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Cranium Ride

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Mario goes on ahead.
"Neuron is a friendly guy,
Use his head to ride up high."

In Video Games, enemies often have immunity to environmental hazards, usually floor spikes or Lava Pits; the player, on the other hand, is not so fortunate. So what can you do? Why, hop on the enemy's head and ride it across, of course. Most of the time the enemy won't even care that you're hitching a ride on its head, and will continue to wander mindlessly.

Doesn't work on enemies that you can Goomba Stomp, obviously (unless they function as Goomba Springboards). That, and Collision Damage has to be disabled for the top of this specific enemy. Compare and contrast Goomba Springboard, Frozen Foe Platform and Improvised Platform. Not to be confused with vehicles made out of craniums.


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    Action Adventure 
  • I Wanna Be the Guy has a part where you have to ride on a giant 8 bit Link to progress. Unfortunately you're not in the clear yet, because occasionally he'll stab upwards and kill you if you aren't expecting it. More annoyingly, one of these is at the exact point where you're coming down again after jumping over a spike. Gibs ensue.
  • In Dead Rising, the main character Frank West can gain the ability to jump up on a zombie's shoulders and proceed to walk across a crowd of zombies, often allowing him to avoid having to walk through said crowd.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, in order to reach the source of the river that feeds Lake Hylia, Link and Midna must make use of one of the enormous Twilight avians. Once Link has subdued the creature, Midna jumps onto its head and takes control of it to make it fly them past a series of otherwise impassable obstacles.
  • Metroid games sometimes feature this trope.
    • Samus's ice-based weaponry can make any enemy a stepping stone, be they on the ground, on a wall or even airborne. They can also be used to perform Wall Jumps.
    • Rippers in most of the 2D games function as moving platforms; usually they have to be frozen with the Ice Beam to be used as stepping stones, though a select few tote actual platforms on their backs and can carry Samus around without slowing down (though some, usually the ones flying right over lava or acid, will lose height when stood on). There's also a large turtle-like creature in Super Metroid that will start to bounce around when you stand on it, which can be used to reach an item expansion.
    • Metroid II: Return of Samus features Flitts, Septoggs, and Proboscum, which all serve this purpose in various ways. Flitts harmlessly float around and will sometimes vanish when Samus is around, Septoggs hover harmlessly in place and will sink under Samus's weight when she stands on one, and Proboscum is a wall-mounted malfunctioning platform robot that continuously raises and lowers its platform.
    • Metroid Prime: The Puddle Spore is an enemy in Magmoor Caverns that gets stunned when its insides are shot, flipping over and allowing Samus to use it as a platform.
  • In Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, you can turn flying eyeballs into stone or ice and use them as platforms.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum allows you to do this whenever you stun a Titan. While riding on his back Batman can lead him towards other enemies, who will get injured from the dazed Titan stumbling around and flailing his arms. Eventually he'll snap out of it and throw you off. Hitting enough enemies while doing this will also award you the "Freakshow Rodeo" achievement.
  • Featured in Shadow of the Colossus. Although you can technically ride on the head of every colossus, there's one particular one that stands out. He has special stones growing out of his head, and if you hit them, he changes direction. You have to direct him to different platforms in the arena.
  • Used in Evil Dead: Regeneration. Apparently your magical zombie midget sidekick has the power to override the minds of giants.
  • In the Taz-Mania game for the Sega Genesis, there are ambulatory rocks with angry faces that serve as enemies. Taz can (and must for one level) ride these monsters across hazards such as quicksand. Unlike other examples of this Trope, however, they do mind, and will try to swat Taz off them if he stays up there for too long.
  • Cars can be used like this in Grand Theft Auto. The drivers won't mind, and will drive around as if it were completely normal to have someone on the roof of your car or even on the hood, blocking their view.
  • Saints Row: The Third adds a balance meter and an option to do a handstand instead.
  • The only way to get away from Manhattan in [PROTOTYPE] is to somehow jump on the helicopter's tail. As in the above entry, the pilot will not notice you unless you set the alarm off, and eventually will fly away from the island. It's quite useless, as there still is nothing to stand on - well, nothing at all after you leave the skybox. See if it works in the sequel...
  • This happens a lot in the SNES game Smart Ball. Especially since Jerry doesn't usually take damage when sitting on top of enemies. So he can ride on birds to fly across gaps (and in one case in a desert level, a giant flying worm), ride on balloons or bunny heads to reach high places, and at one point in an ice world, ride on a penguin across some spikes. Of course, Jerry can ride practically any enemy (except fireballs and dinosaurs)—these examples are the most useful ones.


