I feel like I’m putting my editorial head on the chopping block with this one. Then again, I don’t write too many articles so I could well be in the perfect position to take this leap of faith. To start with, we’ll have to lay down some rules for the list.
Firstly, to make the list, the character has to have longevity, in so much as they must be able to stand the test of time and appear in a number of games. It breaks my heart to discount Manny Calavera of Grim Fandango for this reason (unfortunately a cameo in The Curse of Monkey Island doesn’t count).
Secondly, the player must be able to control the character. Kane from the Command & Conquer series and Pyramid Head from Silent Hill are two of the great characters, unfortunately we never get to play as them. Finally, the character has to have personality. Yes, I know Master Chief is AWESOME!!!1!!!ONE!! But please refrain from hate emails on this one, fanboys. Master Chief contains no likable personality traits; we never get to see his face and he is one vowel removal away from being a terrible cookery show.
So, now we have the ground rules, onto the list:
10. Samus Aran – Metroid series
You can picture the scenario during the late ’80s. Gamers picking up Metroid and thinking to themselves “Wow! I get to play as a bounty hunter with a rocket for an arm and protect the galaxy from space pirates!” It was like they took every element from childhood fantasy and meshed them into a game. Imagine playing through the game with the main character, each step of the way thinking, “this guy is awesome”. Then finding out the hero in this story is a woman. Step forward (retrospectively) Samus Aran, to this day seen as one of the biggest shocks in gaming and providing the first major female lead in a male-dominated industry.
9. Solid Snake – Metal Gear Solid series
I’m proud to live in an age when the name “Solid Snake” is no longer sniggered at. That doesn’t necessarily mean that gamers have somehow become more sophisticated, far from it, in fact, judging by Wii sales (fnar fnar), what it does indicate, however, is how much respect the protagonist from the Metal Gear Solid series commands. Despite the games being packed to the brim with endless dialogue and samey missions, Solid Snake has shone through mostly due to his immense stealth play and grizzled manliness, even in the last game when Solid Snake started looking suspiciously like my dad, which has caused me to get him a better-than-average Christmas present this year.
8. Lara Croft – Tomb Raider series
At No 8 is the centre of my teenage gaming for obvious reasons … the levels were complex and the game play was incredibly functional. Lara Croft bust, sorry, burst onto our screens in 1996, first on the Sega Saturn before finding great success on both the PC and PlayStation, and her popularity has grown ever since. Being a smart, sexy and action-packed character has led to 17 games (including expansion packs), two movies, an animated series, sponsorship deals and even a Guinness World Record for “most official real life stand-ins” all of which adds up to make Lara the No 1 female on our list.
7. Scorpion – Mortal Kombat series
It is difficult to pick a favourite character from a fighting game. With so many to choose from and each with their own unique abilities; it makes the task nearly impossible. However, while some were convinced the only way to battle to supremacy in Mortal Kombat was to choose Liu Kang (the fools), any competent gamer was racing to get to Sub Zero or Scorpion. In a Ken versus Ryu way, both characters had a similar look and feel to them but they differed in the finer details (and when Reptile showed up I went slightly cross-eyed). In this dual of preference, I always tend to side with Scorpion, as he had the better moves. For anyone who thinks otherwise – get over here!
6. Link – Legend of Zelda series
I must admit I have Link in here begrudgingly. The rules laid out above clearly state the character has to have personality, and while most will argue Link undoubtedly possesses this in abundance, the only character traits I can find is that he dresses like Peter Pan and is whipped! For the majority of the games in the series, Link must rescue the princess from the evil lord with his trusted sword, bow, boomerang, et al. The only problem I have with this is she doesn’t seem too pleased any time she’s rescued and is also pretty capable in combat herself. But who says chivalry is dead, eh? After 25 years and 19 games though, Link fully deserves his high standing on this list.