Put sunglasses on a character and the results are nothing short of amazing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a hero or villain, person or machine, even terrestrial or extraterrestrial; when a character dons a pair of sunglasses, his/her awesome factor increases a hundred fold. After all, a simple pair of shades has the ability to accentuate the wearer’s most prominent traits like mystique, confidence, cold-heartedness, poise, charm, or dishonesty. Whatever qualities come as a result, there’s no denying that shades are a distinctive part of many of the memorable video game characters out there. The following are some of the most unforgettable video game characters who have incorporated sunglasses into their very identity.

If there’s one Mortal Kombat fighter you should be deathly afraid of, it would be the martial artist/movie star known as Johnny Cage (you may remember him from such films as HWAAAAA!!, Sudden Violence, and The Gist of My Fist). That’s because if you get careless, even for a second, you may find yourself going cross-eyed and singing a high-pitched tune after Johnny Cage executes his signature Ball Breaker move. This painful attack involves Cage doing the splits and, from his advantageous position, delivering a full-forced punch to your crotch. The move is made even more deadly in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, where Johnny Cage uses a flurry of Ball Breakers as a fatality to literally bust the balls of the victim. After Johnny beats his opponents, whether by repeated strikes to the groin, by decapitation, or by other means, Cage will do a fist pump, exclaim, “Yeah!”, and then briskly put his shades on to remind everyone of his movie star status. He may not be taken seriously because of his movie persona, but Cage certainly knows how to cater to his adoring fans (and strike fear into the hearts of men).

During Solid Snake’s unforgettable mission in Shadow Moses, Snake receives a Codec call from his good buddy McDonnell “Master” Miller. Just like in Snake’s last operation, Master Miller offers to provide survival tips and advice through Codec, should Snake ever need it. Truthfully, Master Miller doesn’t have any useful information throughout the game, and he even isn’t contactable at some points. But towards the end of the game, when Snake unknowingly activates Metal Gear Rex, the reason for Master Miller’s true purpose is revealed. In his final Codec call, “Master Miller” will take off his shades, revealing the mug of the game’s never-say-die antagonist, Liquid Snake. Liquid had played Solid like a fool, and because of it Metal Gear Rex was operational. When Solid Snake confronts Liquid in person, Liquid utters quite possibly his greatest line in the game: “Did you like my sunglasses, Snake?” The way he mockingly says it combined with Cam Clarke’s delivery of the line is priceless. The plot twist is one of the many reasons why Metal Gear Solid is revered to this day, and it’s all made possible because of the inconspicuous sunglasses of one crafty “Master Miller”.

As one of Bowser’s kooplings, Roy Koopa shares his father’s hatred for mustachioed plumbers. Well, all his siblings do, too, but Roy distinguishes himself from his brethren by wearing a mean pair of red shades. He’s also known for his superior offensive skills, which is why he’s considered the rowdiest of the kooplings. Mario saw this firsthand in Super Mario Bros. 3 at the end of Sky World where Roy Koopa reigns supreme. During the boss fight, Roy could immobilize the red plumber for a short period of time by leaping into the air and creating an earthquake upon landing with his signature attack move, the ground stomp. Roy eventually gets bested the first time, but he wises up for the next encounters with Mario by adding a time factor to his repertoire. In Super Mario World at the end of Forest of Illusion, for example, Roy will scale the walls and execute his ground stomp to try to simultaneously crush and immobilize Mario. Even if he misses, each of his stomps will cause the walls to move in, creating less room for Mario to maneuver until there’s no room at all. Roy will again force the plumber to use the clock in Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga, in which Roy must be defeated within eight rounds. Roy may be too violent for his age, but it certainly makes his dad beam with absolute pride. After all, it means Bowser raised him right!

As a distinguished member of the Turks, Rude intimidates the lowly citizens of Midgar and the heroes of FF7 with his stylish black suit and his signature weapon, his fists. But despite being in the employ of the evil Shinra Corporation and clashing with your party multiple times, Rude isn’t really a bad guy. In fact, Rude and his partner-in-crime Reno have actually teamed up with Cloud and company on more than one occasion (usually on mutual terms), most notably in Wutai when the Turks have the day off. When he’s not letting his fists do the talking, Rude lets his good buddy Reno do most of the threatening and trash-talking, since Rude isn’t much for words. To convey his silent behavior, Rude sports a killer pair of sunglasses. The shades never come off in the original FF7, but in the movie Rude can be seen without his sunglasses for a brief moment. Part of the reason his shades come off is because of Reno, who knocks them off Rude’s face after falling on him during the Loz and Yazoo fight. The worse part is Reno inadvertently steps on Rude’s trademark sunglasses soon afterwards. No sweat, though, because Rude promptly puts a fresh pair back on after tapping into his apparently plentiful supply of spares. Rude may be a man of few words, but his whole demeanor and awesome shades say plenty enough.

