“I’m just a caveman. These video games frighten and confuse me.”
5. Joe & Mac
It’s hard to say exactly what made Joe & Mac “Caveman Ninja,” especially since the original Japanese subtitle was more closely translated as either “Caveman Combat” or “Fighting Cavemen.” But it was 1991 and due to the huge popularity of four certain teenage mutant turtles, people figured putting the word “ninja” in the title of your product would help you get a piece of that TMNT bank. Like a lot of games that star cavemen, the Joe & Mac games themselves weren’t especially stellar on a mechanical level, relying largely on the uniqueness of their prehistoric settings and the fact that dinosaurs can make anything just a little more awesome. In truth, Joe & Mac borrow a lot from the Bonk games – right down to a sequence where you enter a dinosaur’s mouth and play a level inside its body – with the main differentiates being the co-op play and the focus on the sultry cavewomen that you rescue in each level. So what makes Joe & Mac unique other than the fact that they are a duo and love the ladies? That has to be their diverse set of weapons and attacks, from their unlimited throwing axes (the default weapon) to stone wheels to spirit clones that assist you – which, come to think of it, doesn’t make them completely unlike their ninja brethren.
4. Chuck Rock
Such was Chuck Rock’s popularity that he was basically Core Design’s signature character before Toby Gard got tired of looking at the male backside of the character in his new 3D adventure game and decided to make it a shapely female one instead, thus creating Lara Croft. Bucking the obviously cliche of the club-wielding caveman, he used his bulbous belly as his primary weapon. As was common in games at the time, Chuck Rock was full of puns of contemporary celebrities, with the first game’s antagonist being Garry Gritter. But the musical references don’t end there – the Chuck Rock games were also known for their music, and Chuck’s ability to shred his guitar for the game’s catchy title theme definitely puts him in a class all his own. It’s not hard to figure out what Chuck’s reward was for rescuing his wife at the end of the first game, as the star of the sequel is the recently born Chuck Jr. The younger Chuck hasn’t yet had years of gorging on dinosaur meat to build his own belly bouncer, so he instead has to rely on a club to fight his way to rescuing his father. But we’ll forgive him for going for the obvious weapon, since he is a friggin’ baby after all.
Easily the most iconic digital caveman of all time, and probably the first character that most people think of when they hear the words “video game caveman.” Bonk also gets the award for most ambitious caveman in gaming history, as he was basically taking on Mario and Sonic in the hopes of being a mascot character on their level and leading the TurboGrafx-16 to blockbuster sales. Well, neither of those things happened, but Bonk still managed to be a compelling character and the star of multiple games over the span of nearly 20 years. Where Chuck Rock used the biggest part of his body – his belly – as his weapon, Bonk was gifted with size in a much more personal area: his head (what were you thinking, perv?). In what has to be one of the most mutually-painful standard attacks ever featured in a video game, Bonk leaps into the air and literally lands head-first onto his enemies (or the ground). The abuse he does to his body in the name of action/platforming doesn’t end there, as he also uses his teeth to scale walls. It’s a good thing that cavemen probably didn’t live for more than 20 or 30 years (if they were lucky), as Bonk would’ve no doubt been a man riddled with chronic pain and health problems after what he put his poor body through.
Tomba is a pink-haired caveman that jumps on top of pigs – while also biting them – and then flips them at walls and other enemies, all in the name of his grandfather’s stolen bangle. And you thought the pigs from Angry Birds went through some sadistic violence over a simple act of theft. To be fair, much of Tomba’s appeal – and his high placement on this list – is due to how fantastic his game is, one of the great overlooked gems of the PS1’s library (if not gaming history). A platformer/action-RPG/Metroidvania hybrid with a delightfully quirky art style and incredible music, Tomba is a game that most people passed over but that everyone should play (especially now that it’s on PSN for only 10 bucks). But despite the fact that he isn’t from any discernible prehistoric era and he fights pigs instead of dinosaurs, Tomba is still very much a “caveman” in appearance, attitude, and aggressiveness. Or maybe I’m just making excuses for Tomba’s seemingly out-of-place appearance in this top 5. Whatever. It’s my list, and if I want to put Tomba on it, then Tomba gets to be on it. I’d put Tomba on every top 5 I ever did it I could.
1. Ayla (Chrono Trigger)
Adding “and women” in parenthesis in the title of this blog wasn’t just some attempt to be politically correct. It was done because the best caveperson in video game history is, in fact, a woman. Ayla joins Crono and friends against battles that involve enemies who shoot lasers, cast magic, and have the power to bring and end to all of time and space – and she holds her own, even though she is basically just fighting with her bare hands and has only scant shreds of fabric as “armor.” Ayla is also special among video game cavepeople as she is a total badass, whereas the women in most prehistoric-based games serve little use than to be the sexy damsels in distress with their breasts spilling out of their skin-tight loincloths – or literally grabbed by their hair and thrown around as the balls in sporting events (I’m looking at you, Caveman Games). In a time when women were probably mostly used as vessels for sexual gratification and breeding, Ayla wasn’t having any of that, and rose to even become the chief or her tribe. In the ending animated scene of the PS1 version, she even flips the script by forcing the man of her choosing to marry her rather than the other way around. Just calling Ayla the best cavewoman of all time doesn’t quite do her justice; she’s one of the best women in gaming history, period.