Matt’s Top 10 Favorite Video Game Heroes
Matt’s Top 10 Favorite Video Game Heroes
I’ve already done an article about my favorite video game villains, and now it’s time to talk about my favorite heroes. The heroes are the ones we (usually) play as during our adventures in video games. They are the ones we connect to, thrive with and feel for as we control their destinies in our tiny hands. It’s great when you think about it, though. Heroes are the ones that we literally “control.” So, I’m sure there are some theories about the protagonist of a game having their own character, but they wouldn’t have life unless it weren’t for the human psyche controlling them. Therefore, the human’s psyche is contributing to the character and their personality, creating a completely new life form that would not exist without that’s a mixture of human and technology…
I don’t know; I’m getting too philosophical for a fun article like this one. Before I begin though, these are my CURRENT favorite heroes of all-time. I’m only 26 years old and I have plenty of video games to play for the rest of my life, but I guarantee you some of the characters on this list will stay until the day I die. The heroes of video games are some of the main reasons I have grown such an incredible admiration for the art. They truly allow you to immerse yourself in the imaginary universe, which is something films and television CAN do, but they VERY rarely succeed. Are video games the greatest source of art and complete immersion into another world? Possibly, but that’s for another article at another time. Right now, let’s talk about my top 10 favorite video game heroes.
#10. Ori – Ori and the Blind Forest
This is the only character on this list that doesn’t say a word. From beginning to end, the player connects with Ori on a sympathetic and fearful level, not the fearful that creeps you out, but the type that keeps you fearing for the character’s life, pushing the player even more to keep the character out of harm’s way. As one of the best platformers in recent years, Ori hits the core of your heart with the game’s insane action, brilliant story and wonderful characters. Why do I love Ori so much? Well, with a non-speaking character that’s an all-white animal, I like to look at Ori as a blank canvas. A blank canvas I can paint my own picture on and insert myself into the world of the Blind Forest, feeling every emotion (sadness, fear, happiness and anger).
#9. Lara Croft – Tomb Raider Series
Probably the most popular female protagonist in a video game, and that’s one of the reasons why I love her so much. She was one of the first instances of a female action hero. Sure, there were a few in the film and television world, but in the world of video games and the world of women, there wasn’t one like Lara Croft. You get to control a female tomb raider using dueling pistols to fight mercenaries, robbers and the supernatural. It felt awesome to be at the controls of a beautiful booty-kicking chick that would whoop you if you said the wrong thing. She’s one of my favorites because she’ll never die, not in video games or gamers’ hearts. Her new reiterations are incredible, and she has a long road that will never end ahead of her.
#8. Ezio – Assassin’s Creed: Ezio Trilogy
Assassin’s Creed has had some trouble in recent years. The games aren’t necessarily “terrible,” but they aren’t the same as the Ezio Trilogy. Ezio was a great character that you cared about as a player. That’s important for heroes in video games today… Actually it’s important for any story in any medium. The player/viewer/reader must care about the characters in order to be immersed into the world. The story might not be that great in a visual medium, but if the characters make you forget that, then I guarantee you’ll look past the lackluster story. Ezio’s Trilogy didn’t have lackluster stories, nor did they have forgettable characters. Ezio was the centerpiece of this amazing trilogy, and you don’t stop loving him, even after his unfortunate demise.
#7. Max Payne – Max Payne Series
“Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne” is one of the greatest games of all-time. An absolutely wonderful story that is the pinnacle of any Noir tale, with a great Femme Fatale and ending. But, it wouldn’t have been created without the revolutionary game entitled, “Max Payne.” This game became popular because of its violence and “bullet-time” gunplay mechanic. As I grew older, I started to appreciate the game for the more important things, though. The gameplay mechanics and violence were cool and all, but at the heart of this game is a dark, depressing and disturbing story that’s led by a troubled human being. Max Payne is one of the most empathetic and sorrowful characters in history, including everyone in film and television.
#6. Artyom – Metro Series
You might never see his face, but Artyom is one of my favorites simply because he embraces and endures everything that comes his way… even aliens and monsters in a post-apocalyptic Russia. While I’m more of a fan of the first installment of the series, “Metro 2033,” because of its simplicity, Artyom is the carrier of the banner through both games, and depending on how one beats “Metro: Last Light,” hopefully we’ll see Artyom, or perhaps his son, once again in the later installments. Artyom is a good example of how the player can become one with the character they are playing. You never see his face, nor does he talk except in between levels, which come off as journal entries, allowing us to get to know Artyom on a more emotional level. If you’ve never played a Metro game or read the books, then I suggest you do. You’ll be in for a slow-burning and horrifying bumpy ride.
#5. Emile – Valiant Hearts: The Great War
Need to cry? This character’s story during “Valiant Hearts” will make you do just that. As a game that has multiple storylines that eventually crash together, Emile is my favorite character out of an incredible cast. The reason I prefer him to the others is because of his external goal and his personality as a brutal man but a loving father. “Valiant Hearts” made me want to save the characters I was playing and make sure they stayed out of harm’s way, so they could one day return to their loved ones. I haven’t had dedication like that towards characters in a long time, and Emile’s story puts the perfect amounts of love, pain and sadness into an already incredibly emotional story.
