You know what's great? Cosplay. You know what's REALLY great? Body paint. Put the two together, and you get something that is essentially a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup for the eyes: two great looks that look great together. Put it on a gorgeous model, and my friends, you have created a perfect recipe for the most fun I've ever had researching a listicle in my entire writing career.
So today, since we've already glossed over this idea before, I wanted to cover the classics. Everyone's favorite characters from old and new classic consoles alike, ones that we spent years fighting against, with, or for, as we whiled away the precious years of our youth staring at flashing pixels and polygons, lost in our imaginations, consuming feedback loops, and writing fanfics.
With all that said, feast your eyes on these cosplayers and their equally amazing body painters. And remember, if you've got some ideas of your own, feel free to drop a comment and let me know who I missed!
25 Jade (Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3)
What an impressive job. This is a totally awesome display of what you can do with a beautiful model and a talented body painter. More commonly known as green Kitana, this rendition of Shao Kahn's personal assassin looks absolutely stunning. With little details like her hip chains and her dress lacing (which looks ridiculously real), this cosplay recreates the character flawlessly. Thanks in large part to the excellent shading and detail work that's been put into making them appear three-dimensional. Overall, it's a great start to a list that's just gonna get better. I mean, did you see that featured image? Yes, please.
24 Mad Moxxi (Borderlands)
Arguably one of the new classics, Borderlands is a game with a wide variety of characters in it. And one of the most famous to date, at least in the cosplay community, is Mad Moxxi. The snarky waitress with a heart of gold won players over with her smile and... well... a couple of other interesting design decisions. There are tons of people who have cosplayed as Moxxi, even the great Jessica Nigri herself, but there's no comparison to what Kay Pike can do.
Kay Pike, the model, cosplayer, and makeup artist above, is a wonder when it comes to body paint. We could do a listicle entirely on her body paints, because her stuff looks like someone completely ripped out a page of a comic book and brought it to life. She's done some wild looks, including some that make the games look tame by comparison.
23 Ivysaur (Pokemon Red & Blue)
Can you believe that Jordan had both of these looks in just one of her videos? Where her Pikachu was unforgivingly creepy, this rendition of Ivysaur is damn fetching. From the fangs on her bright purple lips to the sea foam wig and floral crown, every bit of this body paint looks amazing. And just in my personal opinion, Ivysaur is the least-cool-looking of the Bulbasaur evolutions, suffering from being the bridge between the cute Bulbasaur and intimidating Venusaur.
On Jordan though, Ivysaur looks cool AF — she really brings the creature to life. She's like a spotty Poison Ivy in the best way possible, and the contouring on her face and body paint is something to aspire to.
22 Carnage (Maximum Carnage)
There are a bunch of Carnage cosplays out there, a decent amount of them done using body paint and liquid latex, but this one (photographed by DeviantArt user GhostXS), is unbelievable. The photo creates gets a the heart of the character, and brings it life flawlessly. A woman in a jail cell ends up being slowly taken over by the Carnage symbiote, and the fear and horror in her eyes are evident. It culminates in this photo, as we finally see her fused with Carnage, giving into the madness and getting ready to raise hell.
Most gamers' first interaction with Carnage came around with the ridiculously difficult game Maximum Carnage, a sprawling side scroller beat-em-up which no one on the planet Earth has ever beaten without the aid of some form of cheat code (kidding, kind of). It's an awesome game, Carnage is an awesome character, and this body paint cosplay is truly deserving of a spot on this list.
21 Midna (Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess)
Like Madeyewlook, Geekup is another great makeup artist who dabbles in making video game cosplays on her YouTube channel. She's an amazingly talented body painter as well. This rendition of Midna from Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is one of her first videos, and she already knocks it out of the park in fourteen short minutes. She's even got a cute little thing where she slaps Navi out of midair. Of course, everyone knows Midna as the cute little assistant with the cocky attitude that replaced Navi in Twilight Princess. Since the game's release, she's been the subject of tons of fan art and reinterpretation. This little bit of fan service draws wows from both those who admire the creative aspect, as well as those who just want to ogle a real-life version of a video game character.
