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EWB's list of favourite MAIN characters

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So in response to the interesting thread about female characters in games I got thinking about my favourite main/lead characters (i.e. the characters that you play as, not sidekicks, helpers, arch-villians etc). This also does NOT include beat 'em up characters. We're talking adventure games, platform games, FPSs, RPGs, JRPGs etc. We'[re also talking more about the character than the game.

Usual voting conditions. Vote top 10 with 10pts for first down to 1pt for tenth and we'll add up the votes, multiply them by the number of people who voted for them and we're away. Please note the game or series they are in for ease of reference.


1. Solid Snake (Metal Gear Solid)

2. Chris Redfield (Resident Evil)

3. Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)

4. Noriko (Heavenly Sword)

5. Guybrush Threepwood (Monkey Island)

6. Faith (Mirror's Edge)

7. Adam Jensen (Deus Ex)

8. Commander Shepherd (Mass Effect)

9. Jill Valentine (Resident Evil)

10. Corvo Attano (Dishonored)

Feel free to include animals like Crash Bandicoot or whatever. It's not just for "human" characters.

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No fighting game characters? This is going to be hard, because most of my favorite characters are either from fighting games, JRPGs with a silent main character, or are villains. Also going to eliminate characters from licensed games (so no Batman). And non-protagonist main characters from the Persona games (as you don't so much play as them but direct them as the main character).

1. Maximillian Roivas (Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem.. MAY THE RATS EAT YOUR EYES! THE DARKNESS COMES!)

2. Juliette Starling (Lollipop Chainsaw)

3. Norman Jayden (Heavy Rain)

4. Vincent Brooks (Catherine)

5. Sam & Max (Sam & Max games, of course)

6. Cole Phelps (LA Noire)

7. John Marston (Red Dead Redemption)

8. Earthworm Jim (his super suit is strong)

9. Edgar Figaro (Final Fantasy 6)

10.Tommy Vercetti (is an innocent man)

Honorable Mention: Cole McGrath (inFamous), All the other Eternal Darkness PCs except the US Army guy because his character was just an army guy.

Edited by OctoberRavenO
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Blah, this sucks. I want to fill this with entirely Persona and Mass Effect characters, but no, we have to use MAIN characters <_<

1. Solid Snake (Metal Gear Solid)

2. Zidane Tribal (Final Fantasy IX)

3. Commander Shepard (Mass Effec)

4. Agent 47 (Hitman series)

5. Niko Belic (GTA4)

6. Chell (Portal)

7. Lightning (Final Fantasy XIII)

8. Overlord Mao (Disgaea 3)

9. John Marston (Red Dead Redemption)

10. Frank West (Dead Rising)

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1. Commander Shepard (femshep specifically) (Mass Effect)

2. Nathan Drake (Uncharted)

3. Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)

4. John Marston (Red Dead Redemption)

5. Solid Snake (Metal Gear)

6. Samus (Metroid before they ruined her)

7. Link (Zelda Games)

8. Jill Valentine (Resident Evil)

9. Ratchet and Clank (Ratchet and Clank series)

10. Lee Everett (The Walking Dead Season 1)

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Blah, this sucks. I want to fill this with entirely Persona and Mass Effect characters, but no, we have to use MAIN characters <_<

YEAH. What kind of main characters list is this?

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1. John Marston. Probably the most complete character arc in a single video game. I actually gave a shit whether he survived.

2. Nathan Drake

3. Lee Everett

4. Tommy Vercetti

5. Basch von Ronsenberg(?)

6. Paragon Commander Shepard

7. Kratos

8. Cole McGrath

9. Zack (Crisis Core - just for the ending :()

10. Altair

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1. Solid Snake/Big Boss - Metal Gear Franchise (I've put the two of them together, as it seems a waste to seperate votes for the two. Fantastic characters.)

2. John Marston - Red Dead (As was said, his story was wonderfully told and really came full circle.)

3. Lara Croft - Tomb Raider (Never would have placed before the new Tomb Raider, but I'm about halfway through and the character and her evolution is fantastic. Nothing like it)

4. Yuna/Paine - FFX-2 (Yes, fuck you. Great game.) (I wanted to put Paine, because I'd argue it's the story of her and Yuna from two different perspectives. Both have great stories told in X-2, where the setting can take a backseat to the personalities and their development. Paine turns out to be one of the better fleshed out characters, not just as a female lead, but as a character in general, if you do the additional side stories and completely unlock her story. Yuna less so, she still has a great development cycle from X to X-2, where she goes from someone bound by fate to a woman trying to find her place in the world, a theme that's put across as almost AS SCARY as being chained by fate. Seriously. Get over the stupid shit in X-2 and you'll find one of the best stories in the entire franchise.)

