Brooding White Male Video Game Protagonists, Ranked

Brooding White Male Video Game Protagonists, Ranked

Video games are amazing, because you can be anyone or anything in the universe: A blue hedgehog! A ghost! A unicorn with rocket launchers! About 80 per cent of the time, though, you get to be a brooding white guy. There are so many of them that it's hard to keep track. And they all seem to have dead wives. This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK, on 2 March 2016.

As a fan of Brooding White Guys since I first started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer at age 12 (Angel was my first love — I am an especial fan of the subgenre Brooding White Guy With A Tortured Past), I thought I would put together this definitive ranking. From worst to best:

10. Desmond Miles

Brooding White Male Video Game Protagonists, Ranked

Desmond is absolutely the worst. He is a whiny, incredibly boring dude who isn't even hot, and isn't anywhere near as interesting as any of his ancestors. He has literally nothing to brood over and yet he complains all the damn time. Piss off, Desmond.

Wife status: Desmond is so lame that he does not even have a wife to fridge.

9. Max Payne

Brooding White Male Video Game Protagonists, Ranked

Payne is your classic Tortured Cop Who Breaks All The Rules, a very important subgenre, but he's such a massive cliché that even within the realm of brooding white guys, he is boring: he's an orphan, his daddy was mean to him, he's an alcoholic and so on and so forth. Visually I'm more of a fan of Rockstar's Max Payne, personally.

Wife status: Dead. Bonus points: his daughter is also dead. He's very sad about it. That's why he drinks and abuses painkillers and does violence.

8. Marcus Fenix

Brooding White Male Video Game Protagonists, Ranked

He tried to rescue his father, but he just didn't make it in time, and he never forgave himself, hence the permanent scowl. Marcus ticks many of the brooding white guy boxes: he's huge, he's military, he's apparently in love with someone to whom he shows absolutely no affection.

Wife status: Plot twist: no dead wife for Marcus. He does witness his buddy mercy-killing his wife, though.

7. Alan Wake

Brooding White Male Video Game Protagonists, Ranked

Alan Wake talks a lot about how much he loves his wife, but really it pales in comparison to how much he obviously loves himself, and how sad he is that he can't seem to do his damn job and write another novel.

Wife status: Mysteriously disappears from the rubbish town he drags her to so he can finish his stupid book.

6. Booker DeWitt

Brooding White Male Video Game Protagonists, Ranked

An excellent example of the Brooding White Male With a Troubled Past: a drinker, a gambler, a violent man, Booker has done just terrible things, but hey, he's going to make up for it by rescuing a young woman from a racist dystopia. Though it turns out he has selfish reasons for wanting to do that. DeWitt's ranking is severely affected by the fact you can't actually look at his sullen, handsome face during the game.

Wife status: Died in childbirth.

5. James Sunderland

Brooding White Male Video Game Protagonists, Ranked

Silent Hill 2's protagonist is a seemingly normal blonde guy with a HIDDEN DARK SIDE. But he's got a heck of a lot more depth than lots of other characters, so he's comfortably mid-table.

Wife status: Dead. OR IS SHE?

4. Sam Fisher

Brooding White Male Video Game Protagonists, Ranked

A hardened military man with love in his heart for only... yes, his daughter. These brooding dudes are all about their daughters. Bonus points for the fact that most of his games are really good, and for his various excellent costumes.

Wife status: Estranged, then dead. Daughter not so lucky.

3. Talion

Brooding White Male Video Game Protagonists, Ranked

Shadow of Mordor's protagonist is VERY SAD and VERY ANGRY about his dead family, and being unable to join them in the afterlife, so he embarks upon a lengthy and bloody revenge mission. Classic brooding male antihero material. Also, I love the hair.

Wife status: Tragically, and surprisingly, she is dead.

2. Joel

Brooding White Male Video Game Protagonists, Ranked

Joel comes very near the top of the list because not only is he bearded, he is the perfect age for the projection of daddy issues. Initially hardened and emotionally inaccessible, he slowly opens up to daughter-figure Ellie, making you feel like maybe he is capable of loving again. This is a crucial component of the Brooding White Male appeal.

Wife status: Estranged, officially, but probably very dead. In fact, almost everyone he has ever known is dead.

1. Snake

Brooding White Male Video Game Protagonists, Ranked

Snake is just some A+ brooding white male material. He has: a scar, a troubled past, an amazing voice (thank you, David Hayter and, to a far lesser extent, Kiefer Sutherland), he wears skintight pants, he's mysterious, he looks good in an eyepatch. He even smokes. There was at one point, however, a complex fan theory that posits that he has no penis, which would be a significant downside.

Wife status: I'm... pretty sure the only person Snake ever had the hots for married someone else, so he swore off romance? Or was that a different Snake? For god's sake don't make me look up the Metal Gear Solid storylines, we'll be here all night.

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This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK, bringing you original reporting, game culture and humour from the British isles.


    Ah, the legendary wit of the poms.

    More please!

    Now to see if the humour is lost upon the great unwashed Australian set....


      I took a shower not three days back

        three days? do you work in a hospital or something?

      Desmond Miles has both Arabian ancestry and native American ancestry. I find it offensive to refer to him as a white male protagonist. He is pretty whiny though.

        Are you really offended, or do you think that is the correct response for social justice warrior browny points. You can simply point out an error without being offended.

        I find it deeply offensive that you're saying people of both Arabian and Native American ancestry can't be white. DEEPLY offended.

