Imagine this: you’re a kid, sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of your TV, controller in front of you, Sonic the Hedgehog in your Sega Genesis. You set the controller down for a moment, leaving Sonic to his own devices as you pause to grab a blanket, and when you turn back to the TV, you’re greeted by this:
Impatient little bugger, isn’t he?
Some of the most often overlooked and well-hidden gems in gaming are those of idle animations, or the actions a character goes through when you’ve set the controller down for a moment without hitting pause. Surprisingly, idle animations can give some valuable insight into the character and provide clues about them and their personality. But they’re only for those who are willing to go looking for them.
Since it’s kind of a lost art, I’ve decide to go back and celebrate some of the most memorable idle animations from gaming’s history.
Earthworm Jim is already a pretty eccentric character, so it’s no surprise that his idle animations convey that well. During his wait periods, he’ll do everything from twirl his gun to use his worm body as a jump rope. Weird? Yes. Awesome? Double yes.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Leave Conker alone for a while, and he’ll break out a GameBoy and start playing another classic from developer Rare: Killer Instinct.
Anyone who played this game will remember the idle animation that took place whenever Gordon held a Snark. It would look around, Gordon would point at it, and the creature lunged for his finger. It was an odd tongue-in-cheek moment for game that took itself so seriously.
Banjo Kazooie 64
During the wait times in Banjo Kazooie, Kazooie will pop out of Banjo’s backpack and peck him on the head a few times before slipping back in and giggling. Sure, it’s not the funniest thing ever, but ten-year-old me loved it back in the day.
Duke Nukem 3D
Being that he’s a character built on being tongue-in-cheek, Duke Nukem had one standout idle animation that left him chiding the player for making him wait. Leave Duke on his own, and he’d crack his knuckles and ask you what was taking so long.
While he was wont to read a book, the most notable idle animation of Commander Keen IV is the easter egg where Keen actually mooned the player in a certain level. We all know mooning jokes age well, and what was funny then is still pretty dang good now.
While they might not be quite as quirky or weird as the others on this list, Metro 2033′s idle animations were actually really well done. They coveyed a sense of weight to the weapons and reflected a realistic attitude to the player character himself. Plus, there were unique idle animations for every weapon in the game. Check them out below:
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Sonic on this list, being that his is one of the most infamous of idle animations. In Generations, not only did he use the tapping foot of old, but he also laid down, scratched his head, and generally conveyed his boredom to the player making him wait.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
While they’re fairly generic idle animations, the sheer number of different things Link would do when you kept him waiting was impressive. On top of that, they served to convey Link’s mood or displayed his reactions to certain environments.
For a great montage of classic idle animations, check out this video below. And share whatever I might have missed in the comments!