Number the two! Counting down my top 10 favorite videogame characters! Again, inspired by my friend Josh’s own list.
I know many of you will find flaws in this, and believe me, I’m sure there are a number of characters I’m missing, but this is based entirely on games that I’ve played, which I’m sure is in need of some serious expanding!
Anyway, read on and enjoy!
10. Gordon Freeman, Half-Life Series
I’m going to let you guys in on a little secret: I absolutely HATE Silent Protagonists. Oh wait, you probably already know that about me. I heavily dislike games that feature a character with an established name, look, and storyline, yet never have him say anything. I know it’s supposed to get the player immersed in the character, but come on! It’s not us in this world, it’s the character you’ve created! If he never speaks then he’s barely half a character in the first place!
So why is Gordon Freeman on here? Because despite succumbing to this trope I hate, Gordon is awesome. He’s a theoretical physicist who works in a high tech facility, and when it comes under attack from interdimensional beings, he picks up a crowbar and fights back. When the military comes to cover up the whole incident, he takes them out first. And when presented with the opportunity to enter this otherworldly realm and stop the invasion, he leaps into the fray. In his second title, another group of beings has taken over the entire planet. What does Gordon do? Gets back up and proves that an entire army can’t stop him. The Half-Life franchise might have serious story gaps, but it’s incredibly fun anyway. I hope we find out the next chapter soon.
9. Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid series
On the flipside, we have Solid Snake. The ultimate soldier. While he was a playable character in the earlier Metal Gear games, it was the Metal Gear Solid series that truly put the character in the mainstream and reinvented him into the true badass we all know him as today. As you play through the first Metal Gear Solid, you learn much about Snake’s history and legacy, and what all makes him the badass soldier he is. I love playing as Snake throughout the many incredible challenges he faces, ranging from going toe-to-toe with some of the best soldiers in the world (and sometimes ones with powers beyond the world), to taking on walking tanks equipped with advanced weaponry on foot, tied up in a sometimes-convoluted-but-ultimately-epic story on the nature of war, nuclear weapons, genetics, and free will.
8. Barret Wallace, Final Fantasy VII
“What?” you might say. “Not Cloud Strife?” HELL NO, SPIKEY! Cloud Strife is a whiny indecisive Mako-poisoned mess! Barret is the real hero of this game! Barret’s an everyman, a tough-as-nails coal miner who fights an evil megacorporation because they need to be stopped from killing the planet, and he’s got a daughter to fight for! They shot his arm off, so what does he do? Grafts a friggin’ GATLING GUN onto his arm! Sure, later on he realizes that he wasn’t really fighting to save the world, but for revenge for his murdered wife, but he moves past it, realizes that the world really is in danger from a much bigger threat, and he helps save the WORLD! SO SHU’UP JACKASS!!
Barret is awesome, and one of the best characters in any Final Fantasy game. He never ever left my party during my playthroughs except when I was actually trying to grind out levels for the other characters. During any part of the story though? Hell yes, he was right there fightin’ the good fight.
7. Kyle Katarn, Star Wars: Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series
Kyle Katarn is the perfect example of a “faceless player character” coming into his own as a full-fledged Star Wars character complete with personality and character development. In Dark Forces, he was sort of a faceless agent for the New Republic, battling Imperial forces with only the many guns he carried on his body. In the next game? He’s a full on Jedi Knight in training. He’d battle more Dark Jedi and imperial Forces, having a crossover game with Mara Jade in the process, and ultimately relearn what it meant to be a Jedi in Jedi Outcast, and fall in love at the same time. In the more recent Star Wars books, he’s a Jedi Master, member of the Jedi Council, and considered one of the best lightsaber masters in the Order. Not bad at all. Jedi Outcast remains one of my favorite Star Wars games of all time, setting the standard for how lightsaber combat should ultimately feel.
6. James Raynor, Starcraft Series
“This is Jimmy?” “Sounds Fun”
Marshall James Raynor. Criminal. Lawman. Freedom Fighter. Fugitive. Revolutionary. Leader.
James Raynor is the Captain Malcolm Reynolds of the Starcraft universe. If Malcolm Reynolds commanded a massive heavily armed stolen warship, regularly drove a grenade-launching hoverbike, wore powered armor and carried a massive Sniper Rifle on the battlefield, and was looked to as the leader and hero of a resistance movement against the corrupt Emperor of the Terran Dominion. Of course, if you asked him that, he’d downplay it all, saying he’s just a man fighting a good fight, trying to make the galaxy a better place. The best heroes are usually humble ones, and James Raynor? He’s one of the best heroes out there.
5. Sam & Max, Sam & Max series
One parts Canine suit-wearing Sheamus. One parts hyperkinetic rabbity-thing. Shake well and serve. Sam & Max are the Freelance Police. They’ll solve cases too weird for the cops. Mostly because the two of them are pretty dang weird too. These guys are hilarious. Their games are filled with oddball moments, wacky humor, and some very well thought out puzzles to solve. I love quoting their games and cracking up every minute with these two, and I hope we see more from them for years to come.
4. Megaman, Megaman series
The Blue Bomber! Megaman has been fighting the evil Dr. Wily and his Robot Masters for years, back in the good ol-NES days and even a little into the Super NES days, and while we didn’t see the original much for a long time (he was replaced by the darker-and-edgier X series, the slightly strange post-apocalyptic Legends Series, the program/internet focused Battle Network series, and the…Star Force? Whatever?) but with new games recently introduced via the Xbox Live Arcade, his popularity has enjoyed a recent resurgence. I’ve always dug Megaman for his never-give-up attitude and his adaptability. He can absorb the powers of his fallen foes, becoming a one-robot-arsenal, and prefers to assault the bad guys head-on, using superior firepower and agility to defeat foes. While he really hasn’t ever talked much, his games are just plain fun, and I’m always ready to hop back into the fray with him to take down Dr. Wily…again.
