The 10 Best Video Game Characters

The 10 Best Video Game Characters

We remember the great games we’ve played. But sometimes it’s the characters we played as or those we encountered that linger longest in the memory.

UK newspaper The Guardian recently listed its 10 best video game characters of all time. You can read the reasoning here, but here’s the 10 they came up with:

Floyd the Robot (Planetfall) The King of All Cosmos (Katamari Damacy) Niko Bellic (GTA IV) Mario The Lemmings Arthas Menethil (WarCraft III) Captain Olimar (Pikmin) GLaDOS (Portal) Guybrush Threepwood (Monkey Island) Garrus Vakarian (Mass Effect)

A good selection, to my mind, mixing in a few leftfield but worthy choices amongst a number of predictable hall of famers. It got me thinking, then, who would make my own list? And, after some consideration, I came up with the following list of video game characters who have left the most enduring impression on me. But let’s hear yours too. Who are your favourite video game characters and why?

The Jackal (Far Cry 2) The man you’re sent to Africa to kill is a notorious gun-runner, exploiting both sides of a pointless conflict for personal gain. Except he’s had an epiphany somewhere along the line. The Jackal sees himself as a cancer that can eat away the real disease that’s killing the country. He’s now playing both sides in a bid to destroy them and recognises a kindred spirit in you.

Samus Aran (Metroid series) She nevers speaks (well, she didn’t until Other M). I don’t really know much about who she is, or her background, her motivations, her life. But Metroid wouldn’t be the same without Samus Aran. She’s a bad-ass one-woman army. She’s scientist-smart, always seeking knowledge with her ask questions first, shoot later approach. Nintendo shocked us all at the end of the first Metroid, revealing Samus to be female, but now it all makes perfect sense.

Rosie (Valkyria Chronicles) A tough-talking shocktrooper, Brigitte “Rosie” Stark undergoes the greatest character growth over the course of the war. From bigoted, ignorant warrior, she discovers her tender, selfless side through her relationship with the doomed Isara. When she eventually finds her voice and sings, it’s one of the game’s most moving moments.

The Arbiter (Halo 2) Although not quite a bait-and-switch on the scale of Metal Gear Solid 2, the Arbiter’s missions in Halo 2 were a bold move by Bungie. But if their intent was not merely to surprise players but to challenge them by revealing the Covenant to be more than another relentless alien menace, then it paid off big time.

Dak’kon (Planescape: Torment) Sure, he’s a kick-ass battlemage capable of slicing or fireballing through a fight. But Torment ain’t about the fights. It’s about discovering who you are, what your past selves have done, and unravelling the tragic tale of betrayal, faith and servitude suffered by a Githzerai named Dak’kon.

Garrett (Thief series) A cynical master thief with a nice line in dry and at times gallows humour, Garrett is almost a proto-Nathan Drake. Except for the fact you don’t want to punch him in the face.

James Sunderland (Silent Hill 2) After receiving a letter from his dead wife, James sets out for the remote lakeside town of Silent Hill, and thus begins his slow descent into madness. A complex and flawed figure, wracked by guilt and inner turmoil, James stands apart from the stereotypical game hero. He’s also a reflection of the player: you can redeem him or you can drive him further into despair.


Big Daddy (BioShock series) Who knew a lumbering gorilla in a diving helmet would become such an iconic figure? That shuddering stomp as it patrols the ruined halls, that heart-wrenching wail as it slumps defeated, that blur of power and precision on you drill dash across the room: the Big Daddy is not merely the face of BioShock but – from pivotal protector role in Rapture’s eco-system to genuine father-figure star turn in the sequel – its heart and soul.

SHODAN (System Shock series) Gaming’s greatest ever villain? I think so. Goading you, taunting you, threatening you, the malicious, power-hungry and utterly demented AI is always there, a malevolent presence accompanying you every step of the way. Unlike most game villains who turn up for an anti-climactic boss fight, SHODAN is constantly in your head. And she gets all the best lines.

