Playing video games is a means of escapist entertainment for many people. They allow you to take control of someone else’s life and play as a legendary hero, a stealthy assassin, an adventurer, a grizzled warrior, a private detective, a spell-casting wizard or pretty much anything you can imagine. Games often put you in the role of the protagonist (silent or not, nameless or not) who is frequently charged with saving the world from certain doom by defeating the forces of evil and is supposed to be “the good guy.” Of course, you also have more realistic, gritty games where the protagonist is a jaded, hollow shell of a human being with questionable morals and motives.
And then there are main characters who are presented as virtuous people with noble intentions and they get the sympathetic point of view, but then proceed to rack up an extremely high body count. The reasons are many: rebellion against injustice, saving the world, self-defense, revenge, greed, boredom or even a simple “it’s what I do.” But whatever the case, there’s no denying that it’s not rare for a game’s good-hearted protagonist out to save his loved ones from evil to be covered in blood from head to toe by the story’s end.
Here are 15 video game protagonists who, at this point, have killed quite a lot of people – because who says being a hero means you can’t bathe in the blood of your enemies? Please be warned there will be major spoilers ahead for each of these games.
15. Kratos (God Of War)
The blade-swinging protagonist from the God of War series started out being a bloodthirsty but still sympathetic character working as a pawn of the Gods of Olympus to try to redeem himself for the accidental murder of his own family. All that is gone by the next two games. When you break it down, all of Kratos’ misery is his own doing, not only for killing his family, but for refusing to stop after he got his revenge on Ares and became the new God of War.
His inability to stop murdering things for five minutes necessitated Zeus betraying him in God of War II and, in God of War III, Kratos continued his bloody crusade even when killing Helios and Poseidon had devastating effects on the world. By III, Kratos’ “quest for redemption” motive seems entirely forgotten in favor of his endless thirst for murder.
14. James Earl Cash (Manhunt)
A former death row inmate of Darkwood Penitentiary, James Earl Cash was freed from execution and let loose on Carcer City in order to participate in a snuff film directed by the mysterious Lionel Starkweather, the antagonist of the first Manhunt. It would seem Starkweather chose well, since Cash proceeds to pretty much brutally execute every other NPC in the game.
Unlike Daniel Lamb in Manhunt 2, Cash never expresses hesitation or remorse for the dozens and dozens of henchmen he brutally murders. Granted, most of the enemies you dispatch in the Manhunt series are the absolute worst scum of the earth, but butchering the Hunters with bats, crowbars, chainsaws, guns, plastic bags and pretty much anything he can get his hands on never seems to bother Cash or have any psychological toll at all. Makes you wonder what he was doing before his incarceration.
13. Jason Brody (Far Cry 3)
In Far Cry 3 we see protagonist Jason Brody go through an epic quest to save his kidnapped friends from slaver pirates. We also get to see his character arc as he evolves from a spoiled white rich kid into a hardened Rambo-esque warrior who injects tons of drugs and gets a thrill from killing loads of people.
Despite being one of the very few main characters in video games that at least acknowledges there’s something kind of bizarre about running around an island slaughtering people, skinning animals, and setting random things on fire with a flamethrower for fun, it’s obvious Jason’s sanity is slowly fraying throughout the main storyline, especially at the end where he considers murdering the very friends he was trying to save (including his girlfriend) in order to “embrace the path of the warrior” or some such jazz.
12. Mario (Super Mario Bros.)
Who would’ve thought our beloved Italian plumber everyman protagonist would be one of the biggest killers in video gaming history? I know, it’s difficult to believe that the G-rated Super Mario Bros. franchise is violent, but just think about all the times you crushed a Koopa or Goomba to death. Indeed, the adventures of Mario and Luigi are filled with enemies, but very few actually try to kill you; most just sort of walk around.
Of course, Mario has his share of violent enemies too, from the Hammer Bros. to the Piranha Plants, but we’re willing to bet with the countless amount of creatures Mario and Luigi have crushed with their insane jumping abilities over the course of dozens of games, our digital heroes are shoe-ins for the list of most murderous video game protagonists.
11. Darth Revan (Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic)
The once-canonical protagonist from Knights of the Old Republic can be aligned with either the light or the dark side depending on the choices of the player regarding what to do with the Star Forge, but what’s determined is Revan’s violent past as a Sith Lord. Revan might have turned over a new leaf after being subjected to memory modification by the Jedi Council on Dantooine, but that doesn’t mean the player is any less a threat to the galaxy (you can still become the new Dark Lord of the Sith) and the whole twist is that you were the bad guy all along.
Before he was brainwashed, Darth Revan conquered many worlds and founded his own Sith Empire on an endless quest for power. It’s unknown how many deaths Revan has to his name, but chances are its quite a lot.
10. Agent 47 (Hitman)
The titular hitman from the Hitman series has been killing people in creatively violent and stealthy ways for our entertainment for years. 47 belongs on any list of the most blood-soaked video game protagonists, if only because he literally kills people for living. A genetically-engineered super assassin created from the DNA of the world’s most dangerous criminals, by the time of Hitman: Blood Money 47 has a reputation for being the best at what he does.
Violence doesn’t seem to bother 47, even if he is the attacker. The various ways you can assassinate targets range from stealth to outright GTA-style indiscriminate ultra-violence. But whatever happens, 47 is always calm, no-nonsense and professional. 47 himself knows and despises the fact that he’s good at being a killer.
9. Booker Dewitt (BioShock: Infinite)
The rugged hero of BioShock: Infinite may be one of the most popular video game characters of all time, but he’s also morally grey to say the least. Being of partial Native American descent didn’t stop him from scalping and burning a bunch of people alive at Wounded Knee, not to mention the fact that his time as a private investigator was spent breaking labor strikes with violence. Dewitt also sold his daughter, Anna, in order to wipe away his drinking and gambling debts.
