1.25.2008

Phrases

There are certain game titles that speak to me more than others. I'm personally tired of literal-minded, object-based titles-- a title that names a specific entity within the game itself in straightforward terms. These would be things like Halo, God Hand, Portal, Persona, The Darkness, Metal Gear Solid, Mafia, or Metroid. They serve their purpose: they're easy to remember, speak aloud, and type out; they're distinctive; they represent a core element of their product. But, I don't know, they don't really excite me. Maybe because they're the status quo.

Lately I've been digging phrase titles. They're usually a few words or even a full sentence, somewhat abstract, and don't directly name a major component of the game. The best are in the declarative or imperative. Here are some titles I can get behind, quality of the game itself notwithstanding:

The World Ends With You
No More Heroes
Beneath a Steel Sky
Calling All Cars
You Are Empty
Death to Spies
Faith and a .45
Devil May Cry
A Mind Forever Voyaging
You Don't Know Jack
Zombies Ate My Neighbors
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
Destroy All Humans!

There are a lot of games that would have great phrase-titles if they just cut off the part before the colon and used the subtitle by itself. For instance:

Contents Under Pressure
Dark Corners of the Earth
You Are the Wheelman
No Remorse
Back to Nature
Another Wonderful Life

No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way
gets double points for having a great long-form phrase both before and after the colon.

I know I must have missed a bunch of great ones that would also fit the bill. I suppose I just wish game titles didn't feel the need to be so literal. Is this marketing driven? Would "You Are the Wheelman" automatically sell X copies fewer than "Driver: You Are the Wheelman?" Is this why the team at Monolith followed up the commercially-underwhelming No One Lives Forever series with F.E.A.R. (and now, further, is dropping the acronym thing for Project Origin?) I couldn't say.

Use your game titles to speak to me.

11 comments:

Coleman said...

One of my personal favorites is Total Annihilation. Regardless of what you think of the game (even though it's awesome), the title owns.

Diego / Kimari said...

Final Fantasy, grim fandango, harvest moon, animal crossing, star ocean, far cry, ..

Granted, I didn't play all of those, so maybe some actually name something in the game.

Steve gaynor said...

I dunno, I think there's a gray area. Final Fantasy is pretty literal; it's a fantasy game, and Squaresoft intended for it to be the last one they released. Its unprecedented popularity ruined that plan. Animal Crossing describes the town the game takes place in, the "harvest moon" is the impetus for the farming that goes on in Harvest Moon. Maybe there's something called a "star ocean" in Star Ocean, I wouldn't know. But it does take place in space, on spaceships.

Michael said...

I've always liked Deus Ex. It takes guts to name your game after a Latin phrase with its origins in Greek tragedy.

Steve gaynor said...

...and one that people unfamiliar with the phrase are likely to pronounce as "deuce sex."

JC Barnett said...

I personally like "Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix" as it pushes naming to it's ridiculous extremes. It's pretty super, it's a puzzle game with fighting elements (visually at least), it's number 2 in the series, it's turbo, apparently, and it has been remixed in high definition. It does exactly what it says on the tin with the very large label.

RavenWorks said...

I know this doesn't quite count because it does name the main character, but there's still something charming about "No-One Can Stop Mr. Domino!".

Steve gaynor said...

I think it totally counts, since it says something ABOUT Mr. Domino, as opposed to just being called "Mr. Domino." My main check is whether the title is simply a noun phrase, or if it's a declarative/imperative/gerund phrase. This disqualifies a couple of my picks like "Faith and a .45" and "Another Wonderful Life." It's a little bit more about feel than any absolutely concrete metric, unfortunately.

RavenWorks said...

(If this is posted twice I apologize; there was an error when I submitted it...)

Not sure why this didn't occur to me sooner, but "Beyond Good And Evil" is another great one.

I also got to wondering if "Doom" almost counts... it's vague enough in terms of exactly what it refers to in the game, and depending on how you look at it, could be taken as an imperative phrase.

Nick Rolfe said...

Sins of a Solar Empire is a recent favourite of mine. When you break the title down to its individual words, it sounds like yet-another-generic-space-RTS-game-title. As a whole, however, it's really quite poetic.

Andrew said...

That's funny because I've recently been digging the return of the single word title. Dirt captures the gritty realism of the game. Car parts fall off, mud is sprayed on windhields, and you haveto be on your game to compete. Skate is about nothing more then skating. There no crazy Tony Hawk type missions. Skating is the sole purpose of the game. And I can't forget RockBand, which I think speaks for itself.