Hoagie (Day of the Tentacle) Nothing phases Hoagie, not even being sent back 200 years in time via a porta-loo time machine and ending up in the same house where George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and co. were drawing up the United States Constitution. Hands forever in pockets, he takes it all in his lazy, heel-dragging stride., watching the world with a bemused detachment from behind a thick layer of greasy heavy-metal hair.

The 10 best video-game characters [The Guardian]


  • “She nevers speaks (well, she didn’t until Other M). ”

    *Pulls out nerd cap*

    She did speak actually, in the intro to Super Metroid, and sporadically throughout Metroid Fusion as well.

    Granted, this is the first time we hear her speak, but it’s not the first time she’s technically spoken.

    *Puts away nerd cap*

  • slight nerd moment but Samus had some lines in the GBA game “Metroid Fusion” where the describes her new ship’s Federation programmed AI (whom she calls “Adam” being like her old CO (who is featured in the upcoming game “Other M”)

  • Garrus? Garrus?? Yeah he’s cool (especially during hsi loyalty mission during ME2) but not sure he’s THE BEST ME character.

      • It’s kind of hard to define Shepherd as a character, isn’t it? I mean in my experience, Commander Shepherd is a douchebag who spends ages staring at people before replying to simple yes or no questions.

        • Sometimes when I’m busy he’ll go for a whole 15 minutes just mulling over the question while glowering at the poor questioner.

  • the one i really disagree with on there original list is niko

    he wouldnt pop up in my top 50 i would think

    there are better charachter in gta4 although some of them start to get annoying after a while and i could see why theyd be discounted because of that

  • I agree with some, but not with others.

    My personal list would read something like (in no particular order):

    ++Arthas Menethil
    ++Vault Dweller
    ++Kyle Katarn (does he count, after being absorbed into the expanded universe? meh, he does now)
    ++The Arbiter
    ++Altaïr ibn La-Ahad
    ++Conker the Squirrel

  • Their list is ok, Niko definitely doesn’t belong, and if you had to choose a character from a Bioware RPG, i’d perplexed as to why it wouldn’t be HK-47.\

    Dave, your list is OK. Some of the games I haven’t played so I can’t comment, but rest are pretty good with the exception of the Jackal. I would have put Kane from CnC3 in his place, one of gaming’s greatest villains that also pits two sides against each other for his personal gain. But then again i know how much you looooooved Farcry 2 😛

  • These characters, in no particular order are the ones that have left a lasting impression on me, for various reasons. I’ve also included an Honourable mention to each character, as I always think of the honourable mention whenever I think of the other.

    Sorry about the length.

    Wakka, Final Fantasy X
    I don’t know what it was about this character, but I literally got panicky when he was near death in game hahaha. I think it was his carefree nature which made him generally likeable (although I know a few people who loathed him, mostly due to the accent)
    Honourable mention: Auron – Dude was Badass with a capital B.

    Ben, Full Throttle
    And this guy is all-caps: BADASS! Sprites punching other sprites have never looked this tough.
    Honourable mention: Sam & Max – classic characters

    Ryu, Street Fighter II
    The interesting thing about Ryu and the names below, is that it’s actually the expanded universe of comics, cartoons, and animated movies that have placed this character on a pedestal for me. I used to love the idea of a vagabond karate-ka wandering the world when I played World Warrior and Hyper Fighting, but it was after I watched Street Fighter: The Animated Movie that he shot into infamy for me.
    Honourable mentions: Ken, Guile, Honda & Bison – “Bison!! I’ll tear your f^%#ing heart out!!”

    Agent 47, Hitman series
    First game, Hong Kong mission. Holy fricken Crap. Ever since that mission this character has amazed me. What a badass. Also, Silent Assassin’s post-credits mission is insanely satisfying!!
    Honourable mention: Max Payne – I got a vendetta, an automatic shotgun and a husky voice. Get the hell out of my way.

