Back to School: Top Ten Professors in Games

Summer is dwindling down, and “Back to School” ads are popping up all over the place. Having just wrapped up my Master’s degree this past spring, I don’t have to worry about going back to learn. BUT, a new adventure awaits! I’ll be going back to TEACH! I found out just over a week ago that I’ll be making another move to start my new position, and I cannot wait to dive in.

As for blog posts, I figured what better way to celebrate than to take a look at teachers as they’ve appeared in video games. What do they teach? For most of them, I have no idea! In any case, below are my top ten instances of professors in games!

10.Pocket Professor: KwikNotes Volume One
(Game Boy Advance 2006)

“Basic reading ability is needed to fully enjoy this game.” – From the back of the box.

If you were living in 2006 and for some reason didn’t have the internet but you did have a Game Boy Advance, then you were in luck! Pocket Professor: KwikNotes Volume One was there for all your educational needs. In a nutshell, this “game” served as a fast guide to facts of all types for students to prep for things like quizzes, final exams, the ACT, and more. I really love that the developer chose to include “Volume One” in its title as if this series was going to explode so much that it would spawn multiple sequels.

Unfortunately, the Pocket Professor never got tenure, and he’s most likely spending his time hanging with his colleague, Professor Brainium, as they try to figure out their next career move.

At the very least, this game actually had puzzles.

9.Professor Monkey-For-A-Head from Earthworm Jim
(Super Nintendo/Sega Genesis 1994)

“Ah, dessert! Chilled monkey brains!”

Not only did Professor Monkey-For-A-Head invent the famed ultra-high-tech-indestructible-super-space-cyber-suit that is found by Earthworm Jim, but the brilliant inventor also gifted the world with pay-toll toilets and atomic bananas. This makes me wonder if Prof. MFAH was the person/chimp behind all the wonky weaponry in that other game with warring worms.

Apparently, the professor has quite the temper, too. According to the original instruction manual, you shouldn’t “call him ‘Monkey Professor-for-a-head’ or he’ll get really steamed!” His rage is understandable, though, as his super suit invention was never intended for Jim but instead for the “evil Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed, Slug for a Butt.” Of course, he could just make another one, but the monkey ate his blueprints! Don’t forget to save your work, kids.

8.Professor Shikashi from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time & Majora’s Mask
(N64 1998/2000)

“I always say that it is important to develop your interests while you are young!” 

Castle Town, Clock Town, and then Kakariko Village… this guy truly was born a ramblin’ man (in both senses of the word). Professor Shikashi (though, unnamed in OoT) teaches Link about all sorts of worldly wonders. His knowledge runs deep as he wanders the streets talking about the Sheikah, the man who lived where the well now sits, and the history of the “fabulously rich family.”

In Majora’s Mask, Shikashi is in charge of the Astral Observatory, and it is him who first notices that something weird is going on with the moon. I wonder if my city has an old man that walks around downtown spouting knowledge about local legends. You know what, maybe I should just stay inside and try not to think about the impending doom from above.

7.Professor Frankly from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
(Gamecube 2004)

“Of course I remember you. Not to toot my horn, but I’m pretty good at remembering.”

Head of the archaeology department at U Goom, Professor Frankly researches legendary treasure. He plays an important role in The Thousand-Year Door by analyzing the magical Crystal Stars that are used to open the ancient entryway.

Frankly is unique in that he is only one of two Goombas that have square teeth instead of pointed teeth. Clearly, he must be a vegetarian – and subsequently he’s probably one of the “cooler” professors on campus with his progressive thinking and zany stories. It’s the glasses, right?

6.Professor Sidney Ruffleberg from Secret of Evermore
(Super Nintendo 1995)

Pre-dating Taylor Swift by 25 years.

Come with me and we’ll be in a world of pure imagination. Professor Sidney Ruffleberg must have been inspired by Willy Wonka when he decided to build a machine that could teleport people to new worlds that were based on their thoughts and imaginations. Unfortunately, because of the actions of a slightly evil robotic butler, he and the three friends who helped him test the machine became trapped in their new locations for 30 years. In the jungle you must wait until a random boy and his dog discover your machine and accidentally get sucked in, too. Wait, that’s not how that went… Anyway, without Ruffleberg, we wouldn’t have this quirky knock-off Secret of Mana-esque adventure where everything is made up and the points don’t matter.

5.The Professor from Ape Escape
(Playstation 1999)

“It works! It actually works!”

Simply known as “The Professor” in the Ape Escape series, this master of science is thankfully not stranded on an island with Gilligan. However, he IS the reason why a bunch of “damn, dirty” apes are trying to rewrite history and take over the world. Screenwriting 101 tells us that every time a Professor tries to test a newly-invented time machine, SOMETHING is going to go wrong. When a bunch of hyper intelligent apes jump though time, it’s up to YOU to send all the manic monkeys back to the future.

