Depending on who you ask, Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph was either the video game world’s Toy Story or its Lego Movie; a celebration of a medium and hobby through animation that also deconsrtructed that medium’s component parts to tell a fundamentally human story through metaphor and allegory: Toy Story is about existential panic and social/family heirarchy (and, like almost every Pixar movie, it’s also about paternal angst – but that’s another list), The Lego Movie is about creativity versus the desire for order, and Wreck-It Ralph was about grappling with insecurity and identity issues in the context of video game characters aching to break out of their (literally) pre-programmed roles. But however you chose to read it, Ralph was also a monster hit and especially beloved by gamers, thanks in no small part to guest appearances from a plethora of beloved real-life video game characters.
No one knows what the plot of Wreck-It-Ralph 2 will be, apart from the images that accompanied Disney’s official announcement implying that Ralph and Vanellope will be (in some capacity) encountering The Internet. But whatever new adventures await the sequel’s heroes, it’s all-but guaranteed that plenty more cameos await – especially now that the games industry knows that turning up alongside Ralph and company is a surefire way to boost their properties’ profile with both old-school fans and a new generation of audiences who may not previously have encountered them. The field of potential players is wide and varied, but here are 20 Video Game Characters That Need To Be In Wreck-It Ralph 2.
20. MEGA MAN
The multi-talented “Blue Bomber” (original Japanese name: Rock Man) has seen better days in the real world. His game series has been largely left to wither by ever-restructuring developer Capcom, his departed creator (currently suffering through the Mighty No. 9 debacle) no longer running the show and his next incarnation set to be an iffy-looking animated reboot recasting him as a teenage superhero. But he remains an instantly recognizable and beloved Golden Age gaming icon whose presence would also allow his equally iconic supporting cast (including plenty of wacky robot animals, mad scientists and a nearly endless supply of uniquely-themed Robot Masters) to turn up for gags as well. If nothing else, it’d be nice to see him in something good this decade outside of a Super Smash Bros guest-appearance – and it might help prime the pump for a feature-film adaptation that was supposed to be happening at Fox at one point.
A bald, big-headed caveman who battles enemy dinosaurs by smashing them with his mighty noggin, Bonk started out as the flagship mascot of the Turbo Grafx 16 game console – a machine which, through the magic of ports to other systems (and a solid series of sequels) and the power retro-gamer nostalgia, he ended up outliving by two decades and counting. He’d most likely be a background joke, sure (head-butts are funny!) but it’d be wholly appropriate for one of gaming’s most unlikely survivors to make the big (however brief) jump to the big screen. He’s also as good an excuse as any for some dinosaurs to turn up, all the better to help Disney exorcise the ghost of The Good Dinosaur’s under-performance last year. And who knows? It’s only a matter of time before a “nostalgia cameo” like these or the ones in the Lego Movie franchise end up actually re-starting a character’s “career.”
18. GEORGE, LIZZIE & RALPH (“RAMPAGE”)
Wreck-It Ralph’s native game, “Fix-It Felix Junior,” is inspired by Nintendo’s ubiquitous Donkey Kong games. But Ralph’s central antagonist role of punching buildings into oblivion (and maybe also his name?) may have been inspired by another real-life arcade classic: Midway’s Rampage, a kaiju movie pastiche in which players used either George (a King Kong analogue), Lizzie (a female Godzilla) or Ralph (a giant wolf-man) to punch skyscrapers into rubble for points. The titanic trio (or at least some variation thereof) is already set for a big year battling no less than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in a big-screen Rampage movie, but given their shared punching-abilities they’d make amusing pals for Ralph; especially considering that Rampage was itself a rare game where players were asked to play as the “bad guys” – scoring points not only for destroying cities but also by defeating civilian defense forces and gobbling up random townspeople.
17. THOMAS (“KUNG-FU MASTER”)
Irem’s Kung-Fu Master was an arcade staple and hugely recognizable to old-school gaming fans (and fans of iconoclastic French filmmaker Agnes Varda, who borrowed the game as the title and key plot point for an early-80s coming of age story) thanks to being an early port to the Nintendo Entertainment System, but the more amusing potential of having him turn up in the film would be the chance for a witty voice cameo inside-joke. See, what most didn’t know back in the 80s was that Kung-Fu Master was the Western re-title of a Japanese arcade-adaptation of the classic (then-contemporary) Jackie Chan vehicle Wheels on Meals (aka “Spartan X”) where Chan played Thomas. Even in advancing age, Chan remains one of the biggest stars in the world, and he has plenty of cartoon voice-acting experience as Monkey in the Kung-Fu Panda movies. Giving him a quick beat as his own video-game self would be a great nod to the rich gaming history that the franchise is grounded in.
