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The Top 5: Characters in video games

This week Gamer Horizon presents The Top 5: Characters in video games.

Sean Mesler

What’s up gamers? It’s that time again. The Top 5: characters in video games and this week Ari’s back! So let’s not waste any more time. Let’s see how everything stacks up, shall we?

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5. (TIE) Commander Shepard (Mass Effect series) and Alex Mason (Call of Duty: Black Ops)

I really couldn’t decide who of the two I should put on my number 5 slot, but I do realize why they were both considered: Both characters helped immerse players into their world. It also helped that both Commander Shepard and Alex Mason are great at what they do. The choices players made in Mass Effect, coupled with allowing them to customize their Shepard, and the inclusion of an engaging narrative and a reactive first person protagonist in Call of Duty: Black Ops, pulled gamers all over into their respective narratives.

4. Sackboy (or Sackgirl? – LittleBigPlanet series)

Sack of beans. Crocheted champion. Crossdresser. Everything Sackboy does is cute, filled with charm, and with tenacity. With more than 6 million LittleBigPlanet levels that exist today, Sackboy’s adventures have gotten increasingly better over the course of its many games. And while most of us will move on to the next generation of gaming once the new consoles come out, it’s clear that LittleBigPlanet’s fans all over the globe will ensure that Sackboy’s adventures will never end.

3. Nathan Drake (Uncharted series)

We all fell in love with Nathan Drake when we saw him appear onscreen in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and we’ve stuck with him since. Nathan Drake’s attitude and personality set him apart from other Indiana Jones inspired characters and forced Crystal Dynamics to rethink the direction of the Tomb Raider franchise.

2. Lara Croft (Tomb Raider (2013)

Lara Croft’s return to greatness is mostly due in part because the folks at Crystal Dynamics, with some help from series creator Toby Gard, made a huge gamble on the heels of the success of the Uncharted series to reimagine Lara Croft in ways they had never thought possible. Camilla Luddington’s performance as the famous archaeologist, of course, pre-classic Tomb Raider games, is something that I’m looking forward to in future iterations of the series and so far has been definitively one of the most fun experiences I’ve had this year.

1. Everyone who lives in Inaba (Persona 4)

Was there ever any doubt that you’d somehow see Persona 4 on my list, let alone the top slot?

I consider Persona 4 as the pinnacle of storytelling in video games, and that says a lot about a game that I consider the entire cast to be my favorite. From the local shopkeeper to the random people you bump into from time to time, every single individual in Persona 4 works towards immersing you into the world of Inaba. And while a lot of RPGs do put in townsfolk and the like to add color and richness to the environment, Persona 4’s small town setting is ideal in that, coupled with the day-to-day gameplay loop that it has, gives you the feeling of slowly getting to know many of Inaba’s citizens as if you yourself really moved into their town.

Person 4 cast

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5. Balthier from Final Fantasy XII – I enjoyed Final Fantasy XII, and while I don’t consider it to be among the best games in the series, it does have one of the series’ best characters. Balthier, with his charm, quick wit, and endless confidence, managed to make Final Fantasy XII a better game all on his own. The storyline sequences that feature him are the most entertaining in the game by far, and provide a much needed break from Vaan and his whining (Vaan, by the way, could easily earn a spot on a list of my least favorite characters). It also helps that he keeps Fran for company.

4. Laharl from Disgaea: Hour of Darkness – Laharl, prince of the Netherworld, grew on me a lot. When I first started playing Disgaea, I thought he was an obnoxious, whiney, spoiled brat. Well… he is, actually. And normally I can’t stand that type of character! But throughout the game the other qualities of his character made him one of my favorites. I love that his weak points include optimism and voluptuous women. But more than that, I enjoyed how he grew emotionally throughout the game, so that by the end there was a big emotional payoff for the player. There is much more to Laharl than what appears on the surface.

3. GLaDOS from Portal – There’s nothing quite like the homicidal Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System—GLaDOS for short—that provides the majority of dialogue and story through Portal (and much of its sequel, Portal 2). Though GLaDOS doesn’t make a personal appearance on screen until the very end of the game, she is present from the very beginning. She interacts with the player almost constantly, at first providing guidance and instructions. Later, she starts to talk about more personal matters, and it becomes apparent that something is not quite right about her. Sure enough, in one of the greatest moments in gaming history, she turns on the player, and the player must escape a death trap. Suddenly, the once friendly voice attempts to lead the player astray, with an ever growing sense of urgency. GLaDOS really is a wonderful character, especially because of the sense of humor she brings to the game. There aren’t enough games that are genuinely funny. Portal is a great puzzle game, but puzzle games are rarely worth playing through more than once. GLaDOS makes Portal worth playing again.

2. Rydia from Final Fantasy IV – This might be the entry on this list most influenced by nostalgia shaded glasses, but Rydia is one of my favorite characters. When we are first introduced to her towards the beginning of Final Fantasy IV, Cecil and Kain find her sobbing next to her mother’s body and realize they are at fault for her death. Though very young and emotionally distraught, she still has the ability to summon monsters, making her arguably the most powerful character in the game. Cecil vows to protect her, but they are still separated after some time. Rydia reappears much later in the game, not as the weak and innocent child, but as an adult. Throughout the game we see Rydia overcome her fears and grow into not just a powerful character, but a strong person. She was a fine example of great character development in a videogame when Final Fantasy IV was released in 1991. While technology and storytelling have advanced a lot in gaming since, Rydia’s story remains impactful to this day.