5. Oliver - Ni no Kuni (The writing for him is wonderful. He's such a fantastic protagonist and it's so easy to get behind him and stay behind him the entire way.)

6. Commander Shepard - Mass Effect (Depending on how you play him. I mean, his arc as a whole is great, facing impossible odds in multiple suicide missions, but I feel this is kind of silly entry. Shepards character is by and large decided by the player, so he can be as good and bad a protagonist as you want him to be. Still, the relationships he develops with characters like Garrus make him an easy placement.)

7. Cloud Strife - FF7 (I love FF7. It's story can be a bit batshit crazy, but Cloud actually has some great progression as a hero. Sure, it's all set back in Advent Children, but that's pretty much an hour and a half of fan service rather than story continuation. His arc is wonderful and the way it's told, especially the first time, is pretty underrated. The way he comes back from literally crippling defeat and takes hold of his own fate is great. He gets mistaken for the typical silent badass at the start, but that pretty much only holds out for the first half of Midgar... which isn't even the first half of the first disk.

8. Nathan Drake - Uncharted (I don't have as much love for Drake as others do. Mostly because he's Indiana Jones without the grounded character, which he can be afforded because hey, it's a game not a film. He's a bit too much of a super hero for me and I've really soured on the Uncharted franchise as a whole lately, especially after Tomb Raider came out and showed how you can do Hollywood Action without complete linearity and pretty boring combat. But he's a fun character and it's easy to get behind him. He gets points for really being something of the Playstation Icon this generation. He's an action hero, not a character, but that's okay. Sometimes.

9. Adam Jensen - Dues Ex (Pretty good character, he's low down on the list for a reason, but he's still a good character. His story is more what guides him into being an interesting character, but he's pretty cool on his own. If this wasn't limited to main character, he'd never place. But it turns out I wasn't the wowed by many lead characters in my entire gaming history as I thought I was. At least in retrospect.

10. Squall Leonheart - FF8 (Again, Squall wouldn't place in a list of just best characters, but he's got a pretty good story arc. Really, he's only the moaning emo kid up until the end of disk 1. He starts to grow into his role as leader and starts to give a shit. I've seen a lot of complaints about his sudden love interest in Rinoa coming out of nowhere? But I really don't agree with that... it's pretty clear through out the game and his interest grows, despite his inability to open up and admit it. Until it's too late, at which point he goes all out to try and save her. Plus I really love that game, I don't care what anyone else says, it's fantastic. Batshit crazy twists and all.)

There are a lot less interesting lead characters in video games than I remember.

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  • Solid Snake (Metal Gear Solid)
  • Link (The Legend of Zelda)
  • John Marston (Red Dead Redemption)
  • Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)
  • Nathan Drake (Uncharted)
  • Oliver (Ni No Kuni)
  • Crash Bandicoot (Crash Bandicoot)
  • Crono (Chrono Trigger)
  • Gordon Freeman (Half Life)
  • Phoenix Wright (Ace Attorney)
Edited by TroutMaskReplica
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Plus rationales for each!

1. Mario (Super Mario Bros. series/related series) - I was going to give this to my #2 originally, but as far as doing it all--and doing it well most of the time--Mario wins. No other video game character could survive having his name attached to Mario Party and keep his reputation intact, but Mario has. It's telling that it's been thirty years and he's still without question the most recognizable name in video games.

2. Link (Legend of Zelda series) - Link gets the nod here for being not just iconic but pretty much bulletproof, with a nearly perfect record. Tons and tons of great games, tons and tons of great abilities, and somehow never makes the "save the princess" trope seem worn out.

3. Terra Branford (Final Fantasy VI) - You can take your head-grabbing spiky-haired idiots with ridiculous names and shove them straight up your materia slot. You want an arc? Extremely powerful tool of the Evil Empire breaks free, gets stepped on, finds herself, saves the world. Awesome.

4. Phoenix Wright (Ace Attorney series) - He takes sort of a weird turn in Apollo Justice (Phoenix Wright with self-confidence, are you shitting me?), but Phoenix is gaming's best underdog character. The Ace Attorney games are really more like interactive novels than traditional adventure games, but how cool was it to think you'd screwed up, only to hear somebody scream OBJECTION! and realize OH SHIT IT'S NOT OVER. What a journey.

5. Samus Aran (Metroid series) - I feel like the more these games try to flesh Samus out, the worse she gets; she'd probably be top three if we were just talking about the cave-spelunking, true-peace-in-space-causing, freeze-beaming ass-kicker from the first five or six games. As it stands, she still gets the nod.

6. Sora (Kingdom Hearts series) - In a lot of ways, Sora's job is to say GOLLY GEE WHIZ at all the craziness going on around him, but he's got a real tenderness to him. He genuinely feels like a kid whose home gets destroyed and who's forced out into a vast, insane universe full of franchise characters... who just wants to find his friends. I think that's a tough balance to strike.

