African American Characters in Fighting games

African american characters in fighting games

The presence of African American video game characters in fighting games has been an interesting journey to say the least. Despite being one of the most influential races in the United States of America, you'll be be hard pressed to find black characters of African American descent in modern fighting games.

Several fighting games released between 2016 - 2017, King of Fighters XIV, Tekken 7, Marvel vs Capcom Infinite and all share something in common with one another, none of these games feature a single African American character.

The most surprising is MVC I: especially considering the Marvel universe has several black prominent African American heroes who could've been added to the game's roster such as Luke Cage, Misty Knight and Blade. Though to be frank we'd rather keep our focus on characters who originate from a video game series.

Over the years we've seen the rise and fall of black Americans in fighting games, with the 90s being a fad for such characters who were often imitations of famous boxers or heavily influenced by Hip hop and Rap culture. Nine times out of ten these characters were stereotypes with a criminal background.

Before we go any further we want to give credit to aarondavidharris for being one of the first bloggers to highlight African Americans in fighting games, an article published in 2015. Although we'd like to expand on this topic and shed the spotlight on other characters who are missing.

Majority of American-Americans in fighting games are limited to comedic, heavy muscle, sports or military roles and you'll have a hard time naming several serious black characters who are disciplined in Karate, Judo or Kung Fu. While Capoeira and Boxing are recognised martial arts, it would be refreshing to see a black character who utilises another form of martial arts for a change.

Now this is not to say that characters shouldn't embrace and express their culture boundaries, that's not what we are suggesting. It's actually pretty cool to see a dominant African American boxer or Hip hop brawler who are inspired by real life counterparts. The real problem arises when every black character is a boxer, dancer or former criminal with no redeem qualities.

90s african american characters in fighting games

In recent years it's actually been difficult to find any black American presentation, not counting Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat X, two fighting games which generally cater to a western audience.

 Overall this could well be because most of the video game companies who make fighting games are Japanese and their character designers have trouble coming up with a non stereotypical African American character.

So rather then create a new stereotypical character they leave them out altogether to avoid any controversy and negative press. This is all peculation of course, but if any of this is true then it wouldn't hurt to hire a freelance western character designer (preferably African American) who could help come up with proper ideas.

Harada did this for their first Arab character in Tekken 7 as his team would turn to the Middle Eastern gaming community for feedback about their planned new fighter which made sense. Now what's stopping other game developers from doing the same when developing a new character of black descent?

Street Fighter 1 was one of the first fighting games to feature a prominent black American character known as Mike. A non playable boss who was apparently based on Mike Tyson. Heavyweight boxer Mike spent time in prison for robbery and during this time behind bars he learnt how to box.

When released from prison, Mike began seeking out opponents in order to raise funds to aide the less fortunate in addition to contributing to his community by teaching youths how to box. Mike's backstory starts out generic but has a nice twist, the whole helping out his community is a refreshing attitude.

street fighter 1 mike


In the controversial Street Fighter II Intro, for many years fan believed that Mike was the African American fighter who was knocked out. Though in 2016 this theory was finally put to rest when it was revealed that the black man was known as Max, an active heavyweight boxer with tremendous speed and skill.

In contrast to his counterpart Scott, Max is a supposedly a mischief-maker who is often "punished" for his bad deeds and invests most of his cash in gambling. Mind you his profile was updated in 2016, but again this is the same Capcom who are king at making stereotypical fighters, so are you really surprised?

With the release of Street Fighter 2, Mike didn't return and was replaced by Balrog, a stereotypical boxer who loved money, women and would sell his very soul for eternal riches. Like Mike, Balrog first appeared in the series as a non playable boss in Street Fighter II before becoming playable in it's update.

Balrog is essentially Street Fighter's Mike Tyson, something Capcom has subtly hinted through out the series. In the Japanese version Balrog's name is M.Bison (Mike), though this was changed when Street Fighter II was localised in the United States due to a fear that of an impending lawsuit from the former heavyweight boxer.

One of Balrog's win quotes in Street Fighter Alpha 3, "If you fight like that again, I'll bite your ear off!" is a blatant reference to the infamous Mike Tyson vs Evan Holyfield II fight in which Tyson bit off Holyfield's ear during their legendary 1997 bout. Regardless of similarities, Balrog has since grown into his own character.

street fighter v balrog

In general Balrog is self-absorbed, hot-headed, arrogant and heartless to the core. He is an aggressive pugilist who fiends for money and a has a brutal, bullying mean streak, frequently refusing to take responsibility for his actions.

Despite being a former extraordinary prize boxer, Balrog has purposely cheated in his fights whenever he wanted to, and has even accidentally murdered an opponent. This is why Balrog is without a doubt one of the baddest and most exciting characters to ever appear in a fighting game series.

Unlike other Japanese video game companies such as SNK, Capcom didn't drop their African American representation. Which is funny because SNK has created more African American characters than Capcom who have only produced a whooping two in the entire series before Street Fighter V.

