Ah, the horse – long the noble steed of humanity, horses are wildly prominent in video games of all kinds. Some games revolve around the horse, whereas in other it just facilitates to simplify other aspects, like simply transportation.
For a rare few, the horse is truly a character all its own, taking on a life and personality unseen in even human characters. But enough horsing around with needless semantics – on to the Top 10 Video Game Horses.
#10: Horse – Horsez (DS)
The first entry to this list is included not for the horse itself, but for what the game represents and how horses play their role. Horses are, for whatever reason, a strong draw to the female audiences that are often left under-targeted by the video game industry. A simple GameFAQs search on the term ‘horse’ yields literally dozens of female-oriented horse games, ranging from raising as pets to basic breeding to racing.
Most of these games enjoy the more war-oriented themes that horses in subsequent games rely on, but it would be completely preposterous to list top video game horses without at least alluding to their role in gender-neutral game development. The specific choice here, Horsez, is simply one of the most popular games within this realm, combining its gender-neutral pull with the DS’s varied audience.
#9: Horse – Stampede (2600)
Secondly, another mostly shout-out placement on this list. #9 goes to the horse from Stampede, if for no other reason than for being one of the first – if not THE first (I can’t find any earlier) – horse in video game history. Rendered in extraordinarily simple graphics on the Atari 2600, it actually represented some interesting gamplay advancements, with its pseudo-overhead “camera” and interesting twist on the standard side-scroller.
The horse in it was your typical trusty sidekick, tirelessly trotting around under your booty as you wandered the game field. It even had some loose semblance of actual horse traits, as it would become harder to control if your directions faltered. But overall, the most important contribution but this horse is its role as one of, if not the, first horses in video game history.
#8: Horse – World of Warcraft (PC)
As we’ve seen and will see again, the most common purpose in for horses in games is their position as support to the main character. They rarely talk like other animal characters, but stay fast at your side. To this end, they often are named and shaped by their creator, rather than playing a specific plot role.
The horse in World of Warcraft is no exception – facilitating your faster travel, it serves as both a reward and an enhancement, opening up easier access to new worlds. It’s in World of Warcraft that the horse is perhaps depicted as closest to its original domestication purpose – quickening travel. Its relatively small importance and role, however, relegates these noble steeds to #8.
#7: Horse – Harvest Moon (SNES)
Shortly after humanity discovered that horses were the best transportation that would come along until the car, they also discovered horses are also the best piece of farm equipment that would come along until the tractor. The Harvest Moon horse doesn’t pull a plow like it may actually do in the world, but it plays a notable role in farming, alleviating the repetitiveness of harvesting one’s seasonal crops. Loyally carrying a shipping bin on either side, the horse sticks around and faithfully hauls your haul to the market for continued income.
What’s most interesting may be that as the Harvest Moon series moves on, the horse takes on some new roles – horse racing, most notably – but abandons its role as a farm tool, sacrificing the saddlebags.
#6: The Black Horse – The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (X360)
First it’s transportation, then it’s farm equipment, then finally the horse becomes a tool of war. In Elder Scrolls, the horse starts out as a simple transportation mechanism, but as the game goes on – or more specifically, in a later downloadable add-on – the horse can strap on some armor, giving it a gleam of ferocity as it carries you off to your next epic battle. With a vicious mask and a neck plate to match, woe on he who dares mess with this beast of war.
Not only do these horses look ferocious with the armor plating itself, the game also supplies a sort of ultimate horse – a terrifying black horse to carry you off to your next battle.
#5: Ponyta & Rapidash – Pokemon Blue (GB)
The diamond-hooved equine entries to the Pokemon series, Ponyta and Rapidash ride on a trail of fire. Is it just me, or would that be fantastic? In the Pokemon series’ never-ending thirst to copy every animal on earth (except the platypus!), Ponyta and Rapidash get the horse out of the way early.
Typically docile – or at least not blatantly violent – this pair of horses breaks the mold by fighting for themselves rather than facilitating the fighting of those riding on their backs. Not that you could ever get me to straddle something that was on fire. That’d just be painful.
#4: Hudson Horstachio – Viva Pinata (X360)
A horse is a horse, of course, of course, and in an industry obsessed with anthropomorphic characters based on every imaginable animal, horses are surprisingly underutilized for this purpose. In fact, Hudson Horstachio is the only horse (piñata or otherwise) on this list to actually speak. But his ego more than makes up for the absence of speech on the part of his fellow equines – lovable, agreeable, and more than a little self-indulgent, Hudson is the popular blue horse figurehead of the Viva Piñata franchise. His anthropomorphic speaking ability alone grants him a prominent spot on this list. Olé!
#3: Vast Delight – Gallop Racer 2004 (PS2)
Past the generic, unnamed horses and past the one anthropomorphic entry on this list, we finally enter into the three actual named horses, with true reputations of their own separate and apart from the characters they support. Well, reputation may be too strong a word for this first entry. Vast Delight is the fastest horse from the underrated Gallop Racer series’ 2004 entry. Possessing incredible strength, speed and agility, Vast Delight is the ultimate example of the fourth horse occupation: racing.
Rendered in gorgeous 3D graphics and pushing horse racing mechanics to a new level of realism, Gallop Racer 2004 shines as one of the ultimate examples of under-appreciated video game horse racing, and Vast Delight is the best it has to offer.
#2: Epona – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)
In every battle of top video game equines, two surface to the top. The winner amongst the two is always debatable – one hails from a far more popular game, but the other plays a more significant role in its game’s plot. While many pick the first, those familiar with both almost always pick the second – and so will I. Epona, originally from the Ocarina of Time, is mostly Link’s travel buddy – mainly for faster transportation around the overworld.
Epona’s pervasiveness throughout the game and a few poignant moments combine with the overall popularity of Ocarina of Time and the relative absence of other true character horses to bump Epona up on the overall horse popularity list, and in later games, Epona takes a larger role – but nothing that can match the #1 horse on our list.
#1: Agro – Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)
I won’t play the spoiler – not for a game that many still haven’t played – but for those who have, Agro’s influence and sacrifice is unmistakable. He is, in many ways, more human than many of the human characters out there, and his role in the plot of this masterpiece only shows the depth of character that a horse can possess. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, play the game – spoiling it for you would deprive you of one of the most poignant and touching video game moments since Final Fantasy VII. And if you do know what I’m talking about, you know that this little paragraph can’t possibly do Agro any justice at all.
While the presence of most animals in video games errs on the anthropomorphic side, horses typically are depicted much more realistically – and with good reason. Their usefulness and flexibility make them legitimately valuable tools in their own right. But no one can talk to a horse, of course, unless if that horse, of course, of course, is… Hudson Horstachio? Stranger things have happened.
[Written by DetroitDJ, republished with permission]