Every so often, a character in a video game - be it hero, villain, or NPC - will need to hide their identity. Maybe they’re infiltrating an enemy compound, joining a masked martial arts tournament, attending a fancy ball, or just need to rent a motorbike. Sometimes their disguises are good, but quite often, these disguises wind up being utterly ridiculous, usually because the designers wants you to be able to recognize the character behind the disguise - or maybe just because they think it’s funny.
There are way too many ridiculous disguises out there, so rather than a standard ranking, instead let’s go over some of the more common types of ridiculous disguises and what makes them so utterly farcical.
Literally Paper Thin
A moment’s time, a pen, some crayons, and paper: that’s all these people need to conceal themselves from prying eyes. Despite being little more than ink on paper (or less), these outfits actually manage to fool people. Don't ask us how.
Amaterasu - Ōkami
Heading up to Ōkami's climactic showdown with Orochi no Okami, godwolf Amaterasu needs to infiltrate the eight headed demon’s hideout. How does she do this? Drawing on a slip of paper and taping it to her face. Now, granted, all of Orochi’s imp minions wear similar "masks", but you’d think the guards would at least recognize that their new recruit was a dog, same as the one they just met less than five minutes ago.
Spy -Team Fortress 2
A selector, a click, a disguise. If you are the spy’s ally, all you see is the Spy wearing a cheap paper mask with a crudely drawn face on it, yet this disguise is so effective it fools absolutely everyone, from the notoriously unhinged Soldier, to the Engineer with seven PhDs. However it works, it works.
Solid Snake - Metal Gear Solid
Arguably more camouflage than traditional disguise, Solid Snake is nevertheless able to convince battle hardened soldiers that nothing is amiss about a human sized cardboard delivery box just lying in the middle of their heavily fortified military compound, even when they know there’s a man infiltrating said compound. Maybe he learned it from Spy. It wouldn’t make the lore of either universe any more ridiculous.
Archer Kirby - Kirby Triple Deluxe
Kirby is known for his many hats and powers, but they all leave him recognizably himself. So too does his Archer power from Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot, at least until you press down and Kirby hides behind adorable and crudely drawn cardboard rocks, trees, and even a painting of King Dedede that not only manage to keep his foes from knowing where he is, but also render him completely impervious to damage as well. Maybe there’s something to cardboard that Kirby and Snake aren’t telling us...
Domino, Half Mask, Bandanna, the full Lucha - these people have put a little more effort into their disguises, but most of the nature of their disguises comes down to how well they do, or don’t sell their alter egos.
Mask Royal - Pokémon Sun and Moon
This mysterious Pokémon trainer is absolutely NOT your Pokémon Professor Kukui. Okay, he is. He very obviously is, and we all know it. But we can all respect the spirit of Lucha and pretend like we don't. Besides, he puts on a good show, and that alone should be enough reason not to spoil his fun.
Mystere - Lunar 2: Eternal Blue
Defender of the Downtrodden, Righter of Wrongs, Hero of the Hopeless, Mystere is very obviously Eternal Blue’s heroic antagonist and literal white knight, Leo, in a mask. We can always forgive the simplicity of his disguise, because of the sheer energy and vitality he puts into his alter ego, the fact that he has a kickin’ rad theme song, and because his attack call outs are amazing when he fights as Mystere. Seriously, where else are you going to hear a man in a domino mask shout “Discipline Feels Good, Ha!” before calling lighting down on your enemies?
Sterling Sylva - Dragon Quest XI
Partnered with the Golden Boy in the great masked martial arts tournament, Sterling Sylva is a dashing masked marvel who only appears for his singular fight against the Luminary, and is certainly not party member Sylvando having a bit of fun. Like others on this list, the disguise itself isn’t terribly convincing, but given Sylvando’s commitment to his alter ego - and that the game’s bestiary refuses to to call him out, even though it’s glad to call out other masked team members - we’ll gladly play along with him on this one.
Geralt of Rivia - The Witcher 3
You may have noticed that for the other entries in this section, I identified them all by their alter egos. But I didn’t do that for Geralt. Why? Because Geralt’s not even trying. Whether he puts on his mask to play “the prince of thieves” to get his best friend out of a scrape, attend a fancy masked ball, or perform a daring midnight heist, Geralt isn’t covering up his most identifying feature, his pure white hair. Not only is “The White Wolf” best known for his pure white hair which none of his masks cover up, he can barely remember to not say his own name when he wears them, yet somehow, he’s never called out. Maybe no one wants to get on his bad side. And of course, an honorable mention has to go to the Crimson Avenger, who certainly isn’t Dandelion in a cheap purple mask, nosiree.
Sometimes, you don’t need anything to pull off a disguise other than the sheer force of will and confidence that it will work. The following examples are ridiculous because they’re all effective, mostly in spite of themselves.
Ultimate Imposter - Dangan Ronpa 2
This Ultimate Impostor is so good at pretending to be someone else that people will believe them even in face of blatant contradictions. Take for example their disguise as Dangon Ronpa’s Byakuya Togami. Despite Ultimate Impostor being notably shorter and almost twice the weight of Byakuya Togami, the impostor is able to fool literally everyone, including people who knew the real Byakuya and saw him die. Seriously, that’s some insane bluster.
