4 Great Horses in Gaming
I’ve got a lot of close friends that I would trust with my life, but none of them poop on command.
We at Handsome Phantom are simple dudes. We aren’t ashamed to eat an entire meal’s worth of Taco Bell at three in the morning, and we like horses in video games. The games below are titles that can easily take several dozen hours to complete. Your equine companion is with you through it all, with a few clip-clop-neighs and some quirky personality habits, and becomes a friend of more complexity than most NPCs.
So, with genuine affection, let’s give a quick shout out to some of the best horses in video games.
D-Horse – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Warrior cultures across the globe hold special reverence for the horse. It’s iconic in their art and society to a point of sometimes religious significance. The horse-drawn chariots of Egypt and Rome, the Sioux on the Great Plains, the Mongolian Hordes trampling across Asia and Europe are all examples of this. And more recently, Snake charging through the Afghani mountains on his trusty steed, D-Horse.
Though lacking a great name, the Diamond Horse is about the sturdiest creature you’ll ever meet in a video game. In Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, D-Horse is given to you by Revolver Ocelot, a Russian expatriate with a wicked cool mullet. On my play-through of Phantom Pain, I knew D-Horse was special when we careened off of a fifteen-foot cliff and kept sprinting like nothing happened. This horse shrugs off gravity like Hulk shrugs off heavy machine-gun fire. Not to mention when D-Horse trusts you enough, he will literally defecate on command. This handy trick will cause any passersby to swerve off the road, rendering them unconscious for Venom “Punished” Snake to do as he pleases.
I’ve got a lot of close friends that I would trust with my life, but none of them poop on command. D-Horse is one of a few companions featured in Hideo Kojima’s stealth combat masterpiece, and they all offer unique new ways to play the game. But D-Horse is there for you right from the beginning, with legs of steel and unstoppable bowel movements. Snake’s Diamond Dogs better salute when he passes, cause that horse is a damn hero.
Shadowmere – The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, V: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls has been in gaming since 1994. This franchise has only become more popular and more successful in its two-decade run, most recently with Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. This huge hit is one of the bestselling role-playing games of all time, and has been re-released or is being re-released on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation VR, and Nintendo Switch. Just when you think it’s gone, it comes right back to life.
The same can be said of Shadowmere.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind skipped on mounts, but they would return in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. The shadowy group of assassins, the Dark Brotherhood, eventually reward your loyalty and dedication to their guild with your own mystic mount – Shadowmere. This red-eyed black beauty is the fastest horse in Oblivion, and much like the Elder Scrolls franchise, cannot die.
Shadowmere makes a welcome return in Skyrim with a more brutish physique common among Skyrim’s horses. In this iteration, Shadowmere can technically die. Although it can respawn in game some time later. More importantly, the Dawnguard expansion brings horseback combat to the series for the first time outside of mods. Swinging an axe into the head of a pesky bandit is all the more satisfying when you don’t have to wait ages for your character to dismount. That is a perfectly normal sentence to say as a gamer.
Roach – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Not too long ago, in our article about the great gingers of gaming, I asked you if Handsome Phantom could go a month without talking about the Witcher 3. If you thought the question was rhetorical, you were dead wrong. I think we may have a problem. In our defense, Netflix picking up the Witcher is huge news, and you can read about our wishlist for the series here. It’s a good game Brent. When talking about gingers in gaming, Witcher 3 has two of the best and, when someone brings up video game horses, you know your boy Roach is going to show up on the roof of a barn, ready to party.
Roach is what Geralt, witcher/monster hunter extraordinaire, names all of his horses. The name implies a loyal companion that doesn’t talk much, which is pretty much the opposite of his long-term friend and poet, Dandelion. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, follows Geralt on a long journey to seek out his adopted daughter Ciri, a woman who can travel through space and time, and is constantly under threat from the titular Wild Hunt. Throughout this tale, Geralt meets many old friends and makes a host of new ones, but none are as constant or as dependable as Roach.
Okay, dependable is a stretch. Geralt has the ability to whistle Roach to his side at any time. Whether he’s under fire from the venomous excretion of an arch griffin, or he just swam across a sizable lake to an island covered in ghouls, alghouls, drowners, and one slobbery pesta (disease ridden ghost). Sometimes Roach, in his eagerness to please, will end up at Geralt’s side from the roof of the local black smith. Sometimes he’ll be so excited to see his white-haired ally, that he’ll charge right past him, forcing Geralt and the player to sprint after him. But you see, his goofy quirks are a large part of his charm. While sometimes inconvenient, this silent, loyal animal never asks Geralt to fetch or slay anything, and is proud to display the rotting, severed heads of your trophies for all to see. Isn’t that right Roach? Roach? Where the hell did he go…
Epona – The Legend of Zelda
A little while back, co-host of Adventure Mode Brandon Duncan caved in to his darkest desires and bought a Nintendo Switch. What followed was weeks of Brandon gushing over the accessibility of the Switch, and his unashamed love for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I haven’t played a Zelda title since Windwaker, and I’ve never been a huge fan of the series. Around this time was when the Super Nintendo Classic got announced, and our Handsome Phantom pal Phil Neyman wrote a reflective piece on our memories of the console. Mine was watching my oldest brother play the Legend of Zelda. I tried to support my friend and indulge my nostalgia by reading about the Legend of Zelda series online.
I have a history degree. I’ve read laws that were less confusing than the chronology of The Legend of Zelda. For some strange reason, this only made me more intrigued. There are a few common threads that run through this series, and Epona the horse is one of them. Fans of the series can be treated to this surprise, easter egg-like cameo in several titles, and in a series that has more oneiric entries than true sequels, a welcome face like Epona is there to make the gamer feel at home, and offer up an old friend for your journey through Hyrule.
Honorable Mention: Yoshi
Don’t worry people, I’m aware that Yoshi isn’t a horse. What he is is a mountable companion from one of gaming’s foundational franchises. This dinosaur with the talented tongue has been alongside Mario since 1990, eventually starring in several of his own titles. While his species may be reptilian, Yoshi is the silent companion that gets Mario where he needs to go. Bonus points for his twenty-foot tongue and host of abilities that make him invaluable to the Super Mario Brothers. Yoshi is so loyal and devoted that he even followed the franchise into the delightfully awful Super Mario Bros film in 1993.
Nintendo gamers looking forward to Super Mario Odyssey will note Yoshi wasn’t present in the trailer shown earlier this year, but we’re all hoping he’ll make an appearance. Unless he is in fact the giant tyrannosaurus rex shown in the trailer, in which case…that’s different.
But we want to know what you think! Who have been your favorite horses in games? What horse-type characters should get an honorable mention? Will this list put us on PETA’s radar and will they challenge us to a trial by combat? I don’t know how PETA works! Let Handsome Phantom know your thoughts and you could get a shout out on Adventure Mode!
Kevin Lukacs is a historian, writer, occasional playwright, and a total console pleb. Find him on Twitter @kclukacs
Author: Kevin Lukacs
Kevin enjoys writing plays, short stories, comedy, history, and of course opinion pieces and listicles about video games. His dad could totally beat up your dad. You can find him in DC getting his M.A. in history, should you ever feel the need to fight about weebs and whether or not Knights of the Old Republic is the best game ever made.