Speaking of ogling real-life versions of video game characters...
20 Cammy (Super Street Fighter II)
No body paint cosplay list would be complete without Cammy from Super Street Fighter II making an appearance. For the last 20 years, it's looked like her outfit has been painted on, so why not just cut out the middle man when you're looking for a cosplay that's bound to turn heads and steam collars. The body paint is done by an artist that goes by the name of JSN Art, and the cosplayer's handle is Vegan_Cosplayer_Lifter, the latter of which seems to be inactive. JSN, however, is still painting ladies and presumably having a blast. I can't help but wonder if VCL can do a British accent. If she could, she wouldn't even need to be able to throw a single kick, because we'd already be knocked out.
19 Link (The Legend Of Zelda)
This girl's name is Madeyewlook, and she is awesome. She's got a couple of spots on this list, and she deserves both. An amazingly talented makeup artist, her "Painting My Clothes On" series includes a few notable classic video game characters, and since this video was made around the same time as Breath of the Wild, she decided to do a mix of both classic Link and Champion's Tunic Link. The result is an awesome combination of two generations of a classic video game character brought to life with a YouTuber who has enough personality to make both traditionally mute protagonists seem vibrant and happy.
Oh yeah, you heard me. Tetris. Uniko Girls, a project run by French body painter Mesh, is a cool project just made to show off unique body paints on beautiful bodies. In doing that, we've got what's probably the craziest classic console game body paint ever: a full-on gray brick Game Boy running Tetris. It's something you'd never expect when you think of a list of video game body paint cosplay, but when you see it for yourself, I mean, you gotta show others.
It doesn't help the model is pretty nice-looking herself. Also, she's totally about to get a Tetris, so she's gotta be at least some kind of good.
17 Grey Fox (Metal Gear Solid)
The amazingly-talented Miss Sinister Cosplay brings us this awesome version of Grey Fox from Metal Gear Solid. The detail in the body chest plates and mask are unparalleled.
She's been an active cosplayer to this day, doing awesome things with genderbending looks and portraying an especially bad ass Sith Lord. Grey Fox is a character that really wouldn't normally be cosplayed like this - you might see it in a full-on armor build, or if you're an Overwatch fan, you might just make a Genji cosplay and call it even. So getting such a spot-on look like this in body paint is a true testament to what a cool look Miss Sinister has pulled off here.
16 Samus (Metroid)
Do you know how many Zero Suit Samus body paint cosplays there are on the Internet? Exactly four billion and twelve. Do you know how many Chozo Armor Samus body paint cosplays are on the internet? Just this one.
Samus Aran has by far one of the most iconic suits of armor in all of video games, and somehow, this full-on body paint cosplay mixed with the epaulets, helmet, and arm cannon looks even better than the original. The coolest things here are in the details, of course, from the segmentation of the spine plates, the gaskets on her waist, and, of course, the little Triforce symbol they snuck in there. It all adds up to an excellent cosplay that we should see more of.
15 Master Chief (Halo)
Damn, another full suit of armor cosplayed with body paint. I have to say, it's really impressive. Body painter Paul Roustan has really knocked it out of the park here, and the model he got to do this on has a great steely gaze (among other things) to make you believe she could definitely be a gender bent Master Chief.
It's been over a decade since Halo was debuted on Xbox, and while everyone has had their lusty eyes set on Cortana since Halo 3 or 4, it's good to see that some people didn't forget about good ol' MC. He can be pretty too! Who would have thought this sturdy 6+ foot tall super solider would look so good as a genderbent cosplay.
14 April O'Neil (TMNT)
I have to say, the hottest version of April O'Neil as always been the variation from the classic '80s cartoon everyone knows and loves. Honestly, that's pretty much the way it should stay, especially since the newest version of April is a teenage girl, which is a huge red flag.
So! Here we have an amazing body paint by Allyson Averell who nails every wrinkle and detail of the Ms. O'Neil's incredibly yellow jumpsuit. While we might have played as the Turtles on the NES and SNES, rest assured, we have had her support since the first game. And this awesome look is just a great way to show off her other "assets" she brought to the team dynamic.
