Unlike the Kitana-costume-donning AJ Lee, whose 10 most beloved video games were featured on Monday, Kofi Kingston hasn’t made any big shout-outs to gaming culture on WWE programming. But much like Lee, Kingston is dedicated to the medium and was totally down to write and rank his favorite games before doing a countdown interview a while back. “The top 10 list is a big deal, so you didn’t have to ask me twice,” says the resident king of resourceful Royal Rumble spots.
Kingston’s life with video games began with the 1987 Commodore 64 title Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior. As a console player, he’s run the gamut. At first, his loyalty was strictly with Nintendo (he despised Sega), but his allegiance began to wobble when the SNES version of Mortal Kombat hit and substituted blood for sweat. Later, he was a fan of the original PlayStation. When he and Zack Ryder were going through developmental together, Ryder’s mom got her son an Xbox 360. Since Ryder wasn’t really into video games, Kingston bought the barely used 360 for a song and soon became an Xbox guy. Currently, he owns all three major consoles plus, as an episode of WWE’s YouTube series Superstar Toyz indicated, a 125-games-in-one arcade cabinet. “I guess that’d be pretty hardcore if you had to put a tag on it,” he says.
As of this writing, Kingston has disappointingly been given nothing to do for WrestleMania 29 on Sunday. If he doesn’t get a last-minute slot, this will mark the first WrestleMania without a Kofi match on the card since he debuted in WWE in 2008. Seeing as how he could especially use some love right now, let’s hand off the reins to everyone’s favorite ex-Jamaican to hear his ballot.
10. Streets of Rage (1991)
Going back to jumping on Sega, this was one of the first games I played. It was cool ’cause it was interactive and one of the first games [in which] you could actually do [all the specials] at home.
9. Ninja Gaiden (1988)
I played both [the Nintendo and arcade versions], but I was talking specifically about the arcade. To be honest, I never beat the game, but it was just so fun to play. Specifically, I remember being able to run and jump off the walls and do attacks and stuff. I just thought that was so cool. That’s probably what I was trying to do more so than even beat the game.
I always wanted to be able to do that in real life, but I never actually did. I remember my gym teacher saying something about someone trying to do it ’cause we’d always play off the wall. Someone tried to do something like that and they ended up popping their knee out, so I always scared to actually try it myself.
8. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! (1987)
Even to this day, that’s a game you can still pick up and have fun [with].
Who’s your favorite character? Also, as a kid, did you realize how stereotypical and kinda racist the game was?
[Laughs] As a kid, I didn’t even realize at all, but yeah, definitely looking back now [with] Piston Honda [and his] ‘Oh, I’ll give you a TKO from Tokyo,’ it’s almost comical. I think it was in good fun. It wasn’t meant to be racist or anything like that, but looking back at it now, you probably couldn’t come out with a game like that now because of everyone’s sensitivity to race and things happen to be politically correct.
My favorite character in that game would probably be Super Macho Man. I think he was actually harder than Mike Tyson himself, to be honest. But yeah, it was just a fun game in general between Doc and running, [and] the music and everything. I actually have Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! as one of my ringtones. It’s definitely a great game.
7. Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990)
When The Wizard, the movie [promoting the game’s release], came out, it was definitely horrible, but for me as a kid, seeing a video game in a movie was like, ‘Oh my God, there are kids out there who do what I do.’ Mario 3 was definitely one of those groundbreaking games as far as taking Mario to a new level and then going into all the different worlds and stuff like that.
Did you have any favorite characters or levels?
Definitely favorite costume would be the Tanooki Suit when you just turn to stone and have the guys walk by. I know it wasn’t really cool as far as it didn’t spit any kind of special projectiles or anything like that, but I remember it being one of the hardest things to get towards the end of the game. You just felt accomplished once you actually got it.
Any one of the flying ship stages I thought were really cool. The stage would actually be moving while you were trying to get through it so it just added another level of depth to the game. It was always cool getting to the end where you’d have all these different types of Koopas [with] different types of abilities, so you’d always be anxious to see what the next Koopa was going to do. It was cool to go up against every single one of ’em.
6. Final Fantasy VII (1997)
I played a lot of role-playing games back in the days, and when Final Fantasy VII came out, this was on like three discs, so there was so much content. At the time, the graphics were incredible. The music and the soundtrack was phenomenal. You always had what would be considered video game music, and it didn’t sound real. Final Fantasy VII was the first game I remember that had actual music that was composed. It sounded very orchestral, very symphonic. You could put that in a CD player and listen to it as a regular [album].
5. The Halo series (2001-present)
I play all of ’em, so I put the whole franchise in there. Just the whole franchise and the story with the Master Chief and all that stuff still to this day is one of the best multiplayer games, especially online. This was one of the first games that you could actually play online and one of the more popular games.
