Regardless of the stereotypical perception of games, being unhealthy and slouchy, one of the most beloved and common inclusions in games is fruit. From being a way to distinguish a game from the action to being integrated into action games, fruit is a big part of gaming now, but how and why is this the case?
Fresh and Colorful Fun
It all started in 1980 with the emphatic release of Pac-Man. Novel in that it didn’t seek to sell itself on the action, but rather, on the strategy, you’d need to pivot around, gobble up dots, avoid ghosts, and eat fruit whenever possible. It showed to the world that gaming goes beyond the action genre, helping to make fruit a symbol of non-combat mechanics and even casual fun.
Fruit works in video games because it automatically tells the player important information from its image alone – even if the fruit is fictitious. We know fruit to be healthy and good for you, which plays well into getting wins, points, and increasing the health bar. From a design standpoint, fruit is an easy and natural way to power in some color and eye-catching variety to the items or environment. Furthermore, everyone can instantly recognize a fruit from its shape and coloring, allowing the player to identify these key items to the gameplay quickly.
On top of all of this, making fruit a part of gameplay has been proven to encourage healthy eating in some instances. Of course, this kind of gamification of healthy eating practices is rarely in fully-fledged video games, but the studies do hint at the inclusion of benefit-providing fruits being able to impart real-world fruits as good foods to eat. The same can be said for vegetables, especially in fully-themed hits like Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion, but fruits are far more commonly used in games than vegetables.
Many Faces of Fruits Across Gaming
In modern gaming, mobile is the biggest platform, both in terms of the number of games and revenue. It’s here that a few of the most popular fruit-stuffed games of all time exist. Easily the most popular fruit-focused game in the world, Fruit Ninja is a free app game from Halfbrick Studios that has you cut up fruit. More tropical fruits tend to yield more points. Clearly, the formula of fruitiness worked as, in 2012, it was making over $1 million per month from ad revenue alone. Joining Fruit Ninja is the infamous Candy Crush Saga at over one billion downloads.
Candy Crush Saga may be more about unhealthy sweets with fruit flavors, but the game itself is predominantly based on fruit-shaped symbols dropping onto the grid to be combined. Of course, these are rather new inventions for the new platforms, but the use of fruits in games goes way further back than even Pac-Man. Fruit machines have been around since the 19th century, getting this slang name because the fruits needed to be combined to make wins. In modern slot gaming, fruits remain prevalent and strong selling points.
The developer Thunderkick is one of the best iGaming providers, with one of its highlight games being Fruit Warp. It has a 97 percent return to player, which is very high for slots. So, while the RTP is a big eye-catcher for players, so too are the high-paying fruits. Getting between three and nine of the same symbol makes wins in this game, with cherries, strawberries, and oranges on the reels. These are notable because they’re three of the five core fruits that are staples of the Pac-Man games, with the other two being apples and melons.
Away from being the central figures of games, fruits continue to play a role as beneficial items that are well worth finding and keeping. In Elden Ring and throughout its major downloadable content release, the Rowa Fruit is essential to success. You can craft it into healing and supportive items for both your character and your horse. Crash Bandicoot is, perhaps, the most famous for its fruits, though. Eating enough Wumpa Fruit will give you an extra life, which is quite fitting for good messaging.
Fruits as Objectives and Rewards
As gaming technology advanced, so did the role of fruits. Fruits began to serve as objectives and rewards, enriching gameplay mechanics across diverse genres. Platformers like Super Mario embraced this concept, embedding fruits within levels as collectibles that players needed to gather for points, extra lives, or power-ups. The allure of these fruits incentivized exploration, encouraging players to venture off the beaten path and uncover hidden secrets.
Fruits also became integral to resource management in simulation and strategy games. Titles like Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley centered around tending to crops, with fruits representing both sustenance and income. Cultivating virtual orchards added depth to gameplay, emphasizing the passage of time and the importance of strategic decision-making. Similarly, real-time strategy games like Age of Empires introduced fruit-bearing trees as vital resources, reinforcing the symbiotic relationship between nature and gameplay progression.
Narrative and Symbolism
Beyond gameplay mechanics, fruits have also found their way into gaming narratives, often carrying symbolic significance. In The Legend of Zelda series, mystical fruits like Lon Lon Apples and Ordon Pumpkins embody themes of sustenance, growth, and rejuvenation. These fruits not only sustain characters but also serve as catalysts for progression, illustrating the intrinsic link between nature and heroism.