The Head-Scratching Way Your Character Could Die In King's Quest

Gwydion, a young man composed entirely of blocky pixels, moves up the equally-pixelated representation of stairs, until he bumps into a black bob. A sound effect plays, and a message informs you that you have tripped over a cat ... and thus, fallen to your death. 

Perhaps the best way to summarize this feeling of this, as one YouTube commentator wrote a decade ago, is: "Wow. That has to be the worst way to die I've ever seen in an adventure game." And for sure, it is pretty lame. Despite this, King's Quest III: To Heir is Human — the game this death happens in — was listed by Time as the fiftieth best video game ever. 

Chalk it up to the fact that King's Quest basically created the genre of adventure games. Besides that, the series was known for these kind of deaths. Many reactions to King's Quest, looking back, ring similarly to John Walker's spiel in Rock Paper Shotgun: "It repeatedly kills you for ludicrously unfair or unpredictable reasons. It's monstrously wordy where it has nothing to say. And most of all, it allows you to play on and on and on (and on), into impossible scenarios. It even lets you reach the end of the game, before you discover it's impossible to continue because of some object you didn't pick up five hours previously." Every death is just as obtuse as tripping over the cat and each comes with some snide description. It's part of the fun.

How painfully difficult arcade games led to lame King's Quest deaths

Of course, most games from that era of gaming were quite difficult. As How To Geek covers, one reason for this includes the limits in both hardware and software. Controllers, for instance, were not as nimble as they are today, meaning even the most basic platform challenge could break you. There was, however, a purposeful reason behind the difficulty, as well: arcades. While adventure games like King's Quest were made for computers, many of the developers of such games had either learned to code by making arcade games beforehand, or had developed their passion by playing such games — on machines that thrive on their players' consistent failure. These programmers brought their "hard is good" preference with them when they transitioned to home games.

Hence, Gwydion dies when tripping over a cat. As Ben Croshaw wrote, in his description of King's Quest II for Escapist Magazine, "Serves you right for employing normal people's logic." That said, you cannot deny that the King's Quest series, silly deaths and all, is beloved. Some, like PC Gamer's Wes Fenlon, find modern gaming's ease a disappointment. Others, like Stuart Gipp of Retronauts, argues that while the old King's Quest games really aren't very fun, the type of losing that such games introduce is more fun and memorable than games in which you don't worry about failing in ridiculous ways. 

He's got a point. After all, we're still talking about that smarmy cat.