5 video game protagonists who are loved (and 5 who are despised)
Designing a video game protagonist is a daunting task. Video game developers spend hours designing characters that hold up a mirror to the player. Video game protagonists must be impactful, dynamic, and easy to relate to. These factors are not set in stone as the idea for video game design is always changing and the next big thing might just be around the corner.
Video game protagonists can make or break a game. A game can have ground-breaking mechanics but the immersion is totally lost if there is no one to carry the story forward. Games that have good protagonists are usually some of the best in the business. Here are some of the most beloved video game protagonists and 5 that didn’t excite fans at all.
5 video game protagonists that fans absolutely adore
1) Master Chief (Halo series)
Some video game protagonists are iconic for launching a franchise and this is extremely true for the Halo franchise.
When Combat Evolved was first released back in 2001, it took the industry by storm. The game was revolutionary and it sparked a whole wave of games that tried to emulate it. The iconic gameplay, narrative and characters all tied in together to make a cohesive story that stuck with players for a long time.
Halo featured one of the most iconic characters of all time. Master Chief is almost synonymous with gaming. He has been a stoic, powerful representation of what a hero should be and this blends extremely well with the narrative that is smooth and polished.
Master Chief is one of the best protagonists in gaming and his character is a testament to the franchise.
2) Geralt of Rivia (The Witcher series)
CD Projekt Red have always had a good idea on how to make a good ARPG experience. The game series was praised for its Polish roots which were surprisingly unique and kept true to the source material. The video game series spawned a trilogy that the player experienced through the eyes of the titular Witcher, Geralt.
Geralt of Rivia has been praised for his stoicism and brute sense of right and wrong. This stoic nature is a huge trend among video game protagonists and Geralt is everything the player wishes to be in a fantasy world. Using his trademark silver-coated blade, he slashes through the monsters that plague the countryside.
Geralt as a character is fascinating to witness. He’s charming when he has to be and ready to fight when the time comes. The supporting characters in the Witcher also hold a special place in fans' hearts and Geralt just takes the cake in the series.
3) Arthur Morgan (Red Dead Redemption 2)
One of the best open-world games made in the last decade, RDR2 is an amazing experience of emotion, drama, betrayal, and violence. The game touches upon the human nature of the characters extremely well and they have subtle traits that really bring the game to life. There are certain characters that make players angry but that's all part of the experience.
Arthur Morgan is the protagonist of Red Dead Redemption 2 and the story is told from his perspective. Players can embark on their outlaw life in the Wild West that is captivating to explore. They can choose how they want Morgan to go through the game, being honorable or a no-good outlaw. Most of the story is tied to this mechanic, as the game attempts to bring choice into the narrative.
Arthur Morgan isn’t an iconic protagonist, but he is great all the same. This entry is an excellent example of how a well-designed video game can affect characters, with RDR2 having been hailed as a masterpiece from Rockstar.
4) Nathan Drake (The Uncharted series)
Nolan North is one of the most sought-after voice actors in the gaming industry. He has voiced some iconic characters in his tenure and has a way of bringing characters to life, which is perpetuated extremely well with Nathan Drake. The IP carried the PlayStation through PS3 and all the way to next gen.
Nathan Drake has been incredibly popular in the gaming industry. A fun character through and through, he is an excellent example of what a popular video game protagonist can be.
Players can project onto Nathan Drake as they go through their epic adventures, solving puzzles, and being extremely fun. The game plays extremely well with this dynamic and Nathan Drake feels like an extension of players themselves.
Nathan Drake and Uncharted is truly a match made in heaven and Naughty Dog has created fiction gold.
5) Doom Guy (Doom series)
The Doom series has been around forever and in that time fans have been introduced to the Doom guy in many ways but mostly as the silent, no-nonsense protagonist that shoots first, and then shoots again to make sure they’re dead. Doom was the first proper FPS game and it has been entered into gaming’s hall of fame.
