As a nod to old-school games, ''VideoGame/IWannaBeTheGuy'' is littered with references to classic video game series.

'''Warning:''' Contains spoilers!
!In the original game
* The game draws perhaps its heaviest overall influence from the ''VideoGame/MegaMan'' series. The intro screen is a direct callback to ''VideoGame/MegaMan2'', and the game features two bosses as well as an area with music and themes taken from that game. Additionally, two very common obstacles in the game - the vanishing blocks and the insta-kill spikes of doom - are ubiquitous mainstays of the MM series.
* With the exception of the Guy, all of the bosses are taken from other games: [[Franchise/{{Metroid}} Mother Brain]], [[VideoGame/PunchOut Mike Tyson]], [[Franchise/{{Castlevania}} Dracula,]] [[Franchise/{{Metroid}} Kraid]][[Franchise/StreetFighter gief]], [[Franchise/SuperMarioBros Mecha-Birdo, Bowser, Wart]], [[VideoGame/MegaMan Dr. Wily, and the Mecha Dragon]]. In almost all cases, these are infamously difficult bosses (particularly Tyson and Dracula).
** The Guy's second form is a direct reference to the cyborg boss battle from ''{{VideoGame/Contra}} III'', and the Mecha-Birdo fight also possibly references the aerial boss battle from the aforementioned game.
** Several regular enemies qualify, as well, such as the birds from VideoGame/NinjaGaiden.
* Some of the screens are heavily based on areas of other games, such as ''Franchise/{{Metroid}}'', ''VideoGame/MegaMan, ''VideoGame/{{Ghosts n Goblins}}'', ''Franchise/{{The Legend of Zelda}}'', and ''Franchise/{{Castlevania}}''. Also, VideoGame/{{Tetris}}. And Breakout.
* The ''Zelda'' area has a giant 8-bit Link who serves as a platform, but can kill you if you linger for too long.
** [[MemeticMutation You jumped into a sword, you retard!]]
** The scrolling intro text (and the "8 units") are also ''Zelda''-inspired.
* [[Franchise/StreetFighter Ryu]] makes an appearance and performs his trademark [[HurricaneKick "Tatsumaki Sempukyaku"]] in order to open the path to the next area.
* Much, if not all, of the [=BGMs=] used in-game are taken directly from other games. [[SugarWiki/AwesomeMusic Kayin sure has good taste in game music.]] The save game selection screen? [[ "Hunt a Soul".]] The music used in the first few game screens? [[ "Home Sweet Grave".]] The GameOver music? [[ "Might is Right but Tight".]] All from ''VideoGame/GuiltyGear Isuka'', but a lot of people now [[TheWeirdAlEffect associate them with IWBTG instead]].
*** The producers of ''Guilty Gear Isuka'' seem to have taken this in stride; they recently added trading cards to their Steam port, [[ and one of their emoticons directly references IWBTG.]]
** The music used for the road to The Guy's Castle is the theme from The Moon in Duck Tales, which was likely meant to lead the player to believe that a showdown with the eponymous object is imminent. This being ''I Wanna Be The Guy'', however, the reality of the situation ends up being much worse.
** The music used for [[VeryDefinitelyFinalDungeon The Guy's Castle]] is from ''[[VideoGame/MontyMole Monty on the Run]]'', an obscure UsefulNotes/{{Commodore 64}} game with [[CrowningMusicOfAwesome a kickass soundtrack]] and almost as much NintendoHard difficulty.
** The music used for The Final Tower of The Guy? [[ From]] ''[[VideoGame/EVOSearchForEden E.V.O. Search For Eden]]''.
* The Mecha-Birdo fight has the ''VideoGame/{{Ikaruga}}'' boss theme, complete with the WARNING screen in the intro.
* Dracula's cutscene is straight out of ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaSymphonyOfTheNight'', with the Kid saying Richter's lines.
* In one of the few references ''not'' from a video game, there's a point in a tower climb where you are given two choices of paths to go up. Taking the wrong one results in death by '''[[WebAnimation/TheDementedCartoonMovie FOOBY THE KAMIKAZE WATERMELON!!]]''' (Sadly, without his trademark fanfare.)
* A subversion: contrary to popular belief, WordOfGod states that the title is '''not''' a reference to [[ this]] short from ''WebAnimation/HomestarRunner'', and that the similarity is pure coincidence.

!In ''Gaiden''
* Once again, leaving the game alone on the main screen causes a text-crawl that explains the plot. However, this time, it's a reference to ''[[VideoGame/CastlevaniaIIIDraculasCurse Castlevania 3]]'''s opening text crawl.
* The file select screen is taken from the ship-building screen from ''VideoGame/{{Gradius}} 3''
* The level select screen is based off of the one for ''VideoGame/SuperMarioWorld'', and entering a stage plays the same sound used in ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros3''
* One of the first obstacles in the level select screen (that ''isn't'' Mario based) is the bridge from the first level of ''{{VideoGame/Contra}}''. [[spoiler:It explodes when you try to jump off of it]]
* The Kid now has the ability to use the Bionic Arm from ''VideoGame/BionicCommando'' to grapple things. The first two levels are based off of levels from ''Bionic Commando'', as well.
** On his download page for the game, Kayin notes that the controls are now "Z to jump, X to shoot and C to [[{{Memes/CapcomVsWhatever}} BIIIONIC AAAARM]]"
* The new save stations use the same sound effect that was used in ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaALinkToThePast'' when using the Magic Mirror in a dungeon.
* After dropping Sagat into the lava, he goes through [[VideoGame/SuperMetroid Crocomire's]] melting death animation, screams and all. It shouldn't come as a surprise that his skeleton [[KaizoTrap tries to Tiger Uppercut you as you leave the level.]]