Street Fighter has introduced over nineteen Americans in total, but only four of them happen to be black. Though if you exclude Mike and Max, and Fair Libra as unplayable characters, then you're left with 1 black American character since 1991.

That's a genuinely low number in contrast to the whooping thirteen playable white American characters who have appeared throughout the series history.Though in Capcom's defence there has actually been other black Street fighters to appear in the series from other continents such as DeeJay, Elena and Birdie. While Capcom seem adamant on making Balrog their sole African American representative.

Final Fight is set in the same universe as Street Fighter and several characters made their debut appearance in Street Fighter IV. This game also featured numerous black npc throughout the series, although none has made their transition to the big one. Street Fighter V also introduces Byron Taylor.

Taylor is Guile's commander in the American military service, and was born in Texas.
He's hardheaded when it comes to his line of work and is proficient in Combat Sambo.
He doesn't have time to start a family mainly because his attitude towards work, although does own a small aeroplane and five dogs.

street fighter v byron taylor

Another character of interest is Santamu, one of the seven Shadaloo dolls who appeared as a non playable character in Street Fighter V's story mode. She was originally from Vietnamese but every art depicted her with very blackish features, depending on who you ask.

Hence the reason why we were slightly disappointed that Capcom didn't retcon her to be American. Reason being is that the series now has three African representatives but never before has Street Fighter featured an prominent black American female character, they're pretty much non existent in Capcom's universe.

Although one did appear in Street Fighter 3. The Judgement Girls are a band of women judges who first appear in the Street Fighter III series. Their role in the game is to determine who the victor is after a draw happens in the final round of any given match.

One of these judges is a tall African American female character born in Brooklyn, who wears a white tee, shorts and has roller skates on her feet. Fair Libra is a bubbly and friendly young woman who loves to dance and is a big fan of old school Hip hop. She has a close relationship with her father who is a professional saxophonist.

The series has never featured a playable African American female before and we believe Fair Libra would make a perfect newcomer in Street Fighter V or any sequel that follows. Capcom already has the character design and backstory for Libra, so implementing her into the series as a playable character wouldn't be too much effort.

black female character street fighter 3 fair libra

Fair Libra could pretty much be Area's rollerblading replacement in the series, a character who appeared in the Street fighter EX and fought while rollerskating. Capcom has always apparently wanted to create a new African American character after Balrog, but every time they try it ends up with the developers backtracking.

Which leads us onto Sean Matsuda, now you'll probably wondering what a Brazilian character has to do with this topic,but several theories point to Sean originally being from America until his story and identity was retconned to fit a new narrative. Our theory is that Sean was primitively from New York City.

Sean's stage in Street Fighter III: New Generation is New York City. His haircut is a hi-top fade with dreadlocks, while he wears a small earring. Sean is also a avid basketball player, a sport which is usually related to USA and his theme is a remix of Alex's, another American character in the game.

Lastly Sean is not a common Brazilian name. Also what's funny is that in Street Fighter III: Third Strike, Sean's bonus stage is a basketball court in an obvious downtown metropolis stage. This Next Generation article from 1997 proves Sean was American, once and for all.

If Capcom had intended for Sean to be Brazilian from the start, then why is his favourite pastime Basketball and not football, the most popular sport in Brazil. When you put all the pieces together you can see Sean was originally portrayed as an African American teenager until Capcom turned sour on the idea and made Sean Brazilian, a nationality which we believe was in fact intended for Elena hence her Capoeira fighting style.

Street Fighter 3 Sean Matsuda

Capcom furthered developed this retcon by making Laura Matsuda his sibling in Street Fighter 5 and revealing their bi-racial family tree, a weird thing considering Laura and Sean are pretty much the only characters in the game who have their entire lineage exposed to such an extent. Capcom wanted to hammer it into everyone's head that Sean and his sibling were Brazilian fighters with mixed ancestry.

Instead of making Sean Laura's brother, Capcom could've just done with the original concept for Sean and kept him American. As originally stated, there's only being one playable African American in the entire series and Sean would've been perfect as a black shoto. It's displeasing to know that Sean's character was butchered and his ethnicity changed.

There's no shortage of Brazilian characters, heck at this very moment Street Fighter has three playable Brazilians characters, but rarely do you see African American fighters represented. Not only did they change his nationality but they also gave Sean Japanese blood, in similar fashion to Ken Masters and R.Mika.

This isn't the first time Capcom dropped the ball either. In 2009, Street Fighter IV introduced a new generation of street fighters. One of these characters was a fat joke character called Rufus, though he wasn't always so comical in appearance or pale in complexion.

Rufus's original design was completely different to his final in game appearance, for one he was an African American martial artist known as King Cobra who fought with Break kung Fu and was heavily influenced by Hip Hop culture. That's right, at one point Capcom had plans to create a hip new character for it's american playerbase again.

Instead Capcom done the unthinkable and transformed King Cobra into Rufus. Not to say there isn't a place for joke characters, but rarely do you see gi wearing black martial artists represented in fighting games and this could've been a game changer in fighting game history, which may have opened the door for more black American characters who Incorporated new martial arts into their fighting style.

