Even video game characters need that extra push sometimes, and that's where power-ups come in. Since the dawn of gaming, our favorite mascots have been ingesting weird substances in the name of defeating evil. Whether it’s munching on mushrooms or imprisoning small, winged humans in bottles, our heroes do what it takes to get the job done, even if they need some performance-enhancers.
We've gathered the ten best power-ups in video games. Some of them were chosen because of how quickly they can flip the script and turn the tide of battle, and some were chosen because of their lasting star power. All of them are iconic items that have gone down in the annals of video gaming history as some of the most famous and beloved to ever grace a screen.
The Power Pellet is the OG video gaming power-up, and it remains one of the most powerful. When you're playing Pac-Man you're at the mercy of the ghosts, but one chomp of a Power Pellet frightens the ghost pack so much they turn blue and run from Pac-Man as quickly as possible.
As if that wasn't helpful enough, the power-up turns Pac-Man into a straight up monster. Catch a ghost, and our friendly yellow puck devours them and spits their eyes out. Fortunately, they can return to the center of the screen and re-apparate, but it has to be an unpleasant experience.
Few power-ups turn the tables like the Power Pellet does in Pac-Man. Over the years this iconic item has stuck around in new Pac-Man games. It has gone under some different names, but its purpose has always been to infuse Pac-Man with ghost-clobering juice. It might not be the most complex power-up, but it has stuck around in the public conscious, and that's a testament to Pac-Man's design.
Who would have thought rolling into a ball could be so useful? While Super Mario was getting ten-feet tall in Super Mario Bros., Samus was getting small with the Morph Ball power-up in Metroid. Exactly how the Morph Ball works has never been explained. Whether it's high tech magic or that Samus is a contortionist, the Morph Ball is one of the most useful abilities you get in the Metroid games, and is a prerequisite for other power-ups you get later on.
Another inexplicable factor with the Morph Ball power-up is that Samus can poop out an unlimited number of little bombs while she's rolled up. These tiny explosives have infinite utility and in Metroid Prime you even find a data entry that tells about Space Pirate interest in the Morph Ball. Unfortunately, for them all the test subjects had their body's twisted and broken after trying to copy Samus's suit technology. Luckily this means all the perfectly Morph Ball shaped holes throughout the galaxy will remain impervious to all but Samus Aran.
Fairies have been an item in Zelda since the original. They were a pretty sweet find even then, restoring all your hearts whenever you touched them.
It wasn't until A Link to the Past, though, that fairies went from a convenient find to a must-have power-up. In nearly every Zelda game since then, you can catch a fairy in a bottle, and upon death, they'll bring Link back from the dead.
The weirdest thing about this whole thing is just how cool other fairies seem to be with it. Navi never says a single thing about Link chucking one of her people in an empty milk bottle and throwing it in his pocket until someone beats him so hard the cork pops out and liberates the fairy. The whole process gets even stranger in The Wind Waker where the fairies aren't just little floaty lights, but tiny people. This power-up gives Link the ability to defy death, but at what cost?
When you were a kid, did you want to grow up to be a flying raccoon/human hybrid? If you were an adolescent in the 1990s the answer is probably "yes." Super Mario Bros. 3 introduced Mario's first flying form, which also may be the transformation that makes the least sense in the entire series.
Upon ingesting a Super Leaf, Mario sprouts a tail and ears to become Raccoon Mario. Raccoon Mario can whip enemies and blocks with his tail, but, most importantly, he can fly. With a short run, Mario can leap and waggle his tail to take off. This power-up allows you to entirely skip some levels, find secrets in others, and generally makes the game easier.
A related transformation in SMB3 is the Tanooki Suit. It gives all the powers that a Super Leaf does and also allows Mario to turn into a statue. We chose the Super Leaf over the Tanooki Suit because of the latter's rarity, and the fact that turning into a statue is lame.
Sonic has got to go fast, and most of the time he accomplishes this task admirably. However, there are times when even the Blue Blur has a greater need for speed. Fortunately, scattered throughout the various Sonic games, you can find the Power Sneakers, shoes that give its wearer faster movement.
