Link from the Legend of Zelda Series is, in my mind, the greatest hero in video game history because he is a humble hero that shows great courage in the face of ultimate evil. He is the pure representation of what a hero should be. For the last 28 years, Link has always taken the same journey, often starting with nothing more than just a wooden sword and eventually becoming the champion of legends through a path of deep personal growth and adventure. Link never flees from a challenge as he is the bearer of the Triforce of Courage, which gives him great strength and resolve.
Link will single-handedly embark on epic quests to help those in need, no matter how simple or dangerous the task is. He does all this and receives little more than a “thank you”, again justifying the self-sacrifice of a true hero and showing his pure kind-hearted soul to everyone he meets. On a lighter note, anyone that has to put up with having “hey listen!” shouted every five seconds without going crazy is the ultimate hero. Link truly is the king of video game heroes.
Sharing a spot with Boba Fett as my favorite galactic bounty hunter is Samus Aran. Undeterred by constantly having her powers stripped away when entering a new planet, Samus will run, jump, shoot, blast and roll through any planet to get the job done. Samus checks the box for any characteristic that makes a good hero: she is determined, agile, versatile and fearless, and all this is evident even without her greatest weapon – her suit.
In a suit that puts Iron Man to shame, she becomes armed with an arsenal of weapons including an arm cannon that is interchangeable with a series of energy beams and missiles capable of exterminating the most fearsome of Metroids. Not only is Samus’s suit a testament of brute force, but also incredible finesse, gracefully leaping from platform to platform in any Metroid infested planted. Samus will out maneuver any creature that may be flying about, and as for confined spaces, just roll into a neat ball and zip around the world like that, because her suit can do that too. That being said, one must note that Samus still manages to fight her way through any planet despite the suit being stripped of its power. Thus, proving that you can give a suit all the power in the world, but it will still take a person in the suit to be a hero rather than the suit itself.
Probably the most unlikely hero of all time, Abe is a humble floor waxer that looks like a helpless creature. However, what lies underneath his weak exterior is a resourceful saviour of the people. Late one night at his workplace “Rupture Farms,” he overhears a marketing campaign for a whole new flavour. The disturbing news he uncovers is that the factory intends turn his species, “The Mudokons,” into the next big food product! Shocked at this revelation, he attempts to escape the meat-processing plant whilst saving his species with only limited skills at his disposal.
Abe is such a unique and likable hero, that you can’t help but get behind him and his cause. He goes through quite an adventure escaping the danger-filled meat farm, brave haunted temples, and enduring strange ritual mutilation; all for the fate of his species. His selfless character and helpful instructing skills not only make him a textbook hero, but a loyal leader. Abe ensures his pals have a safe journey by carefully guiding them past obstacles and enemies, and sending them home via a portal. He may not be strong and intimidating, or come equipped with heavy weaponry, but he does possess problem-solving and communication skills, and most importantly, the heart to be the people’s hero.
It says a lot about one of the most memorable faces in gaming when he doesn’t say a single word. All we really know about Mr. Freeman is that he’s a theoretical physicist with glasses and a goatee, but what makes him so revered, ranked amongst the likes of Master Chief, Ryu, and Duke Nukem? He has no personality, no back story, no secrets to uncover, and that is why he reigns above all.
Where he stays silent, we invent the words he would have muttered. When we meet his allies, we create the event of how we met. What Gordon lacks in character, we supplant with our own experiences and project into him. He is not a character so much as he is a vessel for us to become The Free Man, an avatar that is wholly and uncompromisingly me. I am never reminded that I am someone else, I am never uncomfortable with the decisions my avatar makes, and I am never ashamed of who I am in-game. I am Gordon Freeman, and I am a god damn baller.
Silence is golden, and Gordon seems to know that.
I thought about plenty of classic heroes who went questing to save villages, towns or galaxies – a horde of powerful, impressive characters came to mind, each with their accolades and glory. Finally, however, I settled on an unlikely hero: Alice Liddell, most recently from Alice: Madness Returns. When we meet her again in Madness Returns, she is 19, living in a derelict orphanage and destined for very little. Her family all died in a fire, which also destroyed anything she might have inherited, oh, and her sanity too!
After years of hypnotherapy, Dr Bumby believes she is as sane as she’ll ever get. Cue the Wonderland hallucinations again and it’s clear something is seriously not right with Alice; not the hallucination of Wonderland itself, but the fact that it’s being torn apart. It’s here she begins to show her mettle, when in the face of something terrifying she decides to go with her instinct and save Wonderland from Ruin.
Not all that heroic, unless you consider that Alice is fighting fear itself and her identity to break through to the truth, and she has to do it alone, every step of the way. When the story opens up and becomes increasingly darker, she begins to understand the full extent of the horror, and who is the real enemy. It’s not a nice story, but Alice risks an irreversible mental collapse to ensure she eradicates Wonderland’s evil, which gives her the courage to end the doctor’s reign in the real world too. Alice receives no reward and no recognition for her quest; she simply walks away from the train tracks, still littered with bits of the doctor, and accepts her mental turmoil as an acceptable trade for knowing orphaned children are safe from the evil at last.
Having studied journalism, worked in newspapers and having an unhealthy obsession with ABC’s Media Watch, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of my gaming heroes is Beyond Good And Evil’s photojournalist protagonist, Jade. Saving the world with the power of journalism? Yes, please!
