Received 10 Points *See header for explanation*
“The American Dream.” Niko Bellic needed to forge a new future after a past plagued by the bad memories of the Yugoslav Wars, human trafficking, and betrayal, a new future was the only thing Niko had to look forward to. After several months of dodging a European crime lord, Ray Bulgarin he unintentionally crossed, he made his first step to realizing his dream by reaching American soil.
Unfortunately for Niko, his cousin Roman exaggerated his assets, and Niko found himself responsible erasing his gambling debts and landing jobs from the Russian Mafia. As Niko commited multiple crimes and murders to try to make money to forge a new life for him and Roman, he was betrayed by his employers. This led Niko to become fueled by another defining characteristic: the hunger for revenge.
Turns out Niko doesn't only want a new life. He also came to America to pursue Florian Cravic and Darko Brevic, the only remaining survivors of his 15 man squad from the war. This was because one of these men sold their squad out, something that had haunted Niko for years. Niko is able to track them both down, with Florian being painfully innocent, and Darko admitting to the betrayal with a smile, saying he sold them out for a mere $1000 dollars. A defining moment for the character and player, Niko chooses to either continue letting him live his pathetic life, or to exact the revenge he had craved for over a decade.
Ultimately, he ends up making on final defining decision, both of which result in the death of one of the two people closest to him. He is truly tragic protagonist that battles between the rage that drove him to keep living, and the fight that keeps him dreaming about a new life. In the end, he ends up settling for both, and the decisions made over the course of the game shape the results of his “American Dream.”
Received 11 Points
Batman is probably a shoe-in for one of the best protagonists of all time through any form of media. He has always been a popular comic superhero, perhaps only overshadowed by Superman. He's also recently been met with rave reviews on the most recent Batman movie trilogy. In 2009, he made his mark on the video game world with Batman: Arkham Asylum.
The Dark Knight is a great protagonist for a multitude of reasons. It begins with the tragedy of Thomas and Martha Wayne's murder, leaving Bruce Wayne an orphan. After leaving Gotham City, he trains in many different forms of martial arts, and becomes an expert detective. He returns to Gotham, changed, determined to rid the city of its scum and villainy, choosing to wear a costume that would strike fear into the hearts of criminals: a bat. He represents many things: a symbol that crime will no longer be tolerated, a light of hope in the darkness, and a protector of the people. Although, while he can be harsh, and sometimes even cruel, it is clear that he has hope that some of the villains he faces may someday change or find peace; particularly, the Joker.
In Arkham Asylum, many villains and super-villains rise up to challenge the caped crusader, but in most situations, he prevails. With many of Gotham's criminals locked away in Arkham Asylum, Batman is on his way to stash the Joker back there after a short escape. The Joker, of course, led Batman into his own trap, and Batman has to work his way through Arkham Island in order to prevent the Joker's plan from coming to complete fruition.
Later in Arkham City, a plan is set in motion that allows for all of Gotham's criminals from Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Correctional Facility to be released in a blocked of section of Gotham: Arkham City. Batman greatly opposes this, and fearlessly navigates the "city" to find the answers to many questions surrounding the "city," all the while coming to blows with many villains along the way. At one key point, Batman's will is tested when he must choose between saving the life of his love, and the lives of hundreds. As is sometimes necessary, his butler and close friend, Alfred, must ground the Dark Knight and keep his mind on the objective. The events that follow ends the lives of one of Batman's most famous and important foes, and scars the Dark Knight in a way that has yet to be resolved.
Received 12 Points
Written By: NIN_tendo
Travis is certainly a unique protagonist for this generation. In an age of muscle bound; buzz cut, and 5 o' clock shadow sporting protagonists, Travis stands out in the crowd by being the antithesis of that image. A skinny, anime and pro wrestling loving nerd that spends most of his time watching anime and playing video games. Despite his less than tough guy image, Travis is an all around badass that will cut down anyone in his way in order to become the number one ranked assassin in the world. Why is he doing this you may ask? For the fun of it, and to get laid of course. He climbs the ranks for the sheer satisfaction of being top dog and of course being on top of the uber hot Sylvia Christel, the woman that sets up his ranking fights. He may be a little over the top, but who wouldn't love to pick up a beam sword and start kicking ass?