Doom guy’s persona is not explicitly stated outright, but one can look at the way he dispatches demons and come to the conclusion that he doesn’t like them very much. Fans and players have been captivated by his lack of dialogue. His presence sends every demon in the vicinity into panic mode, and yes, he is just that cool.
Doom (2016) and its sequel Doom Eternal, have been praised for their gameplay, creating Doom Guy's successful comeback into the modern era.
5 video game protagonists that are despised
1) Jameson Locke (Halo 5)
“How the mighty have fallen." This statement is certainly true to whatever Halo 5: Guardians was. Released in 2015, the game strayed so far away from logic that it basically killed any dwindling hope Halo fans had. The game had terrible pacing story-wise and was convoluted to the point where the player didn’t know what was going on.
Halo 5 introduced a new character in Jameson Locke. The character was not bad per se, but it just doesn’t work when put against something as iconic as Master Chief. There was hardly any structure or development the character received, which was a major blunder by 343 Industries.
Locke was not included in Halo Infinite, which was further proof as to why the franchise wanted to distance themselves away from the character.
2) Connor (Assasins Creed III)
Assassins Creed III was incredibly bold in trying to shift the narrative to appeal to a wider audience. The game was not entirely a success, and was criticized for its forced plot and unlikeable characters that attempted to string together a story.
As always, Ubisoft aimed too high and when they fell short of the expectations, what fans received felt like a rushed game. Assassins Creed III’s protagonist was Connor, a Native-American assassin tasked with killing the Templars that were up to their usual business.
The game introduced a new mechanic in ship-to-ship combat which was more fleshed out in AC: IV, but which did not redeem it. Connor was bland and had little to no emotion to display. Connor, as an Assassin, was a poor choice in character, and Ubisoft has not learned since.
3) Dante (DMC: Devil May Cry)
How can the same character be loved and hated by the same group of fans? The answer lies with Ninja Theory and their bold choice in this awkward reboot that is despised. When Capcom first created the Devil May Cry series, gamers were taken aback by their artistic choices in their characters, most importantly, Dante.
Dante is one of the biggest names in the gaming industry. Ninja Theory completely butchered the character by making questionable choices which can only be seen as misunderstanding an entire franchise. Dante was morphed into a cringey, edge-lord version of what he was, which felt forced and unimaginative.
Ninja Theory have thankfully moved on from this mess and have been focusing on more story-driven titles in Senua. Dante in DMC: Devil May Cry is one to forget.
4) Abby (The Last of Us Part II)
A character that is hated for all the wrong reasons and none of the right ones, the polarizing character Abby takes a place on this list by just causing fan-boys outrage and immense displeasure for some of the worst reasons imaginable.
The Last of Us Part II is one of the best games to exist. Gamers who hated on the game were utterly demolished by how well the game did.
Abby is not a bad character in any way. She acts as the polar opposite of Ellie and serves as a critical reminder of where vengeance can lead people. Abby is actually one of the best video game protagonists to be created and is a testament to the nature of the game.
Although hated for the wrong reasons, players were made to hate her character for her actions in the video game and not anything else. A truly despised character, but only in the context of TLOU 2, and nothing else.
5) Desmond Miles (Assasins Creed franchise)
This list ends with another Nolan North character, but one with no charisma or passion. Desmond Miles was the protagonist from the early AC video games who was hooked up to the Animus.
It was through his memories that players experienced master assassins, Altair, and Ezio. Desmond was bland and boring to work with and this was perpetuated in all the scenes that he was in.
Why does Ubisoft always leave characters unfinished even in some of their best games? This takes away from the immersion and leaves players feeling empty. Desmond Miles felt like an add-on at the last second, which is never good for any game.
The Assassin’s Creed video games has officially hit "franchise fatigue" and players and fans are well aware of this fact.
Note: This article is subjective and reflects the writer's views.
Abu Amjad Khan