Video games haven’t been around very long compared to most other forms of media, but they’ve left a huge impact on popular culture in the short time they’ve existed. In part thanks to their close connections with the internet, the world’s most popular franchises have left a number of famous quotes that even most non-gamers would recognize. In no particular order:
1. FINISH HIM / Flawless Victory!
Mortal Kombat quickly set the gaming world (and the moral guardians) ablaze with its unabashed violence and gruesome character deaths. And if one player was particularly successful at dominating their opponent, they might get to hear this duo of phrases that relished in the bloodshed the hapless loser was about to endure. Toasty!
2. Thank You Mario! But Our Princess is in Another Castle.
I’m restricting each game on this list to a single entry, mostly because I don’t want half of it to be the same handful of Nintendo games. As one of the most successful game series of all time, Mario has many candidates for its most famous line, but only “It’s a-me, Mario!” can really compete with this famous anti-win screen that players of Super Mario Bros would see after every level. Darnit Toad, can you at least give us a ballpark estimate where in the Mushroom Kingdom she is???
3. It’s Dangerous to Go Alone! Take This.
You know a video game quote has hit it big when there’s a Wikipedia page on it! The old man who gives Link his first sword in The Legend of Zelda is never seen again and many other old men across Hyrule share his sprite, but his act of generosity will live on in internet lore for generations to come. The quote frequently appears on third-party merchandise and is referenced in countless other games, songs, and media. One of the highest-profile is the eponymous song by Starbomb, which puts a more sinister spin on the old man’s act of generosity.
4. Do a Barrel Roll!
Peppy from Star Fox was always in a weird place. He wasn’t universally-loathed like Slippy, universally-loved like Fox or universally-fetishized like Krystal, but he does have the most famous quote from the series (not to mention runner-ups, “Try a somersault!” and “Use bombs wisely!“) The quote achieved superstardom status after Google added it as an easter egg (Go ahead, try googling it!) and is also immortalized in an oft-remixed song that samples Dschinghis Khan’s “Moskau.”
5. You Have Died of Dysentery.
The Oregon Trail was originally made to educate schoolchildren about the trials settlers faced on the historical journey of the same name. While it succeeded brilliantly on the front, it also became quite famous for being spectacularly lethal for the player’s wagon party, with an average run ending somewhere around the first river. There were all sorts of reasons you would die in that game, but dysentery became the most iconic, probably due to sounding the most unpleasant. (Though in my opinion, it can’t hold a candle to TPKing after choosing to ford a river.)
6. The Cake is a Lie.
Portal was released in 2007 as part of Valve’s The Orange Box, and instantly became a gaming classic because of its clever portal gimmick and an amazing vocal performance by Ellen McLain. GLaDOS, your robotic and vaguely-sinister overseer, repeatedly promises that you’ll get cake at the end of a neverending series of life-threatening test chambers. Sadly, what little hope you may have for that cake will be dashed by the time you find Rattmann’s iconic scribblings on an out-of-the-way wall.
The only entry on this list so seminal it doesn’t even need words, the infamous sound effect from the Metal Gear series warning the player they’ve been spotted is forever burned into the memory banks of a whole generation of players. When you see a reddit comment or forum post consisting of a single exclamation point, this is the noise they’re referring to.
8. All Your Base Are Belong to Us
The terrible English port for Zero Wing spawned some of the earliest internet memes, despite the game itself being a bog-standard side-scroller set in space. So many quotes from its short introductory cutscene became early internet lingo (just look at how many tropes it named) but the most famous is definitely the villain’s celebratory boast that he’s seized ownership of all your base. The line gave its name to one of the internet’s earliest remixes and was frequently referenced all over the place back then. It’s really hard to explain just how prevalent this phrase was in 2006-2008. You had to be there.
9. Press F to Pay Respects
Thanks to this hilariously ill-fitting quicktime event in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, ‘F’ has found new meaning on the internet as a tongue-in-cheek eulogy for any event worthy of minor mourning. Threads fill with F’s when someone describes the fish that got away, or when a streamer snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. This is the only candidate on this list that may one day appear in the Oxford Dictionary, as this particular use is becoming so famous and widespread that many users have no idea where it even came from.
10. Would You Kindly?
(Warning, spoilers for BioShock 1! Which you really should go play if you haven’t yet.)
