10 iconic video game characters based on real people. From characters like Lara Croft to Super Mario, most of the popular gaming characters were taken from real life. Today on TopUnknowns we bring you 10 famous game characters that you didn’t know were based on real life.
10 Iconic Video Game Characters Based On Real People
10. Sonic – Sonic the Hedgehog Series
From defeating super-villains to cleaning up at t Olympics, Sonic has achieved more than your average hedgehog. Perhaps that’s because he has what Sonic creator Naoto Oshima calls a ‘Get it Done’ attitude, one apparently modeled on none other than Bill Clinton. The idea for Sonic was first developed between 1987 and 1991, by which time Bill Clinton was already a respected governor, a prominent national politician, and the only person you can name from Arkansas. Apparently impressed with Clinton’s political success, Oshima based his new creation on the up and coming young man. And because no political endorsement matters more than that of a hyperactive blue blur, America voted to make Clinton president two years later.
Sonic’s presidential links don’t end there, with his arch rival Doctor Robotnik apparently being based on Theodore Roosevelt. This explains that time Sonic Doctor Robotnik stopped fighting and had a two-hour debate on the size of government. Outside of politics Sonic’s creators also drew inspiration from Michael Jackson, giving the hedgehog red shoes based on MJ’s footwear from the ‘bad’ music video.
9. Elite – The Last of Us
Most of us would probably be flattered if a major game company decided to create a character that looked just like us. Especially if that character was the tough cannibal-killing survivalist. Fans of ‘The Last of Us’ may have noticed that Ellie look just a little bit like Ellen Page. Or actually quite a lot like Ellen Page or actually almost identical to Ellen Page. Well, Juno star wasn’t exactly pleased with this uncanny similarity, especially since she was lending her voice to a different game, Beyond: Two Souls, at the time. During an AMA on Reddit, page claimed the designers “ripped off my likeness” and told the creators at Naughty Dog “it was not appreciated”. Naughty Dog responded that the character was not meant to look like Ellen Page, but the actress’ anger was enough to force the creators to re-design the character in an update after the game’s release.
8. Andre Ryan – Bio Shock
Gamers and Ayn Rand fans rejoiced the first time they heard Bioshock’s Andrew Ryan open his mouth. As one of the game’s main villains, Ryan spends most of his screen time functioning as the mouthpiece for Ayn Rand’s objective list philosophy. He praises radical self-interest, opposes big government, and condemns altruism. Even his origin story as a migrant fleeing the rise of communism in Russia matches Rand’s own. But according to the game creator Ken Levine, Ryan’s character also draws significant inspiration from Howard Hughes. You know that eccentric, 1950s billionaire who frequently embarked on massive vanity projects and whose disdain for limitations and rules often set him against the US government. Sound familiar? Ryan and Hughes were both self-made businessmen, with a love of technology and a belief in the entrepreneurial spirit of mankind. Andrew Ryan is even designed to look like Hughes, with his smart suit cropped back hair and slender frame. Others have pointed out Ryan’s right wing philosophy and desire to create his own perfect world gives him more than a few similarities to Walt Disney.
7. Johnny Cage – Mortal Kombat
What do you do if you are trying to create a video game and your main actor can’t turn up? You make a different game with an over the top parody of that actor of course. In 1992 game creators Ed Boon and John Tobias were tasked with making a spin-off game for the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie Universal Soldier, which didn’t win any Oscars by the way. Despite trying hard to get Van Damme to come in and record lines for the game, the muscles from Brussels was too busy and the project collapsed. Understandably upset at not getting to work with the Belgian martial artist, Boon and Tobias added a ridiculous caricature of him to their new game: Mortal Kombat. Johnny Cage is designed to look like Van Damme’s character from Bloodsport and fights using attacks based on the actor’s famous splits. Van Damme has never commented on whether or not he likes the send-up, but who wouldn’t like being the inspiration for a character that cracks necks with a single kick?
6. Nathan Drake – Uncharted
Remember that cut scene in Uncharted where Nathan Drake made a baby alligator chews his nipple off? Or that time he threw himself down a staircase in a shopping cart? No? Well, according to Uncharted animator Josh, that’s what he should have been doing. That’s because everyone’s favorite parkour-loving treasure hunter is largely based on jackass star Johnny Knoxville. When games studio Naughty Dog first started planning an Indiana Jones style adventure game in 2005, Drake was given a face that looked a lot like Knoxville’s, as well as a series of over the top expressions. By the time the game was released in 2007, the studio had decided to re-design Drake’s appearance to make him more traditionally handsome. But they kept his character similar to Knoxville’s, giving him a restless, impulsive side. Drake also shares Knoxville’s willingness to take risks, because the Uncharted games would be a lot less popular if Nathan Drake just sat at home building model railways and reading the newspaper all day.
