In video games of old, it was a common game mechanic to pick up and use items, whether they were randomly found or secretly stashed. In some cases, they were what made games fun to play. They go by different names - pickups, items, boosters - but they all generally helped the player out in one form or another. All of them eventually came to be known as power-ups. And like games, not all power-ups were created equal.
In this post, we'll talk about 10 of the most awesome video game power-ups of all time!
10. Battle City Star
One of the more enjoyable things to do in Battle City was to go after those glowing red tanks to see what kind of power-up would pop up and race your couch co-op buddy to it. As far as I can tell, the power-ups were random and that anticipation put the Battle City star at #10 on our list. The star upgrades your tank.
The star power-ups stack. In one life, if you get two stars, your tank gets bulkier and you fire faster. With three, you'll be able to destroy steel! Not until Battlefield 3 would you feel so powerful in a tank.
9. Bomberman Kick
The leading cause of death in Bomberman has always been getting trapped by your own bombs while trying to lay waste to the urban environment and decimating cute creatures. Thankfully, the bomb kick could easily get you out of those situations. It was also used as a great offensive move, kicking bombs to trap opponents and cute creatures.
When you see this bad boy revealed behind a brick, you'd make a bee line straight for it.
8. Arkanoid Laser
Everyone who plays Arkanoid has a distinct liking for breaking meticulously arranged things. It's just so therapeutic. So, what can be a better way of smashing colorful tiles than bouncing a little ball of destruction around? Why, shooting them with lasers of course! Everything's better with lasers!
Power-ups in Arkanoid and probably every other Arkanoid clone came randomly and they were broken free from the tiles. When you see that laser power-up falling, you would risk the ball just to get your hands on THE POWAH! And then once you wield the awesome laser power, you will avoid every other power-up like they were goombas.
7. Pacman Power Pellet
Turnabout is fair play. And in Pacman, not only is it fair play, it's weirdly satisfying. Turning the tables on Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde gave you such a rush and a sense of invincibility!
It only worked for a few seconds and each level had a predetermined and finite number of power pellets, so you had to be very careful when to use them. Strategy was never this fun. Run, you damn dirty ghosts!
6. Super Smash Bros. Smash Ball
Here's something a little more recent. In the Super Smash Bros series, to perform your characters Final Smash move, you had to break open the Smash Ball. And you won't get it just by hitting it once. You'd have to be lucky enough to hit it when it decides to break.
Image from here.
More often than not, a Final Smash means someone's losing a life. While not all Final Smash moves are of the same effectiveness, getting it still meant keeping it away from your opponents. This creates a mad dash for it, and when four super powered people with awesome moves want the same thing, it's anarchy!
5. Sonic The Hedgehog's Power Sneakers
Sonic has always been fast, but he can still get faster with a special power-up pick up. When Sonic cracks one of those monitors open containing the shoes, the already speedy Sonic the Hedgehog gets a speed boost. And Sonic is most fun to play when he's going 2,500mph!
If you wanna see it in action, click on the video below and start at 1:49.
Notice that the music kicked up in tempo? That's part of the appeal!
4. Mario Starman or every invincibility item ever
Being untouchable is awesome. Just the concept alone is so delectable that entire cheat codes have been created to do just that. If you do it legit though, it's a little more fun. Every other invincibility item in every other game works practically the same way, but the Starman gets special mention because of the funky tune that plays for the entire time Mario becomes indestructible.
3. Gradius Option
This power-up required an unusual way to unlock. For every power-up you collect, the power you can unlock moves down a list of all your unlocks. I think, if I remember correctly, Option was a late unlock - second to the last. But that's because it was AWESOME.
Option is a glowing ball that followed pretty much everything you did, all the way from your movement down to firepower. Every weapon you get, including missiles and lasers, is copied by the Option. The potential to command massive firepower is immense!
2. Contra's Spread Gun
I actually already wrote about the spread gun in my list of 10 most powerful weapons in video games. The spread gun, while a weapon, is also a power-up. When the player finds one of these bad boys floating about, you can bet he avoids all other weapon power ups like the plague!
1. Super Mario Bros. 3 P-Wing
You know how everyone loves the Tanooki suit and the raccoon suit in Mario 3 because given enough space, Mario can launch himself up and fly to secret areas full of goodies? There's one item that's even more rare and even more awesome! The P-Wing gives Mario unlimited flying ability for one level. That pretty much means you can just breeze through a level.
It only lasts one level so after you finish one with the P-Wing, Mario reverts back to the regular raccoon suit, which isn't bad. If you get a power-up that isn't flying-related, you lose the P-Wing. However, if you have the P-Wing and enter a level with a Tanooki suit, you can combine the two items! I've actually never tried that.
You can usually get the P-Wing by beating the Hammer Bros. on the map screens. They're also in hidden Toad houses in odd numbered worlds. It's also rewarded by beating World 1, if I remember correctly. Additionally, according to this wiki, you are rewarded with 28 P-Wings by beating the game and restarting the game without resetting your console.
There you have it! This is my personal list of the top power-ups in video game history. I know Link's Fairy in a Bottle make the list, so I'm sure you guys have other suggestions. Let us know which power-ups you think are awesome in the comments below!
Special mention: The Last of Us' Molotov Cocktail. Those are way too OP.