Videogames have allowed us to experience things that we'd never witness in real life. We've boldly strode across alien worlds, saved civilizations, become sporting legends and explored complex narratives that rival anything on the silver screen. But I'd be remiss if we didn't point out that we've also been able to stomp about in massive, awesome robot suits and squelch our enemies beneath several tons of armoured murder. Mechs, exoskeletons, Mecha, call them what you will, but there's no doubt that these enormous war machines are very much here to stay. Just try telling them otherwise.
So it's time we game them their dues. Here's what we'd consider the best ten mechs of all time - in terms of firepower, combat prowess and game impact.
10: Prototype Mech [Explosionade]
Designation: Gold-Powered Prototype Battlesuit
Weapon Systems: MegaNade Cannon, Shield Projector
Explosionade, the Indie action platformer from Mommy's Best Games, introduced us to a devastating prototype mech suit that's powered by molten gold. This alone immediately makes it one of the coolest things ever, but it's worth noting that the MegaNade launcher can deploy a gratuitous (even unnecessary) amount of explosive ordnance to the battlefield. Even a fat, bumbling and inept pilot can bring an alien empire to its knees.
9: Scarab [Halo 3]
Designation: Type 47 Ultra Heavy Assault Platform
Weapon Systems: Plasma Beam, Anti-Air Turret
The Scarab is unique on this list as it's technically not a playable exoskeleton - though it certainly deserves a mention. The Covenant's powerful walker was just a glorified pavement slab in Halo 2, but by the third game, it was infused with a colony of Lekgolo worms and turned into a bona fide mech suit. Essentially it's an enormous Hunter... and would have been rated higher if it wasn't hilariously vulnerable. Killing one is a fun puzzle in and of itself, and provides arguably the highest points of the Halo franchise.
8: White Glint [Armoured Core 4]
Designation: Custom-Built AC
Weapon Systems: Assault Rifle, Salines
This was a bit of a cop-out, actually. I admit it. You see, the Armoured Core franchise allows you to build practically any Mech you can imagine, and thus it's almost impossible to tie the franchise down to a particular "best" AC. God knows that fan creations are probably capable of taking down any of the other contraptions on this list.
Consider this an honourable mention for the series itself, but for now, White Glint is an effective, versatile and deadly AC with devastatingly stylish looks to match.
7: The Walker [Walker]
Designation: Terror Weapon
Weapon Systems: Twin-linked Chin Guns
Back in the Amiga days, Psygnosis flipped the traditional shooter concept on its head by letting players control a gigantic killing machine. Its twin chin guns are perfect for chewing up endless waves of panicking ground troops, who scatter like ants beneath your monstrous barrage. Run, you fools! Run! Cackling ensues.
However, the Walker is vulnerable to close-range assault, and its firepower doesn't really correlate with its cumbersome bulk. We've come a long way, baby.
6: Elite Powered Armour [F.E.A.R. 2 & 3]
Designation: Tactical Infantry Assault Armour
Weapon Systems: Rotary Guns, Rocket Launcher
Monolith arguably forgot how to make horror games once the excellent Condemned: Criminal Origins hit the shelves... but they never forgot how to create fantastic mechs. Their experience with the legendary mech shooter Shogo: MAD was leveraged into the F.E.A.R. series, resulting in the truly epic Elite Powered Armour. Its chainguns can rip through concrete walls and Replica soldiers alike, and there's no hiding place from its thermal vision mode.
Far from being a gimmick, F.E.A.R. 2's mech sections were actually the best bits of the game by a considerable margin- and are similarly satisfying in the sequel. Not bad for what's ostensibly a horror franchise.
5: PTX-40A Ivan [Lost Planet]
Designation: Vital Suit
Weapon Systems: VS Saw, shoulder-mounted hardpoints
Lost Planet's Vital Suits transformed what could have been a dull and pointless shooter into a niche hit - and one of its mechs managed to become an enduring icon. The PTX-40A is a terrifying exoskeleton that can chainsaw its way through ravening alien hordes or engage them from range, all while keeping its pilot safe and warm in the bitter sub-zero temperatures.
Plus, the PTX-40A also shows up in Tatsunoko vs Capcom as a playable character. Carving Ryu up with the VS Saw is a uniquely satisfying way of paying him back for spamming Hadoukens.
4: Battle Engine Aquila [Battle Engine Aquila]
Designation: Experimental VTOL Quadruped
Weapon Systems: Pulsar, Blazer, Sniper Cannon
Is is a Mech? Is it a plane? No, it's Battle Engine Aquila... and it's angry as all hell. This experimental weapons platform crushes regular armies and war materiel like so much chattel, yet can seamlessly take to the skies and rain death on its foes from above. An array of powerful custom built weapons and surprising manoeuvrability allow Aquila to engage in multiple mission objectives simultaneously, supporting ground troops one moment and smashing through fortifications the next.
Sadly no-one actually bothered to buy Battle Engine Aquila when it released back in 2003... meaning that modern-day tyrants and enemy generals can breathe a little easier. In our opinion, it's about time that Microsoft brought Aquila out of retirement.
3: Metal Gear REX [Duh]
Designation: Mobile ICBM Delivery System
Weapon Systems: Nuclear Railgun, Miniguns, Free Electron Laser
Metal Gear REX needs no introduction. Its primary function is to lob undetectable nukes at foreign powers using its electromagnetic railgun, but this behemoth is most famous for causing Solid Snake no end of grief in the original Metal Gear Solid thanks to a bristling arsenal of turrets and missiles. REX turned out to be even more formidable once the legendary operative hopped into its cockpit and made iron filings out of several inferior Ray units that were custom designed to take it down. They don't make 'em like they used to.
Hideo Kojima certainly knows how to make a great mech - though we soon discovered that the legendary auteur had one more trick up his sleeve. We'd have to wait until the PS2 era, however...
2: Jehuty [Zone Of The Enders]
Designation: Orbital Frame
Weapon Systems: Blade, Vector Cannon, Zero Shift
As well as being the most eye-wateringly beautiful mech of all time, Jehuty is both a powerful combatant and a character in its own right thanks to the onboard AI. A selection of effective armaments and OPTIONs lay waste to practically all comers, and this anthropomorphic assassin proves to be a genuinely caring as it becomes acclimatised to its inexperienced pilot. Jehuty brings the rain, yet questions what it means to be a mech pilot in the first place. To be human, even.
Are we excited about Zone Of The Enders HD? Absolutely. Now give us the third one, Hideo!
1: Mad Cat/Timber Wolf [Mechwarrior]
Designation: Clan Multi-Role Mech
Weapon Systems: 2X ER PPCs, Obscene Missile Launchers
The appearance of the Mad Cat on a battlefield still unnerves the most hardened mechwarrior. - Battletech
The Mad Cat is arguably the most iconic videogame mech of all time - and with good reason. This Clan powerhouse makes no compromises whatsoever, packing tough armour, a blistering run speed, pinpoint accuracy and one of the most devastating loadouts in the entire Battletech universe. Even the biggest foes can't withstand more than a few hits from the Mad Cat's particle cannons, and you only need to take one look at its ludicrous missile batteries to realise that stand-off warfare is not an option. The Mad Cat is effective at any range, capable of taking on any mission and delights in putting enormous holes through anything stupid enough to linger around long enough.
We've had our say... so it's time to have yours, mech fans. What war machines do you feel deserve honourable mentions - or a place in the list? Bring the rain in the comments!