The world of video games is a violent realm. Monsters spawn randomly from nowhere and try to attack you just for walking to the next town over. Robots from the distant future (or the distant past) arrive to take over the world. Unpleasant men in puffy trousers declare war on other countries in the name of dark gods. The only way protagonists ever survive any of this nonsense is with the weapons at their side – today, I’m going to explore those weapons to see which kind is my favorite to carry into glorious battle!
Ah, the humble spear. The first weapon. Maybe. I don’t know, I’m bad at history. The point is, the part at the tip.
Get it? It’s a pun!
Spears are great weapons with a lot of applications. They have good reach for keeping enemies at bay and but unlike staves, they have more damage potential. The blade of the spear is a great piercing weapon but can slash too depending on the make of the spear and the style of the warrior. In most games, the spear is not a “main character” weapon but you can typically find one of these bad boys in the hands of the supporting cast. Which is perhaps ironic when you consider that in the times when this weapon was popular, the spear was the main act and the sword a backup in case things got too close and personal.
Let’s look at some games where spears are a notable weapon. Fire Emblem comes to mind quickly for me because spears are one part of the incredibly important weapon triangle. If you aren’t familiar with Fire Emblem games, weapons work in a sort of rock-paper-scissors heirarchy which gives combatants an edge when facing an opponent with an inferior weapon. In the tactical battles of these games it is important to pay attention to your advantages and disadvantages, so having a few folks with each weapon type is key. Spears are primarily wielded by mounted characters like Cavaliers and Pegasus Knights, as well as armored footsoldiers and the mighty Generals. Between swords and axes, spears are the more balanced weapon, having average ratings in all stats as opposed to favoring might or accuracy.
In Breath of the Wild, spears deal low damage but they strike very fast and are good for keeping enemies at arm’s length. I enjoy using them for these reasons, peppering enemies with quick blows while staying outside of the range of their clubs or swords. They tend to lack durability (or at least appear to) because of how frequently they hit the enemy – it wears the weapon down quickly and you’ll burn through your spears pretty quickly. Spears are primarily wielded by lizalfos and the Zora, both of which are pretty cool character types in the game.
I most recognize spears from the Dragoon character class in the Final Fantasy series. Dragoons are riders of dragons who wield spears to devastating effect in combat. They are most known for their “Jump” technique, leaping high into the air and avoiding enemy attacks before then descending on the enemy and dealing tons of damage. Dragoons prefer spears because they compliment this technique – doesn’t that long shaft just scream “plunge me into the wriggling flesh of a horrifying monster?” I love the dragoon class in Final Fantasy so for me this is where I first looked at spears and thought “hey, those things are pretty cool.”
Why number 5 on the list? While spears are certainly cool and can look cool when wielded in combat, they tend not to be the best weapon type in the games they are featured in. To use my above examples, in Breath of the Wild spears don’t allow you to wield a shield, so while the extra reach is nice you are more vulnerable when wielding one. Their average nature in Fire Emblem means that spear-wielders often won’t be doing the most damage or hitting the largest number of attacks, and while some spear-wielding classes are very valuable (hello, Generals!) I tend not to like the character types that carry spears into battle. So while these suckers are cool, things can get a lot cooler in my book.
#4: ARM CANNONS
Departing from the world of ancient weapons into the far-flung future, arm cannons take the next spot on the list. These are fantastic weapons for using against robots, aliens, and everything in between. Any arm cannon worth its salt has a number of different settings that vastly enhance its versatility. Additionally, good arm cannons allow the user to charge up a particularly powerful shot to unleash against enemies.
“Ian, that description sounds really specific. As if there is only one game you can reference as having an arm cannon such as this.”
Actually, there are two: Metroid and Mega Man. Samus’s Power Suit and the Megabuster have a lot of similar functions when you boil right down to it, and both of them are awesome weapons that are super fun to use. Switching from lasers to missiles to plasma beam to ice beam is key to survival in Metroid, as different enemies have different vulnerabilities and you have to approach each one correctly in order to survive.
