They aren't just for trick-or-treaters
Unless you are a cosplayer, chances are it's only socially acceptable for your to put on a weird costume once or twice a year. Which really stinks because a Jak suit would make even the most mundane errands more exciting. Hence, Exhibit 2,344,488 of Why Video Games Are Cooler Than Real Life: characters get to wear costumes literally all the time (assuming their players have unlocked them). And in most video games, the ones dressing up are already costume-worthy things like treasure hunters or princesses or tortured detectives! Completely unfair.
Injustice aside, a new outfit can totally transform the way we look at a character, whether it's a simple palette swap, an entirely new persona, or a fan-pleasing nod to games gone by. In some cases, the alternative get-up turns out to be way more awesome than the default appearance. Not convinced? Well, do click on and see what I mean.
Doughnut Drake is a true everyman hero
Nathan Drake is a chiseled slab of Ideal Man. He's ruggedly handsome, determined, resourceful, witty, and has a well-paying job that takes him all over the world (when he's not spending months in Turkish prisons). Sure, Uncharted's hero has a few lovable-lead foibles here and there, but he's as close to perfection as you can get without wearing an "S" on your chest. Much as I love going on wacky adventures/mercenary murder sprees with the guy, I just can't relate.
Doughnut Drake has all that and a few hundred pounds more. He puts in all the same effort that Skinny Drake does, but he just can't seem to lose the weight--even his bassy voice reflects his stockier frame. Doughnut Drake is a video game hero of the people: a reminder that we all have imperfections but that we can still lead a life of adventure even if we don't shop in the petite section. Godspeed, you plus-sized treasure hunter.
Pink Captain Falcon matches ferocity with style
Captain Falcon was a fan-favorite fighter of the Super Smash Bros. series ever since he appeared as an unlockable character in the original entry. Nintendo's released so few games for the F-Zero series outside of Japan that he's better known around the world as a fast-running, hard-striking, Falcon Pawwwnching brawler than as a far-future racer. Unfortunately, his default fashion sense isn't half as daring.
The tight-fitting navy blue aviator suit with the orange shirt, yellow boots and shiny red helmet just don't work. And where do those white eye spots come from? Pink Captain Falcon, on the other hand, really has his act together--as demonstrated by his recurring appearances in Smash. He simplifies down to a pink and white color scheme but keeps the yellow scarf as a daring accent piece. The Valentine colors bely the Captain's softer side and leave his burning fists to convey his legendary bravado.
Major Raikov brings Raiden back to Metal Gear
Who wants to play as Snake in a Metal Gear Solid game? That's right, nobody. Nobody wants to control that gruff, philosophy pondering international stealth busybody. Hideo Kojima briefly realized that in Metal Gear Solid 2, in which he gave players the old switcheroo a few hours into the campaign and slotted in Raiden in his stead. But it seemed like he lost the thread in its sequel, Snake Eater.
That is, until you discovered the "Major Raikov" mask sitting in their inventory. What possible use could this silver-haired, snowy skinned mask serve? Why, to cover up the grim visage of Big Boss nee Naked Snake--and when combined with a snappy uniform--fool a whole gaggle of Russian soldiers into saluting him as their division's second-in-command. See? Things always improve when Raiden--er, Raikov--enters the scene.
Kratos as Tycoonius sows fear in the financial sector
Maybe a hulking, tattooed boor with blades chained to his arms was the height of intimidation in the Hellenistic Period. But we're not in Sparta any more, and modern Greeks have little cause to fear God-enabled avatars of destruction. But they--and the rest of the world, for that matter--have plenty to fear from a well-dressed businessman with not one but two briefcases full of legal documents.
Yes, SCE Santa Monica Studios must have had some chilling vision of the looming debt crisis when it implemented the Tycoonius costume in the original God of War, which covered Kratos' ash-covered skin with a smartly tailored wool-silk suit and traded his Blades of Chaos for Attaches of Avarice. At least he doesn't yell "FORECLOSURE" when he enters Rage of the Gods mode.
