Ahead of the E3 annual videogame conference in Los Angeles next month (June 13-15), our team of experts have partnered with theoretical physicist Dr. Matt Caplan, to celebrate ten of the most iconic characters in videogame history by analyzing their exercise and dietary habits.
Jumping, shooting, kicking (and eating) their way through various legendary game-worlds, these characters come in all shapes, sizes, and species. We decided to take a closer look at how their fitness and food compares to that of the gamers that control them.
And so, without further ado:
Watch a video about the project here:
1 – Red/Satoshi/Ash
Game analyzed: Pokémon Red, Blue, Green, Yellow
Year, Developer: 1996, Nintendo/Gamefreak
Copies sold globally: 47.52 million copies
Height: 140cm (4’6”)
Weight: undisclosed, assumed same as Ash Ketchum: 43kg (94.8 Ibs)
Body Mass Index: 21.9
Core diet: Presumably Pokémon
Key activity: Walking fast (284 kcal/hour) / High-impact Cycling (685 kcal/hour), Throwing Pokéballs (422 kcal/hour)
Considering the lack of real animals in the Pokémon world, it is an undeniable, if uncomfortable fact that Red (the player character in the Generation 1 games) and the other inhabitants of the Pokémon world, must eat Pokémon.
Our experts have considered which Gen. 1 Pokémon would form a nutritious diet for Red in his travels. One appetizing option is Bellsprout, a spindly, plant-type pocket-monster with a honeysuckle taste, similar in morphology to beansprouts. Beansprouts (23 kcal/100g) are an excellent source of amino acids (for protein), vitamins, and minerals, and also contain valuable levels of fiber.
Another potentially nutritious Pokémon is Exeggcute, with a biology resembling something between plant seeds and eggs. Mixed seeds and eggs are some of the most nutritious foods on the planet, providing a rich source of protein, selenium, vitamin D, oils, as well as minerals including zinc, iron and copper.
While the elusive Farfetch’d is famed for its deliciousness, it was almost hunted to extinction for this reason, and we would therefore strongly discourage Red from eating it. Instead, a portion of the ubiquitous Magikarp (assuming it is similar to the real-world Asian carp), would likely supply Red with 414 calories, important omega-3 acids, and proteins – provided he remembers his Old Rod.
A mixture of the above would constitute a good and balanced diet for Red, fuelling his roaming between Pokémon battles – during which his throwing of Pokéballs burns around 420 kcal per hour.
2 – Sonic
Sonic the Hedgehog
23.98 million copies
35kg (77.2 Ibs)
Body Mass Index: 35
Core diet: Chili dogs (296 kcal/ dog)
Key activity: Running (for humans, 150 kcal/mile)
While different games in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise have shown the eponymous hero running at varying top-speeds, the ‘Blue Blur’ has long been famous for being able to run at least as fast as the speed of sound (around 770 mph). If Sonic’s metabolism is anything like that of a human, who burns roughly 150 calories per mile run, then he could burn 33 lbs (15kg) in an hour.
This means that Sonic can eat as many chili dogs (his favorite food – 296 calories per dog), as he wants with a clear conscience. Sonic once had 300 dogs for breakfast, equalling about 88,800 calories. This would take an average human 500 hours of medium-pace walking to burn – however, despite his BMI indicating that his metabolism is considerably worse than that of an average human, Sonic naturally moves considerably faster than a medium-pace walk. The consumption of chili dogs, a food that can play havoc with metabolisms, might be a contributor to his BMI.
Common hedgehogs generally eat a diet of worms, beetles and millipedes. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society suggests that if you find a hedgehog, you should bring it indoors and put it in a high-sided cardboard box with an old towel in the bottom for the hedgehog to hide under.
And please do, as scientist have calculated that by 2025 hedgehogs will no longer exist, their numbers already having dropped from 30 million in 1950 to an estimated 1.5 million today. By 2025, Sonic will have run approximately 51,910,000 miles, which is the distance around the Earth some 2085 times – providing he hasn’t succumbed to the threats facing the wider hedgehog population.
3 – Link
The Legend of Zelda
6.51 million copies
161.5 cm (5’3”)
70kg (154.3 Ibs)
Body Mass Index: 29.9
Core diet: Fairies (360 kcal/fairy)
Key activity: Fencing with & throwing the Master Sword (433 kcal/hour)
It may come as a shock to learn that Link, the brave, humble hero of the Zelda series, is believed to be a carnivore, restoring his strength by feasting on bottled fairies (and occasionally even on the hearts of his defeated foes, a custom that has occurred in various human societies).
His morbid diet of tiny, winged creatures is likely not particularly nutritious. Academic James Cole calculated that a whole, full-sized human cadaver would yield 81,500 calories. Working with the measurements of the average garden-variety Disney fairy (12cm tall, equating to one fifth of a human arm: 1,800 calories, according to Cole), each winged creature consumed supplies Link with 360 calories.
