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Milkaholics Anonymous

Once upon a time, Nintendo of America (and Europe) refused to let any reference to alcohol slip past the censors in order to maintain their highly prized family-friendly veneer. Their solution to getting around the problem where characters were visibly intoxicated was to have them be groggy on all manner of benign beverages, creating such euphemistic conditions like "milk high", "caffeine buzz", "getting all spry on tapwater" and "fuck you, I can quit drinking orange juice whenever I want! You aren't my parole officer!".

Of course, as this bizarre and really stupid turn of events passed into gaming lore, you'd eventually see even more games reference and spoof this censorship practice. I'm just going to list a few games that "dodged the draft" and some more games that made fun of them for doing that thing with all the booze that they... did... with it. (Sorry if this ends up sounding a bit muddled - I might've had a few sodas at lunchtime.)

[Thanks to VGK for the suggestion.]

List items

  • The classic example of this sort of thing, Majora's Mask had a late night bar that only served adults. Served them what? Milk, of course. I don't believe it was ever made clear what creature the milk came from, so maybe there was a certain fetishistic adult element to it all. (Don't look at me like I just made Majora's Mask all creepy and weird. You did play it, right?)

  • Chrono Trigger's soda bars are legendary enough, as is pouring out a bottle of "pop" to honor long-dead adventurer Toma, but it's the scene where everyone gets hung over after a few prehistoric soup drinking contests that is the memorable stand out.

  • It's not made clear what kind of potables were being drank at Final Fantasy VI's many "cafes", but it's probably safe to say they were alcohol free. An insane clown (and perhaps his posse) just destroyed their world and you won't let them drink to forget? How's anyone supposed to get through a day in the World of Ruin with just a cappuccino and a muffin?

  • When you aren't planting and harvesting crops on an endless cycle long before Zynga thought to monetize the process (but long after actual farmers starting doing so), your cap-wearing farmhand could get soused on sweet berry juice. Non-alcoholic of course - for something a little stronger you'd need to play Harvest Moonshine.

  • The adults all drink coffee in EarthBound, even in bars. Honestly, it's the switcheroo that makes the most sense, though the guy careening through Fourside with a frothy mug of cappuccino in his hand isn't fooling anyone. It's not like Ness knows about the practice of "Irishing a drink". I'm just thankful he remembered to put on some PJs in the American version.

  • Without fully understanding the inner workings of one of Tron's many sycophantic Servbots, it's entirely possible one of them could get sloshed on root beer. It does make me wonder why more games didn't think to just add "root" to hide their drinking problems.

  • Damn, even my favorite RPG of all time hid its booze by renaming a bottle of chablis "grape juice". Considering it's used to bribe some leprechaun-esque builders into working for you, I'm not sure I buy it. (Also, I think it's time to give the Irish a break for a while.)

  • Sue's unhappy home life is partly due to her father, who frequently hides bags of tea around Sue's room to hide them from her mother. I think we've all seen that episode of Cops.

  • A rare example of a game having to change an entire character to make their game more palatable to censors, Soda Popinski is a lover of carbonated beverages. That old Russian stereotype.

  • Banjo-Tooie probably didn't need to ensure that its bar filled with rough and rowdy pirates were only imbibing water and ginger beer, but it sure made the whole thing funnier.

  • Now we head into the spoofs: Never one to pass up an easy reference, Zeboyd's uncharacteristically heroic Cthulhu at one point takes a breather for a frothy mug of milk before adventure calls once again.

  • Persona 4's gaggle of teenage detectives hit the sauce hard when they reach Club Escapade on Persona 3's Tatsumi Port Island. Of course, it might as well be apple sauce, since there's no alcohol to be had on the premises. Instead, Rise, Yukiko and Teddie are all getting drunk "off the atmosphere". It does lead to a few amusing exchanges in a game filled with the things.

  • Another spoof of 8/16-bit era games every bit as subtle as Cthulhu Saves the World, the protagonist of Retro City Rampage can go on a drunken spree after finding some milk (and it takes a cup of "hot coffee" to calm him down again).

  • While in many ways the lesser game to its immediate predecessor Band of Thieves, Sly 3 does contain the Australian lemonade bar. Noted non-alcoholics, the Australian manimals don't take kindly to you interrupting their appreciation of tasty lemonades.

  • Nintendo, as if to acknowledge their own goofy legacy of alcohol aversion, include a sequence in the first Mario and Luigi game where the bros spend some time squishing, fermenting and bottling grapes in a vineyard to turn into "soda". A type of "soda" that is banned at the airport. Yeah, that kind of "soda".