February is Black History Month, a time where we recognize and celebrate the accomplishments and innovations of people of color that have shaped this country and others. Similar to this theme, I wanted to take a look at the top 10 black gaming characters that have had a profound effect on my gaming experiences. Now, this is not going to be an article that takes a look at the lack of black characters in gaming, nor will I address some of the stereotypical roles that some of these characters play. That’s for another time. Instead, this is simply a personal top 10 list of my favorite black characters that I have decided to share including unique stories and descriptions as to how and why they made the list. For entertainment purposes only, I present to you my top Black gaming characters in History. Enjoy!
#10 – T.J. COMBO
Co-Co-Co-Co-COMBO BREAKER!!!!!! I could not think of a better way to start this list than with this brutal boxer from the critically acclaimed Killer Instinct. This arcade title was eventually ported over to the SNES back in 1995, which proved to be both the best and worst thing that could have happened. Best: no longer did I have to visit the arcade and wait in line with my quarters, I now had this game right in the comfort of my own home. Worst: my friends had to face me in this game. I whooped so much derrier with Combo that I was eventually forbidden from using him. You read that correctly. Back when we held frequent “winner stay on, loser give up the sticks” fighting tournaments in my friend’s living room, I was told I could no longer use Combo because of the ease in which I pulled off his ultimate, master, and ultra combos. A couple of friends even accused me of cheating. Hilarious are the things that are said from people who are consistently pummeled and need more practice. Here’s to T.J. Combo, the 2nd video game character I was restricted from using.
#9 – BO JACKSON
And here’s the 1st! I laughed when accused of cheating with T.J. Combo because of the absurdity of that statement. However, after being branded a cheater for the damage I caused with Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl, this time I laughed because of the truth of that statement. I’m sorry, but anyone who has put in the amount of blood, sweat, and tears into this 1989 timeless classic as I have will attest that Bo Jackson literally broke the game and could be legitimately classified as one of the earliest cheat characters of a video game. Just watch the video below. He was hands down the fastest player in the entire game. NOT A SINGLE PLAYER could catch him. Your only hope was Lawrence Taylor, or choosing Bo Jackson’s running play every single time on defense. If you managed to lay a helmet on him, a few taps of the A button and that defender was discarded immediately. Sometimes, defenders would just bounce off of him upon contact as if he was wearing a shield. It was insane, and as such, I was restricted from using Bo Jackson. In fact, the Raiders were almost banned from use at our neighborhood tourneys until I was able to show people that you could beat Bo and the Raiders with teams like Chicago, New York, and San Francisco along with some key defensive strategies, mainly picking Bo Jackson’s play for the blitz.
#8 – CARL “CJ” JOHNSON / MICHAEL VICK
In 2004, there was not a single playable video game character that I controlled for more gameplay hours than that of Carl “CJ” Johnson from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Micheal Vick from Madden 2004. That particular year, I worked the graveyard shift on a cushy job that only required me to do a safety check once every 30 minutes. My standard uniform consisted of a green polo shirt, a pair of solid black fatigues, and a solid black bag attached to my shoulder with my PS2 inside. So to put this in perspective, during a typical 8 hour shift, 29 of every 30 minutes were spent on the sticks of my PS2 playing San Andreas and Madden. You do the math. I didn’t really become a fan of the GTA series until this particular installment and this particular character. I enjoyed the expansive setting and the plot to unravel the murder of CJ’s mother. As for Madden, even though the 2005 installment was out at that time, I was still running multiple seasons in 2004’s franchise mode with Michael Vick as the QB of the Miami Dolphins. Til this very day, I still have in my possession that PS2 memory card. My life in 2004 is on that card.
#7 – MIKE TYSON
This brute has the honor of being the first NPC (non-playable character) to make my list. Not only does Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! consistently rank among the top 10-20 Nintendo games of all time, I learned a few lessons from this game, specifically Mike Tyson’s character. Tyson first taught me that the NES controller was virtually indestructible. I cannot tell you how many times my controller hit the ground or wall because of Tyson, and it still functioned. Tyson also taught me humility. Although I could easily dispatch Soda Popinski, Mr. Sandman, and Super Macho Man….Mike consistently showed me that I really wasn’t as good as I thought I was. Mike also never cared how many times I cried. Literal tears from frustration from not being able to beat him. He just continued to unmercifully beat the brakes off of me. Wait a minute, why is he on this list again? Oh, yea, that’s right, because at the end of the day Tyson taught me the most valuable lesson, that skill is nothing more than diligence, and to never give up. With the help of the code that would take me straight to the final battle, I kept trying and trying until eventually, Tyson fell. One of my greatest gaming achievements. Tyson’s character will remain infamous for being one of the most difficult final bosses in gaming history. Don’t believe me, I double dog dare you to visit any gaming emulator, modded gaming console, or Nintendo E-shop and try again. In fact, Mike Tyson (now Mr. Dream) is back to beating me down again. I gotta figure out a way to channel that inside gamer to defeat him again, or I can just watch Naomi Kyle and IGN give me a walkthrough.
