Let’s face it: Lists sell. Websites all over the Internet have built up huge audiences by presenting most (if not all) of their content in easily digestible list form, and it’s no surprise why. Lists are easy to read and fun to write. They’re interesting, light-hearted and often short enough for the reader to breeze through in about a minute. So with that in mind, OnlySP is cashing in on the popularity of lists by introducing Top 5 Tuesday. Each week, we’ll give ourselves one day to sell ourselves out and give you readers our Top 5 of whatever happens to be on our mind that week. This week, we start out with our Top 5 Video Game Quotes.

Video games aren’t always known for their excellent dialogue, but those games that take the time and resources to put together a legitimately well-written script instantly stand out from the crowd. Some are moving, others are funny and a few are even culturally iconic. All of these quotes, however, show that video game writing can be much more than just another Duke Nukem one-liner.

5. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim — Paarthurnax’s question


“What is better? To be born good or to overcome your evil nature through great effort?”

As much as I love it, Skyrim is admittedly not a wealth of good writing. From guards inquiring about your pilfered sweetroll to Nazeem’s obnoxious ramblings on the Cloud District, Skyrim’s dialogue can quickly come across as hackneyed and uninspired (And don’t even get me started on a certain projectile weapon piercing a certain lower-body joint.). Every so often, though, there’s a fleeting moment of profound writing that catches you off-guard.

In this scene (which, be forewarned, is pretty spoiler-heavy), Paarthurnax beautifully sums up a question that has plagued thinkers, philosophers and theologians since the beginning of civilization. Is it better to be good by nature or to become good of your own volition? The context in which this quote appears makes it even more memorable. At this juncture, the player needs to choose between siding with the Blades, who believe that they are intrinsically in the right, and siding with Paarthurnax, who is evil in nature but makes an effort to control his evil instincts.

With this quote, Paarthurnax is doing more than just waxing philosophical. He’s actually asking the player which is more important and to make his decision. It’s one of the rare moments of deep contemplation that the game has to offer, and it’s a poignant one at that.

4. Zero Wing — All Your Base


“How are you gentlemen!! All your base are belong to us. You are on the way to destruction.”

I’ll be honest. When I was making this list, it was hard not to include all of the silly video game lines and quips that for whatever reason became huge Internet memes. Lines like Navi’s “Hey! Listen!” from Ocarina of Time, Peppy Hare’s “Do a barrel roll!” and pretty much anything from the Zelda CD-i games have all become ingrained in Internet culture, and it would be a pretty uninspired list if they took up the entire thing. This entry, then, acts as a tribute to all overused video game line by celebrating the greatest overused video game quote of all.

All Your Base almost goes without introduction. A poor translation of the Japanese game Zero Wing for the Sega Genesis left us with a gold mine of awkward sentences and borderline nonsense just from the opening scene. A spacecraft mechanic notices that “somebody set up us the bomb” shortly before being informed by CATS that the crew “have no chance to survive make your time.” The game has become an undisputed phenomenon. The Internet has gotten quite a bit of mileage out of it for a game that came out in 1989.

3. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations — Ezio explains the Creed


“To say that nothing is true is to realize that the foundations of society are fragile, and that we must be the shepherds of our own civilization. To say that everything is permitted is to understand that we are the architects of our actions, and that we must live with their consequences, whether glorious or tragic.”

“Nothing is true; everything is permitted.” I’ve always been a fan of the appearance of this phrase throughout the Assassin’s Creed franchise. It gave the first several games of the series a sense of unity. Whether you were killing Crusdaers in the Holy Land or chasing down Borgias in Rome, the Creed was always the guiding lines behind it all.

The discussion of the Creed at the end of the Ezio trilogy, though, is by far one of my favorite moments of the series. When Ezio starts explaining the true meaning behind the words, the player realizes that the Assassins are much more than just cynics who do whatever they want because they can. Four games into the main series, Ezio gives these words that have surrounded the player since the beginning infinitely more depth and meaning. As an added bonus, this quote also serves to underline how wise and mature Ezio has become. He has become so much more than the brash kid freerunning across the rooftops of Florence seen in Assassin’s Creed II. It’s a perfect way to close out his trilogy and a truly profound moment in the series.

2. Portal 2 — Cave Johnson’s lemon rant

cave johnson“When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade — make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don’t want your damn lemons, what am I supposed to do with these?”

I, and I’m guessing many other gamers, have contended for a long time that the Portal franchise if one of the most sharply written series of games available. The first game became famous for GLaDOS’ witty one-liners and quips. The second game kept that same fast-paced, smart dialogue but added two new characters into the mix: Wheatley and Cave Johnson. Both of these new characters, as well as GLaDOS herself, have plenty of new and funny lines in the game, but in this scene, Cave Johnson definitely steals the spotlight.

This sequence has so much going for it. True to Portal form, it’s insanely punchy and well written, not to mention instantly quotable. J.K. Simmons does an amazing job acting out the scene as well. Most importantly, this rant is one of the best characterizations the player sees of Cave Johnson throughout the game. All of this combines to create an unforgettable game experience.

1. Fallout and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
War never changes / War has changed


“War. War never changes. The Romans waged war to gather slaves and wealth. Spain built an empire from its lust for gold and territory. Hitler shaped a battered Germany into an economic superpower. But war never changes.”

“War has changed. It’s no longer about nations, ideologies or ethnicity. It’s an endless series of proxy battles, fought by mercenaries and machines. War, and its consumption of life, has become a well-oiled machine. War has changed.”

As soon as I started putting this list together, I knew that I had to put these two together. Both are shockingly powerful monologues that really set the tone for the games they introduce, and even though they’re from separate games, the two quotes share a really stunning parallelism with each other. Ron Perlman and David Hayter give legitimately haunting performances as they gravely explain the nature of war. Both are convincing, and they’re definitely both worth listening to if you haven’t played either of these games already.

The beautiful thing about these quotes is that they have just as much impact outside of their games. They have relevance in the real world, both making statements on politics and morality. They’re not just powerful in the context of the game. They can stand alone. It’s simply good writing, and that’s something more games could use.

This list is by no means comprehensive, and a lot of good quotes didn’t quite make the cut. Keep the discussion going on in the comments section, and let us know your favorite video game quotes, funny and serious alike.

Connor Sears
I'm a journalism student at Northwestern University with a love of good writing and a passion for games. Tell me what I'm doing wrong at connor.sears@onlysp.escapistmagazine.com or check out my infrequent opinions on things @connordsears

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