The Most Offensive Video Game Characters Of All Time

Video games are a relatively new form of media, and for a long time, most of them were pretty light on story. As a result, characters were often boiled down to simple motivations like "run right, rescue Princess," or "walk around in multiple directions, rescue other princess." It's not surprising that video game characters started out simple. You have to start somewhere, and no one expected character storylines that would win literary prizes to come on the heels of Tetris or Pong. 

But unfortunately, some of the two-dimensional characters that did make it to the very-small screen veered into stereotypes that can be pretty offensive, whether you're looking back on 8-bit classics or just staring in shock at how something made it into a game from this decade. From accidental and unfortunate imagery to cringe-inducing writing and voice acting, here are the most offensive video game characters of all time.

Oil Man (Mega Man: Powered Up)

The best thing you can say about Oil Man is that he probably wasn't awful on purpose. When Capcom decided to remake the original Mega Man game in 2006 as a 20th-anniversary project called Mega Man: Powered Up, they made a few changes. The graphics were updated to a new 3-D style, a new mode let you play through the game as any of the bosses, and since the original Mega Man was the only game in the franchise to feature six robot masters instead of the usual eight, they added two new characters to the mix. One, Time Man, was just another spin on a formula they'd used before with characters like Flash Man. The other, unfortunately, was Oil Man, an interesting idea for a character that was saddled with a design that made him look like he was straight out of a 19th-century minstrel show.

The design was so bad, in fact, that he was given a slightly different color scheme and left off the box art for the American and European releases for the games, as though surprising players with an accidental racist caricature would go better. To make matters worse, while Capcom thankfully didn't give him a stereotypical voice, his dialogue in the game is loaded up with lines like "how's about chillin' out" and "I don't know nothin' about that" that don't do him any favors, and he literally shouts "yo!" every time you jump.

The good news is this is one of the few stereotypes in gaming that has a relatively happy ending. When Oil Man appeared in the Archie Comics series based on the Mega Man games, artist Chad Thomas gave him a redesign that added a scarf that was reminiscent of Japanese superheroes like Kamen Rider. Not only did that cover up the more offensive aspects of his original design, it also added a nice sense of motion that made him seem like a more dynamic threat. It's the definition of making the best of a bad situation, but at least it's something.

Lo Wang (Shadow Warrior)

Have you ever wondered what Duke Nukem 3D would be like if it was just straight-up racist? Well, even if you weren't, we're sorry to report that 3D Realms decided to answer that question anyway with the release of 1997's Shadow Warrior.

Lo Wang, whose name is exactly the joke you think it is, is voiced by John William Galt, and delivers the game's one-liners in such a monumentally offensive fashion that you'd think his enemies could be defeated by racism as easily as they were defeated by bullets. It's one thing for Western developers to play with distinctly Japanese elements like katanas, zaibatsu mega-corporations, and the Yakuza, but to do it while your main character delivers lines like "ooh, you good-rooking sailor babe" and "just rike Nagasaki" goes way beyond appreciation and into the (3D) realm of something that definitely should've been tossed in the trash rather than released to the public.

Surprisingly, Shadow Warrior was rebooted in 2013. While the 21st-century's version of Lo Wang started off a whole lot better than his 1997 counterpart, with dialogue that set him up as a capable hit man with a penchant for one-liners, the 2016 follow-up wasn't so lucky. Polygon's Carli Velocci referred to even the new version of Wang as "a walking Asian stereotype" in an "outdated, unfunny game" full of "horrible dialogue and racist stereotyping." As harsh as that is, it's still nicer than this guy deserves.

Rad Spencer's left arm (Bionic Commando)

Video games have seen so many ill-advised grim-and-gritty reboots that it's sometimes surprising that there wasn't a 2005 Tetris game about how the L-shaped piece was trying to cast the others into a hell where they would be tortured for their sins by being stacked on each other for eternity. With actual titles like 2009's Bionic Commando reboot, that's not too far from the truth.

It's no secret that video games often use female characters as little more than metaphorical props, killing them off to advance someone else's story. Bionic Commando takes it one step further by making its main character's wife an actual prop: It's revealed as you go through the story that the bionic arm you've been using to move around the game was actually made out of your dead wife so it could connect with you on an emotional level. No, really.

