Food has always been an important aspect of video games, Pacman eats his power pills, the Super Mario Bros movie confirmed that Mario does (although reluctantly) eat the power-up mushrooms, and there’s plenty more characters that either consume or collect food based items. Even Sonic has chili dogs, though they never feature as a power up in the games.
With food being a good way to explain how characters recover their health, some games have decided to further explore this and incorporate food and cooking into their game mechanics.
For fun, and for the food lovers and chefs amongst the gamers, let’s look at some notable examples of food-based mechanics in gaming. Have you played each of these?
Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Perhaps the most substantial use of cooking in recent games is found in the modern Zelda titles. Both 2017’s Breath of the Wild and 2023’s Tears of the Kingdom feature a heavy emphasis on cooking to survive.
The games allow you to experiment with recipes, with different meals having different effects. Whether it’s restoring health, stamina, temporarily boosting stats like attack, defence, and speed, or making meals that help you resist harsh environments such as hot deserts and cold mountains. The mechanic is fairly deep, but relatively simple once you know what you’re doing.
All you need is some ingredients, a cooking pot and some fire. And if you’re trying to cook on a cold mountain, don’t worry, the cooking pot also acts as an outdoor fire heater in cold conditions. Handy!
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Metal Gear Solid 3 is quite similar to Breath of the Wild in a way; they’re both about survival. Like Zelda, you’ll have to adapt to your environment, avoid a few deadly creatures, and eat food including, as the title suggests, snakes. Not only that, but the theme tune also mentions feasting on tree frogs too. Additionally, some of these animals will bite back, as you’ll be swimming with the likes of crocodiles. You can camouflage yourself using the croc cap to prevent a potential biting though.
There’s more to this game than just eating things at random. Some of these animals and plants that you can eat are poisonous, or just not very tasty (according to Big Boss). So in tandem with the game’s hunger mechanic, as well as its mechanic for curing poisons, burns, and other ailments, you’re going to have to experiment to find what works.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
It seems as though the PS2 era was a popular time to start incorporating eating mechanics in its games, as joining the PS2’s Metal Gear Solid 3 is GTA: San Andreas, also originally on PS2. This entry into the GTA series introduced a hunger mechanic, which required you to eat regularly to maintain health and stamina, and prevent wasting away.
Not only that but you could also overeat, affecting your character CJ’s weight and appearance. This worked in combination with the ability to go to the gym and date girls in the game.
CJ could be underweight, overweight, or muscular, and this would result in different advantages and disadvantages, as well as affect which girls would want to date you (some wanted big boys, some didn’t).
CJ’s voice and certain lines he spoke would also vary, showing just how much detail Rockstar has been putting into their games for the last 20 years. With Red Dead Redemption 2 introducing a hair and beard growth mechanic, rumours are rife with what the next innovation GTA 6 will include, some even speculate that your character (or characters) will need to go to the toilet! Fun?
Final Fantasy XV
Most entries into the Final Fantasy series feel pretty epic, and Final Fantasy XV is no exception. Complementing its open world is the ability to camp and cook, as your four main characters drive around hunting monsters and completing quests, they’ll need to stop and rest every once in a while.
Ignis, one of the members of your party, takes up the role of the group’s chef. Using him, you can prepare meals at campfires using ingredients you have gathered in the game world. These meals can offer temporary stat boosts and enhance the party’s abilities, making certain challenges easier.
There are lots of meals to eat, and they’re detailed pretty realistically for a game that came out in 2016, especially when you consider everything else that has to be rendered in the huge world.
What’s Your Favourite?
There are a lot more games out there that involve eating or cooking in some form, what’s your favourite? Perhaps someone like Ignis or Link has inspired you to try out cooking in real life and experiment with ingredients like you do in the games? Whilst in reality it probably won’t help you fight monsters, it’s definitely a hobby worth trying.