Bracket mania: Greatest video game character   

Updated: April 8, 2009, 9:48 AM ET

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If you're anything like me -- which is to say, a huge video game nerd -- you've always wanted to see Master Chief train his pulse rifle crosshairs on Mario. Or watch Baraka from Mortal Kombat II go Ginzu on Q*Bert. Or determine how Lara Croft, um, stacks up against Dana Plato from Night Trap.

OK, bad choice of words.

Anyway, here's the deal: Game history is rife with memorable characters. And also Bubsy. Still, in the end, there can be only one. One character to rule them all ... or at least spawn a dozen crappy ports, cash-in cameos and half-baked sequels.

With that in mind, let's go to the bracket (winning character in bold):

ICONS REGIONAL

First Round
(1) Mario vs. (16) Luigi
Biggest sibling non-rivalry since Cal and Billy Ripken. Well, unless you consider Luigi's Mansion an unappreciated classic.

(8) Carmen Sandiego vs. (9) Bison from Oregon Trail
Whaddya mean the wagon can't carry 800 pounds of meat?

(5) Lara Croft vs. (12) Dana Plato in Night Trap
"Night Trap" is essentially an unwatchable movie, just like the two "Tomb Raider" films. On the other hand: Angelina Jolie. Advantage, Croft.

(4) Kurt Russell Solid Snake vs. (13) Bruce Lee Knockoffs
Talent imitates, programmers facing deadlines steal. And Lee look-alikes will be showing up in games long after Escape from L.A. is forgotten for good.

(6) Duke Nukem vs. (11) Tommy Vercetti
Sorry, Tommy, but Duke Nukem 4ever will be worth the wait. Assuming the Mayan apocalypse doesn't happen first.

(3) Master Chief vs. (14) Blinx the Timesweeper
Blinx swept into dustbin of video game mascot history alongside James Pond and Bonk; Chief the most profitable Microsoft creation this side of Office.

(7) Contra Code vs. (10) Tetris Blocks
Carpal Tunnel or sprained thumb? Orthopedic specialists the real winners here.

(2) Sonic the Hedgehog vs. (15) Sonic's Lame Friends
Exhibit A: angsty, Glock-toting Shadow the Hedgehog. Exhibit B: playable Big the Cat. In the case of Gamers vs. Sega, the jury finds Sonic's friends guilty. On all counts.

Second Round
(1) Mario vs. (9) Bison from Oregon Trail
Mario's vague resemblance to Ron Jeremy only makes him more loveable.

(5) Lara Croft vs. (13) Bruce Lee Knockoffs
Lack of a decent, "Enter the Dragon"-themed fighting game -- from an industry that continues to pump out "Superman" titles! -- is both inexplicable and inexcusable.

(6) Duke Nukem vs. (3) Master Chief
Dour Chief takes his planet-saving battle against oversized alien snails, talking space monkeys and the plant from "Little Shop of Horrors" a tad too seriously.

(2) Sonic the Hedgehog vs. (10) Tetris Blocks
Tetris blocks have never starred in a bad game; if you aren't old enough to legally drink, you probably don't remember a good Sonic game.

Sweet Sixteen
(1) Mario vs. (5) Lara Croft
Croft's ongoing war against endangered tigers is probably illegal, definitely a bad example for the kids.

(6) Duke Nukem vs. (10) Tetris Blocks
Blocks let you kill time while actually playing a game.

Elite Eight
(1) Mario vs. (10) Tetris Blocks
From Donkey Kong to Super Mario Galaxy, the Mario Dynasty continues.

CLICHES REGIONAL

First Round
(1) Kung-Fu Guy in White Gi vs. (16) Karate Girl in High Heels
Little known fact: white gi-clad karate guys required in all fighting games per 1982 federal statue. Also, good luck sweeping the leg in 5-inch stilettos.

(8) Androgynous Japanese RPG Heroes vs. (9) Bald Space Marines
Fire hydrant-sized chain saw rifles vs. telephone pole-length swords. Compensating much, fellas?

