What Video Game Characters Do When You're Not Controlling Them

Yeah, video game characters are great when they're hopping, bopping, and shooting everything in sight, but the best reveal themselves when they're standing still. No, not like that, you pervert and also me after I wrote that sentence. Idle animations. I'm talking about idle animations.

The above video contains some great ones, although I wish there were more modern games in it. Then again, I feel like first-person games and more action-oriented, cross-the-line-and-enemies-emerge-from-every-conceivable-corner shooters have cut down on the need for them. Fewer idle moments mean fewer idle animations — at least, theoretically.

You know how it is, though: you're speeding through a level in Mario or the burning remains of a city in Grand Theft Auto, but then the phone rings or you realise you're about to wet yourself. You dash off to deal with this pressing concern, and when you come back — awwww — Mario is gently snoozing and/or your Grand Theft Auto character is mean-mugging like he's about to murder someone rather than being actively engaged in the process.

It's a brief bit of quiet nestled between crashing waves of madness, this quick reminder that life (or at least some approximation of it) goes on in these worlds even when you're not around — even for "you" in the game.

These moments, while largely inconsequential, can speak volumes about characters — especially ones like Mario or, say, Link from Legend of Zelda who don't talk all that often. Heck, even video game bad guys sometimes have great idle animations. I actually kinda love how bored Halo's enemies look before you pounce into the middle of their patrol. Like, this is a routine thing for them — just another day in the blood-and-entrail-strewn office. And then, well, suddenly it's not anymore. For obvious reasons.

What are your favourite idle moments in games? Post them below. Let's make a thing out of this. Games don't always have to be moving at a billion miles per hour to show us something great.


    That video left out Halo. If you remain idle Chief/Rookie/Six will play with their currently held weapon in some way.

    There's also special reactions marines and elites have if you remain idle while staring at them.

      I guess they were going for characters rather than pairs of arms from FPSes.
      Which is a shame, cause Gordon has a few good ones.
      And lest we forget the knuckle-cracking accompanied by "Come on" and "What are you waiting for, Christmas?"

        Or the Brute on Halo 3 just chilling, taking a leak in the corner while the grunts sleep around him mumbling things like 'Rukt. Fist. Merry Christmas'

          Or even on metro 2033 if you idle with the bastard gun he throws it into the air.... and it doesnt come down.... until you look up it falls into your hands again, one of my favorite idle animations :P

    Earthworm Jim always made me laugh, I remember sitting my controller down for a good 15 minutes waiting through every idle animation =)

    Used to love making Bubsy just sit there and wait.

    Metroid Prime had some nice animations of Samus fiddling with her gun.

      Don't forget about her fiddling with stungun whip in brawl

        and don't forget in Other M where she spent her time fiddling around with WOAH can't mention that one.

    I remember the first time I saw Sonic impatiently tapping his foot in Sonic 1 on the Master System. Mind was blown.

      Sonic had a second level one too where he'd lay down if you left it long enough

        That may have been in Sonic 2 on the Megadrive. I remember in Sonic 2 on Master System he'd just stand there shrugging his shoulders.

    Commander Keen - Secret of The Oracle, my first exposure to idle animations.
    Then there was that time I discovered that idling in a certain spot in the "Temple of the Moon" had a particular result.

    If you left Earthworm Jim wait to long & you had a super blast remaining, he'd waste it by accidentally shooting his own head. He didn't die but you lose your special weapon because you didn't pause the game.

    This is what Wreck-It Ralph was about...

    Dunno if it counts or not,but in Rock Band, during the lengthy opening to Won't Get Fooled Again, the bassist gets bored and looks at his wrist impatiently.

    Naughty fog's idles are the best. From Crash through to Jak, Drake and Joel, they always seem to find time in the schedule to get those little touches across.

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