#6 – DARUNIA
I don’t care what anyone says, the Gorons are Black. And yes, those who know me also know that it was impossible to make it out of this list without a Zelda reference, especially from Ocarina of Time. What’s not to love about Darunia? Strong and fearless, this patriarch and leader of the Goron tribe appreciated music, loved to dance, and consistently called me a brotha. He was instrumental in aiding young Link in his adventure by giving him the Goron Bracelet which made Link as strong as the Gorons. In a nice “twist,” Darunia ended up being awakened as the Sage of Fire, joining forces with the other sages to seal Ganon in the voids of the Sacred Realm. Darunia is #6 on this list, but #2 in my heart beside Link for favorite character in a Zelda series. Allow me to put down this box of tissue so I can continue with the 2nd half of this list.
#5 – SERGEANT MAJOR AVERY JOHNSON
I had to straighten up real quick before this next candidate because there’s nothing soft or mushy about this guy. If you are reading this list and you don’t know Major Johnson, then I implore you to find out, but not before I blow up the rock that you’ve been living under the past 11 years. His impact on the multi-billion dollar gaming franchise Halo is well documented. In short, Major Johnson was no joke! Whether it was the Covenant or the Flood, none of them wanted it with this marine. With the heart of a lion, Johnson wreaked havoc on the alien races throughout most of the Halo series. You couldn’t help but get hyped and ready for battle after a Johnson pep talk, or even with his comments during the heat of battle. Frankly, an all-around great character that I feel was just as important to Master Chief as any other character in the game.
#4 – AUGUSTUS COLE
“It’s the Cole Train baby, Wooooooooo!!” Never gets old. The Cole Train is easily my favorite character in the Gears of War series. His style, his grit, his flamboyance, his language, his awesomeness, it all comes together quite nicely shaping a character that has become increasingly great with each installment. He along with his best friend Damon Baird, have provided us with countless laughs and epic moments. Who could forget this intro below in Gears of War 2? Classic. Pretty soon, we’ll be getting yet another dose of Mr. Cole in the upcoming Gears of War: Judgment.
#3 – SHEVA ALOMAR
Lara Croft who? If you know a more beautiful video game character than Ms. Alomar, please note this in the comments. It should be a short list. Sheva is absolutely stunning…sizzling hot…especially in her alternate costumes. But don’t let those good looks fool you, she was a badass in Capcom’s Resident Evil 5. The development team wanted a character “to combine two qualities, feminine attraction and the strength of a fighting woman.” In short, they nailed it. And just in case you’re wondering, yes she also had the brains to match that beauty and brawn. Sheva consistently figured out ways to help her partner Chris solve puzzles and thwart the bio-terrorist threat in her backyard of Africa. With the amount of gameplay I put into RE5 along with my partner Sil3ntX, I’m surprised I haven’t burned a hole into the disc. There were slight issues with her left-handed aim in the beginning, but being the gamers we are, we quickly adjusted. Fortunately, Chris Redfield isn’t as rude as Nathan Drake who would have wasted no time letting Sheva know what he thought about her. But at times, I have to wonder if Chris was really focused on killing BOW’s….I wasn’t. After this tribute, can you blame me?
#2 – GANONDORF
Every hero needs a villain. My favorite villain (obviously) is Ganondorf. As an avid sports fan, I love rivalries, and I don’t know of a bigger rivalry in video games than Link vs. Ganondorf. No matter what form or incarnation he takes, I cant get enough of the classic final battles that he has provided to Zelda fans since his first appearance in Ocarina of Time almost 15 years ago. There he was introduced as the only male child born to the Gerudo tribe in the last 100 years and he later became their king. His importance to the Legend of Zelda series cannot be overstated since he is actually a part owner of the coveted Triforce along with Link and Zelda. Those 3 are forever “linked” and will continue to provide their fans with great memories of ageless battles. Side note: can you imagine how this battle below will look in HD later this fall?
#1 – KRATOS
I know what you’re thinking. Kratos is a Greek Spartan, there’s no way he could be Black. But when I see images of Kratos and listen to that powerful voice (T.C. Carson), I cant help but disagree. If we can have White Africans and Chinese Jamaicans, can we not also have Black Greeks? With that being said, God of War’s Kratos ranks as #1 in this countdown. Of all the badasses in gaming, Kratos is the baddest of them all, period. He took home Spike TV’s “Biggest Badass” award a few years ago for his role in God of War 3. A lean, mean, blade wielding, curb stomping, head ripping, eye gouging, leg severing, demigod who will stop at nothing to change the events that happened to his wife and child. Oh, and he’s smart, figuring out some old mythological puzzles along the way. It’s been some time since I’ve last stepped into the shoes of this sadistic hero, but that’s about to change shortly with God of War Ascension releasing next month. Words alone cannot justify his spot at number 1. My only hope is that you’ve had the opportunity to play the God of War series to see for yourself.
Although this is a personal list unique to my gaming experiences, I would love to know what you think of my rankings. Who should be ranked higher or lower? Or…who did I snub on this list and why? Comment below.
Image Sources: The Tyuno Project (cover), Tecmo, GTA Wiki, Misterirrelevant, Leelaughead, Nineinchsandwich, Jonzee, DanteRevStudios, LogosQuiz, ZeldaWiki, GodofWarWiki
Video Sources: YouTube