The Five Most Dangerous Solar Eclipses in Video Games

When the sun goes rogue in a game, you'd best gird your loins.

A total solar happened across a swath of the United States today. Even regions outside the path of totality got to see the shadow of the moon crawl partway across the sun.

Solar eclipses aren't necessarily once-in-a-lifetime experiences, but they're still rare enough to be big news. You've probably been hearing about this particular eclipse for weeks now (and / or online retailers have been pitching you shoddy eclipse glasses). They're not exactly spur-of-the-moment surprises; you don't wake up and hear, "Oh, there's a 50% chance of a solar eclipse today," like you might hear about snow or a thunderstorm.

Of course, solar eclipses often show up suddenly in TV shows and movies, usually for comedic effect.

Video games are typically solemn about solar eclipses, and entire plots are built around the rare phenomenon. Games' heroes don't just get smashed while peering through pinhole cameras at eclipse parties, however; they're usually tasked with saving the world from a sun-swallowing demon.

Let's take it to the end of the line and look back on the five deadliest solar eclipses in video games.

Heart of Darkness (1998, PlayStation, PC)

Heart of Darkness is a puzzle-platforming game reminiscent of Éric Chahi's classic title, Another World (also known by its more '90s-apporpirate alter-name, Out of This World). Chahi worked on Heart of Darkness, which is why Another World's scent is all over this odd little game.

The twisted events in Heart of Darkness are kicked off by a solar eclipse (which the game's protagonist, Andy, stares directly into without any sort of eye protection. Nice). Monsters in the eclipse nab Andy's dog, Whisky, and Andy follows. He quickly finds himself inside a shadowy world overrun with demons. And hostile wildlife. Tons of hostile wildlife.

Despite its intriguing premise and top-notch heritage, Heart of Darkness didn't make a lasting impression on people. Its world is unsettling and unusual, but I guess people couldn't overlook the low-quality cutscenes. Frankly, they're not fit for Nickelodeon's reject bin. Bad voice acting is one thing. Bad kid voice acting is another realm entirely.

Wait, I lied: One aspect of Heart of Darkness did make an impression on people. Specifically, the gruesome death scenes that inexplicably cartwheeled past the game's "E" rating. Classic Chahi.

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (2003, Game Boy Advance)

Konami's direct follow-up to the incredible Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a worthy successor to Alucard's critically-beloved adventure. Aria if Sorrow also features one of the series' more intriguing storylines, and it revolves around – you guessed it – a solar eclipse.

When Aria of Sorrow's protagonist, Soma Cruz, climbs one of Japan's holiest shrines to witness an eclipse, he's whisked into the phenomenon and quickly discovers Dracula's own domain (the titular Castlevania) sleeps in the umbra. Soma explores Castlevania to find some answers about why he was summoned, but he doesn't learn anything comforting.

The "future" Castlevania games play like typical "Metroidvania" fare, but it's still nice to get a break from the series' medieval setting. Sadly, with the way Konami's been in recent years, we probably won't have any idea how Soma's saga ends by the time the plot-centric eclipse of 2035 actually falls over Japan.

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (2010, Nintendo DS)

The celestial event central to the plot of the third (and last) Golden Sun game isn't your plain ol' everyday kindergarten eclipse. It's a Grave Eclipse, a devastating man-made phenomenon that won't dissipate on its own.

Unsurprisingly, the eclipse is triggered when the game's characters muck around with technology and alchemy they ought not muck around with. The resulting darkness not only absorbs the sun's light, but it also spawns fearsome monsters.

It's not like the game's heroes can sit down with a cool pair of glasses and wait for everything to blow over, either. They must find and activate the light-restoring Apollo Lens, or else the world will gradually sink into cold darkness.

Let this be a lesson. Eclipses are strictly the domain of cosmic beings and gods. Do not attempt to orchestrate an eclipse on your own, and definitely refrain from tinkering with ancient technology linked to heavenly bodies of any kind.

Terraria (2011, multiple platforms)

Re-Logic's 2D sandbox adventure game is thick with secrets and hidden stuff. If you play long enough, you might glimpse a truly extraordinary act: An in-game solar eclipse.

Like the eclipse in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, Terraria's solar show is far from benign. When it occurs, all sorts of unique ghouls come out to play. You'll see vampires, swamp men, eyeball monsters, and even copyright-friendly iterations of Pinhead, Jason Voorhees, and Mothra.

All of Terraria's eclipse-born goonies dish out and take a lot of punishment, but rare monsters mean rare loot drops. You can either cower in the lightest corner of your house, or you can behead a bunch of hockey mask-wearing psychopaths until you score your very own Psycho Knife. Ahh, just like the one mom used to keep in the kitchen.

Super Mario Bros 3 (1988, NES)

What do you call a supernatural solar eclipse that skips the formality of a show and just gets straight to the killing? The Angry Sun from Super Mario Bros 3 specializes in that brand of deep-fried slaughter. Be light on your feet, Mario; all the NASA-certified solar eclipse viewing glasses in the world won't save your ass from getting toasted.

(Thanks to Webcomic Name for part of the image banner, though most of it is still my fault.)

Tagged with Articles, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Golden Sun, Zero Escape: The Nonary Games.

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