The Top 5: Memorable Characters in Shooters

We continue our celebration of Titanfall’s release by following up our Top 5 Science Fiction Games with a Top 5 that’s specific to shooters. If you recall many years ago, the shooter genre was often the subject of criticism by gamers who loved stories, claiming that it’s almost impossible to tell stories with them because of the nature of the genre. Of course, Half-Life proved these people wrong when it was released, but many developers struggled to understand what it meant to tell stories when the player actually controlled the camera orientation. Was the solution to forcibly change the camera? Would allowing free control ruin the mood and gravitas of the scene?

Regardless of the solution, today’s Top 5 celebrates the many memorable characters we’ve encountered in shooters. From the Duke himself to Nathan Drake, the shooter genre – may it be first or third person – has evolved into one of the most popular gaming genres to date. And we’ll be loose when it comes to the definition of “shooters” and leave it to the discretion of each crew member.

Without any further ado, here are our choices!


5. Zimos from Saints Row: The Third

Autotune + horseplay = win. Zimos’ introduction to the series is one of those things that’s just so ridiculously funny that you’re bound to be recounting the event with your friends, only for them to have a confused look on their faces. Zimos brings in much needed color in the game and his missions were equally as zany as the idea of having a chain smoking, auto tune talking pimp actually exist in the game.

4. Captain Price from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Captain Price is probably one of those characters that’s memorable to me not because of some deep character development that was involved, but because of the things we’ve both experienced in the game together. Perhaps the most memorable of these is the time that the player took on the role of Price, working under the command of Captain MacMillan and were sent to Pripyat, Ukraine in what was essentially a sniper mission against a terrible foe that, at the mission’s climax, rained down soldier after soldier after soldier. The mission was intense, and it definitely showed Call of Duty 4’s best foot forward. Naturally, it’s these epic moments that made all the difference and why Captain Price is on my list.

3. Nathan Drake from Uncharted

As a kid, I was a huge fan of the Indiana Jones series and felt that the franchise would’ve made a fantastic video game. And Lucasarts delivered with Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, an adventure game that captured the humor and some of the best elements of the Indiana Jones films. Well, except the whole adventuring, rock face climbing, and shooting part.

Cycle forward many years and Naughty Dog gave us that in the form of Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series. He’s funny, smart, a fairly decent shot, and travels to many interesting and remote locales that can only make Indiana Jones himself jealous. With the next generation looming in the corner and Naughty Dog officially saying that Uncharted 4 is in the works, I’m eagerly anticipating stepping into Nathan Drake’s shoes again for another worthwhile adventure.

2. Tali’Zorah nar Rayya from Mass Effect

I could’ve picked many different characters in the entire Mass Effect series, but none had made such an impact on my gameplay as the presence of one Tali’Zorah nar Rayya. There was an allure with not being able to see what Tali looked like underneath her mask, an item of equipment that she claims preserves her health and strength thanks to the fact that her immune system was weaker than most. But it’s her growth from being a frail creature to someone that’s grown up with her own personality and opinions that made Tali one of my favorite characters in the series.

Sure, there’s Miranda who exudes sexuality and is billed in the game as “the perfect woman,” and Liara with her *clears throat* unique skills as an Asari, but I felt personally responsible for the poor decisions I made in Mass Effect 3 that made her give up on her life. No other video game character has made me feel this way, and Tali did. Here’s hoping that my next play through of the whole series on the PlayStation 3 that she turns out much better this time around.

1. Andrew Ryan from Bioshock

While Frank Fontaine programmed you to respond to the phrase, “Would you kindly?” it was Andrew Ryan who made you realize that you were a slave to a system that imposed upon you a rigid set of rules that you must follow. This deliberate parallel between the player’s immediate willingness to follow orders and the protagonist’s inability to divert from his current objective can be seen as a hidden metaphor about how gaming gives the illusion of free will, only to be funneled to a common end, with slight variances. The result of your first encounter with Andrew Ryan is both shocking and a statement demonstrating this idea.