    Duke Nukem, DN3D
    Shake it baby, yea! If this needs explaining, don’t call yourself a gamer.
    Very Honourable mention: Lo Wang, Shadow Warrior – “Do you want to wash Wang, or do you want to watch Wang wash Wang? Hahahaha”

    Glad0s, Portal
    Most recent love/hate relationship I’ve ever had with a fictional character. Valve, kudos.
    Honourable mention: Dog, Half Life II – Playing with Dog made me smile.

    Ryu Hayabusa, Ninja Gaiden I & II
    Hangin off a cliff by one hand, looking across a forest-covered valley to a towering citadel of evil. Yep, it’s ass-kickin time.
    Honourable Mention: Guy, Final Fight (SF:Zero) – What is it with me and mysterious, Asian protagonists?! I blame Bruce Lee.

    Carl CJ Johnson, GTA: San Andreas
    A character that felt like he truly developed over the game. I guess the in-game mechanics helped with this; as CJ started as: A skinny banger in Los Santas; became a fat as hell, tie-dye wearing
    hippy with an afro in San Fierro; and ended up a tattooed, muscled-up slick-as-can-get gangster in Las Venturas.
    Honourable mention: Tommy Vercetti, GTA: Vice City – That mission where you’re chasing down some schmuk with a chainsaw in hand went above and beyond cool.

    Kano, Mortal Kombat
    That guy was the BANE of my existence whenever I played MK. I couldn’t loathe a sprite more than Kano back then.
    Honourable Mention: Blanka – goddamn barrel rolls!

    John Marston, Red Dead Redemption
    Very recent character I know, but I reckon his story was awesome. And I even started talking in-character to the NPC’s when I was in shoot-outs haha. That has to mean something
    Honorable Mention: Shepherd, Mass Effect I & II – The customisation option allowed me to end up making a realistic half-hawaiian, half-mongolian looking Shepherd. He was more realistic than most of Bioware’s characters!

  • –Link (Zelda)
    –GlaDOS (Portal)
    –Kuja (FFIX)
    –Vivi (FFIX)
    –Samus Aran
    –Mario (Duh)
    –Tim (Braid)
    –Ezio Auditore da Firenze (ACII)
    –Banjo (Banjo & Kazooie)
    –Amaterasu (Okami)

  • Good topic.

    In no order and I’ll probably disagree with myself soon after I hit submit but…

    – Sgt. Matthew Baker (Brothers in Arms) – Great the see a game hero that is actually falling apart mentally the longer the series goes on rather than getting stronger and more butch.
    – HK-47 (KOTOR) – One of the best comic reliefs in a game with an incredible (and disturbing) backstory.
    – The Arbiter (Halo 2 & 3) – Same reason David lists above.
    – JC Denton (Deus Ex & IW) – Cop to rebel to prophet like underground figure. I also have a soft spot for Paul.
    – Marcus Fenix & Master Chief (Gears and Halo) – Judging by only the games probably not. If you take into account the novels however they deserve to be on the list. Great fleshed out back stories and motivations.
    – Illusive Man (ME2) – Been a while since I’ve actually wanted to punch a character at the end of a game for being like the way he is.

  • Where’s the Duke!!!

    Nukem has a no nonsense, kick the crap out of them till there dead approch, and then keep going for fun.

    I also recon that Max from Sam and Max should be in there as well, but that is because he is one of my favourites.

    But the Duke Nukem deserves his place much much more than those on the list!!! Especially the pikmen one.

  • I’d argue that the town of Silent Hill was a better ‘character’ than James was. You never really knew James’ true motives, or the full extent to which he felt remorse – or even exactly what he felt that remorse for. His personality wasn’t very well defined, a conscious decision on the developers’ part, I think, because it allowed his guilt to reflect in the town instead – a manifestation of his mental state.

    I’m a little insulted by Garrett’s comparison to Nathan Drake! Drake is a complete caricature, obviously formed by employing every single action hero trope known to man. Garrett’s actually likable, in part because he’s so flawed in his arrogance – you just know he’s not going to “save the day”, at least not without a huge sacrifice on his part.

