It’s Good To Be The King: Royalty in Games

King me! Legendary kings like Hrothgar and King Arthur have been appearing in literature as early as the 9th-century, and the oral histories of these types of characters reach even further back in time. The Greeks had Zeus, Norse mythology had Odin, and Middle-earth had Aragorn. It wasn’t long before people were creating their own versions of these tales during friendly evenings of Dungeons & Dragons. The next natural step? Video games! Below is my top ten list of some of the most iconic kings found in interactive media.

10. King Edward
King’s Quest
(PC, 1984)

“King Edward the Benevolent is a very wise, but elderly monarch.

One of the first text adventures to have animated graphics, King’s Quest puts you in the shoes of Sir Grahame (later simplified to Graham) who has been tasked by King Edward to find three legendary treasures hidden throughout the Kingdom of Daventry. Should Graham succeed on his journey, he will be given the throne and take the place of the ailing ruler.

“His frail body is almost lost in the large throne.”

The original game was incredibly slow-paced, and I’m not sure how anyone had the patience to tackle some of the more obscure puzzles. Furthermore, if you didn’t type *exactly* the right command in the prompt, the game wouldn’t recognize your action, and you’d be stuck.

Kings Quest II. Screenshot from Dilandau3000‘s YouTube channel.

Despite this flaw, the series was wildly successful, and it received sequels all the way up until 1998’s eighth entry (King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity). In each subsequent adventure, Graham takes on the role of the king and is now the one sending players on their quests. A re-imagining of the first game was developed in 2015-2016 and was released episodically with five chapters in total.

9. King Hippo
(NES, 1987)

“Ha, ha, ha! I am the king! Ha, ha ha!”

If a wrestler can be governor of Minnesota, then a boxer can certainly be a king. Is King Hippo actually a king, though? According to his bio, he is from Hippo Island in the South Pacific, which is the only fictional destination in the Punch-Out!! series. Beyond that, I’ve never seen him attend any royal weddings or charter any trade deals with neighboring countries. Maybe he’s too busy picking at his belly button and that’s why he always has a bandage on his tummy.

Meanwhile, did you know they made a series of live-action commercials to promote the latest Punch-Out!! game for Wii? My favorite part of this one is when a washed up King Hippo tries to sell blenders a la QVC.

8. King Lorik XVI
Dragon Warrior
(NES, 1986)

King Lorik’s appearance in the original NES manual.

There have been 15 kings since the first King Lorik unified the land of Alefgard with his “balls of light.” Leave it to #16 to go and mess it all up. Now the luminous balls have been stolen by the evil Dragonlord, and it’s up to you to grab life by the…. well, you get the idea. Truthfully, the only thing this king is good for is having your deeds recorded on the imperial scrolls of honor (saving your game).

“Goodby now, Hero. Take care and tempt not the fates.”

7. The Nightmare King
Little Nemo: The Dream Master
(NES, 1990)

Still waiting for the Nightmare King/Freddie Krueger crossover movie.

“Shazama-pajama! Shazama-pajama!” Nemo bellows out as he attempts to activate the Royal Scepter given to him by King Morpheus in order to defeat the villainous Nightmare King.

When the mischievous clown, Flip, leads Nemo to an ominous door that they’ve been instructed to never open, they of course open it right away. Immediately, nightmare slime seeps through, allowing for the Nightmare King to kidnap King Morpheus of Slumberland. The only way to defeat the evil king is to journey into Nightmare Land and Shazama-pajama their way to victory. If this guy showed up in my dreams, I’d be traumatized for life.

Screenshot from NintendoComplete’s YouTube channel.

I had no idea that the same year the NES game came out, an arcade version of the adventure was released a few months later. In this coin-operated story, Nemo no longer uses candy to take over the bodies of sleeping creatures, but he is right away equipped with the Morning Star scepter. Also, a second player is able to join in on the action by controlling Flip as they both try to correct the error of opening the ominous door.

6. King Boo
Luigi’s Mansion
(Gamecube, 2001)

“I will not give up on my favorite decoration. I like Mario just where he is.”

Not to be confused with the Big Boo boss in Super Mario World, King Boo rules the “Paranormal Dimension” and acts as the main threat in the Luigi’s Mansion series. In the first game, Luigi is tricked by the ghastly ghost into thinking that he has won an incredible vacation home. Once arriving, though, Luigi discovers that his brother has been trapped inside of a painting, and King Boo wants to add him to his art gallery! It’s up to Luigi and ally Professor E. Gadd to put a stop to these evil doings by telling all of the ghosts that they suck (and will be literally sucked into a vacuum).

I recently read an interesting fan theory where the belief is that King Boo IS Bowser. The thought is that every time Bowser is defeated by Mario, he returns as a ghost who is then resurrected for each subsequent adventure. I’m not buying it. But, that would be a rather unique explanation for why Bowser is able to antagonize the bros again and again!

5. King Dedede
Kirby’s Dream Land
(Game Boy, 1992)

SnakeDedede? You mean it’s not a penguin, Colonel?