Capcom obviously got cold feet, but could it have been because they were worried this new character would rival their golden boys Ryu and Ken in terms of popularity? Who knows, but one thing that's certain is the fact that Capcom missed a huge opportunity in creating an influential character for years to come.

First Sean and now King Cobra, why does Capcom keep botching the debut of an African American shoto? We're sure many would agree that it's been long overdue for a new African American character to make their debut in Street Fighter. Capcom always come so close yet always choose not go go through with it. Does someone at Capcom have disdain for such a character?

It's never too late to bring in King Cobra or a character in similar appearance to him. For years many fans have been pushing for Capcom to introduce the American fighter to their game but it's fallen on deaf ears.

Capcom are known for not listening to fan requests which leads to worry. Though deep down we feel King Cobra or a similar Black American character will eventually made an appearance and it will be a glorious day, and no we're not referring to Sean.
Street fighter v king cobra

Fighting games on a whole have been missing an African American gi wearing martial artist, which is disappointing as during the golden age of martial arts in America there was prominent black Martial artists who dominated competition during the 1960s and 70s. Some going as far as to create their own viable martial arts system and pioneering organised fighting as we know it today.

Black people have conceived some of the greatest martial arts teachers in the western world who were also champions in the far East. Many black people in America, who took a acute interest in martial arts back in the 1950's and 60's were war veterans, returning from military service in Japan and Korea.

They may have studied from Asian masters as an starting point, but upon studying deeper they were enlightened that the Nuba of the Sudan had practised Martial Arts (Montu Arts) thousands of years ago.

The iconic Martial Artist Jim Kelly, starred in films such as "Enter the Dragon" with Bruce Lee and "Black Belt Jones", including several other movies. His cinematic occurrences were a demonstration of black athleticism and he inspired a whole generation of black youth to participate in Martial Arts.

When it comes to actual Martial Arts skill in films in this era, it’s hard to snub Michael Jai White. He’s a man with a dominating presence, intimidatingly reinforced physique and a martial arts background that is world class, with 8 black belts and 40 years of training. It doesn’t hurt to mention that his fight scenes are smooth and exciting!

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is no stranger to looking down at his opponents, he stands at an unbelievable 7’2″. Abdul-Jabbar made his movie debut in what was Bruce Lee's last sighting on the big screen in the ironic film name Game of Death. Kareem Jabbar, who was no armature of martial arts during his movie debut, actually trained under Lee for several years prior.


black martial artists

Regrettably none of this is reflected in fighting games and the only recognised "former black American" shoto martial artist is Sean Matsuda, a dark skinned Brazilian whose whole story is written as one big joke. King Cobra would've been the perfect character to fill the void in regards to a serious and dominant black martial artist who didn't only use his fist to box, but Capcom to this day refuses to make this a reality

Let's not forget Capcom recently created a "B-boy" version of Chun Li and Ryu, giving them clothes which were heavily influenced by Hip-hop culture, Ryu pretty much looked like a low budget version of Ll Cool J. This is what fighting games on a whole are missing, a young, hip and assertive Black American character endowed in style.

Shaolin vs Wutang, an indie game actually does what no other mainstream video game company has managed to achieved and that's take inspiration from Jim Kelly, in similar fashion to how Fei Long and Marshal Law are effective Bruce clones.

One of the only Americans in Shaolin vs Wutang is a character called "USA Karate", an African American karate master. This character is a splitting image of legendary fighter Jim Kelley, from the Afro right down to his facial features and fighting style. A character like this is still what's missing from popular fighting games such as Tekken and Street Fighter.

Shaolin vs wutang jim kelly

You'd be surprised to know that at one point SNK did include African American characters in their games, not that you'd know this when looking at King of Fighters XIV's full roster which includes over 50 fighters. Out of these 50 or more characters not a single one of them are African American or black for that matter. Unless you count Team South America who are very ambiguous in appearance.

Which is disappointing considering that SNK has created several black American characters, none of whom are even considered for King of Fighter XIV's lineup of returning characters, despite this game bringing back several retro characters and representing countries from all around the world.

Mickey Rogers was SNK's first black American character, a boxer who made his debut in their fighting game Art of Fighting respectively. Mr Rogers was once a professional boxer, but was ejected from the sport due to unexpectedly killing an opponent during a boxing match.

He thereafter lurks in South Town seeking fighters to vent his wrath on and takes part in the King of Fighters tournament for this very reason. Mickey's character design is altered between his only two playable appearances, his appearance in Art of Fighting 2 is awfully similar to the legendary heavyweight champion boxer Muhammad Ali.

art of fighting 2 mickey rogers

Fatal Fury saw the debut of Duck King, an American character who was heavily endowed in Hip Hop culture. Duck King's fighting style is as irregular as his nickname. He fights with break dancing moves, utilising several athletic maneuvers and some humanly impracticable kicks which are very similar to capoeira.

