About a month ago, I created a list of the most dominant video game athletes of all time, featuring names like Mike Tyson, Michael Vick, Jeremy Roenick and Bo Jackson among other real sports figures who were essentially unfair in their respective video games.
I noted in the intro that it was going to be a ranking of real athletes, transformed into virtual figures, be it with an 8-bit graphic display or in hyper realistic graphics in modern day games. I paid homage to fictional characters in the intro, but noted that they would not be on the list.
But the outcry in response to Pablo Sanchez's absence from the rankings, despite the topical content of the list, was massive. Perhaps the outcry will be even more massive when you find out that Sanchez doesn't rank number one on this list, this time comprised of all fictional characters that were either insanely athletic, insanely skilled or just insanely unfair in multiple ways.
You'll also see a repeat from the last list, but that's only because that figure's inclusion on both the "real" and "fictional" list is justified given the context and the background of his creation.
To check out the list I keep referring to, click here. But to dive into the fictional rankings, continue on down below. First, here are the honorable mentions to round out the top 20.
AKI Man/THQ Man - "WCW/NWO Revenge"/"WWF No Mercy"
Bald Bull - "Punch-Out!!"
Bonafide - "NBA Street"
Darth Maul/Jango Fett - "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater"
Mii - "Wii Sports"
Paste - "Bases Loaded"
Pete Wheeler - "Backyard Sports"
Player 99 - "NBA Live"
12. Mutant League Athlete Parodies
Whether it was Bones Jackson and Scary Ice in "Mutant League Football" or Maim Zitzky and LePuke in "Mutant League Hockey" (though some players appeared on both games), these clever and not-so-subtle names helped to reflect the best players of a certain sport in mutant-form. These games were crazy, and the fact that realism was the antithesis of these games made them that much better, so long as that was the experience you were looking for.
Fans have suggested that "Bones Jackson" and "Reggie Fright" are among the best football video game athletes of all time, while Harrison Mooney wrote about the pure havoc you could wreak with Lepuke in "Mutant League Hockey."
11. Keisha Phillips (Backyard Sports)
Though Pablo Sanchez is the undisputed leader of the "Backyard Sports" gang -- spoiler alert, but not really, since you're all expecting his presence -- Keisha Phillips should be taken second off the board no matter the sport, though there are arguments to be made for Pete Wheeler and Jocinda Smith, among others. Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon recognized Phillips as part of the top trio of characters, alongside Sanchez and Wheeler, and popular EDM DJs Two Friends called themselves the Pablo Sanchez and Keisha Phillips of their musical genre.
Power and speed are usually the defining characteristics of dominant video game athletes, and Phillips was at the very top in each of those departments.
10. Sonic the Hedgehog (Multiple)
Sonic didn't even need to be a part of any sports games to make this list. If his name is any indication, the blue hedgehog runs 767 miles per hour, around 11 times faster than a cheetah (via Robert Lamb of How Stuff Works). So when "Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games" came out and fans finally got to use Sonic in an athletic competition, it may have been a tad underwhelming to find out he could be beaten in some events, but I guess the ability to win every single time would make for a pretty lousy game.
Sonic has become a part of everyday lingo, including in sports comparisons to demonstrate speed. But seeing as De'Aaron Fox probably topped out under 767 miles per hour, we have to disagree with this tweet.
9. Jon Dowd (MVP Baseball)
This is the dual candidate that appeared on the real video game athlete list as well, and it's perfectly justifiable that he should be on both. For one, he was obviously a stand in for Giants outfielder Barry Bonds, and he played in the at-the-time very realistic "MVP Baseball 2005" video game. At the same time... there was never a Jon Dowd that stepped onto a baseball diamond. There was a JOHN Dowd who played for the 1912 Yankees, but this doesn't seem to be the inspiration for the character, who was more likely inspired partially by Barry Bonds and partially by the investigator, John Dowd, who covered Pete Rose's betting scandal and contributed to the Mitchell Report.
In any case, he absolutely raked and was probably the best pure power hitter in the entire cult-classic game. His legacy transcends video games and is seen at the Major League level with regularity.
8. Bowser (Multiple)
Even Jon Dowd's power isn't quite on the same level as Bowser's. The King of the Koopas is fairly one-dimensional, which would usually lower a character's ranking as a dominant video game figure, but his power is just that devastating that it makes up for his lapses in other categories. The menacing turtle-dragon hybrid emits the essence of strength and power even more than he emits evil, which is present regardless of the sport you choose to control him in. If you pitch anywhere near him, expect that ball to get destroyed. If you're racing against him, he'll plow right through you. Try getting in the way of his free kick... not a good idea. And the list goes on.
