Last month, we took a look at the most famous villains to ever grace our screens in the gaming world. Here we will take a look at the center of the story, the hero. Possibly an even harder list to narrow down than the villains, here are the top ten heroes we’ve encountered in video games. There are spoilers ahead so read on at your own risk.
10. Lee Everett – The Walking Dead
Lee is a hero in every sense of the word. Complications of his dark past have instilled in him a better understanding of right and wrong and this is most obvious in his unconditional love of his surrogate daughter, Clementine. When everyone else in his group succumbs to in fighting and bickering, he rises above it to become a true leader, while exhibiting practicality and compassion. Shown on more than one occasion that he is capable of doing horrible things, his love for Clementine and drive to keep her safe at all costs keeps his feet on the ground. He will do anything for that little girl, even if it means he must die in the process. In the end he will either succumb to infection or have poor Clem shoot him so he doesn’t turn. He leaves Clementine to traverse the world alone, armed with the fatherly knowledge he has given her.
9. Aloy – Horizon: Zero Dawn
The newest character on this list for sure, Aloy makes the cut for re-defining strength in the female hero. While most games are centered around a male hero, the games that decide to make their main character a woman are either grand slam or miss. Raised from birth by outcast Rost, Aloy longs to discover who her real mother really is and why she was cast out of her tribe and forced to live as an outcast. Learning all she knows of surviving in the wild and fighting against the Machines that now dominate the future Earth, she does eventually prove herself and earns her place back amongst her tribe, who then send her as a Seeker to discover who committed the terrible mass murder of the other contestants of her proving ceremony. Discovering a world full of more than she could ever imagine, Aloy finds much more than the truth along the way, she finds her purpose and the true circumstances of her past and birth. Relatively unknown to a majority of the gaming community, she won’t be for long.
8. Commander Shepard – Mass Effect
Whether male or female, Shepard is the person we all aspire to be. Charismatic, empathetic and loyal, Shepard is all of these things in his/her role as a savior to humanity. These qualities help Shepard befriend some of the most powerful people in the galaxy, convincing them to work together and using each of their individual talents to save the galaxy from the terrifying force of the Reapers. Mass Effect is renowned for its decision making consequences, but no matter what choices you make, it is Shepard who, in the end, makes the ultimate sacrifice to end the Reapers cycle of eradication once and for all. With a new and uncertain future, the galaxy and ones beyond it have the tales of the legendary Commander Shepard to pass down through the generations.
7. Samus Aran – Metroid
Possibly one of the biggest reveals in gaming history was when it was revealed at the end of the original Metroid that Samus was actually a woman. She has quickly become one of the industries most iconic heroines. Made homeless and without a family at the hand of space pirates, she was raised by the wise Chozo to be a great and powerful warrior. Samus has since singlehandedly destroyed the space pirate base on Zebes, exterminated the parasitic Metroid species, and even saved the galaxy from the toxic substance Phazon. The iconic power armor she wears hides her true beauty underneath, which allows for her actions to speak for themselves. Armed with the power beam, morph ball and her athletic prowess, there’s nothing this chick can’t’ handle.
6. John Marston – Red Dead Redemption
Of all the characters on this list, John Marston would be the last one to ever consider himself a hero. Everyone and their mother knows about his sins, and his attempts at redemption are exactly what makes him a hero. A former outlaw of the infamous Bill Williamson gang, John is forced at gunpoint by federal agents to do their dirty work (kill all his old gang buddies) if he ever wants to return to his family. Finding it an inward struggle to not turn back to his old ways, he isn’t always successful even in that. There are real glimpses of his outlaw past as he carries out the agents’ bidding. He does eventually make it back to a happy life with his family but anyone who has had the fortune to play this game knows how this one ends. A cowboy to the very end, Marston is one of the most complex and nuanced characters ever created and his modesty and willingness to die simply for a chance to see his family makes him a true hero.
5. The Dragonborn – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The prophesied hero of Nordic legend, the Dragonborn, or Dovahkiin in the dragon language, is a mortal being born with the soul and power of a dragon. While the dovahkiin can not fly, he or she has the born ability to learn “shouts” and to eat a dragon’s soul upon slaying one. These shouts are spoken in the dragon language and each give the user different abilities such as breathing fire, or sending anything in your path flying. The dragonborn is destined to stop Alduin the World Eater from completing his own destiny of destroying the world and absorbing the souls of all those in the Nordic afterlife of Sovngarde. Dependent upon the player, the dragonborn doesn’t always make the most ethical choices but the players freedom to make him/her into what they want is what makes dovahkiin truly great.
4. Mario – Super Mario Bros.
Possibly the single most iconic video game character of all time, let alone hero. From his humble beginnings in 1981’s Donkey Kong, and from his first major title, 1985’s Super Mario Bros., Mario quickly became the face of Nintendo. No Nintendo gaming system has ever not had a game to feature Mario in some way, with the exception of the new Switch although Super Mario Odyssey is scheduled for release this year. This plumber with a heart of gold has been saving his beloved Princess Peach for 32 years now and counting. His desire to keep her safe is what makes him so great. Most men would give up after so many times of the same crap happening over and over, but not Mario. He never hesitates to get out there and face Bowser one more time and is often accompanied by his brother Luigi, or other allies Toad or Yoshi. He even finds time to have fun with his pals by go-karting and partaking in other recreational activities, like tennis. His drive and passion for his friends and princess make him a truly iconic hero.
3. Nathan Drake – Uncharted
Not exactly your run of the mill hero. Nathan Drake has murdered countless people and put his friends in danger in pursuit of long lost treasure or the next big archaeological find. However, you can’t help but be on his side as he does all of this with such good charisma and good witty humor. Never one to hesitate to jump into the face of danger, he always comes out mostly unscathed, and he lives the life of adventure we all wish we could live deep down. Drake is arguably the most irresponsible hero ever designed, but that’s precisely what makes him so great. In real life, you’d do well to stay far away from him, but in the world of Uncharted, you wanna be there with him every step of the way.
2. Link – The Legend of Zelda
Throughout all of his iterations, from Ocarina of Time to today’s Breath of the Wild, Link has been the embodiment of a hero. From the very beginning he is thrust on the path of the savior as he battles against the evils that threaten his home of Hyrule. Wielding the Master Sword, Link holds his own in combat against his main nemesis, the villainous Ganon (or Ganondorf) and other various monsters. Link is never too busy fighting these evil forces to stop to help those in need however, especially Princess Zelda, for whom he cares very deeply. Wielding immense power, he never uses it to advance any selfish agenda or to harm any innocent person. One of the most popular and iconic heroes of all time and well deserving of a high spot on this list. It doesn’t get much more virtuous or innocent than Link.
1. John 117 aka The Master Chief – Halo
Humanity’s savior. Their one true guide in the distant future without whom the species might not exist. John, like all the initiates of the Spartan II program commissioned by Dr. Catherine Halsey was abducted from a family he would never see again, and artificially enhanced to be a superhuman soldier. Originally a program to be used in human riot quelling, when the humans were attacked by the Covenant, the Spartan II’s were utilized in front line combat and were very successful. It was with this reason Dr. Halsey attempted to justify the illegal kidnapping of children for her Spartan II’s. Designated 117, John reached the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy in the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) and was universally recognized by all of its commanders and soldiers, and heralded as a hero. Aided by his chip implant AI Cortana, Master Chief battles the Covenant and other enemies, like the Prometheans and the dreaded Flood across the universe. He is a leader and will stop at nothing to defend Earth from the Covenant menace. His undying integrity and will to win give him the top spot in this top ten list of heroes.
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