, considering hes a four-foot-tall, balding, hydrocephalic dork whose fashion sense was laughably dated when his series debuted in the mid-80s. But Larrys remained dauntless, aggressively pursuing the beautiful women he meets with results that, at best, could be described as mixed.
His games might be sex comedies, but sex is something thats always dangled just out of Larrys reach. Hell do anything to get it, often to the point of putting his own life in danger, but even when he lives, something usually happens to interrupt his conquests. A piece of machinery might explode, an erotic workout session might go horribly awry or his intended might suddenly reveal an inconvenient penis. Hell usually find romance by the end of the game, but by the time that rolls around, his PG-13 sexual misadventures will have left scores of misinformed teenage boys just as frustrated as Larry.
The final insult to Larrys self-worth came when, after six adventure games, he was abruptly retired and replaced by a near-identical nephew named Larry Lovage (who was later made less identical, and a hundred times more annoying, in the execrable Box Office Bust). Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude sees Laffer shoved into a greatly diminished role as the games tutorial narrator, although he does make an appearance at the seedy Leftys Too bar, glumly circling personal ads and trying to forget how good the spotlight felt, even at its most humiliating.
10. Glass Joe
Unlucky because: Poor Glass Joe. Poor wimpy, pathetic Glass Joe. Poor wimpy, pathetic, useless 99-time loser whod probably lose a fistfight to a baby, assuming the baby wanted to sully its record by fighting Glass Joe.
Above: That one KO is from the time Glass Joe knocked himself out by slipping in the shower
If you lose against Glass Joe, you lose at video games. All video games. In fact, if there were any justice in the world, your loss would be met with a huge, pixelated middle finger just before your NES self-destructed while sobbing. Glass Joe isnt meant to win. Hes meant to be a vaguely French punching bag that occasionally remembers to hit back with weak jabs.
Above: We expect even less from him now that its 25 years later
And yet, theres something weirdly poignant about a man who fights a hundred matches and loses all but one of them, but keeps on fighting. Joe doesnt even seem to want to win; he just wants to survive the match and go home. What could he possibly hope to achieve? Does he really think this is his night? Maybe fighting an opponent half his size is a last-ditch effort to salvage his dignity and convince himself that, yes, he can be a winner.
Above: Joe tastes the glove, and finds it delicious
Even after he realizes he doesnt stand a chance, he continues to fight on, like Rocky Balboa without any discernible talent or strength. Is he getting off on this? Maybe if we give him his hundredth thrashing, hell finally give up on this mad dream of his.
9. Anyone in the path of a Katamari
From: Katamari Damacy series
Unlucky because: The fun, lighthearted presentation of the Katamari games hides a dark and disturbing truth: as your Katamari gets bigger and bigger, youll eventually start rolling living, sentient into a massive ball of junk, where theyll be stuck, packed tightly against objects that range from other people and cuddly animals to hard, unforgiving things like bicycles, steel railings and concrete buildings. You know, the kinds of things that can hurt you if you just brush up against them. Gradually the ball will get larger, slowly crushing the people inside under suffocating layers of debris, until finally theyre hurled into the cold, airless vacuum of space.
To what end do these people suffer? What greater purpose might their deaths serve? Well, see, this man got bored and wanted to watch his son roll stuff up in a ball:
8. Princess Peach
From: Super Mario series
Unlucky because: Yes, OK, Princess Peach (nee Toadstool) isnt a bastard per se, but Christ, have you ever seen anyone as luckless as her? For starters, most people – if they get kidnapped tend to get kidnapped once, maybe twice in their lives. In Peachs case, its practically all she does. Shes synonymous with being kidnapped.
Outside of the few games in which shes been a playable character, she doesnt really appear to ever do anything except get kidnapped, and even when she is playable, its usually after shes spent part of the game being kidnapped. We dont know what she does when she gets kidnapped; probably she just sits in a lava-tinged dungeon, staring wistfully into the middle distance. She certainly doesnt seem to have any non-kidnap-related hobbies to occupy her time, except for maybe baking cakes. But have you ever seen one of these alleged cakes? Personally, we think the cake is a lie.
Above: OH WAIT NO IT ISNT ha ha our bad (also we swear this joke wasnt ancient when we first ran this article)
Its not just the kidnapping that makes her unlucky, though; its the fact that her incessant kidnappings are part of a struggle for her affections between a short, fat plumber and a giant, fat turtle-dragon. She (possibly?) rules an entire kingdom, but so far these hypercompetitive sadsacks are her only visible romantic prospects:
Above: Sorry, ladies, they both think theyre taken
The more we think about it, the more dismal and suffocating Peachs life appears. Situations like this are probably why feminism was invented.
From: Incredible Crisis
Unlucky because: A relatively obscure PSone game, Incredible Crisis follows the story of a typical Japanese family trying to make it through an atypical day. And while each family member stumbles through bizarre, life-threatening situations in turn, nobody gets hit quite as hard as Taneo, the hapless salaryman father.
