By: Kyle Orland
Video games are by and large about projecting power, and who’s more powerful than the leader of the free world? Video game appearances by U.S. presidents -- both real and fictional -- run the gamut from inspiring to embarrassing. It's one thing to have your leader spur you on with a rousing speech or a cry to battle, but having your president thank you for saving his life by offering to take you out for a burger? That's humiliating. Thanks, Ronnie.
With the Big Gipper included in the bunch, here are a few of our Presidential favorites on both sides of the coin. While you're kicking back on this President's Day, think about your favorite video game leaders, and whether you would have voted for them, or shoved them off the ballot.
THE BEST VIDEO GAME PRESIDENTS
President Bill Clinton - NBA Jam series
While George Bush and Barack Obama join Clinton in last year’s NBA Jam remake, the original Clinton appearance in the arcade and 16-bit classic will always have a special place in our hearts. Plus, in NBA Jam Tournament Edition, you can put Clinton up against England’s Prince Charles, re-fighting the revolutionary war with virtual dunks and proving why we threw off the shackles of English tyranny hundreds of years ago. YOU ESS AY! YOU ESS AY!
President Michael Wilson - Metal Wolf Chaos
Any president can orchestrate a war (with congressional approval), but it’s the rarest of presidents that do it single-handedly. Not that Metal Wolf Chaos’ President Michael Wilson had much choice. Deposed in a coup d’etat by Vice President Richard Hawk, he’s pretty much forced to climb in his heavily armored mech suit and take on the combined might of the entire U.S. armed forces on his own. I mean, what would you do?
President George Sears (a.k.a Solidus Snake) Metal Gear Solid series
Organizing a secret terrorist plot at a U.S. nuclear base and then resigning in disgrace might not seem like the best presidential legacy. But look at it from Sears’ point of view -- he’s been cloned in the image of a megalomaniacal super-soldier and controlled by a shadowy cabal of Patriots his entire life. A little nuclear sabotage is just his way of showing he controls his own destiny. For his determination to live his life as nobody’s pawn, President Sears ranks highly on our list.
President George H. W. Bush, Operation Secret Storm
Though the instruction booklet for this unlicensed Color Dreams NES title refers to him only as “Top CIA-Agent George,” the image leaves little doubt the character was inspired by the 41st president and ex-director of the CIA George H.W. Bush. Whatever you think of his politics, you must admit that a guy that can single-handedly punch-out the entire Iraqi military -- all the way up to “Saddam Insane” himself -- must indeed be “a tough man with eyes of fire.”
THE WORST VIDEO GAME PRESIDENTS
President “Ronnie” - Bad Dudes
On the “con” side, Ronnie gets kidnapped by ninjas at the beginning of this game, which doesn’t speak well of his management of the secret service or his military’s handling of the ever-present ninja threat. On the “pro” side, he displays the common touch by offering to have a burger with the Bad Dudes that save him, although the coda of “HA! HA! HA! HA!” may indicate he’s just being a sarcastic dick. And now that we think about it, a burger is a pretty crappy reward for saving the president from ninjas. What, did you run out of medals of freedom in your desk there? That does it, President Ronnie sucks!
President Barack Obama - Madden NFL 11
The first black president’s first appearance in a video game is nothing to write home about. Not only are his movements stiff and overly practiced, but he can’t even muster up the effort to say a single word in support of whatever Super Bowl champion happens to be visiting his White House. On the plus side, that personalized #44 jersey is pretty fashionable...
President George W. Bush, Deus Ex Human Revolution
It’s unclear whether this subtle political attack -- which first appeared inthe background of a a bit of early concept art last year -- will make it into the final game when it’s released later this year. In either case, being wanted for mass murder a full 18 years after your term as president is over is a pretty sad legacy to leave behind.
President Abraham Lincoln - Fight Club
In the movie, Honest Abe is the person Tyler Durden says he’d most like to fight, and he actually gets his chance in this 2004 fighting game release. Of course, unlocking the hidden Lincoln means beating the game with every other character, meaning you’ll have to put way more time into this stinker than even an anarchist would recommend. Then again, there is footage floating around of a beta build glitch showing Lincoln summoning crackling lightning from his hands. That’s got to count for something.
But these guys are just the tip of the Presidential Pyramid when it comes to video game leaders. Who is your favorite, or least favorite, U.S. leader in a video game? Who would you impeach or re-elect?