Duck King created his special fighting ability when he was defeated by Terry in a street brawl. During the Fatal Fury series, he frequently hopes to improve his dance moves and prove himself a worthy rival to Terry Bogard.

A cool and outgoing dude towards all, Duck King loves to boogie and party all night long. He shows little regard for those he views as immoral such as Geese Howard. He sees Terry as his fighting rival and close friend.

Upon first glance you probably wouldn't know Duck King is black due to his pale complexion and coloured Mohawk but later promotional artwork has depicted the street dancer with dark skin and thicker lips. Regardless of Hip hop and rap's mainstream popularity, seldom do you actually see black American break dancers in fighting games and Duck King was the very first.

King of fighters duck king

Duck King is very happy go lucky and cheerful which is completely the opposite of what his character design portrays. Upon first impression Duck King looks cocky, chesty and full of himself, but his actual personality is entirely different. We honestly feel Duck King would've suited better with a bad boy gimmick, especially since his character receded over time.

It's worth nothing that African Americans come in a variety of shades, from light to dark skinned, so it's not hard to see believe that Duck King is black. Duck King may have lacked melanin in the earlier games but his appearance in 1999's Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition was the blackest depiction of Duck King, which also destroyed the theories that he wasn't black.

Mike Tyson has emulated on a numerous of occasions but none came close to emulating the heavyweight boxer like Michael Max who first appeared in the Fatal Fury series and greatly resembled Tyson in his prime, right down to the Hi Fade hairstyle and powerful punches. Despite his one time appearance outside of cameos, Max hasn't been forgotten by the fans.

King of Fighters 94 saw the debut of America's sport Team, which consisted of two black black characters, a heavyweight boxer called Heavy D! and a tall basketball player known simply as Lucky Glauber.

Heavy D! was created with the purpose to create a special type of pugilist. He was added to the roster in flavor of other boxing characters popular during this time and gained his gangling stature to isolate himself from the rest of the characters. He was named after M.C. "Heavy D", a Jamaican-born American rapper from the group Heavy D & the Boyz.

Heavy D! was once a renowned boxer, but was permanently thrown out from normal competition due to severely hurting an opponent in battle. He, Lucky Glauber, and Brian Battler received an invite to the KOF '94 tourney, and thus created the American Sports.


American sports team King of fighters

Lucky Glauber's initial design was influenced by the character Hakim (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) in the martial arts movie, Game of Death. This included his fighting style which was also loosely based on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Although Abdul-Jabbar fought with Jeet Kune Do in the film, Lucky fights with karate and Abdul-Jabbar's former occupation, basketball.

Lucky is a karate champ who is also a retired professional basketball player who is asked by his buddy, Heavy D!, to create a team for the 1994 KOF tournament. Apart from his wish to help boost his friend's ego, Lucky enters the contest to test his fighting skills.

Like Duck King these guys bought a certain finesse to the King of Fighters series which disappeared with their exclusion. American Sport team's 94 stage "slum No.5" is a prime example of what's missing when you take a look at the modern King of Fighters. Yeah Lucky fought with a basketball and yeah Heavy D was just another boxer, but there's no denying they broke both cultural and racial boundaries in the KOF series.

Making his playable appearance in 2000's King of Fighter, Seth would be the last black American character to be created by SNK. Though he wasn't your average stereotypical archetype. He didn't wear boxing gloves or dance, and is a serious character with a self defensive fighting style.

SNK wanted to created a "powerful image of a big, dark, middle-aged man with a Mohawk haircut" and thus Seth was born. Ureshino claimed that Seth was chosen over the other agent characters in KOF: Maximum Impact series because of his professional and well adjusted attitude.

King of fighters seth

Seth was ordered by his commander Ling to enter the King of Fighters tournament to seize the Flying Brigands boss, Ron. He did this by forming a team with his allies Benimaru Nikaido, Shingo Yabuki and Lin. Looking back at SNK's track record, Seth is definitely the least stereotypical no nonsense black fighter they have created thus far.

One thing we love about the Mortal Kombat series beside it's ongoing whitewashing of dark skinned female characters is that you'll never see a MK game without at least one black fighter. Throughout Mortal Kombat's history, there's been several black characters but none have been more recognised than Jax Briggs.

Jax made his debut in Mortal Kombat II as a archetypical African American hero in 1993. While not a boxer, a major element of Jax's fighting style involves him using his fists to defend himself. It's worth mentioning that Jax is also one of the first African American heroes in fighting games.

In his debut appearance, he wore karate trousers and shoes. Though since Mortal Kombat 3 and onward, Jax wears a couple of bionic armour-plating that hides and shields both of his arms. In the Special Forces' squad, he is Sonya Blade's sole superior and the catalysing force of Sonya's impulsive nature.

Jax is quite a toughened soldier on the battlefield. He is noted to display incredible fierceness while staying well adjusted at the same time. Jax's most spectacular attribute is his monolithic upper body prowess. His physique and strength are so almighty that he is capable of crushing human heads effortlessly while being able to rock the earth with a single blow.

