Pixelitis Picks: The most satisfying powerups


We play games for a number of reasons, but wouldn’t you agree that one of those is to give you the ability to assume the identity of someone with the strength of a thousand humans?

Whether we’re rapidly slicing up an enemy in the middle of a furious Limit Break, or charging up a mega-buster to unleash on an unsuspecting feeble robot, games likes to give players a very satisfying sense of attaining some sort of euphoric power or ability that produces incredibly satisfying (and often very destructive) results onscreen.

Allow us to share with you some of those pleasureful abilities.

I feel an awesome sense of empowerment when going postal with an invincibility star. (Super Mario World )

invincibilitystarI know full well that my pick is incredibly predictable, but it’s true: running train on enemies like it’s nothing with an invincibility star is pure bliss in any Mario title.

For most of Super Mario Bros. (and platformers like Sonic the Hedgehog and Kirby’s Dream Land that were inspired by it), you’re constantly trying to make sure Mario doesn’t touch an enemy the wrong way, otherwise you lose that precious powerup that you’ve been joyously using. So when the game gives you a situation where you can temporarily throw your cautionary maneuvering out the window and just utterly demolish everything that moves, you feel liberated.

Granted, I feel like the invincibility star really didn’t reach its full potential until Super Mario World, where hitting several enemies in succession would result in several consecutive 1UPs. So euphoric.

- Patrick Kulikowski


I feel an awesome sense of empowerment when going Super Sonic. (Sonic the Hedgehog series )

super_sonicOver the years, it’s been hard to justify the existence of Sonic the Hedgehog. As a die-hard Genesis supporter in my youth, this bitter truth comes at the cost of years of horrible games.

Regardless, there’s still one thing that redeems the Blue Blur in my eyes – going Super Sonic.

For the three people on the internet that know nothing about the  Sonic the Hedgehog series, Sonic is always fighting two battles: on one hand, he’s trying to stop Dr. Robotnik from enslaving his friends and taking over Moebius; on the other, he’s also trying to  take back seven Chaos Emeralds.

Usually Robotnik needs them to fuel some crazy doomsday device, but Sonic can use them to go into a nearly Super Saiyan-like state, complete with gold hair, faster movement and near invincibility.

Now, Nintendo detractors will say that this is a similar, yet harder to obtain version of Mario’s star. And they’re right. You have to go through special levels just to have a shot at each emerald. You can only get there by either beating a level or crossing a checkpoint with a certain amount of rings.

And when you finally get the chance to turn Super Sonic, you have to constantly keep an eye on his ring count, as it will deplete as he goes “Hog Wild” on everything Robotnik can throw at him.

So go ahead, fans of that portly, mustachioed plumber. Grab those invincibility handouts. I’ll take my overwhelming power with a side of accomplishment, thank you.

- Andrew Martins


I feel an awesome sense of empowerment when engaging Hyper Mode. (Super Metroid )

While powering up into a God-mode may be universally appealing, I think the most potent moments of unrestrained destruction are combined with intense emotional situations. Turning generic rage into strength is one thing, but turning something more personal into your strength is infinitely more satisfying.


For me, that moment occurred in the final scenes of Super Metroid. Samus Aran, bounty hunter extraordinaire, has seemingly beat Space Pirate boss Mother Brain yet again. Unfortunately, Mother Brain reveals her final form, a forty foot mutated monstrosity that shoots bombs from her mouth, lasers from her eyes and concussive blasts from…her armpits, I think.

With Samus about to die, the Mother Brain rears its ugly head for the deathblow, when the Metroid that saved Samus as a hatchling flies in and saves her. The faithful Metroid sacrifices its life and in doing so bestows the newly energized Samus with the Hyper Mode.

You then proceed to release holy retribution on the Mother Brain, shooting concentrated rainbow beams of pure destruction.  The relative power of this mode to the rest of the game’s weapons is astronomically different. No enemy can stand against you, and that feeling of loss due to your surrogate child dying to protect you makes you feel as if that power is limitless. That, and the music sets the emotional tone perfectly.

This moment gets me every time, and I’ve played Super Metroid literally dozens of times. That’s saying something.

- Tom Farndon


I feel an awesome sense of empowerment when I acquire double firepower. (Galaga )

GalagaGalaga is a pretty straightforward arcade shooter that doesn’t require much more strategy than planning your shots while avoiding enemy fire. There is however one tactic that makes Galaga a step deeper.

Within the Galaga army, there is one specific enemy type that will attempt to capture your ship instead of destroy it. And when that happens, your captured ship joins their army and will fight against you. This is where the fun begins.

You could treat your captured fighter as an enemy and destroy it, but in doing so, you’re also killing off one of your lives – and the chance to get twice the firepower. If you instead destroy the Galaga that originally captured your ship, you regain your ship not as an extra life, but as an extension to your existing ship.

This blew my mind when I was young. I could get twice the firepower? What’s not to love? The only drawback is that you’re now a much bigger target and not getting hit is much harder. I still find this “power for increased difficulty” tradeoff  interesting to this day and it’s unique concepts like this that make classic games…classics.

- Allain Richard


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Author: Pixelitis Staff View all posts by

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