This list is part of a series of Top 10s designed to discuss the 10 best characters of every year of gaming, beginning with 1985, the year the industry revived from its great crash. It was scarletspeed7 who came up with this idea, which originally began as the Top 10 Characters of 2010. Our board began discussing this topic and it eventually expanded into what you see here. Think of this just as much of a history lesson as an awards ceremony. You'll be reading lists from a wide variety of authors: scarletspeed7, BlueGunstarHero, MotherKojiro, Reiser99, Nazifpour, Eegooshee, and myself. Before you read any of these lists, please make sure to read the following rules, since they govern our choices to an extent. Please also keep in mind that the pictures included were meant to showcase the character, not the game.

1) We take into account the following criteria for inclusion on our list: popularity of the character at the time of release, legacy of the character, the character’s impact on the video game industry and innovation as a whole, and character development within the game (or series, if the character has garnered multiple games). This means that there will be some predictable choices, so stop reading right here if you don't want to see Mario, Link, Cloud, Sephiroth, etc. This doesn't mean the authors are fanboys/girls, it means that the impact that the character had on the industry and his/her lifespan will be taken into account.

2) For the most part, only characters that debuted in a video game can be included on this list. However, even if the character has been introduced in a game with an extended universe that was created outside of a game prior to the character’s introduction, that character can be included. A prime example of this is anyone from KOTOR, or the main characters from LotR: The Third Age. Certain characters may not appear in the year they were introduced if their role was minor. For example, Alucard first appeared in Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse, but wasn't terribly significant until Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Solid Snake also was arguably a throwaway character until the Metal Gear Solid series.

3) The earliest date of release (whether Japanese, American, or European) is the date we will use in respect to this list. If it is a multi-platform release with delays in between platforms, go with the earliest release again, regardless of the platform.

4) A character can appear in this series of lists only once. ONCE!!!


Wow! Beyond the shadow of a doubt, Eegoo's '98 list was in the top 3, if not THE BEST list in the series thus far; superb stuff! Moving on from 1998, 1999 was a landmark year in the world, as everyone (well, a lot of people anyways...) was worried about the "Y2K" bug, and its potential effects (in reality, it had NOTHING to do with what everyone was clamoring over... as usual), among other events that brought the world closer to the millennium. Some of the most loved films in history were released (Fight Club, and the incredibly deep, Matrix), and my #2 team, the Atlanta Braves, made the World Series for the first time since '96... and were soundly trounced by the evil empire, the New York Yankees :(. Cancer also affected me for the first time in my life in 1999, as not only a friend of the family was diagnosed, but also my favourite athlete on the planet, Andres Galarraga was diagnosed, and would miss the MLB season. But enough of doom and gloom!

1999 also saw the release of the NeoGeo Pocket Colour (AWESOME handheld), and the final Sega console (and IMO, the greatest console crafted), the Dreamcast, in North America; the little, "thinking," white machine proved to the world that when Sega was at the top of the pack for that brief period in the "16-bit wars," it wasn't a fluke, as the Dreamcast not only had the best launch date of any console up until that point (though the PS2 would soundly trounce it on ITS launch date...), it introduced some great innovations out of the box, that worked (full-out online compatibility; both for gaming and surfing) and did not quite work (the VMU, as awesome as it was, juuuuuuust had a couple too many problems...). Character-wise, 1999 was also not a huge year, as '98 or '96 were, however we saw the rise of some truly GREAT characters, with depth, complexity, and the brilliance that were the games they starred in. On that note, on to the list!

The list kicks off with a Sega Franchise that caught like wildfire in Japan when it first came out; Samba de Amigo! A rhythm game with a difference, Samba de Amigo stars Samba; a Mexican (we assume) Monkey that loves to dance to Latin (to be exact, Central/South American) music, with maracas... And that's how YOU play the game as well, with a mat (or platform, in an arcade), and maracas, shaking them in the directions you are prompted. The game itself was a much needed, refreshing entry into the world of rhythm games dominated by DDR clones and Beatmanias, and it was one of the Dreamcast's best selling titles. Samba himself, apart from being a colourful character (in the literal and figurative sense), was quite popular as well, being featured in 7 other games (playable in 4), though the majority were Sega Fanservice games... Still, this monkey's got just the right moves, and more than enough talent!