Clark Steel and his war buddy Ralf Jones started off as mercenaries in the Rambo-esque SNK shooter, Ikari Warriors. Since then they have become regular participants in SNK’s trademark fighting series, King of Fighters. To distinguish himself from Ralf, Clark wears a blue military vest, a black cap, and dark shades. Unlike his wild, gung-ho partner, Clark is more reserved and taciturn. That doesn’t make him any less deadly, though. Clark’s specialties lie in his godly grappling skills, which he uses to make his opponents get well acquainted with the pavement. Among his signature moves is the Super Argentina Backbreaker, where he’ll toss his opponent vertically off the screen and then crack their bones on his shoulders when he/she lands from the long freefall. The punishment doesn’t stop there because Clark will hurl the mangled opponent toward the ground and then follow up with a devastating elbow drop for good measure. If that wasn’t enough, his signature Desperation move involves three of these bad boys in succession, where he’ll leap with the victim on the last heave and drive the airborne body mercilessly into the ground (how he does this varies from game to game). Clark’s frankensteiner is just as awesome, because after he executes it he’ll look at the screen, outstretch his arms, and go “HEEEEEEY!” The cool thing is his sunglasses never come off no matter how much crap he beats out of his opponents. In Clark’s own words, “Why don’t I lose the shades? Because I don’t need to.”

With his distinctive white shield, his flowing yellow scarf, and his crimson helmet with shades, it’s impossible to forget Mega Man’s enigmatic older brother, the one and only Proto Man. Missing ever since his creation, Proto Man decides to make his presence felt during the events of the NES classic Mega Man 3. You’ll always know when Proto Man is going to make his grand entrance before he even steps foot onto the screen. That’s because his famous trademark whistle will pierce the air to announce his arrival. However, once you hear the blues whistle, there’s no telling what to expect from Proto Man. He could be materializing before you to kick your ass. Maybe he’ll just stare you down and then nonchalantly teleport away. More often than not, he’s making an appearance to save your ass from certain doom. Proto Man’s motives and loyalties are always shrouded in mystery, but one thing’s for sure: he does whatever the hell he wants. He’s simply no one’s puppet (much to the chagrin of Dr. Wily). The lone wolf mindset adds to Proto Man’s mystique, which is one of the many reasons why he’s such a memorable character. It doesn’t hurt that he has an incredible character design and an amazing theme song either.

The women have been kidnapped by aliens. Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the women? Naturally, the hometown hero, Duke Nukem, will answer the call. Equipped with an assortment of heavy-duty firepower, explosive devices, state-of-the-art weaponry, and his mighty boot, Duke Nukem kicks alien ass one witty one-liner at a time. What makes Duke likable is his action movie hero traits: a super manly, gun-toting badass who humiliates his defeated foes with mind-piercing wisecracks. Men want to be him. Girls can’t keep their hands off him. And what better way to portray his extreme bravado than by sporting a pair of sunglasses, which first surfaced in the breakthrough first-person shooter Duke Nukem 3D. He’s had other adventures before this game, but he didn’t receive his machismo-filled personality that he’s best known for until this smash hit. Duke Nukem 3D may have been memorable because of the unique weapons, the gruesome violence, and locales that were a nice change of pace for its time, but there’s no denying that Duke’s swagger and smartass remarks had a huge part in the game’s allure. If only Duke Nukem would get off his lazy ass and get back in the alien exterminating business. He’s been gone forever. Literally.

“Now! This is it! Now is the time to choose! Die and be free of pain, or live and fight your sorrow! Now is the time to shape your stories! Your fate is in your hands!” It only takes a few utterances from Auron to realize why he is the very definition of awesome. His quotes are so full of wisdom and all-around badassery that Auron has to speak in moderation in order to prevent overloading the player’s mind with too much awesomeness. When you got as much experience as Auron, though, you’re bound to have a lot of mind-blowing things to say. Known around Spira as the Legendary Guardian who helped the venerable summoner Lord Braska and the surly Blitzballer Jecht “defeat” Sin ten years prior, Sir Auron is an extremely valuable asset to your party’s quest to end Sin’s never-ending resurrection cycle. Outfitted with a red cloak, an oversized turtleneck, sleek shades, sake flask, and a ginormous sword, Auron possesses a character design that fits his legendary aura perfectly. Auron’s no pushover in battle either. His exceptional strength and fearsome Bushido techniques absolutely tear the opposition to pieces, especially his Tornado overdrive where he’ll toss his sake flask into a self-made whirlwind to engulf his foes in a spiraling inferno. When Auron is bearing down on his enemies with sword slung over his shoulder, the fiends crap their pants, especially when Auron threatens them with such piercing battle cries as, “This is for the fallen!” moments before he sends them to the Farplane. Auron simply has it all: the quotes, the reputation, the style, and the battle expertise. They don’t call him legendary for nothing.