Bosses in Mega Man work much the same way. Each one you defeat allows Mega Man to incorporate their technology into his Mega Buster and use their abilities. Because these abilities are advantageous when used against the right opponent, you want to do your best to figure out which boss would beat the other in an arm-wrestling match and then defeat them in that order.
The selling point of the arm cannon is its versatility, allowing you to execute many kinds of attacks with the same weapon. Need to shoot a stream of fire? Check. Homing missile? Got ya covered. Ricochet bullets? Easy. Beam that splits into more beams? We could do this all day. Arm cannons are capable of lots of cool things and charging up those cool things to make their effects even crazier is really great. These weapons are great, but since they technically require other technology in order to fully enjoy the benefits of their versatility, choosing arm cannons feels like choosing “all weapons” so they will hang out in the fourth place spot.
Ever since I first donned the green tunic of the hero in a Zelda game, I have loved the boomerang. These nifty weapons have an incredible feature – when thrown, the arc of the throw will always cause the boomerang to return to the hand of the wielder. I’ve held some novelty boomerangs in real life and never managed to get that to work, but somehow in video games no matter what you do, boomerang will always come back.
Obviously Link and his trusty boomerang are sources of inspiration for my love of this nifty weapon. You almost can’t play a Zelda game without one – even Majora’s Mask, which does not technically have a boomerang, replicates its effects with Mikau’s fin throw. These little guys are perfect for solving tricky puzzles or scooping up objects from a distance away. In combat, boomerangs are generally useful for stunning enemies to create an opening for your sword. However, there is another game beyond The Legend of Zelda in which boomerangs are even more helpful to have around: Dragon Quest.
In most turn-based RPGs, most weapon types are functionally the same. A spear may look different than a sword, axe, or bow, but when you attack you see the same animation or accomplish the same basic effect. In Dragon Quest, this is true for pretty much all melee weapons. However, boomerangs are special. When you throw a boomerang in a Dragon Quest game, that attack is going to swoop across the screen and deal damage to every single foe.
This feature of boomerangs makes them essential to fighting random monsters in Dragon Quest. Pretty much every protagonist in the Dragon Quest universe is trained to use these things, and certain supporting characters can wield them as well. Even just one boomerang on the team is useful for cutting down a swath of enemies, but get two and you’re going to be cleaning up foes a lot quicker than you ever could relying on swords alone.
Boomerangs have great functionality in the different games in which they are featured, which is why they hit #3 on my list. Being able to solve puzzles, pick up distant objects, and defeat groups of enemies is pretty fantastic for a weapon, but not all boomerangs are created equal and some games don’t make them anything more than a palette swap for a spear or bow. So let’s keep exploring to see some other weapon types that are truly special.
#2: BOW AND ARROW
“The bow and arrow was once the pinnacle of weapons technology.” Having just finished playing a ranger in Dungeon World, I can personally attest to the awesomeness of the bow and arrow. A fearsome and precise ranged weapon, the bow is elegantly simple yet gets the job done with no quarrels. It plays a role in many video games and is often the ranged weapon of choice for protagonists in medieval settings.
Countless memorable archers have left a strong impression on me. Link, with his magical arrows, can set enemies ablaze or freeze them in place. In Breath of the Wild, the bow took on a new significance for him as stealth kills with arrows became a great method of dealing with powerful enemies. Even before Breath of the Wild I liked to practice with the bow and use it as often as the sword in combat – I can remember shooting at distant desert crows in Ocarina of Time to learn the descent of the arrow at long range.
Of course, Elder Scrolls is where my love of the bow really shines through. The stealthy archer Thieves Guild/Dark Brotherhood playthrough is my go-to first run for any Elder Scrolls game I play. There’s a joy to sneaking up on an unsuspecting enemy and planting an arrow in their chest that I am currently realizing might have some unsettling psychological implications, but it is a joy that I experience nonetheless. Having a method of attacking faraway foes makes it a lot easier to avoid damage and to juggle a large number of enemies.
