Video games are not nearly as character driven as movies and books, but characters are still important. In some cases, the story in a game can bring it to a different level. Some games make the character a nameless, faceless person that is just supposed to be you, but some decide to give the character a voice, and truly bring the characters to life.
Great characters are the types I will speak about today. I enjoy games where you build your own character as much as the next gamer, after all, Skyrim is one of my favorite games of all time, but there is something to be said for going along for the ride with a predefined character that is hand crafted for the game. There have been some characters in games that take the title they are featured in to an entire different level.
Solid Snake, known for his role in the Metal Gear series, is one of the deepest characters I’ve seen in video games. He is such an all out bad man, but he’s also smart. Metal Gear is largely a stealth-based video game, and Snake is the primary protagonist. Sure, he could go out there, run, gun, and destroy his enemies like main characters in so many other games, but he’s far too smart for that. He outwits his enemies. He sticks to shadows and takes them out with intelligence and stealth.
Snake is a man of few words, but when he does speak it is truly something special. David Hayter plays the role of Snake beautifully. In every game, his portrayal of the character is something worthy of any of the best movies.
Snake is able to shine so much because of the cut scene heavy design of Metal Gear. In a way, it gives him an unfair advantage over his competition, because much of the game is portrayed like a movie. I’m not here to judge how the game is played out to gamers, I’m here to discuss characters, and as far as characters go, Snake is one of the best.
A quick look at Nolan North’s IMDB page shows a man who is incredibly prolific with video game voice acting. For me, the role that really stands out on his résumé is Nathan Drake in Uncharted. Nathan Drake is so well written it takes Uncharted, which really is just another third person shooter, and brings it to a higher level.
His wit and charm is felt the moment you boot up any of the Uncharted games. He’s hilarious but not so much so that he feels like a caricature. He feels like a real person; at least as much as an adventurer looking for treasure in a video game can. Not only does Nolan North blow it out of the water in all three games, but the writing for his character is also spot on. His character is consistent, and he feels like the “every man” who is stuck in a crazy situation. In a way, he is the opposite of Snake, who is a total war machine.
I honestly feel that without Nathan Drake, the first Uncharted game would have been praised for the solid game play, but would not have been anywhere near the smash critical and sales success it became. It is quite impressive that Naughty Dog was able to build a character with so much depth, and one that brought their games from being an above average shooter to a true masterpiece.
Grand Theft Auto has been hit or miss with their protagonists. In GTA 3, you played as a character that never spoke, and was essentially you. Then, they moved on to Tommy Vercetti, who was not a deep character, and was not much more than a caricature of an eighties gangster. CJ came next, and he was pretty damn funny. Then came Niko Bellic, and Rockstar completely nailed it.
Where Niko delivered and other GTA protagonist have failed was in his conflicted nature about what he was doing. They make no secret of the fact that Niko did bad things in his homeland, and he was supposed to be escaping to America to get away from that, but of course, that does not happen. Whereas Tommy and CJ felt like they were just having a blast living a life of crime, Niko feels like he has no choice.
Obviously, Grand Theft Auto did not need a great character to make it a success. I think that actually makes their creation of Niko all the more impressive. Fans would have been happy to just have another person to cause havoc with, but that was not good enough for Rockstar. Instead, they went out and pushed what a character in a sandbox game is capable of, to an entirely new level.
When I was making this list, I realized that there have been many awesome video game characters. Kratos, Dante, Mario and Cloud all could have easily been here, along with a slew of others. It amazes me how far gaming has come from the days of just blips and bloops on the screen. Looking at all of these deep, well done characters just makes me more excited for what the future might hold for gaming.
Who are some of your favorite video game characters? Let us know in the comments!