As a nod to old-school games, I Wanna Be the Guy 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 Mega Man series. The intro screen is a direct callback to Mega Man 2, 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: Mother Brain, Mike Tyson, Dracula, Kraidgief, Mecha-Birdo, Bowser, Wart, Dr. Wily, and the Mecha Dragon. In almost all cases, these are infamously difficult bosses (particularly Tyson and Dracula).
- Some of the screens are heavily based on areas of other games, such as Metroid, Mega Man, Ghosts 'n Goblins, The Legend of Zelda, and Castlevania''. Also, 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.
- You jumped into a sword, you retard!
- The scrolling intro text (and the "8 units") are also Zelda-inspired.
- Ryu makes an appearance and performs his trademark "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.
- The save game selection screen? "Hunt a Soul". The music used in the first few game screens? "Home Sweet Grave". The Game Over music? "Might is Right but Tight". All from Guilty Gear Isuka, but a lot of people now associate them with IWBTG instead. The producers of Guilty Gear Isuka seem to have taken this in stride; one of their emoticons unlockable by playing the Steam port 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 The Guy's Castle is from Monty on the Run, an obscure Commodore 64 game with almost as much Nintendo Hard difficulty.
- The music used for The Final Tower of The Guy? From E.V.O. Search For Eden.
- The Mecha-Birdo fight has the Ikaruga boss theme, complete with the WARNING screen in the intro.
- Dracula's cutscene is straight out of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, 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 FOOBY THE KAMIKAZE WATERMELON!! (Sadly, without his trademark fanfare.)
- A subversion: contrary to popular belief, Word of God states that the title is not a reference to this short from Homestar Runner, and that the similarity is pure coincidence.
- 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 Castlevania 3's opening text crawl.
- The file select screen is taken from the ship-building screen from Gradius 3
- The level select screen is based off of the one for Super Mario World, and entering a stage plays the same sound used in Super Mario Bros. 3
- One of the first obstacles in the level select screen (that isn't Mario based) is the bridge from the first level of Contra. It explodes when you try to jump off of it
- The Kid now has the ability to use the Bionic Arm from Bionic Commando 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 BIIIONIC AAAARM"
- The new save stations use the same sound effect that was used in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past when using the Magic Mirror in a dungeon.
- After dropping Sagat into the lava, he goes through Crocomire's melting death animation, screams and all. It shouldn't come as a surprise that his skeleton tries to Tiger Uppercut you as you leave the level.