Above: START PANICKING
All Taneo wants to do is finish his boring desk job and go home, but hes on this list, so you know that shit wont fly. Instead, hes ordered to get up and dance as part of an office fitness program, which he obediently does. Just then, a piece of statuary breaks off from a neighboring construction site and comes crashing through his office, making a beeline for him.
Above: Of course!
Not content to simply threaten him with a good, Katamari-style crushing, the giant ball pursues him into a nearby elevator, smashing a hole in its roof, sending it plummeting down the side of the building and ultimately blasting Taneo out toward the sidewalk, at which point his only chance for survival is to balance on flagpoles.
From there it only gets weirder, as Taneo has to navigate a hospital gurney through traffic, falls in love with an attractive woman who repeatedly tries to murder him for no apparent reason, gets involved in a battle between the navy and a UFO and nearly drowns. The rest of his family, meanwhile, gets to go snowboarding, outwit bank robbers and play Simon-like games to communicate with aliens. Lucky bastards.
Above: Well, crap
Unlucky because: If youre not paying attention, Clyde is just another one of Pac-Mans colorful ghost adversaries, albeit one whos sometimes cast as their leader for some reason. In the original Pac-Man, however, the orange ghost wasnt exactly leader material. And by that, we mean he probably should have been wearing a drool guard.
Above: Oh, for he hasnt even found his way out of the nest yet!
Some people might argue that his slightly sluggish pace and reluctance to be useful are actually signs of good luck, seeing as it means Clyde will likely be far away from Pac-Man when the tables inevitably turn. These people have obviously never played the game very much. The flip side of the argument is that Clyde runs away just a little slower than all the other ghosts, thereby making it easy for his compatriots to pass him, leaving Clyde to the mercy of Pac-Mans jaws while they squeeze out a few more crucial milliseconds of life. It also means that Clyde only rarely gets to kill Pac-Man himself, which, assuming ghosts keep score, has probably granted him permanent noob status among his friends.
Above: Even the attract mode has a healthy disdain for Pokey Clyde
From: Metal Gear Solid series
Unlucky because: On the surface, Hal Otacon Emmerich has had a pretty awesome time of it. After designing towering murder-bot Metal Gear REX, hes spent his life hanging out with Solid Snake, watching safely from the sidelines as his superspy best friend does all the real work. Sure, he has to take care of a sweetly precocious little girl and design new, less destructive robots, but in the main hes living every geeks dream: watching other people doing cool stuff, all the time.
After what Otacons been through, though, its probably small comfort. Never mind that he made his debut by pissing himself while cowering in a locker; in each of the three games hes appeared in, hes fallen deeply in love with someone (who, surprisingly, isnt Snake), and that someone has always died. Always. Worse, theyve died either directly or indirectly because of Snakes actions, and they usually pass on in an extended tear-jerking death scene.
Above: Otacon counts all the friends who still havent died horribly
Tear-jerking for Otacon, mainly, who spends almost as much time sobbing and blaming himself throughout the series as Snake does growling and smoking. Really, though, Otacons personal tragedies are a side effect of the terrible judgment he exercises when forging relationships. His first love was a terrorist sniper, his second was his own stepsister (with whom he shared a fantastically creepy and incestuous adolescence) and his third was a clearly unstable scientist with a long history of betraying Snake. Premature death or no, all three of those infatuations are doomed to end in tears, and the sooner Otacon realizes that, the sooner we can stop listening to this:
After all hes been through, Otacon would probably spend all his time weeping if it werent for the extended diatribes on nuclear proliferation and military politics that he loves to launch into.
Above: Oh, did a hat drop? Id better tell you about the crippling inefficacy of multinational disarmament treaties in the face of rampant military privatization!
4. Max Payne
From: Max Payne series
Unlucky because: Its hard to think of a protagonist who gets shit on more relentlessly than Max Payne. His wife and baby daughter are dead, murdered at home by junkies. Hes been framed for the murder of a DEA colleague by another DEA colleague. He cant sleep, hes probably addicted to painkillers and the only people who dont want to kill him are a shadowy politician and a traitorous hitwoman whos likely going to be dead soon. And his face looks like this:
Making matters worse, all that is just the setup for the first game. Over the course of his two adventures, Max is repeatedly shot, blown up, kidnapped, betrayed and left for dead. The closest he comes to sleep is when an overdose of the drug Valkyr puts him into a delirious coma, and when hes awake, hes haunted by weird premonitions, hallucinations and one of the most comically overwrought internal monologues ever to appear in a game.
Above: Not even being able to do this can make up for Maxs pain
As if it werent enough for Max to just barely scrape through two near-death misadventures and lose everyone he cares about, someone had to go and throw salt in his eyes by turning his story into an incomprehensible mess of a film starring Mark Wahlberg and a bunch of CG monsters.
Will Max Payne 3 finally reverse Maxs long-declining fortunes? Maybe, but were not holding our breath.
3. The Boat Captain
From:God of War series
Unlucky because: We dont know how this man lived, what he did to deserve his horrible fate or even what his name is. All we know is that hes a sea captain whos destined to be murdered by Kratos, over and over again, for no reason other than Kratos being in a poopy mood.
