Which game character has changed the most in 20 years?

So take me back in time / to another world

It's been 20 years since it was this date in 1994. Unless you're reading this in 2015 or later, in which case it's been even longer, and I'm envious of your hovercar. But, despite the years, there are a bunch of game characters that are still--somehow--relevant and/or getting released in new games.

Some have remained true to their original concepts. Others... not so much. So let's take a look back at games from 1994 and see what their heroes look like today. Given the dearth of releases so far this year, I'm including some from the latter half of 2013. Deal with it. OK, so let's do this! Time machine... ENGAGE!

Samus Aran (Metroid series)

Obviously we're talking about Samus sans-Power Suit, otherwise we'd be discussing things like burnish. And that would be weird. However, I am very pleased to say that Samus has overcome her mid-1990s eating disorder and now sports some very healthy curves. Look at that tiny stomach on the left. I feel like 1994 Samus ought to put her suit back on. Ugh.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Aww, Sonic's all grown up. Yes, his legs have gotten longer and he's covered in bandages to make sure his now-aging muscles don't detach when he goes from 0-60 in 0.1 seconds (yoga might help, Sonic--just look at Ryan Giggs these days), but he's aging well. He's lost the 'prominent tummy of childhood' (Lord of the Flies reference there, folks) and looks more... comfortable in himself. I should probably point out that this isn't Sonic's 'canon' look, as Sonic Boom is a spin-off (no pun intended) game in the franchise, but even so, this is how he's going to look this year so it totally counts. And traditional 'Modern' Sonic doesn't look *that* different anyway.

Ryu (from Street Fighter)

Ryu has bulked up a fair bit since 1994's Super Street Fighter II. He was certainly leaner back then, with not one ounce of fat anywhere. And that's a painfully sinewy neck. He looks a lot healthier now, and less dehydrated too. Although he's clearly been attending the same gym as Chris Redfield. Perhaps someone should investigate the ingredients of those protein shakes...

Orchid (Killer Instinct)

Killer Instinct hit arcades in 1994, offering sensationally-detailed characters thanks to its pre-rendered CG approach to its combatants. Orchid was one character that saw a disproportionately large number of credits spent selecting her, presumably due to her disproportionately large weapons. Yep. In 2014, Xbox One owners are still playing with her. She looks... different. Not 20 years older, but--like Samus--like she's been eating a lot better. Though I doubt most would recognise her immediately if it weren't for the name under the energy bar.


Pac-Man's 1994 game was a numbered sequel to Pac-Man. Incredible. Also incredible was the way it had absolutely nothing to do with the original game, allowing you to watch this 'interactive cartoon' and lol heartily at Pac-Man's stupid emoting face. But I digress. Pac-Man seems to be the same as ever, only he's taken to drawing on his eyebrows and wearing personalised shoes. Gotta spend that money somewhere.


Mario had a relatively quiet 1994, but it did include the seminal Game Boy platformer Donkey Kong. The evidence suggests that the plumber hasn't changed his clothes in 20 years, but at least we can't smell him through the internet. All that's really changed is his attitude--just look at the anger and weapon on the left compared to the relaxed smile and golf club on the right. 3D Mario may have taken a while to assume the familiar proportions of Nintendo's promotional artwork, but he's certainly there now. He'll always look like this from this point forwards. Unless he joins Knuckles' gym.


OK, so he's not very well known these days, but the last major Dizzy game, Fantastic Dizzy, was released on Mega Drive/Genesis in 1994, before falling almost completely silent for almost two decades. The Oliver Twins (his creators) attempted to kickstart (literally) the franchise again late last year, but it failed. So all we have of modern Dizzy is some concept art, in which he hasn't changed much at all. There are lots of poses, but this picture seems the most appropriate, mainly because in it he looks battered, jaded and totally pissed off. Commercial fortunes aside, the years have been quite kind. He can always 'turn that frown upside down' and still look like he did in the 1990s. And how many of us can say that?


Kirby has not changed at all. He is just as round, pink and adorable as he's ever been. The only real difference is that he's now 3D and therefore doesn't need a black outline any more. Bet that felt good to take off. Like removing the stabilisers from the bike you learned to ride. The only other change is in his eyes. He's plumped for the 'adorable puppy', super-cute eyes from the eye dispenser for this one. But even so, Kirby has probably changed the least out of everyone in this list. Way to go, Kirbmeister.

Cranky Kong

The original ape from Donkey Kong *is* Cranky Kong. That's a fact. And while Donkey Kong on Game Boy was released in 1994 (so we could have used him), so too was Donkey Kong Country, which introduced us to the old version of the original DK in the title sequence. So let's compare like for like. You know what? I think he looks in much better health now than he did in '94. His beard is fuller, his fur thicker and he's no longer painfully thin. Whatever illness caused the massive aging between 1981 and 1994, its effects have been (moderately) reversed in the subsequent 20 years. Way to go, Cranky. You'll bury us all.

Knuckles the Echidna

WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL HAPPENED TO KNUCKLES? I know we've been over this before, but this is... well, words fail me. 'Unexpected' is an understatement. To say that Knuckles has 'grown into his body' is like saying Hodor's vocabulary is 'a bit limited'. Knux is taller, bulkier, weirder and bulkier than ever. Oh, and bulkier too... did I say that? Suffice to say, he wins the competition. Not that winning it is a good thing. Not in this instance. Shudder. Oh... but wait! Who's this sneaking in?

Lara Croft

There has to be one more, though. Now, I fully appreciate Lara hit the scene in 1996, which is two years lass than the 20 we've stipulated. But she's changed so much in those 18 years, she has to be included in the feature. Simply has to. I mean look at her! Her proportions, face, hair, clothes, build and state of general cleanliness are totally different. And if you really want to be a stickler for the rules, then fine--how's this? During her creation, likely including 1994, she was a man. If that ain't a big change, I don't know what is.

But what about DK Junior?

We know that the original Donkey Kong is Cranky Kong. And modern-day DK is Cranky's grandson. So what happened to DK Jnr? Last seen blowing raspberries at a very angry Mario on the front of Game Boy Donkey Kong, we can only assume that--a few years and some swift procreation later--Mario caught up with him... and still had the hammer.

And if you're looking for more, check out The 100 best heroes in video games and Video game characters' school report cards.

Justin Towell

Justin was a GamesRadar staffer for 10 years but is now a freelancer, musician and videographer. He's big on retro, Sega and racing games (especially retro Sega racing games) and currently also writes for Play Magazine, Traxion.gg, PC Gamer and TopTenReviews, as well as running his own YouTube channel. Having learned to love all platforms equally after Sega left the hardware industry (sniff), his favourite games include Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams, Zelda BotW, Sea of Thieves, Sega Rally Championship and Treasure Island Dizzy.