All good stories require protagonists who can drive the narrative forward while also being the anchor point for the player. Through the protagonist, the player may affect the game world and bring out change. So, a good protagonist makes for a generally good experience.
And yet, some stories are so intricate that one protagonist is simply not enough to fulfill the required weight lifting that needs to be done to uphold the story. Sometimes a plot requires more than one perspective as there are chances of an unreliable narrator.
This is not a new concept in video games, though, as many such games exist, allowing the player to step into the shoes of not just one but multiple protagonists. Whether simply expanding the story, providing various perspectives, or introducing a confusing element. Here are ten games that did just that.
Note: This article reflects the writer's opinion.
Ten games with more than one protagonist perspective
1) GTA V
Unlike past Rockstar games, GTA V tells its story through the use of multiple protagonists.
The player can play as Michael De Santa, Franklin Clinton, and Trevor Philips. Michael is a retired criminal living a peaceful life with his family. Franklin is a small-time gangster and car thief. Trevor Philips is an old friend of Michael's from his criminal days who comes to Los Santos looking for his old partner.
The story unfolds as one character meets another, starting with Franklin bumping into Michael, who is later joined by Trevor. Throughout the game's unfolding narrative, players constantly switch between the three characters, with some missions specific to a character and others being a group effort.
Each playable protagonist is further set apart by their abilities. Like Franklin being able to slow down time while driving, Michael being able to enter bullet time during shootouts, and Trevor going into a rage state during fights.
These gameplay adjustments, along with each character getting their arc, make the entire story of GTA V a well-written narrative. Expectations are high for GTA 6.
2) Nier: Automata
The two protagonists from Nier: Automata are two androids 2B and 9S, with an additional protagonist being introduced upon subsequent playthroughs, going by the moniker A2.
The first playthrough of the game comes from the perspective of 2B. Once the story is completed, the second playthrough shows the story from 9S’ perspective.
The two main androids go through many battles and struggle together, finally fulfilling their character arcs in meaningful ways (with a bit of player choice factoring in).
Ultimately, 2B dies, and 9S is left to himself until he meets A2. This meeting does not end happily as, depending on player input, either A2 will sacrifice herself, or both of them will fight to the death.
The game’s story is intricate and complex, with themes of humanity and betrayal heavily leaned into. Using the two protagonists provided, the narrative is driven together for a stretch and then manages to diverge, giving players the larger story while keeping each character in the dark.
3) Resident Evil 6
Resident Evil has always been a series with more than one protagonist, but the sixth installment was the one with six playable characters. These are in order of appearance: Lean Kennedy, Helena Harper, Chris Redfield, Piers Nivans, Jake Muller, and Sherry Birkin. An unlockable Ada Wong story as a bonus.
Due to how the narrative was broken up, the game featured three campaigns, all intersecting with each other at one point or another, sometimes even multiple times. Thus, players had to play through all 3 to understand the game's narrative to get the full story.
The three campaigns also had differing tones, with Leon's being most similar to the horror-inspired feel of the original games. On the other hand, Chris' campaign was a military cover-based shooter in all but name.
Finally, Sherry's story had the Resident Evil archetype of a large zombie relentlessly following the characters wherever they went. The game performed poorly, with Capcom deciding to head back to their roots for future games.
4) Yakuza 0
The Yakuza series has had many games under its belt that feature multiple protagonists, and Yakuza 0 is the most recent one. The two main protagonists in this game are returning characters, Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima.
The game features an intriguing crime drama involving various factions of the Yakuza crime syndicate. The game was a critical hit, being praised for its story and innovation, specifically for its fighting system.
Lauded for its sheer brutality, the fight system incorporated various fighting styles, letting the players specialize in whichever ones they preferred.
This was further enjoyable due to the two protagonists of the game. Both Kazuma and Goro had distinct fighting styles, meaning that playing as either was a very different feeling and worked to separate both characters.
Along with their opposing demeanors, Kazuma tended to be more calm and composed, while Goro was simply a chaotic spirit, leaning into the game being a dynamic experience.
5) The Last of Us Part II
While the first game occasionally let the players play as Ellie, The Last of Us Part II made that experience a much larger part of its gameplay. Telling the stories of two women going through almost identical traumas and dealing with them in very similar manners. And yet Ellie and Abby couldn’t be more different people.
