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Scott Pilgrim's precious little videogame references

This is a pretty huge week for fans of Scott Pilgrim, the punch-happy indie-rocker idiot who inhabits a version of Toronto drenched with overt (and frequently surreal) videogame tropes. The $10 movie tie-in game – which is really more of a comic tie-in game – is kicking ass on PSN, and the Edgar Wright-helmed film hits theaters this Friday.

With all the Scott Pilgrim love in the air, we figured now would be a perfect time to comb back through all six volumes of the graphic novel (as well as a few side stories published elsewhere) and count off every gaming reference we could find, hidden or otherwise. Part of the fun of reading the books is spotting these for yourself, but if you’re lost (or just want to confirm whether you’ve found them all), the following guide should make everything clear.


VOL. 1 – Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life


1. Sex Bob-Omb

The name of Scott’s band, Sex Bob-Omb – which consists of him, drummer Kim Pine and guitarist Stephen Stills – is a pretty obvious reference to bob-ombs, the little, suicidal wind-up bombs/occasional allies from nearly every Mario game since Super Mario Bros. 2. (And also possibly a reference to the Tom Jones song “Sex Bomb.”)


2. Launchpad McQuack

This isn’t precisely a videogame reference, since Launchpad McQuack first appeared alongside Scrooge McDuck in the ‘80s cartoon series Ducktales. However, that also meant he appeared in one of the greatest NES games of all time, so we’re bundling him in anyway.


Above: DURP 


3. Crash and the Boys

One of the things that enamored us with Scott Pilgrim early on is that nearly all of its fictional bands are named after old videogames, several of which are only recognizable because their coverage in Nintendo Power outpaced their sales. One of these is Crash ‘N’ the Boys, a weird, story-driven street-sports game from the same series as the classic River City Ransom. Here, it’s the name of Sex Bob-Omb’s faintly malevolent rival band.


4. Subspace

One of the major plot points in the graphic novels, subspace is a pocket dimension used by Ramona Flowers to courier packages really quickly and hold all her stuff. And despite her insistence to the contrary, it is almost exactly like in Super Mario 2.


5. I’m waitin’ on you!

Honestly, I never in a million years would have pegged this as a reference if Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley hadn’t specifically called it out in one of his “annotated pilgrim” blog posts as “Starcraft dialogue that I struggled to insert seamlessly into the book.” As Starcraft fans already know, it’s a line that pops up when you click on Sarah Kerrigan, pre-transformation.


6. Morph Ball

The ability to turn into a Morph Ball is from Metroid. You didn’t need us to tell you that, did you? Here, we’ll also show you, just to be sure:


7. DrumMania

DrumMania is part of the Bemani series (which includes Beatmania, Guitar Freaks, Dance Dance Revolution and Rock Revolution), and it’s what people played before Rock Band and Guitar Hero added drums. And, oh look, it got mentioned here.


8. ‘T’ for Teen

Scott’s younger sister Stacey is rated “T” for Teen. Do you know what else is rated “T” for Teen?

That’s right, the book itself!


Above: Oh, huh!


9. The fight

Subspace and bands with magic powers aside, Scott Pilgrim started to get really surreal when Ramona’s first Evil Ex-Boyfriend, Matthew Patel, showed up and we all found out that scrawny, moronic Scott was the best fighter in Ontario. What followed was pure Street Fighter (or at least, pure Capcom), starting with the reversal Scott scores after blocking a punch from Matthew.

That’s followed by a Shoryuken, which leads into an air juggle, complete with a hit counter courtesy of Kim and Stephen Stills.


Above: Air juggles always look a lot more impressive in Marvel vs Capcom 2 

And then finally, the…

… which was solidly confirmed as a Street Fighter-specific reference when the first movie trailer added the announcer’s yell from Street Fighter Alpha 3.


10. Dance battle

When Scott and his friends face off against Matthew and his succubus cheerleader squad, it’s tempting to immediately equate it with the endlessly memorable Space Channel 5. According to O’Malley’s notes, though, the scene was inspired “on one level by Bollywood stuff, on another level by the video for Janet Jackson’s ‘Miss You Much,’ and on a third level by the Para Para comic by Andy Seto.”

So, mildly disappointing as it is, it’s this:

And not this:


11. Enemies turn into coins

Bad guys who turn into coins when defeated are a pretty common trope. It’s nice to be rewarded after a battle, isn’t it?


Above: Except when they pull stunts like this 

If you want a specific videogame example, probably the most relevant one is the beloved NES brawler River City Ransom. Mainly because it gets the shit referenced out of it in the next volume.

Next page: Volume 2!