(8)I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again...(8): Samba de Amigo featured many real songs (hell, they ARE all real songs), and not just those from the Latin world; Chumbawunmba's Tubthumping is one of them!

When Regina was sent on a campaign to retrieve Dr. Edward Kirk, she had no idea she would be embarking on Jurassic Park V. 2... but she did! Regina (who has no last name, by the way). is the protagonist of the, "Resident Evil with Dinosaurs," Dino Crisis, and she is a fitting protagonist, as she shows strength, cunning, and quite a bit of wit as well. Sporting red hair, Regina can remind many gamers of Jill Valentine, in both look, and the fact that they star in similar games. A weapons and intelligence expert, Regina is the most adept in her Special Operation Team at climbing ladders, running away, and anything where agility and speed is key. Though she has only been in one other Dino Crisis game (2), Regina has been featured in SNK vs Capcom; Card Fighters Clash, and the crossover hit in Japan, Namco X Capcom; she's a popular character indeed!

More accomplished talent at the VA position: Regina's voice actress, Stephanie Morganstern, has quite the resume, including voicing Sailor Venus in the English dub of Sailor Moon, as well as being the co-writer of the mega popular drama (in Canada), Flashpoint.

Ulala Otsukaremashita!! Ulala was another one of the Dreamcast, "Figureheads," (mascots, if you will) that was HIGHLY popular in Japan around the release of the console and their respective game. Ulala is the top reporter on the television station, Space Channel 5, and she is a phenomenal dancer as well. Rescued in space after an explosion, by a Space Channel 5 reporter at the age of 12, she stuck with the station later in her life, and ascended to the stardom that she currently has. Reaching this level has also sparked some competition, as Space Channel 42 top reporter (and Ulala's sister) Pudding, constantly fights with Ulala for ratings and the popularity vote... but that never happens! Ulala is known mainly for her awesome, orange, outfit, complete with blue headset, and two guns (one gun is used to save humans, the other is used to banish the invading aliens, the Morolians, back to where they came from. Though Sega hasn't been as prominent as other companies in the past 12 years, Ulala remains one of their figureheads, and with the response to the many fanservice games that have come out in the past couple of years, she isn't going to be downgraded any time soon!

Who's Bad?: Michael Jackson makes a cameo in SC5, and has an even bigger role in the sequel. It was his third Sega game appearance (the two Moonwalkers were before), and fourth on a Sega console (Ready 2 Rumble Round 2 being the other one)!

Calling all cars, clear the way for Officer Tanner! Tanner is an NYPD police officer, who is an unmatched driver (due to his past as a racer), and he goes undercover to discover information on a whole number of people, from pimps, to the President of the United States. Officer Tanner has travelled to many different places on Earth, from practically everywhere in the United States (he lives in Miami, by the way), to Europe (in particular, Turkey). Inpsired by such media as Bullit, and Starsky and Hutch, Driver had Tanner completing certain missions, such as driving through windows, and chasing down other people (in cars, of course!), though you could also pick up fares in a cab, and make some nice dough, ala the Grand Theft Auto series. Sadly, Tanner does not have depth to him like the next few characters on the list, but it doesn't mean he isn't a notable one!

Darkhorse: Selling over 15 million copies worldwide, the Driver series is quite popular, so popular in fact, that a live action film was planned as early as 2002, though it has been stuck in development hell ever since!

God is she sexy... well, it can be said for all the DOA girls (Tina is my favourite), but Helena is definitely up there! With her long, flowing blonde hair, and aquamarine eyes, she's a looker indeed! Anyways, apart from being a great, cold, and cunning Pia Qua Quan fighter; what many do not know, is that the half French, half American Helena, has more to do with the convoluted Dead or Alive series story, than any other character (her father was the head of the Dead or Alive Tournament Executive committee, killed by Bayman, and her mother, Maria, was a French opera singer, assasinated by Ayane), and she in fact, enters the second tournament to seek out the assasin who killed her mother. Helena also seemingly has knowledge on Project Epsilon, when she encounters Hayate (as I said, convoluted). Apart from her fighting prowess, in Volleyball, Helena is a fast, and defensive player, that is a good partner when you decide on playing aggressive, as she can cover your back adequately. Apart from that, she is easy to befriend in the volleyball games, albeit not for a few days! (according to the Wiki). With all this going for her, you'd think she'd be less of a prude...

