Are these the chicest video game characters of all time?
What do Waluigi, Lara Croft and Final Fantasy’s Lightning all have in common? Their LQQKS!
Gaming may currently be the hottest thing in fashion right now, but hasn’t fashion always been the hottest thing in gaming? Granted, I may not be someone who’s played very many video games, but the one thing that’s always caught my eye on the occasions that I have is the LOOKS. So captivating do I find them that I felt compelled to write this (rather subjective) list of the most stylish video game characters out there. Honestly, they’re often giving more runway than most of the outfits you’ll find on actual runways – so much so, in fact, that labels from Burberry to Balenciaga, Collina Strada to Louis Vuitton have clocked their potential and dived headlong into parallel, playable worlds in recent seasons.
Admittedly, the slew of brands clamouring over one another to get into the gaming sphere is a relatively recent phenomenon – one that grew exponentially with the onset of the pandemic and the pressure placed on brands to innovate in the digital realm. And even then, the uptake has been somewhat tentative, with deep-seated cynicism holding more traditional fashion players back from embracing the metaverse. Gaming communities, however, have long since proven themselves to be hubs for ardent fashion fans out there, from the vast array of archival and in-season looks we saw populate Animal Crossing last year, to the styling possibilities built into games from The Sims to GTA.
Where this is perhaps most evident, though, is in the many examples of the 10/10 chic readymade characters – their style being as integral a part of their characterisation as any player on a stage or actor in a film. With the barriers between two worlds once strictly kept apart quickly crumbling, here’s our run-through of some of the most stylish video game characters to have graced our screens.
Ok, so if this were, like, five years ago and we were still paying attention to gormless bros cosplaying as fishermen in tiny beanie hats and Dickies dungarees, I’d probably say Mario or Luigi. But in a climate where snatched, high-camp silhouettes for men are the looks du jour, we have no choice but to stan Waluigi. That may sound like a rogue choice at first, but honestly, we challenge you to come up with anyone in the Mushroom Kingdom serving a look as hard as Luigi’s shady counterpart. That slinky amethyst mock neck number demonstrates a confidence when it comes to colour choice that most of us could only ever dream of, and I wouldn’t bat an eyelid if you told me that those black bootcut overalls were Hedi’s Celine. Sure, Waluigi’s look may be a little retro for some, but at least it’s an aesthetic he carries through with conviction. The spindly moustache; the lined eye; the colour-coordinated newsboy cap – a full 70s San Francisco fantasy, and we’re here for it!
An honorary mention here for Toad. While pretty unassuming in any of the actual games they feature in, their singular commitment to turning an avant-garde look is unparalleled, and well-deserving of applause. Whether it’s a hat or just part of the creature’s anatomy, I’m not sure, but its polka-dot head-situation is giving archival Comme des Garçons. Worn with an embroidered waistcoat with NOTHING beneath, an effective diaper, and a pair of (I’m guessing wooden) clogs, it all makes for the sort of look that only the most die-hard of street style eccentrics would ever be able to pull off out here in the real world. Again, maybe not one for everyone, but let’s give the squeaky little thing their flowers for letting their fashion freak flag fly.
Link, The Legend of Zelda
Yes, his dashing heroism bumps him pretty far up the style rankings, but that aside, Link honestly looks like he could have walked straight out of a Boramy Viguier show. The green belted tunic is particularly redolent of the D&D fantasy that the Parisian menswear designer has been putting out the past few seasons, while the skinny trouser with the high, calf-cladding boot is a dead-ringer for the equestrian styling we recently saw on runways from Gucci to GmbH. Granted, the emerald Noddy hat is a bit much, and dampens the valiant chevalier vibe a little, but it’s a strong mood overall.
Jill Valentine, Resident Evil
Admittedly, some of Jill’s outfits aren’t necessarily the most practical for someone who runs around sketchy buildings taking out bloodthirsty zombies, but by God does she pull them off with style. And then there’s the range – from panelled catsuits and epaulette-decorated uniform that wouldn’t look out of place in one of Nicholas Ghesquière’s Louis Vuitton shows (more on these later) through to itsy-bitsy tube-top and micro-miniskirt combos that nod to the latest Miu Miu collection, give this girl any look and she’ll turn it out every time.
Lara Croft, Tomb Raider
It would be remiss to mention Jill without also paying due homage to another of the gaming world’s OG bad bitches, Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft. Though immortalised by Angelina Jolie in the early 00s spin-off film franchise, it was in the mid-90s video games that she first made her mark. Whether seen in a spaghetti strap top and a pair of slim-fit combat trousers or a midriff-baring crop top and low-slung mini-shorts (again, Miu Miu!), her sense of dress is the apotheosis of the era’s slinky, sporty style. And she also deserves a medal for singlehandedly making cargo pants cute.
Lightning, Final Fantasy XIII
The fact that the Final Fantasy XIII protagonist came to most fashion fans’ attention when she fronted Louis Vuitton’s SS16 campaign makes this a bit of an obvious one. It being obvious, however, makes it no less iconic in our eyes. Even before the collaboration, Lightning basically looked like she’d been styled by Nicholas Ghesquière anyway – which makes sense, given that he’s been tapping into the visual codes of video games since his earliest days at Balenciaga. Though typically one for an abbreviated silhouette, an armoured bustier, and combat-ready boots, in her campaign, she opted for a shimmering sleeveless minidress, a pink leather moto jacket, cropped shorts, and a series of armoured mini-bags – essentially, slightly more haute spins on her usual wardrobe. So successful was the crossover, that it precipitated Louis Vuitton’s wholehearted embrace of the gaming world, resulting in a fully-fledged League of Legends collaboration just a couple years down the line, as well as its very own game in celebration of the 200th birthday of its late namesake founder.
‘Wait, as in the thief from the game we used to play in primary school?’ Yes, exactly – her. While edutainment games targeted towards 8-to-12-year-olds aren’t what you instinctually associate with fashion, with her vampy scarlet overcoat, très Saint Laurent skintight black leather trousers, and that wide-brimmed scarlet hat, Carmen Sandiego’s style legacy actually goes much deeper than you’d at first suspect. Her dress sense is in fact so iconic, that she even inspired an entire collection – Marc Jacobs AW18. OK, well, that’s maybe not entirely factually correct, but looking at the show’s opening look, it’s hard not to believe that the New York designer wasn’t at least a little inspired by the carmine femme fatale.
Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow, Balenciaga AW21
This one isn’t really about a fab character in a familiar video game franchise, but it would be wrong not to give it a shout out. For AW21, Balenciaga broached new ground with Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow, the fully playable video game through which they presented their collection. From a mocked-up Balenciaga store to following a white rabbit to a secret, deep-in-the-forest rave; along the way, players crossed paths with incredible renderings of IRL house muses sporting some of the most fabulous fashion that we’ve ever seen on a playable screen – have you forgotten the suit of armour boots? Or the Balenciaga x NASA bomber? We didn’t think so!
P.S. A quick shout out for the skins the house recently dropped on Fortnite, allowing you to do battle as dolled-up versions of Doggo, Ramirez and Banshee among others – Demna never misses!