Presidents’ Day Weekend is upon us, and every flag-waving, apple pie-eating American is either showing respect to our land’s greatest leaders, or laid up on the sofa downing Ben & Jerry’s while watching Jersey Shore.
Regardless of your weekend plans, we think it’s high time to reflect on some of the more interesting political figures that have played major roles in the video game universe. Ranging from ragtag fighters to bad ass street brawlers, this roundup – no, shrine - to the greatest leaders of men is one that can not be overlooked in this time of remembrance.
Fidel Castro (Guerrilla War, NES)
Originally released in arcades in 1987 as a coin-op, Guerrilla War followed the wacky adventures of two unnamed rebel commando bad asses as they raid an unnamed Caribbean Island in order to free it from the rule of an unnamed tyrannical dictator. During the adventure, legions of enemy soldiers taste your cold steel, while the act of rescuing hostages is the only indication that you indeed are the good guys.
But when the arcade hit was ported to the NES, the box art wasn’t the typical gung ho American propaganda piece. There weren’t shirtless, musclebound all-American heroes such as Contra‘s Mad Dog and Scorpion. These guys had beards! And berets! One’s even wearing red! WTF is happening here?
Really, it was all about history. Unbeknown to gamers in the late ’80′s, Guerrilla War, SNK’s spiritual sequel to Ikari Warriors, was entitled Guevara in the land of the rising sun. Player 1 assumed the role of hipster fave Che Guevara. What’s interesting here is that Player 2 guides a young (and ruggedly handsome) Fidel Castro through stage after stage of jungle fighting as the pair stave off the Batista regime in Cuba in the late 1950s. So this President’s Day, fire up your NES and support the Communist movement, you capitalist swine.
Mayor Mike Haggar (Final Fight)
Mayor Mike Haggar is what Rudolph Giuliani would’ve been if he were taller, went to the gym, had the sack to physically backup his mouth. Haggar, the extremely pumped and manly head of Metro City, doesn’t shuffle papers or court corrupt businessmen; he cleans up the gang-infested streets one spinal snap at a time.
Not much is known about Mayor Mike Haggar previous to his political career other than the fact that the he-man grappler was, shockingly, a pro wrestler before taking public office. But when the Mad Gear Gang kidnapped Jessica, his lovely daughter, he returned to the way of the fist by regulating Metro City thugs with clotheslines and spinning piledrivers.
Sadly, Capcom has put the iconic Final Fight mayor on the back burner in favor of his buds Cody and Guy who’ve appeared as playable characters in the Street Fighter Alpha series and Super Street Fighter IV. It wasn’t until Marvel vs Capcom 3 that hizzoner returned to the streets.
King Hippo (Punch-Out!! series)
When was the last time you witnessed royalty step into the ring to beat the living crap out of the world’s various racial and ethnic stereotypes? Only in the Punch-Out!! series, where King Hippo, the regent of Hippo Island (a mysterious land mass in the South Pacific), dared to be different. Instead of waging war on various nations with nukes or trade embargoes, King Hippo keeps it real with his fists.
The one problem, however, is that he isn’t exactly great at it. His fighting style is pretty tricky to place at first, but once you realize that the band-aid on his belly also doubles as a bullseye, it’s game, set, match. Still, props!
Prince of Persia (Prince of Persia series)
Prince of Persia was a revelation when it was released onto the Apple II platform. Sure, the plot of a beautiful princess being kidnapped by a hand-wringing bad guy was aging on me even at age 15, but the beautiful rotoscope animation and sword fighting made it stand out from the rest of the action-platformer pack.
Over two decades later, the prince’s life-like movements continue to wow as you run, jump, and climb your way through the castle (and, in a way, are more impressive than the modern 3D adventures, relatively speaking). It makes it sad, really, that those like-like movements will be personified in the human Nyquil known as Jake Gyllenhaal.
President Ronnie (Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja)
Thus far, all of the politicians in this list have been pro-active ass-kickers, but we must open the doors to one who was quite the opposite: President Ronnie.
This surprisingly accurate carictature of everyone’s favorite bumbling, jelly bean devouring leader of the free world fell victim to the insidious Dragon Ninja only to be saved by two ’80s-era gym instructors. Instead of heaping money and riches onto these two upstanding individuals, the most powerful man in the world treats them to hamburgers. Hamburgers. And that, friends, is capitalism: profit high while spending next to nothing.