Being chased by carnivorous hounds outside in the dead of night? Wear sunglasses. Got some meticulous lab work to do? Wear sunglasses. Is a massive bioweapon with a serrated arm capable of slicing through human flesh like butter lumbering toward you? You get the idea. No sane person would ever follow this rubbish. That is, unless you’re the antagonist, Albert Wesker. In the world of Resident Evil, where the areas are rarely lit and are infested with flesh-hungry zombies, relentless creatures capable of tearing you limb from limb, and other freaks of nature, Wesker is the only bad enough dude to voluntarily impair one’s own eyesight by donning a pair of shades. Sure, it goes against all common sense, but Wesker’s never been one to be conventional. For example, he has no problem with letting his teammates get slaughtered by mutant creatures just so long as he’s getting good test data in the process. Wesker also has no problem subjecting himself to unheard of viruses as long as he receives super agility and inhuman strength. He’s even willing to bioengineer/steal the deadliest and most contagious viruses out there just so that he can revive (more like reinvent) a pharmaceutical giant capable of bringing the world down to its knee. And he can do all these things without a hint of remorse. It’s no wonder why Wesker wears the shades 24/7 because they compliment his cold-hearted, yet calm, cool, and collected personality perfectly. Sure, it may seem odd, but fans of the series wouldn’t have it any other way.

Earl is a portly alien sporting some stylish polka-dot boxer shorts and a pair of stellar sunglasses. His hop hoppin’ pal ToeJam is a thin, three-legged extraterrestrial with tentacle-like eyes, who wears a backwards cap and an oversized gold pendant simply engraved with “TJ”. Together, ToeJam and Earl are the most funked up aliens the universe has ever seen, which comes as no surprise since they hail from the planet Funkotron. One day, they were bippin’ and boppin’ along in their spacecraft, when, after Earl decides to take the wheel, an asteroid strikes the ship and sends ToeJam and Earl plummeting toward the mysterious planet Earth. Unfortunately, Earl and his buddy can’t return to their planet until they find the scattered pieces of their ship, and it’s up to you (plus a friend if you desire co-op play) to help the aliens find them. Impeding their progress are the zany inhabitants of Earth, who are more out-of-this-world than the aliens. Evil dentists, lawnmower-wielding maniacs, hamsters scurrying around in glass balls, cool-hatin’ nerds, and phantom ice cream trucks are just some of the hostile Earthlings that get in the way. No worries, though, because Big Earl doesn’t let his current predicament keep him down. He coolly navigates Earth with an optimistic attitude and a funky beat to his steps. All Earl’s movements reflect his laid-back style, from the way he bounces on his rump after leaping great lengths to the way he busts-a-move whenever he gets near one of the hula-dancing Hawaiian girls. He truly shines when he’s in the vicinity of ToeJam, in which case Earl will exchange stylin’ high-fives and/or cool phrases like “WHA’SUP” with his fellow Funklord. Earl’s quirky charm has yet to be matched by any other character to this day (except for his pal, of course), which is quite a distinction considering he originated from the Sega Genesis days. The great thing is both ToeJam and Earl can now be experienced on the Wii for all to enjoy. JAMMIN’!

The list can go on and on with such characters as the womanizing airship pirate Johnny (Guilty Gear Series), the bomb-throwing Mouser (Super Mario Bros. 2), the suave Al-Cid (Final Fantasy XII), Hayabusa’s pal Robert T.S. (Ninja Gaiden II), the fighting amphibian Rash (Battletoads), the always awesome Captain Commando, the breakdancing Duck King (Fatal Fury Series), the nameless heroes of Capcom’s Forgotten Worlds, the superhero Sonic Blastman, and several others. They are all worthy of mention, but unfortunately there’s not enough spots to give them the spotlight they deserve. In any case, countless characters have left their mark in the industry thanks in part to the sunglasses they wear. These characters have shown that it doesn’t matter if it’s day or night, indoors or outdoors, or any other time that seems appropriate or inappropriate. There’s always time to put on a stylin’ pair of shades.

List by VinnieMac (03/10/2007)

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