3 DAYS. VOTE.
1. Gordon Freeman
2. Deckard Cain
3. Duke Nukem
4. Dagoth Ur
6. Minsc & Boo
9. Alyx Vance
1. Gordon Freeman (Half-Life series)
I have Gordon Freeman at the top of my list because he epitomizes Every Man, and what Every Man can accomplish when faced with the most dire of situations. Gordon is humble, obviously soft-spoken (or, more to the point, never speaks at all), intelligent enough to do his job, and yet courageous enough to face the biggest threat in the history of mankind and prevail. His trademark black horn rim glasses and environmental suit are icons in the gaming industry. Even though he never utters a single word, you feel as if you know him. And “Free Man” becomes a battle cry of the oppressed in the HL series. What’s more, never underestimate what a crowbar can do in a pinch.
2. Deckard Cain (Diablo series)
Deckard Cain was the only character I could tolerate in the original Diablo (the rest of the voice acting was horrendous). His gravelly voice offered sagely advice during your adventures below Tristram. In Diablo 2, his was a familiar voice among many new NPCs (whose voices were MUCH better this time around). From his rescue in a burning, razed Tristram to his last urgent bit of advice in the frigid Barbarian village of Harrogath, Deckard Cain represented the Light in a world plunged into darkness by Diablo and his brothers. He was a grandfatherly figure whose presence offered a safe harbor for the player in between violent encounters in various locales across the land. Plus, he saved you a few gold pieces identifying items for you. What more could you ask from the last of the Horadrim?
3. Duke Nukem (Duke Nukem series)
For a chauvinistic, sex-crazed muscle head, he’s really not a bad guy. He had some of the best one-liners in any game I’ve ever played. His arsenal of weapons was almost as hilariously overdone as his ego. And it all kept me coming back for more. I learned the BUILD engine because of Duke, and my first taste of level-building was a result. Whether he was taking a leak, ogling strippers or annihilating pig cops & aliens with pipe bombs and shrink rays, every moment was hilarious and exciting. It’s just unfortunate DNF took forever, but it’s here at last. Come get some, indeed!
4. Dagoth Ur (Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind)
It’s the sheer scope of the history of this character that intrigued me the most. So much mythology, so many books, so many prophecies… His presence is everywhere in the game, even though you don’t come across him until the end of the main quest. And by that time, you’re completely hooked, totally engrossed in this mission to destroy the devil himself. As I crept through the buildings and caverns beneath Red Mountain my first time, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. And then he appeared, seeming to dance a grotesque little jig of delightful lunacy, and it gave me the creeps. The build-up had paid off, and even though the encounter itself didn’t take long (by that point my character was very buff), it was still something to behold. Facing Dagoth Ur in the Chamber of Akulakhan is a moment I’ll never forget. Not many games have ever given me goose bumps, but Morrowind did, and Dagoth Ur was responsible for it.
5. Yoshimo (Baldur’s Gate 2)
I love sidekicks, and I especially love the sidekicks in Bioware’s games. There were many I considered for this list, and a few did indeed end up here, but I have to go with Yoshi for Number 5. For those who haven’t played Baldur’s Gate 2, I suggest you stop reading here (spoiler alert). Yoshi was a complex character, seemingly very loyal and true to the cause of Right and Good. But something was rotten in Faerun, and sadly I had stumbled across this accidentally while browsing Bioware’s forums for some other information. And, strangely, knowing of Yoshi’s upcoming betrayal actually deepened the gameplay experience. I knew what was going to happen, but not where or when. So it became a guessing game, and I found myself paying special attention to Yoshi even during the most pedestrian of events. And when the final betrayal came, it stung despite my prior knowledge of the event. I had come to consider Yoshi as a friend in my party of adventurers, and I was angry and saddened that he would turn on me and the rest of my party, and I found that his death at my hand lingered in my mind for a long time. Yoshimo’s character and his act of betrayal added incredible depth to an already classic game, and I still find myself thinking about this event even though I finished BG2 a couple of years ago. That’s what a good game character does: it sticks in your mind, it makes an emotional connection with you, it becomes a living, breathing entity every time you enter that game world, and it creates indelible memories that last long after the game’s final credits roll.
