Presidents’ Day is upon us, and every flag-waving, apple pie-eating patriot is either showing respect to our land’s greatest leaders, or laid up on the sofa downing Ben & Jerry’s while watching Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which is truly the more American action.
Regardless of your plans for that day, we at 2D-X think it’s 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 as a coin-op in 1987, Guerrilla War follows the wacky adventures of two unnamed rebel commando bad asses as they raid an unnamed Caribbean island 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 sign that you indeed are the good guys.
But when the arcade hit was ported to the NES, the game’s box art, surprisingly, wasn’t the era’s typical gung ho American propaganda piece. The art doesn’t feature shirtless, musclebound all-American heroes such as Contra‘s Mad Dog and Scorpion. These guys have beards! And berets! One’s even wearing red! WTF is happening here?
Really, it was all about history. Unbeknownst to late ’80s gamers, Guerrilla War, SNK’s spiritual sequel to Ikari Warriors, was entitled Guevara in the land of the rising sun. Yup, Player 1 assumed the role of hipster fave Che Guevara. What’s interesting here, though, 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, capitalist swine.
Senator Armstrong (Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance)
Senator Steven Armstrong isn’t just one of the greatest video game politicians to appear in recent history, he’s also one of the greatest video games bosses of all time. Part dark Libertarian hero, part Marvel Comics’ Apocalypse, the nano-machine-powered politician seeks to restore the American Dream via a second American Revolution — using a revived “War or Terror” campaign to push himself into the presidency and then destroy the corrupt war machine from within.
Sounds like a man of the people, yes? Not quite.
Unfortunately, Armstrong’s uber-patriotism is fueled by insanity. The senator believes in this so much that he’s willing to execute his scheme using a false flag operation and a four-legged Metal Gear known as Excelsior. More importantly, Armstrong also believes that only the strong should rule our fair nation and the weak have no place in modern society.
Mayor Mike Haggar (Final Fight series)
Mayor Mike Haggar is what Rudolph Giuliani would’ve been if he were taller, hit the gym, and 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 before his political career other than the he-man grappler was, shockingly, a pro wrestler before taking public office. But when the Mad Gear Gang kidnapped Jessica, Haggar’s 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), dares 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 particularly great at it. Hippo’s 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!
The 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 having been kidnapped by a hand-wringing bad guy and walled up in a castle was cliché even in the late ’80s, 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 continues to run, jump, and climb his way through challenging environments to dispatch bad guys. In fact, the prince’s exploits were captured on film in a Hollywood action flick starring 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 caricature 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.