Oscar winning actor Forest Whitaker once said “Stereotypes do exist, but we have to walk through them.” Truer words have never been spoken and the presence of derogatory archetypes can sadly be found by the heaps in video gaming. Stereotypes can be sexual (eye candy with giant breasts and little brains), racial (black, white, Hispanic, Asian) or based on sexual orientation. Regardless of the offensive nature, there are characters in our most beloved of franchises to our most obscure that have set us all back a few decades or centuries. Some of these are easier to miss while playing as they are presented in harmless fashion while others smack you right in the face. Here is Complex’s Top 15 Stereotypical characters.
Mario (Mario Brothers)
Yes, everyone’s favorite Nintendo flagship plumber is a generalized, blanket caricature. Early versions of the turtle-tossing hero came complete with a terrible Italian accent and bad guys called “goombas.” In his cartoon incarnation, Mario would even use words like “Pizano.” While he is far better than any of the Italian-Americans in Mafia or Mafia 2, this plumber could make do with some polish and updating to his image. Italians have little to look forward to; their scale of representation is either a gangster or a pipe-jumping embarrassment chasing turtles and crabs.
Gay Tony (GTA 4)
Grand Theft Auto has never been known for political correctness. While it blows past the ESRB, the adventures of criminals and the underground found new limits to crash through with the homosexual club owner and crime lord – Gay Tony. Tony Prince, the real name of the criminal, is a flamboyant, amoral, drug-addicted caricature of a homosexual character living in Liberty City. He is colorful, stereotypically fashionable and even runs Hercules, the gay club in town complete with shirtless goons. While Gay Tony is not as offensive as he could have been, having a high-profiled homosexual character in a game could have been a better choice than Mr. Prince.
Irish (Red Dead Redemption)
When grizzled cowboy John Marston meets Irish in Rockstar’s instant classic, the character might as well be wearing shamrocks and chasing a pot of gold. Irish’s accent is over-the-top, his antics revolve around drinking and alcohol nearly as much as they do sex (yes, he even propositions nuns.) Irish is an example that those of us with white skin can be the victims of stereotypes as well. Irish video game characters do not have a large amount of representation so when one of the Emerald Isle’s sons appear, there is a lot riding. Rockstar did catch heat for this character and his embarrassing ways.
Poison (Final Fight, Tekken vs. Street Fighter)
Originally, when this pink haired, belly-shirt wearing street walker appeared, she was a former man who had undergone a sex-change. The transgender was also part of a vicious street gang who had kidnapped the mayor’s daughter. Lately, Poison has been re-envisioned as just a slutty girl whose main fighting technique borderlines on pimp slapping your opponent and shaking your breasts. While other female fighters may be scantily clad, Poison is one step from fighting or being rented for the hour.
Rico Velasquez (Killzone series)
Killzone does an amazing job of FPS excitement, detailed storytelling and offending two minority groups in one move. Rico Velasquez could easily come off as a black man but his name is Hispanic. Now, let the soldier talk and he is the most ignorant and foul-mouthed character in the Killzone universe. As a roadblock to authority and penchant for growing an afro, Velasquez is far dumber than the Helghan AI and the random troops that run into the background battlefield.
Jade, Kitana (Mortal Kombat)
While the realm of Otherworld is full of fanged demons and timeless emperors, it is commonly found to have half-naked skanks who can fight, hurl lasers and perform aerobatic attacks while wearing thongs, high-heeled boots and keeping their giant breasts under scarves. Female gamers slid away from this series and if there was any doubt they’d come back, take a look at the latest MK entry – you can view the girls in a gallery setting complete with battle damage (especially to their clothing.)
Yes, half-naked and with pasties, this were-cat girl fights vampires and werewolves. The slutty innocent fighter girl stereotype was blasted off the charts with Felicia who is coy and sweet yet dripping with underage school girl and kitty jokes. Somehow this anime good-time girl has repeatedly survived multiple incarnations and made the Darkstalkers’ roster over and over. Felicia is embarrassing and a weak character on top of it. This kitty cat should be put down for good.
Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)
In her latest incarnations, British explorer and treasure hunter Lady Croft has become more badass than babe but when she first appeared, Lara was a digital pinup. Croft was cheesecake and an embarrassment to Eidos even if she was a chart topping, game selling icon. While girl gamers cheered that they had representation, they quickly jeered when they saw her impossible balloon-breasts and nearly-non-existent waist. With daisy duke shorts and tank top, this raider was like more playmate crawling and shooting than she was adventurer (because who wouldn’t climb caves in a tight tank and booty shorts?)
Letitia (Deus Ex)
Wow, wow and just wow. Play Deus Ex and you will experience a detailed storyline, great first person action and one of the most racist throwback characters this side of Al Jolson (Google him, trust me.) Letitia is the game’s resident homeless person/informant/and minstrel. Using English that sounds like she is one cut scene away from saying “massah” and “yessum,” this character is so bad that you’re amazed no one caught this. She constantly refers to the game’s hero as “Cap’n” and sounds like the Emancipation Proclamation missed her completely.
Sgt. Avery Johnson (Halo)
If you watch any cop movie from the 70s and 80s, they all had the loud angry black captain. That was the African-American pacifier – you’re in charge but your just one scream away from full hypertension. Well, unfortunately, Halo reached back to Starsky & Hutch in and brought out Sgt. Johnson. Cigar-chomping, swearing and grizzled-voiced, Johnson is the ultimate angry black man. While he is not terrible, Johnson could have been more multifaceted rather than one dimensional and predictable.
Augustus Cole (Gears of War series)
Everyone loves the "Cole Train", that is a fact. That is what makes this caricature so painful. While his character is charismatic, invigorating and exciting, he is the token black who is loud, big and full of cursing even when talking to the alien, subterranean enemy. Played with great zeal by actor Lester Speight (“Terry Tate: Office Linebacker,”) Cole makes us laugh and he makes us cheer but of course, he couldn’t be black and not be a former athlete. For that and his other stereotypical actions, he also makes us cringe.
Sam B (Dead Island)
Of course, if there is a black man found in the presence of a zombie apocalypse, he will be a foul-mouthed, drunken rapper. Meet Sam B. the best chance to save the survivors of Dead Island – that is if he can get past his grill and 1970’s jive talk when accepting missions. Players are introduced to the undead killing hero as he sings his chart-topping “Who do you Voodoo, bitch?” His alternate costume comes complete with a voodoo priest top hat and just may stop short of a bone in his nose. Sam B may save an island of people but he sets an entire culture back.
Dalsim (Street Fighter)
India can lay claim to Gandhi, Deepak Chopra and even Mother Teresa in a proud testament to changing the world. However, all their accomplishments could pale in the offensive light of Dalsim. From his constant “Yoga fire” to painted face, this long-limb fighter will make Indians cringe at his portrayal. While Apu from The Simpsons takes the cake in Indian stereotypes, Dalsim is not far behind. That sound you now hear is one billion people sighing in disbelief.
Thunderhawk (Street Fighter)
Move over Nightwolf, apparently the Native American community does not generate doctors or laywers. It pops out fighters that reach back several hundred years for their skills and wardrobe. Once again with sleeveless vest and feather-band, this fighter sets an entire people back to teepees and scalping. T.Hawk’s other hobbies (besides fighting) even include collecting animal skins. His attacks are not Fireball or Rising Punch but are instead the Rising Hawk and Mexican Typhoon. Ah Thunderhawk, if you die in a John Wayne movie, it will be only fitting.
Nightwolf (Mortal Kombat)
Yes, complete with laser tomahawk and the ability to call down thunder, Nightwolf is the epitome of every red-skinned, feather-wearing sports mascot and old cowboy movie serial. He has warpaint on his face, a feather in his hair and the sleeveless vest as if Geronimo himself just gave it up. Did we forget to mention the Spirit Arrow attack? While other characters can have a gallery of normal punches and kicks, Nightwolf, our resident shaman, calls upon skills that even the old DC Comics’ Apache Chief would frown on.