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If you’re a certain age, like me, you’ll remember how painfully slow game loading screens used to be.

At one time, I could start loading up a game, go make a sandwich, and come back to find it still wasn’t ready to play.

Luckily, Halo developer Bungie brought us Destiny last month and gave younger gamers a taste of how bad loading screens can be. It takes 58 dull seconds to get from the level select screen to the game’s central hub, The Tower. I just timed it.

But loading screens don’t need to suck, even if they are long. I was talking to a couple of my gaming buddies while playing (or waiting to play) Destiny, and we agreed that even just an option to move your ship, stuck going nowhere fast between levels, would be a huge improvement. And if Bungie let you race your fireteam on the loading screen? Well, that would take it to a whole other level.

Maybe Bungie should have taken some tips from the games we’ve rounded up below. They’re 10 great examples of loading screens done well, from titles spanning the last 20 years.


Ridge Racer — Galaxian mini-game

PlayStation

Bringing arcade hit Ridge Racer to the home, Namco needed to do something special, and this loading screen mini-game was certainly that, letting players shoot down waves of alien ships while they booted up. Namco loved the idea so much, it took out a patent on the concept of using mini-games during another game’s loading screen. Luckily, some other canny developers still took advantage of the idea …


Crash Tag Team Racing — Burps and farts

PlayStation

What better way to kill time between races than some juvenile humor? Sony let Crash Tag Team Racing players unleash loading screen burps and farts using the triangle and X buttons on their gamepads. Perfect for those late-night or after school multiplayer gaming sessions with four buddies gathered round the TV.


Rayman Legends — Shadow race/slap fight

PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360

Rayman Legends is an absolute delight to play in couch co-op, and its interactive loading screens mean the action doesn’t let up between levels. Each break becomes a shadowy dash to grab a heart bottle that usually (in my house, at least) descends into a chaotic and hilarious on-screen slap fight, cartoon limbs flying everywhere.

Ubisoft used a similar loading screen in Rayman Origins, too, but the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of Rayman Legends ditched the loading screen entirely. Boo.


Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad — Zombie mini-game

Xbox 360

Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad is not a good game. In fact, IGN’s review of the hack and slash action title said that it’s “a digital disaster in nearly every way. It’s ugly, sounds awful, handles poorly and has a premise that is as shallow as they come.”

It does have one redeeming feature, though, and that’s the zombie-slaying side-scrolling hack-em-up you get to play while you’re waiting for the next level to load. Which, to be honest, is probably more fun than the main game.


Okami — Winning Demon Fangs

PlayStation 2

Beautiful lupine action-adventure title Okami has two loading screens that can actually help you in the game. The first has you pound away at the X button to make 50 paw prints appear on screen, rewarding you with a Demon Fang if you manage it before the next level loads. The second one requires timing as you need to press the X button in time to paw prints appearing along the bottom of the screen.

These interactive loading screens only appear in the PlayStation 2 version of Okami, so Wii and PlayStation 3 gamers will need to get their tradeable Demon Fangs elsewhere.

Devil May Cry 3 — Die, ‘Now Loading’

PlayStation 2

Capcom must know how we feel when we see the words “Now loading” appear because its action-adventure title Devil May Cry 3 lets gamers shoot and slash at those very words. Between levels, you can vent your loading screen frustration using the square and circle buttons on your DualShock 2 controller.

It’s only a very small touch, but it makes a real impact. The feature only appears on the original PlayStation 2 version of the game, not the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 remaster.


Bayonetta — Perfecting your combos

PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Bayonetta is a game that demands exemplary move execution if you really want to do well. So practicing your combos between levels is a perfect way to kill that level-loading time. It’s testament to the power of the practice area that pops up between Bayonetta’s levels that I’d often choose to stay in there, testing out new moves, even when the game was ready for me to move on.


Tekken 5 — StarBlade mini-game

PlayStation 2

Namco used its mini-game patent to good effect in fighting game Tekken 5. The initial loading screen features a short blast of 3D space-shooter StarBlade, originally released in arcades in 1991. If you enjoy the taster, you can unlock the full version of StarBlade within the “Arcade History” section of Tekken 5.


FIFA 15 — Practice arena

PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Electronic Arts’ FIFA soccer games have been using interactive loading screens for years, and they make waiting for a match to start an absolute pleasure. Putting you in a one-on-one situation of striker versus keeper, it’s a great opportunity to practice your shooting, try out some dribbling skills, or just goof around. When the match is ready, you can click to start it. Such a simple idea, but it makes so much sense.


Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 — Growing Saibamen

PlayStation 2

The Dragon Ball Z fighting games always throw in some goofy loading screen secrets and mini-games. In Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3, players can rotate the left analog stick to make green Saibamen creatures grow up out of the ground. Go nuts and you can fill the whole screen.

Dragon Ball Z: Raging Blast 2 even has an unlockable achievement, Ball Master, on Xbox 360 (and a matching trophy on PlayStation 3) when you “shoot off as many as balls as possible” in the loading screen mini-game.

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