When we started trying to find the Greatest Animal in the History of Video Games at the beginning of the year, we didn't quite know where we'd end up.
The only thing that will follow this, of course, is a year-end vote for the Best Animal In Video Game History, chosen from the winners listed in all the year's species posts.
For this last preliminary round, our regular judges -- Gamasutra news director Leigh Alexander, Capcom senior producer Morgan Gray and I Can Has Cheezburger co-founder Tofuburger -- were joined by GayGamer.net associate editor David Edison.
After a no-holds-barred round of nominations, here are the winners, as chosen by the judges and the readers:
Readers showed love for the ants of "Earth Defense Force 2017" and Fox McCloud.
And after tallying up the judges' votes, Sonic the Hedgehog took the top prize. Then for second place, it was a three-way tie between the yago camels from "Rogue Galaxy," Max from "Sam & Max," and Lemmings. For the third spot, it was Crash Bandicoot, Jazz Jackrabbit and the camel mounts in "Vanguard: Saga of Heroes."
Disagree? Check out the judges' individual picks to see who voted for who...
Leigh Alexander, Gamasutra:
#3 - Fox McCloud is fantastic, but if we're talking foxes, I'm gonna have to go with Spy Fox from the kids' PC game series. Those were great, and my kid sister and I enjoyed playing so much when we were young that just recently my sister gave me a talking Spy Fox doll she found somewhere in a discount store.
#2 - Lucario. Best. Pokemon. Ever. 'Nuff said.
#1- Sonic the Hedgehog. Is this even a contest? I mean. It's Sonic. Come on! He was my childhood hero, man. In the war between Mario versus Sonic, my loyalties were very clearly-placed.
David Edison, GayGamer.net:
Camels: not as friendly as dogs, not as pretty as kitties, and not as beloved/reviled as hedgehogs. But since all of the fun, shiny, and controversial animals have already been scooped, it falls to me to stump for horse-with-the-hump, otherwise known as the spitting ugly, that most trusty desert mount - the camel. If anyone can give me a single reason not to adore this stinking, spitting, kicking, buck-toothed ungulate, I'll eat my own shorts. Similarly, if there's proof of any other animal out there who can not only store calories and water in an enormous lump of fat (or two), and then use that lump as seating for commuters, I'll eat my shirt.
#3 - The nameless protagonist of Llamasoft's "Revenge of the Mutant Camels" (the humpy sequel to 1983's "Attack of the Mutant Camels"). This timeless PC, Amiga, Atari and Commodore 64 classic set the stage for the noble but failed camel protagonist movement; our hero battles British telephone boxes (devoid of Time Lords), exploding sheep, kangaroos on skis and other very serious threats to dromedary rights. No game ending has ever had the same emotional impact as these flashing words: "WELL DONE! YOU HAVE SAVED CAMELKIND!"
#2 - The camel mount from "Vanguard: Saga of Heroes." Perhaps the only memorable experience from SOE's fixed-too-late MMO, this alternative mount made me feel all rustic and adventure-y as he galloped (trotted? ran? jitterbugged?) across the buggy land of Telon. Also warming the cockles of my cold, cold heart was the fact that the camel mount's saddle boasts a festive blanket (presumably of Telonian make, which makes me wonder if textile workers in Telon face the same impossibly harsh death penalties that punish Telonian adventurers). And if it isn't inappropriate, I'd like to take this opportunity to unite with my fellow dromedarians in a call to Funcom for camel mounts to be added to "Age of Conan." It's the desert, y'all.
#1 - Yago. No, MTV, not Gideon (although I'd hop on that ride, too) - I'm talking about the skinless camels found in "Rogue Galaxy." Never before have I felt the same level of sympathy for an animal so utterly lacking in skin, muscle, or eyeballs. But despite all the far-flung sci-fi window dressing, the yago is very much a camel: a tall, lumpy desert creature that can be laden with all sorts of trade goods and customizable items. Additionally, yago's lack of flesh or recognizably hydratable biology gives him an edge over the traditional camel when it comes to traipsing across arid terrain - why bother watering a camel made out of dry bones? (Especially in a universe where sea vessels fly through empty space without so much as a parka.)
