I consider myself lucky to have lived and played in seven generations of video game history. From the Atari 2600 to the Sega Genesis to the current iteration of PC games, I maintain memories of these games like postcards from an old vacation: the details may be lost but the spirit and the nostalgia remains. That nostalgic spirit got me thinking lately about which characters stand out the most in my heart, and thus, my top five all time-time favourite video game heroes!
1) Taloon: Dragon Warrior 4 (1992)
One of the all-time greatest games for the NES was the Dragon Warrior 4. Thanks to its epic five chapter storyline, this game had the largest ROM size for the time at 4 megabits! Chapter three captured the story of a humble merchant named Taloon. Charged only with a kiss and a lunch from his patient and loving wife, Taloon worked in a merchant shop in order to save gold pieces not for personal gain, but for completely altruistic reasons. He gave money to the homeless, built bridges to unite feuding kingdoms and helped a prince and princess find love. What made Taloon so interesting was that he was a departure from the classic hero tropes at the time (rescuer of lost princesses, revenging slain parents, etc). I role-played Taloon as a heartless tycoon, selling off his wife’s lunch and generally debasing himself in any possible way in order to make a quick buck. I even counted his steps to his shop in order to maximize his daily gold profits. Near the end of the chapter, Taloon had massed an enormous fortune. But no matter what I tried to do, Taloon would always give away his fortune to seek to better the world. Taloon could have lived a simple life with his wife and dog but he chose to became a hero because he wanted to help people. Not a bad message for the young people of my generation.
2) Lee Everett: The Walking Dead (2012)
We are all just one or two bad decisions away from being William H. Macy’s character from Fargo, and Lee just seems to be one of those people. Charged with the murder of his wife’s lover, Lee’s story begins in the back of a police cruiser when sudden zombies throw yet another curve into his life. You play The Walking Dead through the eyes of Lee, making life and death decisions, the consequences of which weigh heavily on Lee’s psyche. There is perhaps no juxtaposition of the bad decisions and redemption when Lee becomes caretaker to a helpless 8 year old girl. People seem to be uneasy with Lee as parent/caretaker and though he is given several opportunities to relinquish his guardianship, he never takes the offer. Lee represents the every-man who when faced with tough decisions, will try and decide for the better good of their team. I would like to believe that I would act the same way when the zombies eventually attack humanity, though I’m not sure I could ever cut off my own arm. That’s just freakin badass! Lee’s final act of heroism is one of the most dramatic and tense moments in gaming history and one that players will remember forever.
3) Carl Johnson: Grand Theft Auto San Andreas (2004)
Carl is just a man trying to get ahead in life. Released from jail, Carl seeks to set right the events that caused his incarceration including busting up drug dealers, rival bangers and turning around the life of his crew. Rockstar Games designed San Andreas to be open ended, allowing players to shape Carl’s story whichever way they wanted. I never thought of Carl as the misogynistic asshole that he is criticized for which set off the whole Hot Coffee controversy. To me, the story of Carl Johnson is a rags to riches tale of a man trying to right past wrongs, live the American dream and mow down his enemies with high powered weaponry. Every once in a while, on a rainy weekend, I’ll fire up GTA:SA on Steam and it still impresses me how huge and rich the game world is, despite it being nearly a decade-old game. If you haven’t played this one, do yourself a favour and buy it at the next Steam sale.
4) Garrus Vakarian: Mass Effect (2007)
Garrus is the kind of party companion that you wish you could have in real life, if alien Turians could exist. Garrus is a military veteran and officer who’s personal motto is “do things right or don’t do them at all”. Garrus is the kind of person you could have a round of beers with one night and conquer the bad guys the next. I relied on Garrus’ input more than any other companion in Mass Effect and he was always the number one pick for my away parties. Extremely reliable and dependable, Garrus is like that grizzled old cop that got tired of playing by the force’s rules and decides to bust a few criminal heads. You get to help out Garrus on one of his personal missions by chasing down his old criminal nemesis and if successful, a definite bond is formed. I don’t like to use the term “bromance” lightly but perhaps this video of the hero and Garrus skeet shooting will enlighten you. Garrus is one of those characters I would prefer playing over the actual protagonist and the fact that he doesn’t have his own spin off game is criminal! He did manage to get his own comic book so I’ll just have to settle for that.
5) Lucca: Chrono Trigger (1995)
Poor Lucca epitomizes the word “Friendzoned”. I have to admit, I had a bit of a crush on Lucca growing up, she had that Scooby Doo Thelma thing going on. C’mon, admit it, you wanted to date the hell out of Thelma. Lucca is an inventor and best friend of Chrono, the game’s main protagonist. Lucca’s trusty sidearm and gadgets save the party more times than any other character in the game but alas, like an 80’s ski-movie cliché, Chrono ultimately falls in love with the princess instead of our geeky friend. I felt like Lucca had the most heroic motivation because of her tragic back-story: she carries the guilt of the accident which caused her mother to lose both her legs. Lucca’s motivations are primarily to right what she sees as personal wrongs and one of the best moments of the game is when Lucca sets out to go back in time to prevent the accident that injured her mother… I don’t want to spoil the game for you, but it took me a few reloaded save games to realize that you just can’t right all the wrongs in the world, a life lesson I hold to this day.
So what are your favourite gaming heroes? Start the discussion on the chat below!
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!