This phrase (and its sister phrase “A man chooses, a slave obeys“) became instant classics due to being the lynchpin behind the biggest twist in an already-amazing game. When Andrew Ryan reveals his relationship to the player character and the sinister undertones behind this arc phrase, then uses it to commit suicide, it casts a horrible new light on everything we thought we knew about Rapture, Atlas, and our own place in other people’s schemes.
11. The President Has Been Kidnapped By Ninjas.
Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the President? I hope so, because you’re about to play Bad Dudes, the game that showed exactly how you create an engaging plot with the least amount of details conceivable.
12. You Must Construct Additional Pylons!
You haven’t played StarCraft if you’ve never heard this phrase from your speakers. Pylons are a mandatory construction for the Protoss faction since they determine where you can build, what you can build, and how much you can build. If you attempt to build something when your current pylon count is insufficient, Aldaris is happy to tell you what you need to do. This line experienced an online resurgence due to its inclusion in “Here in My Garage”, the hilarious video that coined the phrase “47 Lamborghinis in my Lamborghini account.”
13. PROTIP: To Defeat the Cyberdemon, Shoot it Until it Dies.
Doom is the father of all first-person shooters*, to the point the entire genre was once called ‘Doom clones,’ so it’d be a crime not to include the most famous suggestion to ever grace a strategy guide. While this ‘protip’ actually originates from a fansite that was parodying GamePro‘s guide lingo, it perfectly encapsulates the run-and-gun gameplay with which Doom forever changed the history of gaming. (*except Wolfenstein 3D)
14. It’s High Noon!
Many of Overwatch’s ultimate callouts are widely recognizable, especially the ones used by the enemy team, but McCree’s “It’s high noon!” is by far the most famous. Said right before he plugs every badguy on his screen with perfect accuracy ala the Deadeye mechanic in Red Dead Redemption, the line is referencing the Gary Cooper western High Noon. (Ironically, this movie was known for its very un-Western hero. Gary Cooper’s sheriff was not a fast-talking grizzled lawman who gunned down people with aplomb, and in fact High Noon was one of the least action-packed westerns of its time.)
15. The Bomb has been Planted / Terrorists Win.
The two phrases you’ll hear in every Counter-Strike game except the ones the Counter-Terrorists win. Bomb Defusal has been the quintessential game mode in every game of the Counter-Strike series, and the franchise’s enduring popularity means it’s unlikely we’ll stop hearing this one any time soon.
16. That ___ is a Spy!
Team Fortress 2 is my personal favorite game on this list because it has so many quotable lines and memorable characters. But the Spy is without a doubt the most famous element of the game. A well-dressed backstabbing Frenchman, the Spy’s signature mechanic is the ability to disguise as the enemy team to infiltrate their backlines. The game’s been out for 12 years and it’s still very common to see Spy cosplays at various conventions (likely due to their ease of preparation) and every character’s warning cry of “That __ is a Spy!” has been echoed by many players in-game and out.
The headshot is a time-honored tradition in first-person shooters, and several different games can lay claim to being the one that ‘invented’ it. Team Fortress Classic is the first shooter to introduce the mechanic, using it as the primary gimmick for the Sniper class. But it gained its reputation in Unreal Tournament, where the announcer would announce any headshot kills in a badass voice people have been porting into other games ever since. Finally, the variation “Boom, headshot!” comes from a series of YouTube videos starring a parody gamer in Counter-Strike: Source.
18. I Used to Be an Adventurer Like You…Until I Took an Arrow to the Knee.
Woe be to the guard population of Skyrim, apparently all of them should have worn more knee protection. Due to the comical overrepresentation of this curiously-specific injury, the “arrow to the knee” line became the earliest Skyrim meme when the game came out in 2011, and people still recognize it over eight years later.
19. C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!
This quote has become so iconic and oft-used that it’s weird to think there’s a specific game that gave birth to it. The birthplace is a 1994 arcade fighting game called Killer Instinct, where players could disrupt enemy combos with special attacks. The text would appear on the screen when successfully pulled off.
20. It’s Super Effective!
The Pokemon series has mastered the art of revamping every generation and adding a whole host of new content while somehow not deviating from the core formula in the slightest. Since Gen 1, the water is dyed a deep blue, Nurse Joy hopes to see you again, and your X has evolved into Y! But despite all these recurring quotes, “It’s super effective!” is the one most recognizable even to non-Pokemon fans, mostly due to its practical application in many different types of conversations. Hope you brought burn heal!
