The best (Top 10) videogame Cannon Fodder of all time

Videogame Cannon Fodder . . . Goombas need power-ups to fight back!
My friends, we are going to take a moment today to honor a very important part of villainy: cannon fodder. If you are unfamiliar with the term, “Cannon Fodder” are brave souls whose sole purpose is to throw themselves in the way of oncoming bullets.

No evil genius, diabolical tyrant or power-crazed overlord would be complete without an endless supply of minions to throw against every hero or protagonist who dares try to oppose them.

Thus I have devised a list of the best of these endless hoards. I humbly submit to you the Greatest Videogame Cannon Fodder of All Time.

Disgaia Prinny Wallpaper

10. Prinnies

This is a shameless plug from a blatant Nippon Ichi fan. As this isn’t the number one series of all time . . . yet, I’ll explain the Disgaia series and their lovable cannon fodder briefly. Disgaia is set in the Underworld. It is full of all manner of demons and monsters. Amidst all of these powerful and dangerous creatures vying for power, there must be useless peons to do the grunt work. Prinnies are those peons. They look like penguins with fanny packs. They are actually the vessels for human souls who are atoning for the sins from their life. They use knives and bombs and overuse the word “Dood.” They are quirky and lovable and are fun to beat up. Oh, they also explode when you throw them. For more information, be sure to check out my Disgaia: Hour of Darkness review.

Videogame Gangs & Thugs caused problems all throughout the 8 & 16-bit eras. Like in this Final Fight screenshot

9. Gangs/Thugs

Ever since the golden age of Double Dragon and River City Ransom gangs and thugs have been stealing girlfriends and getting in a hero’s way; armed with guns, knives and lead pipes. No one is quite sure why they have been doing this. Have they been hired? Were they bored? Did they just need a hug? We may never know. What we do know is that they will be obtruding the paths of heroes until the end of time.

Koopas & Goombas. And they call us the bad guys artwork

8. Koopas and Goombas

No matter what generation you grew up in, if you grew up playing videogames there is a pretty good chance you spent some quality time killing the Mario classics: Koopas and Goombas. Vicious turtles and shambling mushrooms of death have been a training ground for the untrained thumbs since 1985, with no sign of letting up. They have a warm spot in the hearts of most gamers and definitely deserve a spot on this list.

The Simpsons Everyone All Characters artwork. The cast of Springfield

7. Springfield

For fans of The Simpsons, it has been great having a handful of Simpsons games come out that allow us to fight (or in some cases . . . “taxi”, etc.) our way across Springfield, taking on the entire town that we love so much. I don’t think any game captured this as well as The Simpsons arcade game did. A beat-’em-up in the vein of Ninja Turtles or even Double Dragon before that. Konami took the genre and made The Simpsons arguably better than anything else published. This is a feat that, sadly, very few licensed games have managed to accomplish, before or since. Fighting the cast and citizens of Springfield always seems to prove colorful and amusing. I feel this solidifies their position at #7. As an aside, fans may want to send Konami a note that The Simpsons arcade game would be perfect as a downloadable Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network or WiiWare title.

Storm Troopers cosplay Cannon Fodder. They have 'please kill me' written all over them!

6. Storm Troopers

Ever since they took the big screen by storm (sorry I couldn’t resist), these guys have been getting killed and making it look easy. In fact it is often argued that no other human dies as easily or in as large a quantity as the men in white. They are both classic and iconic. Equal parts dangerous and useless. Storm troopers are an important part of the Star Wars universe and something that made games like 1995’s Star Wars: Dark Forces really shine.

The Foot Clan from Turtles in Time are colorful Cannon Fodder

5. The Foot Clan

At the roots of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the foot clan was just another endless line of peon thugs. Slowly the Ninja Turtles gained popularity but when Turtles 2: The Arcade Game arrived, the Foot Clan became something far greater. Suddenly the Foot Soldiers were not just a cool looking bunch of cannon fodder. They were celebrating diversity. Suddenly they came in a wonderful assortment of colors. Foot Soldiers were using swords, boomerangs, manhole covers, dynamite, bombs, bow and arrows or just plain old punching. It didn’t matter what color you were or what kind of weapon you wanted to use. There was a place in the Foot Clan for you. Ever since, Foot Soldiers have existed in beautiful variety for us all to beat down.