Mortal Kombat x jax briggs

Jax is by no means the most exciting nor flashiest character but when it's revealed that the cybernetically-enhanced soldier has a wife and daughter, a daughter who later becomes playable in Mortal Kombat X as a newcomer, it definitely helps to flesh out his backstory. Though neither Jax or his offspring manages to shake off the "black muscle" trope.

Aside from his fighting abilities, Jax is also a efficient technician and man of science , having been in charge of the portal development technology that the Outworld Investigation Agency uses to travel between worlds, and he also utilised his intelligence to rejuvenate Cyrax's free will.

Jacqui Briggs is the third black American female character to appear in a fighting game series, which doesn't sound like a big deal until you realise how rare black woman's presence in fighting games truly are. Like we said, only three black women of African American descent have appeared in a fighting game since the genre's birth which is what makes Jacqui special.

Jacqueline Sonya "Jacqui" Briggs made her first appearance in the Mortal kombat X comic series and was later chosen to be a playable newcomer in the fighting game series. A good friend to Cassie Cage, Jacqui Briggs is the daughter of Jax and Vera Briggs.

At some point, Jacqui became a expert kickboxer and sooner or later competed in the Junior Olympics and enlisted in a training camp. Despite her dad not being happy about her decision to join the Special Forces, Jacqui sees it as her responsibility to defend Earthrealm and to avenge her dad from the excruciation he endured from Quan Chi and Ermac.

Mortal Kombat x jacqui briggs

Jacqui is a Junior grade Olympic boxer, able to go toe-to-toe with her best friend Cassie and send a grown man into unconsciousness with her bare fists. Jacqui's fighting abilities were also advanced though Special Forces training making this young lady a force to be reckoned with.

We're gonna come out and say Jacqui's concept was much better and more befitting of Jax's daughter. While Jacqui's current design is cute, it's rather forgettable and majority of her concept art was way more creative. It would've been nice if her concept art had made it into the final game as DLC, but that ship has long sailed.

You may not be aware but Jacqui nor Lisa Hamilton were the first Black American female characters to appear in a fighting game, in fact the first time a black woman was featured as a playable character in a fighting game was 1995.

It wasn't Capcom, Namco or Midway, but Sega who beat every other company to the punch by creating a beautiful dark skinned female character known as Grace in their game Fighting vipers, which is ironic considering what the same company did to one of their black female characters over a decade later.

Grace was a nineteen year old black American girl raised in Armstone City whose armour was modelled after the protective clothing for inline skating, which also included skates on her feet. Grace's career was a fashion model, hence the reason she is so pretty, although her true aspiration was always to become a professional figure skater.

Rarely do you see a woman like Grace represented in fighting games, if not all at. Not only was Grace the first black woman to appear in a fighting game but she was one of the first American female characters who wasn't white. Maybe they didn't know it at the time but Sega managed to make history by creating Grace, sadly there still ain't much black women in fighting games like Grace.

fighting vipers grace

What made Grace special was just only because she was the first black female character to feature in a fighting game, but also due to the fact that she wasn't ambiguous in appearance. Players couldn't question Grace's ethnicity or claim she wasn't a black woman. A question which has haunted characters such as Lisa Hamilton and previously Elena since their creation.

Def Jam Fight For NY is the sequel to Def Jam Vendetta, a hip hop-influenced fighting game which features street brawling rappers and Hip Hop stars. Def Jam Fighter For NY had a huge roster, but we'd like to focus on the original African American characters which the series conceived. While FFNY isn't your conventional fighting game, it's still apart of the genre.

D-Mob is an important character in the Def Jam series, being the primary adversary of Def Jam Vendetta and Def Jam Fight For NY: The Takeover, while turning over a new leaf in Def Jam Fight For NY and becoming an ally. D-Mob's character is perhaps inspired by Death Row Records co-founder Suge Knight.

D-Mob began his life as Darrell Lewis, and spent his early days in Baltimore. As a teenager, Darrell turned a street corner into a team of hustlers who were working under him. By the time he arrived in New York, D-Mob was a certificated, well respected yet feared and ruthless crime boss.

In his bidding to take control of the metropolis underworld, D-Mob started buying up venues all over the city, while running prohibited fights and gamble dealings out of them. As time passed, D-Mob grew a large and loyal army of followers, who all respected him and his street ethics.

def jam d mob

In Def Jam Vendetta D-Mob was certain not a single soul could knock him off his throne or defeat him in a brawl. In the first game, he used fearfulness as control but in Def Jam Fight For NY, he used respect as power, showing the character had grown up.

D-Mob's attitude is noted as very different to his persona in Vendetta. It could be suggested that D-Mob learned a priceless lesson from Manny's associate in Vendetta and became more cool headed after being defeated.

The Killer Instinct series features TJ Combo, an American boxer and former heavyweight boxing champion, who was banished from the sport when it was revealed that he had been cheating by secretly using cybernetic enhancements which were implanted in his arms.

