Disco Elysium has an arresting start: you wake up in a trashed hostel room in your underwear, so hungover you can barely turn on the ceiling fan without injuring yourself, your mind utterly scrubbed of any useful information by the massive amounts of booze and chemicals you’ve presumably poured into it. Over the course of the game, you seek to rebuild your identity and figure out your past, all while trying to perform your job as a police detective. Or you can take a load more drugs and keep the party going, it’s all up to you. It’s Dude, Where’s My Car as written by Émile Zola. It’s Kafka’s cackling recreation of The Hangover. It’s the worst moments of university mixed with all the worst moments of middle-age.
Simply put, it’s a good engine for storytelling, as proven by the many times it’s been attempted before. Taking that into consideration, here are some other game franchises we’d like to see put through that boozy, bewildered filter.
The Legend of Zelda
Let’s start with an obvious one: Link looks about eight years old in a lot of his games, but in Breath of the Wild he’s technically over a hundred and has clearly earned some time at the bar, especially with his day job spent fighting demonic killbots. Personally, I’d love a retelling of that game where he drunkenly staggers through Hyrule on a pub crawl with the other champions, accidentally activates the Triforce, and finally trips head-first into the Shrine of Resurrection a la Philip Fry, mistakenly freezing himself for a century. Finally, he reawakens to see a world still trying to recover from a Triforce that’s had several dozen drunken, contradictory demands and wishes poured into it, and must rebuild a world he helped damage in the first place.
Prince of Persia
The fun of the Prince of Persia series is that it gives us the literal opportunity to trace the previous evening back, Memento-style, and capture all the worst moments of the Prince’s hypothetical evening: declaring new laws on a whim, failing to wall-run and falling into a market stall, or just tinkering with linear chronology itself to try and work out the perfect time to cook a kebab. Each scene could be recontextualised by the one that follows, and by rewinding he gets the opportunity to literally clean up after himself and undo his worst mistakes.
Shepherd is a boring character, no matter how you play him in Mass Effect. He’s blandly generic, just with varying levels of patience depending on the choices you pick. Well, no more! Here Shepherd would embody the burnt-out loser quality of the Disco Elysium detective; he’d be a mess and it’d be uncomfortably clear that he’s been like this for some time. We see him slumping around the Citadel, miserably dwelling on his long-forgotten glory days and trying not to make eye contact with all the co-workers he’s slept with. Then when the Reapers come back and try to vaporise everybody, it’s the perfect chance for him to get his shit back together and lead a ragtag group of his old, forgotten friends to a more meaningful victory.
So here’s a question - what happens to a Persona Palace if you just go around trashing the place? If you burn a book in a library, do they forget something? If you knock over a can of Stella onto a person’s treasure, what does that do to the mind it’s linked to?
You already know where I’m going with this. Joker and the Phantom Thieves are already around the age where most people first start experimenting with alcohol, and like all first experiences with booze, they get it completely wrong. Jokes and the gang awake the next morning to discover that numerous figures in the city have had bizarre shifts of personality, and not all for the better. Turns out the Phantom Thieves have been staggering through palace after palace, leaving them in shambles and badly warping the consciousnesses of those in the real world. Now they have to go back in and try and fix their own damage, or risk being responsible for the mutilated psychology of dozens of people.
This one will never happen while Konami has Silent Hill in lockdown, but it’s something we can dream about nonetheless. All the games above focus on the morning after the drinks and drugs, but there’s another way to do it. When it goes wrong, a night like that can sometimes be its own kind of delirious horror, with the warping effect of drugs well-portrayed in movies like 2019’s Midsommar. It’d be a perfect match for the dreamlike hellscape of Silent Hill games, recontextualised with unique imagery and monsters based around hallucinations and drunken cruelty. You’d probably need a stiff drink to get through it, then throw it away immediately when you realise what you're doing.