In the first half of the game, players play as Ellie, who has grown up and can fend for herself. In the second half, they play as Abby, as the player learns of her life and struggles, which holds up a mirror to Ellie’s journey.
Despite possibly being infuriated, the player is given reason to sympathize with Abby. Finally, at the end of the game, the two women come to a head one last time. And Ellie, realizing the mistake she’s making, lets Abby go.
The game does an impressive job of balancing out the story between the two protagonists, yet it never feels too much at a time. In a game where the roles of protagonists and antagonists are constantly reversed, this dual perspective is much appreciated.
6) Detroit Become Human
Detroit: Become Human tells the story of 3 androids in a world where humans and androids live side by side. Markus is a caretaker android who has broken free of his programming, becoming what is known as a deviant.
Connor is a police investigator android assisting a human inspector at a crime scene; through the course, he may also become a deviant. Finally, Kara, a housekeeper android, has also become a deviant after escaping her abusive owner with his daughter. Essentially, the overarching plot is about breaking free from one's biases and learning to see the bigger picture.
All these stories generally play out independently but intersect at times, with the player's decisions during one character's story influencing how another character will end up. The plot takes many turns, and leaps ultimately may lead to a litany of endings based on the various choices the player can make throughout.
7) Heavy Rain
Heavy Rain tells the story of a crime thriller, as a serial murderer known as the Origami Killer is active in the game's fictional city, which is never outright named. There are a total of four possible playable protagonists in this game.
Ethan Mars is a single father whose son has been kidnapped by the killer and has just days to live. Norman Jayden is an FBI profiler struggling with addiction and looking into the Origami Killer. Madison Paige, a journalist who meets Ethan, decides to conduct her investigations on the killer.
Finally, Scott Shelby is a PI looking into the killer as well. Throughout the story, as players take control of each character, they have a chance to deduce the location of Ethan's son and try to rescue him.
If done correctly, the best ending can be achieved. However, one of the four protagonists is the actual Origami Killer. And based on the choices the player makes, they may enable the murderer in the long run.
8) Batman: Arkham Knight
While most of the additional characters and stories were added to Batman: Arkham Knight as DLC, it still qualifies as a game with at least two different protagonists. Namely Batman and the Joker.
After the events of Arkham City, the Joker managed to infiltrate the one place which hadn’t yet been corrupted with his venom: Batman’s mind. Throughout Arkham Knight’s story, we see the Joker slowly taking more and more control of the caped crusader, appearing as hallucinations in the least likely of places.
Towards the end of the game, the table is finally flipped, and the players take control of the Joker, albeit in Batman’s mindscape. What starts as a fun romp with the clown prince of crime soon becomes something out of a horror movie, complete with weeping angel versions of the Batman.
And finally, in true Batman fashion, he uses the Joker’s fear against him and seals him away in the deepest parts of his subconscious. While brief, during this sequence, we get a glimpse at what the Joker would be without Batman: nothing.
9) Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart
While the Ratchet and Clank series has always had two protagonists per se, it wasn't exactly a separate experience as they hardly part ways. But in came Rift Apart in 2021, finally adding some much-needed feminine charm to the series.
Hailing from an alternate universe, Rivet is Ratchet's female counterpart from this reality, who initially finds clank stranded in her universe without Ratchet. The plot follows the two lombaxes trying to take down the now teamed-up Dr. and Emperor Nefarious.
After years of seeing the same duo of Ratchet and Clank, it gave players a breath of fresh air to have another protagonist being added to the line-up, to shake up their dynamic. While a new addition, Rivet fit in nicely with the familiar do-gooders and served as a brand new perspective.
10) It Takes Two
It Takes Two tells the story of two parents who cannot see eye to eye with each other. Upon the news of their impending divorce reaching their little daughter, she makes a wish that the two adults would sort it out. The parents are magically trapped in two dolls as the game begins in earnest.
While the two protagonists essentially go through the game together, May and Cody play very different parts in the overall gameplay. Each experience ends up being unique and enjoyable in its regard.
Each puzzle or challenge is different for either of the two protagonists, as is their role in their daughter's life.
Throughout the game, both May and Cody learn to accept each other and their own misgivings. Their character arcs might be similar at first glance, but there are nuances to each's journey that helps them finally accept each other.