Zangief first appeared in Street Fighter II, and has made subsequent appearances in other games in the franchise. Zangief hails from Mother Russia, (Except in SF2: The World Warriors, where it was the Soviet Union), and his fighting style is wrestling/grappling.
Zangief's name is possibly based on real-life pro wrestler Victor Zangiev, a former Soviet amateur who trained as a professional in NJPW, who also competed in WCW and UWF International. Zangief's prototypical name was Vodka Gobalsky. Zangief's biography apparently plays upon the association between Stalinist regimes and state-funded athletics programs utilising body-building drugs following the domination of the 1954 World Weightlifting Championships by the Soviet Union.
Zangief's fighting style is unique in Street Fighter II in that he uses a variety of wrestling throws and grapples to engage his opponents. He does not throw any projectiles, and therefore is much more effective if used at close range. He is also the first fighting game character to ever use a 360-degree motion for a move. Once at arm's length, Zangief has a number of moves that can deal devastating amounts of damage to an opponent.
Throughout the Street Fighter franchise, Zangief has used a number of special moves that have increased and decreased in power, as the character list is balanced. His special moves include:
- Spinning Pile Driver: While the command for this move is widely described as a 360 motion, it is actually performed by pressing the four principle directions(left, down, right, up) in any clockwise or anticlockwise order, before pressing punch. This holds true for all "360" moves in Street Fighter.
- Spinning Clothesline: Hit all three punch buttons at the same time.
- Fast Spinning Clothesline: Hit all three kick buttons at the same time.
- Banishing Flat: Do a shoryuken motion and punch.
- Siberian Suplex: Do a 360-degree motion w/ the joystick, then press kick at the end (only at close range).
- Running Power Bomb: Do a 360-degree motion w/ the joystick, then press kick at the end (anywhere but directly next to the opponent, else you get a siberian suplex).
Super/Ultra Moves (Super Street Fighter 4)
- Super Move: Final Atomic Buster: Do a 720-degree motion w/ the joystick, then press punch at the end.
- Ultra 1: Ultimate Atomic Buster: Do a 720-degree motion w/ the joystick, then press the three punch buttons at the end.
- Ultra 2: Siberian Blizzard: Do a 720-degree motion w/ the joystick in the air, then press the three kick buttons at the end.
As the greatest professional wrestler in the Soviet Union, Zangief was contacted by a man referred to as Erai Hito (Great Man) to represent his country in the second World Warrior tournament; this individual clearly resembles former Soviet leader and President, Mikhail Gorbachev.
Zangief agreed and began training in the extreme climates of Siberia. He built his strength by wrestling polar bears, gaining many fearsome scars in the process. His trademark Spinning Piledriver was created after being picked up by a cyclone while performing a piledriver on a bear. With the assistance of his government, Zangief emerged from his training as "The Red Cyclone", determined to demonstrate Russia's magnificent power to all of the world.
A patriot through and through, Zangief opposed the activities of Shadaloo. During the course of his battles, Zangief would come to meet one of his biggest fans, the Japanese pro wrestler R. Mika, co-operate with the Sumo wrestler E. Honda to destroy M. Bison's Psycho Drive, co-operate with X-Man Colossus against Omega Red, and dance with his Gorbachev - like benefactor after winning the World Warrior tournament; in later editions in the Street Fighter II series, Zangief calls him "Mr. Ex-President", yet Zangief is listed as being from the USSR, making it unclear as to whether these events take place before or after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Most of the above events are considered non-canon, as they contradict the versions of events pertaining to central characters, such as Ryu and Charlie Nash.
Though some have speculated about Zangief's sexual orientation, Capcom representatives have confirmed that Zangief is a straight man. The speculation came to a head over his biography in the Alpha series listing his dislikes as "beautiful women" and him having a custom intro with Eagle (A Freddie Mercury Tribute character) in Street Figher Alpha MAX.
Mecha Zangief is a sprite variation of Zangief in the Marvel vs.series. He is extremely heavy and almost impervious to any attack (animation wise; Mecha Zangief rarely gets stunned. However, he does receive adequate damage.) He's also able to breathe blue flames ("Vodka Fire")
Mecha Zangief is available in Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter via a simple cheat code and as a transformation in Marvel Vs. Capcom and Marvel Vs. Capcom 2.
An homage to this form (as well as X-Men's Colossus) was seen as an alternate costume in Street Fighter 4 and a background character in Street Fighter X Tekken.
Zangief's alternate costume from Street Fighter 4
Zangief's alternate Costume from Super Street Fighter 4
Zangief's alternate Costume 2 from Super Street Fighter 4