One of the most recognizable game characters on the planet, and well-suited to movie appearances given his simple design and slapstick antics. Despite getting an initial soft-sell to U.S. audiences (early commercials advertised him as “one tough cream-puff!”) compared to other classic-era Nintendo characters, today Kirby is one of the retro era’s few survivors. A bouncing pink ball of smiles, Kirby (canonically a “Dream Warrior” who protects Dreamland from the oft-misunderstood machinations of the misbehaving King Dedede) is the sort of character who’d likely go over big even with audiences who don’t already know who he is; especially given the inherent comedy potential of his signature ability of gobbling up enemies an absorbing their powers and appearances. Amusingly, there exists some controversy over where Kirby’s name actually comes from: in some accounts, it’s a pun related to the Kirby vacuum cleaner brand, while others claim he’s named in honor of a lawyer who successfully defended Nintendo from a Universal Pictures lawsuit claiming Donkey Kong infringed on the King Kong brand.
15. MASTER HIGGINS (“HUDSON’S ADVENTURE ISLAND”)
The island-dwelling, skate-boarding hero of Hudson’s Adventure Island series swings a mean hammer just like Fix-It Felix and rocked a grass skirt better than anybody in old-school video gaming, but by far the most interesting thing about Master Higgins – originally named “Master Takahashi” in Japan – is that he’s a real person… sort of. A Hudson marketing executive, self-taught programmer and prominent fixture of the early competitive arcade gaming scene, Takahashi Meijin became famous for his superhuman-speed at hitting game controller buttons (16 times in one second); a quirky feat he parlayed into becoming the “public face” of Hudson Inc, a TV celebrity (for a long time he was arguably the most famous “pro-gamer” in the world) and the star of the Adventure Island games. Currently 57 years old and still living in Japan, it’s possible he could even provide his own voice if he wanted to.
“Run, coward!” Named for the ubiquitous cyborg spacecraft (think The Death Star, but with a face) who menaced players of this space-shooter arcade classic, Sinistar was one of the first games to incorporate digitized voices – in this case, the voice of American radio personality John Doremus, best known as the narrator of The Passing Parade. Starting out as a deceptively simple-looking Asteroids riff, the game tasks players with shooting down enemy ships in order slow the construction of The Sinistar itself, which roars to life and attacks if they fail; leading to a generation of gamers still traumatized by the villain’s angry electronic taunting – in other words, a quick flyby and a single line of barely-comprehensible dialogue would be enough to elicit the same kind of reaction that extended gags from Zangief, Tapper and Sonic the Hedgehog got in the first movie. Alternately, he (it?) would make a fine weapon/henchman for whoever the new villain turns out to be. “Wroooaaarrrr!”
13. AEROSMITH (“REVOLUTION X”)
“Remember: Music… is the weapon!” – Steven Tyler, Revolution X
Video game cameos? Funny. Celebrity cameos? Also funny. In a bizarre moment that only could’ve happened in the 90s, the legendary rock band starred in and lent their music to an on-rails shooter that cast players as armed counter-revolutionaries tasked with rescuing Steven Tyler and his band mates from their abduction by the “New Order Nation,” a fascist group who’ve taken over the world in order to censor video games and rock & roll inexplicably led by buxom leather-clad dominatrix Mistress Helga. A quick trip through the absurdly silly (and very, very, very 90s) world of Revolution X (exactly the kind of showy quarter-muncher that would’ve had a place at Litwak’s) would be a fun joke for a certain generation of gamers and a chance for Aerosmith to turn up for a fun cameo – and maybe contribute some music to the soundtrack? Dream on.
12. ABOBO (“DOUBLE DRAGON”)
He’s the most memorable villain (or henchman, at least) of an arcade scrolling-brawler classic and his name is fun to say. That was enough to make him a favorite of internet memesters and the star of his own fan-made game, and who says every cameo like this needs to have a complex, meaningful rationale? Neff (the nemesis from Altered Beast) was in the first film, seemingly solely because his final form is a giant purple rhinoceros – and why wouldn’t you want that in your movie? Abobo is arguably best-remembered because of how bizarre his big-headed, handlebar-mustached sprite looked in the NES version of Double Dragon was when juxtaposed with how terrifying his presence was to gamers (given how fast he’d kill you); but that level of infamy guarantees that when he shows up (preferably crashing through the wall Kool-Aid Man style, as in the game) the audience will definitely notice.
