Happy belated royal birthday, Yang Dipertuan Agong of Malaysia. To most of us in Malaysia, it’s a nice long weekend. But for some of us (sorta) hard at work at Kakuchopurei and definitely, DEFINITELY not distracted by Marvel’s Spider-Man on the PS4, it’s another opportunity to reminisce about the best kings and queens of video game culture. Because by golly there’s a ton of them who deserves their time in the spotlight as of late.
Here are our personal favourites. Just one major rule: Our finely-selected rulers, be it male or female, needs to at least rule a nation and is the official monarch of said fictional nation. Yes, title and all.
Princess Peach (Mario Series)
Let’s start with the obvious ones from the Mushroom Kingdom. She rules over her Toadstool subjects, each of them with different colourful hats. And while she does get kidnapped way too often, she at least shows some initiative like rescuing Mario & Luigi in her own Nintendo DS game that showcases the company’s lack of understanding concerning women & stereotyping them.
She has shown her competence in taking action & maintaining a stable Toad government via titles like the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi RPGs and even that Super Mario 3D World game where she’s the most OP platformer in the game. That hovering dress must have been cooked up by a crack team of Toad scientists, yo!
Princess Zelda’s Dad/King of Hyrule/King Rhoam (The Legend of Zelda Series)
While the Princess of Hyrule gets top billing instead of her loyal manservant-knight-elf-person, she deserves less when it comes to keeping Hyrule in check. That honour should go to her dad in the many Zelda games. He’s the true ruler of Hyrule, not his daughter who loves going on adventures and solving nearly-unsolvable myths instead of governing her own country. Or getting kidnapped or overpowered by Ganon/Ganondorf.
King Bowser (Mario Series)
He runs the ever-changing Koopa nation that runs either in a daimyo estate-influenced nation or a carnival-savvy one. As much as a despot he is, you can’t say he doesn’t keep up with the times. Even if he plans mostly around kidnappings, he at least runs an efficient brigade and military army filled with flying turtles, mutant mushrooms, and linebackers.
He’s also known to be a better family man than other dads in the video game world, having to raise and deal with 8 Koopalings (the 7 from Super Mario Bros. 3 + Bowser Jr). If you can deal with self-destructive children on a daily basis, running a military kingdom with flying castles and lava moats should be easy-peasy stuff.
King K.Rool (Donkey Kong Country Series)
Also another military leader in the footsteps of Bowser, this crocodile giant instead wants to steal Donkey Kong’s banana stash and even the big man DK himself in subsequent escapades.
He’s not only a monarch, but also a pirate captain, a mad scientist, and a pugilist. He also happens to be accompanied with a pretty kickass DKC last boss theme that starts off all jolly, then goes into sinister territory. Nintendo knew his importance in the DKC legacy, so much so that he’s making a comeback in the upcoming Super Smash Bros. Ultimate games.
Emily Caldwell (Dishonored Series)
This queen means business and can get her hands dirty if needed. While she was a defenceless young one in the first game and needed Corvo’s help 99% of the time, she came on her own in the not-as-good-but-still-decent sequel.
Just when you think you can usurp her throne, she comes crawling back and kicking ass with powers from the Outsider. She can shadow walk, use Far Reach to jump from one end to another undetected, and can cast Domino which lets her take down her marked targets simultaneously. It’s up to you if you want to make her a decent queen or an iron throne monarch. With the s*** she’s been through, you can understand why most of us want her to start making the kingdom of Karnaca her bitch.
Noctis Lucis Caelum (Final Fantasy XV)
We can’t have a feature about kings without mentioning the most recent Final Fantasy title where you get to play as a king. About an hour or less, your old man King Regis bites it thanks to an assault from warring neighbourhood country Niflheim -on that note, stop naming your countries after ominous mythical places, Square Enix.
This, of course, puts you next in line as the “True King” who will save the world of Eos from complete darkness. So what does our dear boy do together with his kingsguard? Go fishing, hunt monsters, and help out people while riding on giant fantasy chickens. Forget all that responsibility of country-ruling and paperwork and dealing with neighbourhood countries; these guys know where the real country-shaping priorities are at.
