17 Best Palette Swapped Characters

Palette Swapping: 17 Games that Did it Right

GamePro names the 17 most memorable palette-swapped video game characters ever.

Gamers love large character rosters, but game developers (heck, people in general) like working less than they have to. Thus, the palette swap character was born. If you need to create a wealth of enemies, fighting game characters, or a second player, why not photocopy and recolor? Here are 17 games that did palette swapping the right way.

Palette Swapping: 17 Games that Did it Right
#17: Zangief and Mech Zangief (Marvel Superheroes vs. Street Fighter)

When you use a human model to create a robot, the selected model should embody the best attributes of humanity. Using this logic, we can understand why M. Bison based his android on the hairy, scarred, drunk, Russian wrestler we call Zangief. And while few of us knew that wrestling was so big in that ex-communist state, I think we can all recognize that wrestling robots make the best robots.

Palette Swapping: 17 Games that Did it Right
#16: Rash and Zitz (Battletoads)

If you've ever seen a toad in real life you know that besides their color they all look pretty similar, so when Mother Nature (a.k.a. game developer) makes said toads anthropomorphic, it would seem unnatural to give them distinguishing physical characteristics. At least that's probably what the developers at Rare said when creating these nearly identical protagonists, which most people would probably interpret as saying, "we're lazy."

Palette Swapping: 17 Games that Did it Right
#15: Iron Man and War Machine (Marvel vs. Capcom 2)

Prior to Hollywood's blockbuster treatment, there was once a time when Iron Man was the Nicky Hilton to the rest of Marvel's Paris. So if Iron Man seemed slightly obscure to some, think of how many sweaty, overweight, arcade-dwellers scratched their heads after seeing War Machine. However, War Machine ultimately ended up being the arcade player's preferred character, largely because black is much cooler looking than red.

Palette Swapping: 17 Games that Did it Right
#14: Nick Bruiser and Rick Bruiser (Super Punch-Out!!)

If Nick and Rick Bruiser were insulted for being termed palette swappers, they might try and argue that brother Rick--the less skilled of the two boxers--is substantially different due to the pair of earrings he wears. Yet, even they would have a tough time arguing their point, largely due to the fact that neither one of them is capable of performing any actions (persuasive arguing included) outside of their programmed punch-throwing.

Palette Swapping: 17 Games that Did it Right
#13: Kuma and Panda (Tekken 3)

So you are a grizzled video game programmer who wants to make a fighter with 23 characters. The only problem is you only have room for 22. Fortunately, one of your characters is a non-descript, fighting bear, who--with a few tweaks and embellishing--could be easily converted into an all-new (looking) second fighter. And luckily for you, Mother Nature has already created a variety of Ursidae Caniform (bear) that comes pre-embellished. This palette swap is notable for the fact that Kuma (the paletter) is actually in love with Panda (the palettee). You'll soon notice that this would be disturbing for most of the other entries.

Palette Swapping: 17 Games that Did it Right
#12: Foot Clan (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

If there is one advantage the evil Shredder possesses, it is a near infinite supply of brightly-adorned ninjas in a rainbow of colors known as the Foot Clan. Unfortunately for this Ninjutsu master, the Foot Clan are about as competent of fighters as you and I (I'm assuming you're a frail 27-year-old, who has never been in a fight as well). Foot Clan pros: easy to join, you can tell chicks you're a ninja. Cons: Frequent ass-kickings by sentient turtles.

Palette Swapping: 17 Games that Did it Right
#11: Mileena and Kitana (Mortal Kombat)

From all outward appearances Mileena and her twin sister, Kitana, are nearly identical. They are both adorned with Michael Jackson-esque masks that cover their grills, both prefer wearing clothing that shows off their inflated mammary glands, and both have used the usually endearing gesture of kissing as a fatality. However, if you gauge Mileena's attractiveness simply based on the size of her baby-feeders, be ready for some disappointment when she removes her mask.

Palette Swapping: 17 Games that Did it Right
#10: Popo and Nana (Ice Climber)

What's more adorable than ice-climbing, midget, Eskimo twins attempting to reclaim their stolen produce? If you answered, "pretty much anything," you are correct. But while these doppelgangers' plight may seem odd, you can't deny the imaginative creativity that went into their unique character design. One dresses in pink while the other in blue, y'see, since one's a boy and the other's a girl. Genius.

Palette Swapping: 17 Games that Did it Right
#9: Ryu and Ken (Street Fighter 1)

While some may have argued that Street Fighter 2's depiction of Ryu and Ken utilized palette swapping, a true palette swapping aficionado would know that only the original and extremely crappy Street Fighter exploited the swapping of palettes. Unfortunately, if you do consider yourself to be a palette swapping aficionado, many people, or all the people, probably consider you to be the world's biggest nerd (you would, however, be in the good company of this article's author).

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Am I the only one who finds the Bruiser brothers' shiny, greasy oddly-shaped foreheads disturbing?


I always wanted Ken and Ryu in 3 way. They were so hot...identical but not twins, who wouldn't want to hop in the sack with those two?

Yes, the 8 bit era was an interesting era of interesting short cuts. It's amazing how a little color swapping could do. If only it were so simple these days.


were are mrs.pac-man and pac-man, forgot one didn't you! think you ran out of ideas around the zelda octopus one.


PatrickShaw wrote:

Am I the only one who finds the Bruiser brothers' shiny, greasy oddly-shaped foreheads disturbing?

The double bumps cause double headbutt damage. Booya!


LMAO!!! i do tht all the time when im playing with my game maker program... so much easier to change the colors than to redesign a new enemy...


What about Final Fantasy X? Hmmmm? Omega and Ultimate Weapon were a big color swap if I ever did see one. That entire game had waaaay too many color swaps and its newer than most of the games spoken of in this article.


Everybody on Final Fight, which I like to bust on that Capcom remix does it for me.


Same thing happens in Crono Trigger the Gato character (the robot in Leene Square) becomes an enemy with just a different color when you go to fight the Queen.

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