Skullgirls (スカルガールズ, Sukaru Gāruzu) is a 2D fighting game developed by Lab Zero Games[a] and published by Autumn Games.[b] The game was first released in April 2012 with two expansions, Skullgirls Encore and Skullgirls 2nd Encore, being released from 2014 to 2015. A spin-off mobile game, Skullgirls Mobile, was later released in 2017.
Despite being created by American game directors Alex Ahad and Mike Zaimont, the game takes heavy inspiration from iconic Japanese fighters. Most notably Darkstalkers, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, and JoJo's Venture.
Skullgirls was originally released on April 10, 2012, for the PS3 via PlayStation Network and on Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade. The game features an all-female cast of characters, each with their own unique fighting style and gameplay. It also contains several references to the JoJo's Bizarre Adventure series, mainly due to the game taking inspiration from various fighting games developed by Capcom, including Heritage for the Future. Alex Ahad, the game's creative director and lead artist, describes himself as a huge fan of anime, with his style having been influenced by the likes of FLCL and Gurren Lagann. Before the game was released, Ahad said that his style for Skullgirls—as well as the types of moves and poses that he did for the characters—was influenced by JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, BlazBlue, and Darkstalkers.
The first reference to JoJo in the game can be found in one of Peacock's attacks. During her "Shadow of Impending Doom" move, there's a rare chance that a Road Roller will drop on the opponent. When this happens, Peacock's companion, Avery, will scream "WRYYYYYY!" before pummelling the Road Roller while shouting "MUDA MUDA MUDA!". This is a reference to DIO's iconic Road Roller attack from Heritage for the Future. In addition, just like in Heritage for the Future, it's also possible for the Road Roller to miss it's opponent. The second reference to JoJo can be found with the character Valentine, who also has an attack inspired by DIO. Her "Checkmate Incision" move functions and appears almost identical to DIO's Checkmate attack from Heritage for the Future. The only difference is that instead of throwing knives, she throws scalpels. In addition, it's also possible to perform an aerial variation of this attack similar to when using The World. The third reference can be found with Celebella, whose "Diamond Deflector" attack causes her and her hat Vice-Versa to reenact Jotaro Kujo and Star Platinum's win pose from Heritage for the Future. A man who bears resemblance to Jotaro can also be spotted as an NPC in the background of the River King Casino stage.
Finishing the match with any Blockbuster attack in Skullgirls will cause the background to change and display a portrait of the defeated character with a pained expression on their face. This is a reference to Heritage for the Future's portrait effect for when a character is retired by a special move. The shaders that Skullgirls uses for its portraits in-game are also internally labeled as
JojosDeathPortrait in the game's files.
Skullgirls Encore is an updated version of Skullgirls, which was released on February 11, 2014, for PlayStation Network and on April 4, 2014, for Xbox Live Arcade. The expansion was developed by Lab Zero Games, which was formed by several members of the original development team from Reverge Labs. It includes several new DLC characters, including Big Band, who was added on April 22, 2014. One of Big Band's signature attacks, "Satchmo Death Blow," unleashes a devastating flurry of Brass Knuckles similar to Star Platinum. The only difference is that instead of shouting "ORA ORA ORA!," he shouts "TUBA TUBA TUBA!" By winning 26 matches with this attack, you can unlock a hidden "Heavy Metal" palette referencing Jotaro Kujo and Star Platinum's colors from Heritage for the Future. This is further referenced in Skullgirls Mobile, with the same attack being named "Going Platinum" and the quote being "ORAORAORA!" while using the same color palette. In Japanese, Big Band is voiced by Tomokazu Sugita, who also voices Joseph Joestar in the anime.
The next DLC character Eliza was added to Skullgirls Encore on September 30, 2014. Her additional "Stand Out" color palette, only available in the DLC color palette pack, is a reference to DIO from Heritage for the Future, with her Sekhmet form and servants also referencing The World. While in her Sekhmet form, Eliza is capable of performing a flurry of attacks similar to The World. During her taunt, Sekhmet exclaims "I have no weaknesses!" ( わたしに弱点はない！, Watashi ni jakuten wanai!), which is a reference to Yoshikage Kira. In Skullgirls Mobile, Eliza also references DIO's infamous quote from Part 1, "How many breads have you eaten in your life?"
Skullgirls Encore also added the addition of DLC announcer voice packs. The first was the "Real Soviet Announcer" voice pack, which was released on May 15, 2015, and was voiced by creator Mike Zaimont. While using this voice pack, there would be a chance that the announcer would say (in Japanese) "Time has stopped" (時よ止まれ, Toki yo tomare) when pausing the game, and "And now, time resumes" (そして、時は動き出す, Soshite, toki wa ugokidasue) when unpausing the game. These are both were references to DIO's phrases while stopping time. However, this voice pack was entirely removed from the game on June 26, 2023.
In the reveal trailer for the April Fools character Fukua, Brain Drain asks a dog to leave and says it should come back once it learns how to "manipulate sand or something," which is a reference to Iggy and The Fool.