    Platform Game 
  • Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time have Bugs in the prehistoric levels using brontosaurus heads as platforms.
  • In the second level of The Lion King video game, you have to cross a body of water by jumping on the heads of some giraffes. Whether or not the giraffes can be considered enemies probably depends on the player, although their habit of dumping their future king into his watery demise should he stand on their heads too long does seem rather questionable.
  • You can actually ride a boss in this manner in Distorted Travesty 3.
  • Super Mario Bros. frequently averts this trope in favor of Goomba Stomp, but there are exceptions:
    • Super Mario Bros. 2 is one of the first instances, allowing the characters to hop onto any enemy that isn't hot or spiky without killing it; from there, you can either ride it across an obstacle, or lift it up overhead to hurl at an enemy. This concept becomes an important mechanic in World 4: There's a spiky area in 4-2 where you have to do the same thing with an enemy vehicle (Autobomb). And in the second tower of World 4-3 you have to jump on a Shy Guy's head and ride them across some spikes to safety.
    • Super Mario Bros. 3 features the Parabeetle, a red, winged version of the normal Buzzy Beetles that can be ridden on, though doing so would cause them to also fly up as well as straight ahead. (A Palette Swapped green version appeared in a few Dummied Out levels). They return in New Super Mario Bros. Wii along with larger Parabeetles, which due to weight issues go down when you ride on them.
    • Super Mario World requires this in a few places with the Mega Mole enemies, notably the first two areas in the Valley of Bowser. And in Platform Hell hacks, it's required in many more places to cross lethal pits by repeatedly spin-jumping on a Spiny-kind enemy.
    • In Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, you can ride on Thwomps, and in Wario Land 2 you need to bounce off of enemies to cross spikes in one level and platforms that only enemies can stand on in a later one.
    • Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island has birds that you have to ride across large gaps. The game also features Poochy and Muddy Buddy, who can be ridden across spikes or lava. They are good guys instead of enemies. There's also the ever-helpful Support Ghost from Sluggy the Unshaven's fort, who makes an appearance in the Yoshi's Island stage of Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
    • Super Mario 3D World has Big Ant Troopers, which can't be killed. Hitching a ride on one of them is required to cross spikes, but the player character automatically bounces off of the ant trooper's head, so the player must constantly ensure that they don't fall off.
    • Super Mario 64:
      • In Snowman's Land, Mario can ride across the bridge on the giant penguin's head to avoid being blown off. However, it may or may not work, so the player can also walk beside the penguin as it blocks the wind.
      • You can ride the head of the sea monster in Hazy Maze Cave; do a ground-pound on its back and it will helpfully lower its head to the water so you can walk up its neck. In fact, to reach the Secret Level in the back, you need the extra height to jump high enough. And in the DS version, you need to climb up there to get the Wario hat.
    • In New Super Mario Bros. Wii, penguins slide on their stomachs. Their momentum means they can cross gaps Mario and friends can't, so it's useful to jump on their backs. Sometimes, of course, they can't cross gaps either, in which case that would be a mistake.
    • Super Mario Maker allows you to implement this mechanic in several ways: by stacking a winged Parabeetle (which the player can already stand onto by default) above a walking mook, or putting it in a rail. You can also have Mario stand onto a Thwomp safely as long as he's wearing a Goomba Shoe or riding Yoshi
    • In Super Mario Maker 2, the Dry Bones Shell provides the benefit of riding a Thwomp like Goomba Shoes and Yoshi do, and Mario and his friends can simply stand onto a Thwomp without any gear in the Super Mario 3D World game style. Also, a post-release update for the game adds the SMB2 Mushroom, which grants the ability to ride most enemies like in the 1988 adventure, but it's exclusive to the Super Mario Bros. game style.
  • Mega Man X 3: Dragonfly enemies that you can stand on to reach higher areas. The twist with them, though, is that this only works when you're not firing your weapon; start shooting, and they start shooting, too, making your moving ledge useless.
  • Rayman and Rayman 2: The Great Escape let you ride on some enemies' heads—but only if you've knocked a giant plum onto them first. Otherwise...
  • Cave Story lets you "ride" on nearly any enemy, assuming you can survive Collision Damage.
  • Occasionally the solution to levels in Hyper Lode Runner—this technique's even given the name Robot Rodeo. Made harder by the fact that your character might not move with the robot heads...
  • A Cranium Ride was possible in the Pharoah's Tomb series; you could theoretically ride on top of any monster... but YOU had to keep up, otherwise the monster would move out from under you and you would die.
  • The Commander Keen series features at least two cranium-rideable creatures - the harmless though annoying red Bounder in episode 4 and the somewhat hazardous Gik in episode 6, which Billy can ride, but only when it is upright. If not being ridden, it will jump at Billy and slide upside-down on its shell, with lethal intent. Gik riding allows the player to cross slime puddles easily.
  • In Hammerin' Hero, you have to do this with a mecha to get a Thank-You Letter from it for your storage. This is actually harder than the alternative, though, as you can't move, just ride the mecha as it proceeds forward, and the attacks against it are now aimed directly at you, rather than incidentally in your path — you have to knock them away as they approach.
  • In A Boy and His Blob, dropping the Banana Anvil on the head of both the giant, pacing enemies and the smaller, cannonball-shaped enemies with make the anvil stick. You can then hop on top and use their anvil-adorned heads for safe passage across spikes. But watch out—while the cannonballs can't attack you with the anvil on, the big blobs can...
  • Parasite both justifies this and turns it horrific. When the titular alien abomination jumps on another creature, it pokes its tentacles through that creature's skull and steers it like a vehicle. Jumping off the now mindless, drooling creature makes it explode into Ludicrous Gibs.
  • In Purple, rolling barrels can be jumped on for as long as you like, thus letting you "ride" them. It is necessary to reach one diamond early in the game.
  • With Kirby's Epic Yarn you can do this with almost all of the enemies as very few have collision damage which is very handy for getting to higher platforms. You also ride on a dinosaur's head to get across a strong current river.
  • In Tesla: The Weather Man, Tesla can hop on top of shoosters to get a ride across Spikes of Doom.
  • In Lode Runner, enemies' heads can be walked across, though this is generally not safe if the enemies are moving left or right; they should either be stuck in a pit or falling.

