Though video games are considered one of the youngest entertainment mediums, we've seen our favorite characters take on numerous iterations and refinements. We've seen some characters evolve, we've seen others rejuvenated. Hell, we've seen complete makeovers of characters from the ground up. It's one thing to see your favorite franchises evolve and adapt to current and ever-changing industry trends, it's an entirely different feeling when a character you've followed for decades gets a brand new makeover. As games continue to advance graphically, we see newer and more refined versions of the most iconic video game characters. Games have evolved from 8 and 16-bit sprites to hyper-realism and many cases of the uncanny valley.
Almost all improvements that have been made are nothing short of positive. That being said, there are some characters whose upgrade is incredibly substantial and others that show how improved graphical capabilities can only enhance the original artistic vision. Let's take a look at some of the best transformations in video game history. Almost every character on this list is easily recognizable and the improvements have only strengthened their legacy. I'm interested to see what characters you think are missing from this list. Please feel free to let me know in a comment down below who you feel has had the greatest video game character transformation. This article includes spoilers for Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. If you haven't played the game yet, I strongly suggest you skip over #5 on this list. You've been warned.
15 Look Out For That Pit!
Now, I'm going to be frank about this. Most people never played Kid Icarus. That being said, I'm very familiar with the character of Pit thanks to countless hours of Super Smash Bros. and its numerous sequels. The beauty of Pit is that he's slowly developed into a more welcoming and child-like design. His original sprite form read mostly as a creepy old man and less as a friendly angel hero. Unlike his Smash Bros. counterparts, it seems that many gamers first interactions with Pit were via the Nintendo roster brawler and less so by way of Kid Icarus. The Kid Icarus series is one that is dying for a cool and sleek modernization. We wouldn't be surprised if Nintendo unveils a brand new adventure featuring Pit at this year's E3 Nintendo Direct.
14 Drake's Deception
This will probably be the newest character on the list in terms of time from inception to transformation. Nathan Drake quickly became the poster child for PlayStation and the future of narrative story-telling in video games. Over the course of four Uncharted games, Naughty Dog managed to take a generic white action star and turn him into a relatable hero. Uncharted 4 has easily been one of the prettiest games of the current generation of consoles. Though the first Uncharted was critically well-received, it wasn't necessarily a technical masterpiece. Naughty Dog slowly developed the series into the pinnacle of graphical fidelity and action set pieces. Nathan Drake's story may be done, but the way that character evolved in such a short period of time will never be forgotten.
13 Quite Scroogin' Around
Now, Scrooge McDuck didn't originate in the video game world, but his NES classic 2D platformer is a hallmark of game design and adventure. The Nintendo Entertainment System wasn't only home to the likes of Link and Mario. There was plenty of other third party and licensed titles that made the console a must own. Almost 24 years after its original release, gamers were stunned with the release of a complete remaster of the NES game cartridge. Not only did the remaster add a complete graphical overhaul to the entire world of DuckTales, it transformed a nostalgic masterpiece into a modern day classic. Scrooge went from a classic 8-bit sprite to an almost identical model of his animated counterpart. The original looks like a completely different game when compared to the modern take.
12 An Ape Escape
Donkey Kong has been synonymous with video games for as long as one can remember. The old gorilla was first on the scene as a barrel throwing nuisance, merely standing in the way of everyone's favorite plumber. It's amazing to see what years of improved technology and ape physics could do for Donkey Kong. The latest iteration, which happens to be Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze, was developed by Retro and showcases how great the great ape could look. His design has slowly changed to bring more prominence to his signature tie, but for the most part, he's stayed the same. It's great to see his rectangle arms slowly morph into forearms even Popeye would be proud of. We can't wait to see what Donkey Kong's Nintendo Switch adventure will look like.
11 Sora Loser
Have you ever sat back and wondered if Kingdom Hearts 3 will ever come out? Yeah, me too. The Kingdom Hearts series has been more than a beautiful melding of Disney and Final Fantasy. It's managed to craft its own lore and develop a world resting solely on its own laurels. Gamers everywhere fell in love with the original and its sequel. Kingdom Hearts has had plenty of spinoffs, but nothing necessarily substantial. With the release of the first teaser of Kingdom Hearts 3, gamers were treated to what this universe could look like in today's gaming market. Sora has gone from a clunky polygon-ridden mess to a clean and visually appealing wackadoo of a character. Hopefully, Square Enix will treat fans of the series to this newly anticipated adventure no later than 2018. We'll be waiting.
10 Are You a Girl?
Samus is not only a part of a pivotal franchise, but is also the center of the greatest in-game reveal of all-time. When players are treated to the helmet reveal of a female protagonist, it flips expectations on their head and ushers in a new standard. The Metroid and Castlevania series as so influential and important to video games that they happen to have their own genre. It's a real crime that players haven't been treated to a modern day iteration of Samus. That being said, the Prime trilogy did showcase how far the heroine came since her early 2D adventures. Hopefully, Nintendo meets the world's anticipations and announces a new Metroid game on the Nintendo Switch at this year's E3 Nintendo Direct. We'll be waiting with bated breath.
9 A Link Between Games
Link is one of the characters we've probably seen the most iterations of. He's been in countless games, with countless art styles, and has been portrayed at many different points in his life. The beauty of Link is that The Legend of Zelda doesn't follow a linear timeline. This means that designers have a pretty wide range of possibilities when it comes to creating the next iteration of the series. The newest addition, Breath of the Wild, takes Link in an all-new direction and has the titular hero fighting evil in the highest of definitions. Nintendo is responsible for ushering in countless franchises into the modern age. With Link, they've managed to not only take the series in new and exciting directions, they've managed to keep the core of what makes Link the hero of time.
