It's not uncommon for film writers to create a character with a specific actor in mind--and, often, they're able to get that person to be in the film. Game writers often do the same thing, forming characters around different athletes, actors, or celebrities. Sometimes they get the actor to lend their likeness, but other times they just... make it different enough so that they can't get sued and move on.
The characters on this list all give us that "where have I seen you before?" feeling whenever we controlled them. Some of the characters here have been referenced by the creators as being inspirations, while others are based on our own hunches. Do you see the resemblance?
Balrog (Street Fighter)
Shadaloos resident boxer is one of the most potent pugilists in fighting game history, which makes perfect sense considering who we think inspired him. See, in America the boxer is Balrog, the claw is Vega, and the dictator is Master Bison, but in Japan the names are flipped so the dictator is Vega, the claw is Balrog, and the boxer is Mike Bison. Mike Bison sounds awfully familiar, doesnt it?
Yes, its not hard to assume that given the original names, Capcoms boxer is based off of former heavyweight champion Iron Mike Tyson. Now why would Capcom go through all the trouble of changing the names around? What happened? Well, Street Fighter II launched in the US in 1992, when Mike Tyson was on trial for some pretty serious crimes. We think Capcom just wanted to get as far away from that as possible.
Bill "Mad Dog" Rizer and Lance "Scorpion" Bean (Contra)
Look at those two manly men. The men who benefitted most from the famous Konami Code look like theyre going to take on the world on that box art, even with the Xenomorph-looking alien staring them down from behind. As a matter of fact, those two look awfully familiarlike weve seen them in action movies or something
Look, maybe its just a hunch, but the blonde dude on the left reminds us a lot of The Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger, and his dark-haired compatriot bears a striking resemblance to Rambo himself, Sylvester Stallone. Why wouldnt you want your main heroes to look like the two biggest action stars of the 80s and 90s? Every time we play Contra now, we talk like Ahnold and Sly as we mow down bad guys. It makes the game insanely more entertaining.
Liu Kang (Mortal Kombat), Marshall Law (Tekken), and Fei Long (Street Fighter)
Bruce Lee is one of the most famous martial artists to ever live, so its no wonder that at least three fighting franchises have tried to emulate him on their rosters. Mortal Kombats Liu Kang, Tekkens Marshall Law (and his son Forest, actually), and Street Fighters Fei Long all closely resemble the late master, from their fighting techniques to their loud, high pitched battle cries.
These three are so close to the martial arts icon, anyone who didnt know who Bruce Lee was would merely have to look at some videos of these three duking it out to get a good idea of Lees work. Were sure there are more examples of Bruce Lee-inspired fighters out there in the video game world, but these three come to mind first.
Andrew Ryan (BioShock)
We know what youre thinking: who could Andrew Ryan, a man who chose to distance himself from the rules of society by building an underwater city called Rapture, possibly remind us of in the real world? We wouldnt be surprised if the name Howard Hughes doesnt ring a bell with the younger crowds, but those who are familiar with both Ryan and Hughes can see the parallels immediately.
Both men were highly successful business magnates who used their success to fuel their ambitions. While Hughes didnt go around building underwater cities, he did once buy a Las Vegas hotel because he didnt want to move out of it, then bought a neighboring hotel just to reposition a giant neon slipper that kept him awake at night. When youre among the wealthiest people in the world, you can do anything you want, just like Ryan and Hughes.
Dee Jay (Street Fighter)
This is a weird one, and youre going to have to work with us here. Weve heard tell that Dee Jay, the jammin Jamaican from the Street Fighter franchise, was modeled after Billy Blanks, the creator of the Tae-Bo and Billys Boot Camp exercise regimens. At first we thought that was crazy, but the more we look and watch him fight, the more it makes sense. Could Dee Jay be a Tae-Bo master?
Dee Jay holds the distinction of being the only Street Fighter to this day that was completely designed in the USA (the rest were designed in Japan, in case youre wondering), so an animator being inspired by Blanks when creating his street fighter is totally possible. Youll just have to overlook Dee Jays dreads, maracas, and ability to shoot energy from his fist. Could you imagine if Billy Blanks could do that?
Johnny Cage (Mortal Kombat)
Sure, Bruce Lee has some obvious video game counterparts, but this one takes a little more thought. Johnny Cage, the arrogant movie star and nut-puncher extraordinare, reminds us of Belgian action movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme. Dont agree with us? We can see how the comparison weakens in todays Mortal Kombat universe (Jean-Claude Van-Damme doesnt have his name tattooed across his chest, for example), but go back to the original Mortal Kombat and things start to change.
Johnny Cage in MK1 looks an awful lot like Van Damme in the excellent movie Bloodsport, doesnt he? Right down to the red kung fu belt, wed think they were the same person. Cages trademark Split Nut Punch even comes from Bloodsport! If you havent seen that movie, go watch it and youll see exactly what we mean.
Ellie (The Last of Us)
Its really uncanny how much this character looks like actress Ellen Page. No, we dont have the wrong character in our heads. Yes, we know all about Beyond: Two Souls. Yes, were fully aware of Jodie Holmes and how Ellen Page was the actress behind her. Ellie from The Last of Us looks a lot like Ellen Page too, and she has from the moment we were first introduced to her.
Were not the only ones who think this, either. Ellen Page herself said that she wasnt a fan of Naughty Dog ripping off her likeness for Ellie, citing her appearance in Beyond as the reason. Now if Ellen Page thinks that Ellie looks like Ellen Page, why shouldnt we think the same? Even with the tweaks in her design Naughty Dog implemented during development, we still think Ellie could have starred in Juno.
Bruno Delinger (Project X Zone)
Were doing a lot of posturing in this article, as many of these are based on our own hunches... except this one. Bruno Delinger here leaves us with no doubt: this man is supposed to be Bruce Willis. Hes the spitting image of Willis action hero John McClane from Die Hard, which isnt an accident: wouldnt you know that Bruno comes from Segas Dynamite Cop, which was based off of their previous release Die Hard Arcade, and Bruno was modeled afteryou guessed it, John McClane!
Seeing Bruce Willis among the likes of Chris Redfield, Jin Kazama, and Akira Yuki in Project X Zone is really strange but REALLY awesome. It makes us wonder what other games Bruce Willis could successfully infiltrate. His character from Unbreakable would fit in the inFAMOUS universe, as would his Sixth Sense character in a horror game like Fatal Frame. Why isnt Bruce Willis in more games?
Doppelgangers or duds?
We're sure there are more character that didn't make our gallery, so if there's anyone out there in video games that reminds you of anyone out there in the real world, let us know in the comments and we'll see for ourselves.
For more character-based craziness, check out nine game characters that got screwed over in their sequels and the Top 7 games where the bad guys actually win.