10: James Raynor
The star of the acclaimed “Starcraft” strategy games, James Raynor – or Jim, as his friends call him – was a space cowboy before “Firefly” made it cool. With his folksy fringe world drawl and old-fashioned decency, Jim comes across as a nice, ordinary gent you’d love to have a beer with – even as he’s commanding massive space ships, fighting off alien invasions, and helping to defeat evil void gods.
Have you ever met a guy who is a bit of a jerk, but such a badass that you have to respect him anyway? Kratos, hero of the “God of War” franchise, is sort of that guy. Kratos is a brutal, angry, bloodthirsty man, but you would be, too if you’d been tricked into murdering your family by the god of war. You wouldn’t want to get in his way, but it’s hard not to feel sympathy for him, and you simply have to respect a man who can challenge the gods and win.
The mega-hit massively multiplayer online role-playing game “World of Warcraft” boasts many great characters, but none are quite so iconic as the Orc hero Thrall. As the leader of the Orcish Horde, he freed his people from slavery, founded their new homeland of Durotar, and helped fight off the demonic Burning Legion. But even then he wasn’t done being awesome; he went on to defeat the dragon Deathwing and use his shamanic powers to heal the world following Deathwing’s Cataclysm. Thrall has proven Orcs can be more than just savage brutes, and as one of the main stars of “World of Warcraft,” he’s probably the most recognizable MMORPG character in history.
7: Solid Snake
If you look up “badass” in the dictionary, one of the definitions is probably Solid Snake. Or it would be if more dictionary writers were gamers. A genetically enhanced Special Ops soldier and star of the “Metal Gear” games, Solid Snake has used his infiltration and assassination skills to save the world from the evil schemes of Big Boss. But despite his ruthless efficiency as a killer, he has not lost perspective on the innate immorality of violence, making him one of the more respectable video game heroes out there.
6: Gordon Freeman
Equipped with an advanced hazmat suit that lets him endure inhuman levels of punishment, Gordon Freeman is probably the most badass scientist you’ll ever encounter – with the possible exception of Neil deGrasse Tyson. As the lead character of the “Half-Life” franchise of first person shooters, the perennially silent Freeman has fought off nightmarish alien invaders with everything from his trusty crowbar to the advanced gravity gun. Kind of makes you wish you’d paid attention in science class, doesn’t it?
From the “Zelda” series, Link is somewhat unusual among video game characters. Yes, he’s a hero – he has a magic sword and has saved Princess Zelda an absurd number of times – but he’s not a super soldier or a steroid-abusing hulk, and he doesn’t wield god-like powers. Thin and unassuming, he is usually portrayed as a fairly ordinary boy who rises to greatness through his own courage and determination more than anything. Perhaps it’s this humbleness that has made him such an enduring favorite for so many people.
4: Lara Croft
While Lara Croft – the title character of the “Tomb Raider” series – has accomplished many great feats of combat and puzzle-solving, she is perhaps best known for her… other assets. She might not be the most deep or complex character, but her plump pixels have awakened “special” feelings in countless young gamers, and for that, she will always be remembered.
3: Samus Aran
Samus Aran, star of the “Metroid” games, is a deadly bounty hunter, and an interstellar hero. She’s also arguably the most iconic female video game hero of all time. The interesting thing is that, unlike most other video game heroines, she isn’t primarily known for her looks – though she definitely has them. She spends most of her time in an androgynous power suit, and the fact that she’s female came as quite a shock to those who played the original “Metroid,” where her gender wasn’t revealed until the end. Samus is a hero who happens to be a woman.
2: Master Chief
“Halo” is one of the most popular and universally renowned video game franchises of current times, and leading it to this height of popularity is the Master Chief, a cybernetically and genetically enhanced super soldier who has starred in most of its games. Master Chief rarely speaks and is never seen out of his armor, but despite this lack of obvious personality – or perhaps because of it – he is a character that has been celebrated by gamers everywhere. And even those who are not hardcore “Halo” fans have come to know him well.
With his trademark blue overalls and goofy accent, Mario is almost certainly the most recognizable character to come out of the world of video games. Dating back to the arcade games of the 1980s, he has starred in more than two hundred games that have sold a total of over two hundred million copies. He’s beloved by children and adults alike, and even after thirty years, he continues to save princesses, collect power ups, and sell games by the thousands. Not bad for a simple plumber.