8 I'm a Chief, not a Chef
We all remember the first time we were introduced to the universe saving Spartan known as John-117, aka Master Chief. His sheer presence was enough to intimidate and intrigue anyone in his immediate vicinity. At the time of release, Halo was seen as a technical marvel that paved the way for Xbox and the first-person genre. With the release of Halo 5, we saw Master Chief as close to Hollywood blockbuster as we're going to get. Halo is the flagship franchise for Xbox and it's not surprising that Microsoft continues to make it a showpiece for their console's performance benchmarks. With the super powerful Project Scorpio imminent, it's going to be interesting to see how far 343 Industries is willing to push the boundaries of performance and visual fidelity.
7 As the Cloud Parts
Outside of Kingdom Hearts 3, there's another game that far too many fans are going to wait far too much time to get their hands on. The Final Fantasy VII remake is easily one of the most anticipated games currently in development. The reception that the announcement was met with could only be rivaled by a few other announcements. Final Fantasy VII is not only regarded as one of the best games in its series, it often enters the conversation of the greatest video games of all-time. At the time in which a new and improved Cloud first appeared in the remake, fans felt that there could be something special here. Final Fantasy VII was a beautiful game, but did leave a lot up to the imagination. It looks like Square Enix is planning on taking this fan favorite and taking it into the modern age.
6 Is it Really You, Chris?
This was not only a great transformation, but one of the best surprises of 2017 in regards to video game narratives. Everyone expected there to be some sort of cameo appearance in Resident Evil 7. Very few people thought you would have an intimate interaction with Chris Redfield himself. There were plenty of rumors which suspected foul play and that the Redfield you met was simply Chunk. Capcom has since denied these rumors and stated that it is indeed Chris Redfield. The Resident Evil games haven't aged the best and their character models were never really cutting edge. This new version of Chris Redfield gives the character a more realistic look and only lends to the immersion of the series. What does Redfield's appearance mean for the future of Resident Evil? Looks like we'll get plenty of answers in the upcoming DLC centered solely around Mr. Chris Redfield.
5 The Pokemon Diet
Very few characters have the reach that Pikachu has. He's the global icon for one of the most profitable and long-running video game series, Pokémon. When gamers were first introduced to the small yellow rodent, he was a little bit on the portly side. It seems that this original design was intended for maximum cuteness. As the years went on and Pikachu's popularity rose to spectacular heights, the Pokémon Company decided to put the yellow ball of fur on a diet. It seems that they felt it would help promote a better message of activity and a healthy diet amongst their younger demographic. It seems like the move was for the best. Comparing Pikachu over the years shows that with a slimmed down figure the perennial superstar has only multiplied in cuteness overload.
4 Raiding Some Tombs
The best thing a company can do with their intellectual property is evolving the art to better reflect what message you want to deliver in today's day and age. We're all familiar with the iconic Lara Croft design in the early Tomb Raider games. Due to memory allocation issues, many models during that time were limited in the number of pixels one could use. It seems as though they designed to expend most of these in her upper body. In today's society, a female character based heavily on sex appeal wouldn't go over well and would show a lack of intellect on the developer's part. Crystal Dynamics has seamlessly pushed Lara Croft into a new era of strong female protagonists via their new Tomb Raider series. The game showcases Lara as a capable adventurer, as well as a woman of discernible taste. While still looking attractive, she's more than just her body figure. Crystal has taken a dated character design and thrust it into the apex of positive female protagonists.
3 It's a Me, Mario!
Mario is one of the most recognizable pop culture icons, let alone video game mascots. He solely represents the entire company of Nintendo in all of their ventures. The first time we were introduced to the heroic plumber, he was nothing more than a few pixels. Now, with Super Mario Odyssey on the horizon, Mario hasn't looked better. The beauty of Mario's transformation is that he's seen little to no changes and it's simply been a constant upgrade based on a number of pixels designers have at their disposal. Who would have known that a plumber struggling to climb a building in hopes of saving a woman in distress would ultimately become one of the most valuable faces in the entire entertainment industry? In honor of Super Mario Odyssey, we would like to tip our caps to Nintendo on a transformation well done.
2 Crashing the party!
The bandicoot that was once a mascot of an entire platform. Crash Bandicoot first arrived on the scene in September 1996. It wasn't long before this wacky bandicoot found his way into the hearts of PlayStation gamers everywhere. You know you're an icon when PlayStation decides to make you its official mascot. Even for its time, Crash Bandicoot was never really a technical masterpiece. That being said, Crash always seemed like a well-designed character and his visual fidelity wasn't ever an issue. More than 20 years later and fans have been graced with a remaster of the original trilogy called the N'Sane Trilogy. Boy does our old bandicoot pal Crash looks as stunning as ever. The attention to detail and craftsmanship to keep the original feeling alive is remarkable. Did we mention that the remastered collection is releasing June 30th, 2017? Some dreams really do come true.
1 A God Amongst Men
The greatest thing about Kratos' recent transformation is that it's deeper than just his character model. Let's start with that first, though. Kratos has aged significantly and looks like the old man no one wants to mess with. He's aged into a mature leader and possibly a father figure to a kid who isn't his own. Kratos is a character who was designed around selfishness and aggression, yet in the trailer for the new God of War game, he showcases neither of these things. His transformation comes down to the core of who he is. Besides a beard and some aging effects, it seems that fans of the series will be treated to an entire suite of transformations. Turning a character's entire design and purpose on its head, if done correctly, can ultimately be the greatest video game transformation of all-time.