Redacción Tokio | 13/02/2023
Video games represent a thriving cultural field that continues growing, both in terms of popularity and economically, in the last 15 years. This is, in part, thanks to some of the characters that populate them, which have turned into true icons of popular culture. In this article we are going to review the best and most popular characters in the history of video games.
Characters are an important part of video games. A medium, as we said, that continues expanding and constantly requires for new qualified and specialized professionals. Throughout the article we will also talk about how, by enrolling in a good Video Game Design course, you too can be part of the development of games, stories and characters.
The best video game characters
The conceptualization of a video game begins with the creation of its story and its characters. Just like the potential gameplay, these are fundamental elements to get players attention and get them to engage, either through what the narrative is or through the characters themselves.
Thus, there are protagonists who have left their mark on several generations since the beginning of the history of video games. Let’s go through the list of the best video game characters in history:
Sonic, SEGA’s blue hedgehog, is one of the best video game characters, and possibly one of the most popular. In addition to this, he is the official mascot of this Japanese company, and has been so since its creation in 1991. Sonic has an adventurous, confident personality and is somewhat conceited. This type of character is usually liked very much by video game fans.
The blue hedgehog first appeared in ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’, released in 1991 for the Mega Drive, SEGA’s 16-bit home console. Created by Sonic Teams, the franchise has sold over 80 million copies of this video game worldwide to date.
The games starring Sonic were created to compete with Nintendo and Mario, which are two more in this list of the best game characters in the history of video games. On the other hand, given his popularity, Sonic became SEGA’s mascot, replacing Alex Kidd.
It’s not news if we say that Mario is the most iconic Nintendo character and perhaps one of the most iconic, best video game characters of all times. In fact, he has transcended the field and has become a symbol for pop culture.
The Nintendo plumber first became a main character in Super Mario Bros, released for the NES console in 1985. His first appearance, however, was in the first Donkey Kong, from 1981, although he was known as Jumpman at the time.
Mario is an affable plumber with a sharp voice. While his personality is not excessively developed, he is still a very good game character. In fact, it is his simplicity which makes it easier for players to identify themselves with him, which might be one of the keys to his popularity.
In the following 20 years after Mario appeared, video games grew, evolved, increased in complexity and also adapted to three dimensions. This evolution also meant the characters evolved. Thus, in 2007, we find one of the best characters in recent video game history: Nathan Drake.
The charismatic protagonist of the Uncharted saga made his first appearance in ‘Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune’. Naughty Dog presented us with a character reminiscent of Indiana Jones, although a little more out of the ordinary and with a slightly more sarcastic sense of humor than that of the famous fictional archaeologist.
Part thief, part historian, part archaeologist, Nathan Drake draws from the movie and comic heroes of movies, as well as characters from pulp magazines. However, he also has traces of a real person, a normal person who finds himself involved in many dangerous situations. This makes player identification much more likely.
Following the evolution of the characters throughout the history of video games, we also find one of the greatest references in recent years: Aloy, the main character of the two installments of the Horizon saga (so far), developed by Guerrilla Games.
Aloy is one of the most important female video game characters in the history of video games and one of the best characters that have been created in the medium in the last 5 years. She was introduced in Horizon: Zero Dawn (2017), which evolved into a sequel, ‘Horizon: Forbidden West’ (2022).
A member of one of the tribes that populate a post-apocalyptic world, Aloy is one of the most charismatic heroines in video games. She is a strong young woman who moves away from the traditional (and sexist) image of women in video games. This has turned her character into a step forward in the design of female characters in video games.
Ellie, like Aloy, is one of the.most important female video game characters developed in recent years. Playing a supporting role in her first appearance in ‘The Last of Us’ (2013), she became the lead in the sequel, ‘The Last of Us Part II’ (2020).
This character moves away from the traditional heroine and, on many occasions, acts as a villain. It’s the nuances in her personality and her actions that make her one of the best characters in video game history.
Ellie’s actions define her and players can see themselves in her doubts and her full journey. She is the most complex and well-developed video game character of all the ones we have seen so far on this list.
After looking at some recent additions to the list of the best video game characters, we are going to take a trip to the past again and we are going to get closer to the Metroid saga and its protagonist: Samus Aran. This character makes his first appearance in 1986 in ‘Metroid’. An old game that, leaving its protagonist aside, and together with the Castelvania saga, would come to define one of the most important video game genres: the metroidvania.
Samus is one of the best characters in video game history because of what she represents. She was the first female protagonist that broke with the traditional narrative assigned to them until then.
One of the things that the first Metroid game does best is to not reveal the protagonist’s gender until the end of the day. Thus, after a whole space adventure takes place, the players discover that female characters are as strong as brave as men. In addition to this, Samus was important in order to improve the presence of women in a highly masculinized industry.
Moving away from the human or anthropomorphic protagonists and returning, like Sonic, to animal protagonists is another example of the best characters in video game history: Pikachu, the electric mouse.
Pikachu was born at the same time as Pokémon, one of the longest running and most important sagas published by Nintendo. Developed by Game Freak, the Pokémon games have transcended their original medium and, just like Mario, have become pop icons.
Pikachu is the best known among these creatures and is the protagonist in several of these games. This is so, in part, because of his role as the main companion of the protagonist, Ash. That is where the character of this particular creature really stands out as very cute, somewhat rebellious and with very bad moods.
Solid Snake is another of the great examples of complex and important characters in video games. Created by Hideo Kojima for Metal Gear, Snake and versions of him have been lavished in video games since their first appearance in 1987 for MSX 2 in Japan.
It is about a soldier and spy protagonist of the complex plot of the Metal Gear saga. Born from a cloning project, after devastating the world several times he became a famous war hero.
Solid Snake has become one of the most important characters in the medium thanks to his character, initially cold and calm, but with many more nuances.
Lara Croft, just like she happened to Samus Aran at her time, became one of the most important and relevant video game superheroes in the field. Protagonist of the Tomb Raider saga, he made his first appearance in 1996.
As with other characters we’ve been talking about, Lara Croft has also become a pop culture icon, tremendously recognizable for her wardrobe (a blue T-shirt and brown shorts) and for her hair, which normally It is braided or collected in a ponytail.
In 2013 the saga and the character underwent a reboot. In this new reimagining of the Tomb Raider games, a much more realistic and better designed Lara was created both in terms of personality and physique.
Jill Valentine is another of the most remembered heroines in the history of video games. She is one of the female protagonists of the Resident Evil saga, with appearances in Resident Evil, Resident Evil 3 and Resident Evil 5.
As with other characters we have been talking about, apart from her personality or attractive features that remain in the memory of the players, Jill Valentine is also part of pop culture and has had appearances outside of the videogames. These are some of the reasons why she can be considered one of the best characters in the history of video games.
Just as it happened with Lara Croft, Jill Valentine underwent some changes in her personality and physical appearance in Resident Evil 3 Remake (2020). Changes that adapted the character to the new sensibi
features and improved the design of the original Jill.
Course Video Game Design: Train yourself as a video game designer!
Surely you already knew all these protagonists and it may be that you differ from our criteria to select the best characters in the history of video games. However, we are sure that we have chosen some of the best, although others have fallen by the wayside.
Do you want to create your own stories and develop characters as powerful as the ones we have presented in this article? For this, you need to train. If you are passionate about video games, at Tokio School you will find your place. With our Video Game Design course you will be trained to take your first steps in an expanding industry.
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