Making it into this range in our list means that a character needed to have enough support to beat out the rest. That typically meant at least a top-10 vote from someone, or low-end votes from multiple people. I considered at least a couple of these folks to be contenders for our top 25, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles.
Tomorrow, the list gets pretty intense — we’ll look at #50-26 on our journey to the best male character of all-time.
51) Kazuma Kiryu (Yakuza)
Chris: Kazuma takes the fall for a crime he didn’t commit, then storms out of prison 10 years later being a complete badass throughout the entire Yakuza series. If you’ve ever wanted to piledrive a random thug on the streets of Japan, Kazuma’s your guy.
Shaun: So he’s like the Yakuza version of the Counte of Monte Cristo. I can get behind that.
52) Michael De Santa (Grand Theft Auto V)
Shaun: My selection for the most dynamic and engaging character of GTA V, Michael’s dysfunctional arch is probably the only reason I stuck with the too-long campaign.
Chris: Yep, exactly. I can understand why people love Trevor so much, but I’m not interested. To me, Michael’s semi-redemption story was what kept me slogging through V until I finally beat it.
53) Tassadar (StarCraft)
Chris: This is the part where I have to admit that unlike James, I had never heard of this character before he appeared on the list. I’m sorry, everyone.
Shaun: “Tassadar was a protoss high templar and executor in charge of the expeditionary force which made first contact with the zerg.” That was from his Wiki page. One of our panelists has some explaining to do….
54) Owain (Fire Emblem Awakening)
Shaun: The son of Lissa from Fire Emblem: Awakening, you gotta love a guy with enough bravado on the battlefield to name his attacks after previous games of his series. He’s so meta!
Chris: Look, I love about ¾ of the Awakening cast, and Owain and his dastardly hand are perfectly fine. I’m just not sure he’s the 54th best character of all-time. Please don’t hurt me.
55) Magus (Chrono Trigger)
Chris: A tortured soul who is a mandatory party member (look, Frog, you can settle your score later). His life gets all jacked up, so you can be forgiven for thinking he’s evil. He’s not. He’s just a badass, and if you disagree, Dark Matter on your dome.
Shaun: Other than Frog and maybe Marle, Magus is easily the most interesting and sympathetic character in Chrono Trigger, and the precedent for dozens of gaming anti-heroes to follow.
56) Kirby (Kirby)
Shaun: Weirdly enough, Kirby is everything I want to be in life — fun, kind, and cuddly, but can be a complete badass with a real mean streak when he needs to be. Man…saying I wanted to be like Kirby could have gone so wrong….
Chris: You want to be round and suck up everything around you? I think they have a job title for that and it’s called “obese vacuum.” Kirby’s cool, but I’m not exactly sure what his “character” is. He’s…kind and hungry? That’s about it, right?
57) HK-47 (Knights of the Old Republic)
Chris: After he called me a meatbag, I banished HK-47 from being in my party for the rest of the game. That decision probably cost me in the long run, but I don’t care.
Shaun: I have to feel like the fast-talking, hilarious HK-47 was the inspiration for GLaDOS. That designation should mean something.
58) Ness (Earthbound)
Shaun: For a silent, quirky teenager armed with a baseball bat and a yo-yo, the fact that Ness is humanity’s last stand against the forces of space and time is pretty impressive. In comparison, when I was a teenager, I accidentally drove my bike into a parked truck.
Chris: Somehow, Ness doesn’t go insane from the dystopian madness that surrounds his life. That’s impressive. To me, if I were just a kid minding my own business and a photographer came spinning out of the sky saying fuzzy pickles, I’d freak the f*** out.
59) Sora (Kingdom Hearts)
Chris: Sora is like the Superman to Riku’s Batman. He’s the super-nice protagonist who always wants to do the right thing and help his friends, which is code for “he’s boring.” But his story gets better as the KH universe expands.
Shaun: Except Superman is corruptible and Batman is not…but I get your point. Yes, Sora’s kind of a goody two shoes, but he kicks considerable amounts of ass, and his ability to stay positive despite being inexorably connected to the tragedy of numerous characters is impressive.
60) Zangief (Street Fighter)
Shaun: Google Zangief. Look at him. Then refer back to this list. The fact that THAT guy can hold his own in Street Fighter and make our list means that you can do anything with your life. Zangief just wants you to DREAM!
Chris: I don’t really need to comment much on Zangief or his development from brutish Russian bear into playful comic relief character. Instead, I’ll just post this picture:
61) The Imperial Agent (The Old Republic)
Chris: I mean, this is basically just a playable Han Solo. And there’s nothing wrong with that — fast-talking your way out of danger and romancing every woman in the galaxy isn’t a bad lot in life.
Shaun: Exactly right — the ability to play Han Solo or Dash Rendar in a Star Wars MMO? I’ll take it.
62) Jeff “Joker” Moreau (Mass Effect)
Shaun: My vote for one of the best “comic” relief characters in gaming. It could have gone so wrong, but Seth Green’s Joker consistently delivers. Plus, his playable sequence is ME 2 is possibly my favorite scene in that game.
Chris: Joker manages to be the perfect foil for Commander Shepard on a number of occasions — equal parts supportive and sarcastic when he needs to be. As a reward for his faithfulness throughout the series, he gets EDI. Good trade.
