What is a meme? Usually, it’s an activity, concept, catchphrase, or even a piece of media that spreads virally from person-to-person across the internet. While memes can be as simple as a word or phrase, many are associated with an image or video.
Memes can reference anything: books, movies, television shows, public figures, the news, and more are fair game. But gaming memes will always live on in the hearts of gamers. While you’re probably familiar with the most popular gaming memes, have you ever wondered about their origins?
Everything great on the internet has to start somewhere, so we’re going to dive in to some of the most timeless gaming memes and where they came from.
1. It’s Dangerous to Go Alone
Origin: The Legend of Zelda (1987)
In the original The Legend of Zelda, players encountered an unnamed old man who gives Link a sword to help him on his quest to defeat the evil Ganon and rescue Princess Zelda. As the old man gives the player the sword, he says “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.”
This famous quote has spawned a meme. The original meme image features a meowing kitten in a hand, but this can easily be swapped out for many other variations via Photoshop.
I mean, the internet is a dangerous place, after all. Be sure to arm yourself with something useful, like our definitive guide to every game in The Legend of Zelda series.
2. The Cake Is a Lie
Origin: Portal (2007)
There’s no doubt that you’ve heard the infamous “the cake is a lie” line from Portal. This is a classic reference to the cake that GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System) promises you at the end of the testing in Aperture Labs.
Players are told in the beginning of Portal that the reward for doing all the dangerous lab tests is cake. But early in the game, there is a hidden graffiti message on one of the walls, probably left by a previous test subject. It has the message “the cake is a lie” scrawled several times, and serves as a warning to Chell, the current test subject. Thus, the player realizes that no cake awaits you at the end, just death.
The meme can serve as a warning to something that seems too good to be true.
3. Finish Him!!
Origin: Mortal Kombat (1992)
In a heated debate between two strangers on the internet or even a match in a fighting game, it can be pretty clear when one side is going to win. When this time comes, you may think of the famous “finish him!!” line from Mortal Kombat.
This simple yet effective line started in Mortal Kombat as a basic announcer line. When it’s apparent that losing is imminent for one character, the announcer says “Finish him!!” and pushes the winning player to perform a brutal fatality or finishing move to decimate the opponent.
Nothing feels better than watching a devastating blow, after all. And don’t forget to check out our ultimate Mortal Kombat guide.
4. I Herd U Liek Mudkips
Origin: Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire (2003)
Mudkip is a Water-type Pokémon that was introduced as a starter in Pokémon Generation III, and it captured the hearts of many from the get-go. But that’s not how “Herd U Liek Mudkips” started, surprisingly.
This popular phrase got its start from DeviantArt, where a group of Mudkip fans created their own club, appropriately named the Mudkip Club. When members of this club sent invites for others to join, they would post messages on user’s walls saying “so I herd u liek mudkips.”
The misspelling of words in the phrase made it cute and irresistible (or annoying, depending on your perspective), boosting Mudkip’s rise into fame. After all, how can you not like this adorable mud fish?
For more Pokémon, make sure to give our mobile emulation guide a look.
Origin: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (2005)
Ace Attorney is a popular visual novel franchise from Capcom. In it, the player takes on the role of various defense attorneys, namely Phoenix Wright. The point of the game is to investigate cases and defend your client in court, but like real trials, the truth can be hard to decipher from lies.
The entire franchise is packed with incredible one-liners and tons of puns, but nothing is more classic than “Objection!” In game, both lawyer and prosecutor shout it when they need to interject into the current proceedings. Outside the game, this single simple yet effective word is used to troll others online. It even has its own fair share of cosplayers who shout the phrase and showcase the famous accusatory finger.
Fortunately, we have no objections to this objection, Your Honor.
6. You Have Died of Dysentery
Origin: The Oregon Trail (1971)
Many of us played The Oregon Trail back in elementary school. I have fond memories of the weekly class trip to the computer lab just so I could hop on one of those Apple II’s and play The Oregon Trail for the entire hour.
I mean, nothing could beat hopping into that virtual wagon with your digital family to embark on a journey across the country in 1848. While it was an educational game, it was also fun being able to make strategic decisions, hunting animals for meat to survive, and spending resources wisely.
The trek is treacherous and full of dangers, but it was always a painful (and rather embarrassing) defeat when your entire party died from dysentery.
7. Leeroy Jenkins
Origin: World of Warcraft (2004)
Whenever pull off an incredibly stupid move in a video game, the infamous “LEEROY JENKINS!” battle cry comes to mind. Leeroy Jenkins is a household name in the World of Warcraft ethos (get started with our newbie’s guide), thanks to an incredibly hilarious incident in the game.