At the start of the game, his sole purpose in his mission to Columbia is to kidnap a young girl and bring her back to New York to erase those same debts. Throughout Infinite, he has no problem lying to Elizabeth and murdering, and, at the end, he realizes he was the villain all along. Cheery stuff!
8. Joel (The Last Of Us)
Any protagonist of a post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland adventure is bound to have pretty loose morals, but Joel from The Last of Us takes it to a whole new level. Appearing at first as another sympathetic and gruff hero just trying to survive, fans have tried to justify Joel’s actions for years out of attachment to the character, but you simply can’t. Before the end of the game, Joel has tortured people, alienated his own brother, and slaughtered a base of people to stop Ellie’s death even though a cure for the Cordyceps Brain Infection might result.
Joel’s motives are entirely selfish and knowingly destroying the last hope for humanity to save his pseudo-daughter means he is directly responsible for all the deaths the continuing apocalypse causes because of the cure he stopped.
7. Max Payne (Max Payne Series)
Throughout all three games, it’s hard to keep count of how many people Max Payne has killed. Even if you only include named characters, it’s quite an impressive number. There are roughly 658 enemies to kill in the first Max Payne game alone and Max mainly solves his problems by shooting a lot of people. After all, it wouldn’t be Max Payne if you just killed three or four guys.
Max’s resume also includes eradicating death squads and entire police departments, breaking a corrupt politician’s legs so that he can never walk normally again (to be fair he deserved it), and, of course ,the relentless killing sprees against villains and criminals that he’s known for.
6. Alex Mercer (Prototype)
As the result of his terrible childhood and the trauma of his human death from the Blacklight virus, Alex Mercer is a borderline sociopathic individual. He doesn’t make many moral choices in Prototype other than the method by which he murders everyone in sight with his shape-shifting powers. At any point you can go on rampages in the city, which resembles a Grand Theft Auto game with cheats and mods turned on. Also, he can eat people.
Alex is so bloodthirsty that he even returns as the main antagonist of Prototype 2. His plans to unleash a new outbreak of the virus in order to exterminate humanity and usher in a new race certainly add to his body count and that’s assuming you didn’t slice everyone up with your ridiculously overpowered tentacle attacks.
5. Master Chief (Halo)
Master Chief’s death toll is likely in the hundreds of thousands from the events of the first Halo game alone, much less the galaxy-shattering things that have happened since. Between shooting endless waves of aliens as well as blowing up fleets, Halo rings and arks, whole cities and killing all of the Flood, there’s no doubt the Halo protagonist’s kill count is in the billions.
Across different formats such as books and graphic novels, Master Chief has become as iconic as Mario, Sonic or Lara Croft. But out of all these, he’s the probably the one with the largest number of notches in his kill count. In fact, he’s killed enough that the Covenant prophets call him “demon.” You don’t earn that title for nothing.
4. Nathan Drake (Uncharted)
Interesting one-liners aside, serious concerns have been raised before about the health of the Uncharted protagonist’s mindset. Mr. Drake gets criticism for destroying archaeological history and plundering artifacts on his treasure-hunting adventures, but what often goes unmentioned is that by now he’s basically slaughtered thousands. In every game he battles his way through countless enemies, usually with deadly force.
Drake is meant to be written as a good guy anti-hero, but if he were to exist in real life he’d be labeled a greedy psychotic killer with a dry sense of humor. Drake invariably kills hundreds of people on his adventures spanning across continents. Perhaps the higher moral standards we expect of him shows just how much we connect with his every man character. Or maybe we all just secretly want to kill for treasure, too.
3. Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)
By now we’ve established that it can be difficult keeping a video game protagonist likable and relatable while at the same time watching them murder loads of people. Tomb Raider‘s Lara Croft is a prime example of how to successfully navigate that tension. There’s no doubt about it: Ms. Croft is one of the most beloved video game characters of all time, and her popularity is seemingly unaffected by her running around killing henchmen left and right.
2013’s reboot, fittingly titled Tomb Raider, showed her in her younger and more idealistic years, but in the sequel Rise of the Tomb Raider, she is shown stealth killing, wielding a shotgun, and killing multiple enemies at once with a bow. But hey, when players get a gun they want to use it, right?
2. Frank Castle (The Punisher)
Marvel’s most violent anti-hero remains a fan favorite despite his tendency to use torture and summary executions against those who he feels deserve it, and his video game for the PS2 perfectly illustrates this. The Punisher featured the option to quick kill and interrogate almost every NPC in the game, and when it came to the uber-violent special kills for important antagonists, the player could decide whether to go ahead and brutally snuff them out even after they spilled the beans.
The executions in the game were so extreme that the ESRB threatened to give The Punisher an Adults Only (AO) rating in the United States based on violence alone, before the developers decided to censor the executions scenes with stylized black-and-white filters. Frank Castle’s name is synonymous with brutal vigilante violence, so it’s no wonder he belongs on this list.
1. The Prince (Katamari Damacy)
Well, here we are – the apex. What could be at the top? Maybe an action-adventure shooter? No, rounding out this list of murderous protagonists is the Prince of the Cosmos from Katamari Damacy, the charmingly addictive game where you roll a sticky ball to pick up increasingly large objects. At first glance, it seems like harmless fun. Until you realize that the Prince is doing this to rebuild planets and stars that were destroyed by his father, the King of All Cosmos.
In the finale of the game, the katamari of rolled-up material, including millions of human beings and entire landmasses and continents, becomes a star. In other words, you’re ejecting millions of living beings into space. It’s one thing when your protagonist shoots a lot of bad guys; it’s quite another when they cause the end of the freakin’ world.
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