63) Varric Tethras (Dragon Age)
Chris: Having never played a Dragon Age game, I was forced to look up a picture of Varric and go from there. What I saw was Jersey Shore meets medieval times. So…the jury’s still out?
Shaun: I appreciate that he backs up his wit with some legit ass-kicking abilities, and I’ve always had a soft spot for unreliable narrators.
64) Professor Layton (Professor Layton)
Shaun: A gentleman’s gentleman and genius to boot, Layton’s character is what really elevates his puzzle game series.
Chris: You could have created a perfectly solid franchise on the strength of the puzzles alone, but Layton (and the tragic story behind his distinctive top hat) boasts a strong backstory to boot.
65) Captain Olimar (Pikmin)
Chris: Captain Olimar is either the best or the worst astronaut in history. Actually, Bruce Willis in Armageddon is the worst astronaut of all-time. So never mind.
Shaun: Yeah, Chris, it’s really admirable how Olimar, after crash-landing on a foreign planet, enslaves the local population and sends them to their deaths in droves just to find parts to return home. Olimar is a fantastic villain in the Pikmin series.
66) Geralt of Rivia (The Witcher)
Shaun: Despite his numerous portrayal in novels, TV, film, and games, Geralt is arguably one of the most underrated characters on our list.
Chris: A stoic badass with silver hair, which is how you know he’s a pimp. It’s interesting to see his different versions throughout media. He’s also quite good with the ladies.
67) James Raynor (StarCraft)
Chris: He’s the quintessential good guy, but sometimes you need that from one of your protagonists. Besides, it’s not like this farm boy is just a goodie-two-shoes.
Shaun: There’s something kind of special about the Harry Potters of the world who are just good for the sake of being good. You root for the incorruptible. Just look at Batman!
68) Isaac (Golden Sun)
Shaun: It takes guts to realize you’ve inadvertently led a group of adventurers on a quest to destroy the world that you thought you were saving, admit it, and then course correct.
Chris: In a series in which everyone’s parents die but come back to life, and one of his friends seems hell-bent on taking an opposite path, you have to admire Isaac’s resolve. On a related note: Screw the Wise One and the horse he rode in on.
69) Luigi (Mario)
Chris: I think we’re getting to the point where Luigi just needs to accept his role in life. He’s not Mario. He’ll never be Mario. And when the “Year of Luigi” is just putting Luigi in Mario-esque situations, he just looks pathetic. You’re pathetic, Luigi.
Shaun: But you know, it’s that pathetic quality that makes Luigi so endearing. Hopefully soon we’ll actually get a real “Year of Luigi” that will be characterized by the weird eccentricity that makes him great.
70) Apollo Justice (Ace Attorney)
Shaun: While Ace Attorney 4 is the one with his namesake, it’s ironically Ace Attorney 5 that allows him to step out from Phoenix’s shadow and cement himself as courtroom badass. Plus his theme song is among the best of the series.
Chris: My opinion is that 4 is the best game in the series. I know some folks were disappointed that Phoenix wasn’t used more prominently, but the games are called “Ace Attorney” and not “Phoenix Wright,” after all. Apollo was a fantastic addition to the cast.
71) Handsome Jack (Borderlands 2)
Chris: Manipulative and devastatingly attractive, Handsome Jack is one of those characters that you love to hate. And then murder. And then loot.
Shaun: I loved getting my hands on any audio logs or clips featuring Handsome Jack. With dialogue as hilarious as it is delusional and straight-up evil, Jack succeeds as a great villain because he makes you care about kicking his ass.
72) Luneth (Final Fantasy III)
Shaun: Luneth was one of the better FF protagonists, who, unlike Cloud and Squall, was characterized for his bravery and heroism. Unfortunately, he and Cloud also share distractingly effeminate designs, but you can’t win them all.
Chris: FF III is one of the gaps in my Final Fantasy library, so…I like Luneth’s vest? It’s sad how his parents died, but props to Cid for once again saving the day? That’s all I’ve got.
73) Peppy Hare (Starfox)
Chris: YOUR FATHER HELPED ME LIKE THAT TOO. IT’S QUIET — TOO QUIET. TAKE CARE OF THE GUY BEHIND ME, FOX. SORRY, GUYS, I GOTTA SIT THIS ONE OUT.
Shaun: Remember when we drove home from Colorado and dealt with the pain of seeing a rabbit spinning through the air after being pulverized by a car by telling it to do a barrel roll into heaven for the good part of an hour? That story has nothing to do with Peppy being a good character.
74) Thrall (Warcraft 3)
Shaun: Like an Orc Ned Stark, Thrall is proof that you should never judge a book by its cover.
Chris: Thrall has every reason to be an evil character. Parents murdered? Check. Awful upbringing? Check. Horrific death of a childhood friend? Check. Yet he endures to be a kind and judicious leader.
75) Tom Nook (Animal Crossing)
Chris: I haven’t gotten a chance to play an Animal Crossing game yet, but even I know that Tom Nook is the perfect foil for you as you try to build things up. Let’s not go crazy and put him as a playable character in Smash Bros. though.
Shaun: The panelist who voted in Tom Nook referenced his ability to crush children’s dreams by assaulting them with tax information and being an overall jerk. Take that as you will.