“It’s only natural for living creatures to fight to protect their own lives. But what makes us human is that we fight for others. But who do you fight for? How hard must you fight…? That’s the true measure of what human life is worth. We defense attorneys are warriors who are constantly challenged by that question.”
We’re now into the final stretch as the top 25 rolls along with our top 10 characters. Today, a character who got a ton of support but came up short. Tomorrow, our list concludes the countdown to the #1 male video game character of all-time.
2) Phoenix Wright (Ace Attorney) – 6 votes/549 points
Chris: Phoenix Wright is the most human character on our list, a designation that matters for a number of reasons.
For one, it matters because Phoenix Wright isn’t anything fancy. He doesn’t have weapons or powers and he isn’t in some crazy fantasy world. He’s just a regular guy who spends his days as an attorney, solving cases and helping people as best he can within the rules of the legal system.
But it also matters because of his development and struggles as a character. Phoenix goes through some huge up-and-down swings over the course of the series, from being on trial himself as a potential murderer to battling despair when one close friend is killed and another is near death on multiple occasions.
It’s almost a disservice to try to summarize Phoenix’s journey throughout the series. The final case in the third game drops some huge bombs on us about his past and his present, for example. Let’s talk about the fourth game for a moment, however.
Phoenix ends up being disbarred for presenting forged evidence that wasn’t his doing. Instead of being bummed about his life’s main purpose getting yanked from underneath his feet, what does Mr. Wright do? He becomes an unbeatable poker player, adopts a daughter, and tries to learn how to play the piano. But this isn’t just idle time killing — Phoenix ultimately ends up orchestrating an overhaul of the judicial system from behind the scenes.
The pinnacle of his machinations in the fourth game is in Apollo Justice’s first case. Phoenix shuns an old lawyer friend and hires a rookie for a case for seemingly no reason. Turns out that Phoenix knows ALL of the reasons, and he guides Apollo through the case like a badass.
If you haven’t played through these games yet and you’ve ever enjoyed courtroom drama or CSI or visual novels or video games at all, you should. Far better to experience Phoenix Wright yourself than have someone explain it to you. It’s that good.
Shaun: I think I love Phoenix Wright for everything he’s not as much as for what he is.
In one corner of gaming protagonists, you have muscular, suave, unflinchingly brave, generic-looking male leads who kick ass and seem to be proficient with every type of gun, vehicle, and combat in existence. Set pieces involve them shooting their way out of an enemy base, stealing a helicopter, flying it to a lunar super computer, and hacking it to save the universe from destruction.
Then you have Phoenix Wright. Awkward, mistake-prone, and with a reputation for filibustering the courthouse, Phoenix only has two things to rely on when defending the innocent that everyone else has given up on – his unwavering dedication to standing by his clients when his gut tells him he should, and a masterful ability to think outside the box and arrive at a solution, even when he’s a couple steps behind his opponents.
This ability alone, demonstrated time and time again through the first three games (hell, he even defended HIMSELF from murder in his second game case ever!) would have been enough to put him on my list. But Chris nailed it on the head; Phoenix solidified his badassery for all-time in the fourth entry of the series (ironically, the first that starred someone else).
From behind the shadows, Phoenix completely plays EVERYONE in the courtroom, masterfully pulling strings and making moves that are always three steps ahead of his nemesis. You finally see the cool, confident, person that Phoenix has become, and because you’ve followed him on his journey to get there, it’s believable.
Each game has featured growth by Phoenix, both as his character matures, but also as he contributes to his legacy as a legendary defense attorney. This development is rare in gaming, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.
Also, dat hair tho.
Joseph: It’s nice to see someone who has a real job this high on the list.
Phoenix doesn’t carry laser weapons or pilot space ships. He doesn’t cut people in half using a sword or snap people’s necks. Phoenix follows the law, which is a nice break from the Niko Bellics of the world. After years of hard work gaining his license to practice (at least I presume he went to school), Phoenix Wright, Esq. gets his chance to make a difference in the world. Sure, there is the occasional parrot cross-examination, but Phoenix’s tactics save innocent lives.
Other heroes had the chance to spend their years adventuring, ankle deep in treasure. Our ace attorney spent the time with his nose in a law book. Who would you rather have on your side when the Japanese IRS Yakuza is on your tail, Mario Mario or Phoenix Wright? If you answered in favor of the former, you need to “Hold it!”
Jason: I’ve never played a single Ace Attorney game and yet, even I am all too familiar with the concept of “OBJECTION!” If only real courtrooms could manage to capture that same level of excitement…
Michaela: Phoenix Wright’s character development over the years is extremely well done. He’s intelligent and confident, but it never gets the better of him. His silly side keeps things fun and light-hearted despite the absurd situations he finds himself in. Phoenix is extremely stubborn, but it’s a strong quality that drives him forward. His principles of justice and believing in his clients are admirable, and with every installment, his deductive reasoning skills continue to blow me away. Phoenix has solved some insane cases in the series, and it’s impossible not to look forward to what others he can solve.
Christine: Phoenix Wright was just shy of making it to the number one spot? Too bad you can’t have two people in the number one spot. I love Phoenix’s optimism and his refusal to give up on his defendant’s innocence, even when things look really grim and all evidence points toward the defendant being guilty. And when he yells, “OBJECTION!” it gives me goosebumps every time.