Imagine if you will, if Super Mario was always relegated to his tiny stature. You had to traverse mushroom kingdom without being able to grow in size, without being able to throw fireballs. Doesn't sound like much fun does it?
Enter the power-up.
Power-ups allow for extended ass-kicking and bring a whole new level of fun to the games we play. Gamers are always looking for new ways to eliminate enemies, move faster, and become stronger.
This week, we look at the ten best power-ups in the history of gaming. Weapons like swords and guns are not eligible, because they qualify as tools, not power-ups. Sorry, gravity gun from Half-life, your time in the sun will have to come in a different top ten. To be eligible for the list, the item has to be a temporary enhancement to your abilities. You have to lost the item either through passage of time or through death.
Power yourself up by reading on.
10) Satellite - Gradius Series
Why power yourself up when you can just have a floating ball around your ship that mimics your every move? If you fire, it fires, you dive down, it'll dive down. Not to mention that it'll kill any enemy that it comes into physical contact with. Considering the vertical difficulty curve of the Gradius series, you'll need every power-up you can get. In this classic shooter, the satellite will be your best friend.
9) Star Power - Guitar Hero
It's rare that a power-up in a video game will actually make you feel more powerful in real life, but that's the appeal of Guitar Hero's star power. While it helps you fill your rock meter and saves you from getting booted off stage, there's few feelings greater than whipping off a flawless solo while the virtual crowd claps and sings along. Easily among the top ten power ups of all time.
8) Quad Damage - Quake III
Four times the damage means four times the frags. Even a newbie with a blindfold on can squeeze out a few kills with this powerful enhancer. The fact that the item is shaped just like the ‘Q' logo for the game is just the cherry on top of a gory sundae.
7) Star - Mario Kart/Super Mario Bros.
Power-ups don't come much more universally recognized than the iconic star, which always means the same thing; temporary invincibility. Grab one and then watch the sparks fly and you plow through all your enemies.
6) "On Fire" - NBA Jam
"From Downtown!" One of the greatest power-ups ever comes from the greatest basketball game ever designed. Is there anything sweeter than a dunk that sets the mesh on fire? While jumping from the other end of the court? Yeah, it doesn't get much better than that.
5) Power Pellets - Pac-Man
If you're trapped in a maze while being chased by homicidal ghosts, what do you do? If you said call the Ghostbusters, you haven't been paying enough attention. No, if you're Pac-man you turn the tables on those damn ghosts and eat them before they eat you. The only issue with this timeless power-up is deciding whether to use them immediately or save them for when you really need them. Manage your power pellets well.
4) Prostitutes - Grand Theft Auto
When you need some quick health in Liberty City, Vice City, or San Andreas, where do you turn? Why, your nearest street corner for a little bow-chicka-wah-wah. The faster your car squeaks, the faster you get your health back. It's the very definition of powering up. They must be dancing in there or something, I can't imagine what else is going on in that car...
(Editor's warning: trying this power-up in real life can result in STDs, jail time, and broken car axels. Proceed at your own risk)
3) Hammer - Donkey Kong/Super Smash Bros.
Whether smashing barrels on girders in Donkey Kong or smashing your friend's face into oblivion in Smash Bros., there is little in the world of gaming that can compete with the mighty hammer. Even the catchy theme music that goes along with every drop of the hammer is great. Truly a classic power-up.
2) The Mushroom - Super Mario Bros.
Do power-ups get more iconic than the mushroom? It's been made into plush dolls, slapped on T-shirts, and made Mario into the man he is today. Who wants to be a miniscule Mario when you can be a big, hulking Mario capable of dishing out the hurt? New Super Mario Bros. on the DS got it right by feeding Mario a mushroom that made him as big as the screen. An entire generation now gets mushrooms on their pizza thanks to Mario and his token vegetable.
1) The Boot - Super Mario Bros. 3
The biggest travesty when it comes to this amazing power up is that it has only appeared in one game, in ONE level! How is this possible? With the boot you can walk across those nasty piranha plants and boot your enemies right in the face. It makes you practically invincible, makes you quicker, and what could possibly be cuter than than Mario bouncing along in that precious little green boot? Please Nintendo, find a way to give this masterful power-up design the credit it deserves.