I am a proud connoisseur of video-game weaponry, having enjoyed a lifelong love-affair with virtual bombs, blades and boomsticks. Ever since I was six years old and sneaking into my dad's office to play Doom, I've been fascinated by nondescript black tubes that go *bang*. Few things put a smile on my face like a shotgun that kicks like a mule, or a rocket launcher that turns monsters into pixel jam.
What I really love, though, is discovering something new. A weapon that works in a way I've never seen before, or doesn't resemble a weapon at all. I vividly recall skulking through Half-Life 2's Ravenholm with the gravity gun, and realising I could use the sawblades hanging from the walls as projectiles. For me, that combination of surprise and creative potential cuts to the heart of not just a headcrab zombie, but gaming's unique appeal as an artform.
This article is dedicated to such brilliantly befuddling armaments, the oddballs of the virtual military-industrial complex. You won't see any assault rifles or sub-machineguns here, only weapons that make you say "What the hell is that?" before your enemies cry "Oh, sheep."
Sheep - Worms
I could probably fill this entire article with weapons from Worms and its sequels. From banana bombs to holy hand grenades to concrete donkeys, Team 17's turn-based battler has enough bizarre weapons to equip a barmy army. But the unassumingly named Sheep is the archetype of Worms' weaponised weirdness.
Released by the player onto the ground, this woolly icon of the farmyard will hop around aimlessly for a set amount of time until it violently explodes, dealing massive damage to any nearby annelids.
Crucially, there's no guarantee the Sheep will go where you want, meaning it can be as much a danger to your team as it is your opponent. A stone cold classic—the Sheep's structural perfection is matched only by its unpredictability.
Ripper Heart - Shadow Warrior
There are actually two different versions of Shadow Warrior's Heart weapon, one from the 1997 original, and one in the 2013 reboot (known as the Demon Heart). The latter simply makes demons drop dead of a heart attack when used, but the first iteration has a far weirder effect.
When squeezed by the game's protagonist Lo Wang, the Ripper Heart would spawn a ghostly, AI-controlled clone of Wang. Armed with a railgun, this clone would proceed to go apeshit, annihilating any enemies in the area with laser precision.
As well as being devastating, the Ripper Heart is also one of the more thematically fitting of the game's weapons, since the person Wang loves most in the world is himself. As the man himself says, "Two Wangs are better than one."
Opponent Repulsificator – Carmageddon 2
Possibly my favourite weapon name in all PC gaming, the Opponent Repulsificator is an enormous, ACME-style spring that catapults rival racers across the game's open-ended racetracks. It's a wonderfully silly weapon, complete with a comedy 'boing!' sound effect when triggered.
Yet while daft in concept, the Opponent Repulsificator requires some skill to use effectively. The Repulsificator itself is technically harmless; it's what you shunt your rival into that deals the damage. You must pay close attention to your surroundings, timing your attack so your rival will smack into nearby geometry at maximum velocity. It may look silly, but it can be devastatingly effective, with particularly forceful collisions shearing vehicles completely in half.
Snark - Half-Life
The Snark is a small, beetle-like creature found in the latter part of Half-Life. These alien insects are initially encountered as an enemy, but their nests can be picked up as ammunition. When 'deployed', Snarks home in on the nearest enemy, leaping into the air like an oversized flea and biting at their faces. After about twenty seconds, they then explode, dealing further damage to your foe.
By far the oddest weapon in Gordon Freeman's arsenal, Snarks are easily overlooked in favour of more direct shootin'. But they can be extremely useful, especially if you're low on health and don't want to poke out from cover too much.
There's a fair amount of fun trivia surrounding the Snark. They share their name with an undefined, imaginary creature conceived by Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll in his poem 'The Hunting of the Snark'. While there's no direct confirmation of a link between the two, it seems like quite the coincidence. They also aren't entirely exclusive to the original Half-Life. The cute little death dealer gets a cameo in Half-Life: Alyx, with one appearing in a jar during the game's introductory sequence.
