Video games usually have a nice one-on-one relationship. You are the character, so the character reflects you. We all like to think of ourselves as heroes, but the truth is we all are all a mix of good and evil, selfishness and charity, hope and despair. These are the Top 10 characters that didn’t need a shining sword and helpless princess to make their journey, and themselves, unforgettable.
10. Polterguy: Let me give you the rundown of The Haunting: Starring Polterguy. You play a James Dean-inspired poltergeist who has to scare a suburbanite family of four out of a variety of locations. Using your trademark possession ability, you can jump into a variety of household objects like blenders, TVs and dartboards and turn them into crazy scary demon contraptions in front of the family, until they literally go crazy and flee the house. It is exactly as awesome as it sounds. Some of the gags were more than a little disturbing, especially when your pulling them off in front of a 10-year-old girl. I see some therapy ahead for the Sardini family.
9. Stubbs the Zombie: Poor Stubbs. Just because he’s a zombie, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the same basic needs as everybody else. He got blasted by “certain people” for being a cannibal, but, as everybody knows, zombies aren’t cannibals. They are zombies. He just wants some brains. What’s so wrong with that? Playing as Stubbs on his quest for a decent meal was a riotous good time, but it is still kind of hard to consider him a hero, even if he can rally zombie troops like nobody’s business. You have to admit, though, it’s kind of hard not to like the guy…I mean, zombie.
8. Shadow (FFVI): One of the coolest party members in Final Fantasy history, Shadow is a ninja with a heart of gold. He acts like all he cares about is his own ambitions (and his dog), but I know better. After saving his life near the end of the World of Balance, I knew I couldn’t just leave without him at the end of the world. So I waited. And waited. As the time ticked ever closer to my imminent destruction, still I waited. And then, with just a couple seconds left, he showed up to save the day. If that isn’t evidence of a good guy, I don’t know what is. Of course, you still have to fight him in the arena later to recruit him for good, so he isn’t entirely without scruple.
7. Conker: I’ve always considered Conker’s Bad Fur Day as one of the high points of the industry, as its artistic subtleties and intricate symbolism spoke to me in a… I can’t even finish that sentence. Conker was just a collection of admittedly great toilet humor, and it executed that concept perfectly. It was great because, amidst a sea of Nintendo goody two shoes, Conker didn’t want to save the princess or anything like that. He just wants to return home after a night out with the boys. I can relate to that, although I’ll readily admit I’ve never had to deal with any poop monsters that large. Usually just the smaller ones.
6. Agent 47: Who does Agent 47 really work for? What is his endgame? How did he acquire his “particular set of skills”? I’m not even going to pretend to understand the Hitman mythos, but I know I enjoy watching 47 kill people as creatively as possible. I’ve always been a little unsettled by him, though. I’ve never been one to weigh the moral quandaries of my video game actions too heavily, but I never really felt I was doing the right thing with 47, just the necessary thing. Which, I guess, is kind of what being an anti-hero is all about.
5. Revan: Just because Revan spends half the game not knowing he is an anti-hero doesn’t reduce his awesomeness. The story of Darth Revan is one of the most enigmatic and interesting tales in gaming, but the twist it eventually leads to blew away all expectations, especially if you were a heavy light-sider. Learning that your hero was actually into some pretty dark things, like being a Sith lord, was a shock enough, but the choices you can then make turn Revan into a character for the ages, and one of the most conflicted protagonists in gaming history.
4. Tim (Braid): Braid is one of the more intellectual games to come out in the last, oh, 100 years or so, and the story of Tim and his search for the princess makes you really examine everything you thought you knew about being a good guy. As you peel back the layers of his journey, you realize that Tim isn’t exactly all he’s cracked up to be, and may have even been involved in a spot of genocide involving atomic weaponry. The brilliant final stage of Braid completely changes your outlook of the entire game, and leaves you with more questions than answers.
3. Kratos: I’m not sure that Kratos even deserves the anti- prefix to his name, but let’s not forget that, in the beginning at least, his motives were at least partially noble. That’s a lot of rationalizing, but Kratos is clearly one of the more divided protagonists in video game history. On one hand, he is just trying to defeat the demons that his family’s murder stirred up in him. But on the other hand, he callously murders anybody who even gets near his way. He’s not exactly winning any awards for being a humanitarian, you know?
2. Tommy Vercetti: As likeable and well-written as Tommy Vercetti is, let’s not forget that he is a drug dealer who murders people around him as easily as he would eat a hamburger. Ray Liotta does a masterful job of bringing a touch of humanity to Tommy’s hard-boiled personality, but, much like Al Pacino’s Scarface, his tragic flaws are too much to overcome, and he eventually pays the price. As tough as it is to dislike him, you can visibly see him grow more unhinged as the game develops, leaving your opinion of him ambiguous.
1. Wander: Wander is the epitome of the tragic hero. While his initial motives are as good and pure as can be, what he eventually becomes is something far more terrifying than your average adversary. He becomes a demon you can almost relate to, which makes him all the more frightening. On his quest to save the life his true love, Wander is tasked with taking out the last of the Colossi, a towering race of immeasurable beauty, power and agelessness. As he methodically takes out these creatures, you realize that perhaps they aren’t the monsters after all. Shadow of the Colossus proves that everything, even love, has a price. And perhaps Wander paid too much.