Best Shopkeepers In Video Games! Back in the good ol’ pre-3D gaming days, if you ever wanted to buy in-game items from a shop, you’d always have to deal with a static representation of a shopkeeper. They wouldn’t say much outside of the usual generic ‘How can I help you?’. It didn’t necessarily take away from the game you were playing, but later years would show us just how much potential was missed in this facet of retro gaming. Business is booming and we want to see this is the case so we can come back for more!
The most popular store owners and assistants are those who get about. The ones with the magnetic personalities, or on the flip-side, the ones who seem to have ulterior motives in dealing with you. Some will be with you wherever you go, some will always be where you most expect them, whilst others are just looking to milk you for every penny you’re worth.
Shopkeepers over the years would grow to become so much more than just a cardboard cut-out, and that’s what I’m here to look at; the evolution of the man behind the counter. If there is a counter.
Store Keeper – The Secret of Monkey Island (Amiga, FM Towns, Sega CD, iOS, PC, PS3, EVERYTHING!!!)
There’s no way I could begin such an article without bringing to attention the poor shop-keeper from 1990’s classic Secret of Monkey Island. He’s one of the few characters in the game who is able to co-operate with you on more than one occasion (most just take the piss out of you), but he does it in a very begrudging manner. To be fair, if someone was asking me to trudge halfway across an island to arrange a meeting which is never going to happen and I arrived back to find some of my stock stolen as a result, I guess I’d be a little grumpy too.
But with an “Ahoy there, fancy pants.”, there’s just something endearing about this rascal. Sure you soon find him to be a mean-spirited sod, and a loan shark to boot, but the fact you can turn his reluctance against him and rob the guy for credit needed to purchase a ship from Stan (I’m not even going to get into this chap, another business owner), it ultimately boils down to him being one of the most useful characters in this, the first of one of the most popular point ‘n’ click series of all time.
O’aka XXIII – Final Fantasy X, X-2 (PS2, PS3, PS Vita, PC)
O’aka is one of the more unique shopkeepers out there. He’s a travelling merchant who seems to carry his business in the bag he lugs around on his back. A very helpful character throughout the game, he stands out due to the fact he always seems to be there when you need him most. Whether you’re battling away during a bloody coastal battle or due to travel across a river on a gigantic Shoopuf, O’aka always seems to be there with cockney-like voice tickling you with every line he says.
Don’t get me wrong, he can be quite rude toward Tidus, your character, at the start of the game. He’ll berate you for your look and lack of income, but he’ll redeem himself later with the items he can provide for a modest fee. He also gives you good discounts the more money you spend with him, and these can be reduced even further if you tell him how expensive his stock is. Poor chap, being conned by you. Ultimately, he is effectively a good cop-out for Squaresoft who decided to place the player on a long linear path through a game which travelled through few cities and villages. If they’d only have remembered O’aka when Final Fantasy XIII came along…
He’s also voiced by none other than “Howling Mad” Murdock from the 1980s hit, The A-Team. No, not the crap Liam Neeson movie, the TV show. What a legend.
Dancing Shopkeeper – Secret of Mana (SNES, Wii, iOS, Android)
This guy is CRAZY. And we’ll never know why. He dances the hell out of the day, and still we’ll never know why. Boy does he do it in style, dressed in his middle-eastern garbs. If I remember correctly, one or two of them sometimes have something a little different to say but otherwise, he’ll always carry himself across in quite a generic manner.
However, this is probably the most active shopkeeper we’ll ever find in gaming. Ever. There’s not much else to say about him but never will you be more happy to throw your cash at a shop assistant. Anyone who can hand goods over to you while dancing like they’re suffering from major sunburn whilst fending off ants in their pants has got to be a worthwhile employee.
Shopkeeper – Spelunky (PC, 360, PS3/4, PS Vita)
All nice representatives of the commercial community so far, so let’s get a bit more into the dark side of things. Let’s start with this cuddly old chap who runs the store/s in the ever-changing world of Spelunky. He provides you with some fantastically helpful items in your quest to go deeper and deeper into the mines, and as long as you have the gold to pay for them, the products will always be available to you. The items ranging from the likes of jet-pacs to climbing mitts, from bombs to freeze guns are all so bloody helpful and provide a huge advantage against the harshness which can be found within the game’s levels.
One thing you don’t want to do however, is get on the wrong side of him because WOW do things change suddenly.
