There are a lot of things video games have strange ideas about–the human body’s jumping ability, appropriate relationships between spaceship captains and their crew–but how healing works is right up there. Sometimes video game protagonists recover from wounds by absorbing first-aid kits through osmosis, ducking down behind a low wall for 30 seconds, or being helped up off the ground by player two and healed through the power of friendship.
At other times there are items that provide healing, though they don’t necessarily make any more sense. Here are 10 doctors wouldn’t recommend.
10. BIN CHICKENS
Smash open a wall in arcade game Castlevania and you might be rewarded with the roast treat players call “wallchicken”. Streets of Rage 2 is even grosser, leaving plates of healing chicken in back-alley garbage bins in clear violation of the five-second rule. Even the heroes of BioShock games eat straight out of the trash.
What does it say about video games and the people who make them that this is an identifiable trend?
9. DOG FOOD
B.J. Blazkowicz of the Wolfenstein games is another hero who heals from bullet wounds by eating off the floor. But he’ll go further than just chicken and also eats tasty bowls of dog food.
Many countries have laws saying pet food has to be fit for human consumption but in Wolfenstein 3D when Blazkowicz has only a few percent of health left he can even lap at pools of blood on the ground.
You read that right: maggots. In the post-apocalyptic Australia of Mad Max dog food is on the menu just like it is in Wolfenstein but if a tin of pedigree Pal isn’t to your liking Max will just as happily scoop a handful of maggots right out of a corpse.
Max Payne lives up to his name by necking whole bottles of painkillers when he needs a pick-me-up. In a rare moment of realism, by the third game in the series he’s actually become addicted to them.
The survivors of the Left 4 Dead games swallow bottles of painkillers dry as well, though given they’re living through a zombie apocalypse addiction is probably the least of their worries.
6. TOILET WATER
Hundreds of years after nuclear bombs fall the Fallout games don’t leave you with a lot of options. Everything’s irradiated, so you may as well just give up and drink water out of a toilet for a health boost.
Duke Nukem doesn’t have that excuse–the alien invasion of Duke Nukem 3D has barely begun before he’s kicking toilets and slurping up the water that sprays out.
5. UNCOMFORTABLE SEX IN A CAR
From Grand Theft Auto III onwards players have been able to pick up a sex worker and then bounce around in a car for a minute while their health fills up and their money goes away.
You can even get over 100 percent health this way, the post-coital glow apparently making you slightly more bulletproof.
For all I know rats are delicious and it’s pure prejudice keeping me from eating them on a skewer like they do in the city of Dunwall from Dishonored. However, since Dunwall is undergoing a rat plague at the time of the game with symptoms like “becoming a zombie” maybe it’s best to steer clear of rat on a stick for the moment.
Even though it was about one-tenth opium, up until the early 20th century laudanum could be bought over the counter to ease diarrhoea or menstrual cramps or just if you had a nasty cough. It was even given to infants.
It’s appropriate to the old-timey setting of horror game Amnesia: The Dark Descent to use medicinal laudanum, though it does make you wonder if the monsters are real or just opium hallucinations.
In the Legend of Zelda games you can heal by “absorbing” fairies, which sounds like a euphemism for eating them. If you’re not hurt when you find a fairy you can always trap it in a bottle for later. They do not look like they enjoy being squeezed in those bottles.
In Dark Souls you’re an undead abomination only kept going by heat which you recharge at bonfires. When you need a top-up on the go you chug from a magical ‘estus flask’ filled up at those same bonfires. You’re straight-up drinking fire.
Meanwhile, in the spin-off Bloodborne healing comes via blood vials that are implied to be harvested from menstruating women who have the blood of an alien god injected into them, so it could be worse.
Jody Macgregor lives in Melbourne, Australia. He writes about games for PC Gamer, ZAM, and Rock Paper Shotgun, and writes about music for The Big Issue, FasterLouder, and inthemix. He’s on Twitter at @jodymacgregor.