More than any other genre, fighting games are character-driven. As such, they’re filled to the brim with interesting figures, from the noble and heroic to the deviously villainous. But sometimes, these characters transcend this simple scale with their outright creepiness, with backstories or gameplay mechanics that give us the chills instead of simply inspiring admiration or scorn.
In this list, you’ll become acquainted with genetic experiments that can remove their heads at will, fighters adorned with fetish gear, and even a giant demon whose favorite pastime is devouring children. Buckle up, because things are about to get weird.
10. Hsien-Ko and Mei-Ling (Darkstalkers)
Apart from being an excellent series in its own right, the Darkstalkers franchise is perhaps most famous for incorporating familiar horror tropes from around the world into a coherent, breathing universe. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Darkstalkers has its own fair share of creepy characters, but none are as spine-tingling as twin sisters Hsien-Ko and Mei-Ling.
Hsien-Ko is a jiangshi, a creature from Chinese folklore that most closely resembles a zombie or vampire. Her transformation occurred when the sisters attempted to rescue their mother’s soul from the afterlife following an attack on their village by restless spirits. Unlike typical jiangshi, Hsien-Ko was able to keep her faculties intact thanks to Mei-Ling, who was turned into the ward attached to her sister’s forehead.
Forgetting the abject body horror of being turned into an unfeeling zombie or a slip of damn paper, Darkstalkers lore indicates that Hsien-Ko and Mei-Ling are destined to continue hunting monsters forever. Upon finally saving their mother and dying in the process, they are reincarnated and reborn into new lives, only to have their souls forced back into service on their 16th birthdays. Never knowing when you’ll be ripped from your happy life to hunt down werewolves and vampires must certainly be an unsettling feeling.
9. Voldo (Soulcalibur)
Voldo is Soulcalibur’s resident creeper, best known for his outlandish outfits consisting of leather, fishnets, codpieces, and other forms of fetishistic apparel. His eyes and mouth are typically covered, restricting his language skills to a series of moans and hisses, and he contorts his body in unnatural ways during battle. The most gut-wrenching part of Voldo’s character, however, is the obsessive mission that forms the crux of his backstory.
In the early years of Soulcalibur lore, Voldo served as the personal guard of an Italian weapons merchant named Vercci. As the pair scoured the world for a rare weapon known as the Soul Edge, word reached them that war had broken out in Italy, jeopardizing Vercci’s fortune. In desperation, Vercci dug an immense vault off the coast of Sicily to serve as his tomb, enshrining himself with the rest of his worldly possessions. Voldo was commanded to kill the sailors that helped construct the vault and then seal himself inside to protect Vercci’s fortune.
Although he frequently spends years inside the vault, Voldo is known to emerge when rumors of Soul Edge’s location reach him. After one such journey, he returned to find the tomb looted, sending Voldo into a spiral that saw him travel the world to dispatch of the thieves and return his master’s treasure. The obsession with honoring Vercci’s last wish caused Voldo to lose his mind, his actions driven by his master’s disembodied voice and spiritual visage.
8. Q (Street Fighter)
Despite only being playable in Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, Q has remained a fan favorite in the fighting game community since his first appearance. The mysteries surrounding his backstory and motives continue to make him a compelling figure in Street Fighter lore, but this lack of information also contributes to some of the more creepy aspects of his gameplay.
Though humanoid in appearance, Q’s movement and attacks often seem robotic in nature. When entering a match, throngs of screaming onlookers flee at his appearance. And in the few cases where he shows emotion, he refers to himself as an abomination, even shedding an occasional tear over his fallen foes.
It’s tempting to make assumptions about Q’s history without official word from the developers, but theorizing can lead to some really disturbing places. Was Q once human, outfitted with robotic parts after some unexplained tragedy? Is he being forced to destroy opponents by the same unseen benefactor? We’ll probably never know, and Q is all the more macabre for it.
7. Zappa (Guilty Gear)
The world of Guilty Gear is a harsh one. Mankind is under constant threat of attack by the Gears, artificial creatures that were designed to serve humans but eventually became biological weapons of war. One such creation, Justice, commands a multitude of Gears, and, in a genocidal rampage, even saw to the complete destruction of Japan. But even with all that going on, one particular character found himself possessed by a vengeful spirit dictating his entire life.
Upon his first introduction in Guilty Gear XX, Zappa was revealed to be infected by a “mind parasite” known as S-Ko. While Zappa is kindhearted and polite, worried more about settling down and finding a wife than with fighting, S-Ko’s manifestation often forces him into dangerous situations with other members of the cast. Zappa is not aware of what he does during these times, believing that he faints and awakes with strange wounds due to an illness he’s constantly looking to cure.
When observed during battle, Zappa’s affliction becomes clear. To keep him safe from incoming attacks, S-Ko contorts and transforms Zappa’s body with moves that incorporate visually disturbing imagery like head-protruding limbs and a vomiting mouth on his back. If that’s not enough to creep out your opponents, S-Ko’s appearance (which is modeled after Ringu/The Ring’s Sadako/Samara) will definitely seal the deal.
6. Q-Bee (Darkstalkers)
Another Darkstalkers veteran, Q-Bee belongs to a race of insects known as Soul Bees. As her name suggests, she’s their queen, and is capable of transforming into her humanoid form to fight the various other strange creatures that make up the franchise’s cast.
