1. Tommy Vercetti
Last seen: Spreading violence across Vice City in the Grand Theft Auto franchise
Where he is now: Spreading his word across the airwaves.
On the neon-soaked surface Vercetti had it all: cash, cocaine and Candy Suxx. But inside he felt as empty as a hollow-tipped bullet. “I was disillusioned,” he explains. “There was nothing to shoot for and no one to shoot at.” Vercetti looked to the heavens and had a revelation – a hidden package on the roof of his strip club that unlocked a new bonus mission and a new purpose.
Within months his mansion was transformed into the headquarters of Vercetti New Life Ministries, and Tommy’s charisma and influence quickly made him the number one televangelist in Vice City. His program (now syndicated in over 200 markets) offers enlightenment, redemption and most importantly, merchandise. Soul-cleansing stones, purifying water and aura-enhancing jewelry are just a few of the inspirational items available. “Hey, you can’t put a price on salvation, “he says, “unless it’s my Visions of Vercetti Video Salvation Seminar. That’s just $199.99 plus shipping!” When I point out that his switch from organized crime to organized religion has given him more money, women and power than ever, Vercetti smiles into the sky. “The Lord works in mysterious, tax-free ways.”
Last seen: Rescuing Princess Toadstool in Super Mario Bros.
Where he is now: Living in the shadow of his high-profile brother.
The Kourtney Kardashian of the video game world, Luigi has struggled for years to make a name for himself and be taken seriously as an entertainer. “My brudda he jumpa uppa to anudda platform, hoppa inna his Mario Kart and leave-a me inna dust,” Luigi explains in a thick, stereotypical Italian accent given to him by insensitive Japanese programmers. Did watching his more successful sibling “power-up” to superstardom create any animosity? “Hey, I’m-a no jealous. I just gotta worka more harda, eh?” This harda worka has included guest spots on several unaired sitcom pilots, performances in Canadian dinner theater and an appearance on Celebrity Pinochle Showdown.
He released an exercise video, Pixels of Steel (described as a “tortoise-kicking, mushroom-leaping, total body workout”) but it was quickly pulled from shelves due to a string of personal injury lawsuits. In 2013 he returned to video games in Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon and New Super Luigi U, his fourth title role, which was embraced by fans and critics. Unfortunately the latter game was merely a revamp of New Super Mario Bros. U, so to many it appeared that he was still riding the coattails of his brother. Currently Luigi has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help with the production of “The Kong and I,” the first (and probably last) Broadway musical based on Donkey Kong.
3. Hallway Zombie #6
Last seen: Devouring a spleen in the original Resident Evil.
Where he is now: In Washington, lobbying for the rights of zombies.
Though technically not a video game “star,” his appearance was one of the first cinematic motion video scenes to feature a zombie. “I prefer the term non-living citizen,” Zombie #6 says between bites of ladyfingers as we chat over brunch. “The media portray us as mindless, flesh-eating brain-suckers.” He pauses to sip his Bloody Mary. “And we are. But we still deserve the same treatment as the rest of society.”
Zomb-er-non-living citizen #6 is on a crusade against the “anti-zombie agenda” which he believes ranges from daily discrimination to outright genocide. He’s formed an alliance – United Necro-persons Demanding Equality and Diversity (U.N.D.E.A.D.) and has drafted the Living Dead Disabilities Act which grants zombies equal access to transportation, stores and offices as well as ensuring the right to vote, get married and to “not have your head blown off when you enter a room.” His next project? Creating public awareness by organizing an U.N.D.E.A.D. version of the Million Man March. “Right now it’s more of a thousand corpse shamble, but our point is the same. People may think they can ignore the growing zombie population, but they’re wrong. Dead wrong.”
4. Lara Croft
Last seen: Treasure hunting as the buxom adventurer in the Tomb Raider series.
Where she is now: Conquering inner demons as “Larry” Croft.
She was the original hottie heroine. She was the sexiest soldier of fortune. And she was miserable. “Don’t get me wrong, for awhile I enjoyed the attention,” says the former fanboy fave. “But I was just female rendering over a male framework. Deep down I knew I was initially designed as a man.” Lara suppressed her internal conflict, embracing her role as a video game supervixen. “The skimpy outfits and swimsuit covers fooled the world. I never fooled myself, though.” Eventually this identity crisis began to affect her work. Angel of Darkness flopped and Lara was passed over to play herself in the Tomb Raider films, which went to Angelina Jolie instead. “That’s when I new the charade had to end.”
Released from her contract with Eidos games, Lara dropped out of the public eye and returned six months later – as Larry Croft. (This helps explain why the latest Tomb Raider went with an origin story using a younger Lara Croft, played by a different person.) Now the real adventure begins. This fall a special two-part Extreme Makeover: Celebrity Edition will document his remarkable transformation. “The breast reduction sequences alone required an entire episode, “ he says. Next up is his one-man off-Broadway show “She’s a Man, Baby!” and the soon to be published I Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful, a personal account of Larry’s life (and gender) changing experiences.
Last seen: Living the high life as one of the most popular video game characters of all time.
Where he is now: On the road to recovery.
When Pac-Man Fever broke in the late Eighties, “the dot gobbling became pill popping and I went through a maze of depression,” admits the video game icon. How did Pac fall so far? First there was the battle with Namco over unpaid royalties. At the time, a merchandising frenzy generated millions, but the pie-shaped Pac didn’t get a piece of his own pie. “Never saw a dime. Not even a lousy token.” Then he suffered a messy break-up with Ms. Pac-Man after her well-publicized affair with Q-bert. “I deleted that tramp from my memory banks,” says a still bitter Pac. His 2002 drunk driving arrest (in which he trashed a Lamborghini Diablo he “borrowed” from Gran Turismo 3) was the final blow.
With no extra lives left, he spent the next 18 months at the Jittery Joystick Rehab Center, rooming with a strung-out Sonic the Hedgehog. “Talk about Need For Speed! That guy was my wake-up call.” With his problems behind him, he’s back at work, appearing in this year’s Pac-Man Museum and producing a self-narrated documentary of his ordeals, Pac: Resurrection. Clean and sober for several years now, Pac is staying healthy with a regimen of daily exercise and a diet of cherries, bananas and other fruit – similar to his video game heyday. And the pills? “Just anti-depressants. Call me Paxilman,” he jokes.