Gaming has come a long way in terms of storytelling. Deep and complex stories have been created within these vast simulated universes. However, the best stories are the ones with the best characters. When we’re experiencing a story, we tend to care about the ones that affect the characters we love, especially the main protagonist. Video games are also one of the best platforms for this since we’re actually stepping into the shoes of the protagonist, instead of just simply watching them on a screen. Due to this, we develop an emotional connection.
The characters on this list are here for a number of reasons. Some are just straight-up likable protagonists that are almost impossible to hate. Others are just so well-developed and their journeys are some of the best the medium has to offer. Here are the top 10 best video game protagonists.
10 Lara Croft (Tomb Raider Reboot Series)
Lara Croft has been around since the 90s, which has made her an icon of the industry. Within that time, the Tomb Raider series has received multiple iterations. The most recent reboot of the series offers the best exploration of Lara. This gritty mature version of Lara is far from the quippy invincible one in the 90s.
Here, she is a fierce warrior who will do anything to survive. She’s shown to be capable of savage violence, yet she maintains her morals throughout. Voice actor Camilla Luddington adds so much emotion and depth to Lara. Her determination to carry on her father’s legacy is a nice motivation to justify why she puts herself in these dire situations.
9 Trevor Philips (Grand Theft Auto V)
Trevor is perhaps the best protagonist for the Grand Theft Auto series. He perfectly exemplifies the satirical nature of Grand Theft Auto V's fictional city of Los Santos. One thing that Rockstar has been criticized for is how the characters in GTA don’t always line up with the actions of the player.
Therefore, Trevor is the best type of character for a game like this. When you’re fooling around and causing havoc in the game, it doesn’t feel out of place with Trevor. Also, despite being a complete lunatic, Trevor is actually a very intelligent guy. He fully understands the world around hi and he’s a product of Los Santos itself.
8 Max Payne (Max Payne Series)
Max Payne is a tortured soul who just wants to avenge the death of his family. Even after Max gets his revenge, he’s a complete mess. What players love about Max Payne is his brutal honesty about himself and others. Max isn’t someone who has to lie to himself, and by the extension, the player. We as players can’t help but look away as he descends further into depression, but we know something will snap him out of it. It also helps that he’s a total badass with that bullet-time mechanic. Max Payne 3 is definitely the best iteration of his character, even if his look towards the last act of the game is quite humorous.
7 Ezio Auditore (Assassin’s Creed Series)
Assassin’s Creed 2 really set the bar for the series that it would eventually become. Much of that can be attributed to its main protagonist, Ezio Auditore. Ezio's suave and charismatic personality was a welcome addition since Altair was actually kind of wooden and boring.
Ezio was a man who only cared about fighting and getting women. It isn’t until his family is executed that he discovers his true purpose. Over the course of AC 2, Brotherhood, and Revelations, Ezio becomes the savior that the Brotherhood needed. We just love his determination to every obstacle put in front of him, which shows he came a long from the young naive adolescent we first met.
6 Geralt Of Rivia (The Witcher Series)
While Geralt technically plays based on the player's choices, any decision made always feels appropriate to his character. His dry personality and no-nonsense demeanor may seem like a boring trait, but thanks to voice actor Doug Cockle’s performance, it’s anything but.
On the surface, Geralt is just a man who’s looking to slay monsters and earn some coin. Underneath that all, though, is a man who genuinely cares about doing the right thing. His adoptive father relationship to Ciri is the driving force of The Witcher 3, which leads to some truly heartfelt moments from this stone-faced warrior.
5 Nathan Drake (Uncharted Series)
Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series is the modern-day Indiana Jones. We get to experience these epic journeys across the world in search of ancient treasure. To back up the adventurous spirit of the series is Nathan. Nathan is just the ultimate cool guy who saves the day and looks awesome while doing it.
His witty banter and nonchalant attitude towards these ridiculous situations make him just so entertaining to play as. That’s not to say he isn’t fleshed out. By the time we get to Uncharted 4, we get a more mature and self-aware Nathan. He realizes he needs to grow up, even though he just can’t escape the treasure hunting life.
4 John Marston (Red Dead Redemption)
Like many characters on this list, John Marston is another one that just can’t seem to escape his past. As a former member of the Van Der Linde gang, John is forced by the federal government to hunt down the remaining members. If he doesn’t, then he can never see his family again. Voice actor Rob Wiethoff brings so much nuance to this character. John has his demons, yet he is determined to finish the job and get home to his family. His motivations are also expanded upon in the prequel, Red Dead Redemption 2. He truly wanted to live a nice rancher’s life with his family. Once an outlaw, though, always an outlaw.
3 Kratos (God Of War Series)
If it wasn’t for God of War (2018), Kratos may not have been on this list. In the original trilogy, Kratos is portrayed as just this macho hyper-violent warrior out for revenge. That’s not a complaint, as we all need that cathartic adrenaline rush from time to time.
Thanks to the new reboot/sequel, however, we got to see another side to Kratos. Kratos is a man tortured by his violent past. Now that he’s a father, he makes it his goal to not let Atreus become the man he used to be. It offers a nice dichotomy to Kratos’s own father, Zues. Kratos strives to be the father that Zues never was.
2 Joel (The Last Of Us)
Joel is another character from Naughty Dog, but the complete opposite of Nathan Drake. The Last of Us is a dark, morbid tale of survival and loss. Twenty years after the death of the daughter and a literal zombie apocalypse, Joel is a shell of his former self. It is implied that he’s done some questionable actions to survive this long, but obvious circumstances have caused this. It isn’t until he has Ellie in his care where he starts having something to fight for. His father-daughter relationship with Ellie is what makes Last Of Us one of the greatest stories ever told. In the end, Joel makes one of the most morally ambiguous decisions in gaming history. Yet, it lines up with everything we know about his character. We shouldn’t be surprised.
1 Arthur Morgan (Red Dead Redemption 2)
When he was first shown in the Red Dead Redemption 2 trailer, many were hesitant and wondered if Arthur Morgan could live up to John Marston. After finishing the game, Arthur ended up being one of the best, if not the greatest, protagonists of all time. Arthur is an outsider who has accepted who he is. He’s lived a life of crime and hurt many in the process. Instead of regretting it, he goes out and tries to do the right thing. He doesn’t seek forgiveness. After spending hours with Arthur, players truly wanted to go through with his redemption. There may never be another character quite like Arthur Morgan. Hats off to Rockstar for letting us experience his journey.