Ben Schulz, who created the player character Leeroy Jenkins, was in a raid group with guild mates. He was “away from keyboard” (AFK) from the computer for some time as he prepared food to eat, and as he was away, guild mates were devising a battle plan for a tough raid.
However, when Leeroy returned, he had no idea of the strategy his guild mates came up with, which was designed to help him out. He shouts “LEEROY JENKINS!” as a form of battle cry into the guild chat, and then rushes into battle, leaving everyone behind. This resulted in the rest of the guild members running in, and the actions of Leeroy ended up wiping out the entire party.
Next time you plan on doing something dumb in a serious battle with your team, don’t forget to do the legendary battle shout: “LEEROY JENKINS!”
8. Our Princess Is in Another Castle
Origin: Super Mario Bros. (1985)
The classic Super Mario Bros. is a quintessential game that defines the platforming genre. You play as Mario as he embarks on a journey to save his precious Princess Peach from the nefarious Bowser. It’s one of the most cliché video game tropes, but one that we all grew up with.
But that joy of taking down Bowser in World 1-4 gets replaced by the haunting message from Toad: “Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!” Turns out that wasn’t Bowser, but a clone, and Princess Peach is still in Bowser’s grasp somewhere in another castle.
The quote comes off rather sarcastically, which is why it’s so popular. It’s commonly used online to mock and discourage people who have posted in the wrong place.
But use this meme sparingly. After all, we don’t need more jerks in the world. And if you’re craving more Mario games, we have some free fan-made ones you should check out.
9. Do a Barrel Roll
Origin: Star Fox 64 (1997)
While you’re in the epic space battles of Star Fox 64, you have Peppy Hare barking orders at you constantly. I mean, he’s just looking out for you, Fox McCloud!
One of those commands is “do a barrel roll!” For those who don’t know, a barrel roll is a 360-degree spin that serves as an evasive maneuver while flying a ship. Peppy Hare regularly tells you to perform a barrel roll as you approach laser-firing turrets. This may or may not be the best thing you can do to avoid getting shot down, depending on your skill level.
Ever since Star Fox 64, “Do a barrel roll!” has become a favorite everywhere. When you’re in a sticky situation, remember: just do a barrel roll, even if it’s not the best solution. Make Peppy Hare proud.
10. Can’t Let You Do That, Star Fox
Origin: Star Fox 64 (1997)
Here’s another golden nugget from the Star Fox franchise. This one also comes from the venerated Star Fox 64, and involves Fox McCloud’s rival, Wolf O’Donnell of the Star Wolf team.
The specific line of “can’t let you do that, Star Fox!” comes from the Fortuna level in Star Fox 64. In this stage, players must disarm a bomb, but Star Wolf steps in to make sure that doesn’t happen.
As a result of this line, Wolf has been edited into many images, acting like HAL 9000 on all sorts of objects and people. One of the most popular riffs of the meme is “I can’t let you brew that, Starbucks!”
It’s a particularly great meme to use when you want to prevent someone from doing something. And if you’ve never experienced Star Fox 64, the 3D remake is a must-buy for your 3DS.
Origin: Battletoads (1991)
Battletoads, a beat-em-up game on the NES known for its extreme difficulty, launched in 1991. The game stars three anthropomorphic toads named after skin conditions (Rash, Zitz, and Pimple) and were meant to rival the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games.
But Battletoads became well known for the meme “is this Battletoads?” where people put that quote on images of popular games. Others took it a step further by bombarding GameStop stores with prank calls, which had people asking how and when they could preorder a “new” version of the game.
12. My Body Is Ready
Origin: E3 2007
Here we have one of the best moments to ever come out of E3. Back in 2007, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé was on the stage about to demonstrate Wii Fit. Before he stepped onto the Balance Board peripheral, he said “My body is ready.” The rest is history.
Because of Reggie’s awkward delivery of the line, not to mention the bizarre nature of it, “my body is ready” became an instant meme. It is now commonly used when anticipating a hyped-up release or awesome event.
13. All Your Base Are Belong to Us
Origin: Zero Wing (1992 Sega Mega Drive port)
Zero Wing is a side-scrolling shoot-em-up arcade game where players take on the role of a lone hero who must save the universe from evil. You know, the typical Japanese game trope.
But Zero Wing isn’t known for being a critically-acclaimed game. In fact, far from it. The reason why Zero Wing is infamous is because the European Mega Drive port had poorly translated English, and it’s evident from the start.
While Zero Wing is also known for the line “for great justice,” it doesn’t compare to the gem that is “all your base belong to us.” The terribly broken sentence is a perfect example of shoddy English translation from Japanese games, and has become a phenomenon in pop culture.
It’s amazing how many laughs one can get from text that gets lost in translation.