6. Minsc & Boo (Baldur’s Gate series)
Minsc & Boo are listed here as a single entry because they were virtually inseparable. (If you opened Minsc’s inventory and clicked on Boo’s icon in his inventory bag, you got a shrill squeak—you literally could not separate the two.) What do you get when you combine a huge, burly, immensely strong yet slightly off-kilter fighter with a miniature Giant Space Hamster? You get one of the most memorable duos in gaming history. I had Minsc & Boo in my party in BG1 and BG2 as well. There was simply no way I wasn’t going to have them the second time around. Minsc’s one-liners are nearly as legendary as Duke Nukem’s (“Go for the eyes, Boo! Go for the eyes!”) Minsc’s voice-acting was superb (as was Boo’s…*squeak*). But this combo was more than just comic relief in a massive, sprawling game. Minsc & Boo were the very definition of loyal and courageous, always ready to lay steel on steel for the greater good. And how ‘bout that avatar, folks? Many games offer sidekicks, but, as alluded to above in Yoshi’s entry, Bioware just seems to get it right. You couldn’t ask for more than Minsc & Boo, unless…
7. Deekin (Neverwinter Nights series)
…it’s Deekin! I can’t begin to describe how enjoyable Deekin was for me in Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark. Every time I picture the little Kobold bard Red Dragon Disciple, I can’t help but to grin. And the cool thing was, Deekin was actually a very effective, powerful sidekick. His Bard Song skill was excellent for buffing prior to battles, but, again, it was his loyalty that garnered my respect and affection for Deekin. It’s ironic how a computer-generated game character can inspire such feelings in a human being, and I reckon it’s because the real world seems to offer so little in terms of loyalty, respect and hope. Deekin was a joy to have around, and I’ve heard he’s in NWN2, but I haven’t played it yet (old PC). Little Deekin has definitely earned his spot in this list. “Doom…doom…doom…doom…doom!”
8. Marius (Diablo series)
Now, Marius appears only in cut-scenes in Diablo 2, but his character is so well-written that I couldn’t leave it off this list. There’s a certain tangible, horrific dread in Marius, a cancerous, blightful doom about him. You can’t look at his pathetic visage in the cut-scenes and not feel both pity and a strange breed of lunatic disgust for him. He’s damned. Plain and simple. And he looks it in every respect. As he recites his journey between acts, there’s a palpable terror that begins to gnaw at your mind. How could this man do this? Does he not know who that mysterious stranger really is? Does he not know the extent of his folly when he releases Tal Rasha? And does he not know his inexorable doom has at last come to claim him in his final cut-scene as he gives up the Soulstone shard to Baal (disguised as Tyrael)? One gets the impression that even in death, Marius still feels the fires of eternal torment in the knowledge that his weakness and ignorance have betrayed all of mankind…again.
9. Alyx Vance (Half-Life 2)
Alyx Vance is witty, perky, insightful and courageous, not to mention gorgeous. Half-Life 2 really raised the bar when it came to character rendering. There had really been nothing like Alyx prior to HL2 in terms of realistic human facial expressions. The voice-acting was incredible, and her character was deep and moving and totally believable. Watching her interact with other NPCs, including Dog, was nothing short of astounding. The entire Half-Life series is so well done, so deeply immersive, so intelligently portrayed, so beautifully rendered, and Alyx is a big part of that. The scope of human emotions she displays is vast and realistic. And when she is injured and near death in one of the Episodes, you feel a very real urgency to do whatever it takes to help her. And when she’s brought back from death, the relief you feel is intense and real. Is there a romance brewing between Alyx and Gordon? I don’t know, but what I DO know is she winked at me (playing as Gordon, o’ course) as I got into the car in Episode 2! Just a quick wink, but startling in its own coyly innocent way. With a sidekick like Alyx, it would make anyone eager to save the world just to see that wink again…
10. Dak’kon (Planescape: Torment)
First, a disclaimer of sorts: I never finished Planescape: Torment because of a broken quest, although I did get most of the way through it, enough to get caught up in the enigma of Dak’kon. He is a tragic character, one filled with deep guilt, confusion, sadness and shame, and bound by an oath of servitude to the Nameless One (the player character). As the game progresses, Dak’kon slowly reveals his story, uncovering a past filled with despair and folly and death. A deeply religious Githzerai, his faith was shaken badly by past events, which casts a palpable shadow of doom about him. I found myself wanting to do just about anything I could to help him ease his pain. There was a real connection with Dak’kon, and anyone who has experienced faith-shaking events in his life can identify with him, at least a little. Even though I was unable to finish the game, Dak’kon’s character has stayed with me in some strange way, and someday I hope to revisit The Planes and help him achieve his much-deserved peace, if possible.
