In games, the need for speed is a strong one. The utter thrill of high velocity is something so simple, yet so primal, that it’s been a part of gaming since there were games to play.
First we had Pong, where the little white ball zipping across your blinding CRT screen would eventually get faster than your hands could track. Then there was Pac Man, where he would alternate from fleeing from or racing toward homicidal ghosts depending on what he ate for breakfast. Following in such great footsteps came Excitebike and Cruisin’ USA, Mario Kart and Need for Speed, Wave Race and Gran Turismo.
I seem to have fallen into racing games, but there are many fast video game characters as well. From Sonic to Samus, these 15 speedy souls sprint into the history books as the fastest game characters to shine on screen. Without further adieu, I present the 15 fastest game characters ever.
Actually a little bit more adieu - there are quite a few characters that are super fast, and are featured in games, but aren’t primarily known as videogame characters. I’m talking about The Flash from Justice League, Goku from Dragon Ball, Hermes from God of War, or even The Roadrunner in his various Atari and Sega games. For the purposes of this list, we’ll stick to personalities and people that were first featured in video games.
15 Sonic the Hedgehog
What list of fast characters would be complete without the original “gotta go fast” cartoon hedgehog? For decades this irreverent rodent has been gracing our screens and spin-attacking into our hearts.
While it’s clear that Sonic loves to go fast, pinning down his top speed can be a little tricky. The original games (Sonic 1, 2, and 3) reported his speed in excess of 767 miles per hour (that’s 1,234.37 kph for the rest of the world, also coincidentally the speed of sound). If we go to Sonic Unleaded, the checkpoints would report his speed to be over 2,500 miles per hour. The Sonic Adventure DX manual lists his top speed at 3,840 miles per hour. And then we have Sonic Heroes, where the big baddy robot E-123 Omega calculated his speed to be 'possibly in excess of the speed of light.' We’re only a game or two away from Sonic being able to run through time, or possibly dimensions.
Estimated Top Speed: exponentially increasing as we speak.
The most recent speedster to pop-up, Lena “Tracer” Oxton is known in Overwatch to be a deadly harasser, able to appear and disappear at will to harass a team’s backline healers with impunity.
Tracer’s speediness can be traced (hah!) back to her time as a test pilot, where she was the only pilot brave enough to handle the Slipstream, an experimental teleporting fighter jet. The prototype failed when the teleporting matrix malfunctioned, causing both her and the Slipstream to disappear. She’d reappear months later, but with a bizarre condition called “chronal disassociation,” with the very molecules of her being desynchronized from the normal flow of time. It wasn’t until everyone’s favourite gorilla-turned scientist Winston gave her the chronal accelerator did she gain the ability to hop through time at will, allowing her to essentially teleport.
Fun Fact: if you also had time traveling abilities, you could’ve played Tracer before her starring role in Overwatch. She was available in Blizzard’s MOBA, Heroes of the Storm, before Overwatch was ever released.
Estimated Top Speed: not a number.
13 Player Character in Saints Row 4
Calling anything in the Saints Row series bizarre seems completely unnecessary for a game that allows you to beat your opponents to death with a giant bat shaped like something a woman uses as a 'marital aid'. With that said, the fourth entry in the series did get a little crazy.
In Saints Row IV, the player is trapped in an alien simulation, very similar to, however not at all like The Matrix (for copyright reasons). Inside, the players gets some very Matrix-like abilities, like being able to leap over tall buildings, set your opponents on fire with Street Fighter-esque fireballs, and one ability called Super Sprint, which essentially allows you to run like Flash throughout the city/simulation.
The game officially states you can run “faster than cars,” but given you can actually run from one end of the city to the other in about 30 seconds, that’s roughly 1,800 kph (or 1118 mph for you Yanks).
Estimated Top Speed: 1,800 kilometers per hour. Get metric!
Ahh, Samus, everyone’s favourite blonde haired, blue eyed bounty hunter. Given her ability to kick butt and take names the galaxy over, it should come as no surprise to any of you that she can do it all fast enough to be home in time for dinner.
While not actually known for being a super speedster (especially given her portrayal as a slow-moving tank in Smash Bros.) Samus’ suit does allow her to move at super speed. How fast you ask? According to the manuals of Metroid Fusion and Metroid Zero Mission, once equipped with the Speed Booster she can move at “supersonic speeds.” Since “supersonic” can mean different things at different altitudes, we’ll nail down the equivocation and say she moves at mach 1.2, or 920 mph (that’s 1,480 kph).