Say what you will about games like Super Princess Peach, where Mario's lady-friend fights enemies by uncontrollable emotions, or Soul Calibur, which boasts some of the most ridiculously oversexualized women in the history of video games, but at least Peach and Ivy are actual characters. Being reduced to a male hero's literal left arm is taking things to a whole new level.

The De Santa family (Grand Theft Auto V)

It's to be expected that most of the characters in Grand Theft Auto are going to be terrible people. It is, after all, a game entirely focused on criminals and all the reprehensible crimes they can do in a world where everyone just leaves rocket launchers and Uzis lying around in the street.

Grand Theft Auto V features the most infinitely hateable jerks of the entire franchise, but surprisingly, the worst ones aren't any of the main characters. Trevor might be bad, but a completely amoral meth-head redneck who makes his first appearance by stomping one of the previous game's main characters to death has nothing on the true villains of that game: Michael's terrible, terrible family.

They're stereotypes in that they're some pretty familiar tropes — the henpecking and shrewish wife, the bitter and fame-hungry daughter, and the useless, faux-Juggalo son — but the offense here comes less from that and more from another factor. Despite building an entire open-world game around the ability to murder as much as you please, you can't kill the most annoying people in the game. If you try, you just wind up getting hospital bills.

Erica (Catherine)

For a game that's all about the complications of sexuality and interpersonal relationships, it was almost inevitable that Catherine would make a few mistakes along the way. With Erica, however, the problem actually isn't in the character herself. It's how everyone else reacts to her.

Erica is a trans woman in her 30s, and throughout the game, she's presented as kind, smart, desirable, and extremely well-liked ... by everyone except the other main characters of the game. At multiple points, Vincent, the protagonist, makes casually transphobic comments about her, insisting that she's not actually a woman, without ever getting any real consequences for it — and Erica is meant to be one of his oldest friends. It's not just limited to interactions within the game, either; even the game mechanics get in on the act. A major plot point in the game revolves around a specific sort of nightmare that only happens to male characters, and eventually, Erica starts having them, too, and the credits and official art book refer to her by her previous name.

Needless to say, Erica's portrayal has remained controversial in the years since Catherine's release, and sadly, some players have picked up where Vincent left off. If you check out the Fandom wiki for Catherine, you'll find that Erica's page has been locked down due to edits from users who changed all her pronouns to "he" and said she was a "freak" who "deserves to die."

Letitia (Deus Ex: Human Revolution)

Deus Ex: Human Revolution was almost universally acclaimed, racking up a 90 percent score on Metacritic. That said, one of this video game's characters left most reviewers and players stunned by her inclusion: an informant named Letitia, also known colloquially as "the trash lady."

No less than Time magazine called her "the worst part of Deus Ex: Human Revolution" and "a really bad part of a really good game," and it's easy to see why. In an otherwise well-crafted cyberpunk future, her heavily accented, over-the-top dialogue sticks out as surprisingly offensive. It's obvious that Letitia is meant to be a throwback to informants from '70s cop shows, but it's just as obvious that a game made in 2011 should've probably moved past stereotypes seen in the '70s. It might be forgivable if there was any indication that Letitia was affecting a personality that would allow her to go unnoticed by others, but there's really no indication of that in the game. Instead, while they agreed it was likely a misstep and not an intentional bit of hatred, she's gone down in gaming history as what Polygon called "that weirdly racist NPC."

Kung Pow (Clay Fighter 63 ⅓)

Shadow Warrior might've set the standard for racist caricatures of Asian people in 1997, but the following year, Clay Fighter 63 ⅓ did its level best to top that by introducing a new character into its claymation fighting game.

Kung Pow was, as you might expect from the name, a kung-fu enthusiast who also happened to be a Chinese chef. That, at least, was Interplay's rather tenuous justification for having him shout "egg foo yung!" and "chop suey!" while fighting his enemies, along with the cringe-inducing "would you rike soy sauce with that?"

The only thing that makes it worse is that it's not just astonishingly racist, it's also a criminal waste of voiceover talent. Clay Fighter 63 ⅓ boasted a cast that by any measure is way better than it should be, including legendary voice actors like Frank Welker (Fred from Scooby Doo), Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson), and Jim Cummings (Darkwing Duck). Kung Pow himself was voiced by Jess Harnell, who's probably best known for the role of Wakko Warner on Animaniacs, and who probably ought to leave this one off his resume.

