“Fashion experiences itself as a right, the natural right of the present over the past,” critic Roland Barthes said in his 1967 book The Fashion System. Likewise, I’m saying that an outfit change can completely usurp a video game, pushing itself to the front of the crowd, making all previous outfits and vibes null. That’s why I put together a list of nine of games’ most memorable outfit changes.
While you might not outright notice a game’s fashion while you play — at least not as much as you recognise more obvious things, like controls and how many enemies are currently on screen trying to eat you — major style moments play a huge role in setting a game’s tone and expectations.
I mean, really. Think about it. When Kirby uses a Copy Ability to put on a jaunty little hat, he also gains impressive powers, and his previous existence as a defenseless, bubblegum wad of exposed flesh is replaced completely. When Persona 5’s Joker awakens as a Phantom Thief, a bat-winged mask stuck over his bleeding eyes, it’s impossible to still imagine him as an ineffectual high schooler. And can you even recall that Bayonetta was introduced as a veiled nun when the catsuit she changes into looks like that?
Probably not. Ooh la la! Keep reading for more about those unforgettable outfit changes and a few more.
Black-haired Bayonetta was introduced to the world in the 2009 action-adventure bearing her name, wearing a cascading veil in the style of a nun’s habit, or Little Red Riding Hood, and an inexplicable bodysuit with flared legs.
In the midst of battling angels, the demon witch reveals her true self in an essay-inducing series of moans and boob and butt cleavage. Her long hair extends and tightens around her until it forms the leathery black catsuit she’s most recognisable for, and she immediately uses it to point a gun under a closeup of her spread arse like she’s evil Ice Spice. I’m not a huge fan of incongruously sexy video game moments like this, but at least this outfit change demonstrates both form and function, summing up Bayonetta’s specific, tactical sexuality for new players.
Vicar Amelia, Bloodborne
In another instance of subversive nunnery, we have Vicar Amelia, an early Bloodborne boss first shown as, it seems, a terrified girl. She’s hunched over on the ground of the empty Great Cathedral, wearing a wafer-thin, blood-stained cloak and mumbling into her clasped gold locket about death.
The locket stays fixed in her hands as her bones crack and insides splatter on the wall — quite a dramatic outfit change. We get it, girl!
As the game’s camera pulls away, you see what she’s become: a wolfish monster, tattered white cloak still slipped over her shy eyes. Keeping her hood on is very sustainable of Vicar Amelia, and it’s a great fashion tip. Only a few key changes are enough to reinvigorate an old look.
Lady Dimitrescu, Resident Evil Village
Mutant MILF Lady Dimitrescu spends survival horror Resident Evil Village being intimidating in her dusty, empire-waist gown. Black fabric flowers and a sloping, wide-brim black hat cement her style as 1930s gothic glamor, but, yeah, the fact that she has a huge rack helps, too.
But it’s time for her to change during her boss fight. She slips into something more…evil. Wet wings flit out of her hunched back like a hernia, and as her screams turn into full-belly supervillain laughs, we see scary mummy Dimitrescu for what she actually is: a monster.
Instead of being snatched, her waist is now attached to an oily-looking, writhing dragon. Her immaculate pin curls are swapped out for thick tendrils wriggling around her like centipede arms. It’s an impressively shocking change that really makes you question your need for domination. Take her swimming on the first date, folks.
Malenia, Blade of Miquella, Elden Ring
Eventually, I will shut up about how organically gorgeous open-world, gore-topia Elden Ring’s clothes are, but not today. During her legendary, ferocious boss battle, rotten Empyrean Malenia casts aside her fur-trimmed cloak and impeding bronze robes to rise up from a flower. She emerges naked except for her scars, gold prosthetic limbs, and curling tendrils of stormy hair, blown out into stiff wings, weeping glimmering butterflies.
She goes from looking like an interchangeable warrior to terrifyingly feminine — angelic and hardened. See, video games? You can reveal women’s bodies without employing any essay-inducing moans, and it’s still great.
