It’s impossible to talk about video games in 2020 without mentioning PUBG, Rocket League and Fortnite. These online multiplayer games have revolutionized the industry, the sheer scope and complexity of which are a far cry from the offline couch co-op battles of yesteryear. But die-hard fans of Twisted Metal argue that we would have never gotten here without the once-great Sony franchise, and they demand some respect be put on Sweet Tooth’s name.
“As far as I’m concerned, Twisted Metal is the grandfather of battle royale games [multiplayer games where everyone fights to be the last man standing], even though it was never exactly that,” Matt, a 38-year-old in Minnesota, tells me. Nonetheless, it was one of the first multiplayer games to “really nail the quick-twitch action, bright colors and cartoonish violence,” he explains, “leaving everyone with a pool of mayhem after all the characters tried to be the last man standing.”
Sabrina, a 28-year-old in Uruguay, is a diehard Twisted Metal fan who just finished a series of walkthroughs on her YouTube channel, Sabrina the Archvile. “Let’s be honest, the game has always been a battle royale of its own,” she says. “Those deathmatches were originally called ‘free for all,’ where you and your friends would just battle one another until there was only one person standing.”
As a “run-and-gun style of gamer,” Matt says Twisted Metal was satisfying “in a way that no other game has been before or since.” “Being able to fire a power missile at a car that was low on health, see the shell of the car launch into the air as it explodes with a scream, driving right through its wreckage and doing a 180 power slide into a health pickup? No game offers that kind of satisfaction today,” he continues. “I miss it.”
More than the battle royale genre itself, though, Twisted Metal fans believe their favorite franchise was among the first to add a certain spice to the multiplayer mode. “There’s just something about Twisted Metal that made it unique, y’know?” says Sabrina, who was around seven when she first started playing it. “The game nailed every single thing about sandbox battles and made the genre what it is today — from the phenomenal, wide-ranging art and graphics, to the music, to the easy-to-learn controls, to the memorable ‘man-behind-the-contest’ Calypso. And the violence! Holy shit! Everything about it was just perfect.”
As such, she adds, “My dad had to drag me away from the console because I was playing it nonstop. I also remember being so obsessed with the game that I used to draw Sweet Tooth, Shadow and Dark Tooth on my notebooks at school.”
Moreover, Matt says, “The lore in Twisted Metal combined with the graphic-novel style artwork gave the entire Twisted Metal universe a surreal, nightmarish vibe with just the right amount of twisted humor. All the characters with their cars and their interesting, unique endings gave the game an unusually awesome replay value, too. I felt like every level, map and boss was fleshed out really well despite the limits of the technology of that time.”
Of course, to younger gamers this might all sound like a bunch of old gamers yelling from the porch. So what, exactly, do Twisted Metal fans hope to accomplish with their own personal battle royale?
“Twisted Metal absolutely should make a comeback,” says Matt. “It’s the grandfather of a very popular style of gaming right now, so I think kids will play it. All they need to do is nail the things that made it successful in the first place while also adding the online deathmatch and battle royale features.”
But while Sabrina isn’t sure if the franchise lends itself to the massive online multiplayer gameplay like Fortnite — “They already tried a multiplayer-focused game with Twisted Metal X and it failed monumentally,” she explains — she also thinks a new generation is starting to sense what it might have missed out on. “I have spoken to some zoomers who really dig what Twisted Metal is all about.”
After all, if past is prologue, they’re only able to fight each other to the death online because of it.