He's one of the funniest protagonists in recent memory as well. Whether he's shamelessly ogling Sylvia or cracking wise to one of his opponents, Travis rarely makes it through a scene without making you laugh. The voice actor for Travis is the awesome Robin Atkin Downes. He's done plenty of voice work in his career, but you can tell Travis is a character Downes really has fun with and knows exactly how he should sound. Travis' voice really drives home what makes him so great, he can sound badass when he wants to be, or he can sound like a pervy nerd who just wants to get laid. In this sense Travis is what every nerdy dude wishes they could be, or at least an affectionate parody of nerd fantasies. Either way, Travis is never too much of any one thing, besides maybe entertaining. By the time you're done with either No More Heroes, you can't wait to see what Travis will do next.
Received 13 Points
it isn't often that we as gamers have the pleasure of being put in the shoes of a protagonist from the time his life begins. That's exactly where Ezio Auditore da Firenze's story begins, as his mother gives birth to him in the opening moments of Assassin's Creed II. Moving rapidly into a the end of his teenage years, we meet a dashing young man with a knack for getting into trouble and scaling tall buildings with minimal effort. Not long after the character becomes endeared to the player, his father and two brothers are captured and publicly executed, thrusting Ezio into the middle of a conflict that has been trading blows for centuries.
Fleeing to find his Uncle with his mother and sister, Ezio learns of the true roots of the Auditore family. They were members of the order of assassins, and they oppose the Templars, led currently by Rodrigo Borgia, the man ultimately responsible for the Auditore execution. Ezio trains and swears revenge upon any responsible for the death of his family. Throughout many trials and assassinations, Ezio grows into a more than capable assassin, ultimately being sworn into the order. A final confrontation with Rodrigo Borgia, the current Pope, in the middle of mass at the Vatican is one of the most powerful sequences I've witnessed. Ezio may prevail, but the ending leaves him with more questions than answers.
Pleased that his family was avenged, Ezio was happy to retire to his Uncle's land, but was almost immediately attacked by the Borgia. As Ezio is once again thrust into a conflict with the Templars, the character endures further growth. Now a master assassin after more than a decade of training, he begins to train new assassins into the order. Bolstering the assassin forces proves enough to overcome the Borgia, and Ezio hides the Apple of Eden, a wonderous tool of control and potentially a weapon in the hands of the Templars, in a safe place.
Having become a master assassin, finishing off the templar reign of terror in Italy, Ezio's next goal is to open the vault of the legendary assassin Altair. Throughout a game with more conflict, it becomes apparent that while Ezio is still in the forefront of the battle against the Templars, he is hoping that an end is within sight. Eventually, Ezio finds his way into the vault, and in a powerful scene that brings all 4 games full circle, Ezio makes his way into Altair's tomb, and finds the answers that he was looking for. His place in this world was to contest the Templars at every turn in his time, but he had a greater purpose: to pass important details of history on to Desmond, and be a conduit for that message. Feeling his goal has been fulfilled, he lays down his blade and armor and spends the rest of his days with his love, Sofia.
Ezio is a lot of things in one package. His is an adept action hero with a sword, a stealthy assassin with his hidden blade, a masterful student of parkour, able to scale buildings stories high with minimal effort, a master that many look up to for wisdom, and and no matter the odds, always gets the job done. All the while, his heroics serve as conduit for a message that may prevent the widespread evisceration of Earth's population. He has earned a place in my heart throughout this generation, and is well deserving of being on this list.
Received 14 Points
A young man at the ripe age of 18, he is thrust into battle as the Mechon attack his home, Colony 9. He is surprisingly able to wield the Monado blade, a legendary weapon responsible for holding the Mechon at bay a year prior. Once his friend and love interest, Fiora, is lost in the battle, he vows to get revenge on the Mechon and proceeds out on a journey with his companions.
While fueled with ideas of vengeance, he is surprisingly resolute and does not put any of his companions in danger to fulfill his goals. In a twist, he finds that Fiora is alive, but apparently under Mechon control. He is even forced to do battle with her, but eventually is able to rescue her from the Mechon and avenge her "murder" by defeating Metal Face.
Although his goal of avenging Fiora is now complete, the growing threat of the Mechon becomes a greater focus, and he proceeds with the rest of his group to put an end to their conflict. He is eventually able to confront their leader, he is betrayed by one of his own, and releases the Zanza, the true villain. Although Zanza is a god, Shulk is powerful enough that he is able to call upon the True Monado, which he uses to slay Zanza, and put an end to the madness between the two gods.
He learns that this conflict resulted in the destruction of Earth long ago. In perhaps the most defining moment for the young hero, he turns down the offer to become a new god, and wishes instead for a world without gods. It takes a true hero to deny that kind of power, but that selfless nature and bravery are the kind of qualities that make Shulk on of the defining protagonists of this generation.
