‘Wreck-it Ralph’ cheat code: Which video games get shout-outs?

A scene from "Wreck-It Ralph."
(Walt Disney Pictures)

Among the pleasures of “Wreck-it- Ralph,” the Disney animated movie that has opened to strong reviews this weekend, is watching a history of video games flash before you (and, perhaps, your own history along with it).

There are prominent references to contemporary first-person shooters like “Call of Duty” (here called “Hero’s Duty”). But most of the fun comes with nods to titles from video games’ early days.

The most obvious of them involves the title character, who is situated in “Fix-it Felix,” a game clearly inspired by “Donkey Kong.” Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly, is a sweet but oafish caveman sort who throws barrels down at Felix, a smiling Mario-like innocent voiced by Jack McBrayer who scampers up structures and fixes things.

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But there are numerous other characters and games, often popping up unexpectedly and given a wry spin. At the movie’s Hollywood premiere earlier this week, Pixar chief John Lasseter, who served as an executive producer on the film, told 24 Frames that including references to older games was important to him because those games served as an important bonding experience with his sons when they were younger, and he believed many other moviegoers felt the same way.

As my colleagues Rebecca Keegan and Ben Fritz wrote earlier this week, director Rich Moore and his crew were surprised to find how much love people felt toward the 8-bit classics.

“We didn’t know until about six months ago when the first trailer came out that people were very receptive to the nostalgia of old-school games,” Moore said.

Here, then, is a sampling of the vintage video games that get their close-up in the new Disney movie. Prepare to qualify.


“Mario Kart”: The candy-colored racing game with all sorts of cartoonish obstacles plays a big part in the film -- elements of it can be found in the environment, named “Sugar Rush,” that Ralph ends up in when he escapes “Felix.” It’s in “Sugar Rush” that he meets Vanellope von Schweetz, a so-called “glitch” voiced by Sarah Silverman, and here that escape is made, and redemption found. So
just like the real thing.

“Pac-Man:” You knew there had to be one. In fact, there are several. The most prominent reference comes early in the film with the appearance of Clyde, the ghostly bad guy who advises Ralph (at a support group for video-game baddies) to accept his lot in virtual life.

Zangief: There is angst galore from the villain in “Street Fighter,” who at the same support group bemoans his status. Sure, he’s muscled and feared. But it’s not easy being a vintage Russian goon.

“Road Blasters”: It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment. But for anyone with fond memories of the Atari racing game that indulged the fantasy of firing away at road-bound nuisances (often via weapons that drop, quite literally, from the sky), your nostalgia has been tickled. The title surfaces here, appearing as another platform game in the arcade where “Fix-it Felix” is located.


“Q*bert”: Possibly some of the slyest humor of the movie. The rotund stair-jumper who speaks in hash tags and exclamation points has been forced into a life of panhandling. No one plays him anymore, so he’s on the unemployment rolls. One can only hope this movie will boost his fortunes.


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