It’s funny because I love playing Halo a lot, but I didn’t get on the Halo bandwagon until probably six to eight months after it initially came out.
My aim is terrible. I’m not very good. I can sneak up on somebody and be shooting them, and they’ll turn around and shoot me and kill me in one shot. I just remember it being a game in college where instead of going out to bars and stuff, we would be in our dorm room literally playing Halo all night and eating pizza. It was just a really good time. It’s one of those games that brings people together. You can play it forever and ever, and they kept that aspect of it throughout, even [with] the Halos now. It’s one of those games where you want to sit down and play one game, and you end up sitting there for hours. It doesn’t even feel like hours have gone by. It’s just one of those games that really sucks you in and you can’t help but enjoy it.
I collect a bunch of helmets and the Master Chief helmet is one I actually have.
A Halo movie has been talked about for years. If you could pick anyone to play Master Chief, who would it be?
Oh man, tough question. For whatever reason, George Clooney is coming to my head and I don’t know why. That’s what my initial gut instinct would be just because he can play that cool and confident character. Master Chief wasn’t a young guy by any means. George Clooney’s kind of like that grizzled vet. I feel like he might be able to do a good job.
4. WCW/nWo Revenge (1998)
WCW/nWo Revenge is an amazing game. The nWo was just so hot back then. Wrestling games in general—In Your House and stuff like that—weren’t too realistic. [With] WCW/nWo Revenge, the graphics had stepped up. The gameplay was a lot smoother than the other games before it. For a wrestling fan, to play as your favorite guys is always cool.
Who were your favorite wrestlers to play as?
Definitely nWo Macho Man and nWo Sting. Sting was so mysterious back then, too, right? There was a year where he didn’t even say anything. He’d be coming down from the rafters and stuff. You actually get to play as him and then when you try to get a weapon under the ring, it would default to the black baseball bat. It was cool that they actually put all that thought into it, as far as things making sense from the weapons to the face paint to the moves and taunts and everything like that. I probably used Sting the most.
3. The Madden NFL series (1993-present)
It’s all over the Internet that I am the Madden king. I have the crown in my house. That I definitely had to put on there just because I’m so dominant in Madden. I’ve been dominant for almost a decade now, a decade-plus.
Do you have a specific team or players you have thought of as yours?
My team is always the Patriots. I’m a New England guy and I usually play as them. I think it was 2003 that the version with Michael Vick came out. He was awesome to play with because they didn’t put any limitations on his scrambling abilities. You could basically pick Michael Vick and literally run all over everybody. He had a cannon, too. I used to like playing with the Falcons back when that game came out.
2. Street Fighter II (1991)
I can remember the first time I actually played the game. I went into a Boys & Girls club and they had it there. Everyone was just playing and putting their quarters up on the screen and getting next game and stuff like that. This is what is kind of lost obviously with the ability to play games online. You can talk trash through the headset, but it’s not quite the same as being side by side with somebody and being able to whoop on ’em in front of everybody and talk trash to their face. It’s kind of a lost art, but it definitely brought a lot of us together and kept a lot of us kids out of trouble.
Any favorites to play as?
Definitely Ken. Easily Ken. Yup, yup. Just standard poster child of the game next to Ryu, but they probably had the most interesting rivalry even though they had the same move set. Ken I liked because he was more arrogant and flamboyant and talked a little bit more trash. Ryu was more the honorable fighter who would always do the right thing, but Ken had a little bit more of an edge to him.
1. The Mortal Kombat series (but especially Mortal Kombat II) (1992-present)
You can’t mention fighting games without my number one, which would be Mortal Kombat—just the entire franchise. [There was] all the controversy behind it when it first came out. You had people trying to pass laws against it because Sub-Zero was ripping people’s heads off, and obviously that wasn’t suitable for the kids that were playing the game.
When you didn’t have the Internet back in the day, you’d have to always get information through magazines. I remember Ermac being a guy who you read about, and it was this big myth, [with] ‘Error Machine’ and this and that. You’d go to the arcade and want to try to find out how to see him on the game and you’d be trying to get the error.
[It] just was a really interactive [series] and another one to this day which has stood the test of time. To discover new, fresh, and innovative ways to finish people over 10 years or however long it’s been since the first one came out is definitely a testament to their creativity. [I always liked] just how realistic everything looks. You never get sick of playing it. That’d be my number one for sure.
If I was had to pick a [single] Mortal Kombat, I’ll probably say Mortal Kombat II. I think Super Nintendo did the actual blood instead of having the sweat from Mortal Kombat I. Mortal Kombat II was more crisp. [With] Mortal Kombat I, I remember the graphics looking real, but it just didn’t flow as well as Mortal Kombat II did. I think we played Mortal Kombat II for the entire summer when it came out. I remember playing Mortal Kombat II and eating steak and cheese subs. That’s all we did.