Even though video game characters are strings of 1's and 0's, they still age. Many change with the times and evolve over the years. They're like childhood friends you keep well into your '80s. They'll always be there. Let's have a look at 12 Iconic Video Game Characters Then and Now and see how much our favorite gaming legends have fared over the years. They may have started with only 8-bits, but now they're looking better than ever.

Then: Super Joe made his debut in the 1987 game Bionic Commando

Bionic Commando

Now: Super Joe has had a facelift and had his 8-bit body smoothed out. With the release of 2009's Bionic Commando, Super Joe was brought up to date and even given a new name, Nathan "Rad" Spencer.

Super Joe Now

Then: A certain plumber leapt his way into our hearts when he first appeared as "Jumpman" in the 1981 arcade game Donkey Kong.

Mario Then

Now: After more than 200 games, it seems that Mario is more spry than ever and showing no signs of stopping.

Mario Now

Then: The Legend of Zelda was released in 1986 and introduced us to Link, another Nintendo character with a princess to save.

Link Then

Now: 15 games and over 68 million copies later, Link is still with us and seems to have gotten a bit taller too.

Link Now

Then: Lara Croft was the darling of the Playstation and PC scene. She introduced gamers to a capable and kick ass adventurer way back in 1994.

Lara Croft

Now: Lara has reinvented herself over and over, but the latest reincarnation of her is by far the best yet. She's not just an adventurer, but a survivor.

Lara Now

Then: The titular character of Donkey Kong was an overgrown ape that had kleptomania problem involving princesses.

Donkey Kong Then

Now: With a svelte franchise and a whole lot of primate pals, Donkey Kong has rounded out those pixels into one of our favorite characters.

Donkey Kong Now

Then: We were first introduced to Samus Aran in the 1986 release Metroid.


Now: Samus has endured the years and remains one of gaming's greatest women.

Metroid Prime 3

Then: Ryu Hayabusa made his introduction in the 1988 game Ninja Gaiden.

Ryu Hayabusa Then

Now: Even though his graphics may have become a bit more smooth and refined, you can be sure that the difficulty of the Ninja Gaiden games is as tough as ever.

Ryu Hayabusa Now

Then: Simon Belmont debuted in the 1986 game Castlevania and used his iconic whip to dispatch all manner of undead beasts.

Simon Belmont Then

Now: He's gone for a more gothic look and let his ancestor Gabriel Belmont take center stage of the Castlevania franchise.

Gabriel Belmont

Then: Metal Gear introduced us to gaming's most iconic military hero, Snake.

Snake Then

Now: Solid Snake still rules the Metal Gear universe even though time has definitely aged him quite a bit. Look at those next-gen wrinkles!

Snake Now

Then: Mega Man was released in 1987 to become an instant classic. It introduced us to the blue boy with a buster.

Mega Man Then

Now: Mega Man has lain dormant for awhile but has finally resurfaced in the newest incarnation of Super Smash Bros. Hopefully we'll see more of that boyish face in the future.

Mega Man Now

Then: In 1990, a little green dinosaur surfaced to help Mario out on his quest to save the princess.

Yoshi Then

Now: Yoshi looks a bit more capable, but remains Mario's most trusted and loyal steed.

Yoshi Now

Then: Sonic the Hedgehog blasted into our lives in 1991. That speed demon instantly captured the hearts of gamers everywhere.

Sonic Then

Now: Even though Sonic fell on some hard times over the years, he's still looking pretty good with the upcoming release of another new game.

Sonic Now

Bonus: 5 Sleepiest RPG Characters