The History of 'Twisted Metal's Sweet Tooth, Explained
May 28, 2023
"Such sweet, cold perfection."
As fans of the long-running PlayStation video game franchise know, Twisted Metal just wouldn't be Twisted Metal without Sweet Tooth. No, we're not talking about the hit Netflix show of the same name, but about the iconic homicidal clown who drives around in a weaponized ice cream van. The cult-favorite video game series Sweet Tooth originates from is set to get the live-action treatment very soon, with Peacock set to jump on the recent video game adaptation boom with the Twisted Metal television series starring Anthony Mackie. As seen in a recent clip for the Twisted Metal series, Mackie's protagonist will be going toe-to-toe with the franchise's mascot. To learn more about who Sweet Tooth is, how he fits into the larger Twisted Metal storyline, and what chaos he'll get up to in the Peacock adaptation, here is a complete history of the killer clown known as Needles Kane.
RELATED: Anthony Mackie Escapes Sweet Tooth's Grasp With a Duet in 'Twisted Metal' Clip
Despite being the face of the franchise and appearing in every game in the series, Sweet Tooth is not the main character of Twisted Metal. He's more of a mascot character due to his memorable design and consistent appearance on the games' box art. It's a similar situation that Mortal Kombat fans are familiar with, with Scorpion almost always making a front-and-center appearance in the franchise's marketing despite almost always appearing as a minor character or even a villain.
Before he was known as Sweet Tooth, Marcus "Needles" Kane was an everyday normal person, though his origins vary due to the franchise's several timeline reboots. What does remain regularly consistent is Sweet Tooth's clown attire, his deadly sharp machete, and a modified ice cream van that comes complete with a battering ram, machine guns, and more.
In the world of Twisted Metal, Sweet Tooth is one of the many combatants competing in the "Twisted Metal" demolition derby tournament. The chaotic event is overseen by the mysterious demonic entity known only as Calypso, who promises to grant the victor of the Twisted Metal tournament a single wish of their choice. It's an enticing proposition for the most sane and insane people on the planet, and it's one that Sweet Tooth has tried to take advantage of more than a few times.
Sweet Tooth debuted in the place where it all started, that being the original Twisted Metal game from 1995. The original game is somewhat light on story, instead being more focused on being a fun demolition derby game with a supernatural twist. Sweet Tooth doesn't have a lot of his signature hallmarks here, looking more like a rip-off of The Joker. Still, he still is seen wearing more than creepy clown make-up and is a formidable force in his killer ice cream van (which is coincidentally also named Sweet Tooth). He's also more of a comic relief goofball, as the only thing he wants from Calypso is... a paper bag.
Sweet Tooth returns in Twisted Metal 2: World Tour, though in a much more limited capacity. While he does have his fiery red hair and a more manic personality, Sweet Tooth is more of a secret bonus character here. He only appears as a boss and is only available to play through a cheat code. This game features Sweet Tooth asking for his weirdest wish yet, which is to become a small bug in a garden.
Sweet Tooth is a secret character once again in Twisted Metal III, where he is once again a maniacal killer clown who literally has a sweet tooth. The deranged clown seems even more detached from his violent delights than ever before. Given this version's affinity for sweets, it makes sense that what Sweet Tooth wants in this game is some ice cream.
Twisted Metal 4 sees Sweet Tooth finally go from a goofy minor antagonist into the franchise's big bad. Sweet Tooth is somehow able to dethrone Calypso as the leader of the Twisted Metal tournament, effectively making him into a mad clown god. Sweet Tooth is also a lot less talkative in this one, likely because he's speechless at all the power he possesses here.
The gritty soft reboot Twisted Metal: Black presents the most common and well-known design for Sweet Tooth, featuring his smiling mask, suspender outer, and hair that is perpetually on fire. There is actually a canonical reason why Sweet Tooth's skull is ablaze, with the reason being he was cursed by a preacher during a botched trip to the electric chair. Rather than be the generic crazy clown that he was in past installments, this Sweet Tooth is established early on as a bloodthirsty serial killer, slaughtering anything in his proximity with a pulse.
Twisted Metal: Small Brawl is a weird one. It's a more family-friendly spin-off that sees many characters from the Twisted Metal series depicted as children, fighting with RC cars rather than actual ones. Sweet Tooth appears here as a child version of himself, but is still just as eager to cause mayhem.
Twisted Metal: Head-On may seem like an average spin-off for the Playstation Portable, but it's a significant entry to the series that provides plenty of twists and turns, including a shocking origin for Sweet Tooth. Functioning as a direct sequel to Twisted Metal 2: World Tour, retconning the follow-ups, the game reveals that Sweet Tooth has a surprising connection to another Twisted Metal character. Turns out, the character of Marcus Kane, who has been around since Twisted Metal 2: World Tour, actually is Sweet Tooth, with the much more reasonable character having a case of split-personality disorder.
Finally, the last time we saw Sweet Tooth in a Twisted Metal game was the 2012 reboot, simply titled Twisted Metal. The fan-favorite remake features what is perhaps Sweet Tooth's darkest and most disturbing backstory yet. The game shows that Kane was a mild-mannered ice cream van driver who had a happy marriage and a loving family. While Marcus loved his life, his psychological problems became more and more problematic as the "Needles" personality began crawling its way into Marcus' psyche. When Needles finally made his way to the forefront of Marcus' mind, Sweet Tooth was officially born, and the insane clown murdered most of Marcus' family before spending his days hunting the daughter of Marcus who managed to escape.
Judging from the clip that was released earlier this year at Summer Games Fest, Sweet Tooth looks like he's going to be causing all sorts of insane trouble in Peacock's Twisted Metal series. The clip sees Sweet Tooth (played physically by Samoa Joe and voiced by Will Arnett) as he repeatedly knocks around the main protagonist of John Doe (Anthony Mackie), all to the tune of "The Thong Song." It looks like John Doe will have a lot more issues to face than just delivering a package in a post-apocalyptic hellscape.
Twisted Metal premieres on Peacock on July 27, 2023.
Aidan Kelley is a senior resource writer for Collider, as well as an independent filmmaker and lover of all things cinema.Twisted MetalAnthony MackieRELATED: Mortal KombatTwisted MetalTwisted Metal 2: World TourTwisted Metal IIITwisted Metal 4Twisted Metal: BlackTwisted Metal: Small BrawlTwisted Metal: Head-OnTwisted MetalSamoa JoeWill Arnett