“—you only look as good as your horse does.”
December 13, 2016 4:03 PM   Subscribe

The Best Horse in PC Gaming [PC Gamer] “And no one understands the value of a loyal, healthy horse companion better than PC Gamer. They’ve helped us scale vertical cliffsides in Skyrim, disable tanks with their poops in Metal Gear Solid 5, and be less angry than normal when we couldn’t fast travel The Witcher 3. They’re also very pretty and I like the noises they make. But the time for sharing the love is over, as we've decided to declare the best horse in PC gaming through rigorous horse analysis. Tuck that shirt in, champ your bit, and let’s ride.”

- There Were So Many Horses in Games This Year [Wired] [12.24.2015]
“As allies, horses in games straddle a line between companions and vehicles. They possess a sense of personality and independence that a stolen car lacks. They allow developers to add nuance to how spatial navigation works: Horses can push back, or pull away, evince an eagerness to explore the open plains or reluctantly climb a steep hill. A well-designed horse is a character as much as it is a mode of transit. In real life, horses have worked alongside people almost as long as we’ve been domesticating animals, and an equine companion provides games with a chance to dive into the millennia of associations tied into that. A horse allows a game to re-orient its relationship to its own spaces, setting a deliberate pace and tenor to its navigation: Faster than walking, but slower than a warp zone. Horses also are a means of suggesting an era and location. Horses are metaphors for travel, freedom, and spatial empowerment.”
- Battlefield 1's Horses Are The Best Video Game Horses Ever [The Verge]
“Battlefield 1's horses, on the other hand, seem like they walk on a cloud of air. They leap barriers and barbed wire, hopping handily over boxes, low walls, and the other detritus of the Great War. Plug any other video game horse into Battlefield 1's messy levels and you'd have an exercise in screaming frustration, the animals whinnying to a halt as they brushed up against discarded bricks or other bits of inconsequential garbage. Not DICE's horses. So keen was one of them to prove its worth that it leaped over the wreckage of a burning tank, a jump with an apex of about eight feet and longer than a modern car. It didn't make it, the poor thing, but it didn't not make it. It just sort of hung there, floating in the air above a gnarled and flaming hunk of metal, occasionally letting out a proud horsey yelp.”
- A Serious Guide to the Greatest Video Game Horses [Power Up Gaming]
“Horses may roam the lowly pastures of our society without a care in the world, but in gaming, they are a conduit of vast importance. They are magnificent mares that should not to be taken for granted as mere grazers of grass or postured showboaters of local gymkhanas. No, these large mammals are thrilling powerhouses built for speed, durability, and an air of bravery that places them above the heights of grandeur. No self-respecting adventure game would be complete without the noble baying of the courageous, remarkable and absolutely beneficent horse.”
- The Snowboarding Horse Video Game You Never Knew You Needed [The Telegraph]
“Yes, you heard me. It is exactly as it sounds. Snow Horse, to be released on July 28, allows you to control a horse on a snowboard, doing all manner of tricks in the terrain park and around the mountain. From the preview trailer and screenshots, it would appear you can also choose to elevate your horse to the next level, sartorially speaking, by giving it a top hat or a pumpkin to wear on its head. Why? Ah friend, the real question is, why not? Possibly not aimed at the most serious of gamers, Snow Horse is "the snowboarding game where the points are made up, and you are a horse on a friggin' snowboard", in the words of its developer on Facebook.”
- It's Not Easy Being a Video Game Equestrian [Kotaku]
“As someone who has played thousands of video games in the arcades and on every system from the late 1970's through the present, I've ridden more virtual vehicles and animated animals over the years than I care to count. Yet, as I played Shadow of the Colossus on the recently-released PS3 collection, I came to realize that one particular creature has caused me more trouble than any other: the horse! Maybe it all began with Activision's Stampede for the Atari 2600. That's the first videogame I can remember riding a horse in, and I'll be darned if I didn't continuously run into cattle skulls, fences, and the obstinate Black Angus. Playing games in 3D wasn't any kinder. I loved Zelda on Nintendo 64, but when it came time to ride Epona, I might as well have been trying to ride a unicycle. On top of a Segway. It wasn't pretty.”
- The Most Awesome Japanese Video Games Where You Can Ride A Horse [Kotaku]
“One would think, that horseback riding as a feature in video games would appear most of the time in wild west-themed titles, with lots of riding and gunning. But browsing through Japanese games, it quickly becomes clear that it's not the case. A wide variety of genres have horse companions. Most of the time they only appear as additional gameplay elements, but in some cases they have a major role.”
- Horse Games on Steam [Steam]
- A Short List of Fictional Video Game Horses [Wiki]
- 15 Most BADASS Horses in Video Games That Won't Let You Down [YouTube]
- Video Game Horses and Times They Have Been Acceptable [YouTube]
- Expectation vs Reality: Horses In Video Games [YouTube]
posted by Fizz (56 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Agro!
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 4:16 PM on December 13, 2016 [19 favorites]