Naruto dressed like Goku makes filler arcs fun again
I don't mean to offend Naruto fans, but I was just too old to get into the series when it made its debut outside of Japan. Perhaps my brain lacked the youthful plasticity to accept the expansive cast of superpowered ninjas into its greyish folds. Fortunately for me, developer CyberConnect2 had the perfect solution for Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Storm 3: extract Naruto from his ninja clothes and dress him in Goku's familiar orange gi.
Suddenly, the ninja-nation politicking melts into the background, and I am comforted by the simple knowledge that there are a bunch of bad dudes threatening the Earth and if I beat them up I'll get stronger. Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z even returned the favor, letting Goku dress up in Naruto's trenchcoat-and-bedroll(?) affair.
Arkham Origins' TV Batman is a true detective
There was a time when Batman had to rely on his wits and fists instead of high-tech gadgets and an armor-plated Batsuit Mostly because his gadgets were useless outside of supremely specific situations and his batsuit looked more like something you would wear to bed than to a riot. Maybe the old Batman, with his absurd powers of deduction, just doesn't have a place in the high-octane world of modern crime fighting.
Thankfully, Batman: Arkham Origins put that concern out of my mind. Although this Bruce Wayne is a bit more muscular than Adam West's portrayal, the rest of the essentials are there: the silky blue cape, the chalked-on nose and eyebrows, the bright yellow utility belt. Now if I could just hear him reason out the Riddler's plans solely from observing a crayon conspicuously placed inside a box of colored pencils...
Max Payne 3's classic Max recalls the American dream
The grimacing visage of Sam Lake adorned the polygonal noggin of Max Payne only once, during Max's virgin voyage into the night. The character became more classically handsome and less constipated in Max Payne 2, and he grew bald and paunchy in Max Payne 3. It was interesting to watch Max evolve from campy noir hero to haunted gun-for-hire, even as I knew his real face labored away at Remedy Entertainment on unrelated franchises.
Thankfully, Rockstar took advantage of Max Payne 3's canon-bending multiplayer mode to re-introduce the Rictus of Righteousness and the Paisley Vest of Vengeance to the series. Somehow the low-poly, low-res model just feels right flying through the air spraying bullets in a way his higher-fidelity cousins do not.
Frank West goes X-Busting in Dead Rising
Ok, so hear me out on this one: Dead Rising is actually a Mega Man X game, and Capcom knew it, so it included an unlockable Mega Man X costume and X-Buster (yeah, it's technically referred to as a Mega Man costume, but look at the gem in that helmet, C'MON). The basic plot of the first few Mega Man X titles is that Sigma harbors a virus that turns robots into rampaging murder mavericks--zombies! And he converts a few particularly powerful robots to make sure nobody foils his schemes--psychopaths!
The further inclusion of Mega Man outfits in Dead Rising 2 and Dead Rising 3 (not to mention his fighting game appearances) seals the deal: Dead Rising is Capcom's sole surviving Mega Man series. If only a cute reploid were the one haranguing Frank West over the radio instead of an ornery mall cop.
Bayonetta is a Star Fox
I know, I know. How can you improve on the fierce, sexy whirling dervish of revolvers and multipurpose hair that is Bayonetta? It must have seemed like an impossible task to Platinum Games when it started work on Bayonetta 2... Until the team arrived at an epiphany: stick her in a flight suit and give her a pair of fox ears. Yeah, they also added a couple other Nintendo-themed costumes to the game, but only her Fox McCloud get-up stars in one of the best Easter Eggs of recorded history.
That is what we in the business refer to as brand synergy. And as long as Nintendo sticks to its current Star Fox release calendar of "maybe a couple every decade or so", it's the best that Fox fans can hope for.
Wear them with pride
At what point does a costume become the character? Wherever it is, the previous examples have already passed it. But what do you think? Have any costumes made you appreciate a character or a game in a whole new light? Let us know in the comments!
If you're interested in some less-successful characterizations, check out 8 cartoons that got games completely wrong and the bizarre, mutant pig-people who live in Forza Horizon 2.