Received 16 Points
Written By: squarex8264
Francis York Morgan was a very interesting and eccentric protagonist. I believe the reason he came across as so likable in the game was that his behavior was so unconventional, his mannerism so cordial and direct, and his imaginary persona Zach was something not found in many other games.
From the very get go of the game, he is presented as this tough FBI agent, speeding along mountain roads lighting a cigarette while speeding in the rain and using his spare hand to type on a laptop while talking on a phone. He has several quirks that make him very mysterious to the townspeople and really identify his character, namely: his cigarettes, his scar, his coffee, and Zach.
Every dramatic cutscene and big conversation, York is pulling out his cigarettes to take a drag, only to extinguish it and save it for later. He consults his coffee for future insight into the case. His scar is something he tells people serves as a reminder of the crazier cases he took. But it's really Zach, York's imaginary personality that really makes his character most memorable. And the interesting gameplay mechanic is that the player fills the role of Zach, making choices when York asks Zach for advice. It serves as a way to break the fourth wall while tying into the larger narrative. Across the entire game York asks Zach for advice on the case, talks about their favorite movies while driving, relives fond memories while growing up, fights over a girl on the case, etc. It makes the character more likable and believable, and this two-personality dynamic cements him as one of the most interesting protagonists of this generation.
Received 20 Points
More than any recognizable protagonist this generation, Commander Shepard is truly the people's protagonist. When trying to write about what makes a protagonist great I try to think of a balance of what personality/character traits make the protagonist so great, what trials they go through to shape the character they become, and shortly summarize the major events of the game they are in to give context. What makes Commander Shepard so stark in contrast to other protagonists on this list is that all of these factors are shaped entirely by player choice.
To begin with, there are two "default" Shepard models: one male, and one female. it's up to the player to decide what gender they want to play, and if they decide they want to create their own model for Shepard, they can do so using the customization system. You also get to shape his/her background. Was he/she born on Earth, or on a different planet? Was he/she a strongly recognized war hero, or a lone survivor of an assignment gone wrong? After choosing the background, the player can choose from a soldier, adept (psychic abilities), engineer (technical abilities), or a blend of two of the three. These qualities only shape the background, the future is shaped through player action and choice.
At two opposite ends of the spectrum, Shepard can be a Paragon or a Renegade. Essentially, these are fancy words for "good" and "evil," but they go somewhat deeper than that. A Paragon Shepard may make choices more based on emotion. He/she may care more about how his sqaudmates are handling the tough journey, and may be more likely to go out of his way to save others even if it jeopardizes his/her own safety. A Renegade Shepard may be more likely to force his opinion on others with little care for their input. He/she may take a more direct, abrasive approach to a problem rather than do it the "morally" correct way. He/she is more likely to sacrifice others for the sake of the mission.
No matter what path you decide to go down, one quality that "any" Shepard possesses is strong leadership. In all 3 games, he/she makes a strong bond with his/her squadmates, and leads them into impossible odds while coming out victorious. He/she is able to inspire others to his/her cause, and has the power to turn the tide of any battle. At first, he/she is able to get many races to come together to stop an assault on the Citadel. He/she then assembles and leads a dream team into enemy territory in a suicide mission and comes out standing. He/she then stares extinction in the face, and spits at it, inspiring others to fight for their right to survive.
Regardless of the journey the player takes with Commander Shepard, it isn't even a question that he/she is one of the greatest protagonists of this generation, and he/she deserves consideration for one of the best ever.
Received 27 Points
Written By: rahmed51387
Normally, many people who see that their end is in the coming days have different ways of dealing with it. Some try to relive their youth, some simply accept and wait for it to pass. The odd thing about Solid Snake in this generation is that he is in a position to do both. He is physically well beyond his prime, and yet must contend with situations physically, mentally, and emotionally that most people in his age wouldn't even have to deal with.
He relies on the experience he has both personally gained as well as learned from others to survive today, whereas now it is a pivotal role that he himself plays to other people in the forgoing generations. Not often in gaming do we see a character both in the early stages of their career throughout to possibly the end of it. We see him as both student and teacher. We see him at his strongest and most capable as well as his weakest and most helpless.
What we see in this generation is not progress, but the result of development as time progresses. Across many generations, many systems, we not only see him grow, but all those who have a direct link to him, from his mentor, to who he deems family, his friends, colleagues, foes, and how they both impact one another easily merits him as an entry to this list.