This is a very comprehensive thing of horses.

I like all horses. Horses, spiders, dogs, they are all great and all our friends.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:19 PM on December 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I have spent more time playing the Secret of the Magic Crystals than a grown old lady should.
posted by winna at 4:22 PM on December 13, 2016


I like my World of Warcraft horse. Worst Horse? The one in this stupid mobile game about horses I downloaded drunk, & it ended up being by far the largest thing on my phone, also complete garbage.
posted by broken wheelchair at 4:44 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Horse dating simulator
posted by ringu0 at 4:44 PM on December 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Beaten to the punch by five Goddamn minutes.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:49 PM on December 13, 2016


Beaten to the punch by five Goddamn minutes.

I'm sorry, it was a spur of the moment decision.
posted by Fizz at 4:53 PM on December 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


Horse dating simulator

"So, there we were, shipwrecked. You were wild."
posted by rokusan at 4:55 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


If a McElroy hasn't weighed in on this, I don't even know what the point is.
posted by supercres at 5:05 PM on December 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


My favorite video game horse of late was the Wild Hart from Dragon Age: Inquisition. Because when you're the only person who can save the world, it behooves you to ride around on a giant pink and purple elk with a tremendous rack.
posted by ejs at 5:05 PM on December 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


That PC Gamer article is goddamn insane. Out of all of the shoddy, poorly made aspects of Skyrim, the horse mechanics are way, way up there.
posted by codacorolla at 5:08 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


The best horses are the ones in Mount & Blade. Historically accurate, because they transform you from a peasant tryhard into a Murder Machine. Plus there is just nothing like a cavalry charge, and so few games even try to give you that feel.

My favorite video game horse of late was the Wild Hart from Dragon Age: Inquisition. Because when you're the only person who can save the world, it behooves you to ride around on a giant pink and purple elk with a tremendous rack.

The mounts in DA:I are lovely to look at, but my lord are they pointless. The mechanics are extremely clumsy, they didn't bother to give your companions any (they just vanish) and they move exactly 1.0001x faster than running. I think I used that button once in 85 hours of gameplay.
posted by selfnoise at 5:20 PM on December 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Now, I did just say Mount & Blade, but now I'm remembering that D-horse can shit on command. So that also might be a valid answer.
posted by selfnoise at 5:22 PM on December 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


If Julian Gollop's pre-XCOM games taught me anything it's that a horse is just a unicorn without a decent attack.

(There was some stuff about hiding in trees to learn spells too, but I can totally tell facts from fantasy).
posted by comealongpole at 5:24 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


The best horses are the ones in Mount & Blade.

Currently on sale at Steam. I feel bad, I've never played and only vaguely recall this game, hmm, maybe now is the time to try, that's not a bad deal...and I do love horses.
posted by Fizz at 5:40 PM on December 13, 2016


The best horse is the camel in Elder Scrolls Online.
posted by Splunge at 5:43 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Are there really no mods to replace Skyrim rideable horses with MLPs?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:43 PM on December 13, 2016


I haven't really kept up with recent games, but I just want to drop in here to say that the horse battles in Zelda: Twilight Princess were the most fun I've ever had while playing a video game. Apart from generally being an absolutely gorgeous game, the Wii's control scheme made the horse battles absolutely incredible.
posted by schmod at 5:49 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm finally playing Skyrim for the first time. Should I make getting a horse a priority?
posted by homunculus at 6:04 PM on December 13, 2016


Hell no. I don't think I ever used one in Skyrim either. Assassins don't ride big loud horses. Assassins don't use roads. Assassins lurk in the shadows of the deepest woods, nodding to the whispers of the Night Mother....

Ahem.
posted by selfnoise at 6:08 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm finally playing Skyrim for the first time. Should I make getting a horse a priority?

