Top 10 Main Characters In Gaming

I’ve been gaming since the NES came out. It’s been a part of my life since I was about three years old and I never stopped. Naturally, that means I’ve played many, many games. Seen characters come and go. Some last the test of time while others never make it out of the gate. Through all this time I’ve been keeping tabs on who I believe are the top 10 main characters in all of gaming.


10. Cloud Strife

Game: Final Fantasy VII
Why: Although he may not be the best Final Fantasy main character or character at all, Cloud is the iconic face of the Final Fantasy series. For many gamers, when they think of the RPG franchise they see this guy’s face. Final Fantasy VII is an amazing game. Debatable as the best Final Fantasy and one of the best games ever made. With Cloud being the main character, we were introduced to a global conflict spearheaded by your idol and a top tier soldier gone rogue. The resulting story unfolds into massive chaos, a fight to find your true self, and overcoming all the odds to save the world. People may scrutinize this game now saying it is overrated but they’ll never be able to take away what Final Fantasy VII and Cloud mean to a bulk of RPG fans and gaming in general.


9. Arthas Menethil

Game: Warcraft III/Wrath of the Lich King
Why: Very rarely do we get to see a good side and a bad side to a main character. It’s normally goody-two-shoes, save the galaxy, and protect the princess. Arthas threw that out the window. Sure, he may not be the only main character in Warcraft III but he surely took the spotlight. Arthas was the king of Lordaeron’s son and a rising Paladin under the tutelage of Uther Lightbringer (one of the best Paladins ever). He was meant to become the shining example of an upstanding man and soldier of the people. What happened? He got goaded by a demon and did what he thought was necessary to save as many people as he could: he decimated a major city and killed everyone in it. The undead plague hit and there was no telling who was infected or not. It’s Racoon City all over again, folks. The government thought nuking it was the best way to contain it, as well. Arthas went nuts with finding the demon and when he did, he took the ultimate sacrifice. He gave into evil in order to be able to kill it. Arthas was in possession of Frostmourne, a soul stealing sword. These events brought him from an up-and-coming Paladin to a high ranking Death Knight all the way to the throne itself and became the fearsome Lich King. Controlling all of the undead scourge, Arthas ravaged the world until his ultimate demise years later at the hands of Highlord Tirion Fordring and the best of both the Alliance and the Horde. That’s a hell of a lot of force against one being. Arthas allowed gamers to see both side of a main character and an ultimate ending to one’s life. A rare thing to see in gaming.


8. Mario

Game: Mario series
Why: You can’t have a top 10 gaming characters list without Mario in it. However, it may seem weird that he is so high on my list. It is because Mario doesn’t have any depth to the character. He fights Bowser to save Peach. Over and over again. I mean c’mon! Even in Super Mario RPG he had the least amount of story compared to the other characters. That said, you can’t put aside everything he has done for gaming and as a kid growing up with games he was a source of great fun to me. I remember that Super Mario 3 was the link between my uncle and I whenever he stayed over during his truck stops for work. We’d play that game the entire weekend and try and beat it. Mario might not have a story past jumping on stuff and overshadowing Luigi but he is an icon for gaming and always will be. His games will always sell great and, well, Mario can’t die. Gamers love him too much. New generations of gamers will love him, too.


7. Master Chief

Game: Halo series
Why: Master Chief’s epic fight against the Covenant is well documented through three blockbuster games. Halo: Combat Evolved was one of my favorite games during the Xbox/PS1/GameCube era. It was the first game I played over Xbox Live and the game that overtook Goldeneye for my friends and I in local multiplayer. Chief is a calm and steady force through everything. He never falters and never stops chugging along. He takes the Super Soldier archetype and slaps Sarge from Doom with it telling him to get out of his way. Master Chief is the ultimate soldier and his superiors know that. What other soldier gets that kind of respect and friendship out of his commanding officers? Halo brought first-person shooters into the modern age and so far, it hasn’t slowed down. Chief is the reason for that. Things may have gotten a bit lazy and sloppy since Halo’s hay days but if Chief is in the driver’s seat, you know it will be a good game.


