"THE PRESIDENT HAS BEEN KIDNAPPED BY NINJAS. ARE YOU A BAD ENOUGH DUDE TO RESCUE THE PRESIDENT?"
Those words kick off Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja, a 1988 arcade beat-em-up that enlists a pair of…well, bad dudes to save "President Ronnie" — an obvious allusion to real-life prez Ronald Reagan. Since then, several "leaders of the free world" have appeared in dozens of games, and to celebrate Presidents' Day we are going to count down some of the most notable.
Abraham Lincoln in Fight Club
In the movie Fight Club, Tyler Durden says he would fight Abe Lincoln: "Big guy, big reach. Skinny guys fight till they're burger." Now, I don't know what it means to fight until one is "burger," but if the awful Fight Club video game is any indication, it isn't a good thing. Also, President Lincoln maintained the union by wielding Force lightning.
Ulysses S. Grant in Ultimate Civil War Battles
From my understanding — having never played a Civil War real-time-strategy title — the point of these types of games is to fulfill confederate-victory fantasies. I imagine players commanding Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia to decimate Grant's troops, while wearing a Billy Ray Cyrus T-shirt and yelling, "The south will rise again!" Please send all angry letters to You.Lost@WarOfNorthernAggression.com.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington in the Civilization series
The Civilization games are all about leadership, and the developers selected three of the best to lead the U.S. to global dominance. What is the fun in that, though? I want to conquer the world as James K. Polk.
George Washington in Day of the Tentacle
In this LucasArts adventure game, players meet with founding fathers like Ben Franklin and John Hancock. Naturally, the interactions with our nation's first president revolve around his teeth. That George Washington had false chompers is the only historical fact that students have to know in order to graduate high school. No one ever talks about how he introduced the mule to the U.S. — and no, I didn't Google "interesting facts about George Washington" to figure that out.
Future President Michael Wilson in Metal Wolf Chaos
This is the only fictional president on the list, but he has a mech suit — so it's probably best that I include him. At the end of the first quarter of the 21st century, rebels have taken over all branches of government. President Michael Wilson in his ridiculous mech suit is the only man who can take his country back. I wonder if this game is an accurate portrayal of how the Tea Party sees the world.
Abraham Lincoln in Sam & Max
The fourth episode of Sam & Max: Season One is titled "Abe Lincoln Must Die," which I think is in very poor taste — it's way too soon. Lincoln himself doesn't appear; instead the Lincoln Memorial becomes animated and starts hypnotizing everybody when he loses an election to Max, forcing Sam and Max to go all John Wilkes Booth.
Lyndon B. Johnson in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
In Snake Eater, LBJ awards Naked Snake the title of "Big Boss," which is a pretty ridiculous thing for a president to bestow on a person. I've given someone a big boss before, but that isn't appropriate for children to read about. Move along.
Barack Obama in Mercenaries 2: World in Flames
In the run-up to the 2008 elections, Pandemic Studios added Barack Obama and Sarah Palin as playable characters in the open-world shooter Mercenaries 2. While Obama wasn't technically president at the time, it was still fun to see him commit the kind of destruction that Palin accuses him of causing today.
John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in Call of Duty: Black Ops
JFK actually appears in the single-player campaign, but both he and President Nixon are playable characters in the Nazi zombie mode. For some reason, history has missed that JFK and Robert McNamara invited Nixon to attend high-level negotiations with Fidel Castro — I'm surprised that wasn't a major portion of Oliver Stone's JFK film.
Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush in NBA Jam
It doesn't get much better than this. The Democrats versus the Republicans, the donkey versus the elephant, big government versus small government. Not only do Clinton, Obama, and Bush all appear as playable characters in NBA Jam but so do their vice presidents. I usually run with what I call Team Global Bidening, which is a combination of Al Gore and Joe Biden. If your politics lean more to the right, then may I suggest you play with Team We'll Shoot Your Effing Face Off, which is Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney, of course.