(5) Spaceships with Guns vs. (12) Damsels in Distress
At this point, you'd think Mario would assign Princess Peach a Secret Service detail.

(4) Ice Levels vs. (13) Fire Levels
Only thing more aggravating than slipping on ice is falling into molten lava.

(6) Killer Robots vs. (11) Evil Mutants
Both speak to our deep-seated modern anxieties over increasingly incomprehensible mechanical and biological technology are fun to shoot.

(3) Wooden Crates vs. (14) First Aid Kits/Assault Rifles Just Left on the Floor
In all fairness, sometimes the first aid kits and assault rifles are inside the wooden crates.

(7) Zombies vs. (10) Nazis
No matter how many WWII games are made, stupid Nazis just won't stay dead.

(2) Ninjas vs. (15) Pirates
Notable ninja video game achievements: saving the world, beheading everything in sight, destroying M1 Abrams battle tanks with handheld daggers (per The Ninjawarriors), performing 25-foot-high spinning pile drivers, kidnapping the president. Notable pirate achievements: none of the above.

Second round
(1) Kung-Fu Guy in White Gi vs. (9) Bald Space Marines
Sadly, the post-apocalyptic future of interstellar drop ships and cybernetic power armor does not include Rogaine.

(12) Damsels in Distress vs. (13) Fire Levels
Burn yourself saving the girl, then do it all over in the sequel. Art imitates life!

(6) Killer Robots vs. (3) Wooden Crates
Dear game designers: so many crates, so where are all the forklifts? Just wondering.

(2) Ninjas vs. (10) Nazis
Hard to believe this matchup hasn't been made into an actual game ... yet.

Sweet Sixteen
(1) Kung-Fu Guy in a White Gi vs. (12) Damsels in Distress
It's not the gi that bothers us; it's the stupid matching headband that often accompanies it.

(3) Wooden Crates vs. (2) Ninjas
Video game ninjitsu only employment category unaffected by economic downturn.

Elite Eight
(12) Damsels in Distress vs. (2) Ninjas
All-Ninja team in Baseball Stars was awesome.

ARCADE REGIONAL

First round
(1) Pac-Man vs. (16) Q*Bert
No hideous Saturday morning cash-in cartoon, no upset for Q*Bert.

(8) Hydraulic Sit-Down Cabinet from After Burner vs. (9) Way Realistic Uzi from Operation Wolf
Both obvious CIA black ops mind control projects to prepare American teenagers for the invasion of Panama.

(5) Ikari Warriors vs. (12) The Bloodthirsty Cops from NARC
Battle-weary Ikaris prime candidates for PTSD; NARC Cops might be psychos, but winners don't do drugs!

(4) Baraka from Mortal Kombat II vs. (13) Michael Jackson from Moonwalker
One is a freakish monster with knives for arms; the other pals around with a chimp while -- ahem -- rescuing small children. In retrospect, Jacko is far more disturbing.

(6) Sheng Long vs. (11) Noob Saibot
You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance. Um, good luck with that.

(3) Ms. Pac-Man vs. (14) The Quarters in Your Pocket
You didn't need bus fare/lunch money, anyway.

(7) Bill Clinton in NBA Jam vs. (10) Fake Ronald Reagan in Bad Dudes
Real-life Ronnie would be too busy riding a hydraulic cabinet into the danger zone and/or wasting Sandinistas with a way realistic Uzi to be kidnapped by ninjas.

(2) Original Street Fighter II Cast vs. (15) Every Street Fighter Character Since
Guile? Bad man. Chun-Li? Classic. Urien? No, no, a thousand times no.

Second Round
(1) Pac-Man vs. (9) Way Realistic Uzi from Operation Wolf
Pac-Man only video game character to surpass Uzi's worldwide brand awareness.

(12) Bloodthirsty Cops from NARC vs. (4) Baraka from Mortal Kombat II
Looking back, it only felt like the NARC cops has submachine guns for hands.

