Of all the different protagonists we’ve controlled since the dawn of gaming, some have been blank “player projection” types, some have been badly written and downright annoying, but some characters are so sympathetic and likeable that we’ll remember them forever.
While it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the classic arcade characters like Mario and Link, or the silent-protagonist icons such as Gordon Freeman and Samus Aran, this list of the Top 10 Video Game Protagonists is based on who I think should be revered for their personality, depth and growth.
10. Booker DeWitt – BioShock Infinite
As we guide Troy Baker’s grizzled ex-Pinkerton through the colourful city of Columbia, he seems grumpy, jaded and surprisingly casual about mangling a man’s skull with a rotating hook. At face value, it’s relatively easy to write off Booker DeWitt as a standard “tortured ex-soldier” archetype, but through profoundly well written interactions with Infinite‘s cast of three-dimensional characters, we are provided with a gradual insight into Booker’s violent and tragic past; discovering by the end just how deep his emotional scars go.
“One thing I’ve learned, if you don’t draw first, you don’t get to draw at all.”
9. Manny Calavera – Grim Fandango
The golden age of point-and-click adventure games brought us many great protagonists such as Guybrush Threepwood, Roger Wilco and Leisure Suit Larry, but for me there was always one that stood out from the rest. Forced to repay his sins working as a travel agent for souls of the dead, Grim Fandango‘s Manny has a pessimistic attitude that’s instantly relatable to anyone ever stuck in a crappy job – and his sharp wit and sarcasm is the proverbial icing on the cake. While Manny is likeable from the start, he begins his quest with a somewhat selfish motivation. As he struggles to find an escape from his dismal rut, we witness him starting to care more and more about the fates of the other lost souls along his journey, and eventually become a true hero. His character arc has a lot of heart for a guy with no internal organs.
“Nobody knows what’s gonna happen at the end of the line, so you might as well enjoy the trip.”