      I don't know where you're from but it's the British that don't wash. We wouldn't survive not washing with the heat we have. When I lived in London a 3 day stint of non-washing seemed okay with the locals.

        To be fair, they can *effectively* wash by going outside. I don't know if you were counting that.

    I know this article is a bit of satire and just having a laugh (I think), but I think some of these characters don't necessarily deserve the mocking. Old mates like Joel and Sam Fisher don't really deserve the knocking.

    Desmond Miles on the other hand is indeed, the absolute worst. I find it hard to believe he's got crazy mixed blood of Arabic, Italian etc. All of which are ASSASSINS.

    I could never get over that, "We're the good guys. We are... Assassins."

      Assassin's Creed was an interesting game. It's still amazing to me that they managed to ship a game about an Islamic group on a mission to murder foreigners.

      Contextually I'm pretty OK with it, the crusaders were the invaders, but I'm still amazed they got away with it.

      You can't generalise without ignoring reality, if something is to be mocked, the mocker is generally ignorant of at least some perspective or content. Would be cool if writers didn't constantly wash their hands of responsibility to anything but their own values.

    Alan Wake's wife was the one doing the dragging to Bright Falls.

    Max Payne 3 did not exist. I can't hear you. lalala.

    Surely this list needed to be capped by Kratos, the whitest and broodiest of them all.

    Where's Geralt?

      I was wondering the same at first but then realised that of course he's too awesome for this list - he's not brooding, he's thoughtful!

    What about Kratos? Big, angry, killed own wife/family and uses it as an excuse to kill everything bigger than him.

      And he's actually white, unlike all these pink skinned guys in the list.

        Eh, he could be any race, really. He appeared to be black in GoW2 in a flashback before the ashes of his wife and child were affixed permanently to his skin, and his voice actor is black (although it wouldn't be the first time a black voice actor has voiced a white character, or vice versa). He has also been seen with white or olive skin in other media though.

          Right, but in the majority of the games his skin is definitely white (rather than pink or brown, or any other normal flesh tone). So doesn't that make him a better fit for the list than any of the others in the article?

            By his skin being white, do you mean that he has predominately been shown as being caucasian (which is not true), or do you mean his skin is literally white by virtue of him being covered from head to toe in the ashes of his dead family? If the latter, then sure, he is technically white skinned, and would technically be more white skin than the characters listed in the article.

              I intended the comment as a joke, pointing out that he is literally white skinned while the top 10 in the article are all pink skinned. I wasn't referring to anything outside of the game's fictional universe, and had forgotten that the voice actor is black.

                Sorry man, I wasn't entirely sure if you were joking or not. With some of the comments I've seen here on Kotaku, you never really know. :-P

    Call whitewashing from Movie to TV and Video Game. welcome to white world

    Typical white male privilege. They get all the listicles.

    So does the Snake entry count for all of the snakes or just Naked Snake/Big boss (pictured). I get that they're functionally the same character, but in cannon they're brooding about different things which can affect the score. Naked is brooding all throughout MGS3, but seemingly because he is confused that his boss / mentor (and mother figure / possible love interest?) has defected to the Soviet Union and subsequently because he killed her when she hadn't truly defected. Solid Snake is just odd in general, maybe I'd have more context for why he's brooding if I'd played the first 2 Metal Gears, but he doesn't seem to have much in the way of references to what seems a fairly traumatic series of events, maybe he's just like that. Liquid could also kind of count, moping about the recessive genes he was made to think he received from Naked.

      Yeah dead families are a pretty big motivator for a lot of people. It's why it's a plot device.

      Solid Snake's existence is purely to be a tool, a weapon in a war between two individuals attempting to hold up the ideals of a mentor which neither side truly understood until it was too late. Nearly everything he has done in his life, either for himself or for others, has in actuality just furthered the goals of Zero's Patriots, his father, or both. It wasn't until after he was forced to end the war between Zero and Big Boss that he ever had a chance to live his life truly as he wished, and that was after the war had taken pretty much everything from him, including his health, the small niche of a life outside of battle he'd carved out multiple times, as well as, in a way, the only person who truly ever loved him (although Meryl at least got her happy ending out of it all).

      And the irony of it all is that when Snake finally had the opportunity to live his life by his own choices, he was far too old and sick to do anything with the 6 or so months he had left, and had spent so long (his entire life) inadvertently fighting someone else's war that he didn't know how to life a life without war. He was a broken shell of a man in every meaning of the word and was granted freedom at a point in his life where he'd never be able to use it, and despite everything he'd done, he would forever be a known footnote in a pointless and brutal war of ideologies between two other selfish men.

      Long story short; Solid Snake has some decent reasons to be broody. :-P

    how can they have missed fucking John Marston. that dude was THE shit!

      Probably because his wife wasn't dead.

        No she wasnt.
        He dieded,
        farking ninjas cutting onions again

    Missed opportunity to list Ness, kid's got psychic powers AND he knows what your favourite thing is. C'mon.

    As a white male, I feel my opinion is important.

    Bit confused as I never thought of Desmond Miles as white considering his middle-eastern descent on his mother's side and his Native American heritage on his father's side...

      i never thought about that, but you are absolutely correct.
      you forgot the italian in there too.

    I thought all white males could be pigeon holed? If only they could be as deep and noble as the pigeon.

    Last edited 07/03/16 3:45 pm

    Seriously, no Hitman 47? No Garrett from thief?

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