Received 32 Points
John Marston heroics stem from one of the simplest, natural behaviors: protect your family. A former outlaw and gang member in the Old West of 1911, Marston was a man hoping that he could leave that part of his life behind him and move forward with his family to forge a better future. Unfortunately, for bad men even the best of redemption attempts can go awry, and that happens to Marston when his family is taken hostage by Federal Bureau of Investigation, and he is forcibly offered their safety in exchange for the heads of his former gang members.
Left with no choice and nothing to lose, Marston sets out to take down the men he used to call brethren, and bring them in so he can move on with his reformation. Of course, men, and especially criminals, aren't so willing to hand themselves over to life in jail at best, so he is forced to play a game of cat and mouse in the Old West extending all the way into Mexico. Eventually, he is able to hunt down Bill Williamson, while assisting a Mexican revolution, and he proceeds back to the FBI.
Unfortunately for Marston, they haven't extorted him to their full pleasure yet, and they send him after one more gang leader: Dutch van der Linde. Throughout many close calls Marston pushes to get Dutch, while holding the goal of his family's safety close in his mind, he is assisted by the FBI. When Dutch is cornered, he decides to jump off a cliff rather than let the government get his hands on him. This fulfills the current needs of the FBI, Marston having wiped out all remnants of his former gangs, and his family is released.
He is able to return home with his family, and proceeds to live life as normal. The events that proceed are a large reason that Marston will be remembered, and his ultimate heroism is timeless. A man fighting to make up for his past and give his family a new life is a hero and my eyes, and I know many gamers share that sentiment.
Received 35 Points
The face of the blockbuster franchise Uncharted, Nathan Drake is a bold treasure hunter, professional thief, dashing ladies man, and sarcastic badass. It's easy to draw parallels to Indiana Jones just from that short description, and you would be right to do so. The Uncharted series is the closest thing to a "summer blockbuster" that video games have to offer. Like Jones, Nathan Drake is a very knowledgeable historian. Although he is certainly a man who appreciates history, he primarily makes expeditions for his own personal gain, and that of his trusty companion Victor "Sully" Sullivan.
Of course, if one man learns of something, others are never far behind. While Drake does a lot of the "grunt" work in finding the treasure, his nemeses are always there to reap the fruits of his effort. Throughout the three main Uncharted games, there are always strong antagonists that are in search of the same treasure. However, as Drake learns slowly throughout the game, fortune isn't exactly what they are after. Much in line with the Jones' comparison, searches for treasure usually turn into supernatural endeavors that have many different outcomes, ranging from a hallucinogen that can be used to control others, to the fabled fountain of youth.
Once learning the true motive of the enemy's expeditions, Drake is usually steadfast in his decision that they must be stopped, and the journey leading him there is one of the most intense experiences that gaming has to offer. He is able to perform feats of parkour that rival masters of the art. He is a skilled gunman, and is capable of sneaking past enemies unnoticed. Even though he offers down to Earth commentary over the precarious situations he is put in, his strength never wavers, and the things he is able to get himself out of makes you wonder why he doesn't buy a lottery ticket if he wants to strike it rich.
Nathan Drake is the kind of action hero that men wish they could be, and women wish they could have. He is interested in money, but at the end of the day puts the safety of others in front of his well-being and wealth. The qualities and skills he possesses make up a great man, but the feats he accomplishes push him to the next level. He is a fantastic choice for the best protagonist of this generation, and would undoubtedly be in consideration for the best gaming protagonist of all time.
It has really been a pleasure to write about these protagonists. They hail from some of my favorite games, and all three of my top protagonists ended up on the list (Ezio, Drake, Shepard). I truly believe we have been blessed as gamers as the quality of story-telling has taken a large leap in the seventh generation. It allows some great heroes to shine through, as well as some unconventional ones. These are some amazing protagonists that this generation has spawned, and I can't wait to see what the industry has in store next.
Tune in soon for the third and final part in the series: The Top 10 Games of The Seventh Generation, Collaboratively Chosen by the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii U Board
Time for some honorable mentions:
WAR - Darksiders (X360/PS3) (8)
Geralt of Rivia - The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings (X360) (7)
Lightning - Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 (X360/PS3) (7)
Link - The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) (6)
Cole McGrath - InFAMOUS and InFAMOUS 2 (PS3) (6)
I would also like to thank the following people:
and everyone who participated in the voting. Thanks for making this possible!
List by RedBullWings (10/04/2012)
Discuss this list and others on the Top 10 Lists board.