Didn’t Expect To See You Here: 5 Influential Fighting Game Guest Characters

Fighting games have always been able to simultaneously experiment and innovate while staying true to their roots in the best of ways. Mechanics change, crossovers take place, and evolution occurs. One of the best examples of all three can be seen in the coveted guest character.

The first instance of this took place in the 90’s and was definitely capitalized on in the King of Fighters series. However, the concept of a guest fighter arguably became a mainstream affair in the 2000’s. It became almost expected by the time the 2010‘s rolled around, with nearly every fighting game featuring characters from completely different IPs. Today, we’ll be going over 5 of the biggest crossover characters, and how they shook up their respective franchises.

Freddy Krueger (Mortal Kombat 9)

Up until the 2010’s, the idea of a guest character in a Mortal Kombat game was foreign. Now it’s routine to see people on MK forums debate on who the next guest should be. This trend in the franchise began with the horror icon Freddy Krueger.

When he was announced as DLC for Mortal Kombat 2011, people lost their minds. The idea of a legendary slasher invading the world of MK was something I doubt many expected. Regardless, it was awesome when it happened. His appearance helped define the Mortal Kombat game of that generation, and set some wheels in motion that would change the franchise forever. The following entry would include four more horror icons with a Xenomorph, Predator, Jason, and Leatherface.

Negan Smith (Tekken 7)

Between Tekken 3 and 7, there have been a slew of unpredictable guest appearances. While Gon was more in line with the type of random guest most would expect from a Tekken game, Tekken 7‘s inclusion of Negan was more unexpected.

While both characters aren’t from fighting-adjacent IP’s, Negan was based on Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s role in the Walking Dead TV show. To have a comic book character could be expected, but a celebrity guest character wasn’t as common in fighting games. Watching a bat wielding villain from a zombie apocalypse fight a Mishima was never on my Tekken bingo card. Before Mortal Kombat 1 featured John Cena’s Peacemaker, there was Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan.

Heihachi Mishima (Soul Calibur 2)

While guest characters became commonplace on Soul Calibur games, Soul Calibur 2 did it in an interesting way. GameCube got Link and Xbox received Spawn, is PlayStation players got Tekken’s Heihachi.

He’s not an outright odd guest, but it was wild to see an unarmed combatant in a game about fighting with weapons. Not only that, but he was extremely broken, capable of wiping out opponents in 3 hits. If you want to find a rule breaking guest character, you don’t need to look any further. Don’t bring a sword to a fistfight against Heihachi, apparently.

Mai Shiranui (Dead or Alive 5)

Before Geese joined Tekken 7, Fatal Fury regular Mai Shiranui made the crossover from 2D to 3D in DoA 5. Her appearance in the series showed that characters can translate well between dimensions without sacrificing what makes them unique.

Her fighting style worked well in Dead or Alive, and even her special moves held up without changing her fundamentals. At the end of the day, Mai being included in a DoA game just makes sense. Geese would perfect the move from Fatal Fury to the 3D Tekken series, but Mai walked so he could run. Make no mistake though, she is no slouch of a guest character.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Injustice 2)

If you grew up in any decade since the late 80’s, you’re more than likely familiar with a little group known as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They have been reworked and revived for generations, and they’re iconic characters at this point. The heroes in a half shell are no stranger to the medium of video games, but before Injustice 2, their only fighting game appearance was in their own beat em ups. Injustice 2 was a perfect place for them to appear in the genre, as it was a game that centered around comic book fighters. In a world filled with superheroes, gods, and supernatural beings, these reptile mutants stand out. But what makes them really unique is they function as one character, from the way they were selected to their gameplay. Whenever I play Injustice 2, chances are I’m going to pick one of these reptilian ninjas.

Guest characters can bring in new fans and break a game if done incorrectly. These guest fighters managed to lay the blueprint for how these different crossovers should be handled. None of them came across as some kind of lazy gimmick, and showed that there’s no real limit to what a guest character can be if handled with passion and care. Without Freddy Krueger, we wouldn’t have had Rambo, Jason, or RoboCop in the later MK games. Without Mai Shiranui making the leap to 3D, we may have never received Geese. The sky’s the limit, and with this new generation of fighting games, I’m excited to see what characters cross over.