Since their inception, video games have been an outlet for entertainment, and usually escapism. Most video games are far from realistic, and allow the player to vicariously live out a wide array of fantasies, whether it be becoming an experienced solider in a war for the future or some brightly colored humanoid animal attempting to save the world and their loved one.
But it didn't take too long for some semblance of realism and relatability in the medium, and soon some video games began to depict the very jobs and daily grinds that they were made to help people escape from. But thankfully, loads of games that are meant to let a player walk in the shoes of a particular profession have been great, although in most cases, this usually comes at the cost of more than a cup-and-a-half of realism.
Just to be clear, not every game needs to be completely realistic, and many games often benefit from being less realistic. However, in this particular case, I thought that it would be an entertaining and reflective little exercise to look back at some of the games where you play as a character who is meant to have a common everyday job, but through the magic of video games, has the realistic aspects of that job put through the wringer a few times.
The basic premise of this list is simple: We aren't going to look at examples of video games that portray an occupation in a down-to-earth way like Papers, Please or Euro Truck Simulator. Rather, we are going to look at some of the most over the top and "game-ified" representations of legitimate career paths that the industry has ever chundered up.
Alright, it's time to punch that clock!
Let's start out with the prequel to one of the most well-know classics, and perhaps the best sewer level ever in video games, the original arcade Mario Bros. It's been said for years that the Mario Brothers are plumbers, ever since their first official title in 1983, but never in any canonical title in the Mario series have we ever seen either of these two do anything that has to do with proper plumbing.
Yeah, we know it's low-hanging fruit to mock Mario and Luigi for not acting like real plumbers, but it would be good for their namesake if they snaked a drain or unclogged a toilet here and there. Because when it comes to their few actual plumbing related exploits, their sewer-based assignments are far from ordinary.
In the original arcade Mario Bros. Mario and Luigi must jump on and kick turtles and crabs while avoiding fire, jumping straight up into incomplete and highly flexible walkway foundation, and collecting golden coins... while never actually cleaning anything. Again, Mario games have never been all that realistic, nor do they need to be, but if they think this is plumbing, then they need go back to school.
Pokémon Snap is a classic on the Nintendo 64 for many people, and while it is a pretty well-structured and novel game about photographing Pokemon in the wild, it's not quite accurate to the daily workings of a field photographer. Sure, the camera work and expeditions to different regions for different kinds of animals is somewhat realistic, but there are a few sketchy methods being employed by Professor Oak in this project.
Putting aside the fact that the player character Todd Snap is equipped with a hover buggy that allows him to do everything from raft on rivers to exploring the clouds. but the methods used by this so-called professional are both unconventional, and sometimes unethical. Everything from knocking Pokemon into lave with synthetic apples to tossing noxious gas-filled Pester Balls at them until they pass out, nothing is off the table for Snap when he needs a photo and needs it bad.
Professor Oak's research might be inhumane. Not quite sure about that.
The Mighty Switch Force games, while very fun and challenging puzzle games, aren't exactly accurate depictions of what it's like to work for the emergency services.
In the first Mighty Switch Force game, you play as cybernetic police officer Patricia Wagon (get it Patty Wagon hahaha) as she rounds up a group of escaped criminals. You do this by activating the siren on your helmet, which allows you to briefly pause time itself, and change the physical properties and visibility of certain blocks in the surrounding area. You also get around quickly by shooting yourself in all directions by entering purple blocks when they are not solid, and then forcing them to come into full existence around you, forcing them to act like canons.
All of this done in the pursuit of a group of freshly escaped convicts, who are all perfectly healthy, but make no attempt to run from the officer in uniform running towards them with a gun in her hand. Yeah, I'm gonna say that's a little bit out there.
Mighty Switch Force 2 was pretty similar, new puzzles with an identical goal of collecting five people per level, but this time with a new mechanic based around Patricia being a firefighter. The biggest standout difference this time around being that you could now kick babies to save them. Kick. Babies. I think that's about all I need to say.
Sometimes you just need to go somewhere where everybody knows your name.VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action is just about as engaging as it is hard to spell; Very. But it's also more science-fiction than it is bartending school.