Estimated Top Speed: Mach 1.2, maybe
11 Captain Falcon
The F-Zero franchise has always been about speed and as the de-facto mascot for the series, Captain Falcon has always had the reputation of a true speed demon.
That said, Captain Falcon’s just a man and his speed is tied to whatever seat he plants himself in. Lucky for him, he’s got a few fast ones to choose from. His signature vehicle, The Blue Falcon, moves at a not-so-blazing speed of 457 kph (that’s 284 mph), a velocity that even non-fictional cars can come close to (the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport, the world's fastest road legal production car, has a top speed of 431 kph). With the speed boost he can get up to 573 kph, which is a little better, but for real speed he has to strap into the Falcon Flyer, his spaceship. Because you can’t be a racecar driver/intergalactic vigilante without a spaceship.
Estimated Top Speed: whatever he’s sitting in at the time.
10 Cole MacGrath
The pioneering protagonist from the Infamous franchise, Cole McGrath was a parkour practicing, bike messenger, until one day he delivers a package that explodes, destroying half the city and bestowing him with mysterious electrokinetic powers. As you play the game and discover your abilities, you eventually learn you have the power to ride railroad tracks like an electric skateboard.
Cole never really goes any faster than a subway train though, so estimating his speed is rather simple. Since Empire City is loosely based on New York, we know Cole can reach a top speed of roughly 89 kph (or 55 mph), which is the top speed of a New York Subway train. But hey; he does that on just his feet, with sparks flying everywhere. That’s way cooler than parkour.
Estimated Top Speed: never quite fast enough to catch a train.
9 Player Character in Warframe
In Warframe, the player assumes the role of the Tenno, the descendents of an ancient quasi-mystical race that - you know what, forget the explanation - you’re a freakin’ robot ninja, alright? And along with being a freakin’ robot ninja, you get awesome physical abilities. It’s certainly satisfying to slice and dice your way through hordes of enemy soldiers, but what is perhaps most satisfying is the ease by which you traverse the battlefield.
Getting from one end of the map is trivial for a Tenno. You can walk. You can run. You can bounce from cliff to cliff in a terrifying impression of a spider monkey. Fastest of all is a bizarre dashing barrel roll that allows you to traverse football fields in a single bound. Veteran Warframe players know it’s the only way to fly.
And then your robot ninja gets space wings, ‘cause, y’know, robot ninjas in space.
Estimated Top Speed: speed is a relative concept to the Tenno.
8 Half-Life Headcrabs
You’re trapped. It’s a dark, disgusting alley. Surrounding you is the stench of garbage and rotting corpses. You’re only defense is a crowbar and half a pack of gum. Then, behind you and without warning, you hear the terrible screech of Half-Life’s most fearsome foe: the Headcrab.
Although not particularly fast when they’re just walking around, these little buggers can jump. Or more accurately, leap. When they do, they latch onto their victim’s head and devour it, replacing it with their own disgusting crab-like body. The corpse is then reanimated by the crab into a zombie, who only exists to help the headcrab find another victim to devour.
Worse still is the Fast Headcrab subspecies, who can not only leap across a room but the zombies they create can easily outrun a gazelle.
Estimated Top Speed: 97 kph for a Fast Headcrab (60 mph) to chase down and eat a gazelle
7 Sam Gideon
In Vanquish, you play as Sam Gideon, a DARPA soldier armed with the experimental Augmented Reaction Suit. The suit not only greatly increases the soldier’s reaction time (represented by “bullet time” in the game), but also allows the soldier to get precisely where he needs to be as fast as humanly possible - something that’s particularly useful in combat.
To say the gameplay in Vanquish is over the top is a bit of an understatement. For those of you who haven’t played Vanquish, your character has similar moves to most other third person, cover-based action games, except with jet engines strapped to literally every inch of your body. When you duck into cover, you don’t just nimbly tumble forward, you knee-slide in the with the fury of a thousand fighter jets.
With his ludicrous augmentation suit, Sam can easily run the 100 meter dash in just over a second, except it’d be more like a 100 meter power-slide.
Estimated Top Speed: 360 kph (or 224 mph) straight into a waist-high wall
6 Faith Connors
Parkour is the art of getting the human body from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. In Mirror’s Edge, you play Faith Connors, a Runner (basically an illegal courrier) that expresses her punk rock, down-with-the-man attitude by going wherever she damn well pleases through the mastery of parkour. The game plays out as a series of leaps and bounds over a gorgeous concrete and glass covered cityscape.