Above: This is not the face of a man whos about to live a long and happy life
We first encountered the Captain on the deck of whatever ship was unfortunate to ferry Kratos across the Aegean sea. In short order, he was menaced and devoured by the Hydra, a massive three-headed serpent that was just there to irritate Kratos.
Miraculously managing to not die, the Captain survived in the Hydras gullet until it was dead, hanging on to a fleshy bit for dear life while he waited for Kratos to find him. It wouldnt have taken much effort for Kratos to rescue him (or even to leave him alone), but that would mean 30, maybe 40 seconds of not being an asshole. After lifting the man halfway to safety, Kratos took his captains key and dropped him back down the creatures throat to be smashed, smothered and/or drowned in its rotting seaborne esophagus.
Had it ended there, the Captain might simply have been forgotten as another of Kratos many unlucky victims. But the poor bastard had the misfortune to run into Kratos again, this time in Hades, when Kratos caught his legs while falling toward the River Styx. Naturally, it wasnt enough for Kratos to simply climb the Captain to safety not when he could also stab him through the chest, kick him in the face and send him tumbling into the Styx.
But Kratos wasnt done yet. Oh no. When he faced off against God of War IIs Barbarian King previously another of his more notable victims Kratos murdered the defenseless Captain a third time, after he was accidentally summoned to be one of the Barbarian Kings ghostly blade-fodder warriors. Lucky for the Captain (but sadly for the rest of us), that seems to be the end for his restless spirit, as he didnt return in God of War III or either of the PSP games. We wouldnt rule out a cameo in Kratos inevitable comeback, though.
From: Viva Piata
Unlucky because: At first glance, the Piatas of Viva Piata are happy, carefree creatures that lead an idyllic, colorful existence of frolicking, mating and candy-eating in the relative safety of your well-maintained garden. But if youve ever played Viva Piata, you know thats nothing but a damn lie. In truth, Piatas spend their lives with a metaphorical executioners axe hovering just above their necks, from the moment they enter your garden until their inevitable, gruesome deaths.
Above: Welcome to hell, friends
Whether theyre eaten alive by other Piatas, poached by interlopers or simply smashed to pieces because you had an urge to smack something with a shovel, every creature that enters your garden is practically guaranteed an untimely end. Honestly, the best outcome they can hope for is to be packaged up and shipped off to parties, where they probably think theyre going to be treated like guests of honor. In a sense they are, assuming you come from a culture that clubs its guests of honor to death and eats whatever bursts out.
Above: Oh god, whyyy?
From: Gears of War series
Unlucky because: Carmine, in this case, actually refers to two people: Anthony Carmine and Benjamin Carmine. Actually, it refers to four people (all brothers), and probably more depending on how many games Gears of War stretches out to. But it doesnt matter, because in Gears, anyone with the name Carmine is a soldier with the same voice, the same face-concealing helmet and the same seemingly inescapable death sentence.
To be named Carmine in Gears of War is to know youre going to die horribly, often as comic relief. It might come suddenly, as in the case of Anthony getting his brains blown out sideways by a snipers bullet
Or it might come slowly, like the terrifying (and faintly hilarious) fate that awaited Benjamin after he fell into the giant Riftworms mouth in Gears of War 2:
Above: Oh, this isnt going to end well
Whatever your fate, if youre named Carmine (or even if you just wear a helmet), your hours are numbered and your last breath is right around the corner. These unpleasant deaths are just the beginning:
True, Clayton Carmine broke the cycle by actually surviving the events of Gears of War 3, but if anything, that only convinces us that the remaining brother will suffer a fate horrible enough for both of them. But to assume only one more Carmine will die is to assume that Gears of War will be limited to just one more sequel, which at this point seems unlikely. With that in mind (and presuming that the family is bigger than weve been led to believe), here are our predictions for the Carmines of Gears 4 and beyond:
Donald Carmine: Head torn off by jealous lover
Elmer Carmine: Chokes on own vomit
Frank Carmine: Kicked in the balls
Gregory Carmine: Denied re-election
Henry Carmine: Stung by bees (allergic)
Isaac Carmine: Actually a robot
Jason Carmine: Slips on banana peel; eviscerated
Kevin Carmine: Humiliated in volleyball competition, then sawed in half
Leslie Carmine: Loses his life in a high-stakes game of solitaire
Michael Carmine: Walks down to the corner store for cigarettes; never seen again
Nelson Carmine: Bitten by tiny dogs
Oliver Carmine: Eats peanuts (allergic)
Paul Carmine: Drinks from a bottle he found under the bathroom sink
Quincy Carmine: Accidentally bangs forehead on low doorway, explodes
Robert Carmine: Sticks fingers into electrical socket
Stephen Carmine: Heart disease, the greatest killer of them all
Above: Doomed, all doomed
Ted Carmine: Drinks water (allergic)
Ulysses Carmine: Tries to fix running lawnmower
Vincent Carmine: Killed by sloth (the animal or laziness, you pick)
William Carmine: Rolled up in a Katamari ball, sent to orbit Pluto
Xavier Carmine: Goes swimming less than an hour after eating
Yves Carmine: Hides in an old refrigerator; detonated
Zachary Carmine: Just sort of drops dead