Furio Tigre - Ace Attourney: Trials and Tribulations
Who says you need to go to law school and pass the bar to be a lawyer? For this Loan Shark, all it took was a cardboard badge and the sheer bravado to tell everyone that he was Phoenix Wright. Not only was his ruse so convincing that he got a client, he represented that client in court and no one realized the deception for over a month. In fact, the only reason his deception was discovered was because someone complained to Phoenix himself!
Rottytops - Shantae and the Seven Sirens
Perhaps the most recent example on this list, Shantae’s undead friend Rottytops disguises herself as a Half-Genie at the beginning of Shantae’s latest outing. Despite her inability to give herself a convincing name - she introduces herself as both “Fillin The Blank” and “Ima Goodgirl” - her disguise is good enough to fool her long term friend, Shantae, and the other Half Genies before they all get mysteriously kidnapped near the beginning of the game. She even fools the series antagonist Risky Boots, but to say more would be spoilers.
Freddy Pharkas - Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist
From the most recent to the most obscure disguise on this list, Freddy hails from an early 90s Sierra Adventure game where the titular pharmacist must don a disguise to save his frontier town. His disguise? A prosthetic ear to replace an ear shot off in the game’s prologue. That’s it. No false nose, no mustache, no sunglasses, no mask. Just an ear. This lack of a disguise works so well that it fools literally everyone until the false ear is taken off, leading to the shock and amazement of his companion at the time, who still can’t quite believe it.
The Horrible Goose - Untitled Goose Game
Partway through your adventures as a horrible goose, you are tasked with stealing a ribbon. The way you do this? Pull a ribbon off of a statue of a goose, hide the evidence, and stand very still. You are now a statue. Later in the game, you also hide in a box to get access into a heavily fortified area, so maybe the goose is a master of all forms of disguise.
Over the Top
Sometimes, what makes a disguise ridiculous is the sheer extra-ness of it all. Whether that’s the effort put into it by the player or the character, or the unnecessarily level of effort a character has taken to hide their identity, these disguises all go that little bit further in one way or another.
Cloud Strife - Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VII Remake
The Wall Market sequence is one of the most beloved portions of Final Fantasy VII and its remake, where Cloud Strike must wander around the seedy red light district of Wall Market to find all the right components for a super convincing disguise, so he can then sneak into a mafia boss’s sex palace to save his martial artist childhood friend, Tifa. It makes more sense in context. A little. While Cloud isn’t required to assemble every piece of the disguise in the remake, he does need to visit an erotic hand masseuse, win a literal underground fighting tournament, and play what essentially amounts to Dance Dance Revolution with a nightclub owner. That part doesn’t really make more sense in context, but the results are worth it.
Worth an honorable mention is Red XIII's efforts to disguise himself as a soldier while Cloud and company stow away aboard a ship. While most of Cloud’s party fit more or less into their suits, Red XIII - a talking fire cat/dog creature - has to learn how to walk on two legs for his disguise, even if he’s not so good at hiding his tail.
The Boss - Saints Row 3
The Third Street Saints are not exactly known for being subtle, and even their stealth missions wind up over the top. Needing to devise a rescue of fellow Saint Shaundi from a flying aircraft carrier, the Boss undergoes a full body surgery to look and sound just like the commander of STAG, the person responsible for kidnapping Shaundi in the first place. What makes this disguise extra over the top is that The Boss can be male or female, meaning that if your Boss is a lady, she went two extra miles for this rescue. But the Saints never do anything in half measures. Also the disguise fails almost immediately and you blow up the aircraft carrier escaping, so the mission is entirely on brand for them start to finish.
Gabriel Knight - Gabriel Knight 3: Sins of the Fathers
Perhaps the most infamous disguise on this list, Gabriel Knight’s disguise is over the top because of the sheer effort involved to make it, all so Gabriel can rent a motorbike. To make the mustache, you must steal syrup from a dining room, put masking tape on a hole in a fence, use a spray bottle on a cat to make it run through that fence, then use the cat hair stuck to the tape with the syrup to finally make the mustache. And all that is only for one fourth of what you need to disguise yourself as a man who does not have a mustache. You also have to steal his clothes and passport and draw a mustache on that, too. This disguise is so bad that the series creator has refused to take any credit for it, and I do not blame her for that.
Everyone in Fire Emblem
You could make this article just on Fire Emblem characters alone. You have everything, from paper thin disguises...
You have a cavalcade of men - and women - committed to the Masquerade, so many that it’s an expected and celebrated series element.
You have the sheer bluster and bravado of Devdan who is not Danved OR Nadved
And you even have over the top disguises, Like Kronya here, a villain who disguises herself as someone we'd never heard of just to stab someone a month later. Neither we or the person she stabs had ever heard of Kronya, before, for the record.
But the reason why Fire Emblem is a category unto itself, and the very reason for this article’s genesis is Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, which gives us perhaps the most ridiculous disguises of all time. Needing no introduction or explanation, here they are.
What are your favorite disguises. Did we miss any? Let us know!