Awesome Video Game Characters Who Need A Franchise

For every fat Italian plumber and unrealistically speedy hedgehog, there are a hundred video game characters that, for whatever reason, never spawned a proper franchise. Even though they star in great games, we never see them around today. We're talking sub-Bubsy level guys, and we think that they deserve a second shot at a media empire. Here are a few characters that video game time forgot.


Back in the early days of Nintendo, we had a farmer's market-worth of fruit and vegetable-based heroes and villains, from Kid Icarus' Eggplant Wizard to everyone in Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom. Today, food-based friends and foes are a rarity, but if there's one that we need to resurrect from the crisper drawer, it's Kwirk. He's a mohawked, puzzle-solving tomato, and he was last seen on the Game Boy in a title bearing his own name.

It's not as though Kwirk didn't have his chance, though, as he co-starred in the 1990s cartoon The Power Team. Today, Kwirk could easily be a spokesman for eating healthy and solving video game puzzles that are actually challenging. The horticultural hero has been forgotten, but it's high time for him to return. Even his own game's sequel moved on to a different veggie. What do the California Raisins have that Kwirk doesn't?

Bayou Billy

Unless you're some kind of thumb-wizard, you probably haven't beaten The Adventures of Bayou Billy. It's a game that demoralized a whole generation of gamers, and it needs to return and torment another one, even if it's only an update of the excruciating original. There aren't a whole lot of games that deal with the deep, dark voodoo of Louisiana's swamps, but if True Blood taught us anything, it's that some really weird stuff happens in that world.

Bayou Billy's original gameplay involved side-scrolling beat-'em-up action, driving, and even some first-person shooting segments, so it's really a perfect franchise to modernize. Yet, the titular character has made only two notable multimedia appearances: a five-issue Archie Comics series, and a single-episode appearance in Captain N. But who wouldn't love a handsome man from the deep South battling henchmen and bad juju? Aside from James Carville, that is.

Dr. Fred Edison & Family (Maniac Mansion)

One of the most important games of the point-and-click genre is Maniac Mansion and, to a slightly lesser degree, its sequel, Day of the Tentacle. Maniac Mansion is a weirdo story about a mind-controlling meteorite and the family that it controls. Your heroes are a bunch of relatively disposable kids representing '80s cliches, like the punk rock girl and the surfer dude. Plus, as a Lucasfilm game, you know that the story had to be solid. Since then, the best haunted mansion we've had in gaming is Luigi's, and that's truly not saying a lot.

Gamers did get a brief glimpse into the Edison family in the early '90s when Maniac Mansion hit TV as a sci-fi comedy series, loosely related to the video game. Adapted for TV by the great Eugene Levy and starring many SCTV regulars, the show lasted for three years before cancellation, but has since evaporated into whatever place TV shows go when they never appear on DVD. Let's make video games weird again.

Viewtiful Joe

In 2004, Viewtiful Joe took everything that made the Matrix films visually interesting, and put them into a 2D sidescroller. The results are awesome. Using the ability to manipulate time and camera effects, a Sentai-suited Joe fights his way through a whole bunch of movie-themed levels to save his girlfriend. While the game's cheesy writing and shameful goatees may not hold up to scrutiny today, the mechanics are solid. All Joe needs for a comeback is a complete makeover, since last we saw him, he looked like Sugar Ray Guy and Smash Mouth Guy had a completely unlikeable baby.

Joe actually starred in his own 51-episode anime in Japan, but the translation and localization of the show for US viewers was notoriously awful. And by 2005, no one really thought surfer dudes were funny anymore. That era began and ended with Bill and Ted, so Joe unfairly withered into obscurity. He may be a total dork, but his game certainly wasn't.

The Defenders of Dynatron City

City of Heroes has shut down forever, and Marvel and DC don't seem to be making a whole lot of original video games lately, so maybe it's time to bring back some heroes from the 8-bit era. In Defenders of Dynatron City, a unique team of misfit heroes comes together to fight Dr. Mayhem, who's basically a bad clone of Dr. Wily. The team includes a guy who can fire his head like a bullet, an electric lady, a blue monkey, and a mermaid-lady with a buzzsaw tail.

The game wasn't well-received, mostly due to weak gameplay, but the superhero team did get an animated pilot ... which only made it to TV as a one-off special. Unbelievably, the Defenders of Dynatron City are also official Marvel Comics characters, and they did get a published series that, again, didn't make it past six issues. Considering that this was all concurrent with the animated Tick, Earthworm Jim, and Freakazoid, maybe the heroes were just lost in the wave of heroic parodies. But it's probably time to bring back a few silly heroes. Watching Iron Man and Superman constantly search their souls is getting old.

Joanna Dark

Anyone with a Nintendo 64 and a love of first-person shooters picked up Perfect Dark. Heroine Joanna Dark is like James Bond, Lara Croft, Black Widow, and Metroid's Samus Aran all mixed into one great character. Even within the limits of the N64, Perfect Dark is an excellent game with a great plot twist. And even though the game had two prequels and a remake, Joanna Dark has pretty much disappeared.

A couple of cancelled games later, and all we have are a few books and some comics, none of which date past 2007. It's unusual that such a once-iconic character just disappeared, and it's even stranger that she's not being summoned back to gaming during the current call for more strong women in games. If anyone deserves a broader franchise, it's Joanna Dark.