Honorable Mentions: Master Chief (Halo), Sam & Max, Morte (Planescape: Torment), The Nameless One (Planescape: Torment), GLaDOS (Portal), Ahnassi (Morrowind), Hlormar Wine-Sot (Morrowind).
1. Earth Worm Jim
3. Squad Commander(Dawn of War II)
4. Duke Nukem
5. Death Spank
6. Illidan Stormrage (Warcraft)
8. Vault Boy(Fallout)
9. The Boss(Saint's Row 2)
10. HK-47 (Knights of the Old Republic)
1. Earth Worm Jim
He's a worm with a lasergun in a spacesuit that battles random bestial masterminds in outerspace, all based in a surreal universe. He also launched an entire franchise with a videogame. Need I say more?
2. Raz (Psychonauts)
Raz is in this list because he's one of the few videogame characters who isn't flat. He's a really well-developed character and it's not hard to relate to him (even though he's a kid, heh). He's strongheaded, yet insecure. Makes stupid decisions sometimes, but his heart is in the right place. Ofcourse, walking around in completely lunatic brains likes Raz does, makes the normal stuff stand out more.
3. Squad Commander (Dawn of War II)
"Strike from the sky, brothers!" This sentence in the introduction video for Dawn of War 2 was what got me into the Warhammer franchise. Perfect voice acting, awesome hero. His determination is what inspires me most, he never stops. Get ambushed by a 100 foot Tyrannid after just butchering an army of highly advanced and sophisticated beings? Why run away from it, if you get a chance to cleave through it with your chainsword?
And if your comrade falls in arms, why let him rest in peace if you can transform him into your personal, soulless lackey in the form of a dreadnaught?
4. Duke Nukem
Who doesn't love this ultimate cliche of the egocentric, blown-up macho-man? Badass, over the top and great one liners, voiced extremely well. Who'd expected him to take his taunt "I'm gonna rip of your head and shit down your neck" literally?
5. Death Spank
The problem with DeathSpank is that the game is funny, not fun. The funny is entirely due to Death Spank himself. Sure, he reminds me of the Tick a little too much, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. He's perfect as an absurdist spoof hero with a completely misplaced judgment on nearly everything.
6. Illidan Stormrage (Warcraft)
One thing I have got to admit about Blizzard, they sure know how to make an intriguing storyline with appealing characters, especially the fallen ones. Illidan is the best in my book. An addiction to magic, tragic lovestory, a destructive desire to fight evil with more evil and not in the least that he's very cool looking. I don't know what his role is in WoW.
7. Arthas (Warcraft)
The tragic story of this former hero is pretty awesome. You experience the proud prince as he goes on a quest to purge his kingdom from evil, but in doing so gets so corrupted he ends up killing and maiming everything he lived for. Eventually he pays the ultimate price for his corruption, as his soul is twisted and deformed by the Liche King.
I'm not sure what WoW did with him, but I can't imagine it to be much good. So, to me, this legacy holds up to at least Frozen Throne.
8. Vault boy (Fallout)
The iconic character of all Fallout games, he ties them together and is instantly recognizable. His design is deceptively simplistic. He manages to visualize the weirdest perks and is with you in your journey throughout the apocalyptic landscapes of the Fallout universe. Unplayable and more of a scout than a character, I still love him.
9. The Boss (Saints Row 2)
Tougher than nails, but not so over-the-top he belongs in the superaction hero over-the-top category. Due to his customizability, he looses a fixed, defined look, but it makes it more enjoyable and personal to step in his boots.
10. HK-47 (Knights of the Old Republic)
HK-47 is funny because he constantly makes funny insults of human as well as other meatbag races. And he's serious about them too. If he could, he'd destroy them all. He does seem to respect you as his meatbag master (unlike his other masters which he ended up killing all) and you feel a special bond is forging between the two of you, especially if you choose the darker side. He's evil to the core, but in such a funny way that you'll remember him. He's like an evil teddy bear that's trying to commit mass genocide.