Described as an individual born to win, who despises losing, TJ Combo is a brash and proud man with an unstoppable belligerency. Before his fall from grace, TJ was even more boastful than he is currently, but after his humiliating loss at the hands of Ultratech, he was a wounded man for several years before ultimately building up the heart and declaration to fight back.

He has to push himself to get back up on hard times, realising that if he doesn’t get his head back in the game, he won't amount to much. Despite his whole persona revolving around gaining fame, riches and getting even, TJ Combo understands what is truly of importance, his fight against Ultratech and saving the universe.

Despite being human and having no special abilities, Combo is quite a accomplished, vicious and athletic fighter with his boxing style. In the original game, his prosthesis bionic arms gave him punching capabilities way past the average human being and allowed him to take down all kinds of supernatural oppositions.

killer instinct tj combo

In the rebooted universe however, his prosthesis arms have been done away with in order to showcase his literal human strength and true powers. Also being an MMA fighter, TJ has a multifaceted and diverse moveset, which showcases him throwing more than just jabs and punches.

Compared to the other black boxers in fighting games, TJ Combo doesn't really stand out regardless of his fleshed out storyline. Although we have to admit that his redesign in the Killer Instinct reboot is handled quite well. It's worth noting that the character was inspired by John Parrish who was known for portraying Jax in the earlier Mortal Kombat games.

The Dead or Alive Alive isn't known for racial diversity that's for certain, but since it's conception the series has managed to conceive two black American characters, Zack and Lisa Hamilton. Zack made his debut appearance in the first game while Lisa would appear a few years in Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach volleyball, before making her transition to the fighting game series.

A self-taught Muay Thai fighter, Zack originally partakes in the the Dead or Alive Tournaments for cash and celebrity status. Whilst achieving a spot in the top three in the former three tourneys, either because of other fighters dropping out or due to his own endeavours. Zack is the "champion" of the fourth DOA tournament because Helena Douglas gave up her spot.

He eventually obtains enough money to create a tropical island which he names after himself, and at some point has formed a relation of sorts with aliens from space. Though he's a strange individual, we can honestly admit that Zack is for certain not a one-dimensional stereotype. Although on the other hand he's a joke character and punching bag.

Often seen wearing lambent, colourful and eccentric outfits in the game, Zack is one of the most flamboyant characters in the series, as well as being the only fighter that goes through the biggest change of appearance every game, due to the amount of time he changes his hairstyle.

dead or alive 5 zack

When duking it out he likes flashy, showy movements and keeps up a continual patter of chatter and laughter. His egotism has led him to made autographs and sculptures in his likeness, even renaming an entire tropical resort after himself.

Zack at one point used to be money-craven; he entered the tournaments solely to be awarded the prize money to fund his deluxe life style, and he is an expert at the casino table. Nevertheless, by the time of Dead or Alive 5, Zack's attitude adjusts and he is now a well-mannered and reserved gentlemen.

Rodman was Zack's English voice actor in the 2003 spin-off game, Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball. Rodman's image including his habit of bleaching his hair, was the real life inspiration for Zack's character design.

Lisa Hamilton has been through a drastic makeover ever since her debut in Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach volleyball, for one she's gotten lighter in complexion. On the other hand she is also billed to be from America despite having a lucha libre persona. From gameplay perspective she's a grappler, a fighting game style that is used mainly by male characters.

Little is known about Lisa's past life before her arrival at DOATEC, although it is fairy known that she was high school friends with wrestling partner Tina Armstrong and was apart of her school's volleyball team, hence the reason she's an ace at volleyball.

At some point in her life, Lisa would become one of the main scientists for DOATEC, assisting Victor Donovan during his inheritable projects and becoming an luchadora at a wrestling promotion alongside Tina.

In Dead or Alive 5 her behaviour is different depending on what outfit she is wearing; If in her wrestling costume as La Mariposa, she is loudmouthed and lively in her intros, shouting and jumping, evidently to wail up the audience. Her win poses are rather implicative and she appears very cocksure about her abilities.

dead or alive 5 lisa

As Lisa she is more laid back, asking before a match if her opponent really wants to fight that badly. Upon winning, she blames her opponent for instigating a fight, and even claims they're pretty awful, while glancing at them with a disappointing and unsatisfied expression.

She seems quite prideful and just as confident in her abilities as her persona, as she asks her opponent if they really thought they'd win, while smiling sweetly and crossing her arms with an air of composure.

she was outlined by her original creator Tomonobu Itagaki as a “gift to the American fans”. It was a wise decision too because at one point while the Dead or Alive series was frowned upon in Japan, it had a huge following in the USA.

Though in 2015 Itagaki went on record via Facebook to say " the real Lisa was Latin", which pretty much explains why she wears a luchadora costume. Since Itagaki's departure from Tecmo, she had been retconned to be American and given the last name Hamilton, a common surname for African American families.

Which is fine with us as fighting games need more African American representation, especially females, who are noticeably absent. Our only gripe is that we wish Lisa's skin tone wasn't lightened to fit a certain quota. Lisa sticks out among the Dead or Alive cast and taking away her most unique attribute for xenophobic fans is highly inconsiderate.

