• Migizi Bebaayaad

5 Badass Indigenous Characters from Fighting Games

Growing up in a settler colonial society in the 80s and 90s as an Indigenous person was tough. There wasn’t a lot of representation in mainstream culture of me or people like me. The only Indigenous representation was extremely stereotypical and few and far between. I turned to wrestling and video games for some kind of cultural and racial representation even though it was extremely problematic. Here are 5 of my favorite Indigenous characters from fighting games I’ve played.

1. Night Wolf / Mortal Kombat 3

I first started using Night Wolf in MK3. He wasn’t the cool character at the time since MK3 was the first game with a maskless Sub Zero. Back then, Grey Cloud was Lakota but in newer versions, Night Wolf became a member of the fictional Matoka Tribe that’s still based on the Lakota. This character is a historian and a shaman for his people who he’s protecting from Shao Khan.

His special moves were stereotypical weapons like a tomahawk (recurring theme on this list), Bow and arrow, Spirit daggers and a gunstock war club in the newest edition of the franchise.

The third installment of the franchise brought some different finishing moves besides the violent “FATALITY” like “Friendship” and “Animality”. The “Animality” was a finishing move where the fighter became an animal and takes a bite out of their opponent. It feels like this finishing move was made for Night Wolf. I bet you can’t guess what he turned into...

2. Thunderhawk / Super StreetFighter 2

T.Hawk wasn’t my first pick when Super Street Fighter 2 came out. I didn’t like his grappling moves. He played like Zangief… but what he did do was make me realize that Native people are from Mexico too. I didn’t know that most Mexicans were Indigenous and that they got colonized by white people who spoke Spanish instead of English or French.

T. Hawk’s moves were always close quarters type grappling moves except for some flying aerial attacks. He could put a devastating stop to smaller, more agile fighters with the “Tomahawk Buster”, “Condor Dive” and “Mexican Typhoon” moves.

His origin story is one of revenge for his father and leader of his community who was murdered by M. Bison. He’s a member of the Thunderfoot tribe and the Shadaloo were trying to force the T.Hawk’s people off of their land.

3. Pakwa / Kasumi Ninja

Aaaahh Pakwa. This game came out exclusively for the Atari Jaguar system during the wave of Mortal Kombat rip offs in the mid 90s. It wasn’t very good and problematically played on every racial stereotype. I mean, Angus the Scotsman shoots fireballs from under his kilt.

Pakwa’s the chief of Tu-Wee-Kah Comanche tribe. They’re described as being the “Green Berets” of their time but with being completely in harmony with nature. Gross.

His moves are open hand slaps, headbutts and ground stomps which made him hard to use. Pakwa’s finishing move is scalping his opponent and giving a short war cry at the end. So good.

4. Pharrah / Overwatch

When Pharrah came out for the incredible game Overwatch. Overwatch is the first character based first person shooter type game I’ve ever played and it’s one of the funnest games I’ve ever played. Pharrah’s Native father was only revealed after these skins were released to fans crying cultural appropriation. I love that there’s a mixed race character that’s Indigenous and Egyptian!

Pharrah’s mother is a playable character in the game also and I’m hoping that her father becomes a character soon as Blizzard releases new characters every few months. The backstories for this game are wonderful and deep.

Pharrah has a rocket launcher and a jetpack reminiscent of Boba Fett with. But with a rocket launcher. She’s extremely effective both in solo arcade games as well as the main co-operative modes.

5. Chief Thunder / Killer Instinct

I LOVED Killer Instinct when it came out. Killer Instinct came out around the Mortal Kombat rip offs but what set this game a part was the combos. They were relentless and you could defeat opponents if you got them in a combo. I rented it from the local movie rental place and learned everyone’s finishing moves. The finishing moves were just automated combos that made you look like a BOSS. I haven’t played any other version other than the OG 1994 version so my comments are restricted to that version.

Chief Thunder’s look took me by surprise. I remember thinking his mohawk of feathers was so bad ass. In the first game, his tribal affiliation wasn’t determined however, in the recent editions, Thunder is from the Nez Perce nation. He’s seeking revenge from the evil Ultratech who kidnapped his brother, Eagle for experiments.

His double tomahawk attacks are common place for this character. His moves included sparks flying from hitting his tomahawk together and his feather mohawk lighting up and sending your opponent in the air. Chief Thunder’s Ultra Combo is highlighted with a chant while he waits for his opponent to fall back to earth.

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