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 the "Videogame Crash of 1983." It was originally scarletspeed7, who came up with this idea, which originally began as the Top 10 Characters of 2010, then myself an a few others came up with the idea to have some of the board members write lists. 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 award ceremony. You'll be reading lists from a wide variety of authors: scarletspeed7, Motherkojiro, Nazifpour, A1X_Jet, shadow_571, Reiser99, and myself. Before you read any of our lists, do be sure to read the rules listed below, as they provide a benchmark for 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 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 (and this is why he is not included here). 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. For early NES games, don't forget that Famicom Disk System (FDS) release dates are often (but not always) earlier, so keep them in mind when checking our dates. Also, for these early years, many arcade games were released years before they had console versions, thus keep the Arcade aspect in mind as well.

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

Before I begin, let me just say that we have had some superb lists so far, and that I am privileged to be writing with the company of brilliant authors-nay- scholars who are writing these lists. Its a treat, and MotherKojiro is awesome for the nice plug he gave me in the 1988 list :D.

Rules? Check. Acknowledgement? Double check, now on to the intro! 1989 was a year I just had to take; it was my birth year, the year the Genesis was released in North America, and I really, HAD to take it (it was one of the 3 final years that nobody in the above names wanted!). Us 1989ers are a special bunch; we are the youngest to have lived in the last 4 decades, we grew up during major revolutions in music, film, and gaming (moreso than those who grew up in the 80's, or the Millenium, with exception to gaming), and we were able to see sports/anti-sports (such as Wrestling) go through some of their most memorable years (wrestling especially). 1989, again, was the year where Sega began to make big waves in North America, as Nintendo saw their stranglehold begin to dwindle somewhat. 1989 also brought upon the release of the one thing that changed handheld gaming forever; the Gameboy. Aside from the brick though (I much prefer Atari's brick, the Lynx, which was also released in 1989), Nintendo had a rather quiet year, characters-wise, and that's why you will not see too many Nintendo boys on this list (I've lucked out!). Anyways, I'm rambling, without further ado, I give you the top video game characters of 1989!

Everyone's favourite smiley (and :o) face from Minsweeper hits the list at #10. Now, Minesweeper was released on many platforms (and originally, back in the 1970's), however the version we have all come to know and love, was released on the PC, in 1989. With the release of this game, we were introduced to the smiley face that sat front row, and center to the action. While the face himself hasn't been a major player in terms of gaming, he is arguably the grandfather of the emoticon (for those who don't know, little icons used in text/instant messengers), and the emoticon has somewhat revolutionised the way we talk via text. Certain faces he made (used in emoticons) correspond to certain events in the game; click on a tile, and he would give you the shocked face (:o). Win the game, and he would have the cool face { (H), or B) in most messengers}. Lose the game, and Xs appear over the eyes (signifying that he's dead). While he is not a large character, or a super important character, the smiley face from Minesweeper is more than deserving of a spot in the top 10!

Fun Fact: The Minesweeper we know and love today was originally, NOT bundled with Windows; it was part of the Microsoft Entertainment pack.

Thank the immortal MotherKojiro for this addition, a Belmont (and Konami character) hits the list! Trevor is the great grandfather of the main protagonist of the Castlevania series, Simon Belmont, and the main protagonist in Dracula's Curse. Though, at the time of the game (1500s), the Belmont's were exiled from Wallachia, Trevor was called upon to defeat Dracula, and he was eventually successful (the first of the Belmonts to be successful). Starring in a further two more games (well, starred in one, cameoed in the other), Trevor may not be the grandest Castlevania character ever, with the biggest resumé ever, but his legacy is storied enough!

Little note: His voice actor (Steve Staley), has done a ton of animes (how many voice actors haven't?), and also did Mass Effect.


Yes, Cats claim to fame is poor engrish, as opposed to being a good character in a good, legacied game, however his impact on the gaming world has been nothing short of profound. Starring in Zero Wing, the LONG arcade, space shooter, Cats visits with the crew of the... somethings, that pilot Zigs (I'm just as puzzled as you are). Cats then goes on to give arguably the most humourous in game introduction in videogame history, even though it isn't his fault (again, the translators are to blame!), mind you, this is only in the European port on the Sega Genesis/Megadrive. Thanks to the internet, and its many nerds, geeks, and time wasters, this intro gained fame worldwide, and made Zero Wing a household name. For this reason alone, Cats is a memorable character.

