Some of the members of Gaming Respawn got together to talk about our favourite gaming characters. Sometimes a good interesting hero that we can root for can make a bad game all the more worthwhile, sometimes a bad villain with more depth to him than simple world domination can steal the limelight from a hero, even if unplayable in the game. Maybe you prefer the strong and silent type like Gordon Freeman, perhaps you like brawn over brains, then Kratos comes to mind, or like me you love a badass chick that can take care of her own and kick ass. Gaming characters can come in different shapes and sizes and here’s Gaming Respawn’s personal favourites.
Happy New Year from everyone at Gaming Respawn and we will see you all in 2016.
I have a number of favourite video game characters. A lot of the greats like Dante from Devil May Cry, the Prince of Persia from The Sands of Time Trilogy, even Kratos from God of War (to a certain extent) are among my most liked video game characters. A more obscure favorite character of mine would be the demon lord Samael from the Darksiders games, that guy oozes awesomeness: he’s intelligent, he has a menacing voice, he has a truly devilish appearance, he’s a master manipulator, and he’s one of the most powerful beings in the Darksiders universe. But I’m afraid even he’s not my absolute favorite video game character. That title would have to go to Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid.
There are a lot of characters from MGS that I have a strong appreciation for such as Gray Fox Cyborg Ninja, Vulcan Raven, Psycho Mantis, Liquid Snake, Solidus Snake, and Raiden Cyborg Ninja, but the main man Solid Snake narrowly beats them all. He’s a badass legendary soldier whose skills in hand-to-hand combat and firearms are nearly unmatched. He also has little need for relationships and friends, preferring to be a solitary figure, however even he has enough room in his tiny little heart for a small contingent of close friends who stick with him through his most troubling moments. Furthermore, he’s a tragic figure whose life is fated to end prematurely thanks both to a deadly virus and the short shelf life of his cloned genes. Despite these issues, Snake still has time to save the world. Hideo Kojima really outdid himself in creating this character, not to mention the series he’s a part of. Kojima even begged Nintendo to include Snake in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, further proof that Solid Snake is a character worth loving.
This is a tough one for me, as I’ve played a lot of games in my time and come across some incredible characters that left a lasting impression on me. The character I’ve gone with is one I actually didn’t like that much when I played the game for the first time, but after a few years of reflection, they’ve fought their way to the front of the line.
My favourite Video Game Character is The Boss from Metal Gear Solid 3.
Yes, I may love her now, but good grief did she wind me up when I first played the game. Playing as Naked Snake, The Boss is introduced right at the start of the game as a maternal mentor figure. However, following the first hour or so of the game itself, The Boss betrays you and flings you off a wooden bridge to your expected death. She then continues to show up throughout the game to wallop you over and over again. She’s also indirectly responsible for you losing your eye. Basically, she’s a massive back-stabbing cow and I associated her with anger and misery. The final fight with her at the end is a draining and emotional battle that I didn’t enjoy one bit.
However, when I went back to MGS 3 a few years ago, I found a character rich in layers. The Boss clearly doesn’t want to hurt Snake, but she does it because she has to. It’s what soldiers do. The people you ally with today could be your enemies tomorrow and vice versa. You can literally see the strain on The Boss’s face for the weight she has to carry, not just during her present mission but of missions past. She never smiles and she never even looks that angry either. She is in a constant state of almost mourning, owing a lot to the spirit of The Sorrow looming over her at all times.
This is a character that will follow her orders to the hilt, even if it means fighting the one person she doesn’t want to. Snake and The Boss’s relationship is almost akin to footballers who have decided to play for different teams, such is their professionalism. However, behind their brutal efficiency is the realisation that both their hearts are breaking. Anyone who argues that video games are not art needs to play this game. Trust me, when you have to press that Square button to finish The Boss off, you feel it in the pit of your stomach every single time.
As far as video game characters go, I have a few standouts that certainly make the games they come from shine ever so brightly.
My first is Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII.
This guy rocked. Even the polygonal limitations of the visuals back in the day couldn’t stop this guy from being an utter badass. Yeah he has a giant sword, a cool coat and a menacing fringe but the fact that his demeanor and actions can haunt your dreams is quite the accomplishment for computer game programming. Square-Enix created the ultimate bad guy with Sephiroth. His walk into the fiery ruins of Nibelheim and his cold blooded shock murder of Aeris remain two of the most memorable moments in video game history. I love him.
My second pick is Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid.
No not Big Boss. Solid Snake from the original MGS. Probably the baddest good guy in video game history, Solid Snake was the hero everybody wanted to be. The Gamecube remake Twin Snakes gave Snake more of a character based on the new cutscenes which made me love him even more. Voiced by the unforgettable and irreplaceable David Hayter, Snake had some kickass one-liners. “He who controls the battlefield, controls history’ and of course “Kept you waiting, huh” are among the best. These, plus his no bullshit close-quarters combat skills make Hideo Kojima’s Solid Snake another favourite.
