Over the weekend, one of the most influential and politically divisive figures of the 20th century died. Fidel Castro’s rose to power during the Cuban Revolution of 1959, and what followed were decades which saw relationships between the US and Cuba break down, while an alliance with the USSR grew. Events like the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis will remain important points of history, along with Castro’s actions during them. There were many attempts on Castro’s life during his presidency of Cuba, yet it was old age that got him in the end.
He is revered by some and reviled by others, making Castro a person perfect for appearances in popular culture. A handful of these were in video games, though he’s not been as regular a villain as you might expect for the long term leader of a communist dictatorship. In fact, he’s been just as likely to appear as a playable character.
Guerrilla War (1987)
The first instance of Fidel Castro appearing in a game was with SNK’s Guerrilla War, which was released in 1987 in Japanese arcades. It was a run and gun title that saw Che Guevera as the main character though Castro was also a playable character and it focused on the revolutionaries fighting to take over Cuba. However when the game was released in Western markets for the NES, the names of the characters were removed. It is actually available on the PlayStation Network for £1.99 and playable on the PS3, Vita, and PSP.
Tropico Series (2001 to Present)
This series of games has been around since 2001 and is still going strong, with Tropico 5 releasing in 2016. Four of the games in the series are based around running a tropical ‘banana republic’ as El Presidente, and the way it is designed makes it very difficult to not see the influence of Castro’s Cuba. He’s even a selectable character in a couple of the games, though player’s can create their own dictators.
The aim of the Tropico series is to maintain control of the island while dealing with potential revolutions, coups, and outside influence from the global superpowers, all depicted in a fairly lighthearted manner. The Tropico games are very interesting to play because of how they try to mimic elements of Castro’s rule of Cuba, with options that may go against what you personally believe in.
The Godfather 2 (2009)
A gaming scenario in which you wouldn’t really expect the former Cuban leader to appear is The Godfather 2. After all, he doesn’t appear in the movie so why would he be here? In the game Castro has links to the Almeida crime family and a series of events leads to Dominic Corleone carrying out a hit on Castro using a sniper rifle, though the shot isn’t fatal. The attempt does fan the flames of conflict between the Almeidas and Corleones though, with the former trying to wipe out the Mafia.
Civilization V (Mod)
OK, so we’re fudging the rules on this one. Fidel Castro isn’t an official character within the Civilization series, but a mod by TPangolin has seen Cuba as a playable faction in the Brave New World expansion. The Cuba Civilization mod allows players to use Castro as a leader with the ability of Viva La Revolucian.
The mod allows Spies to generate revolution fervour in cities leading to unhappiness. The unique building is a Dance Hall – cheaper than the Opera House – granting +1 happiness and +15% military production if a great piece of music is in place. Castro’s unique unit is the Guerrelliero which an enter an territory to create fervour, set up a camp that spawns barbarians, and knock back enemies if another Guerrilliero unit is next to it.
Call Of Duty: Black Ops (2010)
One of Castro’s more memorable appearances came in the first Black Ops game, where it generated a lot of outrage from the Cuban government. After all, he was the target of an assassination by US forces in the first mission of the game, Operation 40, which takes place at the same time as the Bay of Pigs invasion. True to history, the assasination attempt is unsuccessful and the player must escape Cuba.
When details of the mission were revealed, the Cuban government released a statement that condemned its inclusion.
“What the United States government did not achieve in more than 50 years, it now tries to do virtually. This new video game is doubly perverse. On the one hand, it glorifies the illegal assassination attempts the United States government planned against the Cuban leader … and on the other, it stimulates sociopathic attitudes in North American children and adolescents.” (Source: The Guardian)
The assasination attempt wasn’t the only time Castro was in Black Ops, as he was a playable character in the Zombies mode too. He is mentioned in Black Ops II, but does not appear in that game.
Gesta Final (2013)
Somewhat fittingly, the last game Castro appears in is called Gesta Final, and it brings his series of appearances full circle, focusing on the revolutionary invasion of Cuba. Developed by a team of Cuban programmers, the three playable characters aren’t named, but have features that would identify them as Fidel Castro, Che Guevera, and Camilo Cienfuegos.
The game was only officially available in Cuba and has five levels which are centred around key moments of the Cuban Revolution with the last mission set during the Pino del Agua battle of 1959. The game makers stated that Gesta Final was created in a way to teach younger Cubans about a crucial point during the island’s history.
Though not as easy to concoct a story with him as a main character, it’s actually quite surprising that Fidel Castro hasn’t appeared in more games. Now that he’s passed, his legacy might inspire more to confront his character and actions. Regardless of how people felt about the man, there is no doubt the 20th century would have been a lot different without Fidel Castro’s presence on the global stage.