11. PRINCESS PEACH
Wreck-It Ralph packed quite a few surprise reveals into its final act, but the big one was Sarah Silverman’s spunky Vanellope turning out to be a bonafide video game Princess in her arcade homeland of Sugar Rush. Given that adjusting (or not?) to video game royalty could provide plenty of fresh characterization for the returning heroine, and what better a guest-star for her to run into in that instance than the Founding Mother of her entire character-class? Probably the most recognized gaming princess in pop-culture history, Peach’s arrival (characters who resemble her and Princess Daisy are glimpsed in a wide-shot in the first film, but are not explicitly identified as such) would be a huge pop for game fans in the audience and also invite an intriguing debate for animation fans: Would her appearance here make the First Lady of the Mushroom Kingdom a Disney Princess, too – or has she been in another castle for too long?
10. SABREMAN (“SABER WULF”)
Retro-gaming tributes like Wreck-It Ralph tend to be dominated by the nostalgia of Japanese and American console and arcade fans, which often leaves other slices of gaming history – like the rich history of home-computer gaming in the UK via the ZX Spectrum and other devices – in the lurch. So why not correct this oversight and have one of the Spectrum gaming’s most iconic characters, the multi-talented jungle-explorer, treasure-hunter, dungeon-diver and wizard Sabreman (star of Sabre Wulf, Underwurlde, Knight Lore, Pentagram and the infamously-unreleased Mire Mare) turn up for a moment in the sun? Sure, he’s obscure compared to some other options, but he’s fun – and he’s also sometimes a werewolf as of Knight Lore and (possibly) an ancestor of Killer Instinct mainstay Sabrewulf, so that’s got to be worth something. Besides, there’s always some fun to be had stranding cartoon characters in the jungle for this or that reason.
Let’s hear it for corporate synergy! Neither the original theatrical release of Tron, it’s decades-later sequel, or various animated (and computer-game) spin-offs have been particularly successful; but the first film’s cult popularity among a generation of gaming fans and retro-computer junkies has ensured that Disney has never stopped trying to make Tron “happen.” Although it’s feeling less and less likely we’ll get that second sequel any time soon (supposedly, plans for that feature were scrapped after the box office disaster of The Lone Ranger). Given that a pair of classic arcade games were the property’s most successful incarnation by far, why shouldn’t Tron show up to fight for The Users alongside Ralph and company – preferably with original Tron Bruce Boxleitner returning to add his voice – or perhaps even become the Wreck-It Ralph series’ first live-action guest star? (Speaking of which, what’s Cindy “Yori” Morgan up to lately, acting wise?)
8. LARA CROFT
Sgt. Calhoun could be getting lonely as Wreck-It Ralph’s lone resident tough-girl, so why shouldn’t she get some company in the form of the medium’s most famous (especially to the broader popular-culture) action-heroines? Everyone recognizes Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft, and her presence would also offer a chance for a fun voice-cameo by Ex Machina’s Alicia Vikander – currently set to play the new live-action Lara Croft in the feature film reboot (or, for that matter, newly-minted Disney veteran Angelina Jolie, who played the first live-action Lara.) There’d be a few issues to iron out, the most prominent likely being whether or not to base Lara’s design on her more well know but frequently-criticized original “pin-up” design or the more realistic model used to great praise in the two most recent Tomb Raider reboot games, but surely a happy medium could be found in the name of an entertaining guest spot from one of gaming’s most famous personalities.
7. DIRK THE DARING (“DRAGON’S LAIR”)
For a moment there in the 80s, Don Bluth’s Dragon’s Lair arcade game was a pop-culture mega-hit thanks to its unique use of fully-animated laser-disc presentation to turn what was essentially a series of timed multiple-choice joystick moves into a memorable cinematic experience. Dirk would be a fun guest character for this series, especially if it were possible for him to appear in his original traditionally-animated form to reflect what were, after all, his original “graphics.” There’s also a certain amount of thematic potential worth exploring in the interactions between a “bad guy” who struggles with innate goodness and a literal knight in shining armor – one who comes complete with a dragon to slay and a princess to rescue. One potential sticking-point: relations between Bluth and his former employers at Disney haven’t always been the warmest.
6. FLAPPY BIRD
If the premise of the sequel really does find Ralph and Vanellope smashing their way into the World Wide Web, then that dramatically opens the variety of games that could be part of the story – and mobile and smartphone app gaming would have to have some presence. Haven’t you wondered what app-game characters make of having giant fingers bopping them on the head all day?
Having deals for their own movie and TV projects at rival studios would likely keep figures from the likes of Angry Birds, Clash of Clans or Candy Crush from turning up (see also: Minecraft), but why not Flappy Bird? The retro-aesthetic and simple but addictive style would feel right at home with Wreck-It Ralph’s old-school arcade crew, and the game’s saga (a billion-dollar independent smash developed by a self-taught Vietnamese designer who later pulled the game from sale out of “guilt” over stories of players becoming addicted) is worthy of a film in its own right.