3. The Lich King, Warcraft Series.
Sure, there are a lot of characters I could pick from in the Warcraft franchise, but for the past few years, the player designed characters have been the biggest focus of the story for World of Warcraft, while previous player heroes like Thrall have taken more of a secondary role or worse, become Mary Sue characters. But the Lich King? One the most feared villains in the entire story? Oh yeah, now we’re talking. He began as the good-intentioned paladin, Arthas Menethil. Son of King Terenas Menethil of Lordaeron, he could only watch as the undead plague ravaged his kingdom, turning it’s inhabitants to mindless zombies. Desperate to save his people, he turned to the cursed runeblade Frostmourne to gain the power to save them…exactly as the undead’s master, the Lich King, had planned. He would become a Death Knight in the Lich King’s service, destroying everything that he had previously loved, including his own father. Eventually, he would go to Northrend to free the Lich King from his prision, in the process, donning the fabled armor and merging with the evil being itself. A three way battle would rage inside the new being between Arthas the Death Knight, his former good self, and the original Lich King, a corrupted orc spirit named Ner’zhul. Ultimately Arthas would purge the latter two, becoming stronger than ever.
The Lich King would finally return in World of Warcraft, attacking the major cities to lure powerful adventurers to Northrend, pitting his deadly undead army and fearsome generals against them with the end goal of taking those who overcome every challenge he could throw at them and killing and raising them as the greatest undead fighting force the world had ever seen. But his plans failed, and the heroes, with the spirit of Arthas’ own father aiding them, would finally bring about the fall of the Lich King.
With his last breath, the Lich King would ask if it was finally over. We may never know what happened to Arthas. Was he truly the Lich King all along, or was he a prisioner of the true Lich King, but tragically, he died in darkness, remembered only for the thousands dead because of him.
2. Garrus Vakarian, Mass Effect Series
Sure, the Mass Effect trilogy is Commander Shepard’s story. But much of Commander Shepard’s story is up to the player and can go in any number of directions. The game has a ton of fully fleshed out secondary characters, each with an awesome story, but Garrus is definitely my favorite. He’s a deadly sniper, a loyal friend and ally, and one of my favorite romance pairings with Shepard in the game.
Garrus is a Turian from the world of Palaven. Turians are very society-oriented, believing that the needs of their people should come above their own desires. Military service is mandatory, and their government is a well laid out heirarchy based on merit. Those who perform their duties with excellence rise up the ranks, those who do not stay where they are. Garrus, like his father, was a C-Sec agent, a cop on the station known as the Citadel, the center of galactic politics and society. In the first game, regulations and rules prevent him from taking down the main villain, so he quits to join Shepard. In the second game, he follows Shepards example and recruits his own team to enforce justice and protect the helpless on the lawless space station Omega. The mercenary and gang leaders there manage to take out his whole team via betrayal, and when Shepard recruits him again, he’s being targeted by their entire merc army. The mercs deploy a gunship after them, and while they succeed in taking it down, Garrus takes a friggin’ rocket to the face. He’s up only a few hours after surgery, heavily scarred, but still wanting to be useful. In the third game, Garrus, the former failed C-sec officer and vigilante, is now one of the highest ranking Turians in the heirarchy, finally recognized for his work battling the Reapers. He’s instrumental in getting the Turian’s help on your side.
Garrus’ romance scenario, if you choose to pursue him as a female Shepard is one of the more adorable ones in the game, and he develops from a nervous wreck trying not to screw it up to a confident, charming partner that’s always there when you need him. Easily my favorite character in the franchise.
1. Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, Halo Series
The Master Chief. The last Spartan. To the Covenant, he’s known as the “demon”. Among the Forerunner Constructs that monitor the series’ eponymous Halos, he is called “Reclaimer”. But to most of humanity, he’s the biggest hero they’ve ever known, and yet at the same time, he’s a tragic character, a boy forced to grow up to become something almost unthinkable so that humanity can survive.
Master Chief initially might seem like he fits into the hated “Silent protagonist” trope, speaking only in cutscenes in the first Halo title, but as the series progressed, and was augmented by tie-in novels, his personality and history are expanded considerably, to the point where in the current Halo 4, he is much more vocal than ever before. His story is tragic, like all of his fellow Spartans, he was taken as a child and trained to become the ultimate soldier in the SPARTAN program. He was given experimental surgery and gene therapy to make him stronger, faster, and tougher than an ordinary human, as well as the finest, most advanced armor they could design. Why do all this? Because the Covenant, an alien armada with technology beyond human design at this point, threatened them with extermination. Humanity was desperate, and the SPARTAN program was a terrible price to pay, but it worked, especially with John.
The Master Chief saw humanity through the darkest days of the war, ultimately splintering the Covenant in half, and seemingly sacrificed himself to defeat their prophets and secure peace with the rebel half. Unfortunately a new threat emerged in Halo 4, and the Chief is fighting once again. Where this story will take the Chief is not yet known, but we can be sure it’ll be a thrilling experience.
Like many characters on this list, SPARTAN-117 is an everyman. He’s humble, but when it’s time to take care of business, he gets in and delivers a whole lot of boom against a whole lot of foes. He’s saved humanity from extinction on several occasions against several threats, and it looks like he isn’t done yet. His chance at a normal life was long taken away from him, yet he never complains. He knows that he must fight so others can truly live, and accepts it. He’s a consummate hero, and that, more than any reason, marks him as my favorite character of all.