GES Bio Rifle - Unreal Tournament
Unreal Tournament's weapons are an eclectic bunch to begin with, mixing in energy rifles and the indomitable Flak Cannon among miniguns and rocket launchers. But by far the strangest entry in its arsenal is the GES Bio Rifle. Instead of shooting bullets or rockets, the Bio Rifle fires sticky green blobs of toxic sludge.
First appearing in the original Unreal, the Bio Rifle found its spiritual home in Epic's multiplayer follow-up Unreal Tournament. It's such an unusual weapon that most players tend to overlook it. But the Bio Rifle can be deadly in the right hands. The blobs stick to any surface, damaging any player that touches them and letting you transform arenas into glowing green minefields.
Frogbeast Egg - Thief 2
Unlocked in the latter half of Thief 2, this slimy green ovum can be thrown on the ground by Garrett, whereupon a squat, reptilian creature will quicky hatch out of it. The resulting frogbeast will then home in on any nearby guards, hopping quickly toward them and attracting their attention.
That's already pretty weird, but when they get within melee range, frogbeasts don't attack their target, they explode, bursting like a hopping grenade, dealing huge amounts of damage. Even among Garrett's unusual arsenal, which includes flash bombs, gas mines, and vine arrows, the frogbeast egg is an oddity.
Severed limb - Blade of Darkness
Blade of Darkness was an excellent dark fantasy hack 'n' slash that deserves more credit than it receives, but today it's mainly remembered for its elaborate dismemberment system. Among the various grisly ways you could kill an enemy, most notable was the ability to chop off an enemy's arm, then pick up that arm and use it as a weapon.
In practice, this was far less entertaining than it sounds. Attacking foes with a severed limb was largely ineffective, and you were more likely to get slashed to ribbons than do any meaningful damage to your opponent. Still, this is a list of the weirdest video-game weapons, not the best ones, and Blade of Darkness earns its rightful place by letting you beat them with the bloody end.
Needler - Halo: Combat Evolved
The Needler is a weapon with several stages of weird. Stage one is 'what the hell is this rubbish thing?' which occurs when you fire it for the first time and see its pink needles float ponderously toward your opponent, seemingly doing as much damage as tickling your enemy with a feather. Stage two is 'holy shit!' as those needles collectively burst in a big pink explosion, dealing huge damage and likely killing your opponent instantly.
The Needler isn't just weird, it's deceptively weird. It's a fascinating entry in Halo's arsenal, and the game genuinely wouldn't be the same without it.
Land Shark Gun - Armed and Dangerous
A staple of any weird weapons list, Armed and Dangerous' Land Shark Gun launches a hulking Great White from its inexplicably small barrel, which proceeds to burrow into the earth like a cartilaginous mole. The shark then 'swims' 'through the ground toward a nearby enemy, lunging at them from below and dragging them down into the rocky depths.
What makes the Land Shark Gun so much fun is the animation. The way your enemies glance confusedly at the ground moments before the shark emerges. The way the shark thrashes with your foe in their mouth before slipping beneath the soil. It's a little gem of design that shines through the game's otherwise antiquated shooting.
Crossbow - Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath
In and of itself, the Stranger's crossbow of Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath is nothing unusual. What makes it weird is the ammunition the Stranger uses. Rather than loading the crossbow with bolts, the Stranger fires live animals at his foes.
There are various critters the Stranger can launch at enemies, each of which has different effects. The Zappfly is used as a basic bullet, while Fuzzles act as living landmines. Smelly Stunks cause enemies to puke their guts out. Using animals as ammunition may seem cruel, but given how often I've been brutally slaughtered by Oddworld's phenomenally hostile wildlife, it's rather cathartic that Stranger's Wrath turns the tables somewhat.
Penetrator - Bulletstorm
Weapons that impale enemies on surfaces are always a devious delight, whether it's Painkiller's Stake Gun or Half-Life 2's Resistance Crossbow. Bulletstorm's Penetrator goes one step further, however. Instead of firing inert chunks of metal or wood, it shoots high-powered drillbits that cause any enemy unfortunate enough to be stuck by one to spin around uncontrollably.
