Solid Snake as the main protagonist of the Metal Gear Solid series is a hard man by definition. Infiltrating enemy compounds, mastering stealth, and just generally being a manly man, he’s as brave as he is selfless. If anything, that rugged voice is enough to get gamers to play. Beyond these desirable characteristic, there’s something innately human about Snake, in his determination and seemingly never ending resolve to save the world, over and over again.
Not only is Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn a confident female lead, it’s her journey from pariah to messiah that stands out. She’s doesn’t take any nonsense from anyone in an ironically haughty manner, and is incredibly strong both physically and mentally. Her growth throughout the game forces the player to grow fond of her regardless of how hard they might try not to. Ultimately, she can battle huge mechanized dinosaurs and is quite literally the key to saving a devastated world. Got to love her.
That sweet, adorable yellow hamster-like creature is much more than a game character, he’s become an international icon, recognizable by a whole generation that grew up alongside the franchise’s rise to fame. Mascot, even symbol, Pikachu holds a much-merited place in gaming and will do so for years to come.
Laconic cowboy on a mission, John Marston is a pleasure to take control of. His gun-slinging skills aside, his story is a compelling one and players are invariably drawn in to his desire to be reunited with his family. His development as a character takes us on a whirlwind adventure through the dying days of the western frontier and a world fraught with violence. The poetic and difficult to swallow end to Red Dead Redemption only reinforces this and adds another dose of meaning to his adventures.
Arguably Microsoft’s most famous character, Master Chief emerged in the early 2000s as a strong leader with a murky past and a gritty sense of humor. A child soldier turned good, he is at the center of a rebirth of the FPS genre and though he may appear superficial at first, there’s a depth to him that is systematically absorbing. When you think Halo or even Xbox, you think Master Chief.
Mario is the plumber turned hero and the longevity of the character, as well as his impregnable position in popular culture are what cement his position in our list. You’ve got to give it to the man, repeatedly having to save a dopey princess from an evil turtle dude takes it strain and we’ve never heard him complain.
Geralt of Rivia
A rugged man of few words, Geralt of Rivia is a Witcher, or in other words a monster hunter with magic-infused powers due to mutations in his genome. Traveling across The Witcher’s expansive open-world earning coin, he meddles in affairs which really don’t concern him due to a pronounced sense of morality. CD Projekt Red managed to create a character full of humor and charisma, yet were able to retain something fundamentally human and this is at the core of why Geralt is such a pleasure to play.
Lara Croft’s evolution from an over-sexualized adventuress to a complex young lady who oozes intelligence and a strong sense of self has drawn in audiences for decades now. She arguably paved the way for more women as main characters in video games and for that she deserves recognition. Lara Croft’s image has moved with the times and she is a nice reminder of how far we’ve come.
Bleached blonde hair and a longing stare, Cloud Strife is the de facto mascot of the Final Fantasy series. His story is one of amnesia, lost love, and a troubling past that coalesce to define a young man who overcomes everything the world throws his way to become the leader needed to save the world from impending doom. What more can you possibly want?
Indiana Jones-inspired badass Nathan Drake isn’t your run-of-the-mill hero. He’s a normal guy to a certain extent with flaws and failings, with thoughts that keep him up at night and traits which easily fall within the non-desirable category. It’s exactly this which makes Nathan so endearing, players can relate and through this get a deeper understanding of how human Drake really is.