Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in Injustice 2! Final Fantasy XV’s Noctis in Tekken 7! Fighting games have a history of enhancing their rosters with guest characters from comics, cartoons, movies and unrelated video games. Here are some of our favorites.
“Who would win in a fight?” is a question that’s launched a million schoolyard, comic shop or late night science fiction convention conversations. It’s fueled epic crossover events between comic book companies, movies with “Vs.” in their titles and popular video game series like Marvel Vs. Capcom and Smash Bros. Special guest fighting game characters tap into our passion to pit powerful people (and things) against each other.
While we’re mainly focusing on completely out-of-left-field guest fighters in this list, Data East’s 1993 Street Fighter rip-off gets a nod for pulling off one of the first special guests. The final boss and tournament sponsor in the arcade version of the game is Karnov, the eponymous main character from Data East’s own 1987 platformer.
Though players could not select the fire-breathing carny in the arcade release, 1994's Super Nintendo port made Karnov playable.
As crossovers go it’s pretty tame. Data East took a character from a game it created and put him in another game. The next one is little...weirder.
With playable bears and a kangaroo, Tekken has no trouble adding non-humanoid characters to its cast. The PlayStation version of Tekken 3 took things a step further, adding a super-deformed manga dinosaur, Masashi Tanaka’s Gon.
Gon was the silent star of a popular manga series in Japan. He’s a stunted tyrannosaurus that somehow managed to survive the extinction of the dinosaurs, spending his days hanging out with animals of the Paleolithic era. Or, in the case of 1998's Tekken 3 Playstaton release, modern-day tournament fighters. For Tekken 3 players outside of Japan with no frame of reference, he was just this odd little dinosaur dude.
Namco took guest characters to an entirely new, somewhat frustrating level with the 2003 home release of Soulcalibur II. Instead of a single guest character playable across all versions of the game—Gamecube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox—Soulcalibur II had three guest characters, each exclusive to a single console.
This worked out better for some consoles than others.
The Xbox version of the game featured one of comics’ hottest characters at the time, Todd McFarlane’s Spawn. Decked out in spikes and chains and weilding a battle axe, Spawn fit in just fine.
As cool as Spawn was, folks on the Gamecube had it even better.
Armed with the Master Sword, the Hylian Shield, bombs, a bow and boomerangs, The Legend of Zelda’s Link made for one hell of a Soulcalibur character.
And then we have the PlayStation 2 guest, Heihachi Mishima from Tekken. He’s in the Spawn screenshot above. You probably didn’t even notice him. When a deal to feature Cloud from Final Fantasy VII in the PlayStation version fell through, Namco pulled Heihachi over from Tekken for the guest spot. So unfortunate.
And then this happened.
Being an Xbox 360 exclusive has its perks. The 2005 Xbox 360 release of Dead or Alive 4 introduced the least bouncy female character in series’ history, Spartan-458, AKA Nicole.
They could have just gone with Master Chief, but instead we got a whole new armored warrior from the Halo-verse, which was very cool. Nicole came with her own Nassau Station level to fight on, which must have been very odd for the mostly Earth-based battlers of DOA.
The third season of 2013's Xbox One exclusive Killer Instinct revival introduced a trio of guest characters to the game, making an already strange cast of combatants even stranger. From the Halo series came the Arbiter, because Master Chief was just too easy. Gears of War gave us General Raam. But the weirdest addition of them all was Rash, one of the trio of anthropomorphic amphibians from Rare’s brutal beat-em up, Battletoads. Just watch him do his thing.
I will never get used to that tongue. Never.
So who’s your favorite fighting game guest star? Mortal Kombat X’s horror movie maniacs? Pepsiman from the Japanese Sega Saturn release of Fighting Vipers? Cole MacGrath from Infamous in Street Fighter X Tekken? Shares your loved (and hated) cameos in the comments.