Welcome once again to everyone’s favorite time of year…Listmas! As devoted followers, you, no doubt, already know that we’ve kicking off our favorite blogging holiday celebration with a particularly interesting topic on a game element that’s easy to overlook: idle animations. That’s to say, the things your character or characters do when you put down the controller for an extended period of time while the game is still playing. Not all games feature main character idle animations, but, as Hatm0nster and The Duck have already explored, lots certainly do! Sometimes these animations add little extra bits of personality to characters you already know and love, and sometimes, they simply mimic the state of a character in its world. And sometimes still, they uncover big surprises! (Though, it’s no wonder Mario would only want to take naps, considering he’s always on his feet!) With so many fun animations from which to choose across the history of gaming, picking a few highlights was no easy task. But I think I managed okay. Without further rambling, here’s my Listmas list of five memorable and favorite idle animations in video games.
5. Nathan Drake gazes in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
It’s one thing to make a character obviously reactive and silly when gameplay goes idle – there’s nothing wrong with that as my list will show! – but it’s another when idling proves simple and subtle, as the case with Nathan Drake’s idle animations in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Quiet moments in the game usually occur right before a bit of puzzling or a firefight, and there’s something mildly impatient and strangely entertaining in Drake’s movement as the camera pans around. He’s just a little bit fidgety as he looks around, as if he’s itching to move forward. It’s an effective way to show that Drake can’t stand still until his mission is complete, even if it looks like he’s standing still. His idle movements are also environmentally-sensitive, so he may shiver in the cold, react to bright sunshine, or shake off water if he’s just finished a swimming session.
Video from YouTube user JoPe – TuYaTroJoueY
4. Companions are constant in Neverwinter
One of the things I continue to enjoy about Neverwinter is it’s active, moving world. Even when you’re just standing the main hub people-watching, the world feels grand and alive. And part of that is thanks to its many different companions and their idle animations. When you put the controller down, while your primary wizard, barbarian, or ranger remains as solid as a statue, your companion (and maybe a pet) are just as active as ever, whether they’re flexing their muscles, playing their musical instruments, running around in circles, or just being the animals that they sometimes are. Oh yes, there’s some high entertainment to be had while doing nothing in Neverwinter!
Video from YouTube user Dorkadia Press
3. That earthworm in a spacesuit in Earthworm Jim
While I can’t say with certainty, my brain says that Earthworm Jim, which I played on the SNES, might have been the first time I became aware of idle animations in game, particularly because Jim’s were so apparently hilarious. From jumping rope with…himself, to taking an accidental laser blast to the face, these little, funny moments all showed Earthworm Jim at his dopey, heroic self.
Video from YouTube user ShiryuGL
2. Just hangin’ around in Red Dead Redemption II
Going back to beautifully understated idling, I’d be remiss in not including Red Dead Redemption II, one of the downright prettiest games in existence. As Arthur Morgan stands, waiting patiently for that “hand in the sky” to make the next move, he does so with a quiet cowboy-like grace that just a tad on the twitchy side, as he doesn’t like to be kept waiting (even if he feels like he may have nothing else better to do). But I have to admit that the world around a still-ish Arthur is even more fascinating, whether he’s standing in the middle of a wind-swept field or forest, or relaxing in a local saloon. These moments provide wonderful flashes of juxtaposition between Arthur’s perceived stoicism and the non-stop world around him.
Video from YouTube user STARGAZER
1. Conker can’t sit still in Conker’s Bad Fur Day
If my list here has a clear winner, for me it’s Conker the squirrel’s bored, idling antics in Conker’s Bad Fur Day. It makes perfect sense for Conker, when he’s not busy, to have plenty of things hiding in his pockets, such as drinks and yo-yos and…ahem…inappropriate magazines. As well, why wouldn’t he, the loveable curmudgeonly rodent that he is, also become occasionally annoyed and impatient, throwing irritated glances directly at the player (you just really had to get that snack, didn’t you?), as well as the occasional choice phrase? There is a lot to love and throw sideways glances at in Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and watching Conker both play and stew in moments of down time is deserving of both.
Video from YouTube user Master0fHyrule
Lede image taken by author of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End™ © Naughty Dog, Sony Computer Entertainment (2016)