The result is a ridiculously powerful and versatile weapon. You can impale enemies onto the ceiling like a fleshy fan, or line up shots to skewer multiple opponents at once. It's also so powerful that you can shoot enemies into the sky, watching them vanish into the stratosphere like a reverse meteor. It's as brilliant as it is bizarre.
Dubstep Gun - Saints Row 4
Coming at you straight from that three-year period in the early 2010s where dubstep was a thing, Saints Row 4's Dubstep Gun is a weaponised sub-woofer that launches powerful wub-based shockwaves. The gun can play various different "tunes" and also be upgraded to fire "explosive wubs" that could annihilate pretty much anything in the game.
While the Dubstep Gun will devastate anything in its path, my favourite thing about it is its side effect, causing anything nearby to dance uncontrollably to its obnoxious choons, including vehicles.
Demon Arms - The Darkness 2
An FPS in which your character has four arms is weird enough. But when two of those arms are demon snakes made of shadow that can rip enemies limb-from-limb, well, I'm not sure I can think of anything weirder.
Yes, the Darkness 2 is the world's first "quad-wielding" game (a buzzword that still makes me laugh). It let you blast away enemies in regular FPS fashion while performing melee and throw attacks with your demon snake arms. It's a great gimmick in what is one of the more underrated FPS' of the last ten years.
Hook Mine - Dishonored: Death of the Outsider
The Dishonored series is chock full of weird weapons and powers, letting you summon hordes of rats and slice enemies into mince with its deadly Spingrazors But perhaps the series' most unusual gizmo is Death of the Outsider's hook mine. This is a proximity mine that triggers when a guard steps near it. Rather than exploding or electrocuting its target, the hook mine instead fires a sticky magnetic ball at the unfortunate foe, then yanks the target toward the mine with considerable force.
Hook mines are brilliantly versatile. They can be used as non-lethal or lethal weapons, the latter setting pulling targets with such force it literally rips them apart. They can also be stuck to living creatures as well as walls and floors, letting you knock out two guards by forcing them into a high-speed embrace.
Recycler Charge - Prey
Prey is an amazing game for many reasons, one of which is that it integrates a crafting system into a non-crafting game in a way that doesn't suck. The highlight of this system is the recycler charge. Throw this unassuming orb into a room and it'll break down loose objects within its blast radius into their base components, letting you sweep them up and stuff them into a Fabricator to create new objects.
What's important here is that the phrase 'any loose objects' includes the Typhon, the inky alien mutants that stalk you throughout the game. The only thing more satisfying than killing an enemy is killing them and then turning them into a medkit that you use to heal yourself.
Soap - Dusk
Retro FPS Dusk has a ton of fantastic weapons, from shotguns to bolt action rifles to a crossbow that fires ethereal bolts. But nothing comes close to the fearsome, world-eating power of…a bar of soap.
Something of an easter-egg (although you wouldn't want to eat it) the soap is hidden throughout Dusk's brilliantly designed levels. When picked up, running at any enemy with the soap held out will cause them to burst instantly into a shower of gibs. This leads me to conclude that Dusk's demonic enemies are in fact comprised entirely of dandruff.
At a glance, Amid Evil's Celestial Claw doesn't look that weird. Sure, it's a magical staff that fires exploding orbs, but that's exactly the kind of thing you'd expect a magical staff to do. Look closer, however, and you'll see those exploding orbs aren't generic balls of energy, they're planets.
Yes, the Celestial Claw reaches across spacetime, clutching worlds from the void and shrinking them down to the size of a football before letting you launch them at opponents, the planet bursting in a firestorm of spilled magma and combusting atmospheric gases. The Claw's selection process is entirely random—there's even a small chance that it'll pull the Earth itself from its orbit and let you use that as a bomb. Which is, in fairness, nothing less than we deserve.