It has you serving drinks brewed behind the bar from the ground up from the basic chemical components of alcohol to upper-class talking dogs and cyborg cat women among other people. You can make as many mistakes as you want while making drinks, making the most you can lose a tip from your client, which I'm sure is the biggest problem at most bars in the modern space future.The most realistic thing about the bartending aspect of the game is the fact that the drinks can cost hundreds of dollars each.
Continuing on with the theme of the service industry, we have Battle Chef Brigade. Of all the games where you can become a professional chef, the upcoming Battle Chef Brigade has the most creative, as well as the most fantastically impossible take on it.
Using a combination of fantasy weapons and magical spells, you must control one of four different warrior chefs, as they hunt down dragons and winged eyeballs (as well as chickens it's not all crazy). They must then cook their findings into something delicious that caters for the mixed council of human, elf, and orc judges, by playing a match-three puzzle game.
Realistic? No. Fun and unique? Yes.
I feel that this one needs little explanation. The multi-platform retro classic Paper Boy is about as true to running a real newspaper delivery route that they might as well have set it in space for how down-to-Earth it is.
The only thing that is realistic about Paper Boy is the fact that you have to throw newspapers to peoples front doors while on your bicycle, pedaling through a suburban neighborhood. Every single other thing about the game, however, is completely insane. One minute you'll be passing by gravestones on the front lawn of house only to get flung around by a miniature tornado, whereupon you slam right into an angry dog, and collect yourself just in time to run into the literal actual Grim Reaper.
The most unrealistic thing about Paper Boy, however, is that you can turn a house that doesn't subscribe to the newspaper into a house that does subscribe--by breaking their window with a newspaper. What even.
The Trauma Center series has a fairly complex plot, and a tone very reminiscent of many serious soap operas, which is what makes some of it's more outlandishly overblown moments all the more hilarious.
Most of your time spent in the average Trauma Center game is spent treating patients "under the knife" who are critically sick or injured. But sometimes you aren't treating the sick and wounded. Sometimes you're slowing down time in order to jab the the patient with painkillers about five times. Sometimes you're instantly healing patients with a literal "healing touch". For a great length of the first game in the series Trauma Center: Under the Knife, you are fighting off a man-made disease called GUILT. Yes, GUILT.
On one very special occasion, you even get to disable a bomb. Just what the doctor ordered.
If you knew anything at all about Ace Attorney coming into this list then you knew it would be on here. The series is perhaps most well known for it's over-the-top and beyond unbelievable characters, plot twists, and it's depiction of an insanely corrupted court system full of liars, bluffers, and complete idiots.
Phoenix Wright, the series most frequently recurring protagonist, may be a morally upright human being and straight edged defense attorney, but the same cannot be said for most of his rival prosecutors, or the chronic liar witnesses he is forced to grill in court.
Phoenix Wright, the series most frequently recurring protagonist, may be a morally upright human being and straight edged defense attorney, but the same cannot be said for most of his rival prosecutors, or the chronic liar witnesses he is forced to grill in court. A court case that could be called mundane in the world of Ace Attorney would contain more fabricated evidence, eccentric and uncooperative witnesses, corrupt officials, and lies than some of the most cartoonish recorded in human history.
Not to mention that the courtroom conduct in Ace Attorney couldn't so much be called a "kangaroo court" as an "australian outback court". Weapons are brought into and used in the courtroom during the trials constantly, the defense and prosecution interrupt each other all the time, and testimonies get revised about three or four times per witness every hour on the hour.
Ace Attorney is absolutely crazy... but it's not completely unrealistic. It is mostly unrealistic in it's depiction of the legal world and the life of an attorney, but what they sacrifice in realism they make up for by telling more creative stories under less limitations than a completely true-to-life legal drama would be under.
Realism isn't everything. Sometimes, it can make a game better. But then there are other cases, such as Ace Attorney's, where realism takes a vacation, and everything is better for it.
Thank you all very much for reading this far, we hope you enjoyed it. If you have a career-oriented game that you felt should have been on the list, or could help to fill out a potential future list, feel free to tell us in the comments! We know there were a fair few other games we could have mentioned, but we couldn't fit them all into one list, so recommend some more and we may do a follow-up in the future!