So another holiday nearly passed me by, mostly because asking people who typically spend their days in a dark room in front of a computer screen to remember an outdoorsy holiday like Earth Day is almost a lost cause.
Hoping to buck the trend, I decided to look at the top 4 classic games that carry an environmentalist message. These are games that either subtly, or not so subtly attack the pollution and devastation we ourselves bring upon the world. So without further ado…
4) Donkey Kong Country
Now one could argue that the Kremlings are just as environmentally unconscious as the Kongs for most of the game. Seeing how, the Kongs build houses, shops, various barrels, and even planes out of forest material. However, this becomes moot once you hit the final world. The last world before facing K. Rool himself is a heavily industrialized area, with poisoned ponds and factory smoke blocking out the sun. This jaunt into K. Rool’s doorstep is a real eye-opener when it comes to the measures the Kremlings have gone to, and how much damage they are doing to the poor island.
Game Theory, however, brings up that this all likely points to other possible references. Also, it becomes difficult to square this message with the rest of the series, so it only manages the bottom of this list.
3) Sonic the Hedgehog
This might seem a bit odd, but consider the premise for a moment. A hedgehog chasing down a fat human who turns animals literally into robots. What’s more, of the original stages, only Green Hill Zone represents what appears to be a natural environment. Even then, those loop-de-loops, twisting bridges, and underground tunnels were not likely produced naturally either. In the first game anyway, Robotnik’s chief and sole sin is slowly killing Sonic’s planet with his technology.
This idea gets harder and harder to square up to the series as it progressed, especially once you hit the Dreamcast and it’s focus on beach front property. Regardless, however, the subtly of this message is admirable, especially in our day an age when such a message would be far less so.
Not knowing the story of the game, you might be confused by Vectorman’s inclusion. Vectorman, afterall, is pretty much the Megaman of the Sega Genesis, blasting giant robots with a variety of weaponry. However, his origin makes the difference here.
Vectorman is the clean-up crew sent to by the humans to clean up the mess they left behind on Earth. Yes, Vectorman is Wall-E with a hand-cannon. Humanity ruined the planet to the point that they can’t even stay there anymore; therefore, they send robots to try and fix it. The robots, called orbots, basically caught wind of this scheme and decide to revolt, leaving the place a mess. While the robot rebelion is on the forefront more than the environmental themes, it does bring a new light to the dystopia you have to traverse in the game, as well as it’s sequel.
1) Final Fantasy 7
Some might call this cheating, since this was on the original Playstation, but the themes in Final Fantasy 7 make it the strongest contender in this contest. From the heroes fighting the evil corporation trying to drain the planet of it’s Materia, to the Earth itself coming to save it’s inhabitants from the Meteor that would otherwise destroy all life on it’s surface. Final Fantasy 7 drills the point in they player’s head that the planet isn’t just a resource, it’s alive. To kill it as Shinra does throughout the game is both morally wrong and against their own self-interest when Meteor comes into the picture.
I will admit that I am beside myself on Final Fatasy’s environmental message for two reasons. For one, the environmental message is about as subtle as a two-by-four to the face at first. However, it doesn’t portray the men of Shinra as evil for the sake of being evil, just greedy and ignorant of the problems they are creating. Even though they start as the main villain, it’s Sephiroth and the Meteor that are the ultimate antagonists of the game. The other issue is the idea that the Earth is alive. To paint the planet as a living breathing creature, possible of having mercy on it’s inhabitants is a little trite and in no way realistic. However, personifying it in such a way emphasizes why the practices of real-world Shinra’s are not to be ignored. Nevertheless, the game is full of other interesting and compelling themes as well — the environmental message simply scratches the surface.
So there you have it, 4 games with environmental themes for Earth Day. Now go out there and plant a tree, then you can play these until one grows!
Happy Earth Day!