Face it; we love hot secret agents. From the James Bonds to the Charlie's Angels, pop culture is littered with them; and Joanna Dark, if nothing else, is a hot video game version of this popular trend. Perhaps her popularity comes with the quality of her first video game title, as Perfect Dark was in many ways the spiritual successor to Rareware's arguably most popular game - GoldenEye. However, she is given an interesting and somewhat complex personality compared to most video game vixens. As a young rookie agent, she makes mistakes. Yet, these mistakes do less harm than good; showcasing her raw potential as she is forced to display her immense ability to adapt in order to survive.
Joanna is a conundrum; is she really one of the ten greatest game characters in the J-category? The answer is yes. Games really do make the character; it is doubtful that Leon Kennedy would be fondly remembered without Resident Evil 4 being such a critical success, and Cloud Strife and Sephiroth would hardly be the juggernauts they are in the FF franchise if FF7 was more akin quality-wise to FFXIV.
You know those villains who chortle maniacally and taunt their helpless foes in a Shakespearean-like dialect as they torture them in their unique and dastardly ways (we're looking at you, Doctor Doom)? That's Jon Irenicus when we first encounter him in Baldur's Gate II. He desires what all classic two-dimensional villains clamor for: power. And that certainly wouldn't get him a lock for a spot on this list.
But by the end of the game, Jon has become one of the more tragic and twisted villains in the history of both console and computer. His dark legacy apparently borne out of lost love and unhealthy obsession, Irenicus quickly becomes one of the more memorable antagonists to menace gamers. And it's that change over the course of the game, knowledge gleaned by the player, that transforms what starts as unremarkable to something else far from that.
Note: No images of Jon Irenicus currently exist on gamefaqs.com
Jak, easily recognizable as the better half of a particuarly obnoxious little rodent, is a definite J juggernaut and an excellent choice to join this list. Over the course of several games, his personality has developed from the standard curious yet courageous main character to something unique and three-dimensional. Following the introduction of the game Jak II, Jak became a character bent on revenge in the mold of other Sony icons (such as Kratos). This continued to evolve into a more mature character into Jak 2, and has moved into a more lighthearted personality by The Lost Frontier.
The point of listing all of these different changes in his character is to highlight a character that is not static but rather quite dynamic. Despite appearing in a series not designed for dark and cerebral contemplation, Jak comes off as a protagonist who feels more concrete and realistic than the vast majority. Here is a character that can be broken, but who also can heal old wounds. Perhaps that is what makes him so popular and iconic.
Jill is an icon for gaming's most recognizable horror franchise; widely well-received by fans and critics alike, Jill has been often listed in popular polls and major news outlets as a pillar of gaming females. As a heroine, Jill is often recognized for her feminine assets, even listed on GameSpy as one of the top ten "Babes in Games" The Guinness World Records Book also lists her as one of the 50 greatest game characters of all time.
With all of this lauding and praising, you might wonder why she hasn't been featured higher on the list. First of all, Jill is an exploitative character. Popularity does not necessarily erase the fact that Valentine's general characterization is shallow; gamers most likely prefer Jill to other character's thanks to her physical proportions rather than her psychological problems. That is not to say she is without any redeeming qualities; she is definitely a female character who is both smart and sexy, as the case may be. But without being as well-developed a Capcom character as other RE female stars (Ada Wong, we're looking at you), her biggest claim to fame is really that she is one of the few horror females not to get naked at the first sign of trouble.
In terms of well-rounded, deeply thought-out characters, John Marston has the words well-developed branded on his forehead. A very excellent representation of an aging Old West, Marston represents the core values of the American cowboy coupled with the resigned maturity that seems to be seeping into the world around him with the advent of the 20th Century. Rockstar did a fantastic job developing a character that was not simply a protagonist with some depth, but also a character that worked in many ways as a representation of a specific point in Americana.
Perhaps the most notable part of Marston's story comes late in the game, when Marston returns to his own ranch. It is his interactions with his own family that not only color him most richly, but bring a new perspective to all of John's actions throughout RDR. It takes a very layered and complex character to take an established story and then re-present (not represent, but re-present) that story as something else, perhaps more noble and chivalrous. In many ways, the cowboys were a more independent, wild-spirited version of the medieval knight errants, and in some sense, Marston captures that beautifully.
Character concepts make or break stars, and Johnny Cage has one of the most ludicrously hilarious concepts in fighting games. Johnny entered the original tournament with the intent of proving he didn't use special effects... because Johnny Cage was a martial arts movie star. An attention-grabbing, media-whoring narcissist, Cage is reminiscent of comic books' beloved cult star, Booster Gold. His quick wit and silly demeanor brought levity to an often overwrought franchise, and his sudden death took him from comic relief to a sort of tragic hero, often underrated. Sacrifice, in many ways, breathed new depth into a character trapped in the often static fighting genre.
