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Top 10 Characters of the Generation

People play video games for many different reasons.  Some get off on the thrill of downing dozens of enemies in brutal online deathmatches.  Some people are simple tech hounds, who enjoy extraordinary sound and bleeding edge graphics.  Still others turn to gaming for the wealth of stories and characters awaiting them inside their favorite games.

This list is aimed squarely at the latter.  As the dawn of a new console generation begins, we decided to look back and tick off our favorite characters of the generation.  You can listen to our thought processes by checking out our epic podcast below, or read along to msee who we have chosen as the Top 10 characters of this generation.

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Here are parts One, Two and Three of our podcast in their entirety.

10) Sully (Uncharted series)

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While Nathan Drake might be the charisma that drives the Uncharted series, we all found ourselves in agreement that Sully is the fire that fuels him. Essentially Nate’s best friend and father figure, Sully taught our intrepid hero everything he knows about adventuring and is largely responsible for Nate’s insatiable need for adventure. He’s wry, he’s cocky, and he has enough of that dirty-old-man sentiment about him to make him come across as a bit rough, but at his core, Sully is a lovable scamp that really drives the character dynamic in the wildly popular Uncharted series.

 

9) Ezio Auditore (Assassin’s Creed series)

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The Assassin’s Creed games are undoubtedly one of the stars of the current generation (or is it last-gen now? Switching generations is confusing…). But, despite the original’s many flaws, Assassin’s Creed struck a chord with gamers. Part of that was the expansive worlds. Another sect was enthralled by the way the seamless weaved real-world places and people from history into the fiction. But, almost universally, the order of assassins themselves captured the imaginations of millions. While some are more memorable than others, for our money, none are quite as cool as Ezio Auditore da Firenze. Part Cassanova, part freedom fighter and all awesome, Ezio instantly became a video game hero, making perennial Best Of lists. More so than most characters, we have got to watch Ezio’s growth from a larger perspective, see as he grows from angry young man to wizened leader of a revolution. He would have been a fascinating character anyway, but actually seeing the transformation makes him even more compelling.

 

8) Trevor Philips (Grand Theft Auto V)

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Look, we know in the bigger picture, Trevor hasn’t been around very long. What we can we say? We recognize genius when it comes around. The Grand Theft Auto series has spawned some very good characters, from Tommy Vercetti to Niko Bellic. Those two are particularly adept examples, because, although the point of GTA is its outlandish over-the-top nature, these two served to keep the story somewhat grounded. Trevor is the exact opposite of that. Trevor is a crazy time bomb without a fuse. If at their core video games are supposed to be about the fun, then Trevor is in many ways the perfect character, because I can’t think of many other people who are more plain fun than him. Whether he’s waking up on a beach in just his underwear, or harassing a guy on a scooter, you never know what you are going to get with him, but you can pretty much guarantee you’ll be entertained.

 

7) Martin Walker (Spec Ops: The Line)

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Military shooters sometimes get a bad rap, and it’s not really surprising why. While they often sport robust and entertaining multiplayer modes, they are usually lacking on the story front. That makes it all the more surprising when a game like Spec Ops: The Line comes around. Unlike most military shooters, Spec Ops wasn’t overly concerned with extraneous modes and intense player progression systems. It was concerned with crafting a memorable story, and in that regard it was an absolute success. That begins with the games protagonist, Capt. Martin Walker. Drawing heavily from classics like Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now, The Line tells the story of Walker and his squad trying to track down a rouge officer in Dubai. Throughout the increasingly surreal journey, Walker gets put through an extreme physical and psychological trial, leaving him, and the player, left to deal with some very tough situations, and the horrific repercussions of their actions. If it’s true that you don’t truly know a man until you’ve seen him broken, players get to know Walker very well.

 

6) Lee Everett (The Walking Dead)

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One of the common arguments against a lot of potential suitors for this list, including Lee, was how much characterization they had themselves, versus how much the player had to provide. Commander Shepard is a textbook example; we decided against him because we felt that the player was too responsible for who he was. With Lee, even though the player is constantly choosing his actions and reactions, he has so many incredible constants as a character, we couldn’t keep him off the list. His dedication to keeping Clementine safe, his intense will to survive, his enormous capacity for empathy; these things define Lee no matter how you choose to control him. Telltale did such an incredible job of writing a great character while still making you feel some degree of control, and seeing the end of Lee’s tale, no matter what version of Lee you created, is a touching experience that I, and many others, will never forget.