14. Combo Breaker
Origin: Killer Instinct (1994)
When you think of fighting games, Killer Instinct probably comes to mind, especially with its crazy special chain attacks. But you’ve also likely heard of the infamous “C-C-C-Combo Breaker!” line that’s become a part of gaming history.
Whenever players perform a move that specifically disrupts chain attacks, the text “C-C-C-Combo Breaker” pops up on the screen. This definitely led to some frustration on the person who was being interrupted, and now it’s being utilized as satirical commentary.
Next time you see similar forum posts and piece-by-piece image uploads, make sure to use “C-C-C-Combo Breaker!” for successful trolling.
15. I Took an Arrow in the Knee
Origin: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)
Even though The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a fairly recent game, the phrase “‘I took an arrow to the knee” took the internet by storm a few years ago. So much so that it got annoying because it was overused. But where did this line come from?
In Skyrim, you encounter guards in most of the towns you visit. They repeat stock lines when you approach them, one of which is the now-famous “I used to be an adventurer like you, then I took an arrow in the knee.” Players found it funny that so many guards took up their profession due to taking an arrow in their knee, and it became a big joke.
16. A Winner Is You
Origin: Pro Wrestling (1987)
If you had an NES back in the day, then you may have had a sports game called Pro Wrestling. If not, don’t worry — this was more of a cult classic, and not as widely known as Punch-Out!.
When you took down an opponent in Pro Wrestling, the message “a winner is you” would flash up on the screen, accompanied by a Hulk Hogan-like wrestler doing a victory pose.
You have to hand it to Japan for giving us these gems with broken English, because they’re always going to sound hilarious. The “a winner is you” meme is widely used as a sarcastic form of “congratulations,” and we know how much sarcasm floats around the internet these days.
17. Falcon Punch!
Origin: Super Smash Bros. (1999)
Everyone’s heard of Super Smash Bros., right? While we remain hopeful for a Smash Bros. on the Nintendo Switch, let’s not forget how much this game can ruin friendships.
One of the beloved characters in Super Smash Bros., Captain Falcon of F-Zero fame, has a unique move in this crazy brawler. Captain Falcon’s signature “Falcon Punch” move was never in the original F-Zero games, but did make an appearance in the F-Zero GP Legends anime series.
Given Super Smash Bros.‘s popularity over the years, we’ve all seen the magnificent Falcon Punch with our own eyes. Captain Falcon harnesses the power of the almighty falcon and lunges forward with a jaunty “FALCON PAWNCH!”
This famous move is now used as the prime euphemism for less-than-pleasant experiences. There’s also the “When Two Falcon Punches Collide” meme that spawned from it, showing various disastrous results that could occur when two Captain Falcons collide.
When in doubt, don’t forget to Falcon Punch.
18. In Your Base Killin’ Your Dudes
Origin: StarCraft (1998)
StarCraft is one of the most well-known real-time strategy games, and it’s spawned many memes. One of the best ones is definitely “In your base killin’ your dudes.”
How did this get started? Well, someone in a game asked “Where are you?” The only correct response, obviously, was “in your base, killin’ all your dudes,” you know, like any good opponent.
Next time you’re in a team-based game (StarCraft II just went free) and someone asks, make sure to respond with that line, or at least a variant of it. It just doesn’t get old.
19. Time Paradox
Origin: Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater (2004)
Fans of the Metal Gear Solid series are familiar with the complex storyline and timelines of the games. But one of the best memes that came from this franchise is Time Paradox. We won’t explain it fully to prevent spoilers for new players, but essentially, the Metal Gear Solid games don’t take place in chronological order. Thus, you can take actions in newer games (at the start of the timeline) that would render the events of older games (later in the timeline) impossible.
But the biggest lesson that you can learn from Snake Eater is don’t kill anyone before their time. Otherwise, it’s you who’ll meet an untimely end.
20. Konami Code
Origin: Contra (1988)
Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A
What otherwise just looks like a jumble of symbols is the famous “Konami Code” cheat that originated in Contra. When players input this code into the game, it grants you 30 extra lives instead of just three. And for many, this code was much welcomed, as Contra gets pretty tough.
Nowadays, the Konami Code is referenced in many forms of media, like movies and songs, and is commonly seen on T-shirts. It’s also widely used as a code for hidden Easter eggs and other secrets in many newer, unrelated games.
Next time you’re stuck on a game, try inputting the Konami Code first and see if there’s any secrets. Otherwise, you’ll have to “git gud” by looking up strategy guides.
What Are Your Favorite Gaming Memes?
While there are a ton of memes from plenty of games, these are just some of our favorites among the popular ones. We spend a lot of time on the internet, and it’s hard to escape the hilarity that these gaming memes bring us.
For more meme goodness, check out how people who became memes reacted.
Did we miss a meme you like to use? What are your favorite gaming memes? Let us know in the comments!