The Punch-Out!! series has had a wide variety of characters from many ethnicities and nationalities ever since it debuted in 1984. It may not be the best representation, but some of the characters are rather groundbreaking and represent a first for that ethnicity, nationality, or culture. For example, Great Tiger is one of the first if not the first Sikh character in a video game. So let’s look at some of these characters by talking about some of the best of the series.
10. Heike Kagero from Japan (Super Punch-Out!!, Super NES)
Heike Kagero is a character who not a lot of people know. He appears in the third Circuit of Super Punch-Out!! and does not appear in any later games. His is one of the most unique visual designs in the series, both in terms of his gameplay and his animations. One of his common attacks is a hair whip, and when he defeats you, he laughs in a foppish title. I do hope that Kagero shows up in the next Punch-Out!! Heck, I’ll just be happy if we ever get a next one.
9. Bear Hugger from Canada (Super Punch-Out!!, Arcade)
Bear Hugger was actually kind of “whatever” to me in his appearances on the Arcades and SNES. He was okay, but nothing special. At least his gimmick with being safe from gut punches is interesting. What really makes him stand out was the Wii game which added a ton of personality to him. His Canadian stereotypes are on the forefront of his character – lumberjackery, bear wrestling, maple syrup, hockey, etc. His Title Defense fight gives him another extra boost, as the gimmick of the squirrel, fake out attacks, and needing Star Punches to do real damage is cool.
8. Dragon Chan from China (Super Punch-Out!!, Arcade)
Much like Kagero, Dragon Chan stands out a lot from the rest of the characters in their respective games despite not getting a modern day appearance. His design is a combination of elements from Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, and he is an early standout character due to being a kickboxer. He moves very quickly around the boxing ring – at least relative to the other fighters at the time – and as such made it complicated to time. Didn’t help that he had an instant knockout attack!
7. Soda Popinski from Russia (Super Punch-Out!!, Arcade)
Originally known as Vodka Drunkenski in the arcade game (a name that changed for obvious reasons), Popinski is a lot of fun to fight in all of his games. He is a terrifying opponent in the original, where he had no real gimmick beyond being strong as all get out. He WILL knock you out without much effort. The real standout performance by Popinski was in the Wii game, where they incorporate his soda (*ahem*) drinking into his gameplay. He gets angry whenever you Star Punch him, but also when you knock the soda out of his hand. If you opt to not, he will just regain health. Plus, when he gets up, he drinks soda to gain his strength back and goes into a rage.
6. Disco Kid from the United States (Punch-Out!!, Wii)
Disco Kid is the only character created entirely by Wii game designers Next Level Games (though it’s believed that he is a take on the arcade character Kid Quick). Being a very early character in the game, he doesn’t do much to stand out. He’s very animated and amusing, but he and his dancing are not complemented by a super interesting gameplay gimmick. He really shines once you rematch him in Title Defense, where he goes from simply being a dancing fool to being a “boxercise” fool. He combines exercise moves with dance moves and his movements are way more difficult to predict.
5. Bald Bull from Turkey (Punch-Out!!, Arcade)
Along with King Hippo, Glass Joe, and Mike Tyson, Bald Bull is probably one of the most iconic characters in the entire series. He appears in every game in the series but one, and on top of that, he makes a cameo appearance as an opponent in the arcade game Arm Wrestling. Bald Bull’s big character gimmick was his rage, and his gameplay gimmick was the Bull Charge – the famous Punch-Out!! attack that is just as potentially deadly to him as it is to Little Mac. He carries these traits into each game he is in, but the Wii game’s Title Defense mode puts a fun spin on it. When you counter his Bull Charge, he survives it – the only way to reasonably knock him down is to counter him after he survives.
4. Mad Clown from Italy (Super Punch-Out!!, Super NES)
This character is the highest-ranked character on this list who only appears in one game, and is definitely the weirdest character to appear to date. Mad Clown is… well, a clown. A mad one at that (as in crazy I would assume). His character model is based on Bear Hugger’s, which was a common practice to get the most mileage out of your work and add more content. Mad Clown uses similar movements to Bear Hugger, but his real danger are how effectively he punishes a bad dodge and his special attack where he throws balls that you have to dodge (and it ain’t too easy to do).
3. Aran Ryan from Ireland (Super Punch-Out!!, Super NES)
Like Bear Hugger, Aran Ryan’s character got more interesting in his Wii appearance. However, Aran Ryan ranks so much higher as being THE breakout star of the Wii game. He is practically an entirely new character, being given the stereotype of not only the angry Irishman, but also a complete cheater. He headbutts you and even worse he hides horseshoes in his gloves and uses a boxing glove on a rope (how is that legal!? What is that referee doing?). You gotta keep track of him, as he is constantly bouncing around the arena. I also love how he can’t stand still during the intro like the other characters do and that when he knocks you down, he mocks you for having cheeseburgers in your gloves (!?).
2. Great Tiger from India (Super Punch-Out!!, Arcade)
Great Tiger may be, to quote Dan Avidan of Game Grumps, “the most racist one of ‘zem all” (Dan used a French accent for some reason), but he is still a lot of fun to fight, especially in the Wii game. All of his entries feature subtle attacks as well as a quick teleport attack. In Title Defense however, Great Tiger manipulates the elements to enhance his strength. He does have some problematic aspects, but at the very least he speaks Farsi in the Wii game!
1. Glass Joe from France (Punch-Out!!, Arcade)
Glass Joe may perhaps be the weakest character in franchise history (Gabby Jay is pretty bad, but story-wise his only win is against Glass Joe), but he is also the best. Glass Joe is so weak that he is often used as a litmus to test the quality of accessories. For example, the Angry Video Game Nerd fought him using a Power Glove, and bemoaned having lost to Glass Joe with it. Glass Joe really comes into his own in Title Defense, much like several other characters in the series. Basically, Glass Joe is diagnosed as being susceptible to concussions and is given headgear to help. Thus, you no longer can get your easy headshots on his glass jaw (heh), and Glass Joe can spend more time blocking himself from a well-timed gut punch. Do not be surprise if you lose.
Who are your favorite Punch-Out!! characters?
There are literally dozens of characters to choose from. And I definitely left off a lot of opponents that are fan favorites like King Hippo. So who are your favorite characters in the Punch-Out!! series? Do you have a nostalgia for Mike Tyson or Mr. Sandman, or are you a weirdo contrarian who absolutely loves Gabby Jay and Pizza Pasta? Let me know in the comments below!
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