7. Crono (Chrono Trigger) - Most of what we figure out about Crono is anecdotal--it's easy for a silent protagonist surrounded by colorful characters to just blend into the background. Then, BAM, HE SAVES EVERYBODY, HOLY SHIT, ALL OF THE SAD. A character who doesn't talk but still tugs at your heartstrings. Great.

8. Mega Man (Mega Man series) - Mostly for this:


But yeah. This is another one like Samus where the deeper you get into the series, the further off the rails it gets. But an adorable blue android who can steal bubble powers? Yeah, that's going on the list.

9. Ramza Beoulve (Final Fantasy Tactics) - SURPRISE IT'S THAT GAME SOUSA LIKES. But yeah, man. Ramza. Ramza's story is totally batshit crazy, fraught with betrayals at virtually every turn. His world is turned upside-down perhaps more than anybody else on this list. And in the face of so much evil, he keeps his virtue. Cool stuff.

10. Maxwell (Scribblenauts series) - For most creative use of manticores.


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1. John Marston (Red Dead Redemption)

2. Spyro (Spyro the Dragon)

3. Ezio Auditore da Firenze (Assassin's Creed)

4. Sora (Kingdom Hearts)

5. Cloud (FF7)

6. Faith (Mirrors Edge)

7. Guybrush Threepwood (Monkey Island)

8. Commander Shepard (Mass Effect)

9. Ethan Mars (Heavy Rain)

10. Cole McManus (inFamous)

EDIT: Forgot Ezio.

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1) Vyse (Skies of Arcadia)

2) Cecil Harvey (Final Fantasy IV)

3) Mario (Any Super Mario Game)

4) Adell (Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories)

5) Cortez (Time Splitters: Future Perfect)

6) Terra (Final Fantasy VI)

7) Link (Legend of Zelda)
8) Ramza Beoulve (Final Fantasy Tactics

9) Geddoe (Suikoden 3)

10) Mega Man (Mega Man Series)

I had to change my list once I realized that a few of my characters really didn't fit the category, since I picked guys from games I liked and realized they are silent protagonists so there isn't a whole lot to like about them. This included Chrono, Riou (Suikoden 2), Ness, Lucas, etc.

Geddoe is kind of questionable to me since the game doesn't really have a "Main" character, rather you follow three characters and choose which one becomes the focus, so I still think he counts!

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1. Link (Zelda Series)

2. Solid Snake (Metal Gear/MGS)

3. John Marsden (RDR)

4. Ryu (Ninja Gaiden)

5. Ezio Auditore da Firenze (AC2)

6. Cole (Infamous)

7. Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)

8. Nathan Drake (Uncharted)

9. Samus (Metroid)

10. Tommy (GTA:VC)

Does the lead for Saints Row count? I might need to re-order that..

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1. Ezio Auditore da Firenze (Assassin's Creed Series)

2. Zidane Tribal (Final Fantasy IX)

3. Zack Fair (Compilation of Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core)

4. Nathan Drake (Uncharted)

5. The Prince (Prince of Persia: Sands of Time Trilogy... but mostly just the original)

6. John Marston (Red Dead Redemption)

7. Carl "CJ" Johnson (Grand Thef Auto: San Andreas)

8. Cecil Harvey (Final Fantasy IV)

9. Monkey (Enslaved: Odyssey To The West)

10. Sonic (Sonic The Hedgehog)

I seem to have a thing for thieves/robbers with a heart of gold :shifty:

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1. Mario

2. Link (Zelda series)

3. John Marston (Red Dead Redemption)

4. Guybrush Threepwood (Monkey Island)

5. Alan Wake (Alan Wake)

6. Mega Man

7. Crono (Chrono Trigger)

8. Commander Sheppard (Mass Effect)

9. Luigi

10. Bareth Gale (Fifa 13, the main striker of the N7 Dragons)

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1. Revan (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)
2. Commander Shepard (Mass Effect series)
3. James Sunderland (Silent Hill 2)
4. The Exile/Meetra Surik (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords)
5. Banjo & Kazooie (Banjo-Kazooie series)
6. Alan Wake (Alan Wake)
7. Ezio Auditore da Firenze (Assassin's Creed series)
8. Solid Snake (Metal Gear series)
9. Link (Legend of Zelda series)
10. Mario (Super Mario Bros. series)

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Coming up with 10 was really hard.

