Happy World Turtle Day! Every May 23, people are asked to pause for a second and spare a happy thought for the animal kingdom's hardiest and most recognizable reptiles.
If you've not celebrated World Turtle Day before, well, there's no time like the present. You shouldn't need any motivation, to be honest. Turtles are awesome. They carry their houses on their backs, they live life at their own pace (though they can certainly book it whenever the situation demands), and they produce funny noises when they make love, which handily double as the sounds of velociraptors hunting.
It's no wonder such unique-looking and versatile animals show up often in humanity's legends and media. Turtles are even a big deal in video games. Since the medium's inception, they've snapped at Mario's heels, drowned 10-year-olds' fire-starter Pokémon, and kept us company in lonely landscapes.
Let us salute 10 of gaming's best turtles. And, uh, tortoises. It is World Turtle Day, so you may as well learn the difference between the two.
Koops (Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door)
One of the more fascinating characteristics of Mario's role-playing games is how quickly Koopa Troopas, normally steadfast enemies in the Mario series, join Mario's cause. Kooper from the first Paper Mario game on the N64 is a good example, but I'm reserving this special shout-out for his successor: My man Koops from Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door on GameCube.
Koops is a character who's deserving of all the hugs, even though it'd be hard to wrap your arms around all that shell. He's shy and a bit of a coward, but more than willing to swallow his fear if there's a job that needs to be done. His fighting style involves retreating into his shell and ramming himself into enemies, which might explain his perpetually-injured beak and his damaged eyelid.
I want to be Koops' friend because he deserves it, but more than that, I want him to tell me how he puts his hoodie on under his shell. I have a feeling I'd need to earn his trust before he revealed his secret.
Blastoise (Pokémon series)
"What? Blastoise is your choice for Pokémon's best turtle? Heresy! What about Squirtle?"
Squirtle doesn't have massive cannons growing out of its shell. Tout fini.
I really am fascinated by the evolutionary process that fuses Blastoise's carapace with metal, though. How does it happen? Why does it happen? The Pokémon universe needs its own David Attenborough to walk around Kanto and explain these things. Bonus points if a Chatot tries to mate with their photographer's head.
Adamantoise (Final Fantasy XV)
This hulking terrapin has been a mainstay of the Final Fantasy series since Final Fantasy II for the Famicom. They're intimidating creatures, notable for their huge sprites and high defenses. But the Adamantoise encounter from Final Fantasy XV probably made your jaw drop, even if you've been fighting the big fellows since you first stepped foot in Final Fantasy IV's Antloin Den.
Final Fantasy XV's Adamantoise literally carries a mountain on its back. Its roar can shake the earth from miles away. Only the hardiest of beautiful boys can hope to make a scratch in its rock-hard hide.
Kamegoro (Mega Man 3)
Are you familiar with these lovelies? Don't worry if you're not; they're a little obscure. You meet the pop-eyed Kamegoro in the first stage of Wily's fortress in Mega Man 3, where they guard the exit to the next level. Interestingly, Mega Man's primary target is the Kamegoro Maker, but he can't hurt the machine directly. Instead, offing the robot turtles one by one eventually causes the Maker to self-destruct.
The Kamegoro by themselves are adorable, but don't hesitate to shoot. When left alone for a while, the robo-turtle sheds its shell, which becomes an explosive device.
Supposedly, the Kamegoro were designed to test water purity before Dr Wily corrupted them. Uh, if they were made with friendly intent, did they always have those mad-looking eyes? Maybe that glare is supposed to warn kids away, like vests on working dogs. "Don't touch this turtle, children! It's a working turtle!"
Bowser (Mario series)
The mighty King of the Koopas started life as Mario's sworn rival, but he's grown to become so much more. He's still Mario's sworn rival, but he's also on-call if there's a go-kart race that needs another participant, or if the ol' stickball team needs one more player.
All turtles are physically versatile, but Bowser really does the species proud. He combines the natural resilience of a turtle with the firepower of a dragon, and occasionally throws something bizarre into the mix – like the agility of a cat.
Bowser is one of gaming's best-known villains, and he deserves his recognition. He's a fire-breathing biological tank who's bristling with sharp things ... and he's also a pretty attentive father.
Tortimer (Animal Crossing)
Turtles are long-lived animals, but they can't push on forever. Even the cheerful mayor of Animal Crossing, Tortimer, had to call it quits and let you take over as King of the City in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. It's a lot of responsibility, but be thankful; being mayor also means you get to enjoy the company of your adorable assistant, Isabelle the shih-tzu.
By the way: Even though the player never gets to see what's behind the desk at City Hall, be assured the computer has a screensaver of Tortimer that stares at you All. Day. Long. I assume if you try to change it back to something more traditional, like flying toasters or virus-ridden pictures of dolphins, a computerized voice will tell you to "get back to work, young sprout."
(Don't even ask what happens if you try to use the computer to look up no-no pictures online.)
Lakelurks (Fallout New Vegas)
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water--
No, wait. This is the Fallout universe. It's never safe to go into the water. If it's not irradiated, there's probably something just below the surface waiting to grab your leg, pull you under, and dig into your soft bits.
Case in point: The Lakelurks from Fallout New Vegas. These once-docile turtles, made monstrous and bipedal by radiation, tail you relentlessly in the water – but they're especially dangerous on land, where they can fire water-projectiles at you and attack with sonic waves.
Lakelurks are dangerous, viciously territorial, and ugly as sin. Why, then, do they belong in a countdown of the best video game turtles? Well, once you crack open that tough shell, you gain access to some valuable soft meat that tastes great in an omelette.
Donatello (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles NES)
Donatello, the purple-clad Ninja Turtle who "does machines" (hearing that as an adult is awkward) is a Brainiac – but he's also your best ally in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES. His bo staff offers a few extra pixels of reach against foes, and when you're up against the likes of Rocksteady the rhino, every pixel is precious.
Donnie is also precious. Protect him. Once he's gone and Raphael's dumb dinner forks are your only hope for beating the Technodrome, you may as well just turn the damn game off.
Turt Reynolds (Firewatch)
Also known as "Shelly Duvall," the pet turtle you pick up in Firewatch is a silent companion, but an important one. He's clean, he's quiet, he's easy to maintain, and he won't try to kill you in the night. A good friend.
The Giant Turtle (The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask)
Like many turtles from classic myths and legends, the island-sized turtle that assists Link in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is old beyond belief. In fact, he just wants to spend his remaining days (about three, depending on how you play the game) marathon-napping. Though the Giant Turtle wakes up long enough to help Link reach Termina's Great Bay Temple, he immediately goes back to sleep after his job is done.
This turtle, man. I get this turtle.