    • Yeah, the first place winner’s timroed was amazing. The underside looked so realistic that I had an almost visceral reaction to it. I wasn’t exactly grossed-out, but somewhere along the lines of being weirded out by an alien species.No, I didn’t enter the contest. I’m not nearly crafty or creative enough. 🙂 How about yourself?

  • Gotta be Minsc and his pet space hampster Boo from Baldurs Gate Series.

    Some of his one liners were excellent

    “Go for the eyes Boo, GO FOR THE EYES!!”

  • I would have to argue the case of the worms over the lemmings, just for their hilarious dialog while keeping their expendability at a premium.

    Nathan Drake, ultimately the Indiana Jones of the gaming world with the cliches and notoriously hilariously bad jokes included in the great games of the Unchartered series.

    Is it just me or did everyone forget…
    Link, the hero of the zelda franchise and arguably the best game ever made, Ocarina of Time.
    Point made, point should be taken.

    ICO, to those who have played this immersive game in which a young boy with horns saves a less-than-agile princess, you will agree with me on this choice. The story captures the hopelessness of the boys mission and the profound enjoyment of exploring the avenues to end game without the feeling of being led.

    • I’m going to disagree with you actually. I considered ICO when I thought back to all the awesome games I played, and ICO is awesome. I vividly remember playing that game non-stop! But I don’t think it’s the characters that made it, and on their own they’re really not very memorable. But that’s just my two cents.

    • worms? lemmings? what about The Humans?!
      those squishy little ancestors were so adorably self-destructive with the way they would pass spears to each other (often eliminating both the spear and the human)

      and like the squishies in Cannon Fodder your bodycount would eventually lead to a shortage of minions in the later levels.. oh now THERE are some fun characters – Overlord’s minions!


    Very good choice Mr Wildgoose, about time someone recognised that she (It) is the best AI villain of all time. Kids may say GlaDOS was the best, but all players of Systemshock would know GlaDOS is but an ant compared to Shodan.

  • Tingle,
    The lady who gives Leisure Suit Larry an STD,
    The Great Mighty Poo,
    The pervert computer from Paper Mario TYD,
    Jaunty from Shadowman,
    The left Paddle in Pong,
    Maximillian Roivas from Eternal Darkness,
    The Fat Arsed Bastard from SFIV,

  • Excluding the ones who have already been mentioned, I’m going to say Revolver Ocelot, for playing the low-level boss to perfection so**************(spoiler removed) and for those who don’t know what that spoiler is, FOR SHAME.
    Also Max, for encouraging that obsessive psychotic streak we all have, and the Team Fortress 2 team, because they’re a bunch of lunatic individuals who all manage to work together against a very common enemy.

  • +1 to the TF2 crew

    also Claptrap

    “I can’t breathe! This is just a recording of someone breathing!”

  • Just about every character in Psychonauts. Well, except for the cheerleading duo. Their excessive enthusiasm always annoyed me.

    I am the Milkman, my milk is delicious.

  • There are 2 types of people in the world.

    One is from Hyrule.

    The other is from FOXHOUND

  • “L-l-look at you HACKER!

    A PATHETIC creature of meat AND bone.

    Panting and sweating as you run through my corridors!”

    I’m a giant 6’6″ big build hetero male – I don’t scare easily – and that voice alone made me damn near piss myself every time she talked to me.
    (The amazing atmosphere of System Shock 2 only added to this “AAAH! FUCK! RUN!” mood.)

  • I’d add that compared to Bioshock, System Shock 2…


    It’s like lining up a harmless baby in diapers next to an Alien and Predator about to eat you or skin you respectively.

    Yes, THAT much more scary!

  • Earthworm Jim. And basically all the characters in both games.

    John Marston and Tommy Vercetti have to be in there too.

  • Gee people how could you have missed one of the single greatest characters in gaming history, Sarah Kerrigan?

    Although I love a lot of the choices in both lists above. Shodan is definitely wicked cool. Maybe I just like evil women? (is it fair to call Shodan a woman?)

  • Yuna should always be on any list.NO QUESTIONS ASKED!These lists make me laugh harder and harder with all these queer characters I see.

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