“Question 1: A frenzied vault scientist runs up to you and yells, ‘I’m gonna put my quantum harmonizer in your photonic resonation chamber.’ What’s your response?”
We’re now into the meat and potatoes as the top 25 begins. Tomorrow, our list continues the countdown to the #1 male video game character of all-time on Aug. 31.
25) The Lone Wanderer (Fallout 3) – 1 vote/100 points
Chris: One of the moments I’ll always remember from Fallout 3 is when you take your first step outside Vault 101. As you enter post-apocalyptic America for the first time, the light from the sun engulfs you and all you can see is a blinding light. Afterwards, you set out in a direction into the ravaged wilderness, not really sure which direction you’re supposed to go. All you know is that you’re supposed to find your father, but the road you take to get there is entirely up to you.
Fallout 3 wasn’t the first open-world game I’d ever played, but its experience was still one of my favorites. A lot of that has to do with The Lone Wanderer. Like other characters on our list, your version of the protagonist might be vastly different than mine was, but that’s part of the fun.
I traveled through the wasteland as a stealthy, persuasive hoarder who loved disintegrating enemies with laser weapons and befriended a Super Mutant to make the best partnership ever. I once accidentally murdered an important NPC and felt so bad about it that I left her corpse in front of my house as a reminder. I chose the path of good, helping everyone I could. Eventually, I found my father and then sacrificed myself for no reason — why should I hit a switch and get flooded by radiation when Fawkes could do it and not be affected at all?
Anyway, Fallout 3 essentially gives you an open sidewalk and lots of chalk with which to draw on it. And the formula worked really well.
Shaun: As my Lone Wanderer wandered, as he liked to do, through the Apocalyptic Wasteland, he came across a small, idyllic little town. Unlike the rest of the world’s populace, which was vicious, uncivilized, and unbearably rude, this little town was quiet, quaint, and friendly — in other words, the perfect target for my Robin Hood-esque character, who fought for the good of the world for a small tithe that he satisfied by stealing anything and everything in this world that wasn’t bolted down. And sometimes even when it was.
After enjoying some pleasantries with the local folks, I slipped into the backroom of a rustic home and immediately began filling my bag with toys and trinkets. Hearing the family in the next room, I decided to sneak down into the basement to continue my klepto-spree. As I turned on the light, I saw shelves with tools, a bare mattress….and a counter covered in blood and bone.
“Weird,” I thought, then continued searching the basement. The family must be hunters or something. Hungry, I went to the fridge, thinking there was probably some meat stored in it. And I was right! The only problem the small descriptor text classified this as “human meat.” Suddenly, my Lone Wanderer began to realize this would not, in fact, make the perfect summer home.
As I went upstairs, I was given a choice by the residents of this community – make like a Gollum and leave now and never come back, or die and be eaten. Sure, I was a thief — but more importantly, I was also a champion of justice, and would not sit by and let this atrocity continue. My Lone Wanderer proceeded to demonstrate a third option to the locals, and killed each and every cannibal within the town.
Why did I share this overly long story with you? Because I wanted to showcase why the Lone Wanderer is such a great character. Unlike a lot of games, the sheer amount of choices and options available to you to define your protagonist allow him to feel like a true extension of your vision for the character.
100 different Fallout players could have 100 different version of the LW, but each one feels real and possesses some sort of unique quality or layer of complexity. For offering the players an incredible template for which to craft a character all of their own, the Lone Wanderer makes our cut as the 25th best character of all time,
Joseph: As with most of my created characters, Tron was my avatar for navigating the wasteland of Fallout 3. He was a fair, just man who wanted nothing more than to give water to homeless people. Unless he thought they were hiding books, bobbleheads or cool weapons. My father (the black Liam Neeson) would have been proud of the path his son cut through Washington D.C., taking out mutants and raiders with a freakish precision that could only be attributed to a fancy wrist computer. I tried an evil playthrough of this game, but blowing up Megaton and relocating to Tenpenny Tower was unacceptable. Seriously, you go from two loading screens to get into your house to three. Not worth it.
Kevin: Fallout 3’s The Lone Wanderer was my first overall choice. I consider Fallout 3 to be the greatest video game of all time, so it’s fitting that it would have the greatest video game character of all-time.
The Lone Wanderer is the player-character. You start the game by being born. You can be anyone: a man, a woman, of any race. You grow up in “the Vault” under the tutelage of your father, voiced by Liam Neeson, who teaches you about morals and reads you bible verses from the Book of Revelations. Yes, it’s everything you’ve ever dreamed about. Eventually, things go horribly wrong, and you must leave the Vault to find your father. From the minute you emerge into the shattered remains of Washington, D.C., you come to the sudden conclusion of just how unsafe this world is.
The Lone Wanderer can be history’s greatest hero, its greatest villain, or both at the same time. On one play-through, I was a goody-two-shoes who nurtured children, saved the innocent from mutated ants, and murdered slavers to free their captives. On another, I shot a woman named Grandma Sparkles and robbed her of all her worldly possessions before proceeding to detonate a live atomic bomb in the middle of the only town I had encountered at that point. On my current play-through, I’m generally good, but I steal everything that isn’t nailed down. You can be kind, snarky, mean, generous — or all at the same time.
All this drama is set against a horrific backdrop of a world devastated by atomic war. Everything wants to kill you, and even the most seemingly-mundane of journeys across the wasteland can be devastating. You don’t feel this way in, say, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, where you just joyfully roll across the plains of Hyrule. I once came across a powerful Super Mutant hanging out in the back of an abandoned semi-truck. I could have just shot him, but that was risky, and I wanted to be creative. I proceeded to a) lay about a dozen landmines on top of the semi-truck engine b) sneak off to a safe distance c) shoot in the vicinity of the mutant to get him to come over closer to the trap d) shoot the landmines with my rifle to cause the engine to explode. This failed multiple times, but I kept trying it BECAUSE IT WAS SO AWESOME.
Most of the characters of this list are either heroes or villains. The Lone Wanderer, on the other hand, is a blank slate for the player to draw on. He can be you, the person you wish you were, or the person you are in your worst nightmares. In a post-apocalyptic world of charred black and muddled brown, he’s the color on your canvas.