Could we survive on a game character’s diet?

The relationship between food and the player in videogames is one of the most distinguishable mechanics in the medium’s history

Between 1-Up Mushrooms, Golden Apples and, of course, Portal’s Cake of lies, the use of food in games as both a healing mechanic, survival method and motivational tool is a solid link to human nature.  But fungi? Golden bars? Can anyone really survive off these things for more than a few days? Referring to the serving size of each food item, as suggested by the American Heart Association and the United States Department of Agriculture, and checking if the mineral intake matches up with the necessary amounts, the likelihood of survival of anyone in the real world on these diets was determined. Would these characters last three months?

Super Mario Bros.

Diet: Red Mushrooms, Green Mushrooms

The mushrooms from the Super Mario series are by far one of the most easily recognized food items in the history of gaming. The idea is simple enough; Mario takes a nom out of a red mushroom with white spots, and he grows a few feet taller and vanquishes his enemies with relative ease. Or at least, he thinks he does. The real-life counterpart of the super Mushroom is the fly agaric mushroom, a toxic red and white fungus with hallucinogenic effects. And while that explain his illusions of grandeur and sudden growth spurt, he wouldn’t have time to enjoy it for long, considering Mario would die of poisoning shortly after. While deaths with these mushrooms are now considered rare, they have happened, and with the amount of head-sized portions Mario eats, it’s more likely than not that he’s at death’s door.

As for the green 1-up mushrooms, they aren’t nearly as dangerous, but it isn’t recommended fill up your extra lives to 99. The parrot toadstool, a mushroom ranging in color from lime-green to emerald, is edible, but eating more than 20 in one sitting can cause gastrointestinal issues.

Ignoring the fact that you should never eat mushrooms raw, as they hold on to toxins and don’t release nutrients until cooked, mushrooms still hold 0 percent of your daily serving of fat, necessary for survival.


Status: Dead, or at least really really high and nauseous


Diet: Cooked/Raw meat , poultry, fish; Bread; Milk; Apple; Potato; Pumpkin Pie; Golden Apple and Golden Carrot; Mushroom Stew

Minecraft gameplay is nothing if not full of variety, and the dishes offered reflect that. From fresh-baked bread to mushroom stew, this game is full of delicious and healthy choices. Still, a few of the most coveted options raise a few eyebrows: golden apples and carrots.

Realistically speaking, we’ve been putting gold in food for a while. Edible gold flakes have been used to decorate wedding cakes, chocolate and alcoholic drinks. In most cases, gold is considered biologically inert in small amounts, and simply plating carrots and apples with a small amount of the stuff probably won’t have much of an effect if the gold is as close to pure as possible.

But why would anyone gain powers from dipping an apple in gold like it’s caramel? One idea is that there’s a heavy placebo effect that goes along with it. Gold is a highly sought after material in the medical world, with some doctors suggesting it cures cancer. Others consider gold to be a cure for rheumatoid arthritis. While these effects are being contested, that won’t stop some people from believing in the power of shiny carrots and apples.

Status: Alive, with shiny poop


Diet: Cherries, Strawberries, Oranges, Apples, Melons, Pac-Dots, the souls of the deceased

Everyone knows an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but there’s a bit more to it than that. With the variety of fruits that Pacman consumes, he probably has a healthy intake of manganese, vitamins C, A and K, and a few other minerals and nutrients, but he’s still missing out on the necessary fats, oils, carbs and proteins necessary for life; chances are, his pancreas would be working overtime to process the excess nutrients, his body would go into starvation mode and he’d be constantly sick to his stomach.

But, there’s a saving grace in all this: the 240 pac-dots in each maze. No one knows what the pac-dots actually are (though there’s some speculation that they once were designed to be “power cookies”) it’s known that Pacman gets 10 points for eating them (50 for the larger power-pellets). If we count those points as calories, than it looks like he’s getting a healthy 2600 calories a day.

Still, without high amounts of potassium, salt, iron, phosphorous and zinc, he isn’t bound to last very long. Unless we get the nutrient breakdown of Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde, he’s probably a goner.

Status: Dead as the ghosts he eats

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Diet: Bee Larvae, Red potion, Yeto Soup, Milk

The first consumable item found in a bottle is bee larvae, found from knocking down a beehive in Link’s hometown. After scooping it up, Link grimaces and downs the bottle, restoring some health. But he shouldn’t be such a downer about it; turns out,bee larvae are high in protein and potassium, and it tastes like bacon!

Later on in the game, high a top a mountain, Link is served Yeto Soup, a fish- and pumpkin-based cheesy broth. With the oils from the fish, the calcium in the cheese, and the fiber and vitamin-A in the pumpkin, this tasty soup could keep him going for a while, and fans have even recreated the meal in real life.

But, unfortunately, it all goes downhill from there. In Twilight Princess, the potions seem to be derived of the jelly of Chuchus, gelatinous slug-like creatures found all over Hyrule. Once defeated, Chu jelly can be scooped up in a bottle and drunk for life-giving properties. Turns out, they look a lot like red and arions, slugs that can grow to be over 5 inches long (15 cm) found all over northern Europe and the northwest region of the U.S. Turns out, when they’re cooked and processed, in this case into a potion, they retain loads of protein and they’re deemed edible. Absolutely disgusting, but edible.

Status: Alive, but pretty grossed-out

These are only a few of the meals available in the world of gaming. From the trashcans of Bioshock Infinite to the zombies of Day-Z, fantastical food is found everywhere in the world of gaming, stringing the feel-good memories of family dinners to the experience of surviving the digital high-stakes universes you engage with. So the next time you down a strange potion, punch an oak tree for apples or take a big bite out of a ghost, remember the worlds they come from aren’t too far from your own.


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