The most incredible thing about Andrew Ryan is that he shows up visibly in front of your character only once during the story. But the events that occur shortly after were as shocking as many of the revelations in the entirety of Bioshock. And while I saw Andrew Ryan as the primary antagonist for a majority of game up until the big reveal, the few minutes you’ve spent with him were probably one of the most memorable moments anyone would ever have in shooters.

BioshockAndrew Ryan’s character is, bar none, one of the most memorable characters in shooters I’ve encountered.


5. Duke Nukem from Duke Nukem 3D

Let’s not forget that this is a list of memorable characters, not necessarily good ones. The first Duke Nukem game I played was Duke Nukem 3D, and with its profanity, nudity, and even a fair share of decent gameplay (and horrible platforming), I’ll never forget that Duke Nukem. The more recent Duke has already been flushed from my memory like [insert predictable simile here].

4. Alyx Vance from Half-Life 2

As the most memorable character in a game that really brought characters to life as emotional, relatable people, Alyx Vance is hard to forget. It helps that she is likable and friendly in general, but she also experiences incredible hardship throughout the course of Half-Life 2 and its episodic sequels. I’m just as interested in her fate as Gordon’s, and that is part of why I am looking forward to Half-Life 3 so much.

3. John Marston from Red Dead Redemption

I believe that the storytelling in Red Dead Redemption is some of the best that Rockstar Games has ever produced. John Marston is a fittingly well-developed character. I can’t go into too much detail, as the greatest depth of his character was revealed only at the game’s end. But suffice it to say that John Marston is far more than a stereotypical cowboy.

2. Augustus “Cole Train” Cole from Gears of War

When this topic was suggested for a Top 5, this was the first character the popped into my mind, along with the Cole Train rap that played at the end of Gears of War. Yeah, bring it on sucker…

1. Claptrap from Borderlands and Borderlands 2

Claptrap has been getting a lot of attention from me lately! First he got the #2 spot on my Top 5 Sidekicks list, and now he’s finally made it to the top! Lucky for him, I don’t consider Portal a shooter; otherwise Wheatley could have easily snubbed him again. In any case, he’s hilarious and his voice echoes in my brain even months since the last time I played a Borderlands game. I’ll never forget you, Claptrap, no matter how much I might want to.

Borderlands 2Ari really likes the Clap.


5. Bill and Louis from Left 4 Dead

These two would probably only make my friend, Ryan and our lists. Running around, goofing off, and clicking in the thumbstick to say “Bill” and “Louis” provided hours of enjoyment for us. I always chose Bill because I’m old and he constantly has a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. He always chose Louis simply because of how he said “Bill.” It’s my list and these are my reasons.

4. Cate Archer from No One Lives Forever

This satirical female version of James Bond from the No One Lives Forever games, is just as stubborn, witty, headstrong and brimming with sex appeal. In an age when sexy women in video games are increasingly frowned upon if not condemned, it’s hard to know if Cate Archer would be seen as an asset to the cause or a liability. Personally, I think we could do with more like her and less PC accolade chasing, but hey, that might be just me. Either way, she’s left an impression on me and I would love to see her make a comeback. Especially now. Imagine the ruffled feathers.

3. Joel and Ellie from The Last of Us

The tropes of Joel and Ellie are nothing new, but the way they are realized, especially in video games, definitely felt fresh. Watching these two characters grow from simply a mission to family was earnest, relatable, brutal and honest. Joel’s decision at the end of the game would have been exactly what I would have done, and Ellie’s acceptance of that decision is exactly what I would have hoped for.

2. Lara Croft from Tomb Raider

While the image of Lara Croft was far more iconic than most, there was nothing overly outstanding about her as a character. That changed when Crystal Dynamics decided to reboot the franchise and focus on how Lara grows from neophyte explorer to full blown, hardened bad ass. The story of Tomb Raider as a whole might not be the greatest example of video game storytelling, but Lara’s arc throughout really is. Believably written, and incredibly well acted, Lara want from image to something much more.

1. Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series

When it comes to my most memorable character in shooters, nothing tops Uncharted’s Nathan Drake. The affable everyman, is every bit as charming as he is funny and charismatic.  For me, nothing defines this character more than in Uncharted 2, after escaping a collapsing building, but jumping into another building, turns and looks at the aftermath and simply chuckles and says “We were just in that.” Surprised and relieved to have survived. Not since Indiana Jones, has a treasure hunter been so damned endearing.