The objective of parkour is to get up to speed and to never stop, no matter what. A human’s top speed is around 44 kph and Faith can go at least that fast. Sometimes briefly faster when she reaches terminal velocity following some pretty harrowing leaps.
Fun Fact: watching speedrunners play this game with the sound off can be oddly meditative.
Estimated Top Speed: 44 kph in any direction, forever.
5 The Scout
Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, The Scout is a sassy, in-your-face kinda guy. Because of this, he’s learned how to run, since the normal reaction to his presence is an intense need to murder him. On the battlefields of Team Fortress 2 he uses this ability to be an aggressive fighter that specialises in hit-and-run tactics. Basically he runs around with a bat real fast and taunts people.
How fast? According to the game’s wiki, the Scout can run at 133%, which is a whole third faster than anybody else. Since we know the fastest running speed of a human is 44 kph, that’s a top speed of 58.7 kph. But wait - there’s more! With a fully boosted Baby Face’s Blaster, that number jumps to 173%, giving our smart-mouthed Bostonian a top speed of 76.12 kph.
Estimated Top Speed: 76.12 kph with the right armaments and attitude
Most of us know Mario as a master jumper, able to easily leap atop a helpless goomba to squash the ever living snot out of it. Mario as the speedster is somewhat of a recent innovation, and he owes it all to Super Mario Galaxy.
Much like Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy is an action platformer, however, there’s a twist. Instead of leaping into portals masquerading as paintings, the plucky plumber leaps from planet to solar system to completely different galaxies. Considering the nearest galaxy (the Andromeda galaxy) is 2.5 million light years away, the fact that Mario can jump that far in seconds makes him easily the fastest character in this list. And also the most physics defying.
Estimated Top Speed: 8 × 1,021 meters per second, or about 13 trillion times the speed of light
3 The Goat
Alright, hear me out. Yes, normally, the goat is just a goat. The fastest recorded speed of a goat is around 17 kph, which actually makes them slower than people. But Goat Simulator isn’t just a game where you play as a goat. It’s a game where you play as a goat jumping off of tall buildings, or getting hit by speeding cars, or just bouncing on a trampoline higher and higher until you’re the world’s first goat satellite.
With this in mind, our estimated top speed will have to take into account the various methods by which the goat will actually propel himself. Normal highway speeds are usually around 120 kph, so when struck by a car, we know the initial impact will impart a velocity of at least that much, given a goat’s negligible mass when compared to a car. Falling from orbit will eventually result in terminal velocity, which, according to Google, has never been recorded for a goat. For a person though, it’s around 195 km/h or 122 mph, so we’ll just make things easy and assume that’s how fast our goat will fall.
Estimated Top Speed: 195 kph when from great heights
2 Crazy Taxi
If Mirror’s Edge is like parkour with people, then Crazy Taxi is like parkour with cars. Your objective is to take your passenger from point A to point B as fast and efficiently as possible. If people get in the way, that’s their problem. Speed limits, stop signs, even pedestrians are all ignored in your mad dash to get the most green from your customer.
Unlike most driving games, Crazy Taxi doesn’t actually give you a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going. But it does give you a stopwatch and with a little dead reckoning, you can work out how fast you’re going. Your taxi seems to be able to speed through a beach boardwalk a kilometer long in about five seconds, so this means you’re going 720 kph (447 mph). That’s just shy of the speed of sound.
Estimated Top Speed: 720 kph so long as you don’t drive into a building
1 Every Quest Giving NPC That Tells You to Meet Them in Another Town. Ever.
This has happened so many times that I can’t even think of a specific example to showcase it, but it’s always the same story. You’re in town X, where you meet NPC Y, who tells you to meet him/her in town Z to continue whatever quest you’re on. Of course, by this point in the game, you’ve unlocked the flying mount, or the super futuristic airship, or whatever, so you can essentially get to town Z in minutes. And when you do, that NPC is always waiting for you, ready to continue your quest.
But that flying mount/super futuristic airship/whatever is special! It’s unique! Nobody else in the world has one! SO HOW DID THAT NPC GET TO THE NEXT TOWN BEFORE YOU?!
We may never know.
Estimated Top Speed: always faster than you