 

5) Geralt (The Witcher series)

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While some of us balked at the fact that Geralt didn’t technically come from videogames (his games are loosely based on a series of stories from author Andrzej Sapkowski) his Witcher games are powerful, well-written and just plain good enough for him to receive consideration. With that decision firmly in place, it was a no-brainer that Geralt makes our list. Geralt is an intriguing study in dichotomy. He is a battle-hardened warrior who can dispatch the toughest creatures with ease, yet he is the first to try to calm the situation with words. He isn’t immune to the charms of women, but the game presents love and relationships in a rare truly mature light. He may be set in his ways, but he can level with the best of them. No matter if you choose to attempt to negotiate your way out of a sticky situation, or simply pull out your silver blade and go at it that way, Geralt is always a fascinating character to watch.

 

4) John Marston (Red Dead Redemption)

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John Marston is a man with a past. We don’t know much about him or what that past is when we first meet him, but, as the layers of his personality are slowly peeled away, he becomes one of the more interesting characters ever. While he is generally a good man, and he would do anything for his family and their safety, the things he did during his youth haunt him, and won’t go away. His plight to turn his life around makes him instantly likeable, while his undeniable skill and charm ensure that he doesn’t become mushy. As we watch Marston’s tale unfold and eventually reach its conclusion, it feels like we get a complete tapestry of a well-intentioned, yet ultimately flawed, hero who we can both empathize with, and mourn over. Like most flawed hero, he is destined from the beginning to meet a tragic end, but the resolution of his tale is worth the ride.

 

3) GlaDOS (Portal series)

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What makes GlaDOS such a great character? That is not an easy question to answer. Everyone knows about the one-liners. “Area and state regulations do not allow the Comapnion Cube to remain here, alone and companionless.” and “I think we can put our differences behind us…for science…you monster,” are lines that anyone can get behind. But dig a little deeper, and you see that there is more to GlaDOS then the one-liners. There is the haunting story of her transformation that the game never shoves in your face. There is the incredible range of emotion from a supposedly emotionless AI. There is the fact that, every time you think you have her figured out, she surprises you with a new revelation or facet of her personality…only to minutes later remind you that, for better or worse, she is what she is. A good hero is nothing without a good antagonist, and they don’t get much better than GlaDOS.

 

2) Joel/Ellie (The Last of Us)

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Because they’re somewhat par for the course, we found we couldn’t merely separate Joel and Ellie for this discussion, instead combining them as one whole. After all, their development and character progression largely plays off of the other in nearly every way, so it’s difficult to declare one of them as the strongest of the pair.

While an entire essay could easily be written about the dynamic between Joel and Ellie, the number one reason why they find themselves so high on this list is because of how well they were written and how resonant their struggle was with us. This generation has seen a litany of games released with fantastic stories, but The Last of Us was one that bucked the traditional conventions that so many video games stuck to and chose to tell a real and human story about tragedy, despair, and the small traces of hope that can unite us, all through the dialogue and interactions between these two wildly different characters. The dynamic between Joel and Ellie taught us that, not only can we see the possibility of redemption in any situation, but we can also learn to change and risk everything for the ones we love, even in a world gone straight to hell.

 

1) Mordin (Mass Effect Series)

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Here we are, the top of the list. Trust me, it was not easy for us to reach a consensus for the number one character of this generation. We were all huge Mass Effect fans, but as previously stated, we didn’t feel that Shepard quite filled the criteria we were looking for. But we knew that we wanted someone from BioWare’s masterpiece, and through our discussions we kept coming back to Mordin Solus. Gradually, as we whittled the list down, we kept coming up with reasons why we couldn’t drop him. His unwavering dedication to doing what is right, even if it flies in the face of his personal wants. His complete competency at whatever he is doing, whether it is saving lives, or ending them. His unforgettable personal sacrifice for the greater good. Mordin is a lot of things; fighter, thinker, doctor and singer. He is the very model of a scientist Salarian, and he is, in our humble opinion, the single best character of this generation.



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