They're fun to ride around one and it does make discovering new locations a bit easier, at least the first go around, but not a huge priority. Though, what's the point in being a rogue/thief if you don't have a horse to help you make a quick get-a-way.
posted by Fizz at 6:09 PM on December 13, 2016


Witcher 3 horse is best horse as this video demonstrates (bonus not-very-related behind the scenes video).
posted by Sparx at 6:15 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


yes but
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 6:22 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Thanks for that Orange Dinosaur Slide. Just learned that Alan Thicke died and well...I needed a smile. 2016 has been a bitch.
posted by Fizz at 6:27 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm finally playing Skyrim for the first time. Should I make getting a horse a priority?

In typical Bethesda fashion, instead of making a horse a game changing, interesting, integral part of the game, they're just a slightly faster version of walking. They actually got this more right with power armor in FO4, but there's almost no reason to get a horse without a mod that makes the experience better. Oh yeah, they're also dumb as a rock (sort of true to life there), and they generally get in the way whenever you have to get off to do something. I guess it's role playing thing you can do, and it's not like gold is scarce, so 5,000 septims is essentially nothing.
posted by codacorolla at 6:27 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I am BlueHorse, and I approve of this post.

Very interesting. Now I'm going outside to ride my real horsie.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:27 PM on December 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


The best horses are the ones in Mount & Blade. Historically accurate, because they transform you from a peasant tryhard into a Murder Machine.

God yes. I love Mount & Blade precisely because horse + lots of lance skill + lots of bow skill is a recipe for an unstoppable war machine*. I will rule the world with couched lance damage and horse-borne archers!

(* until you have to storm a castle, and then you can't take your horse up over the wall -- so sad! I guess Huscarls need to get out of the tent sometime too ...)
posted by tocts at 6:41 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


The only horse in Skyrim I ever used much was the horse you could summon with a spell. I was too used to WoW which let me keep 100+ mounts in a pocket dimension, and didn't like that I had to physically keep track of a horse in the game world. The spell was the closest I could come to how WoW handled it.

The most interesting horse I ever encountered was one I didn't own and the game wouldn't let me own. Some fort up in the mountains was held by the damn Imperials. The Stormcloaks wanted me and a small band of guerrillas to take it. Long story short, we did. There was a big brown horse. I was horseless, the Imperials were all dead, so war booty! I rode the horse around for a bit. Kinda nice, I guess. Stopped off at a small town, went in the shop to sell off some slightly banged up Imperial armor, came back out and the horse was gone. Walked a little ways out of town to find 'my' horse trotting down the road. Got back on the horse, went to Windhelm. Got off the horse at the gate. Horse starts trotting away again. This keeps happening over and over.

Finally decided to follow the horse. Maybe Horse has a more important quest and/or destiny than I do. We fight bandits and bears together on the way. But I never ride Horse. Horse is an independent, sentient being now. We finally arrive. At Solitude. Horse goes to an Imperial guard and is all "Fuck this Stormcloak scum up" (not out loud but you could tell by the look on Horse's face) and the guard went after me. Killed the guard but left Horse alone. Even though Horse had betrayed me, we still had the epic journey and adventures together. Left Solitude hoping Horse would regret losing the best companion he'd ever had. Never saw Horse again.
posted by honestcoyote at 6:55 PM on December 13, 2016 [30 favorites]


In typical Bethesda fashion, instead of making a horse a game changing, interesting, integral part of the game...

So true, but I really think it was Rockstar, in Red Dead Redemption, who dropped the ball on this one the worst.

Now, I'm one who believes that RDR is one of the best games of last decade, but considering it's pretty much the definitive western videogame, and owes so much to cowboy movies and TV shows of the last century, down to the last trope, you'd think someone, somewhere, would have thought to make horses just a little more important.

By making them near-indestructible (so we'd keep the same horse for the whole game, or much of it), able to be healed and trained (beyond the half-assed 'breaking them' mechanic), and most of all, allowing us to name them, they could have created a powerful* player-horse bond that would make a player reload saves and slaughter aggressors if anyone dared hurt their best friend. Nothing would be more cowboy than that.

But, no. We got interchangeable, fungible no-name horses. Missed opportunity.

* Legendary, even.
posted by rokusan at 6:56 PM on December 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm finally playing Skyrim for the first time. Should I make getting a horse a priority?