Lisa is the most unique looking woman in Dead or Alive and this is because she's the only dark skinned female character in the game. Despite the diverse beauty she brings to the series, sadly her inclusion isn't appreciated enough. Lisa's lack of alternate hairstyles also indicate that Team ninja either don't know what to do with her or have little interest.

Bruce Irvin is Tekken's first and only African American character in the series, making his debut appearance in Tekken 2 as an unlockable character. While there has been several black characters in the series, Bruce is the sole playable African American fighter unless you count Master Raven and her subordinate Raven, afrofuturistic ninjas who have American accents.

In the kickboxing world Bruce made a name for himself, becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion several years before The King of Iron Fist Tournament 2. His ferocity and stout technique destroyed all who stood in his path. Bruce quickly learned to inflict immense pain on his opponents.

tekken bruce irvin

It is thought that the reason for his cold nature is because at a young age, his intermediate family were murdered in cold blood, leaving Bruce to fend for himself. Bruce's story is no different from the countless number other black characters in video games, it's stereotypical to say the least.

Bruce has a seemingly complex thought process; despite being on the good side, Bruce is a contemplative, misanthropic man with a cutthroat portrayal, always unmerciful against anyone who dares test his patience.

However on a positive note, he despises bullies and perpetually looks out for those in a more vulnerable position then himself, particularly having a soft spot for children. In his Tekken 5 ending this is exhibited, which sees him save a young boy from a group of violent gangsters.

He also holds mobsters in disdain due to the violent death of his own family by them. It's no secret that Bruce loves to fight, and is very assured of his own ability while showing little showmanship for his opponents and no emotion in the face of danger.

The fact that the only African American character to appear in the main series has slowly being phased out is disappointing, especially since he has no true replacement. Bruce appeared in 1995 as the sole African American character in Tekken and since then no other Black American fighter has made their playable debut.

There is one other African American character in the series, though you might have not heard of him. Billy is an unplayable MMA fighter who appears in Tekken Arena, a free-to-play MMORPG . He is the boss of the USA East Coast area of the story and takes part in the contest for prize money.

Billy is very confident in his fighting skills, and even tries to talk his opponents into forfeiting before the match begins. He also appears to be quite materialistic, as he fights mainly for the money. Billy has studied five martial arts: Boxing, Kung Fu, Wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, and Karate. Out of the five, though he is most adept at Boxing and Jiu-Jitsu.

Billy ultimately would have been a perfect substitution for Bruce in comparison to Josie Rizal, the new female character who was met with mixed receptions upon word that she would be the permanent replacement for Bruce in Tekken 7. Due to Tekken Arena's poor reputation, we doubt you'll be seeing Billy or any other new character from that game anytime soon

What it is with Mohawks and Black characters in Japanese fighting games? That's the question we ask ourselves when looking at Rival Schools' Boman Delgado, a large dark skinned American priest who fronts a spiky yellow Mohawk.

rival schools boman

With a non-violent approach to life, Boman is grooming himself to be a reverend and although he is only a pupil, Boman is very mature for his age. He is a god-fearing man who never skips Sunday meetings. Also as a man who disapproves of violence, he is aware of his own size and capability and after any inevitable fight, he quietly prays to God for benignity.

A few of Boman's attacks introduce Christian imaging which are for the most part crosses when he utilises his boxing fighting style. This is because he is in preparation to become a fully fledged preacher. His grapples and his team-up assist is based on wrestling moves.

Capcom has a poor track record of designing black characters and you don't have to look no further than Deejay, Birdie and Damnd. Despite not being a huge stereotype, Boman falls into the category of poorly designed black characters who have terrible straightened hairstyles.

Nintendo might be advocating for more racial diversity within their first and second party games, but Super Smash Bros still doesn't feature a playable black Nintendo character to date, something Sony managed to achieve with PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. Emmett Graves is the hero of Starhawk and a playable DLC fighter in PASBR.

starhawk emmett graves

Exposed to unsafe Rift Energy during an assault by the Outcasts, Emmett defends mining operations from the same predators, helping his contractors meet their Rift quotas and complete objectives, which would be impossible without his help.

Equipped with a special controller which keeps the mercenary from turning into an Outcast, he uses this unique power to his advantage and become a hired gunman, utilising an assortment of weapons and support structures to out-smart and defeat his adversities.
Looking back, African American characters in fighting game haven't seen much success in terms of support and strong representation. The lineup is weak when you take into consideration that fighting games as a genre has been around for decades, but that's not to insinuate that these characters don't have any worth.

With a proper reboot, majority of these characters could become less mediocre and more prominent but that would mean that the developers in charge would actually have to give a damn about them. It did wonders for characters such as Balrog and TJ Combo who have been through several transformations since their conception.

We'll admit as the time went on we're seeing more appropriate Black American characters, Jacqui Briggs, Emmett Graves and D-Mob are all shining examples of characters that have being handled correctly, which isn't a surprise since all these characters were created by western developers.