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93 comments

  • sophia030394 - December 5, 2011 8:49 p.m.

    The Power Of Love is a famous song by Huey Lewis and the News.
  • ryan-barrett - October 12, 2011 11 a.m.

    Just in case it wasn't overly obvious (I wonder how many people are going to read this) if you take the Triforce/GGG logo on Scott's shirt and rotate it 90 degrees clockwise, there are three 7's inside of the triangles. Gideon's the 7th evil ex, and 777 represents "the threefold perfection of the Trinity." Which is why getting triple-7 on slot machines usually means jackpot.
  • ryan-barrett - October 12, 2011 11:03 a.m.

    Furthermore, the relationship and/or "Love Triangle" between Scott, Ramona, and Gideon could be seen as very similar to the one between Link, Zelda, and Ganon. Gideon also shares the same first letter of his name with our well-known Zelda boss.
  • dthktty - March 10, 2011 2:34 a.m.

    oh sorry its not the Jadow free Viewtiful Joe 1, but actually the Gedow from Viewtiful Joe 2, hence the way it looks like 3 letter G's stuck together. sorry about the mistake guys
  • dthktty - March 9, 2011 7:41 a.m.

    on page six, number ten (the bus ride), could also be a possible reference to Viewtiful Joe, where early on you have to ride a bus to get across a bridge. Also this references is further advanced by the fact that Scott's tee-shirt in number thirteen, is the exact symbol for the bad guys in Viewtiful Joe that are called the Jadow. I could be wrong though.
  • Chaoscoolperson - January 2, 2011 8:13 p.m.

    Volume 6 error The logo on scotts shirt was obviously a triforce upside down.
  • RaptorRider - November 10, 2010 11:12 p.m.

    What I love more than anything is that I found a reference nobody else mentioned. In Book 2, before Knives attacks Ramona, while Scott's talking with Steven Stills, you can see him playing Parodius. He's playing as Pentarou, and he's just reached the cat-pirateship miniboss.
  • batmanboy11 - September 20, 2010 1:11 a.m.

    I'll be starting Volume 3 tonight. So far the series has been awesome.
  • zanthox - September 8, 2010 7:37 p.m.

    Such a great article. I just finished SP and loved reading this to see all the things I missed. Thanks for the hard work!
  • lymanzaar - September 4, 2010 11:56 p.m.

    One thing I'd like to add is that in the last page of the free comic book day issue, there is a panel called "Scott Pilgrim Says". this may be a refrence to the old Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons, where the episode would end in a segment called "Sonic Says"
  • batmanboy11 - August 30, 2010 10:58 p.m.

    Actually I'm just going to stop now. So far I've read page 1 and 2. I'll move on when I get 3 and 4.
  • batmanboy11 - August 30, 2010 10:50 p.m.

    Even though I haven't read the books yet (1 and 2 are coming from amazon) I'm going to read the whole article. Its not like its going to spoil anything. I've seen the movie twice and read sypnosie for the books. So far the article is cool.
  • RufusRuthless - August 27, 2010 5:13 p.m.

    @Slaanash The first novel came out in 2004. Maybe No More Heroes got all of its ideas from SP???
  • RufusRuthless - August 27, 2010 5:11 p.m.

    i wasnt an late 80's/early 90's gamer so i obviously missed a few of these. but good article! i have been reading SP since '05 and its always been my fave graphic novel, i hope it doesnt go away for good now that the series concluded, the movie came out and the game came out!
  • Slaanash - August 27, 2010 3:23 a.m.

    The whole series is totally a No More Heroes reference. Come on, a rather dickish yet strangely likeable character murders 7/10 skilled fighters, who explode into money, so he can get into a girl's pants?
  • ezekielzero - August 21, 2010 9:54 a.m.

    i think there may be a reference to sonic 3 with the giant floating chained island that ramona went to university. Its in the third volume.
  • SillyPigeon - August 20, 2010 3:42 p.m.

    Just finished reading through the books. Great article
  • EnragedTortoise1 - August 19, 2010 3:56 p.m.

    Comtinue? Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. GAME OVER.
  • gamewriter - August 19, 2010 3:52 a.m.

    Really wants to read the comic now
  • GamesRadarMikelReparaz - August 16, 2010 7:42 p.m.

    @ShotgunEric374: I think it's less that no one knew about it, and more that people started posting stuff about it the week the game/movie came out, because that way it'd be relevant to a larger audience. For my part, I've been reading Scott Pilgrim since 2006, so I was only about two years late to the party. I think Amazon kept recommending it after I bought some Blue Monday books. Wish I'd paid attention sooner.

Showing 1-20 of 93 comments

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