5 MOST BELOVED VIDEO GAME CHARACTERS OF ALL TIME
Recently, we were asked by a student in our online video game school, to provide a list of memorable video game characters for research and study purposes. This got us thinking that we should create a blog post outlining some of the most beloved video game characters of all time. So let’s jump in.
Even the most gripping stories are nothing without well-written characters. This rule applies not only to books, films and TV series, but also to video games. Being far more than just a bunch of pixels running and jumping across the screen in a retro Commodore 64 style, modern video games feature characters that stood the test of time, and due to their distinctive nature forever carved their place in the hearts of their fans and the regular players alike.
In this article we will present you 5 most beloved video game characters of all time, shortly describe them and explain the reason for their popularity. Whilst the list may be somewhat different for us and you, these are the heroes that certainly define their own genres and even after many years since their first appearance, they deserve to have their own seat amongst the best. So, without further ado, let’s read about them!
5. SOLID SNAKE – A TRANSFORMING HERO
If you happen to have “snake” in your name, you already know that you are pretty wicked by default. Solid Snake, the central hero of Metal Gear Solid series of games by Konami, fits that comparison very well.
The character first appeared in an action-adventure stealth game called Metal Gear released in 1987 on multiple platforms. Soon after, the game received a warm reception from the critics, and Solid Snake quickly managed to find a warm spot in the hearts of the players around the world, remaining to this day as one of the most iconic characters of all time.
Despite the warm reception of Metal Gear, the game had its flaws, so the real dawn of Solid Snake we could observe in Metal Gear Solid released on the original PlayStation platform in 1998. Also known as “the Man Who Makes the Impossible Possible”, Solid Snake is a secret agent, skilled in martial arts and firearms, who knows how to handle even the most dangerous missions. Through completing a number of tasks, Snake lives up to his name and eventually becomes a world-renowned war hero capable of stopping a nuclear disaster.
OK, but we also have Sam Fisher in Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell games as well as Number 47 in Hitman series. So what exactly makes Solid Snake so unique? The reason why one of the most famous special agents draws our attention is that throughout the series we had a chance to observe his transformation from an amateur mercenary to advanced soldier and finally to an old, famous war veteran in Metal Gear Solid 4. Most of the video games tend to focus on presenting us stories that last no longer than a couple of days, weeks or months at best, but MGS series’ stories happen on the span of the long years. During that time attitude, goals and the character of Solid Snake solidifies and in the process makes him more human, someone we can vouch for and at some point identify with.
A good game with well-crafted environment, dynamic film-like cutscenes and tremendous special effects can successfully hook players but only a memorable, multidimensional character makes them stay. There is no doubt that Metal Gear Solid has one of the most devoted fans in the world and it is because of Solid Snake, a hero whose dynamic transformation turns him from a a virtual avatar into a living and believable person.
4. LARA CROFT – A HEROINE THE MODERN WORLD DESERVES
Even though the release of the first Tomb Raider game was as early as over two decades ago, its heroine named Lara Croft prevailed unscratched until this day and became a true embodiment of a strong, female role-model not only for many video games but also the entire world of pop-culture.
Lara Croft, a protagonist of Tomb Raider series, first appeared in Tomb Raider (1996) action-adventure game developed by Core Design. She’s often depicted as an athletic woman with brown hair kept in ponytail and brown eyes. Lara is also well-skilled in pistols and other accessories we can equip her with throughout the series. Even though her background changed over the years, most commonly she’s known as a daughter of the archaeologists, and due to a number of shifts in her life she finally discovers her crave for adventure.
In the first games of the series, Lara was portrayed as a busty adventuress dressed in shorts and tank top what consolidated her role of a female sexual objectification, which at that time didn’t seem as something unnatural. However, as the years went by, the people have spoken and the voices of criticism resounded. With the release of the series’ reboot in 2013 a transformation of her character from a sexually exaggerated pixelated woman into a strong-willed, skilled heroine became a reality. Her complex backstory (previously reserved only for male characters) was finally polished and made Lara a fully multidimensional character.
Over the years, Lara Croft managed to gain and maintain the Guinness World Record of the most recognisable female video game character. Her phenomenon has its roots not only in well-written dialogues and a thought through backstory but also the fact that the remastered version of the world’s most famous female heroine brought a breath of fresh air into the old-fashioned, male-centred world of pop-culture.
3. GERALT OF RIVIA – A GREY HERO
Geralt of Rivia bears many names: the White Wolf, Butcher of Blaviken, Gwynbleidd, a “freak”, “mutant” and an “abomination”. With the release of the Witcher series of games by CD Projekt Red, inspired by the works of a Polish fantasy writer Andrzej Sapkowski, we have a chance to explore this vast, beautiful, yet at the same time brutal, merciless dark fantasy world. A world where there are no good choices, but where we are meant to choose between a lesser and greater evil.
