Food & Drink

The 8-bit diet: The best and worst things about eating like a video game hero

Published On 07/24/2013 Published On 07/24/2013

For as long as Link has been wandering around caves, scrubbing hooch off of old guys, people have asked two very important questions: 1) what the hell did all those old characters eat for "health" anyway?, and 2) what would happen if you, too, tried to emulate that sweet, sweet video game diet?

Well, luckily for people, we figured it ALL out:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles What the turtles ate: Pizza. Nothing but pizza. And, actually, nothing but Pizza Hut pizza (oddly enough, in the movie, they ate Dominos… but this is a video game, not real life). What it did: A slice gave back a tiny amount of life. Housing a whole pie refueled your entire health bar. What it would really do: Even Papa John himself went on record saying people should only eat a few slices a day. Eating several pies in a few minutes would cause irreparable damage… and that's before you stop to contemplate hot dog-stuffed crusts.

The Legend of Zelda What Link ate: Link had a habit of scoring secret potions from creepy old men and crones that hung out in caves. You had to give a letter to an old woman… presumably letting her know you're not a narc. What it did: The blue potion refilled half your health. The red potion got you all the way up. What it would really do: Hard to say, since nobody really knows what was in that stuff… but typically, it's pretty awesome when you drink something you bought from a stranger in a cave.

ToeJam & Earl What they ate: Pretty much everything, from hot dogs and pizza to moldy bread and fish bones. What it did: The good stuff gave you life. The bad stuff took it away. What it would really do: Consuming mold has serious health effects and fish bones are a severe choking hazard. However, one could argue that eating nothing but pizza and fries is pretty unhealthy.

Rampage What Lizzy & George ate: Everything they found after punching buildings, but the main staple of this diet was people. What it did: Stuff like people, turkeys, cakes, and liquor gave them life. Toilets, bombs, and electrical outlets made them spit and fall off buildings... and caused damage. What it would really do: Accurately, eating turkey is pretty healthy. Eating toilets will make you sick. Curiously, eating a woman in the shower is OK. Since no major studies have been executed on eating people, we can't debate the health benefits. However, Mad Cow Disease has been linked to bovine cannibalism, so... there's that.

Streets of Rage What the Ragers ate: Essentially the most ripped bums since Rowdy Roddy Piper, these dudes (and a kangaroo, in later installments) harvested whole roasted turkeys from the garbage. What it did: Unlike the elusive trash ham and dumpster apple, the garbage turkey filled the fighters' health up all the way. What would really happen: One turkey sandwich makes the average Joe sleepy due to its tryptophan content. Toss in 20+ pounds of meat, and it's highly unlikely even Kimbo Slice would stay awake for a 10-man melee.

Pac-Man What he (and the Mrs) ate: Aside from steroids (aka power pellets) and the disembodied souls of his enemies, Pac-Man pretty much stuck to a diet of fruit… until he met Miss Pac-Man and she got him hooked on pretzels. What it did: Points. Glorious points. What would really happen: The fruits, loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, would result in a leaner, healthier Pac-Man. But those pretzels, man -- that salt content would send his blood pressure through the roof. Maybe the little blue ghosts are a prescription for that.

Oregon Trail What they ate: A steady diet of bison, deer, elk, and bears filled with buckshot… or a light snack at Ted Nugent's house. What it did: Helped the family survive in between drownings, broken legs, and snakebites. That stuff also had a habit of giving everybody dysentery… presumably because the Nuge was running the chuck wagon. What would really happen: 200lbs of rotting, uncleaned bison meat consumed among a small family in a day or two? You'd be pooping yourself to death too

Little Nemo: The Dream Master What Nemo ate: Nothing, but he spent his entire dream adventure feeding candy to animals. What it did: After three pieces of candy, the animals were lulled into slumber, allowing Nemo to either ride them or hideously don their skin and adopt their abilities. What would really happen: Any veterinarian will tell you that candy and animals don't mix. Chocolate makes them extremely sick. PETA hates Nemo.

Super Mario Bros. What Mario & Luigi ate: A steady diet of brown and green mushrooms. What it did: Eating said fungi either granted an extra life, or made the Italian plumbers bigger and more capable of diving into pipes. What would really happen: Pretty much the same thing… until you woke up feeling overly philosophical and crying for an emergency technician to use the jaws of life to dislodge you from a sewer drain.

Leisure Suit Larry What Larry and his ladies ate: Champagne. Lots and lots of Champagne. What it did: Totally got Larry laid. What would really happen: The combination of alcohol and hot tubs can result in severe dehydration. Side effects include dizziness… but only after you TOTALLY GET LAID

Fester's Quest What Fester ate: In this weird game, the main source of sustenance is hot dogs, purchased at strategically placed stands that resemble modern food carts. What it did: Provided a small boost in health. What it would really do: In rare instances, (as in the case of Kobayashi), hot dogs provide warrior-like strength and a matching physique. In 99% of cases, it results in an early-'90s Christopher Lloyd paunch.

DuckTales What Scrooge McDuck ate: A Baskin-Robbins-trumping amount of soft-serve ice cream cones, often supplied by that saucy minx Mrs. Beakley. What it did: Provided that penny-pinching hero a boost in health. What it would really do: The Audubon Society clearly states that birds are OK with hard cheeses, but soft dairy causes digestive problems. All that pogo-sticking would definitely dislodge something from the ol' "money bin".

Bubble Bobble What Bub and Bob ate: Pretty much all of Pac-Man's fruit cellar, plus cakes and, more awesomely, candy & martinis. What it did: Provided points and increased bubble-blowing abilities. What would really happen: Given the high carb count in cake, and the propensity for booze to make you burp, the bubble-blowing is pretty spot-on.

Battletoads What Zitz, Pimple, and Rash ate: Flies… naturally. What it did: Each fly provided one precious bar of health… a bar of health that was immediately taken away from you because this game is crueler than Joan Crawford with a coat hanger. What would really happen: You are what you eat. Flies eat garbage, poop, and poop made of garbage. Do the math… unless you're a toad, in which case you can't do math but can totally digest garbage-poop.

Adventure Island What Master Higgins ate: Pretty much nothing but tropical fruit like mangoes and pineapples. What it did: Scored the mustachioed skateboarder points. What would really happen: Master Higgins, despite sporting a mustache that points to extreme mental health problems, is probably the healthiest of all game characters… which makes his pudgy frame all the more puzzling.