Unfortunately (should you be Link, or have a taste for fairies), human flesh has little nutritional value when compared to that of animals. It is surprising that Link sustains such a high-intensity routine for his entire quest; his swordplay alone burns 433 calories an hour, which requires ingesting 1.2 fairies every sixty minutes.
4 – Chun Li
Street Fighter II
15.6 million copies
Core diet: Sweets (400 kcal/hour)
Key activity: Mixed martial arts (513 kcal/hour)
Chun-li, the first major playable woman in a fighting game, keeps her weight a secret (one that is hotly debated by hardcore fans). Considering she loves American candy and soda, but practices aerobics and martial arts to burn the fat these foods contain, she probably maintains a healthy BMI.
Chun Li fights using a mixture of Chinese and world martial arts, a combination which quickly burns calories (513 kcal/hour) and also provides a number of additional health benefits. Her mixed combat styles and tai chi helps to maintain strength, flexibility, and balance.
One of Chun Li’s signature moves, the Spinning Bird Kick, involves jumping in the air feet first and twirling her upside-down body, with her legs at 90 degrees spinning like helicopter blades. Game Theory calculates that each connection from her legs, strikes an enemy with the force of about 24,000 newtons. According to the Journal of Neurosurgery, only 2,300 newtons is required to crush a human skull; Chun-li delivers over ten times that amount with each connection.
5 – Mario
Super Mario Bros.
47.58 million copies
95kg (209 lbs)
Body Mass Index: 39.5
Core diet: Mushrooms (25 kcal/100g)
Key activity: Running (752 kcal/hour), Swimming (742 kcal/hour), Jumping (618 kcal/hour)
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mario, an overweight but affable plumber, has an unhealthy Body Mass Index of 39.5. That said, considering he only consumes one primary food-type, mushrooms, his diet is relatively nutritious.
The common mushroom is a good source of both Vitamin B and essential minerals such as copper and potassium according to our nutritionists. American ethnobotanist Terrence McKenna went so far as to say that mushrooms were a crucial component of human evolution. Mario’s high BMI is surprising given the nutritional (and low calorific) content of mushrooms; and so perhaps his clinical obesity should be attributed to some off-screen snacking instead.
Mario’s tireless running, swimming, and constant jumping over nefarious turtles and Venus fly traps on his journey from the Super Mario Bros. start point to the final castle is an excellent exercise routine.
During a quick playthrough, he runs 3.4 miles in around 17 minutes at a 5.5mph pace (burning 213 kcal); swims at high intensity for another 3 minutes (37 kcal); and jumps throughout (206 kcal). We estimate that he would burn 456 kcal in one playthrough, which in mushroom terms equates to burning off about 150 large fungi.
6 – Master Chief
Halo: Combat Evolved
5.5 million copies
130kg (287 Ibs)
Body Mass Index: 32.3
Core diet: Moa Burgers (295 kcal/burger)
Key activity: Running (2,206 kcal/hour), Shooting (294 kcal/hour), Jumping (309 kcal/hour)
John-117, known as Master Chief, was selected for biological and cybernetic engineering in the SPARTAN-II super-soldier programme because of his excellent natural athleticism and mental resilience. He had high levels of physical ability even before his years of hard training under Chief Petty Officer Franklin Mendez.
The Chief’s half-tonne Mjolnir Powered Assault Armor improves his speed and power, but running for an hour at even a conservative in-game speed of around 15mph (armored Spartans are said to be able to reach sprinting speeds of 66mph) would burn well over 2,000 calories.
During a firefight with the Covenant, this figure (combined with 294 calories per hour burned from shooting and 309 from constant leaping) means that Master Chief will need to be consuming more than a full adult male’s daily calorie intake for each hour of combat – although there are as yet no in-game indications of stopping for drive-thru while riding on a Warthog. The US Army suggests that an average service member in garrison needs over 3,000 calories a day to sustain his or her busy schedule.
If Master Chief’s favorite food, the Moa Burger (according to Halo fans), is anything like a real-world hamburger, the meat alone contains upward of 290 calories. This plus toppings, bread and a side of fries might perhaps explain Master Chief’s inflated BMI of 32.3. For those aspiring Master Chefs, a proposed recipe for a Moa Burger can be found here.
7 – Lara Croft
1996, Core Design/Eidos
7.5 million copies
175 cm (5’7”)
52kg (114.6 Ibs)
Body Mass Index: 17
Core diet: Venison (116 kcal/100g)
Key activity: Climbing (668 kcal/hour)
Lara Croft is iconic as the adventurous and athletic English archaeologist. Aside from beans on toast (her favorite dish), she is known to hunt and eat deer. On the basis that an average Northern doe weighs 120 pounds and can yield almost 50 pound of usable meat, she could live for at least a month on the venison harvested from just one successful hunt.