1. Flonne from Disgaea: Hour of Darkness – As an angel from Celestia, Flonne is sent to the Netherworld to assassinate its overlord, King Krichevskoy, but upon arriving there (sneaking around like an adorable ninja) she discovers that her target had already died choking on a pretzel. After meeting Laharl, the king’s son and heir, she bursts into tears of sorrow for his loss. Flonne is definitely not the smartest character on this list, but she is still my favorite. The irony of her desires of love and peace conflicting with her actions of accidental destruction provide many amusing moments throughout Disgaea. Despite somehow joining forces with the demons, her pure heart shines throughout the game, and especially in a couple of the game’s endings. To this day I still get emotion when I hear the song that plays during the ending credits. I can’t wait to spend some more time with this character in Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness.

 Flonne from Disgaea

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5. Alyx Vance –  Half-Life 2. Alyx is one of the best female protagonist in gaming today. She’s tough, smart and can shoot straight. She says more than Gordon Freeman and makes Half Life 2 a better game.

4. Isaac Clarke – Dead Space series. Isaac Clarks is that special type of individual you wouldn’t mind hanging around with before he was assigned to fix the USG Ishimura. After that, he went nuts and I don’t want to hang around him anymore. Don’t get me wrong, he’s an excellent fighter and can kill a xenomorph instantly but he’s crazy.

3. Ratchet & Clank – Ratchet & Clank are two of my favorite video game characters ever. They are funny and like to blow things up. The Ratchet and Clank franchise is a lot of fun to play and I can’t wait until the next game comes out to see what happens to them next. I’m invested in the story and have been from the beginning.

2. Gabriel Belmont – Castlevania. Gabriel Belmont becomes Dracula. It was interesting to see how one man can fall so far that he turns his back on humanity and becomes the prince of darkness.

1. Commander Shepard – Commander Shepard is the main protagonist in what has become my favorite game of all time. I love the story, the character customization and the overall game in general. After playing through the entire series and all the DLC on the Xbox 360, I just started a new game of Mass Effect on the PS3. This is that game that I can play over and over again.

Mass Effect - Commander Shepard

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5. Bill and Louis – Left 4 Dead. Yeah, there isn’t much character here. My friend and I would entertain ourselves immensely during our gaming sessions merely by looking at each other and clicking the right stick in to say each other’s name. You had to be there, but it was always funny. That Bill never puts out his cigarette was a bonus.

4. Rikimaru – Tenchu series. He’s a friggin’ Ninja. Not like those from Ninja Gaiden and its ilk, cartoon rejects that run around in plain sight, Rikimaru is an actual, stealth using, sabotaging, infiltrating assassin.

3. Joel and Ellie – The Last of Us. Yes, I know it’s a recent game and people like to dismiss top list that include recent entries but I have never enjoyed, agonized or empathized over characters and their plight like I did when playing through Naughty Dog’s amazingly epic and gut wrenching The Last of Us.

2. . Nathan Drake – Uncharted‘s immensely and immediately likeable hero has all the charm of a leading man, the quick wit of a comedian and just happens to be simultaneously the luckiest and toughest man in video games. If anyone knows my love for the Uncharted series, this should be no surprise.

1. Cave Johnson – Portal 2. I could place any character from Portal 2 here, but Cave Johnson is truly the stand out character in Valve’s masterpiece. Wonderfully realized by J.K Simmons, Cave left a lasting impression with his incredibly dry delivery of laugh out loud after laugh out loud line. That you never actually see Cave except through portraits and all of his dialogue is through voice recordings that are heard over the loud speaker at Aperture Science makes him all the more amazing.

Portal 2 - Cave Johnson

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5. Chizuru Kagura: From King of Fighters. She makes the list because she’s a boss character that actually isn’t interested in world domination, or any evil shenanigans. Her desire to get Kyo and Iori to cooperate results in some fun moments in the expanded universe, such as the comic books.

4. Torque: From The Suffering. Unlike other horror game stars, Torque has no problem unleashing gobs of hot ammunition at his antagonists. However, his flashbacks, visions, and nightmares has kept him grounded, and keeps the player invested. He may be a walking arsenal, but he’s no living cheat code.

3. Martin Walker: From Spec Ops – The Line. The way everything he does, from the orders he gives to the way he moves, deteriorates along with his mental state, which lets the player get right next to him and feel his hopelessness.

2. Phoenix Wright: Here’s a wacky, fun attorney who wins cases by the skin of his teeth. He’s on my list because of the way he evolves over time through the franchise to a confident lawyer cognizant of his skills and reputation. You can actually see his confidence build in every game.

1. Ryu: This might be unfair, but Ryu is number one, because of how his philosophy and life choices can resonate with those of us that play fighting games at the higher levels. The desire to fight stronger opponents and better oneself is a simple idea, but it can take a lot of mental discipline to get there. The expanded universe of Street Fighter paints Ryu as a kind-hearted and somewhat naïve person, but he has demonstrated that he isn’t just a straight-forward “love and justice” fighter; he has been shown to use crafty tactics and strategy to win.

Street Fighter - Ryu

So there it is, our top 5 characters in video games. Let us know what you think of our list and tell us yours!

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