The art of the silent protagonist is a challenging one to master.
The lead character should be the one moving the story along, and that can be tough to do with a character who doesn’t have any speaking lines. Many mute protagonists have been done right though, allowing them only the occasional yelp or bout of heavy breathing, and they’ve become a trope of gaming because of their success. These are the best silent protagonists a game could hope for.
But who are they, you might be asking? Well, in order to give a voice to these (mostly) voiceless heroes, we’ve put together a list of the ten best silent protagonists in all of gaming. These silent heroes simply get things done without a fuss. At the same time, there’s also an air of mystery around them. And not having to pay for voice acting probably saves the developer some money. It’s a win for everybody, really.
So sit back, relax, scroll down and don’t interrupt – you know a silent protagonist wouldn’t.
1. The New Kid from South Park: The Stick of Truth
The New Kid (also affectionately known as “douchebag”) from South Park: The Stick of Truth may not appear in many best protagonist lists, but they’re a great silent protagonist. Far from its early days where the series’ humour was generated purely from swear words and fart jokes, South Park has become a social critique – and a silent protagonist is perfect for this.
South Park: The Stick of Truth critiqued many video game tropes, and the mute lead was one of the characteristics it mocked. By labelling the player as ‘Douchebag’, it subverted nearly all RPG games where the player becomes or is someone of note. Honestly, we couldn’t imagine South Park: The Stick of Truth without a mute protagonist. This truly is one of the best silent protagonists in the world of video games.
2. Crash from Crash Bandicoot
Crash Bandicoot was designed to rival Sonic and Mario, and Naughty Dog certainly succeeded with that. Unlike the two other gaming mascots, Crash doesn’t have a voice, and that’s perfect for the Crash Bandicoot series. It’s a series that is based in wackiness, and quite honestly, if Crash had any dialogue, he could even come off as too weird and unlikeable.
Crash is the mute in a world of constant noise, and that can be refreshing for the player. Arguably, it’s even needed. Naughty Dog created a fun and engaging world with the Crash Bandicoot series, and the silent Crash is perfect for exploring that world. A speaking Crash wouldn’t have added anything, and that’s a truly impressive feat.
3. The Protagonist from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim is all about the player interacting and engaging with a fantasy world. Unlike other fantasy games like The Witcher 3, it’s not so much story driven, as the player creates their own story. How could this have been achieved with a protagonist that isn’t muted?
Everything about the lead can be customised, from race, to gender, to name. It just wouldn’t make sense for the blank canvas of the protagonist to be voiced. In fact, it would actually take away from the experience. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim needs the silent protagonist in order to work and be impactful, which is a fantastic way of telling a story.
4. Jack from Bioshock
Jack from Bioshock is the perfect mute protagonist. And so of course he had to be on our list of the best silent protagonists. Interestingly, he isn’t actually silent from the very beginning, but becomes so early on, once the player reaches Rapture. Rapture, being one of the most unique and interesting settings within a game, needs the protagonist to remain silent.
The silence from Jack allows the player to fully experience the failed utopia. From the characters Jack meets, to the new environments the player sees, each becomes more intense due to Jack’s silence. The player is thrown into the protagonist’s shoes, and this would not be possible to such an extent if Jack was a character who interacted with Rapture in his own way. Arguably the whole appeal of Bioshock’s story revolves around the the player’s interaction, and Jack being a silent protagonist is the perfect lens for this.
5. Sparrow from Fable 2
Fable 2 provides an enthralling tale of a child and their journey through life. With many twists and turns, one thing remains constant: the protagonist’s silence. Fable 2 is not Sparrow’s story; it’s the player’s.
Sparrow is the one destined to bring about Lucien’s downfall. And because of this, every player’s childhood sense of adventure leads into the story of Fable 2. Unlike Fable 3 which doesn’t allow for the same level of character customisation, Sparrow is a character waiting to become the player. As a result, Albion feels much more immersive, and the plot becomes that much more powerful. Fable 2 is one of the finest examples of how to use a silent protagonist.
6. Doomguy from, er, Doom
Many of the games on the list are story-heavy, but not Doom. It’s about slaughtering anything else that moves, and Doomguy is the perfect protagonist for that. Interestingly, there was never actually meant to be a name for the marine presented as the character; it was just meant to be an unknown vessel for the character to control.
His silence just makes Doomguy that much more awesome, though. Anyone else – literally anyone else – in his circumstance would probably complain, or at least utter a few words of annoyance. Not Doomguy. He’s stoic, heroic and ruthless, which is just what Doom needs and Doom deserves. Doomguy is the ultimate silent protagonist for this type of game. Hell, if he isn’t one of the best silent protagonists in video games, who is?
Related: Read our review of DOOM Eternal
7. Claude from Grand Theft Auto 3
From the very beginning of Grand Theft Auto III, Claude is presented as a badass. Escaping police custody with 8-Ball, Claude is on the run from the very beginning of the game. Grand Theft Auto III paved the way for a whole new generation of open world games. Games with bustling cities, a range of characters, and opportunities to explore. Claude’s muteness added to much this style of gameplay.
Rockstar never actually focused too much on the design of Claude; it wasn’t too important to them. What was important was how the player interacted with the story, and the world around them. Claude perfectly allowed this by not creating a separation between the player and the world – Claude wasn’t his own character; he was the vision of the player. If Claude did have his own personality, then the awe of the open world may have been lost; it may not have been the main focus, and that’s exactly what it needed to be for Grand Theft Auto III.
8. Jak from Jak and Daxter
Jak becomes a talking character in the latter additions to the Jak and Daxter series, but in The Precursor Legacy Jak is silent. Daxter, on the other hand? Not so much. And that’s the perfect dynamic. The way Naughty Dog was able to have Daxter bounce off Jak (sometimes literally) and his silence is really something of note. Jak’s silence emphasises Daxter in the best way possible.
From Jak 2: Renegade onwards, the protagonist becomes a speaking character, which fits in brilliantly with how the series progressed and changed. But The Precursor Legacy needed a muted Jak as it helps showcase Daxter. Additionally, Jak’s facial expressions are just perfect, and really that’s all that is needed for Jak: they tell the story alone.
9. Unnamed Protagonist from Pokémon Blue/Red
Pokémon Blue/Red is all about the player’s journey, and their interaction with the Pokémon they choose. Even the rival’s name is left down to the player’s choice – what has his name again, Professor Oak? Every single aspect of Pokémon Blue/Red is created for the player’s immersion, and the muted lead is vital for this.
From the very beginning, the player chooses the Pokémon they want, raising it the way they want. It’s the player’s adventure; the player’s chance to be the very best. And because of this Pokémon Blue/Red requires a silent protagonist: one who was so nearly the very best…
10. Link from The Legend of Zelda series
Arguably the greatest gaming protagonist of all time is also one of the best silent protagonists of all time. Every part of Link is designed with the player in mind. From naming the character before the game begins, to starting off as a character without an adventure or expectation, each step in every Legend of Zelda game is based on learning and becoming more than what the player was when they started.
Breath of the Wild chose to keep Link’s name and not allow the player to name them, but that doesn’t change how impactful Link’s journey is on the player. The name Link signifies the ‘link’ between the player and character. Each adventure that Link starts is actually the player’s, and this may well be the standout factor for the series. Link is the ultimate silent protagonist, because through Link, the player becomes the great Hero for all of Hyrule.