Read this entire article in Morgan Freeman's voice
Few creatures on God's earth are as noble and majestic as the penguin. Their grace? Unparalleled. Their strong, sleek flippers? Magnificent. Their majestic countershading? Remarkable. One look at their intelligent gaze, or those long, succulent beaks
Ahem excuse me, sorry about that. I'm sure you didn't come here to learn about penguins, but today is a special occasion. That's right ladies and gentlemen--Penguin Awareness Day is upon us yet again (did you remember to buy your grandmother a card?), and it's time to look at the penguins in our life and, well, be aware of them. Chances are that very few of us are lucky enough to be on close personal terms with a real live penguin, so let's do the next best thing and take a look at some of the coolest flightless birds that gaming has to offer.
7. Sgt. James Byrd (Spyro)
Flight must be a sore subject among penguins. Knowing that their airborne cousins are having the time of their lives can't be easy, so it's no surprise that some of the leading penguins are the ones disciplined enough to soar. And if there's one thing that defines Sgt. James Byrd, it's his discipline.
Raised from a young age by militant hummingbirds, Byrd defied biology and took to the skies. With his Bird to Air Missile Launcher in hand, he joined the Air Corps and quickly rose through the ranks, eventually teaming up with Spyro and leading his hummingbird allies against the fearsome Rhynocs. Nowadays he stands as an inspiration to penguins of all ages, a living reminder that strength, will, and a couple of rocket launchers are all that it takes to achieve greatness.
6. Tuxie (Super Mario 64)
To be perfectly honest, a little part of me chose to put baby Tuxie on this list out of guilt. Found wandering alone at the top of Cool, Cool Mountain, the tiny bird has to be returned by Mario to her worried mother at the bottom of the hill for a quick star. Sounds easy, right?
Well, it is, but that's not the issue here. See, Tuxie makes this noise when you pick her up. It's piercing. It's repetitive. It's ohmygodgetthisstupidfuckingbirdawayfromme. By the time you get to the bottom of the mountain and realize that Tuxie's mother is conveniently located next to a bottomless pit, you know what you have to do. Power Stars be damned--justice must to be served.
5. Penta Penguin (Crash Bandicoot)
Let's say that you're a developer in the late '90s jumping on the kart racing bandwagon. You've got your mascot, his nemesis, his sister, his other nemesis, that mini boss from that one level, another nemesis that no one remembers, and a whole slew of minor characters to fill the roster. But something still seems to be... missing. Maybe you could throw in a palette swap? A challenger from outer space? Another nemesis? No, wait, it's all so obvious now--penguins.
This is (probably) how Penta Penguin got his start in the world of racing, and frankly it's probably one of the best decisions that Naughty Dog has ever made. The little guy is adorable, with an awesome scarf that says "I might be a penguin, but I get cold, too." Take note developers--whether it's a racer, a fighter, a shooter, an RPG, a MOBA, or any genre in between--there's no better finishing touch than a secret penguin.
4. Penpen (Mega Man)
Pop quiz: what's the absolute cutest thing a penguin can do? The answer, of course, is slide down a hill on its adorable little belly. Being a man of both intellect and taste, Dr. Wily made sure to include these delightful little thrill seekers in his robot army. If only we lived in a world without anger and violence, then maybe these noble creatures could be free to ride to their metal heart's content.
But the real reason why Penpen earns a shout out over all the other robo-penguins is the Penpen Maker. This larger, slightly angrier looking penguin will create an endless number of tummy sliders until a few shots to the eyes takes it out of commission. Just think--if it wasn't for that dastardly Mega Man, we could all be living in the ultimate penguin paradise.
3. Prinny (Disgaea)
If the classical imagery of damnation isn't enough to set your immortal soul on the virtuous path, then maybe Disgaea's version of the afterlife will set you straight. Instead of the usual fire and brimstone, those who are deemed to have lived worthless lives have their essence sewn into a stuffed penguin. It's sort of like reincarnation, except you still go to hell and say "dood" a lot.
While that may not sound as bad as an eternity of suffering, the main problem for your average Prinny is the constant threat of detonation. Due to the volatility of the human soul, even the slightest bit of prodding could cause the poor peg-legged penguin to explode. It wouldn't be an issue if they weren't always being ordered into battle or, say, being thrown by their master as a makeshift grenade. Just try to imagine that for a moment--actually being lifted up and thrown so that you explode. It's humiliating, dood!
2. Piplup (Pokemon)
Piplup is like the pug who thinks he's tough enough to take on a rottweiler. According to the Pokedex, Piplup is immensely proud--he'd starve before accepting something that he didn't catch himself, and loves to pick fights with anyone who insults his honor. What makes this extra adorable is the fact that he's only a wee baby penguin who can't walk three steps without falling over (as opposed to regular penguins, who usually make it at least ten steps before stumbling over their adorably dumb feet). I don't know about you, but I have a hard time being threatened by something that has the balance of an inebriated toddler.
But that's okay; I'll let the little guy act tough. I'll look the other way when he trips, or pretend that his fresh kill wasn't the fish I put in his bowl five minutes ago because I love Piplup, and can remember a time when I too needed the world to take me seriously. That, and because his final form will seriously mess you up.
1. King Dedede (Kirby)
Who better to close out this penguin party than the king himself? The primary antagonist of the Kirby series, King Dedede is all about lording (heh) himself over the other residents of Dream Land--and why shouldn't he? His regal clothes, loyal Waddle-Dee following, and uncanny ability to fly makes him the envy of every penguin this side of the South Pole.
In fact, it's worth pointing out that his royal highness isn't even that bad a guy. Time and again, he's gone out of his way to protect Dream Land and its citizens from the Nightmare, or has simply been the unwitting puppet of some evil entity. There may have been a few times where he could have possibly stolen all of Dream Land's food or bullied its people, but that's no reason to hold a grudge against this big, lovable oaf.
Ain't no party like a penguin party...
The list may be over, but that doesn't mean that the penguins have to end. Maybe you had a favorite that still deserves a shout-out, or maybe you're looking for somewhere to have an intelligent conversation on the evolutionary advantages of the flipper? Why not take all that bird talk to the comments below?