Morgan Gray, Capcom:
Hard to imagine my time discussing video game animals is coming to a close, but I think I'm a better man for the experience -- or at least, an even more dorky man. Well, its a total free-for-all this time, which makes it harder, but I think the rankings should go like this...
Honorable Mention - RPG rats. They don't deserve a medal, but they, like exploding barrels, are such an RPG cliche that I think their absence from the newbie areas of RPG worlds would be viewed as an insult to the genre. So scurry on my little friends: me , you and my PC shall meet again.
Bronze - Sonic. I'd like to rate him higher, sadly, he just hasn't been making me happy lately. However, I remember seeing the first game when it came out, and thinking "nothing will ever look this good, or play faster than this...ever!". Sega really gave the platform genre a much needed shot in the arm with Sonic, and managed to fire a shot across Mario's bow at the same time. The competition made things better for all of us. I just hope we see a Sonic game as refined as "Mario Galaxy" at some point before I die. I really loved the little guy (even the cartoon...I was young...kinda)
Silver - Crash. I really liked this franchise, which is odd. I had picked up the first game for a gal in my life at the time, and she really loved it. I picked up the controller for the harder sequences (tough navigation paths, boss battles) and ended up really liking it. I've since played the whole series (including "Crash Team Racing"), and really enjoy the Naughty Dog flavor of platforming. Plus, you gotta respect the game for being a rare example of an American franchise exciting both Japanese and Western audiences. I'd spend money to get to play a Coco animal riding sequence again using tilt control on the PS3. Up with Crash, down with Cortex!
Gold - Max. This isn't fair, but I came from a generation of old LucasArts employees that idolize Max. There was a time where he would be buried as an Easter egg in every game that came out. Something about his semi-controlled insanity in contrast to a mellow dog detective I think just made him endearing. He was both cute and scary at the same time (and more often than not, even though his plans were less than reputable, you couldn't argue with this guys' goals). Thank the gaming gods for Telltale Games not letting "Sam & Max" drift away into gaming obscurity! More twinkies!! More twinkies!!!!!
Tofuburger, I Can Has Cheezburger:
#3 - Cheshire Cat from "American McGee's Alice" - Dialogue saturated with entendre, a dagger-toothed grin even a Great White would envy, and the unnerving ability to phase-shift "reality" are but a few of Cheshire Cat's credentials. The real story is his earring. Singular. Never before (and hopefully, never again) has a single gold hoop conveyed such sinister lethality. In a recent interview, Cheshire Cat was asked, "When is a croquet mallet like a billy club?" His answer? "Whenever you want it to be!" For empowering Cats the world over and showing us the seedy underbelly of what we mistook for a Disney cartoon, we nominate Cheshire Cat. Why is he in the miscellaneous category and not with the other cats? We could tell you, but those who haven't played through might consider it a "spoiler."
#2 - Jazz Jackrabbit - Equipped with a red headband, blue lazer gun, and a wanton disregard for life in any form, Jazz Jackrabbit destroyed the notion that enemies in side-scrollers should be killed by jumping on their heads. Who knew that guerrilla combat tactics, infinitely interchangeable ammunition systems, and giant green rabbits could be such fun? In an era of Big Macs and Fruit by the Foot, Jazz was eating carrots to replenish life and skiing for exercise, predating the modern health craze by over a decade. And with a special edition Christmas episode to boot, what's not to love?
#1 - Lemmings - Yes, they are real animals (rodents, to be precise.) But even if they weren't, we'd still submit them as collectively the greatest animal in video game history. Lemmings are the quintessential embodiment of the complete trust any truly loving relationship should be founded upon; the trust that you won't kill me...more than absolutely necessary. (If you have FUN doing that, well that's between you and YOUR god, but to pass this level most of us need to survive, ok?) Besides, they're just so cute! And with a two-player battle mode, "Lemmings" lives on and remains infinitely replayable to this day.
This series will be back in about a month with a final round-up of all of the year's winners in a grand face-off to determine The Greatest Video Game Animal Of All Time.