While she’s armed with a dai-jo staff and disc-thrower thing, it’s Jade’s camera that proves to be her most devastating weapon. Her home planet of Hillys is under attack by a parasitic alien force called the DomZ, which the planet’s military dictatorship Alpha Sections don’t appear to be having much luck stopping. After an attack by the DomZ on the orphanage, Jade operates with her Uncle Pey’j; she is drawn into plots and conspiracy to uncover the truth behind the seemingly endless war and abduction of citizens. With her camera and links to the resistance group “IRIS Network,” Jade goes about discovering the reason behind the DomZ attacks and the Alpha Sections’ inability to stop them. Needless to say, she has the scoop of a lifetime (which I won’t spoil).
Jade does her share of arse-kicking throughout the game, but her greatest impact in the game world is through her photojournalism. As she exposes injustices and the grand conspiracy, her photos (which you, the player, took) are plastered across the government’s TV channel by IRIS. As a result, the populace slowly begin to learn the truth about DomZ and the abductions to unite as one. Yay Journalism! For me, Jade is a strong, well-written character and perhaps one of the best female protagonists in a video game. Not only that, but it was enjoyable to see a video game narrative resolved by something else than guns and armies.
When it comes to great heroes, I’m willing to wager that Travis won’t even make it into the top 20 of people’s mindsets. The argument isn’t that hard to win as killing people for money and women doesn’t scream “Our hero!”
Travis’ journey is what makes him an amazing hero, and, honestly, I can see a lot of myself in him.
When we’re first introduced to Travis, the idea of him even being “good” is baffling. He lives alone, contributes nothing to society, and has the maturity level that would make most 5-year olds look away with embarrassment. If his antics couldn’t get any worse, he then decides to join an assassin’s league, just to get laid. I swear, I’m getting to my point!
As he spends time rising through the ranks of the league, he begins to see how the league effects everyone’s lives. In the end, we see Travis abandon his selfish goals for the needs of others. The moment he realizes the effects of his actions and the corruption of the league is inspirational. Rising from ‘bystander’ to a ‘hero’ is something I’ve never seen been before.
The constant with most stories is that the hero has “hero qualities.” Maybe a villain who his doubting the path he’s following, or perhaps a hero waiting to rise. We all have that one friend or classmate that’s like Travis, and that’s what I see. That’s what I want to see in my heroes – that even the most unlikely people can make the greatest of heroes.
Cole Macgrath of inFamous fame (infame?) was my favourite super-hero for a long time. Now that there’s a couple of new inFamous faces around my attention is more divided, but I still can’t look past my main man Cole. The dude shoots lightning from his hands, and that’s just the least of his electrical abilities. Cole is not only awesome and powerful, but a true hero (potentially, at least). I mean, he’ll go back in time and ruin the life of his past self just to make sure he’ll be ready to save the world. He’ll sacrifice himself to save humanity. He even forgave Zeke for endangering all of Empire City, and it’s hard enough to like that guy in the first place.
Heroes are all great and all, but you know what else is cool? Villains. Here’s the thing about Cole Macgrath – he’s both. He’s capable and willing to wipe out the entirety of humanity by the end of inFamous 2; not something you can say for a lot of heroes. Cole’s a great hero, a murderous villain, and above all, a man who can control electricity with his body. Who’s greater than that?
Lee Everett is just a regular guy, albeit a regular guy that was being reprimanded of a murder charge on the day we first met him. It’s not clear whether he actually committed a murder, but it doesn’t really matter now as the world has ended, so to speak. In this dark zombie-infested era, everyone was given the fortune of a clean slate, and the opportunity to show what kind of human-being they really are. For better or worse, Lee was a free man again.
People have since grown cautious, selfish, and would do anything to protect their own interests, even murder. The ironic thing in all of this chaos is that an accused murderer is the very person who spends his life trying to keep people united. It all changed for Lee when he met Clementine, an 8-year old girl who had lost her parents. He could have left her behind or passed the responsibility on to someone else, but he didn’t. He believed in a better future, he believed in her, and until his dying breath, Lee was willing to do everything he possibly could to protect this innocent little girl.
Maybe he was still a bit selfish just like everyone else, how couldn’t you be after all? However, the one thing he never did was give up hope, and that’s a quality of a true hero. Lee didn’t go out guns blazing, he knew his time was over from the moment he was bitten. Instead of giving up though, he did everything he could to Clementine as far away from danger as he possibly could. Lee’s life ended while protecting someone he loved. He was a hell of a guy. A hero.
Hey there again, kids, Handsome Jack is back, and he’s still the greatest, even when it comes to being a hero. Oh, he’s still absolutely a villain, but there’s no one greater at convincing people of things that aren’t true. He’s the hero of Opportunity, the true settler of that lawless hellhole, Pandora. He’s not just some guy who charges into a shitstorm of bandits, guns blazing and spittin’ vinegar, risking his life to save the day. When the dust settles and the bodies hit the floor, he’s also the guy who cleans things up. He’s not just trying to destroy all criminals (though he will, with extreme prejudice and no humanity), he’s trying to create a better world! For him, for me, and for you too (though mostly him.)
You see, a true hero isn’t some muscle-bound, law-flouting, psychic-power wielding freak that walks into town, murders everyone in sight, then leaves with as much cash as they can. No, a true hero takes out the trash and then takes out the trash, if you get what I mean. I mean he systematically murders anyone who stands in the way of his perfect world. I mean, sure, that might seem wrong but isn’t “wrong” just another way of saying “not my kind of ‘right’?” It’s not like those vault hunters were any better; in fact, they’re worse! Are they building cities on the rubble of their conquests? Is the blood of their enemies feeding the soil of the future? No! But Jack is – because Jack cares.
(Disclaimer: All firstborns are forfeit on entry to Opportunity. In Opportunity, laughing, dancing, singing, crying, and free thinking are all prohibited. All citizens must accept Jack as their effective Deity as a condition of entry, all who refuse can and will be flensed.)