Playing as soldiers, martial arts experts and space marines is one thing, but can you think of any titles that let you partake in a basketball tourney as an ex-president, or battle blobs of jelly as a totem pole? If the answer is ‘no’, then we don’t blame you. This all-star list of weird playable characters in video games is bound to make you think to yourself: ‘what were they thinking?!’
Bag Lady | Syphon Filter 2
The Syphon Filter trilogy for the PlayStation was pretty big during its heyday. Government agents Gabe Logan and Lian Xing are tasked with tracking down an international bio-terrorist, only to find themselves caught in a much deeper conspiracy. The first game bagged itself solid reviews for its addictive stealth-action gameplay and clever AI for its time.
The sequel was released in the new millennium. It packed in split-screen multiplayer with a large selection of playable characters to choose from. For unexplained reasons, one of them is a Bag Lady. It’s quite a sight, watching a homeless woman going postal with a pump-action shotgun or M16. She even appeared in the third game, too!
And to think, there are some very sad and uninformed people out there who complain about video games not being representative enough… clearly these sensitive types aren’t playing enough retro games, eh, readers?
Drag Queen | Twisted Metal 4
Twisted Metal 2 was one hell of a vehicular deathmatch game, and it’s still considered to be one of the top entries in the series. It never was a pretty-looking game, but its colourful cast of racers, expansive arsenal and darkly humorous cut-scenes helped really bowled over a lot of gamers since its release.
On the other hand, the sequels – which were tackled by 989 Studios – felt vastly different, tonally. For one thing, in the fourth game, you could drive a flame-spewing hot rod as a Drag Queen. Donning a tacky tutu and wig, this ugly mug wants to win the Twisted Metal competition to achieve world fame as a pop singer. All she needs to do is to incinerate an abundance of deranged drivers in the process.
And to top it all off, this freaky driver was voiced by Jon St. John, better known as the voice of Duke Nukem. Hail to the…queen, baby?
Animals | Eternal Champions: Challengers from the Dark Side
During the days of 2D fighting games, there were two series that reigned supreme: the fast-paced Street Fighter, and the ultra-visceral Mortal Kombat. Many game companies threw their hats in the ring to cash in on the craze. SEGA released Eternal Champions for the Mega Drive / Genesis in 1993 to polarizing reviews, with some critics praising its story and high number of special moves, and others shunning it for its unfair difficulty.
This sequel was released for the Sega CD in 1995, offering more characters and stages, better music, and gruesome finishing moves that made Mortal Kombat’s content seem tame in comparison. Speaking of special characters, you could pick between four unlockable animal fighters: a dog, snake, chicken and even a poop-tossing monkey. They even get their own backstories and endings, whereby winning the tournament will allow them to go back in time, prevent themselves from dying too early, and changing the future for the better.
Various | NBA Jam: Tournament Edition
Developing company Midway loved to slip secrets into their games, especially hidden characters. In early versions of NBA Jam: Tournament Edition, fighters like Scorpion and Raiden from Mortal Kombat could be picked (perhaps they mistakened a basketball tournament for the Mortal Kombat tournament)? Sadly, they were removed from later versions of the game.
Console players were in for a real treat though. There were characters like the flirty Bill Clinton and his mad wife Hilary, Prince Charles, the Beastie Boys, and even Will Smith & Jazzy Jeff from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (all those years of chillin’ out maxin’ relaxin’ all cool, and all, shootin’ some b-ball outside of the school clearly worked in their favour).
How they managed to get away with these top secret inclusions is a mystery.
Everyone | Tobal 2
Sounds like a lazy cop-out, we know, but just about every pugilist in the Japanese fighting game Tobal 2 is an unusual addition. Since the first game sold poorly in the West, Tobal 2 was never officially released outside of Japan, so not many people found out that it featured well over 200 fighters, a record that still hasn’t been beaten to this day. Admittedly, many of these characters are clones or palette swaps of one another
You can pick from dogs, bears, lizards, chunks of a totem pole, a dragon, a plant, multi-coloured blobs of jelly, stars, miners, shopkeepers, a priest, a penguin, a man made of boxes, another dude made of sticks, and even griffins that share a very uncanny resemblance to the Chocobos from the Final Fantasy series.
While some might argue the developers were aiming for quantity over quality, the sheer number of unexpected and unexplained additions to the roster is precisely the reason why Tobal 2 deserves a mention on this list.