Drop the hammer: The five best power ups in video game history

October 20, 2017

Power Up Cover.jpg

Some games just wouldn’t be the same without power ups and hold’em has just made the list… Join us as we look at poker’s brash new brother and countdown the top five power ups in video game history.

If you haven’t heard the news, there’s a new game of poker in town. Power Up
marries hold’em with spectacular game-changing powers that let you dictate the action and re-write the future. Each game plays out like a three-handed Sit & Go, but you get dealt powers at the start along with your hole cards.

Each player starts with 10 energy and each power costs a certain amount to play – the more powerful it is, the more energy it costs. You can hold a maximum of three powers and 15 energy, and if you’re not at full capacity you’ll get a new power and two energy at the start of every hand.

There are nine powers in the game, with more to be added in the future, and each one has a different effect on the game. Engineer lets you choose the next card in the deck from three options, Intel lets you look at the top card on the deck for the rest of the hand and X-Ray lets you see one of the hole cards from both of your opponents. Click here for info on the rest of them.

It might not be for the poker purists (we could be wrong but we doubt we’re going to see Doyle Brunson using his Scanner power to look at the top two cards in the deck in Bobby’s Room) but there’s a strong argument that games are better with power ups. Don’t believe us? Check out these five awesome power ups that helped write these classic video games into the history books.

1. Pac-Man’s Power Pellets (1980)

Waka-waka-waka. That’s all you need to say to make older gamers weak at the knees. Pac-Man is you in a maze against four ghosts, Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde. Their job is to hunt you down and kill you. Your only respite – apart from eating all the white dots and advancing a screen – is the Power Pellet.

Pac Man.jpgI ain’t afraid of no ghost!

Eat one of these and you become invincible, and the ghosts turn blue and ran away. Run one over and you get a bonus (bigger for each one you eat), and its disembodied eyes return to ghost central to regenerate. Power Pellets were the first power ups to appear in a video game and, for impact and balance, they’ve not been bettered since.

Did you know?

Here’s an annoying bit of trivia. Phil Ivey isn’t just a master of poker, he’s a dab hand at Ms. Pac-Man too – the second game in the franchise, with moving fruit and faster gameplay. He lit up Barry Greenstein’s sit-down machine with a score of 693,270 – enough for a place in the all-time top 10. Is there nothing this man can’t do?

2. Donkey Kong’s Hammer (1981)

Nintendo’s flagship character Mario made his debut in 1981 in one of the first ever platform games. Donkey Kong is the brainchild of fledgling designer (now gaming legend) Shigeru Miyamoto and pits you against the title character, an evil barrel-throwing gorilla.

Hammer.jpgIf you want to challenge Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell, you’re going to need a hammer

As Mario (originally called Jumpman) you have to traverse four different screens, jumping obstacles and rescuing the damsel-in-distress – a tired trope admittedly, but a task that is nigh on impossible without the Hammer. After jumping for his Hammer, Mario can crush anything in his path for a limited time, including barrels and the tough-to-jump fireballs.

Did you know?

Donkey Kong is such a good game that grown men are still fighting over the world record (see the fantastic King of Kong documentary). However, they’d all be Kong-dust without Mario’s magic Hammer.

3. Mortal Kombat’s Fatalities

Finish him! The fighting game that took brutality to a new level introduced the gaming world to Fatalities – bloody finishing moves that you perform in a short timeframe and at a specific distance from your felled opponent, using a combination of joystick moves and buttons.

Fatality.jpgMortal Kombat’s fatalities are not for the faint of heart…

Classic examples include Spine Rip, where Sub-Zero tears the head off his opponent and presents it with spine attached to the screen, and Slurp, where Mileena in MK2 sucks her opponent’s body into her mouth and then regurgitates the bones. Now that’s a power up!

Did you know?

If you’re a real connoisseur you can sit through a 144-minute video on YouTube that features every fatality from every single Mortal Kombat game in history. If you’ve got a strong stomach you watch them all here.

4. Quake’s Quad Damage

The forefather of the modern-day first-person shooter, the original Quake was the first true 3D game from the creators of Doom. Quad Damage is the most sought-after power up in the game, giving you the ability to kill an opponent with almost any weapon.

Quad damage.jpgThis power up scores particularly highly in a game of Scrabble

It’s fair to say that in the annals of video games, there’s never been anything more satisfying than hearing the metallic clang of ‘Quad Damage’, glowing blue and going on a railgun spree.

Did you know?

Not many people know this but Quad Damage only quadrupled your damage in the first two Quake games. For Quake III and IV it was toned down to just triple damage, but it kept the same name and was just as devastating.

5. Mario Kart’s Red Shells

The red Koopa Troopa shells first appeared in Super Mario Bros. and have graced most Mario games since. But they’re never more satisfying than in the Mario Kart series where they act as heat-seeking missiles, targeting the player just in front of you. You can pick them up in sets of one or three and they act as shields until you unleash them.

Red shells.jpgThere are three different colour shells in the Mario Kart games – red, blue and green – but the red is our favourite

Almost impossible to avoid and tough to defend against, the Red Shell is one of the best/most frustrating power-ups of all time – depending on whether you’re the protagonist or the victim.

Did you know?

Pac-Man, along with Ms. Pac-Man and Blinky (the red ghost), featured in the original Mario Kart Arcade GP and its sequel.


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