1. Kyle Katarn (Star Wars: Jedi Knight)

2. Rachet (Rachet & Clank)

3. Sora (Kingdom Hearts)

4. Ariel (The Little Mermaid Games)

5. Harry Potter (Harry Potter Games)

6. Desmond Miles (Assassin's Creed)

7. Low (Future Tactics)

8. Spyro (Spyro The Dragon)

9. Donkey Kong (Donkey Kong Games)

10. Batman! (Batman Games!)

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Off the top of my head, though I'm clearly going to be missing a whole bunch from games I played as a kid that I'll be kicking myself when I forget. I feel like I should include Alex Kidd, as "...In Miracle World" is one of my all-time favourite games, but he has pretty much no defining characteristics.

1. Guybrush Threepwood (Monkey Island series)

I absolutely cannot put together a list of video game protagonists that doesn't have Guybrush at the top. The Monkey Island series, particularly - for me, at least - numbers 1 & 3, though 2 is often the most critically acclaimed - are the best written, wittiest, and often smartest video games you'll ever play, and rarely fall into the "use everything with everything else" trap of other point and click games. Even when they do, it's taking refuge in audacity to such an extent that you can't be angry at it. It never would have worked without Guybrush, who is pretty much the best hapless hero protagonist you'll ever find. Even at his most heroic, he's an absolute drip. Finest moment? "Yeah. Sure. Walk To The Sun. Whatever you say".

2. Gabriel Knight (Gabriel Knight series)

I see Gabriel Knight as Guybrush's grown up brother. When you're done joking around with three-headed monkeys, you move on to insane voodoo murder conspiracies in a book shop. Of course I love these games, and that character. How could I not? He's a charismatic, womanising, hard-drinking, down-on-his-luck writer and occultist roped in to a world of secret societies and magic. And holy shit, this was twenty fucking years ago, and video games are still relying on the same bullshit macho stereotypes and faceless grunt protagonists? It doesn't have to be this way, guys.

3. Ness (Earthbound)

Okay, so he's from the silent school of RPG protagonists, but Ness is great. He's a psychic twelve year old, and you're able to personalise him to an almost ludicrous extent, naming his favourite food and "favourite thing" at the beginning of the game. He's downright adorable, but has his bad-ass moments. He's this high on the list more as a reflection of how much I love the game than anything else, but it never would have been the same without him.

4. Samus Aran (Metroid series)

Like Sousa, I think that she's a character who gets hurt the more she's elaborated on. When the super secret twist ending is "holy shit, she was a girl all along!", that's pretty bad-ass. When that character is ret-conned to be whiny and emotional, it undoes a lot of that work. In a continuing theme of "get with the times, video games", I think that the "faceless hero turns out to be female" twist would be just as effective today, some 25 years later, if it occurred in a game like Halo or whatever.

5. Abe (Oddworld series)

This is another game I loved a long time ago, and which has stuck with me, not least of all for the really unconvential choice of protagonist. A scrawny alien slave, with his mouth sewn shut, who uses psychic powers to rebel against a fascist race by empowering his largely useless slave brethren? I'll take eight! He's charming and kind of cute in an ugly, weird way, and just about the weirdest central character of a platform game ever. Which is saying something. Also, responsible for the bizarre backwards logic of "Mudokans laugh at farts, therefore they fart at laughs".

6. Travis Touchdown (No More Heroes)

Nerdy, lucha mask collecting, girly anime watching pervert who happens to be a master assassin with a giant robot and a lightsabre. Suda51 is something special. Travis is just utterly absurd, and in a game that puts equal focus on helping your pet cat lose weight as it does on beheading the next bad guy, that's perfect.

7. Cloud Strife (Final Fantasy VII)

To be honest, Cloud's a bit crap. But FFVII was a revelation for me at the time and a real eye-opener as to the kind of storytelling possible within the RPG genre. At the time, "troubled past" wasn't something that seemed overdone to me, and the way his history and his whole psyche unravelled throughout the game was something that blew my mind. He might be whiny and irritating with illogical hair, but he was an integral part of a fantastic story that meant a lot to me way back when.

8. Dizzy (Dizzy series)

He was the Prince Of The Yolk-Folk! Okay, so this probably means nothing to some of our younger members, and especially to our American members, but if, like me, you grew up with an increasingly outdated British home computer, this was the pinnacle of video gaming, and it was, for the time, a pretty perplexing mix of platforming, RPG elements (a.k.a. "talking to other eggs"), and impossible puzzle solving. You thought a wizard or something. For his time, he was one of the few main characters with personality, and as there were about two hundred games starring him, I fucking loved him back then.

9. Professor Layton (Professor...oh, well, obviously)

You know what I said about video games still clinging to awful macho stereotypes? Yeah, that. Give me a non-violent archaeologist in a stovepipe hat any day. Video games can still get it right sometimes.

10. Parappa The Rapper

He's a two-dimensional rapping dog, and no one has a problem with that.

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