***WARNING: TEARS AND SPOILERS AHEAD!***
#4. Niko Bellic – Grand Theft Auto IV
The protagonists of the “Grand Theft Auto” series have always been hit or miss, for me. In “Grand Theft Auto III” we had a mute protagonist, who was awesome but lacked a personality. “Vice City” had Tommy Vercetti, who was an awesome character, yet I never really liked him that much. “San Andreas” introduced Carl Johnson to the mix, and while I loved playing him during my first playthrough, other playthroughs have showed me he’s actually quite boring and unimaginative. “Grand Theft Auto V” is the most recent installment (and don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about the extended universe titles like “Liberty City Stories” and “Ballad of Gay Tony”), but all the characters in “GTA V” were dull, even Trevor, who was the psychotic one out of the three characters you play. The other two were boring, stereotypical characters we’ve all come to know from other video games, films, television and novels. The gameplay was great, but the unoriginality of the characters turned me away from the game after my first playthrough.
Before the “fifth” installment, there was Niko Bellic, an Eastern European immigrant who comes to America in search of the true American dream. Right off the bat this might sound unoriginal and cliché, but it was brand new in the video game universe. This isn’t my reason for putting him so high on this list, though. Niko is actually an incredible character with a psyche, emotional center and heart. His time in Liberty City is anything but stellar, coming to a sorrowful halt when either his cousin or his girlfriend gets killed (you actually get to choose which one dies). Niko proved that Rockstar could create compelling protagonists inside the world of “Grand Theft Auto.” Let’s just hope they go back to that trend in “Grand Theft Auto VI.”
#3. Alice – American McGee’s Alice & Alice Madness Returns
Just when you thought you’ve seen “Alice in Wonderland” adapted into every form possible, some hitting but most missing, that’s when American McGee came along and gave us a whole different view into the iconic universe. With all the characters and everything inside Wonderland being parts of Alice’s subconscious, we are sent on a chaotic journey that creates emotional imbalances inside Alice as well as inside ourselves. I love these games for their creativity and ingenuity, but I mainly love Alice because she’s an absolute rockstar in both games. Want a female protagonist on the same level as Ripley and Lara Croft? Then you’ve got the perfect combination with Alice in these surprisingly violent, difficult and grief-filled adventures.
#2. Solid Snake – Metal Gear Series
Liquid Snake is one of my favorite video game villains of all-time, so it’s only proper to have his twin brother, Solid Snake, high up on this list. Now, Solid Snake is not the main protagonist of all the Metal Gear games. He is for some of them, but other protagonists include Raiden, Naked Snake, and Big Boss (who is the same person as Naked Snake). So, when I say Solid Snake, I mean Solid Snake and not his father Big Boss too. While you do play as Big Boss (Naked Snake) in the best game out of the entire series, “Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater,” Solid Snake is still my favorite character. I guess I must be into real sad and depressing protagonists for some reason. I don’t know why; I promise I am a very happy person, but Solid Snake is anything but happy underneath his rough exterior. A lost, conflicted soul caught inside of a quickly deteriorating body is what settles underneath. He’s a character you can find a lot of sympathy with because of simple but horrible things, like not knowing his father and learning he’s a clone of a famous mercenary (Big Boss). The same famous mercenary he actually kills in the early installments of the “Metal Gear” series.
The entire “Metal Gear” plotline might be confusing and convoluted, but when you get to the Solid Snake Era, a great atmosphere of pain, wonder and torment takes over, creating one of the greatest stories of all-time, but especially creating one of the best protagonists. The wonderful Solid Snake.
(If you haven’t played any of the Metal Gear games, start from the beginning and play “Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.” Yes, it’s the third installment in the “Metal Gear Solid” Era, but it’s the first game in chronological order.)
#1. Master Chief – Halo Series
Ah yes, my number one favorite hero (in any medium) of all-time. The reason Master Chief beats out Solid Snake is because of this simple fact: I’ve been playing as Master Chief for a lot longer. Growing up, I mainly watched my brother play the “Metal Gear” series. I wasn’t really into the whole espionage style of gameplay, but I sure loved watching the games for the characters, stories and boss fights (Sniper Wolf’s monologue still makes me cry to this day).
That’s of course changed now that I’m older, but I’ve been playing as Master Chief since “Halo: Combat Evolved” was released. Back then, he was just an awesome soldier that you took the reigns of in order to defeat the alien threat that wanted to destroy the human race. Now, with the latest installments of “Halo 4” and “Halo 5: Guardians,” Master Chief has grown into a sympathetic character with a soul.
Master Chief is a Spartan, a half-human, half-robotic super soldier. Because of the mechanical portion of their bodies, the early versions of Spartans are known to be killing machines and nothing more, totally ignoring the souls that truly live underneath the metal-clad exterior.
So, the government and military see Spartans as mere pawns in their war-torn game of chess, but when you play through the games as Master Chief and other Spartans, you understand the glimmers of souls and hearts deep down inside them. The games don’t go as deep into this aspect like “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” does, but there’s enough there for me to hop onto the back of Master Chief and show the idiots that run the government and military that he’s more than a bucket of bolts and flesh.
That was a bit of an emotional rant, I guess, but my main reason for loving Master Chief is because he’s the only character I’ve ever truly loved going on a mission alone with. Most first person shooters are like this: hundreds of enemies and one guy defeats them all. It’s cool to be Rambo sometimes, but when it’s all the time it gets kind of ridiculous and repetitive. With Master Chief, it never felt repetitive. He’s a Spartan. He’s supposed to be 100% Grade A Excellence of Execution, and that’s exactly how you feel whenever you play. While under his helmet, I know I can accomplish anything and be a true hero, and I hope to continue to fight the good fight with him until the day I die.