Oh, split personality?: Helena in the live-action film adaptation (which, while nothing amazing, is GREAT fun!), is completely opposite to her character in the games; she's a poor fighter, nice girl, and not cold in the slightest... yet she's still the main character of the film, due to the aformentioned, plot.

Silent Hill is the psychological thriller series that was developed by Konami, and first released in 1999. Leading your charge of alternate dimensions, and defeating deities, was clumsy author, Harry Mason (now I know why Naz' likes Silent Hill!). A father first, and author second, Harry is a family man through and through, as seen when he travels to Silent Hill with his (now deceased) wife, and they discover an abandoned child; Harry adopts her, and raises her as one of his own (Cheryl, by the way...), and he also does this with the protagonist of the third game, Heather (though the story behind her is a... different, one...). After the events of Silent Hill, Harry moves to Portland, Oregon, and then to other places, in order to escape his, and his adopted daughter's, potential captors. Like the Silent Hill series in general, Harry has a TON of depth behind his character, and both his and his family's backstories are rather built up and explored extensively in the games. Harry has also been featured in every Silent Hill game, aside from Homecoming, and 4, though surprisingly, he was left out of the live-action film adaptation, and replaced by a female character (Rose Da Silva). That's NOT the way an iconic character of 1999 should have been treated!

The Man of 1000 names... well, 2 actually: Harry's original name was supposed to be "Humbert" Mason, as opposed to Harry. Why was it changed? Let's ask the creator:

When development first began on this project he was given the name "Humbert Mason" because of his role as the doting, dutiful father, which was referenced from the protagonist of the Stanley Kubrick film Lolita. However since this is an uncommon name, it was changed by the English staff. The truth is that Harry was the nickname of the person who named the character.

There you go. By the way, for further information on Harry, or the Silent Hill series, drop Nazifpour a line (he hangs around the top 10 boards).

Now many may be thinking, "how is this guy above all the other characters thus far?" All I can answer to that is, if you've never played any game in the Legacy of Kain series, you are SORELY missing out! A vampire-turned-wraith, Raziel is a textbook tragic hero, as he is constantly being tormented (and is also killed at one point) by his superior man, Kain. As mentioned, he was once a vampire, and his look was DRASTICALLY different than what it became (no doubt a cause of being absorbed by the Reaver sword). As time went on, he became one of Kain's six lieutenants, and the second in command of the seven beings. However, Raziel grows wings, and at that point, had surpassed his master in terms of evolution, and it was then that Raziel is executed, and his quest for revenge begins (and that is where Soul Reaver the game, begins). In terms of depth and backstory, Raziel has the most of any character on the list thus far, and there are ample amounts of details about his life, traits, and abilities as a character. His sense of morality and his nobility (both in trait and title) is seen right off the bat in Soul Reaver, and it helps add layers to his character, as Raziel must make many choices regarding the lives of other vampires. His voice actor, Michael Bell, has also received praise for his voice work in portraying Raziel, as he can convincingly convey the emotions of a poor, tortured soul. If you've never played Soul Reaver, do yourself favour and play it; only then will you truly see just how awesome a character, Raziel really is!

A Whale of a Woman: Amy Hennig, a fascinating woman in the videogame world, is Raziel's creator; she has also written and directed all of the Legacy of Kain games, from Soul Reaver to Defiance, worked on the Jak and daxter games, as well as being the top writer and creative director for the Uncharted series' two games.

S.T.A.R.S.!!!