6. Samus Aran

Game: Metroid series
Why: As one of the one worthwhile mentioning female leads, Samus is the female equivalent to Marcus Fenix and Master Chief. Nothing like Lara Croft, Samus would rather shoot first and never ask questions. This is primarily why the story for Metroid starts at “space pirates and monsters” and ends there. However, Metroid is a classic series and the Prime games reinvigorated it. Bringing Samus into the first-person shooter genre with so-so platforming proved to be the right move. Metroid Prime is one of the best games in the series and brought gamers closer to the dangers the female bounty hunter faced. A true G.I. Jane, Samus is tough and can take down any foe she comes up against.


5. Gordon Freeman

Game: Half-Life series
Why: The ultimate silent man. Gordon is a genius who just happens to be a fantastic shooter, platformer, and escape artist. Who trained this guy?! I didn’t know the regiment at MIT was this vigorous. Anyways, Gordon fights his way through some crazy stuff like aliens and mad scientists that would make even George Orwell piss his pants. His journey to end the problems that started at Black Mesa has given gamers some of the best experiences. Out of every series and franchise, I hear the most clamoring for Half-Life 3. Gordon still has work to do and the G-Man won’t wait much longer. I hope…


4. Commander Shepard

Game: Mass Effect series
Why: In a universe where humans are considered the newcomers and no one gives them respect, this man (or woman!) made them give it. Shepard is a fully customizable hero in a story that mimics the scope of Star Wars and provides some of the best modern gaming to date. The trilogy just ended but Shepard’s fight and journey won’t soon be forgotten. From Eden Prime to the Citadel and all the way back to Earth, Mass Effect brings us all around the galaxy to round up the best to destroy the worst. The best part about it is that we do it our way. Shepard looks the way we want him (or her) to look. Shepard says what we choose and kills who we say to kill. These choices in a series with the kind of scale of Mass Effect make Shepard one of the most unique and greatest main characters in gaming.


3. Lara Croft

Game: Tomb Raider series
Why: This isn’t so much to do about her games but more about what she did for women in games. Lara Croft is perhaps the most known female main character in video game history. She exemplifies many woman traits but also brings out a tough and determined person who won’t quit. Unlike the unbeatable killer that is Samus Aran, Lara is a woman. A woman who can kick some ass, make the big decisions, get the prize, have sex appeal, and be a success. She is everything a woman wants to be and leads her franchise. Too many times in games are women subject to background noise or the cliche flirty, weak, and/or clumsy supporting role. Lara threw that out and continues to do so. The new Tomb Raider game surprised everyone with an amazing trailer showing off a younger Lara. Needless to say, nearly everyone is hoping for Lara’s return to be hugely successful.


2. Link

Game: The Legend of Zelda series
Why: Okay, so I gave Mario the #8 position but I can’t hamper Link like that. He is the classic hero. Nintendo took the cliches that made heroes in the movies and stories and put them in a game. Except, as gaming got better so did Link. He may be a quiet guy but his actions provide the excitement gamers want. His arsenal and inventory get more impressive with every game. Also, he transcends time. I’m not just talking about using the Ocarina of Time, no, he literally transcends time. The Legend of Zelda series had many timelines that show past, present, and future. Link journeys through all of them but furthermore than that every era in Hyrule has its own Link. The Hero of Time is the fabled adventurer that is born whenever the world needs him the most. It is a legend that even us humans could adopt and tell our children. Since his first game, Nintendo has weaved an ever growing legend that will last the test of time in the real world.


1. Solid Snake

Game: Metal Gear Solid series
Why: We’ve followed Solid Snake since the NES. His fight against Big Boss was a hoot back then but it wasn’t until Metal Gear Solid came out on the PS1 that we were wowed. Hideo Kojima has created one of the most breath taking and intriguing stories in entertainment. Not just games. If a hollywood studio took the exact game plots and make a four-part movie series, it would be lauded. Any form of media and Metal Gear Solid comes out as a winner. The political intrigue. The Corruption. The phantom group controlling everything. Everything about Solid Snake’s mission is full of peril, risk, and down right terrible things. He has been through events that would kill most people just because of the experience. Yet, he never stops. He keeps going. I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve shed a tear possibly twice during all of my gaming adventures and one of them deals with Snake. That one damn quote from Otacon. “Snake… had a hard life.” Yeah, you’re telling us, pal. Whew.


This list may vary from yours but that just goes to show how great gaming is. There are so many characters and stories that everyone can fill their own top 10 with different names. Classics. Legends. Heroes. Villains. I can keep going with Top 10’s. Oh, and I will. Check back tomorrow for my Top 10 Gaming Villains list!