Sometimes the fates must call upon a chosen hero to fight the battle against the forces of darkness. History is full of stories about men and women destined for greatness, people have been training their whole lives to accept the mantle and fight the good fight. When assaulted from sides by the dismal tide, the people you want beating back the unrelenting hordes of evil are the ones who have spent their entire existence preparing for the fight. This article is not about those people.
Job: Fighting dinosaurs
Previous Experience: Plumber
Mario is like the Robert Muldoon of the Mushroom Kingdom, and unlike Muldoon, who is dispatched with embarrassing ease by the raptors he is the supposed expert on, we actually get to see Mario stomp the shit out of some dinosaurs. A history of plumbing might give you a pretty good feel for swinging a wrench, but even so, I’m not sure Mario’s day job really qualifies him for socking a T-Rex in the mouth. Undeterred by his worrying lack of lizard-mauling experience or skills, however, Mario proceeds to wage unrelenting reptile genocide with only a bag of mushrooms, flowers and feathers, and after thirty years of these games, he’s clearly proven his aptitude. Princess Peach does keep getting re-kidnapped by Bowser with astonishing frequency though, so maybe to avoid further royal mishaps Mario should I dunno, learn how to use a hunting rifle or something. His life would be a lot easier is Bowser would just stay down.
Every single character in the Pokemon games
Job: Blood sport trainers
Previous experience: Being 12 years old
If you think about it, the Pokemon games probably have the grimmest premise of any franchise. Consider how people capture wild animals, train them to fight, and then set them lose on each other in glorified cock-fighting matches as the crowd bays for blood. Then consider that all the characters taking part in this shocking blood sport are pre-pubescent boys and girls. Some of the monsters in the game world are ferociously violent and generally quite dangerous; I’m genuinely surprised the Pokemon games aren’t full of stories about little tykes that have been set alight by disgruntled Charizards or electrocuted by rogue Pikachus. This is the real-world equivalent of letting toddlers pit wolves against each other in cage matches, then letting the toddlers cuddle the wolves afterward.
Isaac Clarke (Dead Space)
Job: Slicing up alien deathbeasts, hallucinating
Previous Experience: Engineer
I’m unsure if they had a strategic dismemberment module on the engineering degree at the university Isaac Clarke went to, but I’m sure that even if iClarke had taken it, it probably wouldn’t have been enough preparation for a terrifying army of alien parasites. The engineering application of a tool that fires sword lasers is debatable, but either way I guess iClarke is pretty glad most of the engineering tools he’s familiar with are handily adept at dicing limbs too. That said, carving through metal girders and carving through snarling alien fleshbeasts are two very different things, so we must perhaps give credit to Clarke that he really does make the best of a bad situation and works with what he’s given. If I were as untrained in combat as iClarke, I would have to hope the Necromoprhs were repelled by urine, because wetting myself is pretty much the only defense I would be able to muster against them.
Gordon Freeman (Half Life)
Job: Revolutionary war hero, Alien botherer
Previous experience: Theoretical physicist, severe speech impediment
There’s no more damning a slight on your physical competence than if your job title has the word theoretical in it. With earlier entries in this list, like Mario or Isaac Clarke, at least their jobs provided them with some kind of practical abilities that could conceivably be adapted for murder, but Gordon Freeman is an academic: he’s basically a nerd alpha-male. The fact that Freeman manages to defeat an interdimensional alien invasion and then lead a revolt against a later alien occupation can thus only be testament to the impressive size of his cojones, because nothing he every studied for in his PhD would have been of any use to him. The fact that he manages to incite a violent, popular uprising in Half-Life 2 is also pretty spectacular considering he never says a damn word to anyone. I thought that charisma and rhetoric were necessary to lead a revolution, but clearly all you need are dorky glasses and a crowbar.
Every female character in the Dead or Alive games
Job: Bare-knuckle boxers
Previous Experience: Swimsuit modeling, possessing enormous breasts
It’s hard to imagine the twisted career path that would lead you from Maxim covergirl to professional fighter, but it’s an unconventional job-swap that sees the Dead or Alive character roster filled with buxom babes hilariously unsuited to brawling. In a totally mature and in no way masturbatory manner, the DoA series celebrates the female form by endowing all its ladies with cartoonishly huge busts, lovingly rendered and available for close inspection by zooming in from all angles. And as non-objectifying and totally empowering for women as that is, I have to wonder whether having two torpedoes strapped to your chest would kind of get in the way of fighting. It’s not as if the women in DoA even wear sports bras; no, to express their femininity they choose to let their busoms bounce freely in skimpy swimsuits as they thrust and punch and grunt and…sorry, what were we talking about, again?
Dante Alighieri (Dante’s Inferno)
Job: Slayer of hellspawn
Previous job: Poet
Like Gordon Freeman, Dante Aligheiri is man whose skills are intellectual rather than practical, what with him being a poet and all, and while it’s true that the real Aligheiri did have some combat experience, picturing him as an unstoppable demon slayer is a bit of a stretch. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem in the original La divina commedia, where all Dante does is wander around hell chatting with some of his dead friends, but in the hack-and-slash videogame interpretation of the epic poem Dante is a full-on beastie-bashing badass capable of killing Death itself, and it stretches the limitations of believability. I can’t really see a Florentine poet having the stones to take out the armies of Satan.
Ecco the Dolphin (Ecco the Dolphin)
Job: Defending earth from an extraterrestrial invasion
Previous Experience: Swimming, being adorable, happy-slapping porpoises
We often forget how trippy videogame premises can be, and the aquatic space defender simulator Ecco the Dolphin puts you in the shoes (flippers?) of Ecco, a bottlenose dolphin who has to battle aliens attempting to harvest all marine life. I’m serious, that’s actually the premise of the game. Dolphins are supposed to be smart, I get that, but I think that Ecco was biting off a bit more than he could chew when he took to job of repelling an alien attack. Ecco’s main strategy to defeat enemies is to ram into them really hard, which as invasion defence tactics goes is the equivalent of throwing babies at an oncoming tank. And how is he supposed to chew cigars and exclaim, “wahlcome to Earf” atop a smoking alien carcass like Will Smith if he’s under the bloody water?
Old Snake (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)
Job: Old genetically modified super soldier
Previous Experience: Young genetically modified super solder
To be fair to Solid Snake, he used to be one of the best in the business, the perfect combination of ninja and black ops soldier. He could take down gunships, tanks and giant robot dinosaurs like the best of them, dispensing gravelly-voiced one-liners like the consummate action hero. But time wounds all heels, as they say, and by Metal Gear Solid 4 Snake is starting to show his age, due in no small part to the aggressive virus secreted into his bloodstream that is prematurely aging him, turning Snake into everyone’s favourite octogenarian superspy. In spite of the pains and aches and the coughs and the splutters, Snake refuses to be put down, and insists on being dropped into the middle of wars and conflict zones the world over. If arthritis is a pressing concern in your daily life, then maybe you shouldn’t be fighting in a war. Just sayin’.