Trick arrows/magic arrows and the ranged capabilities of the bow make it a fantastic weapon in most games that it appears in. Even in Final Fantasy where bows and arrows are not particularly common, they still offer the advantage of being able to attack from the safety of the back row. That makes it a lot harder for enemies to target you, and in the games that feature it the ranger class has some pretty great abilities. Archers in Fire Emblem can deal devastating damage to flying units, and the weapon advantage against spears and daggers makes them ideal for taking out some pesky enemy units.
I love a good bow and arrow in a video game and I use them frequently, but when it comes to my favorite type of video game weapon, there can only be one winner…
“Gosh, swords, really?”
Yes, adventurers, while choosing swords as my favorite weapon type may seem like choosing vanilla as my favorite ice cream flavor, I like what I like. Swords are so popular and common because they are a classic. They are more than simply tools. They are symbols of the heroes who wield them and the causes that they fight for. And while contrarians may say that swords are “overused” or “lame,” it’s hard to argue that swords are not effective at what they do.
Let’s take a moment to look at other weapons types I’ve discussed here. How many named, significant spears can you rattle off to me right now from video games? How many heroes rely solely on their legendary boomerang? Swords, meanwhile, have great significance and many games feature more than one special sword with a unique name and history. Link is virtually synonymous with his blade, the Master Sword. Excalibur makes an appearance in many Final Fantasy games, and there’s even a knock-off sword called Excalipur that can be discovered as well. Special types of swords like gunblades, lightsabers, and Keyblades could have their own top 5 dedicated to specific models of each discussing their strengths and weaknesses.
In many games, sword fighting is not just “fighting.” It is an art, an identity, a symbol of moral strength. Look at the techniques Link must learn in Twilight Princess. The Link of Ocarina of Time/Majora’s Mask puts off dying just to make sure that the next hero can learn his skills with the blade. In Fire Emblem, part of the reason that Chrom believes Lucina when she claims to be his daughter is because her fighting style is clearly learned from his own. In Chrono Trigger, only a chosen hero such as Frog can wield the Masamune. Cloud’s Buster Sword from Final Fantasy VII becomes a symbol of his identity crisis. While most of the weapons on this list are just weapons, swords mean something to many of the characters who wield them.
On a more practical note, swords are versatile and offer a lot of great combat options. They can be wielded with one hand and paired with another weapon like a dagger, gun, or shield, even a second sword. They can be swung with two hands for greater control and power. Blades can slash or pierce, and they are easy to redirect and strike at a new angle. Because they can be wielded in so many ways, swords come in all kinds of shapes and combine with a vast assortment of fighting styles.
When it comes to specific swords, there are a lot that I enjoy. The Material Blade from Tales of Symphonia is a pair of swords, the combination of Flametongue and Icebrand wielded in tandem. The fire/ice duality of the blades along with the fact that each one originates from one of Lloyd’s father figures gives the sword a significance that reflects his character as well as his fighting style. Cloud’s fusion swords from Advent Children are wickedly cool, able to detach and combine in different ways mid-battle to give him lots of combat options. The Monado from Xenoblade Chronicles gives Shulk visions of the future along with other powers, and its blade of light will only cut through the sinister Mechon, sparing human beings if they are caught in its wake. And of course Link’s Master Sword, the blade of evil’s bane which banishes darkness and fires beams of pure light when the wielder is at maximum vitality. Only a pure-hearted hero may wield it and only a courageous soul can command its full power. Link meets both standards and is the blade’s perfect master.
So there you have it, adventurers, my favorite weapon types in video games. If you enjoyed today’s post, then you need to head over to Shoot the Rookie and thank pix1001 for asking me this question as part of the Charming and Open event here on Adventure Rules. Additionally, they’ll be answering a question as well so be sure to look out for that post on their blog. I’ll be answering questions from adventurers all month long, so be sure to come back Wednesday to see what crazy hijinks I’ll be into next!