And of course, Johnny was nothing without his trademarked moves. Cage's particular skill and annihilating his opponents' genital regions has become inarguably some of the most impressive fighting in video game history. And his OWN move into the Mortal Kombat film franchise only made the character more fun and memorable.
At first, Jimmy appears to be a cardboard cutout of a character; a young boy with a troubled home life, he's quite reminiscent of a character from The Outsiders, but with less originality. However, as the game takes shape, it becomes obvious that the situations Jimmy finds himself in are not motivated by greed or ruthlessness but rather a desire to protect. The game frequently features him in situations where he is outclassed; frequently Jimmy is cited as being less intelligent, less handsome, less athletic than his fellow classmates. However, this seems to do little to soften his resolve, as Jimmy becomes quite literally the king of Bullworth Academy in his effort to prevent the sort of bullying he appeared to support when the game began.
Jimmy is unique; ill-mannered, he comes off abusive to all of his classmates. But as the game progresses, this appears to be more of a superficial part of his nature as he is always quick to go out of his way in efforts to help anyone, from the nerds to the jocks, so long as it is in the interest of preventing major amounts of bullying. Jimmy is an interesting contradiction and a hidden gem of a character that can be easy to quickly dismiss.
Joker is more than just a great character who happens to have a particular consonant kicking off his name; he is arguably one of the greatest supporting characters in the history of video gaming. Bioware is probably best known for its phenomenal skill in crafting realistic, relatable characters that fill gamers with palpable emotion as the stories progress. Despite not being part of Shepard's "main party," Joker's role as the helmsman of the Normandy has allowed him to become perhaps the most beloved and enduring character in the Mass Effect franchise.
Voiced by geek icon Seth Green, Joker's unique physical condition coupled with his ever-persistent wit make him a memorable and original character that stands out even against a cast chock full of other characters just as memorable and original as he. Alongside the ever-adorable AI, EDI. The hate-to-love relationship is surprisingly one of the most fleshed-out in all of video games, never feeling especially forced or unrealistic. Joker's charm comes from the natural feeling the game provides; his motives never feel false, his dialogue never comes across as hollow. Joker rings true as a character and that is why we deserves a high spot on this list.
Morality plays never found a stoic star like JC Denton until the advent of Deus Ex for the PC. In a game where decision-making became paramount, JC was at the crux of the turning point of humanity's destiny. JC's various possible decisions are all given careful and patient attention to detail: no choice a player makes will feel disjointed or unnatural, and that is because the character of JC Denton is such a fluid archetype (dispassionate, quick-thinking, and cool in the face of overwhelming odds), anyone behind a keyboard can take up the role of JC Denton and understand instantly that in a sense, they ARE JC. And the ending of Deus Ex (which will not be spoiled here), gives yet another opportunity for PC gamers to witness subtle nuance in the writing of Deus Ex, with a complex character actually capable of making different choices.
In a sense, JC Denton is the most realistic character of his generation. Other games adhered to strict plotting in that era, while JC was capable of spreading his proverbial wings, allowing him to be deep enough in the game that the outcome of a pivotal decision did not detract but rather enhanced his character. Could icons such as Sonic, Link, and Master Chief hold up under such extremely customizable storytelling? One wonders.
The letter J has a storied history of some very unique and offbeat characters, so it's only natural that at some point we would arrive at Jade, star of Beyond Good and Evil. Jade playable protagonist of this stealth-based first-person adventure game where personality presides. The voice acting of this game is nuanced and extensive, providing the few main party members with decisive and intricate character depth that most games cannot provide. It's Jade's dry humor and acerbic wit, coupled with her swift journalistic intellect, that make her a star character. She also is the recipient of one of Ubisoft's more memorable and controversial designs; following the release of BG&E, gamers found Jade's ethnicity to be a point of contention. However, as the game designers would tell you, Jade is not to be pigeonholed into a specific race but rather embraced as a multi-cultural star that allows for a wider swatch of gamers to find her relatable.
Jade also is one of the rare but growing breed of non-sexpots. As gaming has grown and matured on the current console, we've seen an increasing number of female leads not necessarily defined by the buxom beauty of characters like Lara Croft or Ivy Valentine. Jade is a female lead whose feminine assets are not her primary feature. The developers of BG&E instead saw fit to define her by her strongly-produced personality, and as such, Jade will be a lasting figure in the gaming world.
Judging this jumble of J-stars was akin to jousting the Juggernaut while riding a jackal; so many Johns and Jades and Jacks and Jills all trying to jam their names onto this list - it's easy to see from the ten here that there were even more J characters worthy of inclusion, and perhaps someday I'll journal the next most worthy ten. But, for now, this is scarletspeed7 wishing you good night and good alphabet.
List by scarletspeed7 (05/22/2012)
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