Here's a full timeline of American American characters in fighting games which will be updated if a new character debuts, if we missed any characters then feel free to let us know from what fighting game. Who's your favorite African American character to appear in a fighting game?


  • Mike - Street Fighter 1 (1987)
  • Max - Street Fighter II: Intro (1991)
  • Balrog - Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (1991)
  • Duck King - Fatal Fury (1991)
  • Michael Max - Fatal Fury (1991)
  • Mickey Rogers - Art of Fighting (1992)
  • Heavy D - King of Fighters 94 (1994)
  • Lucky Glauber - The King of Fighters 94 (1994)
  • TJ Combo - Killer Instinct (1994)
  • Magic Dunker - Fight Fever (1994)
  • Grace - Fighting Vipers (1995)
  • Bruce Irvin - Tekken 2 (1995)
  • Zack - Dead or Alive - (1996)
  • Fair Libra - Street Fighter 3: The New Generation (1997)
  • Boman Delgado - Rival Schools (1997)
  • Rob Python - Buriki One (1999)
  • Seth - The King of Fighters 99' (1999)
  • Mr Jones - Rage of the Dragons (2002)
  • D-Mob - Def Jam Vendetta (2003)
  • Lisa Hamilton - Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball (2003)
  • King Cobra - Street Fighter IV (2009)
  • Emmett Graves - PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (2012)
  • Jacqui Briggs - Mortal Kombat X (2015)



19 comments:

  1. Aside from Menat, The season 2 dlc characters weren't all that impressive. A character like King Cobra would've been the turning point for me buying the season pass, but i guess Capcom doesn't like money.

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  2. Thank you for the article, this was a great read. I didn't even know Fair Libra existed. I thought Elena was the only black female character in the Street Fighter series. Would love to play as her in Street fighter v.

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  3. The king of fighters xiv roster sucks. How can you have a fighting game with no black american characters? Any game that don't feature a single playable character ain't getting my money.

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  4. Whose bright idea was it to make Sean Brazilian? He was so cool in Street fighter 3 the new generation. First King Cobra was strapped and now i find out sean was originally American? What does Capcom have against African american martial artists??

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  5. Cassie gave me a boner04/12/2017, 23:56

    Jacqui briggs is so fugly.

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  6. I wish SNK would bring back American Sports team, hell even Duck king or Seth would suit me fine. The fact that SNK refuses to put a single black American in the game makes them look kind of raci..

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  7. I never liked Zack in Dead or Alive 5, I felt his original design in the first game was much better. They pretty much made him a joke and punching bag for all the pale girls.

    Lisa had potential but Tecmo and Team ninja neglect her and she isn't very popular. Which is sad tbh but then again Japanese are very xenophobic so I'm not surprised.

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  8. Omg Capcom please make King Cobra and Fair Libra playable characters in Street Fighter V.

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  9. Bruce Irvin isn't in Tekken 7 and was replaced by Josie Rizal.. What a joke that series has become.

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  10. Wow Fighting Vipers Grace is one of the most beautiful women in fighting games.

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  11. Tekkenfighter05/12/2017, 00:35

    I always wondered why Bandai Namco never revealed the nationality of Raven or Master Raven. I've heard he is Canadian but he has a american accent and is based on Blade.

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  12. I like Ed in SFV but i always felt Ed should've been black. Dude literally has a rap theme and wears hip hop clothing. If Ed can exist then I don't see why King Cobra can't.

    It would've been cool to see Balrog take a young black american character under his wing but instead we got Ed.

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  13. Def Jam fight for ny takes me back, wish EA Sports would make a new one instead of ripping people with lootboxes.

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  14. This list is a joke especially compared to the real world with dominant and famous African fighters like Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Jim Kelly, Floyd Mayweather and countless other black american fighters.

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  15. Isn't Street fighter EX series the only Capcom game which never had a single black character? Now I see why i didn't like it.

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  16. Thank you for making this article, I always wondered how many african american characters appeared in fighting games, and tbh it's a very low number. Capcom pretty much got rid of two amazing African American street fighters.

    The fact that they got rid of King Cobra and replaced him with Rufus just for the giggles is borderline racist. It's ironic to, because the fighting game community has a large number of black american players but you wouldn't know this when looking at the few number of african american characters to be made in recent years.

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  17. Tekken really need to debut a Michael Jai White clone. There's no American American character in the series and an inspired character with his build and fighting style would be impressive.

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  18. What Capcom done to Sean Matsuda was sad, why didn't they just keep him African American? I think it's a lowblow to black players to change his nationality. They wouldn't change Ryu, Chun Li, or Ken's race so why the only dark skinned shoto in the game?

    Besides they also screwed up by turning rufus into King Cobra and not rectifying that mistake in Street Fighter V. If I wanted to play as a fat lard I'd pop in tekken and choose Bob.

    Until Capcom create a new African American shoto or karate character I won't be buying any dlc for the game or supporting it. The fact that they erased two black American characters for the lulz is insulting.

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