Interesting nugget: Esthetically, Zero Wing is a gorgeous, and great sounding game; though unless you are a long, hard shooter fan, the game won't do much for you otherwise!

The first Capcom character hits the list in the form of Strider Hiryu. Strider is the protagonist from the eponymous platformer, first released in arcades, in 1989. Strider is a ninjaish type guy (known as a Strider, and his sister was a Strider as well), that is sent to the USSR (Kazakhstan to be exact) to take down the communists, and defeat the best friend of his boss (or so the story goes...). He quickly became one of the top Capcom characters, culminating with #4 on Gamedaily's top 25 characters, as well as landing in the top ten in a ninja list, put out by; he also landed in the top ten in a similar list put out by With sequels, mangas, and a cult following, Hiryu is a character that will stand the test of time in gaming!

Just to let you know: Strider actually made his first appearance in a small-time manga, just a couple of months before the arcade game was released.

Drat, both Gfaqs, and Gamespot don't have a pic of her awesomeness... but that's alright! Like when she topped my cheerleader list, let's get this out of the way...


Though, the above statement is just part of the reason why Poison is such an important character (and arguably, should be higher on the list), Poison was one of the first female antagonists in a game, that could totally kick your ass, and look good doing it. Then the whole gender issue was brought up, and that solidified Poison's future as one of the more interesting characters in videogame history. First appearing in Final Fight in the arcade, when the game was brought over to North America, for fear of backlash from the public regarding violence towards women, Poison's official anatomic status was changed to that of a newhalf! However, with her long flowing pink hair, and killer body, even without the whole gender nonsense, Poison would still have been recognised as one of the top characters of 1989, and perhaps, beyond!

Tidbit: Not only was Poison's gender changed from a female to a male newhalf, in the SNES port of Final Fight, she (and her palette swap Roxy, who was a female from the beginning, without any changes), was/were changed to two generic male punks, named Billy and Sid, respectively; needless to say, this, coupled with glaring omissions, and poor sound, the SNES port flopped!

The series Shadow of the Beast was LARGELY hit and miss, when ported to other consoles, however on its home, the Amiga computer, it was much beloved and praised; Aarbron is no exception. Aarbron is a kid, turned into beast/monster, turned back into a man, all by the nefarious demon, Maletoth (well, he turns back into a human after breaking the spell, but I'm not going to spoil things!). Like Cats, Aarbron is remembered mainly for the wrong reasons; while the Shadow of the Beast games on the Amiga were fantastic, again, the ports were rather poor, and as a result, the games get flak (everything from watered down ports, to glitchfests), and Aarbron is included in the dishing out of flak (just read the taglines on the Genesis reviews of Shadow of the Beast II). Still, Aarbron was one of the faces of the Amiga (and arguably, THE face; the mascot, if you will), and he will be remembered (for better or worse) for years to come.

Correction: In Shadow of the Beast II, Aarbron does NOT use a yoyo to attack; Its a mace!!!

Many do not know, but yes, Prince of Persia was first released on the Apple II. The Prince made his first appearance of many, as he has gotten more games and ports than any other character on the list, in 1989 and his first adventure was a quick (60 minute) romp through the dungeons of Persia, to save the princess. Athletic to the nth degree, one of the main selling points of the Prince (and what made him popular) was the fact that he could leap, hang, flip, and do crazy things that had rarely (if ever) were seen in videogames at the time, and it would continue to be a staple in the games to come. The series became so popular, a movie was released last year (2010), to generally positive, but mixed reviews. If that doesn't show the lasting power of the Prince, then I don't know what would!