Sentinel army X-Men artwork (cannon fodder)

4. Sentinels

X-Men brought us one of the greatest entries to the cannon fodder compendium, especially the greatest in size. These huge robots tower over buildings and make life very hard for the average do-gooder. Fortunately the X-Men are far above average. What would be enough to qualify as a main villain for most heroes is taken out in numbers by this team. They have showed up in several X-Men games so far, but no developer has done them justice yet. I keep my fingers crossed until the day they do. In the meantime, here is a little reminder for all the fans out there. X-Men: Children of the Atom was a classic beat-em up published by Capcom back in 1994 that featured Sentinels as a cannon fodder enemy to tear through. Sadly they were the size of men, not towering colossi. They were still cool however. Everyone interested should shoot Capcom a request to bring this classic arcade game to Xbox Live, PlayStation Network or WiiWare as a downloadable title. They have been looking for feedback on which of their classic games to make available on PSN, for example, so make your voices heard! They need to know what the fans want. My PS3 needs this.

Nazi killing in videogames since Wolfenstein 3D. Killing Hitlar & his men never gets old!

3. Nazis

The only real life army to make this list, Nazis seem to have made a significant historical impression. If given the choice to fight through any historical army, I believe that Nazis would be chosen as the antagonist in a game by a landslide every time. They weren’t as terrible as the ancient Assyrians. The weren’t as unstoppable as the Romans or Babylonians. In fact, they didn’t excel in any area that other armies hadn’t already done better. Perhaps it’s simply the fact that they were the most recent army who chose to be the bad guys and attempt global domination. Whatever the reason, a massive amount of games have been made dedicated to killing them; ranging from a myriad of first person WWII shooters to the less historical ones like Wolfenstein. Based on sheer popularity and villainy the Nazis make number three best cannon fodder of all time. An interesting side note: At the opposite end of the imaginary poll, Spartans were clearly voted as the army nobody wants to fight. Their sheer unbeatableness and the fact that they are made of pure awesome is probably to blame.

Ninjas! Videogames! YES!

2. Ninjas

Similar to Nazis, Ninjas have received a huge number of games dedicated to them. Everyone wants to be one and it’s even more impressive when a hero is able to take a bunch of them out. Forced to chose one, I would give Shinobi as the best example of the beautiful dance of death that is a ninja fight. I could go on for pages about them but ninjas can clearly speak for themselves. They don’t though. They prefer to watch you from the shadows waiting for the perfect moment to strike. You probably don’t even know they are there.

Zombie hordes make the best videogame cannon fodder!

1. Zombies

Zombies make appearances in every game from Resident Evil and Dead Rising to Metal Slug or Burn, Zombie, Burn. There are truly a frightening number of games that features them. They aren’t fast or smart. They are powerful and relentless. They can’t be reasoned with. They can’t be stopped. Their only motivation is to eat your brain. I have been doing it for years and I still don’t know why, but they are fun to fight and they are fun to kill. Based on numbers alone, I don’t believe any other cannon fodder army can ever supplant zombies from the number one spot on this list.

These, my friends, are the best of the cannon fodder. They are the ones who make so many games and movies great. They are the endless hoards that must be overcome to stop evil men with diabolical plans. They are the backbone of any great fictional dictatorship, coup or crime spree.

I would love to hear opinions on the list. Did I miss any of the greats? What the the best of the classics? Does the Foot Clan really beat the Sentinels for the ‘Coolest Looking’ category? Share your thoughts.

Image thanks – “Goombas” drawing at top thanks to ZeroMayhem at DeviantArt, Koopas and Goombas, “Simpsons Everyone” via dan-dare.org, and Storm Troopers cosplay.