  • Solstice:
    • The NES game uses this as a mechanism to achieve a fair bit of secrets, including the hi-jump boots. Although, you have to first push a box onto the enemy's head, or else you'll die.
    • The Spiritual Successor, Altered Space: A 3-D Alien Adventure, generously provides box-headed robots you can stand on for this purpose.
    • The SNES sequel Equinox has this. Again, you have to push boxes onto the heads of enemies in order to ride them safely. This is more of a genuine tactic rather than a method to find secrets, as you have to do it several times in order to complete the game.
  • Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Played straight in the first three games. Mario (or in the case of the next two games, the Minis) can walk into on a Shy Guy's head to ride on it. Averted for Mini-Land Mayhem and Tipping Stars; when a Mini walks onto a Shy Guy's head in those two games, it dies.

  • Legacy of the Wizard allowed you to do this, although you continuously took damage while doing so. One of the playable characters, being a monster itself, would not be hurt from riding enemies.
  • In Landstalker, this is an easier way to solve one particular puzzle. You'll still take some damage, but hey.

  • Alien Hominid does kind of allow this, in that jumping on an MIB's head causes him to run around screaming, right past barriers that stop you but not the enemy. To make things even better, when you're done with the guy, you get to bite off his head.
  • Omega Boost had this in a bonus stage you could unlock. You had to ride on the head of the first incarnation of the Sand Worm and shoot enemies.
  • An interesting (but largely useless) trick in the Halo games was the ability to "surf" on top of Sentinels. That said, this ability does have a practical use when it's applied to vehicles or allies. It's easiest to preform the Sentinel version on levels where they are friendly, such as "The Ark" on Halo 3 (immediately before you open the door for the Marines, but just before the Scarab battle).
  • This is the Jockey's main ability in Left 4 Dead. He jumps on a survivor's head and "rides" it into hazards or away from the group, laughing maniacally all the way. Slightly subverted as the survivor definitely doesn't wander back and forth mindlessly- the Jockey controls them instead.