Ah, the Fourth of July, Independence Day. A day for fireworks, apple pie, and barbecues… to celebrate being an American, while at the same time trying to keep the effect of gas and oil prices on the local economy well out of your mind.
Oops. So much for that.
In any case, what better time to reflect on our favorite national pastime– no, not baseball, video games! Unless you crank up the ol’ Wii for some Wii Sports Baseball, anyway.
Here, we look at six of the most American video game characters throughout the ages. And no licensed characters, either; to make this list, you need to come from a video game, not simply appear in one, so guys like Captain America or G.I. Joe are out.
Honorary Mention: “American” Kirby
Can you guess which is which?
Kirby is a popular pink puff of platforming star. So cute, so unassuming… and so not what Americans want, apparently.
Fortunately, Kirby is known for his ability to change his form and abilities to accommodate any situation, and that’s just what Nintendo has had him do on the box art for his games’ US releases for the past several years. Just take Japanese, European, or whatever other Kirby you like, add a pair of slanted lines over the tops of his eyes, and bang! You have a certified American-styled badass blob who will kick your ass, eat your dog, and drop it out of his nether regions in the form of a star.
And for his adaptive efforts, we give him an honorary mention on this list. Because in America, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
To see who made the cut, click the next page.
6) Solid Snake
Sure, maybe ol’ Snake should rank higher. Or should he? I’m not quite an expert in the Metal Gear Solid series, 4 least of all, but from what I’ve gathered, it works something like this:
In Metal Gear Solid, Snake infiltrates Shadow Moses Island and takes on the defecting military unit known as Foxhound, a member of which being Revolver Ocelot. But in reality, Revolver Ocelot is actually working for the Patriots, something of an illuminati who secretly control the United States of America.
So, by opposing Revolver Ocelot in Metal Gear Solid 2, then technically, would that not mean he opposes America? Or does it simply mean that Snake believes in the ideals upon which America was founded, if not necessarily America itself and what it has become? And can love bloom on the battlefield?
Until these questions are answered (and hey, I hear that Metal Gear Solid 4 leaves no stone unturned), Snake is taking up a position on his belly at the bottom of this list.
5) The Contra commandos
Coming in at #5, we have the Contra commandos: Bill Rizer, Lance Bean, Mad Dog, and Scorpion, an elite quartet of red-blooded adrenaline-pumping testosterone-filled commandos who were inspired by classic American movie fare such as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Predator and Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo. They don’t say a whole lot, and so maybe don’t have much use for the First Amendment… but damn if they don’t embody everything about the Second.
Machine Guns, Lasers, Flame-throwers, Crusher Missiles, Homing Missiles, and the almighty Spread Gun: These guys not only have the right to bear arms, but they do so double-time, with one in each hand as they mow down wave after wave of the evil alien forces of Red Falcon and Black Viper, out to vaporize humanity and enslave whatever is left.
But as long as these four are still breathing, one decidedly American message can be heard loud and clear from space: “Don’t tread on us!”
4) Nathan “Rad” Spencer
In March of 1941, Captain America made comic book history by punching out the Führer himself, Adolf Hitler, in his very first appearance. On the cover, no less! So naturally, such a gesture would be a very difficult one to top.
Enter: Nathan “Rad” Spencer, aka the “Bionic Commando.”
The game which brought his fame saw him parachuting into hostile enemy territory in search of the famed soldier and now P.O.W Super Joe, bringing him face to face with the futuristic Neo-Nazi organization known simply as the Badds, and eventually, a revived form of Hitler himself. Now going under the alias of “Master D,” he was also one of the only villains of the NES era with the audacity to call you a “damn fool.”
Upon destroying the Badds’ Albatross superweapon, Spencer gave chase as D tried to make his escape by helicopter. Taking a rocket launcher from a fellow soldier who had fallen in battle, Spencer made a death-defying leap down into the hangar area of the base, making a one-in-a-million shot, blasting Hitler right in the face, leading to one of the most classic moments in video game history. “Damn fool,” indeed.
What better victory cry for such an event than “America! F@#k yeah!”?
Just one look at Guile of Street Fighter fame, and there’s no question of the land from which he hails, nor of the flag he salutes; he’s got it tattooed on each arm!
From his flat-top haircut and chiseled jaw, to the camoflage army fatigues and down to the boots made for stompin’, everything about Guile screams “America.” Which makes sense, as he was a character designed to appeal specifically to Americans, an effort which seemed to pay off as for many years, Guile was viewed as the star of Street Fighter II on this side of the ocean. Even Guile’s signature move, the Sonic Boom, draws inspiration from the United States Air Force jets with which he works.
Yessir, this van Damme-flavored G.I. Joe just screams American… except, upon closer inspection, Guile’s tatoos of the American flag seem to be backwards. He may have ranked higher if not for that. Perhaps another time.
2) Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog is an interesting case study among American video game heroes. For starters, his very colors are red, white, and true blue; as American as they come.
But going beyond that… his creation was in Japan, yes, but his greatest fame has come in America, where much of what we know as “Sonic” originated. For example, his nemesis, more commonly known as “Dr. Eggman” these days was originally known as “Dr. Robotnik” in America; and many an American prefers the former name to the soft-boiled Japanese original. Furthermore, Sonic made his debut in America a full month and three days before his first game was released in Japan.
But that’s not all, as most of Sonic’s most famous (and sometimes infamous) appearances have originated in America. While Japan sported the Sonic X anime and Sonic the Hedgehog OVA “movie,” America graced Sonic with no less than three different original animated series from DiC, in the forms of Sonic the Hedgehog on ABC (affectionately known as “SatAM Sonic” by fans), the more slapstick Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog in syndication, and the simply bizarre Sonic Underground.
In addition, American comic book company Archie Comics has been publishing the Sonic the Hedgehog comic book for the past 15 years, with no signs of slowing down. Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog is the Guinness World Record holder for the longest comic book series based on a video game, with 190 regular issues, a four-issue mini-series, 23 special issues, 32 issues of the Knuckles spin-off, and 12 issues of spin-offs of other characters. With the regular issues alone, Sonic is approaching the title of the longest-running licensed comic book in America, perhaps the world, and no manga or Euro version can even touch his American run.
But, it’s not just Sonic’s merchandise that makes him American, but his games echo it as well, with some titles created right in the US, such as Sonic Spinball. Unfortunately, Sonic Xtreme was never completed, and it nearly killed one of its developers in the process.
More recently, the settings for some of Sonic’s adventures have been based on American locations, including Station Square (from Sonic Adventure) on New York City, and Central City (the opening stage of Sonic Adventure 2) on San Francisco. In the upcoming Sonic Unleashed, he may even return yet again.
Sonic may not be human and may not have been born in America, but his popularity over the years and the love shown by his fans makes him as American as they come.
Back in 1980, then-Nintendo of America President Minoru Arakawa made a grave mistake in over-ordering one of the company’s earliest arcade games, Radar Scope. Stuck with thousands of unsold units and facing financial disaster, a desperate plea came from Arakawa to his father-in-law, then-Nintendo Chief Executive Officer Hiroshi Yamauchi for some way to salvage the product, for a new game with which they could use the unsold Radar Scope cabinets.
Yamauchi assigned a young staff artist to do something with the hardware so that it might pay off with the American audience. And so work was done that saw more than a mere tweak to the program, but rather an entirely new game was created from the hardware.
That game was Donkey Kong. And with it, Nintendo was able to move their unsold units, as the game became a hit practically overnight.
One of the stars of that game was a pudgy carpenter named Jumpman. But that name would not stick for long, as a familiar looking landlord would bust into a meeting at Nintendo of America’s offices of the time, demanding his overdue rent payment.
And through that action, Mario Segalli gave our #1 most American video game character the name he is known by today, all around the world.
Mario is a character, who like others on this list, was created in Japan but made for America. He lives in the Mushroom Kingdom, but originally (and sometimes still) hails from Brooklyn, New York. He speaks with an Italian accent, essentially representing America’s melting pot. Mario is an everyman who works hard at his various jobs, likes to party, and never backs down in the face of tyranny, ready to go to war against an aggressive invading army in an instant.
Like Sonic, Mario’s symbolic color scheme is that of the American flag: Red, white, and blue. And when he gets a Fire Flower, he even gives a nod to the neighbors to the north in Canada, making him fairly North American at that. He loves sports, including tennis, basketball, and the all-American pastime, baseball. And whereas America has collected 50 stars over the years, Mario has collected that many himself, and so many more.
Mario’s original adventure against Donkey Kong was inspired by the classic American icon Popeye, and he has since had his own Hollywood adventures, including three successful cartoon shows (one of which saw him portrayed by fellow New Yorker Captain Lou Albano) and one less-than-successful motion picture. He became more recognizable to children around the world than Mickey Mouse, inspired “The Mario Opera” by Jonathan Mann of the California Institute of the Arts (who wrote and performed the feature), and in 2003, was even inducted into the Hollywood Wax Museum.
In addition, Mario has helped promote such iconic American franchises as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, and Domino’s Pizza. And in April 2008, he celebrated the release of Mario Kart Wii by hailing and paying for cabs in New York City, proving himself a benevolent samaritan.
And, he always gets the girl.
These qualities, and the way he has been ingrained into our culture, not only makes Mario one of the most American video game heroes, but also one many an American would wish to aspire to be like, whether they realize it or not.
Originally published on Kombo.com.