13 Navi (The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time)
Oh. My. Lord. It's (debatably) the most annoying character in video games, and not only is she not annoying, but she's also absolutely stunning. The model here goes by Bubbles cosplay, and the body painter goes by the Artistic Curves. AC's done quite a few different body paint cosplays (from Mass Effect and others). Bubbles herself is still quite active, and her talent is definitely worth a Google.
I just want to reiterate how irritated this cosplay makes me, and how it should get under your skin as well. Not only is this a beautiful cosplay, but it also makes me want to sympathize with the annoying little firefly. You know, maybe get her number. See if she likes Netflix. Normal friend stuff.
12 Pikachu (Do I Really Need To Spell This One Out?)
This is another makeup YouTuber by the name of Jordan Hanz. She has two looks on this list, and here we have the lesser of the two. Not for lack of skill and talent, mind you, just because this look comes off less "hot" and a lot more "creepy." Something about the gleaming 'doll's eyes' look of Pikachu's eyes combined with the wide open mouth that's more "Joker's grin" than "Pika Pika!" makes for a kind of disturbing interpretation of the most famous Pokémon on the planet. Still, it's got its own kind of hotness to it, with the platinum blond wig and the pika-ears, so it's not completely a turn-off. And creepy or not, you have to admit it's a badass makeup look.
11 M. Bison (Street Fighter II)
From shoulder pads to gloves, this Bison X Cammy cosplay is striking as can be. Even her pose and piercing stare conveys dominance and a strong will. It goes to show how powerful a good cosplay can be when a model can completely take over a character.This model/cosplayer here goes by the name of Biancaflowerz, and the body painter once again is JSN Art. It's kinda hard to believe that we've been fighting Bison in one form or another for 26 years now, and every time he's managed to kick our asses despite him having severe cataracts. I guess when you're channeling Psycho energy, you don't need to see where you're going.
10 Mudkip (Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire)
I'm not sure if you guys are aware, but people have been on the Internet for a very long time. They've also been painting each other's naked bodies for even longer. It's only recently we've been able to post high-resolution 4K images of each other for everyone to enjoy. Shown here is an example of the latter. For starters, I found this thing over on ytmnd.com, the viral Internet website from back before viral was even a term. But here we have a wonderful woman deciding to take her favorite Pokémon to the next level. And I don't think I've ever said this before, but she definitely did have the figure to do justice to Mudkip. And by justice, I mean completely invert the feelings I get when I think of Mudkip.
9 Magikarp (Pokemon Red & Blue)
Dude, if this Magikarp is this buff BEFORE it evolves into a Gyarados, I can't even comprehend the massive destruction this Pokémon could bring upon us all once his true power was unleashed. Thankfully, we just have this little guy, who is probably a fan of Ed Hardy trucker hats, but obviously not shirts.
He's come a long way since Pokémon Red and Blue, it's true, but honestly, if you've been getting the hate Magikarp has been getting for years, you'd probably want to give yourself a makeover. This legit looks like a Magikarp that knows Brick Break, but if you get it into the club on the weekend, it will Flail on the dance floor like no one's business.
8 Dixie Kong (Donkey Kong Country 2)
So this might just be the most reaching body paint cosplay I've got on this list, but it was too funny not to include. In wanting to find the silliest possible body paints, I came across this little imgur post and couldn't help a giggle. It's actually surprising how much fun people have doing their own body paint (without taking things into high gear and paying a professional photographer). There isn't any credit to give out here because none was posted, but I do have to applaud newbies having much with the craft. Bonus points for having Dixie Kong striking a great pose! Most body paint cosplays are stoic, this is a bit more amateur, and a lot of fun because of it.
7 The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Sure, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may be a cross-media sensation, but they had three solid games on the NES (with varying degrees of difficulty). Moreover, the franchise is known for creating one of the best 2D beat 'em ups ever released on the SNES — so it's fair to say they've earned their place in the classic console hall of fame. So imagine my surprise when I find not one, but all four of these guys body painted in nothing but skivvies and weaponry. The artist is a body painter Phillip Bonneau, and he's also done some other, bizarre cosplay photo shoots, so these beef cakey versions of the turtles are kinda par for the course with him. Either way, it's a really cool look that proves that body paint cosplay doesn't have to be all ladies.
