2009 vs 2019: Spyro, Dante, and more show us what a video game ‘glow up’ looks like via their very own 10 Year Challenge

Less than three weeks into 2019, and social media has already spawned another viral internet challenge to rival the likes of planking, Harlem Shakes, and eating unhealthy amounts of cinnamon. The #10YearChallenge has people posting their profile pictures from 2009 against their most recent ones, to boast/moan about how much they’ve changed in the last decade, and generally laugh at their own expense.

Naturally, like normal people, we wondered whether classic video game characters could be given the same treatment and, again, like any normal person would, we took the 10 Year Challenge for them. For SCIENCE, I’ve compared images from a character’s most recent game against a title of theirs that released as close to ten years before as possible and, I have to say, some of our most beloved heroes and icons didn’t look too good in the noughties. Check out the results for yourself, and see if these video game characters have aged like a fine wine or a raw chicken in a Turkish sauna… 

Nathan Drake - Uncharted 2 (2009)/Uncharted 4 (2016)

Can you believe Nathan Drake has been with us for almost 12 years already? His first appearance was in 2007’s Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, but Naughty Dog’s quipping treasure hunter has done some serious growing since then, as seen in this shot comparing his character model from Uncharted 2: Among Thieves against his upscaled, PS4 variant from 2016’s Uncharted 4. It’s worth pointing out that the image on the right is from a gif Naughty Dog created to celebrate the new year in 2018, but damn, I’d say Drake is a more charismatic Gatsby than Leonardo DiCaprio himself. 

Marcus Fenix - Gears of War 2 (2008)/Gears 5 (2019)

Trust someone as stubborn and narrow minded as Marcus Fenix to change barely an inch over the course of eleven years. Between these two snaps from Gears of War 2 and the upcoming Gears 5, the man is wearing the same hat and armour as always, and only has slightly more face fuzz to show for the years in between. No offence, mate, but that beanie must absolutely stink by now. 

Mario - New Super Mario Bros. Wii (2007)/Super Mario Odyssey (2017)

Aside from apparently developing nipples in the ten years between Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Odyssey, Nintendo’s platforming plumber was rendered with even more detail in 2017 thanks to the computing power of the Switch. You can see the individual strands in his hair and moustache, not to mention the creases on his (leather?) gloves, and fabric patterning on that iconic blue pair of overalls. Oh yeah, and his hat was a sentient being for a little while in 2017. That was cool.

Lara Croft - Tomb Raider Underworld (2008)/Shadow of the Tomb Raider (2019)

No character has changed since their debut quite as much as Lara Croft, who began life as an abnormally proportioned prop for leerish male gazing before rebirthing in 2013 via Eidos Montreal’s cool-headed reboot. You can even detect that process when comparing the Lara from Tomb Raider Underworld with the Lara from last year’s Shadow of the Tomb Raider, where the difference is pretty astounding. She’s even wearing clothes that are, you know, actually appropriate for adventuring in, though that iconic ponytail remains very much intact, and probably always will be. 

Agent 47 - Hitman: Blood Money (2006)/Hitman (2016)

We’re counting 2016’s Hitman and last year’s Hitman 2 as two seasons of one game, which qualifies Agent 47 for the 10 Year Challenge when comparing his current look against images of the iconic assassin in 2006’s Blood Money. The difference is that Agent 47 no longer looks like he could be an extra in Guy Ritchie movie, and now flaunting the sleek charm that defines IO Interactive’s rebooted series. I know which face I’d rather look at as the last thing to see before I die. 

Dante - Devil May Cry 4 (2009)/Devil May Cry 5 (2019)

Following an extended hiatus from the series he enfranchised, Dante is returning to Devil May Cry this year in Capcom’s upcoming sequel, Devil May Cry 5. In the time away, the demon slayer has matured from teenage manchild to middle-aged manchild, with the wirey stubble and shaggier hair to show for it. Of course, Dante’s always been grey in the locks department, so that part of the aging isn’t quite as drastic, but I’d say our paranormal protagonist had survived the jump to high definition pretty nicely. 

Kratos - God of War 2 (2008)/God of War (2018)

2018’s God of War was all about learning to accept the sins of your past and try to make up for them, but this image comparing Kratos with his former, angrier self was never going to be too flattering. Aside from developing a serious Dadbod, the Greek deity has grown out his beard and rebranded himself as a lowly Norseman. He still enjoys flaunting his pecks at all times, though, even without the Greek heat to justify it. Some things never change. 

Spyro - Dawn of the Dragon (2008)/Reignited Trilogy (2018)

No, you’re not looking at the offspring of Barney the Dinosaur and a naked mole rat. That was Spyro the Dragon in 2008, featuring in his final game (Dawn of the Dragon) before going MIA for a decade. Luckily, Toys for Bob’s recently released Spyro Reignited Trilogy takes inspiration from the dragon’s earlier games and lovingly restores his original, more charming character model back to full glory. The Dawn of the Dragon Spyro can burn in dragon hell for all I care.

Scorpion - Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (2009)/Mortal Kombat 11 (2019)

Scorpion’s transition from weedy stick insect to beefy muscle cake is new life goals for 2019. It’s like looking at a Pokemon who’s evolved into its final form. I respect the fighter’s decision to modernise his fashion sense, too, even while staying on brand with that mustard yellow garmenting. Giant skull belt buckles are so 2009, after all. 

The year has only just begun for PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch owners, and you can check out all the big new games of 2019 in our guide to the next 12 months right here.