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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  • conchking - August 11, 2010 11:51 p.m.

    Just finished reading volume 1 cant wait to read the other 5.
  • FreddiexKruegerxinxmyxWetxDreams - August 11, 2010 11:58 p.m.

    I just read Volume 2 yesterday I love the Monkey Island reference
  • Doctalen - August 12, 2010 12:06 a.m.

    Sounds like a good comic book series but not really appealing to me. Suppose I should give the movie a chance. Least I could do to bee better informed.
  • lovinmyps3 - August 12, 2010 12:08 a.m.

    I officially love you Mikel. Read all six volumes (twice) and still didn't get all the references.
  • Zaphers - August 12, 2010 12:17 a.m.

    Wow, great work.
  • kiwimonster5 - August 12, 2010 12:22 a.m.

    Love this article.
  • Ridgley - August 12, 2010 12:23 a.m.

    Read all these yesterday! This is the perfect article. Is the swimsuit in the bottom right of number 1 for volume 4 a reference to Selphie form FF8? I thought she wore something similar.
  • Pillowfort - August 12, 2010 12:33 a.m.

    Crazy fantastic.
  • CH3BURASHKA - August 12, 2010 12:38 a.m.

    I *really* have to read the books now... Amazon, here I come!
  • Keilimanjaro - August 12, 2010 12:41 a.m.

    Awesome article. What's-his-nuts is also wearing the rock band bass logo t-shirt in some of the posters for the movie.
  • kduff51 - August 12, 2010 12:49 a.m.

    god I need to read these
  • Texaswatermelon - August 12, 2010 1:14 a.m.

    Amazing Article! Thanks Mikel!
  • DarkTone - August 12, 2010 1:27 a.m.

    I like to read comics based on games/movies before I play/watch them. Should give this a look.
  • Robusken - August 12, 2010 1:41 a.m.

    Man this must have been a ton of work. The one obvious one I was missing the whole time was the name Chaos Theater. Argh its killing me that I have to wait about two weeks for the xbla version of the game.
  • 510BrotherPanda - August 12, 2010 1:42 a.m.

    Poor Zangief. He's my fave SF character, and he got turned into a comfy chair.
  • juicenpancakes - August 12, 2010 1:50 a.m.

    Jesus. Mikel you seem to put more time and effort into your features than I would ever dream to put into my work. Well done. I'm only in Volume 4, but I clicked on page 5 and 6 because I was just too damn curious.
  • TizzleSniper - August 12, 2010 1:52 a.m.

    @ridgley possibly, Selphie's dress had straps though. and she didn't have a hair band. but either way it does look very similar.
  • RebornKusabi - August 12, 2010 1:57 a.m.

    I'm skimming through most of this just in case the movie has a lot of it in which judging from the trailer, it does, but really indepth from what I see! Perfect!
  • Limbo - August 12, 2010 1:59 a.m.

    This article has officially convinced me to read Scott Pilgrim. And see that movie. recaptcha had an exponent. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO TYPE THIS!!!
  • CountFenring - August 12, 2010 2 a.m.

    BIAS. There was only one PS3 exclusive IP referenced. BOYCOTT. ;D

Showing 1-20 of 93 comments

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