6 Shiva (Final Fantasy)
Shiva, from Final Fantasy III and on, has never had an outfit that left much to the imagination. Which makes it perfect for body painting! Here we have Sarah Esperkin doing a shoot as Shiva, specifically from FFXIV, but it's not like that really matters. For some reason, the god of ice-cold temperatures in Final Fantasy doesn't know the first thing about dressing for them.
Which, I mean, come on now. Are we really going to complain when her design gives us stuff like this?
Though from this shoot, we can see the dangers of being naked when your signature move is called "Diamond Dust." If it's anything like glitter, no amount of scrubbing is going to completely prevent all the diamond dust from getting stuck in corners of your body you didn't even know existed.
5 Mario. Yeah, THAT Mario.
So, most cosplay of Mario is fairly straightforward. Red outfit, cap, kinda chubby dude (or in my case, extremely chubby dude), overalls, and have a good day. But then we get something like this, and when we look at it, and we get a bit confused. We know what we're supposed to be seeing here. But what we're really seeing is just a damn fine woman body-painted to look like the greasy plumber we've been playing for over thirty damn years. I mean, 'hot' Mario is not an uncommon trope in cosplay, but it's kinda rare in body paint. And you know what? It's kinda sad it's not because, with a model like this, there's really no bad body paint cosplay possible.
4 Kratos (God Of War)
Damn, dude. This guy's cosplay of Kratos, everyone's favorite new hot dad on PlayStation, is spot-on in its construction and execution. The detail that he's put into his body paint is nothing short of fantastic. His ashen look and muscle detail is so intricate that you kind of miss all of the red tattoos he's known for, under which the skin detail is still visible! Even his extra touch of adding black contacts to look even more menacing is great. The detail makes the cosplay 'pop'; it communicates anger, violence, and power. You almost feel like he could tear your limbs off the way Kratos does in-game.
3 Rash (Battletoads)
Dude, I could not have asked for a cooler look in body paint here. Battletoads, the classic impossible-to-beat NES game feared and loathed by many, isn't exactly known for its popularity in the cosplay community outside of its antagonist, who is essentially Elvira minus the vampire makeup. So imagine my surprise when the search term "Battletoads body paint cosplay" got me an honest-to-goodness Battletoad!
This is Rash, aka Player 1 in the original. The body painter (seen in the red pants) goes by the name of Lana Chromium. The detail in his body work along with the Battletoads symbol on his arms are really cool, but the real wow factor here comes with the detail on his face. His eyebrows and the jester-like smile are features that completely mesh with his toadish appearance, but make the person's face even weirder and more interesting.
2 Zelda (The Legend Of Zelda)
Hey guys, Madeyewlook's back! And this time she's cosplaying Zelda from Breath of the Wild! Yeah sure, it's not the most recent incarnation of everyone's favorite princess, but since she's been in relatively the same outfit with the exceptions of Phantom Hourglass and Wind Waker, it doesn't really matter.
She's got a great attention to detail with the cross-hatching in the décolletage piece, and the shadows on the gold trim are a wonderful touch. Even the elf ears and wig just send it over the top. And while we never see below her bust line, you can be sure that if she were to do the whole look, she'd figure out a way to make her legs look flawless.
1 Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)
Oh my, somebody's polygons got overextended here in the best possible way. The matriarch of 'adult' charged video game heroines, Lara Croft, has been the star of video games, movies, and so much more. Here we see cosplayer Ivette Maldonado (aka Ivy Cosplay) as the canvas for body painter JP Designs to work his magic. And even if his magic was lackluster (it isn't), Ivette has the looks to set this photo shoot on fire with just a look. She's even a pretty solid dead ringer for Lara as well, so that's always a plus.
It may be awhile until the next Tomb Raider game, but thankfully we have cosplay to get us through. And thanks to classic Lara's outfit, we'll keep seeing it cosplayed in body paint.