What more do you need to strike fear into your foes, when you have an over 8 foot, 700 pound, muscular-out-his-rear, tentacle-y, Bio-Organic Weapon? Give said BOW, a rocket launcher! Yeah! Nemesis, who made his debut in the Resident Evil title of the same name, is quite possibly the scariest, and most terrifying monster/antagonist in videogame history; he had me with goosebumps and hair standing up all over whenever I heard him running off-screen in the game (and I DO NOT scare easily!). Nemesis is a Tyrant model (model # T-103 Nemesis), and was the second "successful," Tyrant model to be engineered by Umbrella Corp. What made it, "successful," were the fact that it had proper hands on both arms, instead of claws (which allowed the Nemesis to manipulate objects), little intelligence was lost and the ability to carry out missions were possible (which allowed the Tyrant to be programmed for certain tasks), and most of all, the body was no longer highly susceptible to external damage, as it was the second Tyrant to not have its heart protruding on the outside of its body. All of this made for the consummate, killing machine.

Not only do I fear Nemesis while playing Resident Evil 3, the critical and fan support has been absolutely huge as well. For starters, Nemesis is constantly featured on magazine and websites, "top (insert number) villains," lists. The G4 show Filter, had Nemesis at number 5 on its viewer vote of the top 10 videogame villains ever, with the reasoning being that merely his inclusion solidified the game as memorable with the rest of the series, and IGN stated that, "The point is, he's a bad-ass, and he's got plenty of surprises in store for you besides just fast feet and a big gun," and placing him at 59 on their top 100 villains list, and also comparing him to Arnold Schwarzenegger's iconic T-1000, from the film the Terminator. Finally, Gamedaily listed him #5 on their, "Top 25 Scariest Monsters," list, explaining that, "The Resident Evil series has a slew of memorable bad guys to choose from...but Nemesis is our favorite." Beyond the shadow of a doubt, Nemesis is the top BOW from the Resident Evil series, both in the games, and in our hearts.

S.T.A.R.S.!: As mentioned, Nemesis was the second successful Tyrant model. The first, was the T-103, or Mr. X. Mr. X was basically a downgraded Nemesis, with a few capabilities hindered, or removed altogether, including the loss of speech; Nemesis is the only Tyrant model, that can talk.

Iconia central! Not only is Squall Leonhart an iconic character in both the videogame world and the Final Fantasy universe, but his weapon, the Gunblade, is just as iconic, and it is an AWESOME weapon! Squall is a 17 year old student at a military academy for elite mercenaries, known as "SeeDs," and at first, is shunned,a nd ignored by his peers, as he is considered cold, and uncaring towards others; reserved. By the end of the game however, he turns into a much more caring, and "complete," individual, completely rejecting his attitudes and behaviours that he displayed in the beginning of the game. This can be seen more and more as his relationship with Rinoa improves throughout the course of the game. Not only that, but he also calls into question the choices he had made in his life up to that point, and becomes a more open and extroverted individual at the same time. Needless to say, Squall, as with many Final Fantasy characters, has a multitude of layers to his character, and also, undergoes a transformation from the beginning of the game to the end (a bit of an RPG trope, however if executed correctly, it fits perfectly).

Tetsuya Nomura was the man behind Squall (just as he was the man behind Cloud Strife), and like Cloud, Nomura changed Squall around from his original vision; Squall was intended to have longer hair, and appear as a more effeminate character, much to the chagrin of fellow Final Fantasy designer, Yoshinori Kitaze. Nomura also wanted a distinctive quality in Squall's appearance; while Cloud Strife's was in the form of his spikey blonde hair, Squall's was in the form of a scar, obtained in the opening battle between him, and Final Fantasy VIII antagonist, Seifer. As for the awesome weapon, the Gunblade, apparently Nomura was fascinated with objects made of silver at the time, and as a result, wanted Squall to wield a silver weapon, in addition to wanting a new weapon with a new control style (also, apparently, Nomura felt that the Gunblade's appearance was "odd," in retrospect). Lastly, the gamer can get Squall's point of view in terms of situations, and other events, in the form of text boxes. Kazushige Nojima felt that it would be different to have players have an insight of the main character's thoughts, as opposed to Final Fantasy VII, where no thoughts were displayed, and as a result, things were left open to interpretation.