7. Fat Player (Ice Hockey)
A simply named character in a simply named game. I have to admit that I've never played NES's "Ice Hockey," as it was released nine years before I was even born and my family never owned it on our system. But RADIO.COM's resident hockey expert BJ Barretta told me all about the fat, medium and skinny players who you could select for your five-man hockey team. Apparently, the strategy was to go with one skinny guy to help you win your face-offs and surround him by the large and brutally strong shooting and checking specialists.
Once again, the legacy of this game has been seen at NHL events.
6. Waluigi (Multiple)
He was nearly the opposite of Bowser in most sports video guys and was perhaps the only character who could stop the powerful monster with regularity. I wrote my little tribute to Waluigi in my previous rankings:
He's tall, stringy and deceptively athletic. On the mound, he throws the meanest mixture of devastating curveballs, time-altering changeups and blazing heat, making him one of the greatest pitchers I've ever had to play against. He's knockdown from three-point land and can pull off an insane dunk where he contorts in midair like nothing I've ever seen. His technical ability in tennis and golf is unrivaled. He's perhaps the best defensive soccer player in his very talented group of peers.
I think baseball was the sport where you could really see him excel the most. A popular first overall draft pick in exhibition drafts (if he wasn't chosen as a captain), Waluigi's stuff is just nasty.
5. Mr. Dream (Punch-Out!!)
I could barely get past Bald Bull, second edition, but he's nothing compared to Mr. Dream, who effectively replaced Mike Tyson once the star boxer's contract had expired with Nintendo. I would be remiss if I didn't call out the other near-impossible opponents of the game -- Soda Popinski, Mr. Sandman and Super Macho Man also gave me fits -- but Mr. Dream's quickness is a force to be reckoned with. If Tyson appeared on my other list, there's no reason Mr. Dream couldn't appear on this one.
Aaron Judge's comparison to Bowser, as mentioned above on this list, isn't the only one that features a prominent video game character, as occasional RADIO.COM Sports Houston correspondent Alex Del Barrio noted during the Home Run Derby.
4. QB Eagles (Tecmo Bowl)
Bo Jackson was crowned as the most dominant video game character on my other list, and by several other sports and video game fans, but QB Eagles wasn't far behind. Why was he named this? Because Randall Cunningham, at the time of "Tecmo Bowl's" release in 1994, was not a part of the NFLPA's marketing agreement, and so the game couldn't rightfully put him into the game. Along the same lines as Jon Dowd, though, the inspiration behind the character was quite obvious, and his dominant skill set may have even been boosted.
3. Pablo Sanchez (Backyard Sports)
Uh-oh, here comes the herd of enraged millennials (I'm Gen-Z, but I played my fair share of the original "Backyard Sports" games thanks to my older brother) that thinks Pablo Sanchez, their childhood hero and inspiration, should be number one on this list. And they certainly have an argument. He was better than several future MLB Hall of Famers, for crying out loud, and was easily the fan favorite throughout the entire "Backyard Sports" series. RADIO.COM Sports writer Tim Kelly had a chance to speak with a creator of Pablo Sanchez, Richard Moe, who sought to "make him the best player, just to completely throw in the face all the stereotypes."
Even Mets sensation Pete Alonso knew to slot Sanchez in at the three-hole in his lineup, calling him the "king."
2. Little Mac (Punch-Out!!)
Even as Pablo Sanchez is the ultimate underdog, he's still not the underdog of sports video games. That honor belongs to Little Mac, the 4'7", 17-year-old brawler from the Bronx who went through 23 fights (at the minimum, assuming you're some type of video game freak who went through the game in one clean sweep) against gargantuan opponents like the 6'6", 237-pound Soda Popinski and the 6'5", 312-pound Mr. Sandman before finally getting his shot to defeat the 31-0 Mike Tyson.
Before Buster Douglas, there was Little Mac, at least for a few of us. For the rest of us, this video released by ESPN may have been as much satisfaction as we ever got.
1. Create a Player (Multiple)
It may not be too fun to do anymore, and it may seem like a cop-out answer, but every 12-year-old kid knows the feeling of adding a maxed-out creation to their favorite team and just dominating. Many games know no limits in their player creation systems. Want a 7'8" point guard with the best handling, three-point, and dunking abilities in the entire league? Done. Want a pitcher who throws in the triple-digits who also hits 500-foot home runs on the regular? Easy.
And in a lot of cases, players name these creations after themselves. So, in a sense, you are the greatest fictional video game character of all time. Congratulations!