“What sound will you make when you hit the ground? You think you’ll hear it before you die?”
We’re now into the final stretch as the top 25 rolls along with our top 10 characters. Tomorrow, our list continues the countdown to the #1 male video game character of all-time on Aug. 31.
7) Commander Shepard (Mass Effect) – 3 votes/206 points
Chris: Commander Shepard ended up being one of the biggest problems in our lists. Most of the characters we considered as a group have easily defined genders. Mario is male, Zelda is female. Easy breezy. But what do you do with Shepard, the most fleshed-out and open-ended character in video game history?
Thanks to some stats released by BioWare, we know that 80% of players chose a male Shepard. We also know that the box art for Mass Effect 1 and 2 depicted only the male version, until a choice was made possible in 3. But the numbers don’t matter as much as personal experiences, and that’s something that depends entirely on the individual.
I never played as the male Shepard. After struggling (and failing) to make it through the first game, I picked back up in Mass Effect 2 with FemShep because I was already familiar with plenty of Jennifer Hale’s work. It was as simple as that, really.
Several traits stand out no matter what gender — or Paragon/Renegade path — you chose. Shepard is fiercely loyal to his crew members and steadfast in kicking a ton of ass across the galaxy as the first human Spectre. The choices you made along the way shaped your own personal Shepard, and helped you select which color ending you wanted for the series.
If the only option for Commander Shepard was male, he might have been No. 1 on our list. As it is? You’ll have to wait and see.
Shaun: One word: Renegade. If you played through Mass Effect as a pure Paragon, you did it wrong. Not that it’s not an enjoyable experience or anything. It is. But when you’re Goody-Two-Shoe-zing around the galaxy, you’re missing out on the true depth of Shepard’s character that’s available for you. Because, unlike so many games, Shepard’s “evil” options aren’t actually evil at all (most of the time). No matter what you choose, your Shepard is a hero and a legend, fighting for the greater good. It’s refreshing, but it also allows your character to be as complex as you make him.
For example, my Shepard is better known as Space Jack Bauer. He’s a hero who cares for his friends and would never leave them hanging, but he’s tired of everyone’s bull**** and just wants to call things like they are. He helps each squadmate fully complete their personal side missions so they’re happy and content, but also isn’t afraid to tell them to shut the f*** up when they’re being petty. He’ll help innocent civilians to safety, but will gladly throw criminals through the windows of 10-story buildings. Because they deserve it.
Shaped by his traumatic past experiences and countless betrayals and manipulations, Space Jack Bauer insists you tell him where the president is, and diplomacy is at its best when it involves shooting first and talking later. And you know what? He’s better for it.
Joseph: Let’s call him by his real name: Tron. Tron tried his hand at being good. He tried to set an example for the galaxy. But when you master space travel, you find the universe if full of jerks. Tron fought for an ideal that couldn’t exist, and the cracks began to show. It started out with the occasional reporter asking too many questions. Then you find out a squad member couldn’t love you because of the color of your skin. The weight of it all was too much for my favorite Spectre, and he ultimately gave in to his murderous urges. It was a dark day for the galaxy, but they had the chance to kill him on Akuz, and they failed. One day, he’ll attain godlike power and rule with an iron fist. A cold, hard, inescapable, unforgiving, bombastic, white-hot iron fist.
Jason: I played as FemShep almost exclusively, and only ever made a Male Shepard to try and romance Jack (a feat I have still yet to bother finishing all the way through). But if Male Shepard is half as cool as FemShep, than I totally get why he’s on this list.