What’s your biggest phobia?
Maybe it’s time to tackle it for National Face Your Fears Day. Taking place on the second Tuesday of October each year, the event was created to empower people to confront their deepest worries. It doesn’t matter whether it’s big or small – today is a reminder that even the most daunting tasks can be overcome with determination.
For Zombie Awareness Month back in May, I had the pleasure of collaborating with Eric from Eric Hagmann Music on posts about our favourite zombie video games. We then joined forces again at the start of the academic year in September and considered our favourite schools in gaming. There was some cross-over in our lists, with my number ten being placed far higher in Eric’s post.
While we’ve decided to get together and create a little something for National Face Your Fears Day, we’ve chosen to celebrate our chosen event in slightly different ways this time. On one hand, Eric has decided to focus on the ten most common phobias and games which might help those affected deal with them. On the other, I’m concentrating on my own fear: equinophobia.
I’ve been scared of horses since I was around seven years old due to a rather unfortunate and painful accident experienced by a school-friend. I’m not trying to stirrup trouble as I know they’re usually considered majestic and graceful, but their size and the fact you can’t tell what they’re thinking makes me uncomfortable. I’m taking a look at games which contain equines of note in today’s post which will hopefully help me feel more stable. Keep your fingers crossed that this doesn’t end up turning into a right mare.
10. Torrent from Elden Ring
As I haven’t actually played Elden Ring myself and have only watched friend-of-the-blog Phil make his way through it, the ethereal Torrent has been selected for last place. He definitely deserves a spot on the list though thanks to a feat unmatched by other gaming horses. The ability to double-jump might defy the constraint of realism, but this potent power allows the player to reach otherwise inaccessible areas and even escape from some attacks. He also has horns so what more could you want?
9. Four Horses of the Apocalypse from Red Dead Redemption
With the Undead Nightmare downloadable content (DLC), Rockstar unleased all sorts of supernatural baddies into the world of Red Dead Redemption. One welcome sight however was the Four Horses of the Apocalypse: War, Famine, Pestilence and Death. Each of these mythical steeds had unlimited stamina and extremely high health along with their own special power and aesthetic. They could be tamed and turned into the ultimate companions once found, but always remained a nightmare to look at.
8. Odin from Final Fantasy XIII
I was roped into playing this game in 2020 by Ellen from Strength in Sarcasm and, after 55 hours of hell, I don’t know how our friendship survived. It’s hard to say what the worst part was. Perhaps it was the cast of extremely annoying characters or the frustrating turn-based combat. Or maybe it was having to use Odin in battle and watching the Eidolon turn into a horse in a particularly cheesy cutscene each time. I’m glad I finally managed to complete a Final Fantasy release but it’s safe to say that XIII was my first and last.
7. Mounts from The Elder Scrolls Online
You may begin your journey with a standard brown Sorrel Horse when you reach level ten, but that doesn’t mean you can’t upgrade as soon as you gain enough cash. Perhaps you’d prefer a White Mane, a cross between a midnight steed and a Skyrim ice-horse; or a regal War Horse, decked out in the colours of your Alliance; or maybe even a Nightmare Courser, whose origins are mysterious and obscure. I think I’ll stick with one of my Senche mounts thought – because they’re not horses.
6. The mechanical horses from Syberia II
Although the Syberia series isn’t one of my favourites in the point-and-click genre, I’ve chosen to include the mechanical horses from Circos’ cabaret as they’re a lovely part of the second release’s imaginative world-building. It’s up to Kate Walker to get them running again when Hans is too tired to fix them, through a typical adventure puzzle involving pipes and wheels. So why do they deserve a place on today’s list when they’re not real? Exactly that – I’d rather deal with metal horses that real ones.
5. Seren from Fable: The Journey
I usually quote Fable III as being the worst entry in the series but spin-off Fable: The Journey earns this award. This role-playing-on-rails title was played using the Kinect for the Xbox 360 and it was a complete hindrance: it was boring when it worked and rage-inducing when it didn’t. Much of the game involves riding down lonely roads in a wagon pulled by Seren, cracking the reigns to make her sprint and pulling left and right to steer. Having to put up with nine hours of that rubbish earns her a place on my list.
4. Striders from Horizon Zero Dawn
In Horizon Zero Dawn, players are able to override striders and use these robots to travel across the game’s vast open world. But they’re so much more than just a mode of transportation. Riding them into battle can make it easier to approach other beasts and they can also be used for cover or a height advantage when things get tough. And once you finally realise they’re horses and want to get as far away from them as possible, you can hunt them for resources and get yourself some valuable upgrades.
3. Epona from The Legend of Zelda
While I’m not the biggest The Legend of Zelda fan, what kind of list about video game horses would this be without including Epona? She’s first encountered in Ocarina of Time as a young filly who’s wild and untamed, shying away from Link when he approaches. But after Malon teaches him Epona’s Song on his Fairy Ocarina, the creature developers a fondness for green-suited heroes and a lifelong friendship commences. This equine gets spot on today’s list because she’s possibly the most famous.
2. Hudson Horstachio from Viva Piñata
Unlike any of the other horses in this post, Hudson Horstachio is a lover rather than a fighter. All he needs is a toffee apple, a few carrots and a snazzy rosette to get him in the mood for romance. He’ll stare longingly at his mate from across the house while listening to the sweet sounds coming from the jukebox, before rushing towards her and planting a kiss on the muzzle. Perhaps that would be hot if you were a horse? Whatever, I’m more interested in the candy his papier-mâché body is filled with.
Honourable mention: the ponies from Pony Island
This one doesn’t earn itself a full place as it doesn’t feature any horses, but it does include another type of four-legged steed which comes close. In Pony Island, you’ll find yourself trapped in a malevolent and malfunctioning arcade machine forced to play a demented game full of ponies. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but you can expect a surreal narrative full of puzzles, glitches and fourth-wall breaking elements which will keep you on the edge of your seat. Consider this as a ride into digital hell.
1. Agro from Shadow of the Colossus
The world created in Shadow of the Colossus is a very lonely one, but this companion is there to keep the protagonist Wander company and watch his back. There aren’t many horses who’d be brave enough to ride headfirst into battle with a stone giant for their master. A real bond is formed with her throughout the course of the game, so much so that watching her scene at the end is absolutely heartbreaking. As much as I don’t like equines, Agro is perhaps the only one who might change my mind.
Am I now ready to face my equinophobia and go riding some time soon? I’m going to say neigh. But at least I’ve had some fun joining Eric from Eric Hagmann’s Music for our third top-ten collaboration. Be sure to check out his post to find out how he suggests combating the most common phobias. And now over to you: are there any video games which have helped you face your own fears?