Deku Scrub Link, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
I feel like 2000’s Zelda instalment Majora’s Mask is sometimes overshadowed by the game before it, Ocarina of Time, or even the one after it, Twilight Princess, but the outfit change that puts the rest of the game into motion still sticks with me.
A weary Link heads through the forest in his classic, Elf-on-the-Shelf-type outfit, his floppy, pointed green hat loose on his blond head, a boxy green tunic belted onto the rest of him. He’s soon stopped and kicked off his horse, bullied by a nasty Skull Kid who turns him into a coconut-looking Deku Scrub forest creature.
Like with Vicar Amelia, Link’s change is dramatic, but it maintains vestiges of his former self, green hat and tunic still shielding his now wooden, manipulated body. It’s immediately unsettling, shaking you out of whatever expectations you had for the boy you knew and his endless questing.
Atreus, God of War Ragnarök
Teenage Atreus usually dresses like any self-respecting son of a god should, often in some protective variation on a combination of leather, cloth, and fur the player chooses for him. He gets more experimental as his powers as Norse god Loki, the God of Mischief, begin to reveal themselves, leading to lightning-fast, complete transformations where Atreus turns into a literal animal.
The first time this happens, Atreus’ hands clench, and his eyes glow icicle-blue until he’s suddenly a wolf, revealed in a splash of glowing embers and orange light. Puberty really is a bitch.
Joker, Persona 5
Role-playing game Persona 5 protagonist and high schooler — code name Joker — might be able to relate to Atreus. He, too, is catapulted into unexpected transformation, able to crusade against evil by infiltrating its physical manifestation, called Palaces. But before he can do so, he needs to “awaken,” and change from a uniform-wearing student to his, as it says in the title, persona.
Right before a Palace enemy is about to slice off his head with a sword, Joker raises his face to reveal a white mask stuck around his eyes. He tears it off, spouting blood and looking injured before blue flames swallow him. Then, he’s able to command his top hat-wearing Persona, Arsène.
It’s a lore-heavy outfit change, I’ll admit. It’s also kind of Hannah Montana. The biggest difference between what Joker is wearing before and after he awakens is his mask — otherwise, the trench coat he wears with a popped collar gives him the same nondescript edginess as his plaid school uniform. But it helps you understand that Joker has his personal style locked down, and having a strong sense of self provides a well of power on its own.
Phazon Suit, Metroid Prime Remastered
Power Suit-wearing Samus’ change into the almost identical Phazon Suit in Metroid Prime Remastered is more nondescript than Joker’s awakening. When the Omega Pirate boss is defeated, its body is absorbed and exploded by corrosive, bubbling Phazon. Out of its light, Samus stands up slightly changed, her once leaf-red Power Suit now a burnished black metal. It gleams a bit more, and cherry red light pulses where plates connect to form large, metal muscles.
Though the alteration seems subtle on its face, at this point in the game, Samus’ muted colours are comfortable and familiar. This high-contrast black-and-red comes across as a significant power shift, and it is — it reduces damage by 50 per cent. Subtlety is impactful, and the way you see Samus (when you’re not in first-person view) is permanently altered.
Ball, Kirby’s Adventure
So, I respect subtlety. That’s why I have a soft spot for one of highly-absorbent pink puff Kirby’s earliest Copy Ability moves, “Ball.”
Kirby’s gotten a lot more experimental with his looks since 1993, but it’s important to remember where you come from. “Ball” turns Kirby, already fairly rotund, into a limbless sphere, much like Morph Ball Samus in Metroid Prime.
In the first Kirby game with Copy Abilities, Kirby’s Adventure, Ball lets Kirby roll through enemies and up starry platforms. He’s still pink and round, bloated and easily injured by enemies he bumps into the wrong way. But even a power as innocuous as Ball communicates the fact that Kirby is a slab of clay, able to be moulded and made stronger. It’s a motivational ethos the franchise has never let go.
What are some of your favourite video game outfit changes?
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