4.Professor T. Bird from Battletoads
(Nintendo Entertainment System 1991)

I 100% plan to use this quote in the future.

“Okay, let’s break out the sodas and junk-food – it’s party time!” In an era where everyone was trying to capitalize off of the success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Samurai Pizza Cats, Street Sharks, Biker Mice From Mars, etc.), Battletoads found some footing as a classically impossible NES game that somehow always had us coming back for more.

Like Splinter to the Turtles, Professor T. Bird acted as a mentor for the Battletoads, offering sage advice from his spaceship, “Vulture,” in between each level. Surely, the “T” stands for Thunder, and I’d love to believe that the Professor is this character from Zelda II only years later after getting a few diplomas. For whatever reason, T. Bird didn’t appear in the most recent releases of Battletoads games, but I’m definitely hoping for his return (and his snarky remarks on the continue screen) if we ever see another sequel.

3.Professor Elvin Gadd from Luigi’s Mansion
(Gamecube 2001)

“If I told anyone else, they’d have me committed.”

Elvin? ELVIN? Eeeeeeelviiiiiiiin!!! No, he’s not a chipmunk, but he’s almost the same height. Professor E. Gadd first appeared in Luigi’s Mansion back in 2001 where he lived out his childhood fantasy of helping Don Knotts (Luigi) in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken by inventing a vacuum cleaner that sucks up ghosts. E. Gadd, owner of Gadd Science Inc., also provided gadgets and gizmos for many other Mario games.

Among his array of other creations, he was the inventor of F.L.U.D.D. in Super Mario Sunshine, a Magic Orb in Mario Party 7, and the Super Poltergust 3001 vehicle in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. Personally, I love that E. Gadd fills the role of the crazy scientist in the Mario universe, and I hope to see much more of him in future games. Notice, too, that he has the same kind of glasses as Professor Frankly – apparently they are quite popular in Japanese media!

2.Professor Samuel Oak from Pokémon
(Game Boy 1998)

“People call me the Pokémon Prof!”

I just rewatched the beginning sequence of Pokémon Blue, and it’s amazing that Professor Oak knows so much about Pokémon but can’t even remember the name of his own grandson. Too distracted by his work, I guess. Also, it’s interesting that the second that our main character, Red, tries to leave town, Oak IMMEDIATELY stops him and says that he needs a Pokémon for protection. Have the children of Pallet Town never tried to leave the village before? Is Professor Oak always watching the exit to make sure no one goes without choosing a starter Pokémon first? What’s with Professors in media always teaming up with younger boys to help them out????

Regardless, Professor Oak could have been “the very best” had he not given up battling to become a researcher. Not only did he invent the Pokédex device for cataloging your creatures, but he also provides you with your first Pokémon: Bulbasaur, Squirtle, or Charmander. In future generations of the game, his role is filled by the likes of Professor Elm, Professor Birch, and Professor Rowan. Oh, I just noticed! They’re all trees! No wonder these professors try to stop you when you when anyone leaves. ::ba dum tss::

Honorable Mentions:

Professor Putty from Claymates (SNES, 1993)

Professor Pac-Man (Arcade, 1983)

Professor Hector from Gyromite (NES 1985)

Quistis Trepe from Final Fantasy 8
(Playstation 1999)

“If you think and worry too much, everything tends to turn bad.”

Mario Teaches Typing
(MS-DOS 1992)

“Okie-dokey. Get ready to move your fingers.”

1.Professor Hershel Layton from Professor Layton and the Curious Village
(Nintendo DS 2007)

“A true gentleman leaves no puzzle unsolved!”

Hershel Layton is a professor of archeology at London’s Gessenheller University (where he no doubt studied with Professor Frankly, right?). I always thought of Professor Layton as a modern-day Sherlock Holmes with his protégé, Luke Triton, acting as a stand-in for Dr. Watson. Together, the pair solves mysteries and crimes in nearly the same manner as the classic Holmes & Watson duo. In actuality, Layton’s design was influenced by Phoenix Wright, and there was even a crossover game between the two characters in 2012.

The gameplay itself consists of nothing more than clicking on various locations on the map before being asked to solve textbook puzzles that I’ve seen in old books at my grandma’s house. While simple in design, the game’s story and characters pull you in with beautiful hand-drawn animation and a cast of voice actors who truly bring the action to life.

I ended up getting at least the first couple games on my Nintendo DS a few years back and challenged myself to complete as many puzzles as I could (without looking up the answer). They were exactly the kind of games that I needed in the moment when I had a few spare minutes and I wanted to engage my brain. It has been awhile since I’ve played a Layton game, but I could easily see myself coming back to the Professor for just one more lesson.

Thanks for stopping by to check out my post! Can you think of any other professors in games? Leave me a comment below. Also, be sure to subscribe to my blog for content delivered directly to your email!

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Published by erichagmann

Arranger / Pianist / Vocalist / Educator / Gamer

4 thoughts on “Back to School: Top Ten Professors in Games

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