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Who said March Madness had to be college basketball? Last year, we journeyed through a fully stocked bracket of 64 superheroes in an attempt to determine what would happen in a Marvel/DC tournament-style competition. This year, we’ll be applying that formula to our gaming heroes. As for the ground rules: The seeding was averaged between several 1 through 64 lists from our trusted committee. There’ll only be one hero per franchise, that way we don’t stack half the bracket with the most potent universes. The full slate of powers and abilities of our contenders will be taken into account on our way to finding gaming’s champion in a series of one-on-one fights. This opening segment will cover a quarter of our first round to kick off Gaming Hero March Madness. Without further delay, let’s fight.
1. Kratos v. 16. Sackboy
The God of War takes on the humanoid Hacky Sack. Shield your eyes, kids. Here’s a matchup you wouldn’t expect to see outside of PlayStation All-Stars. There has never been a 16-1 upset in the history of the NCAA tournament, and we won’t be making that kind of history here today. Kratos is known for a particularly brutal dismantling of his foes, so this unfortunate and hilarious matchup against one of gaming’s cutest heroes might be unpleasant to watch. Luckily, there are few characters more familiar with hot flashes of repetitive death than Sackboy. His Little Big Planet series is quietly a Thousand Ways to Die catalog for children. I like to think that after being ripped in half, Sackboy will pop up bizarrely smiling somewhere else. Kratos wins on what is essentially a bye week.
8. Simon Belmont v. 9. Gordon Freeman
Simon Belmont is a world-renowned vampire slayer. Physically speaking, he can overwhelm and overpower most of the competitors in this tournament. But his talents are primarily tailored to a specific enemy type. If Simon isn’t hunting Dracula, or a similarly themed threat, he’s a bit outside his element. And it doesn’t get more outside his element than Half-Life’s own Gordon Freeman. Whether or not Simon is lacking any intelligence, he’s at a severe mental disadvantage that can’t necessarily be overcome by his warrior skillset. Gordon’s weapons would be a completely foreign concept, and the physicist’s intelligence would be more than enough to nullify the physical mismatch. Gordon wins this one with any variety of tech, traps and situational awareness. Science!
5. Mega Man v. 12. Jak and Daxter
Both Mega Man and the Jak/Daxter combo are often identified by their considerable weaponry. In this category, Mega Man’s average arsenal at the end of a game includes a dangerous variety of physical and elemental damage. On armory alone, he has the advantage here. But Jak and Daxter’s Eco energy tips the overall scales in their favor. Mega Man’s abilities, much like an issue in the previous fight, tend to best equip him for the game’s specific boss battles. As the Eco powers progress from standard strength and speed boosts to massive destructive force and near invincibility, Mega Man simply can’t keep up with Jak and Daxter’s full potential.
4. Master Chief v. 13. Wander
Well we certainly know which one of these is in the best game. But that’s not what we’re here to discuss. Master Chief is the quintessential videogame “one man army.” His combat experience, weapons, and overall battle savvy contribute to his high reputation. He is arguably the most iconic first person shooting protagonist in gaming history, and earned his way there by committing alien genocide for well over a decade. But Wander is the king of the upset, which is something to consider. Shadow of the Colossus is a literal series of miraculous upsets en route to a tragic victory. Wander’s enemies are also massive behemoths that he can climb and conquer. His consistent strategy, admirable as it is, won’t do all that much against an agile, human-sized killing machine. Master Chief wins this one with ease.
6. Nariko v. 11. Ryu
Heavenly Sword may not have been the most memorable action adventure, but Nariko’s pure devastation isn’t easy to forget. She can probably go head to head with Kratos, our tournament’s top overall seed, and not embarrass herself. The two games have a great deal in common, except the part where everyone buys God of War. But Nariko is a top-tier threat as far as raw power is concerned. That power, however, comes at a high price. The Heavenly Sword itself, spoiler alert I suppose, is slowly killing her. The cost of the continued use of this weapon is the wielder’s life. Theoretically, forcing Nariko to overexert and essentially implode may be the only way to reliably defeat her. Ryu is built to endure and outlast, and the Street Fighter cast shares the Mortal Kombat fighters’ ability to take an unholy beating. As Nariko grew weaker, Ryu would tap into his dark/evil form and take control of the fight. Ryu wins this one, taking advantage of his opponent’s costly downside.
3. Samus Aran v. 14. Nathan Drake
I think I’d rather watch this conversation than this fight. A young Nathan Drake would do his best to turn Samus into gaming’s version of a bond girl, only to be incinerated by the bounty hunter. An older Nate would conduct himself more responsibly, and still suffer the same fate. Drake is certainly capable of upsetting some of the stronger fighters in this tournament, but his uncanny wit and inexplicably successful antics would have no effect on a polished weapon of mass destruction. Samus wins in however much time it takes to grow tired of Drake’s entertaining banter.
7. Crono v. 10. Donkey Kong
Classic RPG protagonists generally possess a wide variety of useful abilities, and Crono is no exception. For a quick character, he hits hard and uses light-based power to accumulate a wealth of mystical powers as well. Crono is one of the more well-rounded threats in this tournament, complete with the tactics to beat any character that isn’t simply out of his league. We all know Donkey Kong, and we all know that there isn’t all that much to analyze beyond his considerable strength and dexterity. He may hit harder, but DK wouldn’t survive a flurry of the power available to the Chrono Trigger world.
2. Cloud Strife v. 15. Rayman
In the spirit of overpowered RPG universes, here’s Cloud. The spiky haired, cross dressing ball of inner conflict is widely regarded as one of gaming’s most iconic and powerful heroes. Final Fantasy rosters are no joke, and Cloud can battle the best of them. Most of Rayman’s abilities lend themselves to navigation and movement, making this fight against the super-powered Soldier-Jenova hybrid a less than ideal scenario. Luckily, Rayman is already dismembered in his natural state, so he’d fall by less gruesome means. Cloud wins this one before we even get to see some of his more impressive moves.
That wraps up our first set of 16. Next time, Gaming Hero March Madness continues with round 1-2 as we inch closer to finding out which protagonist will be our last hero standing.