No One Lives Forever 2I miss Cate Archer. Not to be confused with Sterling Archer, who is unrelated. Monolith: Bring this series back!


5. Augustus Cole from Gears of War

There is a part of Gears of War, the first one, that can be pretty difficult. I died there a number of times, over and over. I remember this for two reasons. One, that it was indeed difficult, and two, Cole would say “Lookit all that juice!” Every time. Every time. I memorized the delivery of the line. I was chewing the words along with him. For hours, Cole and I looked at all that juice. It glowed. It was Emulsion, not juice. But hell Cole, we’re here forever. Call it whatever you want.

There is a small homage to this in Gears of War 2 as Cole says it again, and then Baird says, “Enough! I’m tired of hearing you talk about juice.” Bless you, but Cole was never the same after that.

4. Alma Wade from F.E.A.R.

The main antagonist of F.E.A.R. was someone who took you out of your comfort zone, and sometimes into alternate dimensions. F.E.A.R. had amazing graphics for its time, and it used that to its advantage, putting you in realistic looking scenes of disturbing and graphic violence. You were at the mercy of this young child Alma and her psycohtic psychic proclivities.

I think anyone who ever played the first F.E.A.R. will never forget, and the most memorable parts are when everything gets quiet, and then! A quiet crackle on the radio. She’s coming.

3. Duke Nukem from Duke Nukem

One-dimensional, crude, crass. A wide array of practical and impractical weaponry. And yet, they don’t make them like Duke Nukem anymore. Maybe it’s the changing times, or maybe it’s that Duke Nukem Forever was kind of a flop.

You know, there’s a lot of things in the past, in media, that we got away with. Blazing Saddles would never come out if it were made today. Duke was a product of his time, but with more and more eyes on the product of interactive media, Duke Nukem can probably only exist as an ironic joke, and can no longer be taken at face value.

2. The G-Man from Half-Life

Probably more famous for when he doesn’t show up than when he does, Half-Life’s G-Man appears just twice in Half-Life 2, bookending the game and letting you know that you are not in control, he is. He makes further appearances in the episodic sequels, showing irritation that he might not be as in control as he originally led you to believe.

The G-Man’s particular style of speech could be classified as a speech impediment. Heck, technically it is. But the fact that he has it makes you pay more attention to him when he is speaking. If you could view his speech pattern as a sign of weakness, how strange is it that this embodiment of power and control falters so? Or is it just something to get you thinking about this, to distract you?

At the rate things are going, we’ll probably never get the conclusion with the G-Man, to have Gordon Freeman once and for all put this strange individual in his place. But I hold out hope; I want to see how this one ends.

1. Durandal from Marathon

The maniacal AI in Marathon, a game Bungie made long before Halo, has a simple desire. He wants to be more powerful than God. He reckons that since the universe is destined to close in on itself after the force of the Big Bang sprung it open, all he has to do is figure out how to escape that. And you’re going to help him.

So is the modus operandi of Durandal, an AI who you might fear is undergoing Rampancy. The rules of Rampancy in Marathon and Halo are exactly the same, that after 7 years, an AI starts to become unstable. However, the twist here is that Durandal, under a different name and in a different time, already went Rampant. The person who discovered Rampancy figured out how to get an AI to survive it, but Durandal is left forever scarred by the experience.

The fun thing about Durandal is that it’s difficult to tell whether he cares about you, the player, or not. There’s an even more evil AI named Tycho that Durandal can’t stand, and whom he’ll protect you against, but it’s not like he’s there to save your life. Durandal needs his needs met, and you need to stay alive to help him out. Reading the terminal messages he says to you tends to leave more questions than answers, but he’s certainly one of the shooter genre’s first complex characters.

MarathonGood morning Dave. How are you this morning, Dave. I’m going to kill you now, Dave. Dave?

And there you have it! Got any favorites we might’ve forgotten? Post it in the comments below!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s