Ash (Bare Knuckle 3)

Most of the time, when things in a game from Japan are changed from their original forms to something the publisher deems more suited to American audiences, it can seem pretty arbitrary. Nintendo, for instance, had a blanket ban on any and all religious iconography during the NES and SNES era for games released in America, meaning that not only were crosses removed from tombstones in games like Castlevania (where a cross-shaped weapon was referred to as a "boomerang"), they were also taken off the hospitals in Earthbound. When Sega made the call to remove Ash from the U.S. release of Streets of Rage 3, however, that was probably the right call.

To say Ash is an offensive stereotype of a gay man is honestly doing a disservice to offensive stereotypes that at least make some attempt at subtlety. When he shows up as the boss of a stage that takes place on the docks (of course), he's dressed like a homophobic nightmare: a biker-style leather cap and vest over a shiny black singlet, high-heeled leather boots, lime green thigh-high stockings, and a wicked mustache/mutton chops combo. Throw in the limp-wristed running and the ballet-style grand jeté leaps, and it's almost so far over the top that it's hard to find offensive. Almost.

The real kicker, though, comes from Ash's choice of accessory. To round out his outfit, Ash sports a massive gold chain bearing a Venus symbol, likely because of the offensive view of gay men as not just "effeminate," but actually wanting to be women. Clearly, there's a good reason why Ash never made it out of Japan. He wasn't even replaced — in other regions, Streets of Rage 3's first level doesn't have a boss at all, and Ash's boat, minus Ash, just sails off after dropping a few regular enemies for you to trounce on your way to victory.

Garcia Hotspur (Shadows of the Damned)

Legendary designer Suda51, whose work includes No More Heroes and Killer 7, is well known for crafting some pretty strange games with a lot of satirical layers. With that in mind, it's possible, and even easy, to look at Shadows of the Damned as a game that's intentionally doing everything as a commentary about toxic masculinity. The problem is that to make that commentary, the game doesn't just touch on its subject matter, it revels in it. If the best satire is done with the surgical focus of a scalpel, Shadows of the Damned goes at it with all the subtlety of a chainsaw.

The game's protagonist, Garcia Hotspur, is an over-the-top man's man caricature right from the moment you hear his name. He's the stereotype of the hot-blooded, sex-crazed Latino that, on a scale of one to ten, is cranked up to somewhere around 47. Need proof? Just check out the level where Garcia's gun, a skull-shaped pistol that shoots bones called the Boner, grows to gigantic proportions so that he can fight kaiju-sized demons by thrusting his hips at them and yelling "taste my Big Boner." Oh, and if that was a little too subtle for you, you acquire the Big Boner by diving through a portal on a picture of a lady demon's bathing suit area, drunkenly stumbling into a strip club, and then calling a phone sex line. Oh, and it's made from your buddy who's a floating skull. His name is Johnson.

Again, not exactly subtle. To be fair, though, the game deals with every aspect of Garcia's relationship with his girlfriend in exactly as ridiculous a fashion. The game is all about journeying to Hell to find her after she's been kidnapped by the devil, but periodically, she'll actually show up and you'll have to run away from her because, you know, women be crazy.

Almost every other boxer in Punch-Out!!

Fighting games in general tend to rely pretty heavily on stereotypes, but no major franchise has ever gone as hard into it as Nintendo's Punch-Out!! With a few exceptions (which still tend to be rooted in the one-note characterization that you'd expect from a game where the plot is "punch, and sometimes dodge") the whole cast is drawn from a roster of ridiculously overblown caricatures.

He was toned down a little for the NES as Soda Popinski, but in the arcade version of Super Punch-Out!!, the Russian competitor was originally known as Vodka Drunkenski, and that's just the tip of the iceberg for these video game characters. Vodka was joined in that game by Hong Kong's Dragon Chan, who can't resist using kung-fu kicks in a boxing match, and a hairy hillbilly called Bear Hugger. They weren't the first or the last: The previous version included an Italian boxer named Pizza Pasta, and by the time it moved to the NES, Punch-Out!! also included India's own Great Tiger draping his namesake animal's skin over his corner post. Even once it moved to the Super NES, the series introduced an Irish fighter whose special attack was called the "Irish jig," and a Jamaican boxer named Bob Charlie whose special attack is literally referred to in-game as the "shuck and jive." Little Mac just can't get away from these guys.

King Hippo might be a stereotype, too, but we're just not sure of what.