5. Mordin Solus – Mass Effect
You know you are badass when you can be turned into a fast-talking alien frog and still come across as cool. But then no one’s ever doubted that Clint Eastwood is badass. When the team behind Mass Effect was creating the amphibious Mordin Solus, they wanted to make sure he stood out from the rest of the Salarians. They also hope to make the veteran field doctor look grizzled and battle-worn. This, again, considering he’s basically a giant Salamander, is pretty tricky. Or at least it was until they remembered that there’s already a way to make anything more hardcore: base it on The Man with No Name. from the point on, according to one of the team, the design brief became what would the Salarian Clint Eastwood look like? They did a pretty good job too. Eagle-eyed viewers and people who play Mass Effect too much will have noticed that both Solus and Eastwood have a thin, battle-scarred face that balloons at the top. Along with the permanent scowl, Mording Solus is a surprisingly convincing Eastwood. Or at least more convincing than your average lizard would be if they decided to cosplay as Dirty Harry.
4. Lara Croft – Lara Croft Series
Angelina Jolie may have played her in the two movies, but there’s only one person who can claim to be the real-life Lara Croft. And of all people it’s a Swedish rapper from the 80s. in 1996 the staff of Eidos Interactive needed a new protagonist for their adventure series. And they needed it to be a woman to avoid being sued for ripping off Indiana Jones. After choosing the name Lara Croft literally at random out of a phone book the designers set about creating an original looking character. The first draft was a stocky, short-haired woman, who they decided looked too “Nazi-like”. For their second draft, the designers looked at Swedish singer-song writer Neneh Cherry for inspiration. Why her? Well, unfortunately, it wasn’t because Neneh Cherry had a secret career raiding artifacts from abandoned temples. The staff wanted to create a character who challenged female stereotypes and were apparently taken with Cherry’s personality. Although they would teak the design later, Cherry became a prototype for Croft’s iconic look. She is one of the most popular female videogame characters of all time.
3. Hitmonlee – Pokemon Series
It must feel pretty good when Nintendo starts creating Pokemon in your image. Then again, considering they also modeled Pokemon after lamps (Lampent), vanilla ice cream (Vanillite), and a set of keys (Klefki), maybe it’s not that great an honor. Regardless, Nintendo was attempting to pay their respects when they based new Pokemon Hitmonlee on the late martial arts superstar Bruce Lee. Created in 1999, Hitmonlee was the 106th Pokemon added to the roster and the strikes his enemies with a series of Karate style attacks. The creature is one of the stronger combatants in the Pokemon universe, who can unleash a series of devastating kick that would make even Bruce Lee proud. In additional tribute, shortly after the release of Pokemon Go, players discovered that there was a Hitmonlee guarding Bruce Lee’s grave in Seattle. He may look like a monster, but it’s clear that Nintendo wanted Humanzee to be a loving homage to a great fighter. Now, if we could only work out what Conkeldurr is supposed to be…
2. Kratos – God of War
Greek mythology is full of crazily powerful psychotic super beings most of them constantly one overcooked sacrifice away from flipping out and murdering a whole civilization. But God of War’s rage-obsessed hero Kratos isn’t based on any of them. He may be a deity slaying Spartan demigod, but his inspiration is a more earthly kind of nut job: Ed Norton’s neo-Nazi character in American History X. in case you haven’t seen the film, Ed Norton plays the super jacked Derek Vinyard, who splits his time between trips to the weight room and boasting about the racial supremacy of the white race. Yeah, he is not a super guy. But he does have a certain angry intensity that the God of War team sought to capture in Kratos. One scene, in particular, caught the eye of Kratos creator David Jaffe: when Vinyard caught a black burglar in the street and stomps hi head in on the curb. Jaffe was impressed by Norton’s sense of power and aggression and hoped to transfer that into his own ruthless, angry killer.
1. Mario – Mario Series
Nintendo’s chubby mushroom popping plumber has been around for so long that it’s hard to imagine a time when he wasn’t running and jumping around magical kingdoms rescuing Princess Peach for the billionth time. However, in 1981 Mario was just a nameless hero in the first Donkey Kong game. Shigeru Miyamoto needed someone to name this new character after, and fortunately, he found someone. And no, he wasn’t a plumber. The Mushroom Kingdom’s greatest hero is actually based on Mario Segale, who was Nintendo America’s landlord at their warehouse in Seattle. The crew apparently noticed that Segale looked like the plump plumber, and they started to nickname the character ‘Mari’. Eventually, the name stuck and was used in the games themselves. Despite being a part of gaming history, Mario Segale doesn’t seem to like his claim to fame, and he’s spent decades dodging interviews and becoming increasingly reclusive. How reclusive? These are literally the only two picture of him on the internet. The lengths we go to, to bring you facts.
So that was 10 video game characters based on real life people. Were you surprised at any of the inspirations behind gaming’s biggest icons?
List of 10 Iconic Video Game Characters Based On Real People
- Sonic – Sonic the Hedgehog Series
- Elite – The Last of Us
- Andre Ryan – Bio Shock
- Johnny Cage – Mortal Kombat
- Nathan Drake – Uncharted
- Mordin Solus – Mass Effect
- Lara Croft – Lara Croft Series
- Hitmonlee – Pokemon Series
- Kratos – God of War
- Mario – Mario Series