Attempt to steal from his business, or injure him even by mistake and the shopkeeper pulls his shotgun out, and goes on an immediate insane rampage to take you out. Pulling the trigger on his shotty whether he sees you or not, the guy is relentless. If he’s running crazy and he’s right by your exit, you’re going to have a tough time taking him down. You might be lucky enough to have a weapon to shoot him with, and dropping a bomb down on him from above would do a LOT of damage, but if all you’re left with is your whip… no amount of Indiana Jones-like techniques will work here. Spelunky is a very addictive game, but not for someone who expects a simple stroll through a cartoony looking game.
The Merchant – Resident Evil 4 (Gamecube, PS2, Wii, PS3, 360)
“WELCOME!!” he proclaims as you wonder what the hell you’ve just gotten yourself into by approaching him. Potentially one of the least successful traders in gaming history (he only sells to Leon Kennedy), he also manages to sell some truly beastly weapons. How he manages to rack up such an inventory as the game progresses is anyone’s guess, as the simple rifle and handgun he sells at the start of the game later evolves into weapons such as the Striker and Killer7 which pack a major bit of ‘oomph’ behind them.
The merchant appears at seemingly random moments in the game, and is never found to be in a position of peril. Always just out of reach from the enemy, he becomes your own little secret and you’ll be throwing your hard earned cash at him left, right, and centre to acquire the firepower necessary to take down the ‘Los Illuminados’. The character became popular amongst Resi’ fans due to his odd nature, chuckling away to himself and spouting such phrases as, “Stranger, ha ha, what do ya’ need that for, goin’ huntin’ an elephant?”
The guy’s an absolute hero.
Tom Nook – Animal Crossing series (N64, Gamecube, Wii, Wii U, DS, 3DS)
I was always going to end the article with this pillar of the trading community. Considered a legend within the Animal Crossing universe, he’s also possibly one of the most deceptive of all shopkeepers you’ll ever meet in gaming. On the surface of it, he looks like a cuddly little Tanuki, with his little droopy eyes and stout belly. Underneath that cute exterior however lies a potential Kingpin.
You enter your new hometown looking for a place of residence and Nook smells an opportunity. In there like a rat up a drain pipe, he offers to build you a home as long as you work off the cost of it for him. And you do. 3 times you work your ass off pleasing this money-obsessed head of commerce in the hope of building yourself a fine home. He chases you around his shop sniffing for your purchase. He threatens to bring his goons in to sort you out if you fail him. Other animals in town will tell you how it ‘chills their heart’ when they think of how Nook was in the past.
In discussing the ‘good old days’ with you the player, Tom eventually winds the story down with the following, “The big city certainly had its charms, but it had its pitfalls as well. Indeed, I had to endure certain hardships that I’ve never spoken of, hm?… Hard to believe, yes? You’re probably asking yourself, what the heck is Nook talking about, hm? For now, maybe it’s best that we forget we ever talked about this.” That’s either a truly heart-breaking reminiscence of a lost business dream, or some dodgy underworld activity.
Sometimes on entering his shop, he will ask you to “Feel free to browse, but try not to carouse! Hoho!” To carouse is to get high and mighty drunk and then cause mayhem in an effort to enjoy one’s self. Nook knows exactly how this goes down. The guy has certainly led some life, and who knows, maybe one day we’ll get that spin-off game where Tom goes round breaking the kneecaps of anyone unfortunate enough to have missed those ‘payments’. Grand Theft Auto VI: Don’t Cross the Animal.
Thank you, and please come again!
And with that, I bid ye’ a ‘Have a Nice Day!’. We didn’t get to talk about the ‘THIEF’ branding store owner from The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. How about Marcus Kincaid and his inimitable way of encouraging potential customers to part with their cash in the Borderlands series? You have the ever jolly ‘swinging from a noose’ shopkeepers in the Binding of Isaac, always looking to sell you your next implement of torture. You could do a whole article on the businesses of the GTA series.
We love our shopkeepers, we really do. Especially when they’re given a purpose past just giving you items you’ve paid for. The more interactive and personable with you, the better. Some of our favourite characters in gaming are the ones who provide us with the abilities and items to further ourselves in our quests. Keep pumping their business full of your money and feel safe knowing they’ll always be there for you. And if you ever decide to stop buying, pray you don’t hear the words of Marcus Kincaid as you leave his store:
“Goodbye friend! If you shop anywhere else, I’ll have you killed!”