Lastly, Uncharted’s Nathan Drake.
The most charismatic treasure hunter across all media in my opinion. Drake manages to squeeze himself out of some sticky situations whether it’s escaping a lost legendary city or fighting off an attack chopper from a speeding train, this guy has been through it all. But this isn’t the reason he is one of my favs, no, it’s his mouth. His wise cracks and quick wit is why he shines, plus his relationship with his best pal Sully. I remember belly laughing at his plane escape from his first game Drake’s Fortune, where he tells himself how to use a parachute and comedy gold being he sped up his count to five before pulling the cord. What a guy.
I prefer playing games where I create my own character and as I can’t really say that my favourite gaming character of all time is me, I had to think pretty long and hard to come up with an answer. Most of the protagonists tend to be forgettable or just uninspired, but I couldn’t look past Vaas Montenegro from Far Cry 3.
Far Cry 3 was a great game filled with amazing and memorable characters. As well as Vaas, Jason Brody is also up there for me as I enjoyed the transformation he went through from being an ordinary, everyday guy to a killer. It was an evolution of a character who changed from a boy into a man. Even if the story is a tad unbelievable, Far Cry 3 delivers a great story. However Vaas is clearly the standout character for his eccentric, insane, unpredictable and psychopathic personality.
The dialogue and behaviour of Vaas make him memorable, but what is more striking is the vulnerability that he shows at times along with his paranoia. Not only that, but the similarity between what Vaas is and what Jason becomes is one of gaming’s most complex yet thoughtful stories ever designed.
My favourite gaming character is very easy, Squall Leonhart from Final Fantasy VIII. Squall is a very misunderstood character, in my opinion he’s one of gaming’s most underappreciated characters with a fantastic story arc and deep character development. Over the course of Final Fantasy VIII you get to watch Squall start off as a young teenager then grow and turn into a man. Playing FFVIII for the first time as a kid I always thought Squall was a cool guy, he had a cold attitude towards others, replied to others by simply saying “Whatever” and had a badass sword that was also a gun; the Gun Blade.
As I replayed the game in my teens and as an adult, I soon realised how much about Squall that I didn’t know about before. Squall is a very relatable character, we’ve all been that angsty teen at high school, we’ve all felt like being antisocial and at times we would pretend the world was against us and only us. Squall is an introvert just like me and he puts on a façade, he wants to be seen as a leader and a strong guy but all this is just Squall’s hard exterior where he hides his true self and feelings inside his shell. He purposefully pushes people away because he is scared of getting attached to people and some of us may also be guilty of that.
If you didn’t understand Squall the first time and brushed him away as being some stupid emo, you were very wrong and owe it to yourself to replay FFVIII and understand the game more.
Final Fantasy may be a fantasy game, but Squall has a relatable human side that showed gradual changes over time to his personality, as he opened up more, it felt like reality to me. Squall helped me a lot as a teenager and helped me understand that it’s okay to be myself, it’s okay to be different and it’s okay to have all these thoughts running through my head that I don’t quite understand yet but will in the future. So for all that you’ve done for me Squall Leonhart, I thank you.
Crash Bandicoot. Hands down, Crash Bandicoot. He’s a plucky little bandicoot that was pulled out of the wild to be genetically manipulated by a comically shaped mad scientist. And he NEVER let that get him down.
Is that because the experiments failed to make him intelligent enough to fully understand the circumstances of his life? Maybe, that wasn’t covered in the video games. What was covered was that Crash could outrun dinosaurs, use a pogo stick, drive a car, and get progressively less charming after Naughty Dog left the franchise… But still, in addition to being a delightful and very capable mammal, Crash Bandicoot is 90s video game royalty.
Where would we be today without Crash? Think about it.
Picking a favourite has always been a difficult task for me, with it normally taking weeks of research, polls and a hell load of frustration, and this was no different. I finally came to the decision of Cloud Strife. Seeing it written down still makes me question my choice, but I’ll stick with it. I know this is a stereotypical Final Fantasy VII fanboy choice but I was this close (I’m making a really small gap between my fingers) to choosing Angeal Hewley from FF7 Crisis Core. I’ve liked Cloud far too long to leave him now, anyway he’s had more development and appearances.
Cloud is not only one of the most famous Final Fantasy characters, but also in the gaming world, whether you think he deserves it or not. Why do I like him you ask? Throughoput the games we see him change from the young kid who wants to be a 1st class soldier to impress Tifa, to an adult who is trying to work out who he really is, until he realises what happened and begins to mend, well slowly. Being the main character of a Final Fantasy game normally means you have a lot of background but there have been several games and even a film to show more sides to Cloud, well slightly different sides.
Cloud starts Final Fantasy VII off as an antihero and doesn’t really care about anything, until throughout the game he changes and really wants to save the world. On the outside he is this dark, lonesome character but on the inside he is caring and scared. He is a character that isn’t the idealistic hero, he’s not the strongest, and he wasn’t even meant to be any part of SOLDIER. We see a weak character become the hero by fate, he just got mixed up into everything forcing and was forced to be the savior. Cloud didn’t like anyone and through the games we see him open up, with Zack being the one to start this change of heart, and then his team in VII.