M.Bison (Street Fighter Series)
M.Bison (or Vega if you’re from Japan) is the stylish-looking self-proclaimed emperor of the Shadaloo nation who is obsessed with mastering his Psycho power and also the Satsui no Hadou. His obsession is so messed up he hosts international tournaments just to gauge the best fighters and get them together so he can take the winner’s power for himself.
Oh, and he wrecked up the lives of a cheongsam-wearing Interpol agent, a British blonde cat-lover who wears one-pieces, a friend of a soldier he killed (who became a zombie), and countless other folks. To us FGC folks, he’s the SFV douchebag with the high-priority scissors kick and that forward HP safe attack that teaches people not to mash lest you have a quarter of your life gone.
M.Bison is also portrayed by both a Shakespearean actor and that bad guy in Arrow in live-action films that made people go “did Hollywood really greenlit that?” He met his end in Street Fighter V where he’s vanquished by the power of Ryu’s spirit energy/Super Hadouken. Rest in peace/pieces, tyrant of Shadaloo.
Shao Kahn (Mortal Kombat Series)
All hail the other big bad boss of video games: Shao Kahn, the ruler of the Outer Realm and one other sole reason why Mortal Kombat is a fighting game crowd favourite if it weren’t for those pesky blue and yellow ninjas usually at the top spot.
When he’s not making up tournaments to rule countries and dimensions, he hypnotizes a woman from another kingdom to willfully be his wife, makes a near-perfect clone of his own daughter to be his obedient servant, and had a throwdown with the Justice League at one point.
He’s also a textbook example of a king who gets his hands dirty when dealing with Earth people and gods trying to usurp his rule. He lays the beatdown so hard that he’s considered even worse than most SNK bosses especially in the 2011 reboot of the Mortal Kombat franchise.
Despite the fact that he looks like a rejected 90s WWF Attitude Era gimmick, Shao Kahn is the reason why people keep cursing when they’re almost at the end of Mortal Kombat 2 and 3. He leaves quite an impact, to say the least.
Arthas Menethil (World of Warcraft series)
The previous Lich King is a cautionary tale of what happens when you push people away in your pursuit of vengeance and power, a plot thread that’s worn out by many a fantasy novel for teenagers.
Still, there’s some merit to this guys’ look and presence since so many Warcraft fans enjoyed the series’ lore so much. He killed a number of major players in Warcraft’s lore and cemented himself as a de facto adversary of the realm, and he appreciates his undead subjects, armies, and his close necromancer buddy Kel’Thuzad.
Kerrigan (Starcraft Series)
The Queen of Blades, long may she reign as she puts the beatdown on her Terran oppressors and betrayers. Formerly a Terran covert operative, she and her squad were overrun by the Zerg during a mission which her boss Arcturus Mengsk set her up with.
The Zerg made her the new queen, and she swears vengeance on Mengsk. She got around to it in Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm in a climax every Starcraft fan wanted since Starcraft: Brood Wars. Along the way, she displays a mix of mercilessness when dealing with her oppressors while also being sympathetic towards the Terrans who temporarily support her as well as the OG Primal Zergs. She’s all business in the end, much like the queen bee is to her hive.
The King of All Cosmos (Katamari Damacy Series)
Let’s cap off this list with the weirdest one of all: The King of All Cosmos. Yes, he screws up more than he creates and governs. While he makes stars and galaxies, he’s usually the cause of the destroyed stars in the first Katamari Damacy game.
Hell, the situation was so bad, he asks his son The Prince to clean up his mess with a magic ball that gathers stuff on Earth and grows super-big to the point of absurdity. He even caused a black hole incident via an intergalactic tennis match with his wife that undid the Prince’s effort from the past game. The planet and galaxy’s restoration all rests on The Prince and his cousins’ efforts.
Wait, why was he nominated on this list again? Oh yeah, because he talks in scratch disc noises and he does own up to his mistakes. Most of the time.
And those are the kings and queens we can spare on this list. Let us know your favourite regal rulers in video game history on our Facebook page and here too.