Video Game Heroes

10 Greatest Video Game Heroes


It’s time for a look at the other end of the spectrum.  If you enjoyed my look at the most evil villains in video games then you should really like this list. Heroes are everywhere in our culture; the warriors of the Iliad and the Odyssey, Neo from the groundbreaking film The Matrix (I say groundbreaking FILM and not FILMS because…oh be serious), the fellowship of characters from The Lord of the Rings. Video games are no different than literature and film in this regard. Video games have their fair share of heroes and several of them are more than qualified enough to be called among the names of Achilles, Neo, Atticus Finch, Aragorn, and the other names that make up the pantheon of heroes throughout film and literature. Though some of the characters on this list may not make your list of the greatest heroes ever, for me, each one hits the mark with their deeds and/or their outlook on what must be done. These are the most heroic characters in video games.

***SPOILER ALERT***

THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS THE ENDING OR IMPORTANT PLOT ELEMENTS

10: Mario – Mario series


It seems fitting that we start this list off with possibly the most well known hero in the video game industry. Mario is a hero without a doubt. He has saved the Mushroom Kingdom, not to mention the damned princess, countless times and stopped the onslaught of the Koopa family again and again and again. What shows his true heroic nature is both his drive to save the kingdom and princess time and time again despite the fact that they are obviously devoid of any kind of self preservation, and his willingness to constantly throw himself in the way of Bowser, a giant turtle-dragon hybrid four to five times his size. Mario doesn’t care about the odds, the size of the enemy, or the number of his legions. Mario does what has to be done, simply because he can.

9: Cloud – Final Fantasy VII


Another famous protagonist for the list.  I will admit that at first Cloud doesn’t seem very noble or heroic, what with the working for a terrorist organization (I know they were good guys), and his blatant indifferent attitude. Couple that with the fact that he lied about his identity and you have the formula for quite the jerk. However, when the going gets tough the real battle gets underway; Cloud shows his true heroic nature and desire to do whatever it takes to protect those closest to him. He confronts Sephiroth, the most bad-ass SOLDIER to ever live (and one of the most evil villains ever), during the disaster at his home town even though he knows he stands no chance. He then goes on to chase Sephiroth down to stop him from destroying everything.  Some say a hero is born when they find what they want to protect. Well Cloud fits this description perfectly. It may have taken awhile, but Cloud discovers that there are people that are precious to him and he will give his life and stare down the most powerful warrior in the world to protect them.

8: Wander – Shadow of the Colossus


Most people have that someone that they will do anything for, that one person who you would give up everything for and go to any lengths.  Wander from Shadow of the Colossus goes the distance and more for the mysterious girl he brings with him to the Forbidden Land. Did I mention she’s dead? That’s right. Wander risks everything for this girl who is already dead. All we can gather is that he cares deeply for her and wants her back. Wander shows his heroism by braving the trek to the Forbidden Land, his battle with the monstrous and ancient Colossi, and his deal with the mysterious deity in which he is promised the girls life in return for his service.  Many people would claim to go the distance for others, but few get the chance and have the will to actually do it. Wander shows us his will and his heroic nature to save someone he cares for, by any and all means necessary.

7: Ico – Ico


It’s one thing to risk your life for someone you love. It is another thing entirely to risk it all for someone you don’t even know. Ico is just a boy, exiled to death by his tribe, who just happens to run across Yorda, a young girl trapped in the castle Ico was sent to die in. He decides that it is his duty to get this girl to safety no matter what. Throughout their journey, our hero protects her from the shadow creatures that inhabit the castle and keeps her safe from all other dangers.  Comic book superheroes always say that a true hero will protect all, even people they don’t know.  Ico lays his life on the line for a complete stranger and fights his way to safety, all the while holding her hand and guiding her.  If that doesn’t shout HERO then I don’t know what does.

6: Commander Shepard – Mass Effect series


I know some people may think that Shepard shouldn’t be here since you can choose to be a Paragon or a Renegade. That doesn’t matter. No matter whether you choose blue or red (orange?…red-orange?…orangish…nevermind), you are still a hero. Whether you choose to make everyone happy and save everyone, or go the rough road and do whatever it takes to get the job done, Commander Shepard goes farther than anyone ever to defend the galaxy. In the eyes of all around him, Paragon or Renegade, he is the symbol for hope and survival and the pillar for the whole galaxy against the Reapers. Shepard is a hero in all respects because you can choose to make him the virtuous hero or the cold-calculated warrior. Either way, he achieves the status of hero in the galaxy’s eyes.

5: Auron – Final Fantasy X


In my opinion, if you have a drive to keep a promise to protect someone that is so strong that if keeps you from passing onto the next life; If your will to live and serve the greater good is so powerful that death just can’t get his boney decayed fingers around you, then you are a hero in my book.  Well the Final Fantasy bad-ass swordsman Auron fits this description perfectly. Auron was the protector of Yuna’s father many years before the story of Final Fantasy X. After a failed revenge attempt on Lady Yunalesca, Auron is killed.  However, Auron basically said “f*** off death” and kept on living…well kind of.  He kept on kicking due to his will to watch over his best friend’s son and stop Sin once and for all.  So I guess we’ve reached the easiest way to be a hero in this list: just kick death in the teeth and keep fighting evil as a ghost…and carry a big jug of alcohol because it makes your attacks much cooler.