(6) Sheng Long vs. (3) Ms. Pac-Man
Ms. Pac-Man's 256th board as playable as Sheng Long, Polybius.

(10) Fake Ronald Reagan in Bad Dudes vs. (2) Original Street Fighter II Cast
If Reagan won the Cold War, nobody told Zangief.

Sweet Sixteen
(1) Pac-Man vs. (4) Baraka from Mortal Kombat II
Home versions of Pac-Man never watered-down with lame sweat-for-blood swap; trade one of Baraka's arms for a can opener and he'd be a lot more practical.

(3) Ms. Pac-Man vs. (2) Original Street Fighter II Cast
Ms. Pac-Man intermissions tell touching, timeless story involving stork, babies; Street Fighter II has you beat up cars.

Elite Eight
(1) Pac-Man vs. (3) Ms. Pac-Man
Unauthorized rip-off -- really, look it up! -- was actually a better game.

SPORTS GAME REGIONAL

First Round
(16) Shaq from Shaq Fu vs. (16) Michael Jordan from Chaos in the Windy City
Whoever wins, we lose.

(1) John Madden vs. (16) Shaq from Shaq Fu
Strike Big John down from play-by-play duties, and he ends up as a Jedi hologram in Madden 09.

(8) Madden Ambulance vs. (9) Gretzky's Blood
Toughest matchup in the tourney. Ambulance gets the nod on sheer absurdity.

(5) Tom Chambers from Lakers vs. Celtics vs. (12) Fat Guy from NES Ice Hockey
Chambers' double-pump slams from beyond 3-point line need R. Kelly accompaniment.

(4) Jeremy Roenick from NHLPA '93 vs. (13) Eagles QB No. 12
Eagles QB No. 12 presaged Michael Vick from Madden 05, but Roenick is best video game hockey player ever.

(6) Giggling Dog from Duck Hunt vs. (11) Yelling Janitor from Bird vs. Dr. J One-on-One
A Halo game that replaced talking space monkeys with the Duck Hunt pooch would sell 100 million copies.

(3) Mike Tyson vs. (14) Mr. Dream
Lame, sprite-swapped Mr. Dream may as well be Glass Joe.

(7) Hyper Announcer from NBA Jam vs. (10) Pat Summerall
Put them in the same video game broadcast booth for maximum manic-depressive effect.

(2) Tecmo Bo vs. (15) Earl Campbell from All-Pro Football 2K8
If Campbell is Achilles, Bo is Zeus.

Second Round
(1) John Madden vs. (8) Madden Ambulance
Pow! He'll remember that number!

(5) Tom Chambers from Lakers vs. Celtics vs. (4) Jeremy Roenick from NHLPA '93
Roenick will flatten you on one end, score on the other; as in real-life, video game Chambers can't play a lick of defense.

(6) Giggling Dog from Duck Hunt vs. (3) Mike Tyson
Unlike Tyson, giggling dog can't be KO'd. No matter how close you are to the TV screen.

(10) Pat Summerall vs. (2) Tecmo Bo
There's a man down -- and it ain't Bo.

Sweet Sixteen
(8) Madden Ambulance vs. (4) Jeremy Roenick from NHLPA '93
Pain-bringing Madden ambulance can run over, like, 10 guys at once.

(6) Giggling Dog from Duck Hunt vs. (2) Tecmo Bo
Tecmo Bo won't run you over. But only because you can't catch him.

Elite Eight
(8) Madden Ambulance vs. (2) Tecmo Bo
No stoppage of play, no reason for ambulance to enter field.

FINAL FOUR

(1) Mario vs. (2) Ninjas
Stealth assassinations are nice, but at the end of the day, who's going to unclog your toilet?

(3) Ms. Pac-Man vs. (2) Tecmo Bo
Tecmo Bo can walk on water -- specifically, opposing defenders' salty tears.

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
(1) Mario vs. (2) Tecmo Bo
The best there ever was. The best there will ever be.

Patrick Hruby is a columnist for Page 2.


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