When it comes to reception, Squall is quite possibly the most polarising portagonist in the Final Fantasy series, as there is not a clear blending of like and dislike with the character himself amongst the masses; you either love him, or you hate him. On the love side, Squall has been praised for his cynicism, as that and his coldness reflect the strength of his character. He was featured on two Gamesradar lists, as the fifth best Final Fantasy hero, and included with Rinoa as the best Final Fantasy couple (to which I wholeheartedly agree!). Expanding on the relationship, it was noted in the Inquirer's list of top couples, that the differences between Squall and Rinoa are vast in comparison to other videogame couples, in that they are inherently two completely opposite personalities, and are a perfect example of when opposites attract. On the negative side, IGN stated that Squall is too much of a "jerk," and that when he is the central character of the game, it has a negative effect as gamers won't care about Squall. Edge saw a step-down in Squall from Cloud, stating that, "Squall's anger didn't seem to have any context unlike Cloud's angst which was developed by one of the central events from Final Fantasy VII." Regardless to whether you like him, or dislike him, it is clear to see that Squall Lionhart will go down in Final Fantasy history, as one of the more talked about, and controversial protagonists of the series.

Just as long- as you stand- stand byyyy me... And some more Etymology!: Nomura has gone on record stating that Squall's appearance was based on River Phoenix. The word "Squall," is a type of small storm; in the context of the character, with all the mini-battles and conflicts Squall deals with himself, this name suits him perfectly!

What can you say about a game series that transcends time? A game that took 47 million dollars (in 1999), and was in development for over 5 years before being released? (but NOT in development hell) A game that is even more iconic than multi-million dollar corporations on this planet Earth? You can say quite a bit, and Shenmue, IS the game. Starring an 18 year old, Akira from Virtua Fighter look-a-like, Shenmue hit the videogame scene with tons of fanfare, and while not the unanimous 10/10 game that it was expected to be, it was MARGINALLY below that, due in large part to the phenomenal (for its time) graphics, a never before seen open-world, and most importantly, a character that was revered, and will be remembered for years to come; Ryo Hazuki.

Taking place in Yokosuka Japan in 1986, Ryo is your typical 80's teenager; he loves the popular music of Japan, hanging out with his friends, riding hawgs, and above all else, training his hardest to become the best person he can be, in both the real world, and the martial arts world. Ryo is a skilled fighter, as his father, originator of the "Hazuki-style," Jujitsu, has taught him well, both in martial arts, and in life; he teaches Ryo to be a honourable man, putting those he loves above all else, and to always respect and cherish what in life needs to be respected and cherished. When Ryo sees his father killed in front of his eyes by a mysterious Chinese man, his world falls apart, and Ryo has absolutely nothing but 1 thing on his mind; get Lan Di, and avenge his father's death.

Ryo is a character that goes beyond the call of a typical videogame entity; he has friends to interact with, animals to look after, jobs to do, and mysteries to be solved; in all of these events/actions, Ryo's character, attitude, and mindset come to life, almost literally (as you are basically and extension of Ryo). Ryo has so much depth to his character; he has the same vital statistics that most Japanese-game characters have (height, weight, age, eye colour, hair colour, blood type, the works), in addition to certain habits, and tendencies. Not all is positive though; he is stubborn as all hell, and while he genuinely cares for others, the indifference in the way he acts towards these people, can be seen as hurtful, or damaging; look no further than his love interest, Nozomi Harasaki. Nozomi, while quite in love with Ryo, is meek, and shy, thus she can rarely, if ever, get her point across to Ryo, that she loves him. Ryo himself feels the same way, and recognises Nozomi's feelings, however due to his coldness, and indifference, he too cannot express the way he feels towards Nozomi (leaving many gamers pulling their hair out!).

Always there to lend a helping hand (when an elderly woman needs to find a residence, or when a local food delivery boy is thirsty but has no change, Ryo assists the woman, and buys a can of pop, respectfully), and always there to save the day (when Nozomi is kidnapped, or when Mark Kimberly is attacked by Mad Angels), Ryo is a non-typical, typical videogame hero. What I mean by that, is Ryo is a hero no doubt, however he is just a regular guy; he isn't aided by any supernatural or existential force, he isn't involved with any organisation, he does not make money off of the good deeds he does. Plain and simply, he doesn't have an angle to his heroism; he does what he does because he feels that it is morally just, and because he knows that it is the right thing to do. Ryo may be the first and only videogame character in history, that is this type of hero, that is faced with these everyday, non-fantastical situations, and that succeeds in everything he does due to the simple rule that if all is just with the world, good will ALWAYS triumph over evil.