In search of forgotten artefacts and lost sites, Lara can be found climbing mountains, traversing ruins, and scaling crumbling towers. We endorse climbing as excellent exercise for the entire body, helping burn 668 calories an hour.
When Angelina Jolie starred in the 2001 movie version of Tomb Raider, she went through an intense 10-week programme to achieve the same fitness levels as Croft. The programme included ballet, diving, kickboxing and a multitude of fighting drills, with a diet of lean proteins and steamed vegetables. Comparing Lara from the video games and Angelina Jolie, Ms. Jolie has a healthier BMI of 20.7, in contrast to Lara’s 17.6, which is considered underweight.
8 – Donkey Kong
10.35 million copies
363kg (800.3 Ibs)
Body Mass Index: 104.9
Core diet: Bananas (125 kcal/banana)
Key activity: Throwing barrels (400 kcal/hour)
Donkey Kong has an extremely high BMI of 104.9, at a weight of 800 pounds. The average western gorilla in captivity weighs about 350 pounds, meaning Donkey Kong needs to drop over half his bodyweight to even get close to most members of his species.
Considering Donkey Kong’s core diet is bananas (125 calories on average) which contain an excellent range of essential nutrients, and that he burns many calories throwing barrels, this hefty gorilla must consume a great deal of bananas to maintain such a high weight.
Our experts stress that healthiness is not just about eating nutritious food, but controlling the level of food intake as well. Donkey Kong’s obsession with bananas is well-documented, and perhaps greater even than Mario’s love of mushrooms, particularly evidenced by DK’s Banana Hoard where he stores his beloved yellow fruit. Eating too many bananas can actually have fatal health implications, as it can lead to potassium poisoning.
9 – Crash
1996, Naughty Dog/Sony
6.8 million copies
45 kg (99.2 lbs)
Body mass index: 21.1
Core diet: Wumpa fruit (95 kcal/fruit)
Key activity: Somersaults (463 kcal/hour)
Crash, a large, upright bandicoot (typically a small-to-medium-sized marsupial endemic to parts of Australasia) has a healthy Body Mass Index of 21.1.
In his attempt to rescue his girlfriend Tawna (who is reportedly based on Pamela Anderson) from Doctor Cortex’s experiments, he collects Wumpa fruit. Wumpa fruit are very similar to apples (95 calories in an average size), which helps explain Crash’s healthy BMI.
Most Bandicoots tend to have a more varied diet than Crash, being omnivorous (eating both vegetation and small animals such as insects). However, apples are extremely rich in important antioxidants, flavonoids and dietary fiber.
This combined with Crash’s spinning, somersaulting and jumping makes his calorie-burning akin to that of gymnastics, which our data shows burns 463 kcal/hour. His well-developed upper torso suggests he might be adding some high-protein insects to his diet too.
10 – Samus Aran
1986, Nintendo/Intelligent Systems
2.73 million copies
90kg (198.4 Ibs)
Body Mass Index: 24.9
Core diet: Energy tanks
Key activity: Running (1,110 kcal/hour)
At 198 pounds (without her armor), Samus Aran weighs considerably more than the 166.2 pounds average for an American woman, with a slender, yet tall and muscular, physique. One of the earliest female protagonists in video game history, Samus is an exceptional athlete, due to both her rigorous training and an infusion of Chozo and Metroid DNA, and is capable of superhuman feats such a jumping twice her own height. This physical prowess may in part account for her weight, as muscle weighs considerably more than fat.
Samus burns 1,100 calories in an hour running unarmored, but considering the weight of her Power Armor, she likely sheds calories considerably faster than this when adventuring. While armor like Samus’ may be too mentally and physically taxing for a normal human to wear, our team would like to remind readers that you can burn an extra 15 calories per mile just by putting on a backpack filled with books.
Samus’ daily regime likely involves mental training and meditation, as her Power Suit is powered by concentration. Emotional stress or a lapse in mental energy can cause her to lose control over her suit. To remain connected reportedly requires superhuman mental strength, and activities such as yoga would certainly help with this.
Gamers (arcades aside) usually play while seated or prone, and tend to use primarily their thumbs, fingers, and hands. A study conducted by Lorraine Lanningham-Foster and colleagues from the Journal of Pediatrics found that the average home gamer uses about 81.5 calories per hour when playing.
Many games, such as Pokémon GO and games on the Nintendo Wii require higher levels of activity. And increasingly, we see gamers breaking up their play with short bursts of exercise; our team especially recommends press-ups, squats, yoga, and jumping jacks as examples of activities that can easily be done from the comfort of one’s gaming environment.
Images in this blog post are from the above games or related franchise games, or substantially derived from them, and the copyright for them is most likely held by the company that developed the game. Lifesum claim this to be Fair use.