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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

What game has the best explosions?

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Find all previous editions of the PCG Q&A here. Some highlights:
What game would you put in a time capsule for future generations?
What’s the last game that felt truly next-gen to you?
What’s your dream Star Wars game?

A misspent childhood nuking all of the lemmings in Lemmings will give you a taste for videogame explosions that can last a lifetime, and before you know it you’re watching compilations of nukes going off in Garry’s Mod. Or maybe you prefer the big booms of oil barrels in Divinity: Original Sin, or the way basically everything can explode in Avalanche Studios’ games. Maybe you’re so jaded that only seeing a whole dang star go nova again and again in Outer Wilds can do it for you now.

What game has the best explosions?

Here are our answers, plus a few from our forum.

Christopher Livingston: There are bigger things to blow up than cars in games: airplanes, buildings, spaceships, towns, entire planets. But when I think about things blowing up in a satisfying way, I think of cars, and cars blow up real good in Mad Max. It helps that the environments are typically dusty, arid, and brown, which makes the orange gouts of flame feel more shocking and vibrant (same as in Fury Road). But I think Mad Max’s exploding cars would look great in any game. Boom. The car flips, a couple tires go rocketing off, and there’s the beautiful ball of crimson flame. So rewarding after a long chase.

Natalie Clayton: Hardspace Shipbreakers. Hardspace’s slow, deliberate spaceship deconstruction demands patience. But we all get a little sloppy from time to time—and in space, that’s when things start to go boom. At best, a misfired cutting beam sets off a coolant tank you didn’t see just behind that bulkhead. At worst, it’s a solid minute of agonising tension as the reactor goes critical, plasma arcing against the outer hull as you struggle to inch the core out of its casing before it bursts with a muffled, distressing “pop”. Every time something explodes, it comes with the shame of knowing it was entirely preventable, leaving you floating helplessly in a debris cloud of your own making.

Morgan Park: Most of Hardspace: Shipbreaker’s explosions could be more accurately classified as “decompression events,” but the results speak for themselves. The way the game simulates the immense pressure by crumbling steel into tiny bits is truly impressive (and a massive resource hog), as is the hauntingly still aftermath. The minced exterior of a battered ship feels like an explosion frozen in time. 

For more literal kabooms, you can recklessly toss around a ship’s nuclear reactor until it erupts. You won’t see much beyond death up close, but from afar, watching it swallow up the guts of a vessel is something else. Shipbreaker definitely takes the cake for explosions that aren’t visually all that violent, yet are utterly terrifying to be around.

Andy Kelly: DEFCON. A bit of a weird choice here, but I’ve always found the nuclear explosions in this WarGames-inspired RTS incredibly chilling. All it is, really, is a white circle. It flashes, then fades away. But when the entire world is covered in these circles slowly appearing and disappearing, with massive death tolls flashing up on the screen, it’s absolutely harrowing. 

These are great explosions because of what they DON’T show you. Safe in your bunker, all you see is a cold digital readout of each nuke that hits its target. But you can just imagine the horror on the ground, with people witnessing the planet’s last gasp as it’s obliterated by nuclear fire. What a cheery game.

Jody Macgregor: A planet blows up during the prologue of Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2, which is a very “begin as you mean to go on” moment. The scale of the Warhammer 40,000 universe is perfect for games where you’ll see a lot of things go boom, especially spaceships crewed by millions of people. When its ships explode they transform into orange balls, spiking shrapnel in all directions, while their voiding hulls make a sound like sad whales. Which is great.

From our forum

DXCHASE: The Just Cause series. Really enjoyable to blow up everything in different fashions while flying through the air looking at my work unfolding.

Frindis: Oh, explosions you say. Well, there can be only one and that is Worms Armageddon! It just got every explosion you could ever want. Everything from a simple airstrike to the beloved holy hand grenade, super sheep, and straight up to the Big Bada Boom , the armageddon which is basically humongous asteroids falling from the sky and obliterating anything not dug deep enough. It got more explosions than all the explosions in all the games combined..and then some!

badman: Graviton gun, Satellite rain, Nuclear grenade, launcher. No need to say more.

Pifanjr: For some reason Minecraft was the first game to come to mind, because of the good memories of hiding a bunch of TNT beneath someone’s house that triggered with a pressure plate as soon as they stepped inside.

Greyfoxcal: The explosion of a ship cracking in half in Shogun Total War 2 Fall of the Samurai is a sight to behold!

Scaramouche: A good explosion should give a sense of satisfaction, that is probably explained best by Sigmund Freud. To me the greatest explosions follow a precision shot on a fuel tank. I know Just Cause is famous for them, but I’d say Mad Max (2015) had the best. That whole world was just crawling with things ready to explode.

drunkpunk: Time to let my fanboy shine and say Divinity Original Sin 2. Stacking oil barrels and sending a spark to let the explosions fly is a time consuming endeavor but a worthwhile one. Watching how far you can let that fire explode is pretty amusing.

GTA 5 can also be pretty satisfying, just jump on a highway and commence with the mayhem and you can get some nice chain reactions going.

Krud: They aren’t the “best” explosions by any stretch, as there’s no fireball, but some of my favorite explosions have been in Age of Empires 2 & 3. There’s just something satisfying about seeing your Bombard Cannon or Cannon Galleon fire a solitary cannonball and then watch as a few seconds later an enemy barracks explodes and collapses into a hundred little bits of wood and brick.

McStabStab: Mad Max and Just Cause have the best explosions. I think a deeper requirement than the explosion looking cool is how good it sounds. The sound designers are the ones who make you FEEL it.

Zloth: The best explosions for their time would be in the arcade Missile Command game. Not only were they great looking (compared to Space Invaders or Asteroids), missiles destroyed in the explosion also exploded, causing chain reactions! For today, the Just Cause series.

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