10 Most Memorable Mechanics in Gaming

Here are the ten greatest gaming mechanics that made us sit back and say "wow."

Joey Davidson & Erik Norrisby Joey Davidson & Erik Norris


This week’s list stands to honor one of the greatest, wow-inducing gameplay elements introduced in the most recent console generation: the Portal gun from Portal.

Erik and Joey have sat down and come up with the most memorable gameplay mechanics they can remember appearing in their favorite games. These are the things that made us smile, and we’ve decided to plop them down in front of you for perusal.

Metal Gear Solid – Cardboard Box


It's a box. You hide in it. Genius! The cardboard box might not push the envelope where technology is concerned, however, it has proven to be quite useful to multiple generations of Snakes. You know, that whole “don’t fix what ain’t broken” bit. Yup, that saying flawlessly applies to this. Somehow, beyond science, no guards ever noticed a rogue box just chilling in the middle of the floor. The cardboard box is one of the infamous items in the Metal Gear Solid arsenal that has never worn out its welcome. It still feels as fresh as when it first debuted.

Portal – Portal Gun


Well, this is the belle of the ball, is it not? The original Portal was a gameplay innovator. The entire game was a first-person shooter built upon the concept of you not shooting anything lethal. Whaaat? Instead, players got to shoot one blue portal and one orange portal and travel between them. Sounds overly simplistic, right? Well, things got a lot more complicated very quickly as you progressed deeper and deeper into Aperture Science using only your portal gun and brainpower to solve a series of mind-bending challenges. In short: the portal gun has proven to the world that you can make an engaging game without resorting to shooting people in the face.

Tribes – Jet Pack

Starsiege Tribes was an incredibly brilliant, unique team shooter for the PC that saw birth around a decade ago. Within this game was a jet pack that each player had strapped to their backs. That was cool, definitely, but the game-changer came from what players learned they could do with the jet pack. Skiing was an art form that allowed players to get across whole maps with speed and a sense of grace. Capping a flag while skiing to glory? Sensational.

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time – Sands of Time


Do you remember the feeling of when you first used the Sands of Time to turn back the clock to avoid falling to your death in a pit of spikes? Yea, it was incredible. All of a sudden you felt like God. The entire Prince of Persia: Sands of Time game was built upon this mechanic, and it successfully abolished the oftentimes frustrating nature of trial-and-error platform gaming. As long as you had some sand, you could quickly, and stylishly, rewind time and try whole platforming segments over again if you failed the first go-around. No need to sit around wait for your previous checkpoint to load. Brilliant design!

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – The Master Sword


The first few dungeons and subsequent encounter with Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time were great. There’s no downplaying the masterpiece nature of the beginning of this N64 classic. That said, once Link pulled the Master Sword from its stone in the Temple of Time, shit got real. Players were able to travel back and forth in Link’s life by planting and removing the Master Sword from its slot in the temple. Whole matters of gameplay were affected by the forced passing of time, and that made for some stellar puzzles and side-effects.


Katamari Damacy – The Katamari


Go ahead, think back to the first time you wrapped your head around the concept within Katamari Damacy. You played a tiny prince who controlled a ball that was, essentially, very sticky. Roll the ball collect items. Start with thumb tacks, make your way towards people, cars, houses, trees, skyscrapers, stadiums, continents and even whole planets. The Katamari ball was crazy awesome, and an entire gaming phenomenon was built around it.

Starcraft – The Ghost Nuke


Nothing was quite as satisfying and match changing as building your armaments towards nuclear destruction. You’d send your Ghost into an enemies base, undetected, and then trigger the bomb. Sure, you felt a little cheap for that kind of sneaky attack; but, hell, if your enemy wasn’t smart enough to defend themselves against it, they deserved every bit of the hurt.


Halo: Combat Evolved – The Warthog


The first time you hopped in this combat capable jeep was great. You ran over Covenant forces, left your friends in the dust or hopped on the turret and laid waste to your foes. Don’t forget the act of tossing grenades beneath this once indestructible ride in order to send it, and its occupants, soaring through the sky. Damn, what an awesome vehicle.


Max Payne – Bullet Time


Let’s just get this out right away, Bullet Time is now a joke. It’s an overused gameplay mechanic that no longer brings the “wow” factor that this very list is celebrating. However, think back to the original Max Payne. Now that’s when Bullet Time rocked. How Max was able to do that trick without any known superpowers is beyond our comprehension; however, that doesn’t change the fact that Bullet Time was responsible for making some pretty standard, run-of-the-mill firefights seem overly exciting and visually stimulating.

Super Mario Bros. 3 – Whistle

To clarify, the actual whistle is not really that mind-blowing. It was essentially a warp tube that you could stick in your mouth (Hey-o!). However, finding the first leveling-warping whistle is another matter entirely. For the people out there that played Super Mario Bros. 3 (God, I feel old), do you remember the first time you heard/stumbled upon this secret? Did your face explode? This hidden gem was like the holy grail of secrets that you felt cool to be in the know about. And once the whistle was in your possession you were able to skip entire worlds which would have otherwise lead to some frustrated controller tossing. 

Honorable Mentions:

Heavy Rain – Press X to “Jason”
Mass Effect 2 – Press the Right Trigger to Launch Mining Pod
Duke Nukem – Press the Space Bar to See Stripper Hoohahs