Interesting Note: The main villain, Jafar, is based on a real-life Jafar; a Persian vizier in the 8th and 9th century (Jafar from Aladdin is also based on this real-life Jafar)

The very first videogame I ever played! (though Gilius is the character I have used the least in my life) Golden Axe was Sega's first big, ESTABLISHED beat-em-up (chronologically, it was the fourth beat-em-up they developed, after Black Belt, Altered Beast, and Dynamite Dux, respectively), and Gilius Thunderhead was easily the most popular character of the three playable characters. Clad in green, and armed with an axe nearly the size of himself, Gilius seeks to defeat Death Adder, after Death Adder murdered his brother (in addition to wanting to avenge the trio's comrade and friend, Alex). Golden Axe was an instant classic when it hit arcades in 1989, and it spawned many sequels and spinoffs (around eight or so), though most of the spinoffs placed Ax-Battler (my personaly favourite) in the title role (you could tell which character the developers liked more!). However, in other Sega franchises (Sega All-Stars, Shining series), it is Gilius who appears, and sometimes, in more than just cameos. Finally, who doesn't like a headbutting, lightning wielding dwarf?

Trivia: Gilius is the Patron Saint of Golden Axe, and (if you go by the credits of the Genesis version) is an AMAZING batting practice pitcher.

Yay! An Atari Lynx game! Chip, of BOWEP fame made his first appearance in 1989, on the Lynx, in his ever so famous puzzler. While the game was great on the Lynx, it wasn't until it hit the Windows Entertainment Pack that the game really began to be known. Chip is a relentless, skilled, nerdy mathematician, and he wants to do anything to impress Melinda the Mental Marvel, to get into her exclusive club, the "Bit Busters." So what does she propose Chip do? Go through her dreadfully difficult, 149 room clubhouse of course, complete with creatures (and not just animal creatures either!). Chip's Challenge is still played to this day all over the world, and it has solidified itself as one of the most popular, and difficult puzzlers in the gaming world; not bad for a bumbling little high-school teenager who began his life on a failed (but brilliant) handheld...

Sad But True :(: Being a 16 bit windows game, Chip's Challenge CANNOT be played on 64 bit Windows operating systems; better keep those old laptops and desktops handy!

And here he is; the best politician (and wrestler) the world has known, my favourite console character ever (2nd favourite outright), he's big, he's stronger than most people on the planet, he's the #1 character of 1989, Mike Haggar! Haggar is a jack of all trades; a good father, an HONEST politician, a former championship wrestler and street fighter, his skill with pipes and piledrivers (putting Zangief to shame), boy, Haggar can do it all! When we first meet him, he is working away in his mayoral office, when he recieves a call from a man by the name of DAMND. He informs Haggar that his daughter, Jessica, has been kidnapped; the message to the kidnappers? Game Over. Haggar has been considered as one of the most influential video game characters of all-time (for the aforementioned reasons), and he is one of the earliest characters to have depth, and layers to their backgrounds. He is also the ONLY character on this list (aside from the Prince of Persia) to be playable in a game, every gaming generation from his inception, onwards (from Final Fight, to Revenge, to Streetwise, to Marvel vs. Capcom 3). Haggar can be summed up in these words, from GamesTM: " he has 'a sense of humanity' and is 'instantly memorable.' 'without him, the Final Fight series would not be as notable, as Haggar is integral to its charm." Couldn't have said it better myself...

Move Over Mario: Haggar has, without a doubt, one of the top mustaches in the history of gaming, and it is widely known that one look at his face will cause your signifcant other to ignore you, and begin to notice the mayor a lot more... if you`re a guy, of course ;)

So there you have it, the top 10 characters from the awesome year that was 1989! All of these characters have lasted the test of time, and all of them have had their popularity reach a certain level initially, and then either remain at that level, or rise to new depths (Haggar, Gilius). Many of these characters also come from storied franchises, that continue to see releases to this day, be it new games (PoP), or in the same universe (MVC 3, Golden Axe: Beast Rider). I mention before the intro that I am fortunate, and I am also fortunate that I could place both my favourite character at #1 on this list, and that the list is littered with characters that appeared on lesser known/Sega/Arcade consoles, as these characters usually slip by the wayside in lists such as these. Our list-idea-maker-guy, Scarletspeed is up with the next list, the first in the greatest decade known to man (IMO ;)), and hopefully it will bring more goodness! (and I do not doubt that it won't). Peace.

List by Truck_1_0_1_ (02/23/2011)

Discuss this list and others on the Top 10 Lists board.

Have your own Top 10 in mind? Create and submit your own Top 10 List today.

Would you recommend this
Recommend this
Top 10? Yes No