We all remember the iconic King Dedede from the multitude of Kirby games where he was either an antagonist or an “arch frenemy,” but did you know that the regal penguin had his own standalone game? Dedede’s Drum Dash Deluxe, released for the 3DS eShop in 2014, is a rhythm game where the self-proclaimed king must bounce to the beat of his own drum as he hops from instrument to instrument in perfect time with the soundtrack. It’s nice to know that if Dedede’s plans for world domination ever fall through, he can fall back on his dream to be in a rock band.

4. King K. Rool
Donkey Kong Country
(Super Nintendo, 1994)

“The supreme commander of the Kremlings and mastermind of the banana heist” – from the SNES manual.

Speaking of bad guys who tried to steal everyone’s food… King K. Rool appeared in the first Donkey Kong Country game with the sinister plan of looting the Kong’s stockpile of bananas (“A treasure in potassium and Vitamin A”). When his schemes are foiled, he decides to dress up like a pirate and call himself Kaptain K. Rool. Oh, and he turns to kidnapping. That escalated quickly! The personality swapping doesn’t stop there. In his third attempt to thwart the Kong family, he dons a lab coat and becomes the mad scientist Baron K. Roolenstein.

Enough is enough! What do you do when you’ve tried three times to get your way and a team of apes keep stopping you in your tracks? Boxing. You turn to boxing. In a last ditch effort to make life miserable for the Kongs, K. Rool adds the alias “Krusha” to his name and asks to settle their differences in the ring. Also, he plans to blow up the entire island with a “Blast-o-matic” laser. Of course, his efforts fail again, and the chaotic kremling is given the boot. Next thing you know, we’ll be seeing this guy trying to sell his own series of blenders.

3. King Koopa
Super Mario Bros.
(NES, 1985) 

Original Bowser box art by Shigeru Miyamoto.

According to the original Super Mario Bros. instruction manual, Bowser is not “King Koopa,” but he is King *of* of the Koopa. He is also described as a “sorcerer king” who “comes at you spitting fire.” Later versions of the game would simplify this moniker to King Koopa. It’s interesting to note that he was actually named after “Kuppa,” which is a traditional Korean dish!

“The great Koopa turtle king.”

Besides having a deep desire to take over the Mushroom Kingdom, Bowser has never learned that “no means no” and has kidnapped Princess Toadstool at least a dozen times. In Super Mario Oddysey (Switch, 2017), he even goes as far as trying to force marriage onto the periled Peach, and he hires a gang of gangster rabbits to ensure that nobody crashes the wedding a la The Graduate.

Meanwhile, it should be noted that the Mushroom Kingdom does have its own king. Peach’s father, King Toadstool, is only briefly mentioned in the first game’s manual, and he is simply called the “Mushroom King.” Beyond that, he has appeared in a few coloring books and also had a reoccurring role in the Mario comic books as someone whose elevator didn’t quite go all the way to the top. No wonder he doesn’t offer any help to save his daughter!

2. King Asgore Dreemurr
(Steam, 2015)

“I just wanted everyone to have hope…”

Without giving too much away about the fantastic game that is Undertale, King Asgore rules over the monster citizens of the Underground. He has a complicated history that forced him to make some tough choices after a war with the humans resulted in his kind being sealed away. This led to him being separated from his wife, Queen Toriel, and his son, Asgore. When a young human named Frisk falls into their world, Asgore is once again faced with a moral dilemma, one that can only be solved based on the choices made by this new character. So, what choices did YOU make?

Honorable Mentions:

King Egger
Adventures of Lolo
(NES, 1989)

Super Mario Bros 2
(NES, 1988)

The Terra-Firmie King
(NES, 1989)

The Kings of
Super Mario Bros 3
(NES, 1988)

The King of Red Lions
The Legend of Zelda:
The Wind Waker
(Gamecube, 2002)

(Arcade, 1994)

1. The King of All Cosmos
Katamari Damacy
(PS2, 2004)

“Such skill. And such class. Dazzling.We feel a swoon coming on.”

Flamboyant and fabulous, the King of All Cosmos did a little too much drinking one night and accidentally destroyed all of the stars in the sky. Whoops. So, as son and royal prince to the great king, it is up to you to rectify this heinous mistake by rolling up all manner of objects into a giant ball so he can create new stars! Ah, the fun memories of having to clean up after drunk Dad. Thankfully, he has all sorts of encouraging dialogue to throw your way.

“Everyone on Earth is very nice, so they’ll be very helpful, yes. They’ll let you roll everything up, with a smile. Yes, possibly also a wave.”

“Well done! So aristocratic! We are dazzled!”

“You did that fast. You hit the goal awfully fast. That was fantastic. That was so speedy and so smart. It will be a shooting star like BOOOM!”

If you want to hear more from The King of All Cosmos, consider following his Twitter account! Though, it hasn’t been active for over a decade now…

Thanks for stopping by to read my post! Can you think of other kings in games worth noting? I had several others I wanted to include, but I tried to keep it short! Let me know some of your favorite kings in a reply below. Also, be sure to “follow” my blog or subscribe via e-mail to have content delivered directly to your inbox!

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Published by erichagmann

Arranger / Pianist / Vocalist / Educator / Gamer

4 thoughts on “It’s Good To Be The King: Royalty in Games

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