Fancy graphics are fine, but all gamers know in their hearts that nothing will ever top the drama of Final Fantasy VII or the pure physicality of Super Mario Bros. 3. Playboy’s Retro Gaming articles look at why we love the classics and give you your nostalgia fix.

Most video games released in the 1990s centered on male heroes who displayed extreme feats of masculinity. They were heroes that mustered incredible strength against hordes of enemies and impossible odds on their mission to save the world from evil. Many of us male gamers marveled at these characters and wanted to be like them in many ways. We wanted to have the same strength, attractiveness, and fearlessness in our own lives that we saw in them.

Things may have changed since then, but let’s take a moment to celebrate these characters’ undeniable—if cartoonish—manliness. Here are five 16-bit game heroes that will get your testosterone levels pumped up to max.

’Street Fighter 2’
Remember that Street Fighter movie with Jean Claude Van Damme as the American fighter Guile? Yeah, we aren’t talking about that right now—or ever again. We are talking about Street Fighter 2’s American badass known as Guile. Guile brings his huge biceps and incredibly fine-tuned hair to the Street Fighter tournament, along with that iconic music theme that goes well with anything. As a United States army colonel, Guile serves his country well by handing out certified American ass-whoopings to the rest of the Street Fighter 2 roster.

But there’s much more to this American strongman. If you manage to get through Street Fighter 2’s arcade mode, you’ll see that Guile fights for his wife and children in addition to his country. In true heroic fashion, Guile spares the life of the dictator M. Bison and chooses to be a family man when his mission is complete.

’Altered Beast’
The ancient Greeks were obsessed with masculine expression. Their greatest hero, Hercules, was said to be the pinnacle of masculine power and achievement. This same kind of worship can be found in Sega’s action title, Altered Beast. The hero is a nameless Centurion, summoned back from the dead by the almighty Zeus on a mission of divine importance. Armed with just his two hands and the ability to transform into a mighty creature, the Centurion faces hordes of monsters on his quest to save Zeus’ daughter, Athena.

Imagine combining the physiques of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dolph Lundgren into one, and then using it to fight mythological monsters with your bare hands. This kind of body gives the question “Do you even lift bro?” a whole new level of ferocity. There may be some magic involved here, but the Centurion has the pure muscle power to get the job done.

’Contra 3: The Alien Wars’
Sometimes diplomacy fails and it’s necessary to go in guns blazing. No other video game series has embodied this more than the Contra series. Contra brought the fire power to the Sega Genesis in the form of Contra 3: The Alien Wars. Players took control of Jimbo and his partner Sully as they cooperatively mowed down hundreds of alien invaders with an array of guns at their disposal.

Alien invasions and futuristic settings were a big trend in action movies and video games. Saving the world while outnumbered by the enemy was something we loved to fantasize about. We had our big muscles and even bigger guns to overcome the challenges in front of us. Jimbo and Sully embodied the “shoot first, question later” approach that made Contra 3 so much fun to play. If something was in your way, shoot it and blow it up. Problem solved, roll those end credits.

’Ghouls & Ghosts’
Facing supernatural threats alone is always a great way to how much of a man you are. In the Ghost & Goblins series, Arthur is a knight that takes on the hordes of hell in a quest to destroy Satan and rescue his beloved princess. You read that right, the Devil himself. You’re on a quest to destroy the unholy ruler of everything evil in the universe. That takes some serious balls.

Don’t let Arthur’s funny looking boxer shorts fool you though. As a knight with a daunting task, Arthur wields plenty of magical weapons and spells that allow him to slay hellspawn that plague the world. Armor that calls forth lightning, holy fire that incinerates evil, and weapons to penetrate the horrifying minions of darkness is only a fraction of his available arsenal. Arthur’s strength comes from his courage to face evil while outmatched in every way. But through determination and faith in himself is he able to bring the wrath of God to defeat Satan and rescue his beloved.

Classic horror icons like Count Dracula always find a way to rise from the dead and cause trouble. In the Castlevania games, the Belmont clan of hunters is tasked with slaying the prince of darkness whenever he returns to the world of the living. Simon Belmont is the hero of the series that wields the iconic Vampire Killer whip, the only weapon capable of destroying Dracula and his army of dark creatures. Simply put, Simon Belmont must travel to Castle Dracula to whip Count Dracula’s ass back to the afterlife.

Simon Belmont is like many other fantasy heroes we look up to that face impossible odds. The whipping is at an all-time high as Simon fights through many horror icons, such as Frankenstein and the Wolf Man, on his quest to kill Dracula. Imagine being the hero of every classic Universal and Hammer-Horror movie by whipping monsters into submission to save the world. He may not be your typical Van Helsing, but Simon Belmont’s just as effective.

Jakejames Lugo is a freelance writer who has been playing video games his entire life. When not fighting evil in the digital realm, he’s usually watching movies or practicing with his nunchucks. You can follow him on Twitter @Venomousfatman1.

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