Once he reaches the second game in the series, Ryo further grows up, and fully embraces, more than ever before, the lifestyle, teachings, and laws of the Martial Artist. With help from an equally phenomenal supporting cast, Ryo becomes a more worldly, and at peace man, even though he is constantly inching closer, and closer to his ultimate goal, where many characters will screw up, or lose focus on the task at hand. These humanistic qualities simply transcend any videogame character, past or present, and it is for this reason that Ryo is Sega's biggest icon after Sonic; the quality of the Shenmue titles notwithstanding.

While Ryo's popularity amongst the general gaming community is not that of Nemesis or Squall (as can be seen everytime he is entered into a Gamefaqs character battle, or the fact that his entries on Wikipedia and the Sega Wiki are MUCH smaller than the aforementioned two characters), amongst the Sega community, Ryo is the biggest icon, right below Sonic. He is beloved by a large percentage of the fanbase, and his inclusion in Sega fanservice titles in the past couple of years has been met with nothing but positive reviews. While parodies of his famous lines "(Do you happen to know where sailors hang out around here?" and, "Let's get sweaty!)" are used everywhere on the internet, you can't help but chuckle at them!

He hasn't appeared in a Shenmue game since II back in 2001 (which I feel is the finest videogame ever crafted), and only 1 game since (Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing), hope still springs eternal that Yu Suzuki will get the funding and green-light to continue, or end the series; masterpieces like this do not deserve to be unfinished (that and Ryo has been stuck in a cave for 10 years now; and people thought Tom Hanks in 'Castaway' had it rough...). Hopefully, Ryo will be able to be controlled by us gamers for once last time, as we can witness him defeating Lan Di, and getting revenge for his father's murder; it is owed to a character with class, morality, and just a certain likeability that you can't quite put your finger on... Ryo Hazuki, will forever be destined to be in the upper echelon, of videogame characters in videogame history.

Project Berkley: I mentioned at the beginning that Ryo looks like Akira from Virtua Fighter. Weeeeeell, that's because before Shenmue became Shenmue (named after a gorgeous Cherry Blossom tree, by the way...), the game was known as Project Berkley. Basically, the game was to be a Virtua Fighter RPG, with Akira as the main character. Many similarities can be seen between the two series; Chai, Rod Stunt, Chunyan, Greg More, Master Baihu and Lan Di all resemble Virtua Fighter characters, in one form or another (Predominantly in fighting style, and/or appearance; Lion Rafale, Jeffry McWild, Sarah Bryant, Wolf Hawkfield, and the final two, a mix of Lau Chan, respectively) .

Wow... did I write an essay! On that note, my time in this list series has come to an end; I loved writing each and every list, and aside from the 1997 list, I was fortunate to have 3 of my top 5 favourite videogame characters ever, at number one. I want to thank all of my fellow list writers, especially MotherKojiro, BlueGunstarHero, and Nazifpour (in no particular order) for helping me out with all my lists, and for keeping the spirit of retro (in particular, SEGA!) gaming alive with these lists! While the Dreamcast was only around for four years, its rise to grandeur in 1999 was a beautiful thing to behold; it brought some great games into the world, and thankfully, we can still play them, and make new memories on top of the glut of old ones we still have. While not huge like 1998, the characters of 1999 are more than memorable, and each are great representations of their respective genres (Nemesis and Ryo in Action Adventure, Squall in RPG, and Ulala in rhythm). 2000 brought the inclusion of a whole new glut of characters, and that list will be written by none other than Reiser99! Glad to introduce him, as this is (I believe) his first list in this series, and his other two posted lists are phenomenally written, so look for this to be a great one! Keep your eyes open for more sports/character related lists, as some are coming up on the horizon, and be sure to join us on the top 10 boards, to (PROPERLY, that's without rudeness!) discuss and critique our favourite lists.

Peace!

List by Truck_1_0_1_ (08/31/2011)

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