Soul Bees typically have the intelligence of a toddler, and prefer stealing souls to sustain the hive rather over philosophical conversations. Darkstalkers antagonist Jedah takes advantage of this pliability to use them as soldiers, raising concerns over whether they truly understand the dark work he is conscripting them to do.
Q-Bee herself is a good deal smarter than her counterparts, making her appearance the creepiest thing about her. On the surface, she seems to be a cute anthropomorphized bee, but the truth is much more sinister. The large purple appendages on Q-Bee’s head are her real eyes, and the “face” is really just camouflage that she uses to lure in unsuspecting humans. So be careful the next time you look to recreate Bee Movie in real life; you might just lose your soul.
5. Meat (Mortal Kombat)
In a series as disgusting as Mortal Kombat (and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible), choosing just one creepy character is hard. But even with the copious amounts of face-eating and limb-ripping monstrosities in the Mortal Kombat universe, science has concluded that the most disturbing character in the series canon is definitely Meat.
Meat is exactly what he sounds like: a hunk of meat. Once an experiment in Shang Tsung’s Flesh Pits (a sort of biological factory dedicated to pumping out genetically-engineered soldiers), Meat escaped before he could be completed and now wanders the world as a bloody mass of muscle and tissue.
While he was originally implemented in Mortal Kombat as a mimic character, Meat eventually developed his own unique fighting style. In combat, he makes great use of his pain immunity by mutilating his body in various ways. Some of the more disturbing see this unfortunate combatant use his own head as a rolling projectile, zip across the ground like some sort of bloody Slip ‘n Slide, and even tug on his own eyeball to restore some health. One thing’s for sure: you’re going to want to keep some hand sanitizer in your back pocket when fighting this character.
4. Hisako (Killer Instinct)
Killer Instinct newcomer Hisako is a horror film made flesh. Not only does she, like Zappa’s companion S-Ko, look strikingly similar to the young antagonist from Ringu/The Ring, she’s also capable of going from slow shamble to quick strikes in an instant. The best horror movie monsters can seemingly appear anywhere at any time, and Hisako honors that tradition perfectly. Her backstory, however, is much more tragic.
Previously known as Chiharu, Hisako lived a simple life in a small village as the daughter of a ronin samurai. Life was peaceful, but Hisako’s father thought it his obligation to train his child in the art of war, skills that were put to use when their village was attacked by the spurned son of a renegade shogun.
Though she and the rest of her family died in the attack, Hisako was able to protect a number of villagers and inspire them to fight back before she passed away. The village and the shrine they built in Hisako’s honor endured decades of war, only to be disturbed by Killer Instinct antagonist ARIA. Now, Hisako wanders the world, consumed by her thirst for revenge and unable to find peace.
3. Relius Clover (BlazBlue)
Appearances play a big part in the creepiness of many characters on this list, but BlazBlue’s Relius Clover is different. On the outside, he seems to be a perfectly normal human being, if not a little eccentric with his mask and cape, but Relius’ relatively benign exterior hides a disturbing center that becomes exposed during gameplay.
Where his son Carl is loving, empathetic child, Relius is a cold, calculating monster devoid of feelings. While his ultimate goals remain unknown, Relius at some point in his life turned both his wife and daughter into mechanical puppets, removing their humanity and turning them into weapons.
The most disturbing of Relius’ acts, however, are exposed in his Astral Finish, a form of instant kill attack available to all BlazBlue characters. Instead of unleashing a powerful attack, Relius’ Astral Finish sees the character ensnare his opponents in a variety of violent scenarios, including crucifixion, drowning, and some rather sexualized forms of torture. As the doors close, it’s hard not to dwell on the horrible experiments Relius is about to conduct in secret.
2. Peacock (Skullgirls)
In spite of its dark, art deco style, indie hit Skullgirls is an incredibly beautiful fighter when all is said and done. But one character, the oddball Peacock, reveals just how disturbing the world of Skullgirls can be.
Peacock lived for years as a slave after being orphaned by war. Though her body and mind were broken by years of abuse, she is given a second chance at life when a group of scientists seek to weaponize her against the game’s eponymous antagonist. Unfortunately, little could be done for her damaged psyche.
Due to her love for cartoons, Peacock embodies the aesthetics of popular children’s shows from the 1940s and 50s. Her zany exterior and upbeat personality mask her horrific past, hiding a world of pain under her precocious surface.
1. Kusaregedo (Samurai Shodown)
Samurai Shodown’s Kusaregedo stands out, not only for his immense size compared to the rest of the cast but also because of his backstory.
A cannibal in life, Kusaregedo was transformed into a gaki upon his death and inflicted with an insatiable appetite, driving him to hunt down and eat children (including his own daughter) in an effort to finally feel full. Many of Kusaregedo’s attacks focus on the exposed bone that juts from his arm, and a particularly nasty super attack sees the giant beast completely devour his opponent.
The weirdest part of Kusaregedo’s character, however, has to do with a pre-fight quote. In the localized version of Samurai Shodown VI, the creature admits to being a member of NAMBLA, a pedophile advocacy organization that once sought to abolish age-of-consent laws in the United States. Whether a sick joke by English translators or the developers’ true intentions, this weird bit of trivia makes Kusaregedo one of the creepiest characters in all of fighting game history.
Ian Walker is a freelance writer who is trying his best to cover the world of fighting games even if he’s not all that good at them. You can find him on Twitter at @iantothemax.