No. Wait for one of the two special, named ones that become available to you as part of gameplay. Those are worth having and keeping.

The rest... meh.
posted by rokusan at 6:59 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]




Are there really no mods to replace Skyrim rideable horses with MLPs?

Oh, there are many.

The mods that replace dragons are funnier, though. (Wait for it.)
posted by rokusan at 7:06 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


The mods that replace dragons are funnier, though. (Wait for it.)

I'm not trying to derail my own thread into a discussion about Skyrim mods, but....

*ahem*
posted by Fizz at 7:14 PM on December 13, 2016


The mounts in DA:I are lovely to look at, but my lord are they pointless. The mechanics are extremely clumsy, they didn't bother to give your companions any (they just vanish) and they move exactly 1.0001x faster than running. I think I used that button once in 85 hours of gameplay.

I love to use the harts because of the crazy balloon sound they make. But yeah they are functionally suboptimal, added simply because that's the done thing, and so that there could be YET ANOTHER thing that you have to collect if you are a completionist.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:36 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Roach is always making gainz.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:43 PM on December 13, 2016


I've just been playing Assassins Creed III, since Ubisoft is giving it away free this month. The lead-you-by-the-nose gameplay is pretty tedious, but galloping across the frontier, leaping from the back of my horse onto a tree branch, running from branch to branch, tree to tree, through the forest canopy, then whistling for my horse to jump on its back and gallop some more--that's been well worth the download and sitting through enough tutorial that they'll let me go run and play. And it sure is pretty.
posted by straight at 8:09 PM on December 13, 2016


I'd have died so many more times in Skyrim if some inexplicably aggro horse hadn't shown up and cleared the bandit camp whilst I cowered behind a tree.
posted by um at 8:35 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Not a huge fan of Joe Madureira's art style, but I do love War's Horse, Ruin, and Death's Horse, Despair, in the two Darksiders games (re the Four Horseman of You Know What). Just enormous fun riding them around, whacking things to bits.
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:24 PM on December 13, 2016


No one else here played Pocket Card Jockey?
posted by lkc at 11:36 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


The mounts in DA:I are lovely to look at, but my lord are they pointless. The mechanics are extremely clumsy, they didn't bother to give your companions any (they just vanish) and they move exactly 1.0001x faster than running. I think I used that button once in 85 hours of gameplay.

they're great for eating your fall damage, like if you want to get down from a mountaintop in a hurry and don't feel like wasting a health potion. it's a little traumatic bc the horse makes a horrible sound when it lands but it's worth it.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:21 AM on December 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


> If a McElroy hasn't weighed in on this, I don't even know what the point is.

Horse Hockey
posted by ardgedee at 4:11 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also Skyrim
posted by ardgedee at 4:20 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


That the Kentucky Saddler from Red Dead Redemption isn't on this list is a travesty.

I'm finally playing Skyrim for the first time. Should I make getting a horse a priority?

For a stealth player they are actually a detriment, because your horse counts for purposes of the Detected/Hidden icon, which is dumb.

Go away, Shadowmere!
posted by Rock Steady at 4:46 AM on December 14, 2016


I'm finally playing Skyrim for the first time. Should I make getting a horse a priority?

First you install Convenient Horses. Then, enjoy your... less inconvenient horse!
posted by pemberkins at 5:32 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm finally playing Skyrim for the first time. Should I make getting a horse a priority?

Absolutely, if you don't mind having to resurrect it and summon it with console commands (or installing a mod, as pemberkins suggested above). Get Frost, which is (spoilers!) doable early on. The single reason I'm riding a horse everywhere is that Skyrim's horses are actually spiders and can climb (and descend, at walking speed) nearly vertical walls. If you're using stealth a lot, they become a PITA as you have to leave them behind too often.
posted by hat_eater at 5:40 AM on December 14, 2016


No horse comes close to Agro from Shadows of the Colossus. Not a single one.

The game is a masterpiece in so many aspects and she is one of them. So many horses in games control and are designed like vehicles, their use is almost entirely mechanical. Agro feels like an actual creature. When you're on Agro you're not controlling Agro you're guiding her where to go. Oftentimes she'll find her own way around small obstacles and she won't go fast in narrow or fiddly areas. She's also braver than any other horse in a video game, ever. A third of the game is fighting these giant creatures that you have to scale, a third of the game is navigating with Wander, and the other third of the game you're riding around this giant, empty, expanse of land with Agro. And they nail each element of the game perfectly.
posted by Neronomius at 8:18 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've just been playing Assassins Creed III, since Ubisoft is giving it away free this month.

