Maybe if President Clinton kept FBI Director William S. Sessions around, we’d still see his crowning achievement: The “Winners don’t use drugs!” splash screen we used to see before we were allowed to play the game we had laid down our hard-earned quarters for. We’re not sure how effective the anti-drug slogan was at keeping kids off drugs before it was retired in 2000, but it sure didn’t do anything to videogame characters from abusing potentially harmful and addictive substances on their way to the kill screen or “congradulation” accolades.
Yep, videogames are full of characters whose drug use is completely without consequence. In fact, in these games, using drugs makes winning easier. In this list, Topless Robot takes a clean, hard look at these game characters who spat in the face of Mr. Sessions by showing kids that sometimes, actually, drugs can be incredibly helpful in beating that next boss. Please note we’re not counting any games in which drugs hinder you (i.e., drinking booze in Grand Theft Auto) or magical things like potions. That said, we’re sure this list isn’t complete, so feel free to include your favorite drug-fueled “winners” in the comments.
7) Everyone in Resident Evil
Attacked by a zombie, mutant, or Spanish person? There’s only one item that can cure you of these ills, and it’s a green, leafy plant found in abundance in the Resident Evil universe. Basically, if you’re not one of the aforementioned zombies, mutants or Spanish people, you’ve used its medicinal properties. For the record, no one — not even Capcom — knows what these magical herbs are. When I emailed Capcom PR, they told me: “Unfortunately, the green herb is not a specific real world herb, it is a healing device created for the Resident Evil universe.” In other words, it most definitely is marijuana. Hey Leon Kennedy, we heard you like jamming. Well, lucky for you, the undead like jamming, too.
Listen, Pac-Man is trapped in an inescapable maze and pursued by immortal triplet ghouls and their friend Clyde. Like most people suffering from depression, the only things that make the “ghosts” stop chasing him — indeed, the only thing that let him “devour” his problems — are the power pellets scattered throughout the board. Of course, eventually the pills wear off, and his ghosts come back to haunt him. Pac-Man can only stave off his torment for a tiny bit, but it’s enough to let him eat a cherry or two in piece.
5) Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid
Diazepam (also known as Valium) is a Class C drug, with nasty side effects like depression and reflex tachycardia (in layman’s terms, a speedy heartbeat) that’s sometimes given to inmates just before they’re about to be executed so they’ll chill the eff out and stop being such a drama queen about enduring state-mandated murder. Tom Waits-wannabe Solid Snake pops a few to steady his aim when he uses the sniper rifle to squeeze off a couple of judicious headshots against nano-machines, gender-bending lunch-lady vampires, ghost presidents, or something. Solid Snake can smoke cigarettes for the same hand-steadying effect, but since smoking lowers Snake’s health bar, we’re not counting it. Also, Snake smuggles his smokes into missions by swallowing the package whole and then vomiting it back up, which is exceptionally gross.
4) Mario and Luigi, Super Mario Bros.
Being a plumber sucks sugary walnuts. So who can blame two Brooklynite brothers for taking comfort in hallucinogenics so powerful they can make the abusive family who hired them look like castles and floating boxes containing coins.
3) Jack, Bioshock
The protagonist of Bioshock has a pretty crap life, but at least at the end of the day he knows he can remotely set people on fire thanks to his Plasmids. This is why stem cells are a good thing, kids: If we embrace them, one day we can have injectable gene therapy treatments that lets us shoot fire from our fingers, control wind, and dispense angry bees from our very own bodies. Plasmids might sound perilously close to magic potions, but 1) they have a sci-fi explanation and more importantly 2) Jack injects them into his arm with huge hypodermic needles, which represents drug use/abuse at its finest, so we’ll allow it. Or he might shoot bees at us.
2) Sadler, Exile
Although the first game was never released stateside, the XZR/Exile trilogy is a really fascinating sequence of games, in which you play as an Islamic assassin who must kill his own father. Arguably it heavily influenced Assassin’s Creed, but for our purposes, all we really care about is how crunked up Sadler, the anti-hero protagonist, gets in these games. Although wanton drug use can eventually kill you in the series bookends, Exile, the second game, does away with that, meaning you’re free to take all the peyote, marijuana, LSD, hash, coca, and opiates you want. But you know, responsibly and with no fear of any repercussions. Videogames are so cool.
1) Francis Morgan, Deadly Premonition
Clearly the Surgeon General has never played Swery’s homage to Twin Peaks: The worst thing that happens when you spark up a cigarette in DP is it makes time pass by quicker. Like, when you’re done smoking it’s suddenly 10 hours later — it’s useful when you want to visit certain stores or talk to various townspeople who are on certain schedules. I guess in a sense smoking cigarettes hastens Morgan’s death, but since he’s far more likely to be torn apart by the undead than succumb to lung cancer in the game, we’re going to allow it.