So some guys get along. We covered gaming’s best Bro’s last week. Other guys though, do not always get along. Oh sure, sometimes they’re on the same side, but god-damn they want nothing more to watch the other guy kiss the dirt while they themselves win the girl. Or save the world. Or generally have everyone recognize just WHO KICKED WHO’S ASS, CHUMP!?
Here we dive into the top 5 Rivalries in Gaming.
5: Cecil vs. Kain – Final Fantasy 4
I’m going to start here with a pair of guys that ended up getting along… kinda. There were a lot of Final Fantasy rivalries to choose from, heck the trope is a staple of the JRPG genre in general. I could have gone with Squall and Seifer, or Ramza and Delita, or Cloud and Sephiroth… nearly every installment has a fair rivalry going on. I believe Cecil and Kain however, probably have the deepest and most interesting.
Cecil and Kain started off in the Royal Court of the kingdom of Baron together. They’re best friends. Same origin story. This is important. For a good rivalry to exist two people have to be equatable (this is why the aforementioned Cloud / Sephiroth pairing doesn’t work. Cloud is forever the David trying to strike down Goliath)
Cecil and Kain both enter the military and are formidable soldiers. As the game progresses, Cecil breaks off from the Kingdom of Baron, forming a rift between the two. They’re now operating separately. We also learn, in one of the game’s twists, that Cecil and Kain both have a thing for the same woman: Rosa.
This means that while they came from similar beginnings, one differentiated himself from the other (Cecil, by being the first to realize the evil intentions of Baron’s King), while they were both aiming at the same goal (earning Rosa’s affection).
In the end, Cecil and Kain join forces, and fight for the greater good. They put their differences aside and save the world. But Cecil is the hero, he gets the girl, he gets credit for saving the world. Kain on the other hand is seen isolated from the rest of the group. Training? Clearly, he has not accepted Cecil as the friends they once were, and it’s suggested that an intense internal rivalry has formed.
4: Megaman vs. Protoman – Megaman Series
Megaman and Protoman have as fundamental of a rivalry as you can get. Protoman was literally the building block to create Megaman. Megaman is an objectively more efficient machine, and this results in one of the biggest inferiority complexes seen in gaming. Protoman is the first robot to have a mind of its own, and while flawed, initially refuses to let Dr Light, his and Megaman’s creator, fix him. There’s a very potent notion of overcoming inherent flaws. Of your future not being a fixed thing. Megaman was made better, but god damn it Protoman is going to prove that that’s not always going to be the case.
Of course, Megaman being the protagonist, it usually IS the case that Megaman is the stronger of the two. But Protoman stands his ground and is a thorn in Megaman’s side through many of the series’ titles.
The real strengths of this Rivalry is that Protoman and Megaman are essentially brothers, where one is expected to be superior. Megaman struggles to live up to expectations, while Protoman struggles to prove to everyone, to himself, and mainly to that damned Megaman that HE can overcome the his inherent disadvantage, and prove that you’re not just the sum of your parts, but of your dedication and hard work.
3: Fox McCloud vs. Wolf O’Donnell – Star Fox
Fox and Wolf are our first real antagonistic rivalry. Where the previous pairs have a back and forth between confrontation and assistance, Fox and Wolf are at each other’s throats every time they share the same screen.
Both characters are composed and business oriented, but it’s no accident that they find themselves on opposing sides every time they take to the air. Where Fox fights for the good of the Galaxy, Wolf fights for himself and his own gain. These two characters have nearly identical teams, equipment, and qualifications, but their rivalry stems from these fundamentally incompatible philosophies. Wolf is who Fox would be if Fox were evil. He’s the dark side.
2: Ryu vs. Ken Masters – Street Fighter
No other rivalry is as iconic as this one. Ken and Ryu are built as rivals from the ground up. Studied under the same master? Check. Mastered the same techniques? Check. Participating in a tournament that pits them against each other to see who is the best? Double check.
Again we see a fundamental character difference that serves as a distinction between these two characters, as well as common threads that draw them towards each other. Ryu is a very stoic, even spiritual, character. Ken is portrayed as an entitled, wealthy playboy, who is content to show off and live it up. Both characters however are always striving to better themselves and become stronger.
These two were actually a tough call between rivals and bros. They’re very much both. But their primary method of interaction in the actual games is when they are opposed to one another. Ryu’s goal of overcoming all challenges in front of him demands that he demonstrate a superiority over Ken. Likewise Ken’s drive to be the strongest martial artist in the world requires that he also show that he is the stronger of the two.
Their existences demand that someone come out on top. They cannot exist the way they do without each other. Their characters are wholly dependant on this rivalry, and as such, makes them one of the greatest examples of gaming rivalries we’ve ever seen.
1: Red vs. Blue – Pokemon
The rivalry. The bottom line. Every single attribute of a perfect rivalry is realized in the relationship between Red and Blue.
Red (the player) and Blue were born in Pallet Town, and started their journey at the same time. Both given the opportunity to choose a starting pokemon from Professor Oak, Blue always chooses the pokemon that is strong against Red’s choice, and from that moment you know that it is ON.
Blue is constantly one step ahead of Red, generally having beaten Gym Leaders first and always waiting at the end of particularly difficult dungeons, challenging a weakened Red to duels after throwing in some mocking insults. Having generally stronger pokemon, Blue provides some of the most challenging fights in the entire game.
These two are not only forced into competition because they strive for the same goal, to be the best pokemon trainer in the world, but because of an ideology disparity as well. While Red tends to act kindly towards his pokemon, believing that dedication and teamwork can overcome any adversity, Blue is extremely tactical about his team make up and training regimes. Red views his pokemon as partners, and Blue views them as tools.
Every defining attribute in great rivals I have mentioned up to this point is present in the rivalry between Red and Blue. Blue is considered the more prodigious trainer, so there is an entitlement vs hardwork dichotomy. The fact that Blue is the cold and calculating version of Red; That Blue and Red’s goals push them together in an inevitable confrontation. All of these things add up to Red and Blue having the most intense rivalry in video game history.