There are some disadvantages to the Power Sneakers, though, that can make them a bit tough to wear. When your character has these on their feet, they get harder to control. Their movement becomes a bit slippery, so to use these sneakers most effectively you've got to anticipate obstacles to avoid them properly.
In recent years some Sonic games have been absent of these awesome shoes, but they've been making a comeback lately. Both the recently released Sonic Forces and Sonic Mania (and Sonic Mania Plus) have featured this classic power-up doing what it does best: giving Sonic and pals the boost they need to defeat Eggman.
Although this item is actually called the Spiny Shell, everyone knows it from the color that flashes in your screen before it slams you into last place. The Blue Shell is the bane of all Mario Kart racers and is the one threat that can keep you sweating even if you have a considerable lead. It made its debut in Mario Kart 64 where it was absolutely unstoppable in its goal to take out whoever was in first place.
In Super Mario 64, the Blue Shell would plow through anything on the ground, take to the air, or even reverse course to annihilate the leader of a race. Since then it has been toned down a lot. As of Mario Kart 8, it will only travel a set distance before detonating, and there's even an item that provides defense against it. Even with those nerfs, though, it's still the most potent power-up in Mario Kart by far and has the power to turn a race order on its head.
Aku Aku is a sentient Tiki mask, who just happens to be one of Crash Bandicoot's greatest allies. At one point long ago, Aku Aku was a living being, but he reincarnated into his mask upon death. There was a whole race like him at one point, but the only other one we get to meet is Uka Uka, his brother, who happens to be evil. It seems like family can be tough, even if you're a Tiki mask.
Besides being a mentor and all-around swell guy in the Crash Bandicoot series, Aku Aku lends Crash his power when you free him from crates scattered around a level. Break two crates, and you get another hit point. Break three and he’ll will give you temporary invincibility.
Aku Aku also has other powers. Hovering is an obvious one, which is a feat in itself since all the masks I've seen can't hover or talk. He can also teleport across long distances and has been seen traveling into space and other dimensions.
Training Pokémon takes hard work, dedication, planning, and attention to detail. To get your Pokéfriends to level 100 takes hundreds of battles, and it's a tall order to get a whole team of six there. Fortunately, Pokémon can level up another way as well. By eating a Rare Candy, your pocket monster can increase their level by one.
I'm not sure what Rare Candy tastes like. I know it's rare (obviously), but it must be some good stuff to inspire Pokémon to level up instantaneously. The art for it kinda looks like those chocolate truffles and those are awesome, so I imagine it's something like that. Sometimes when I eat those, I feel like I'm leveling up, but I digress.
Despite their intended rarity, many a Pokémon Red or Blue trainer spent time fighting MissingNo. to duplicate Rare Candy. In fact, since the glitch even works on the 3DS ports, so you can trade that level 100 Blastoise all the way up to Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon now.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time introduced masks to the series for the first time. There was a whole sidequest involving trading masks all around Hyrule for the Happy Mask Salesman. For the most part, they didn't do a whole lot. This changed in the sequel, Majora's Mask, which predictably had a lot to do with masks.
Majora's Mask contains 24 masks, all of which have unique and unusual powers. You can use the Blast Mask to attach a bomb to your face for example. The most useful, though, are the ones that grant transformations to Link. The Zora Mask, Goron Mask, Deku Mask, Giant's Mask, and Fierce Deity Mask all allow Link to turn into different, more powerful forms. Of particular use is the Fierce Deity Mask. It can only be used in boss battles, but the abilities it bestows on Link allow him to savage Majora and makes the final boss battle a cinch.
Have you ever just went straight Digimon on someone? Well, Pokémon did in 2013 with the release of Pokémon X/Y. A feature introduced in those games was Mega Digivolv... I mean Mega Evolution. You can now equip your Pokémon with special Mega Stones, slap a bracelet on your trainer, and in the heat of battle, you can have them get mega.
Unfortunately, when you Mega Evolve a Pokémon, it doesn't get a sweet new name like Angewomon. Instead, it's just Mega (insert name here). The catch with Mega Evolution is that even though it increases some of your Pokémon’s stats, it may lower others, which can really switch up how effective they are in battle. Mega Evolving can also change a Pokémon’s type. This power-up is a double-edged sword sometimes, but for the most part, it's just like getting a sweet extra evolution that isn't permanent.