With the release of the Witcher RPG in 2007, we had a chance to take a part in turbulent adventures of Geralt of Rivia, an exceptionally skilled monster hunter. In oppose to the majority of the one-dimensional heroes of the high fantasy genre, the White Wolf is not a regular protagonist. Yes, he’s tasked with slaying monsters and making sure that the populace is safe and well, but he’s often a danger to those he swore to protect. This duality of Geralt’s character complements well the ambiguity of the depressive world filled with crime, poverty, diseases and death, but also resembles the players’ freedom of fulfilling tasks the way they want.
Despite his capability of defeating terrifying Alghouls, Basilisks and Kikimores, in The Witcher series, the fate of Geralt depends on how skilled you are in the game. It perfectly reflects a grey character of the hero. Geralt may be capable enough to battle and eventually defeat even the most dangerous kinds of enemies, but contrariwise to the protagonists in The Elder Scrolls series he’s not a chosen one. He’s just a man who knows how to take care of himself, not through a birth advantage or possessing magical powers but through hard work and long training.
Taking no sides in the game just as real Geralt would choose to do, may lead us to death sooner than we think. We have to choose and we have to adhere to the world’s rules, not try to bend them to ourselves because we never will. What we love about the Witcher games is that no matter what we do, in the end we will be slammed back onto the ground. Don’t expect a brave knight in a shining armour come on a white horse to your rescue whenever you are ambushed by an angry mob of mutant-hating villagers. You are on your own and Geralt’s down-to-earth character features perfectly fit that picture.
2. LINK – A SELFLESS HERO
After exploring mercenaries and adventurers that has both their good and bad sides, it’s time for a true embodiment of a brave and selfless hero. Link, a protagonist of the action-adventure series of games named Zelda (first title shipped in 1986) by Nintendo, dressed in a distinctive green tunic and wielding a magical sword, takes you on the Hero’s Journey through the fictional realm of Hyrule.
The philosophy of Link can be put in simple words: talk less and do more. Depicted as a child or a teenager dressed in green clothes and a hat, and carrying a Master Sword, in every title of the more than 30-year long series of games, Link is a different incarnation of the legendary hero. He appears whenever the world is on the brink of destruction or when there are any poor souls that need his assistance.
Speaking in an RPG geek-like tongue, Link’s character alignment can be described as “Lawful Good”. He’s ready to embark on a perilous journey not looking for the bag of gold, glory or admiration, but he does that out of a pure heart of helping another person. Link represents almost every fundamental virtues of a selfless and crystal clear hero from the legends and myths. What is more, the effect of the altruistic protagonist is increased even more with the fact that in every iteration of Zelda game we play as a different incarnation of Link, what makes us focus not on the character itself but more on fulfilling our quest.
Zelda is not just about a series of cult-classic games. Zelda are the fans. The world of Link would be nothing without the masses of people dressing in funny green clothes, taking part in conventions, tattooing the Triforce markings on their skin and departing on virtual adventures to banish the evil from the world of Hyrule. Above all else, however, we all somewhat admire what Link does and try to be like him in our own lives – the selfless and kind to those we love and loyal to causes we value most.
1. MARIO – AN EVERYDAY HERO
If there’s any top iconic video game character that truly deserves the first place in the list, it is Mario. All hardcore gamers and casual players alike, one way or another must recognise this funny, chubby guy with a moustache, and dressed like a plumber. He first appeared in a cult-classic Arcade game Donkey Kong, released by Nintendo in 1981, and since that time, he gradually earned his rightful title of one of the forefathers of the gaming industry.
Due to the fact that the setting of Donkey Kong was on a construction site, Mario (first named “Mr. Video” and then “Jumpman”) was meant to be a carpenter, however, because Mario Bros game (published 1983) was set in NYC sewers, his profession was later changed to a plumber. Along with his sidekick co-worker, another plumber named Luigi, the protagonist must clear out the underground from dangerous creatures that have swarmed the entire area. It’s worth to mention that most part of Mario’s appearance comes from the technological limitations back then. A blue shirt and red edges were meant to contrast well together on the screen, whereas a characteristic, oversized red hat prevented the character’s creator from drawing the hairstyle and face details.
Mario’s task in most of the games is pretty much the same. He’s meant to save a “damsel in distress” and defeat one of the main villains, whether it is a huge ape or the main antagonist of the series, King Koopa. The fact that Mario is presented as an ordinary hard working man is meant to help players identify with him and vouch for during his quests. He proves that even a mere plumber can be an everyday hero that can fight evil with good deeds. Despite his humble and completely down-to-earth origins, Mario is brave, kind and always willing to help those in need.
Considering the number of his appearances in different genres, ranging from arcade games, through racing games and ending on RPGs, Mario is the embodiment of old and modern gaming. His characteristic looks and simple backstory made him a super approachable and loveable character who without a doubt deserves the first spot in the ranking of most recognisable video game characters of all time.
THE BOTTOM LINE
And so we’ve come to an end of our list of 5 most beloved video game characters of all time. This said, feel free to let us know what do you think about our choices and if you happen to have your own list of game characters that particularly drew your attention, let us know!