What’s so special about a cameo? Sometimes, it’s the joy in seeing a creator reference past work. Other times, it’s the fun of seeing two of your favorite franchises collide for no apparent reason. Video games are full of secrets, and guest characters are part of that fun.
Some of these characters are hidden, some are easily accessible. Some are playable, some may be bosses. But they all have one thing in common. They show up in a game they have no business being in, and that’s why we love them.
Samus and Link in Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Mario, Zelda, and Metroid: the 1990s’ holy trinity for SNES-era Nintendo. Before the mega-crossover that is Super Smash Bros., three of Nintendo’s most iconic mascots shared the stage in this Square-developed RPG.
Both can be found sleeping in different inns at certain points in Mario’s journey. Link, true to his nature, doesn’t talk when interacted with, though a familiar jingle can be heard. Samus, however, is slightly more talkative, though she needs to rest because she’s preparing to face Mother Brain. These may be small and inconsequential, but they also set the stage for larger crossovers to come.
Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo in Injustice 2
Injustice 2 is a pretty grim game. To be fair, any storyline where Superman becomes an unhinged dictator is bound to be fairly dark. The inclusion of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brings a sort of levity to the proceedings. Even though this is a fighting game that includes characters from all corners of DC, the Turtles still stand out in the best way.
Even better, all four have their own unique weapons and moves. While they do share some similarities, they are, for the most part, four distinct fighters. This wasn’t wasn’t even the first time the heroes in a half-shell teamed up with DC superheroes. Since Injustice 2 also featured Hellboy (another great cameo), why not make Injustice 3 the Smash Bros. of sorts for comic book characters?
Thanos in Fortnite
Seriously, did anyone see this coming? Days after Avengers: Infinity War rocked the MCU to its core, Thanos decided to crash the battle royale sensation. In a special mode, players could find the Infinity Gauntlet, becoming the Mad Titan himself.
As soon as you got your hands on the Gauntlet, you could live out the ultimate power fantasy. There’s a reason only loot that was Rare or higher dropped in this mode. In fact, Thanos was tweaked mere hours after being unleashed upon Fortnite. Honestly, it’s a little disrespectful. When you have control of all the Infinity Stones, you should be all-powerful. Thanos may be long gone from Fortnite, but his impact remains.
Kratos in Shovel Knight
Shovel Knight is the gift that keeps on giving. This little gift came with the game’s first campaign. Naturally, the fight against Kratos is exclusive to all Sony versions of the game. But the fact that you fight against the God of War isn’t what makes this memorable. According to God of War director Cory Barlog, Krato’s appearance in Shovel Knight is 100% canon.
Apparently, our ashy friend came upon the knight during his journey to Scandinavia. Even more surreal is the fact that this fight hinted at the 2018 God of War before any of us had even known about it. The snow-covered trees were a huge clue, and the truth was under our noses this whole time! This is another case of a tonal mishmash (seriously, read Kratos’ Shovel Knight entry), but also one that works. Maybe it’s because Shovel Knight himself has become a staple cameo character himself?
Crash Bandicoot in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Before they were dealing in swashbuckling adventures, Naughty Dog created Australian-themed platformers. The developer has come a long way since its Crash Bandicoot days, but that doesn’t mean it’s afraid to embrace its history. Nathan and Elena Drake take a breather to play the original PlayStation platformer. Or, to be more exact, you get to play Crash Bandicoot right in Uncharted 4.
It was a delightful little scene that was not only a tribute to Naughty Dog’s past, but PlayStation’s past. It also helped bring the bandicoot back into the spotlight and set the stage for Crash to return in 2017 with the N. Sane Trilogy. We may have to keep waiting for a proper new Crash Bandicoot game, but at least the bandicoot is back.
Darth Vader and Yoda in Soulcalibur IV
Soulcalibur has become famous for its guest characters. Link shows up in Soulcalibur II, while Geralt of Rivia is making an appearance in Soulcalibur VI. The series likes to have fun with its cameos. Yet, none may be quite as bonkers as what Soulcalibur IV brought. Two iconic lightsaber-wielders joined the fight.
Darth Vader was available on the PlayStation 3, while Yoda was on the Xbox 360. Darth Vader’s apprentice from The Force Unleashed also showed up, but let’s be honest — that isn’t as fun. The developers even gave an in-depth explanation for why these characters were in the Soulcalibur universe. (Really, go check out the story explanation — it’s great.) Sadly, none of this is canon.
Cup Noodles in Final Fantasy XV
Seriously, has food ever looked this good before? Never before has such blatant product placement been so celebrated by the gaming community. In a wild turn of events, the food item was even turned into an in-game hat. There’s not much else to say here — truly one of gaming’s greatest cameos.
What are some of your favorite gaming cameos? Is there possibly any cameo better than Cup Noodles? Probably not, but you can try to think of one.