21. I’ve got Balls of Steel!
Duke Nukem used to be one of the biggest names in gaming, and while his reputation never recovered from the colossal failure of Duke Nukem Forever, he and his catchphrase will forever be emblematic of the early 90’s shooter. He does have one other catchphrase that could argue its place for being more famous (“I’m here to kick ass and chew bubblegum…and I’m all out of bubblegum”), but he actually stole that one from the 1988 film “They Live“.
22. Waka Waka Waka
Pac-Man was the first arcade game to take the world by storm, and the titular character’s onomatopoeic noises are still shorthand for the character himself. They earned their fame partially due to the media’s overrepresentation of Pac-Man during the era where it was the only video game most people had heard of, leading to those noises appearing in countless movies, TV series, and songs. The most famous song, by far, is “Pac-Man Fever” by Buckner & Garcia, which became a one-hit-wonder and paved the way for the whole genre of songs about video games and gaming culture.
23. The Right Man in the Wrong Place can Make All the Difference in the World.
Half-Life was one of the most influential games of all time, and everyone in 2004 was wondering if Half-Life 2 could live up to the same expectations. We got our first clue that it would when the game started with a haunting monologue from the enigmatic G-Man reminding us that we were the makers of not just our own destiny, but the destiny of the Half-Life world. Until the third game caught a terminal case of the vaporware…
24. All You Had to Do was Follow the Damn Train, CJ!
Easily the most aggravating mission in all of Grand Theft Auto history, “Wrong Side of the Tracks” stars player character CJ as he drives a motorcycle while his gangmate Big Smoke shoots enemy gangbangers from the back of a moving train. It’s a teeth-gnashing experience due to the number of moving objects and reliance on Big Smoke being a picky shooter, and the worst part is that Big Smoke shouts the now-iconic line whenever any of the many things go wrong to make you fail the mission. (Big Smoke also says the runner-up contender for most famous line, his lengthy order from Cluckin’ Bell.)
Any Pheonix Wright fan has said this out loud at least once. In a series well-known for its twist-packed courtroom dramas, the lawyers on both sides are guaranteed to be flinging this challenge around, with varying levels of success. Real-life lawyers could only dream of pulling off the sort of shenanigans Pheonix did in his career.
As the two most famous attacks in Street Fighter 2, Ryu and Ken’s iconic Hadouken and Shoryuken are almost as famous in hand-gesture form as they are verbal. The Shoryuken is both characters’ signature melee attack, and the Hadouken is the easiest move to spam and their most ready source of ranged damage, so you’re sure to hear their callouts many times during any match with either character. And with Ryu the protagonist of story mode and Ken the most popular character online, they’re gonna be in a lotta matches.
27. LEEEEEROY JENKINSSS
The only one on this list not technically a quote from the actual game, Leeroy Jenkins will forever be the most famous World of Warcraft player character to ever exist. The video showing Leeroy charging fearlessly into Blackrock Spire and inadvertently destroying his guild’s best-laid plans has been referenced everywhere from Jeopardy! to actual military publications, and he’s since been immortalized in both the WoW Trading Card Game, WoW itself, and Hearthstone. And who’s surprised? It’s hard not to love his over-the-top rise to the challenge, and equally-swift fall from grace. But speaking of charging into battle…
There are several reasons Garen is far and away the most famous character in League of Legends. For one, he’s one of the characters everyone can play for free, and his absence of a mana bar makes him an appealing choice for new players hoping to settle into LoL to learn the gameplay. But he’s also well-loved for his single-minded drive to fight for the honor of his homeworld of Demacia, a goal encapsulated in his iconic one-word battle cry.
29. War. War Never Changes.
The arc words to the Fallout series are perfect for driving home that bleak post-apocalyptic atmosphere that has gripped the new world’s order. Just hearing the phrase makes you want to grab a laser rifle and gun down some radroaches so you can loot their stuff.
30. Winner Winner Chicken Dinner
The newest edition to the worldwide gaming lexicon, PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS’ victory line has outlasted Fortnite’s similar “Victory Royale!” even after the competing title snatched up most of PUBG’s playerbase and market share. There’s just something so memorable about the silly little rhyme, especially the light implications that the players were all fighting over a singe rotisserie meal.
In fact, ‘memorable’ is the single defining qualification of every entry on this list. Like the “100 Years…100 Movie Quotes” for film and television, the gaming industry contains many evergreen references that are have stuck around for the long haul. We can only wonder which of them will continue to do so, and what new games will introduce new ones.