5. DRACULA (“CASTLEVANIA”)
Wreck-It Ralph is a movie about video game villains that thus far mainly focused on the idea of figures native to the medium like Ralph himself and his Bad Guy support group. But some games feature villains culled from elsewhere in popular culture, literature and world-mythology, and thanks to the classic Castlevania series that includes one of the greatest villains of all time: Count Dracula. Granted, the sequel will likely prefer to develop its own original featured antagonist, but haunted castles are always fun to visit and it offers a prime chance for the Disney animated canon to introduce its official first vampire – seriously, we checked, and despite a disturbing amount of “Vampire Princesses” fan-art mashups there are basically no cartoon vampires in the Disneyverse (the guys in Nightmare Before Christmas don’t really count, since that was a Touchstone movie originally), and that feels like an oversight worth correcting.
4. CHUN-LI (“STREET FIGHTER”)
This one might be cheating, since Street Fighter’s high-kicking original heroine technically made a background cameo in the first Wreck-It Ralph. Bumping her up to a featured guest-star would not only be a welcome move not only as a treat for gaming fans, but also a prime opportunity for Disney to extend a voice role to a “name” actress for the increasingly all-important Chinese film market. Then again, they could take an entirely different route: trivia buffs will note that the first “official” live-action incarnation of Chun-Li was portrayed by actress Ming-Na Wen, who just so happens to be gainfully employed by the Mouse House via ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and is (literal) Disney royalty as the voice of Mulan. Sometimes, business and “fan service” work out to the same answer.
3. RYU HAYABUSA (“NINJA GAIDEN” & “DEAD OR ALIVE”)
Is there a situation that can’t be improved by the presence of one or more ninja? Maybe, but few of them are going to be encountered in Wreck-It Ralph’s video game universe. Ryu Hayabusa has starred in dozens of games (and worn dozens of dubiously un-stealthy ninja uniforms while doing so) and remains perhaps the arcade-era’s most prominent practitioner of the ninjutsu discipline outside of Shinobi’s Joe Mushashi – who is likely going to be unavailable given that his own movie is currently in early development. Like any good ninja, Hayabusa brings ample opportunity both for “straight” action and also satirical kung-fu slapstick, which the original film featured in equal measure; and his familial/narrative connections to the infamous Dead or Alive franchise could open the door to other guest spots from the diverse, predominantly female cast or impressive international settings of that series… or, failing that, maybe just some volleyball?
As mentioned a few entries ago, mobile gaming is potentially about to become part of Wreck-It Ralph’s expansive gaming universe; so if Ralph and company haven’t managed to encounter the curious creatures known as Pokemon through their arcade connections, it seems reasonable that they’d run into them sooner or later given the freshly-minted mega-popularity of Pokemon GO. People who’ve never so much as set foot in an arcade can generally recognize at least one Pokemon (Pikachu, typically) and a showcase cameo could potentially be Ralph’s biggest “get” yet – providing the franchise retains even a sliver of its current dominance of the mobile scene. On the other hand, the window to make this happen as a cameo in a Disney venture might be closing fast; given the continued movement on the long-anticipated live-action Pokemon movie, which might make Disney reticent to offer up what amounts to free advertising to an eventual competitor.
The #1 most-requested cameo where Wreck-It Ralph was concerned was, unsurprisingly, Nintendo’s Super Mario. Not exactly a surprise, given that he’s far and away the most well-known video game hero of all time, and neither was it a surprise when Ralph’s filmmakers revealed that they’d planned all along to feature him in the original film – only backing away from doing so because a suitable place in the plot couldn’t be found that would have felt appropriate for such a prominent figure in the genre (the strangeness of his absence is even mentioned by the other characters!)
It’s widely expected that Mario and one or more of his expansive supporting cast will play a role in the sequel, but consider: Wreck-It Ralph is about the plight of unappreciated villains, canon-fodder and other supporting characters – so might it not be more appropriate to the film to instead put the spotlight on the other half of the Super Mario Bros. team, Luigi? It’d be a funny bait-and-switch, certainly, but there are practical reasons as well. Whereas Nintendo has largely preferred to keep Mario frequently undefined as a character (the better to act as a vessel for the player), Luigi has been drawn with a more distinct personality in recent years. He’s a lanky, easily-panicked goof a la Scooby Doo‘s Shaggy that would fit quite nicely into Wreck-It Ralph’s comic scenarios.