Something something "second prize is two copies of Assassin's Creed III" something.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 10:10 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Horses are very nice and all, but they can't really compete with riding on a giant frog (technically a Beelzebufo).
posted by straight at 10:15 AM on December 14, 2016


Heh, thanks for reminding me about the horses in The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall - Daggerfall was big, no, bigger than big, it was expansive at ~62,000 mi2 (Great Britain's ~88,000 mi2).

Walking speed suuuucked. Running meant that your running skill increases, which levels you up really quickly, and monsters scale to your level, so that wasn't a great solution. No, even getting your running skill to 100 didn't automatically let you run away from monsters. iirc, monsters don't forget you (?)

Well, there were horses that you could buy, and let you move around a lot faster than walking.

Problem was, they went CLIP CLOP CLIP CLOP CLIP CLOP CLIP CLOP and there wasn't a sound mixer in the game engine, so it was CLIP CLOP CLIP CLOP CLIP CLOP CLIP CLOP or nothing.

My roommate at the time was constantly telling me to get off my damned high horse so I ended up playing most of the game with the sound off.
posted by porpoise at 3:27 PM on December 14, 2016


The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall

When I look at where Bethesda is now, it's always weird to me that they ever got to be the makers of the pretty mainstream fantasy stuff they do now, based on how ridiculous and quirky Daggerfall was. It's like an alternate universe take on the story of the Dwarf Fortress developers, except instead of choosing the path of more and more niche insanity (and I mean that in the best way), they turned towards more commercially viable endeavors.
posted by tocts at 9:13 AM on December 15, 2016


Out of all of the shoddy, poorly made aspects of Skyrim, the horse mechanics are way, way up there.

No! I mean, totally yes, but no! Everything they do wrong has been mentioned, and one of the things they do right has also been mentioned (ability to climb up an otherwise impenetrable mountainside) but this misses out the most important thing: their ability to survive falling down the aforementioned mountainside.

If you are anything like me, and have 1. no sense of direction and 2. no patience, then the whole "find a road to get somewhere" mechanic that Skyrim insists on is just ludicrous. If you are going to give me a quest arrow I am going to walk towards it and I am not going to stop until I get there, game, regardless of what you put between it and me, be it a shack, an NPC, the entirety of Red Mountain, whatever. I can't stress enough how much you need an immortal horse for this.

I could never tell for certain whether their damage soaking ability was based on how late in the game you got that particular horse, or your level, or some kind of hidden Horse Awesomeness Modifier, but there are some that'll let you fall straight off the Throat of the World without so much as mussing your hair. One in particular. You'll know it when you get it. Be good to that horse.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 11:42 AM on December 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


You're not supposed to run away from monsters in Daggerfall. You're supposed to abuse the spell creation system to get a minimum cost practice spell, become a ludicrous wizard, and then create custom levitate and fireball spells so that you can roleplay a quasi-medieval helicopter gunship.
posted by The Gaffer at 12:34 PM on December 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


The DA:I horses sucked mechanically although riding the magic rhino around was kinda nice visually.

They actually got this more right with power armor in FO4, but there's almost no reason to get a horse without a mod that makes the experience better.

Making the power armor available very early and opting to make power armor consume fast-depleting resources and require constant repair (which is more of a bother than an impediment) was one of the worst choices of Bethesda regarding FO 4 IMO.
posted by ersatz at 9:10 AM on December 17, 2016


Making it available early maybe, but setting things up so that power armor is a tank you wear, with a different HUD and clompy walk sounds, instead of just clothing with SPECIAL tweaks like it was in FO3 and NV was great.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:00 AM on December 17, 2016


The new Fassbender Assassin's Creed movie apparently features a Skyrim-style horse climbing scene.

> At one point, some sort of 15th century enemy Knight scrambles along a rooftop on his horse. This is fascinating: A horse on a rooftop! How did he get there? How did he get down?
posted by christopherious at 6:40 PM on December 19, 2016


I'm just hanging around because I like seeing "horse mechanic" being used as a meaningful phrase.
posted by ardgedee at 3:25 PM on December 20, 2016


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