4: Geno – Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars


Or you could do this other easy one: save the land that makes everyone’s dreams come true.  No, I’m not talking about Disney Land; I’m talking about the Star Road.  Geno is the guardian of the Star Road who possesses a doll so that he can help Mario take on some douchebags who are trying to take control of said Star Road, which will cause dreams to never come true.  Dicks, right?  Don’t worry though; Geno isn’t going to stand for this.  He does whatever it takes to fix the Star Road because he believes he has to save people’s dreams.  I know, my hero too.  It may not seem like much to you, but if someone is out there, fighting against giant swords, wizards, monsters, etc., just so my dreams can come true, then he’s a hero, g**-damn it!

3: Sora – Kingdom Hearts series


Most gamers have heard of the Kingdom Hearts series and in turn, most of these gamers have heard of the heroic yet young and naïve protagonist, Sora. I feel that most people would agree with me when they come this far on the list. Sora was just sitting around on his tiny little island that apparently sits in the middle of gummi space, minding his own business, playing swordsman with every other unsupervised child. All of a sudden, the Heartless show up and all hell breaks loose. Now Sora, a witless teenager with the voice of Haley Joel now has to take up the Keyblade and save everybody’s hearts from evil Disney villains. Why? Because he is Jesus (or the chosen one, Keyblade Master, messiah figure, take your pick). Sora goes on a grand adventure full of danger and deception all to save his friends and to stop the Heartless from opening Kingdom Hearts and gaining untold power. He doesn’t even complain. Quite the contrary, he’s ecstatic to be the chosen one. He’s different from the typical whiney, “poor me, I’m useless and not fit to save anyone” hero in that he is perfectly happy to save the day.  He symbolizes what most of us would aspire to be if faced with a crisis, a willing and capable hero who gladly puts it all on the line for others.

2: Gordon Freeman – Half Life series


The One Free Man. Gordan Freeman was just your typical manual labor scientist dude working for a well respected company. He was no one of great importance. But apparently he was “the right man.” When sh** gets real around Black Mesa, Gordon Freeman doesn’t waste any time in becoming one of the most heroic characters in video game history. In the events of Half Life 2, his heroic nature is solidified by his actions, or should I say, your actions. Freeman sees that the world has gone to hell and he soon becomes the pillar for the entire resistance against the evil Combine. Gordon performs feats of heroism that most natural born heroes have to work at. Gordon takes down airships, blows up Striders, storms complexes with just him (sometimes a couple more), and overall, becomes the number one target of the hellish regime that has taken over. Gordon Freeman is just a man with no sort of special training and doesn’t even speak within the games. However, he, like Sora, represents what we want to be: Someone who rises to the occasion, someone who fights and wins when they must, “the right man in the wrong place” that makes all the difference.

1: Link – Legend of Zelda series


Some of you probably saw this coming, some may ask why, and some may disagree altogether. However, in my opinion, it doesn’t get any more heroic than Link. Link is a lot like Sora; just a kid living out his life until suddenly he is called forth for greater things. He also never complains (or says anything really). Link jumps in and takes the enemies down all in the name of justice. However, this is only half of why Link makes number one on this list. Many people on this list can say they fight for justice and truth, and few can say they do it willingly. But few heroes transcend time the way Link does. Each Link in most games is a different little boy than the previous games. However, it is the same hero, whether he be a descendant of the Hero of Time, or a reincarnation. The essence of Link is carried on through each hero and that is what makes him number one. Link is not stopped from saving the day by evil creatures, Ganondorf, or even time itself. Link escapes the shackles of time and lives through the heroes of these games over and over, for as long as the world needs him. Ganondorf may have the easy way out by being immortal, but the Hero of Time spits upon his own lack of that luxury and lives on throughout the ages, showing up just in time to let Ganon know “I’m back, you’re f***ed, and I’ll always be here.”

As you can see, I believe that many different things can make someone a good hero. Whether it be destiny, a want to protect someone or something, or just circumstance and the will to step up. Whatever it is, this list encompasses the best of those qualities. That, ladies and gentlemen, is my list of the most heroic characters in video games. How do you feel about my list? What are some changes you would have made? How and why are they heroes in your book? Also, be sure to check out the Most Evil Video Game Villains if you haven’t already.

About Tyler Lee

Freelance video game journalist, published author, nerd.

2 Responses to “10 Greatest Video Game Heroes”

  1. Tyler Lee is Bias Reply May 8, 2011 at 10:34 PM

    Tyler Lee is bias.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 10 Most Evil Video Game Villains | The Great Gaming Crusade - May 5, 2011

    […] What sort of changes would you make to this list if it was yours? Also, keep an eye out for my Greatest Heroes list that should be out […]

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