I am a typical American woman. As such, my favorite food is pizza, followed closely by hamburgers. In fact, if I were to make a food pyramid illustrating my dietary habits, the entire pyramid would be made of bread.
The seminal Duke Nukem (née "Nukum") makes light of junk food: "Drink soda to increase your health!" (Incidentally, Nukum, like Wolfenstein's B.J., also had an affinity for turkey legs. Jill of the Jungle preferred apples. I have no idea what Commander Keen eats, but hamburgers, probably.)
From Ninja Turtles to River City Ransom, a lot of 2D beat-em-ups obsess over junk food. And why not? Processed foods make for the perfect power-up—microwavable, short-lived energy, just right for after-school snacking, annoying mothers everywhere. Gaming and food seemingly go hand-in-hand.
But what of those videogames, those bizarre outliers, wherein food is the principal play mechanic, nay, the the philosophic center of the narrative? I and my editor, Gameranx's Ian Miles Cheong, have worked through the hour to compile a list of such games. Together we proudly present the top ten videogames about food.
#10 Fast Food
Atari 2600: 1982
In Fast Food you play as the hero, "Mighty Mouth," who—if the box art is meant to be taken as fact—looks exactly like the pair of lips from the Twizzlers commercials. (Meanwhile, in-game, Mighty Mouth looks more like a plastic set of wind-up chompers.) The goal of the game? To get fat. Yes, really.
Fast Food could well have remained the game industry's only work of "feederism," were it not for…
#9 Fat Princess
PlayStation 3: 2009
As if you've never heard about Fat Princess, the controversial PlayStation Network title about feeding a lady some cake. Said lady eventually becomes too fat to lift! Yay! You've already won!
Oh, sure, it's a multiplayer strategy game, and there's allegedly some strategy involved, but really, this is a game about cake.
I heard the movie had way more doughnuts in it.
#8 Yume Penguin Monogatari
AKA Penguin Dream Story Famicom: 1991
Penguin Dream Story, meanwhile, has a much more complicated relationship with food. This Konami classic stars Penta, a very chubby penguin. His goal? To slim down for his estranged girlfriend, Penko.
And now for the game's "human interest" element: Penko is dating Ginji, a "stylish" and presumably sexually appealing penguin who wears sunglasses and a top hat. Although the only comestibles in the game are Ginji's own brand of weight-loss shakes, enemies "force-feed" Penta "back to obesity" (thanks, Wikipedia, for helping with the most disturbing paragraph I will type in this lifetime).
#7 Pizza Tycoon
Here is a description penned by Gameranx's very own Ian Miles Cheong:
It's not often you find a game that revolves around food with some actual depth in it—and I'm referring to actual, strategic depth. Layers upon layers of it, like a Chicago-style deep dish pizza.
Published by Microprose and developed by German studio Software 2000, Pizza Tycoon (Pizza Connection in Europe) is neither simple nor straightforward. Presenting itself as part restaurant management game, and part crime simulator, you take on the role of a less-than-ethical pizza restaurant manager. For the most part, the game has you build up a restaurant, hire the staff, and design the pizzas with ingredients to cater to the local demographic—AKA the people who stuff their faces with your food.
You can win over the hearts of the people by offering decent meals at a decent price, but where's the fun in that? A feature unique to the game allows you to call upon the Mafia to sabotage rival restaurants by ruining their warehouse stock, or infesting their restaurants with rats. If that doesn't satisfy you, you can even take matters into your own hands and burn the whole place down by yourself and escape before the police arrive.
The game was successful enough at the time to spawn a pair of sequels some years later, in the form of Pizza Syndicate and Pizza Connection 2. While the company's no longer around, there are still ways to get your hands on Pizza Tycoon or any of its sequels—but I'd recommend the original.
#6 Cafeteria Nipponica
Android, iOS: 2012
Yet another title from the incredibly popular "restaurant management simulation" genre of videogames, Cafeteria Nipponica is the latest from Kairosoft, the prodigious Japanese development team that brought Game Dev Story to mobile devices everywhere.
This game is a lot like that one except, instead of a game studio, you're a restaurant, and instead of making games, you make food. A really successful restauranteur might win the affections of some famed celebrity chef. Does the name "Gordy Ramsly" ring a bell? No? How about "Rachael Raygun"? Okay, "Julia Kid," then. God, I wish I were making any of these up.
#5 PocketBike Racer
Of the three King Games—all of which were based on Crispin Porter + Bogusky's various Burger King ad campaigns—Sneak King is the game most "about" food. (As the King, you sneak up on hungry people and feed them hamburgers.)
P.S. For anyone taking notes: the day I bought my 360, I walked directly from the Virgin Megastore to the nearest Burger King, where I proceeded to buy all three King Games, and some hamburgers.
Arcade, most 1980s home consoles: 1982
Just like a Build-A-Bear Workshop, only with burgers.
3D0, PlayStation: 1995, 1997
"To eat your enemy is to perform an extreme form of physical dominance," University of Durham's Richard Sugg writes. The only reason to not eat your enemies, really, is the totally valid fear of contracting some weird brain disease.
In PO'ed you are cast as a strange chef in a stranger land—a "space chef," if you will. That right there, in your hand? That is a frying pan. Your murder spree may now commence. (Bon appétit!)
#2 Food Fight
Arcade, Atari 7800: 1983, 1986
In Food Fight you play as Charley, some darling, doe-eyed, tow-headed Dickensian moppet. As Charley, you are all about the ice cream. Man, do you love ice cream. You will risk life and limb, and tempt death itself, to eat some fucking ice cream.
I don't purport to understand why the four chefs—Oscar, Angelo, Jacques, and Zorba—are so violently opposed to Charley having some ice cream, but fun-killers that they are, these chefs are basically out to murder you. And they can't even be mature adults about it: they're throwing food right and left. Food! It's like if you crossed Battle Royale with that one scene from Hook. What's that? You say I just missed out on a primo Hunger Games joke? Bangarang!
#1 Chex Quest
In Chex Quest, you—a human piece of Chex—are tasked with rescuing your delicious brethren from the planet Bazoik. You see, the first wave of Chex pioneers has since been imprisoned by the "Flemoids," a particularly nasty alien race of slime people.
Apart from being among the only videogames to feature actual phlegm as an enemy, Chex Quest holds the distinction of being the first-ever prize-in-a-cereal-box game. Certainly there have been other "advergames"—Tooth Protectors, Cool Spot, Avoid the Noid, Kool-Aid Man—but those games appeared either on store shelves or in the mailbox.
Here's what makes Chex Quest truly notable, though: it's Doom. Like, it's seriously just Doom, here re-skinned for younger players. (Every instance of in-game "blood" has been turned from red to an inoffensive green, so that blood now resembles "slime." Tricky!)