The Best and Worst Vending Machines in Video Games

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You may not have noticed, but if you grew up a gamer, you were surrounded by more vending machines than you remember. Some are just pretty set design; others let you purchase a magical can of soda to save your life. Who refills those things, anyway?

So let’s honor these vendor-less modern day mech merchants that have–for better and or worse–grown up with us in gaming.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution — Am I missing something?

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Deus Ex has always been about the choices you make and how they affect the world you inhabit. It is also a series that has always involved vending machines scattered across the virtual world. The great thing about these machines is that when coupled with your super strength capabilities, they can be used to take down your enemies in a way they never even thought possible. Honestly, no henchmen in the history of evil corporations could imagine they would die under the crushing weight of hurled vending machine.

Deus Ex Human Revolution allows you to steal (without consequence) and stumble across large sum of cash on your journeys. But if I want to use some of this hard-earned or pillaged cash in a vending machine to quench my thirst or to refill my energy bar, I can’t. It’s true, Deus Ex vending machines fail at their primary function, and we all know that robots are defunct if they can’t even perform that. Perhaps a global recall is in order?

The Secret of Monkey Island — Because vending machines can solve puzzles

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The Monkey Island series is not averse to tomfoolery or “monkey business” (zing!). Nor are its vending machines, which are often tools for Guybrush to foil his enemies–usually the dread pirate LeChuck. There are a few different machines, but the one most known is the cleanly named “Grog” machine.

See, at the finale of The Secret of Monkey Island, LeChuck punches Guybrush into the Grog Machine, and a bottle of root beer falls out of the machine. This can be used in place of Guybrush’s lost ghost-destroying voodoo anti-root to defeat LeChuck. The machine then makes a second useful appearance in the sequel; after putting a coin in the machine, Guybrush receives a piece of eight, which you later use to distract LeChuck while you take his underpants to make a voodoo doll.

Makes total sense, right?

Habitat — As a part of history

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It’s debatable, but Lucasfilm’s Habitat is largely considered a forerunner to what we now call massively multiplayer online role playing games. It was a massive tech demo at the time, used to create a sandbox environment with online capabilities using the humble Commodore 64.

Here is how creator Randy Farmar described it way back when:

Habitat is “a multi-participant online virtual environment,” a cyberspace. Each participant (“player”) uses a home computer (Commodore 64) as an intelligent, interactive client, communicating via modem and telephone over a commercial packet-switching network to a centralized, mainframe host system. The client software provides the user interface, generating a real-time animated display of what is going on and translating input from the player into messages to the host. The host maintains the system’s world model enforcing the rules and keeping each player’s client informed about the constantly changing state of the universe.

Vending machines were a large part of the “cyberspace,” used for–you guessed it–vending useful goods. The remarkable thing  was that Lucasfilm’s Habitat marked one of the first uses of  an in-game economy.

GTA IV — Scientifically groundbreaking, yet seemingly mundane

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Have you ever gotten into an epic gunfight that sprawled many different floors of a building, or perhaps even across town–with a car chase for good measure. If you have , I bet I know what you were thinking: “I could really use a refreshing can of soda right now.”

If you answered “no” to being in a gunfight but would like to experience the thirst quenching rush I describe above, be sure to plan a trip to Liberty City. In that city, science, miracle cures, and soda have met, fallen in love, and produced a miracle drink at the great price of $1. Not only do you get that refreshing taste down your gullet, but you will also witness bullet wounds and damage to vital organs disappear in an instance.

Mind you, I love the GTA games–in particular GTA IV–but nothing was funnier to me than gunning down a building full of criminals and sipping down on a cold can of Sprunk before leaving the site of near mass genocide.

Dead Space — Because we aren’t stupid

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I love the Dead Space, series but I don’t know what they are trying to pull with their portrayal of certain worldly items. Sure, the game has zero functioning machines, but are they truly trying to say that the so-called “stores” aren’t just glorified mega-future vending machines? Come on.

What is a store or shop without a jolly or morally disgusting shopkeeper? The internet? Surely these large “stores” aren’t web-based; you receive your goods immediately! Ipso facto. we have a vending machine. Check the logic, people.

Shenmue — Variety is the spice of life, right?

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As with everything else in the Shenmue games, vending machines share in the wealth of gameplay variety.

I am fairly certain the lobster and boob machines weren’t in either of the Shenmue games, but we were promised a third game we never got. There’s still hope.

Bioshock — Grand design and perfect implementation

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Anybody I spoke to about this topic brought up Bioshock’s use of vending machines. I understood why they brought it up, because it was the first one I thought of too. These encapsulate everything about vending machines that all other games only had in patches.

  • They were beautifully designed, hand in hand with the gorgeous, creepy yesteryear design of the whole world.
  • They were implemented perfectly, and always a joy to come across.
  • They came with a hacking minigame which would save you money (my vending machines here at work don’t have that function!).

I would love to have been present for the initial town hall meetings in Rapture for most things, let alone the decision to have weapon and ammunition machines right beside gene alteration machines. That Andrew Ryan really does make some wacky wacky choices don’t he?

Article by contributor Matthew Green.

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5 thoughts on “The Best and Worst Vending Machines in Video Games

  1. The first vending machine in a game that I remember was in Halflife. I remember being tickled by them being interactive, even though it was only to a very small degree. But it made that world just a little more immersive.

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