He’s got the cool guy look, and is surprisingly weedy-looking for someone who carries around such a huge sword; not forgetting that he manages to keep his hair perfect no matter what.
I was hesitant in writing this piece because it was really hard for me to pick a favourite video game character. To me, a story and great characters that are fully developed are what matter the most in a video game. Graphics and framerates are nice and all, but a video game cannot reach “masterpiece” status without a great story. Therefore I will give one of my favourite gaming characters, even if that is a bit like cheating. I almost picked Link from the Legend of Zelda franchise but decided against it because Link is different in every Zelda game. They are all reincarnations of the spirit of the hero, reincarnated when Hyrule or any other land needs his help the most.
Instead, I decided to choose a character who is the same in all of the games in the franchise, Samus Aran.
Samus Aran is a female bounty hunter, the protagonist of the Metroid series from Nintendo. Samus is often depicted as a silent protagonist, especially in the popular Metroid Prime Trilogy games. I know this sounds like it contradicts what I said about great story and character development but Samus’ silence in most of the games adds a sense of isolation to the series. Samus is often alone, tasked to bring down any dangers that exist in the universe. She does this alone with little to no assistance from others.
Samus Aran is one of the earliest female protagonists and a strong one at that. Plus, her Varia Suit has to be one of the coolest weapons in a video game. It would be my weapon of choice in a zombie apocalypse.
Well, I was going to avoid the pick, as I assumed someone else would have chosen it by now, but I find myself alone in my adoration for this character. Lee from the Walking Dead. Lee should be a one-note character. A protector, someone who tries their best to protect the ever adorable Clementine. Ninety percent of games companies would have left it at that. Perhaps he would have had a love interest, and they would have made you choose between her and Clementine, but his character would have little to no development.
Where Telltale truly crafts the best game character of all time is in the subtle details. Starting with his background, being a man convicted of murder, they use this as a redemption plotline. To atone for his previous mistakes, he shepherds a young girl he encounters not minutes after discovering the apocalyptic tragedy of zombies. Again, while the connection is clearly meant to be that of a father and daughter, it’s not forced. We slowly see Lee go to further lengths, and in addition, we see Clementine start to trust him more and more.
We also see him slowly begin to take on leadership of the group, even if many of the members have quite a varied response to him. What ends up happening is a relationship that shows the group begrudgingly trusting him. While it may seem similar to Rick from the main series, it’s a different kind of respect. Where Rick seems to earn it through his actions, Lee earns it through his ability to respect the struggles of everyone and try his best to aid. At no point does Lee assume control, he just seems to be looked at as the most level-headed, and this comes across quite well in his scenes of leadership.
Lee’s ending could not be more fitting. Without spoiling anything, he essentially commits the ultimate sacrifice possible for Clementine’s safety. In the last moments of the game, with his health at risk, his first thought is of her, not of himself. No, it’s not a new take on the idea, but a combination of subtle touches, emotional moments, tense scenes, and brilliant voice acting make Lee an unforgettable character.
Of all Nathan Drake’s qualities, perhaps the most remarkable is his ordinariness, the fact that no matter what situation he’s placed in, Drake retains his everyman quality, his quips and asides revealing depth of character and making players care in a way that few screen characters can. He is undeniably in the words of one foe from Uncharted 2, “a cocky little shit” but his arrogance and easy grin is balanced by the enduring power of his personal relationships and his stumbles and falls (both physical and metaphorical).
As the series goes on, this arrogance is generally revealed as bluster, almost a defence mechanism that keeps the world at one remove, a trait video game psychologists would no doubt trace to his orphaned upbringing, without a past to root him in the world, he created his own, hence his constant claims of being descended from Sir Francis Drake. This also explains just why his bond with virtually ever-present companion Sully is so strong, this is far more than two mates on a grand adventure, the age gap in the relationship instead positioning Sully as a clear father figure for Drake, something explored in detail by the adolescent flashback that opens the second entry in the series.
Vitally, Naughty Dog has had the courage to allow the character to grow throughout the series, the Drake who will star in next year’s climactic entry being a very different man from the twentysomething who leapt, shot and joked his way through the first Uncharted. Already, the studio has revealed that Drake is married to the only girl he has ever truly loved, journalist Elena Fisher, and he is dragged back into treasure hunting by the reappearance of his long-lost brother Sam, a completely different motivation from the treasure lust that drove his earlier adventures.
Above all, while players love the Uncharted series for its globe-spanning locations, spectacular set pieces and technical prowess, none of it would work without Drake, he anchors an often outlandish saga, makes the serial mass killing that fuels much of the gameplay seem perfectly acceptable and, most importantly, makes a personal connection with whoever’s holding the controller.