Now that the Xbox One and PS4 are out in the wild we can finally stop referring to the next generation of gaming, because it’s here, and we’re living it. With that being said the PS3 and Xbox 360 still have some life left in them, and both have a deep library of fantastic games to choose from. Many of these excellent PS3/360 titles became so popular with gamers thanks to their undeniably memorable cast of characters. Without a strong cast it’s very hard to emotionally attach yourself to a video game and become invested in it like a book, or movie.
Luckily, throughout the PS3/360 generation many memorable characters infested the games we played, and each one left an impression on us that made them stand out from the pack. Now that the next generation of gaming is upon us it’s a great time to take a look back at some of the more impressionable characters from the PS3/360 era. There were hundreds of them, but fifteen truly stand out from the rest of the bunch.
The list below contains our top 15 character picks, and as you’ll see they may not just be singular characters. Many games featured dynamic duos, or groups of characters that left indelible impressions on the hearts and minds of gamers across the world, so we thought it best to keep them together rather than splitting them apart. Sit back, relax, and enjoy our choices for the fifteen best video game characters or casts from the PS3/360 era!
WARNING – Potential spoilers throughout
Death is the main character of Darksiders 2, and while he may not have been full of deep thoughts and emotions, he still looked like a badass and backed it up with his impressive skill sets. His brother War kicked off the Darksiders franchise, but Death made it better. His Skeletor on steroids appearance made him memorable, but his deadly parkour moves and gigantic scythe are what defined him. It’s a shame that his game didn’t do well, because both he and Darksiders were great additions to the PS3/360 landscape.
Kratos’ story started on the PS2, but it ended and started again on the PS3. God of War 3 was a beautiful title that made the shamed God of War look even more menacing than he did before. Kratos literally went on a God killing spree, so if that doesn’t impress you I don’t know what will. This deal breaker managed to wipe out the inhabitants of Mount Olympus all by his lonesome, and with gruesome effectiveness. His only personality trait is being pissed off, and his imposing presence made man-skirts look badass. Ascension may have been a cash grab, but it was still enjoyable to control Kratos one more time as he laid waste to more mythological wonders.
13. The Assassin’s Creed Assassins
Assassin’s Creed is one of the most popular franchises that launched during the last generation of gaming. One reason for this is its cast of assassins. Altair kicked off the franchise, and provided a moody yet wise character to live through. Ezio came next, and starred in three full AC games, making him the face of the franchise, and easily the best assassin yet. Connor and Edward came next, and while the former is hands down the worst assassin, the latter definitely made up for his suckiness. Playing each one of these characters allowed gamers to relive history like they never could before, and while some of it was made up, the AC franchise and its cast of characters still managed to make learning about history fun and deadly.
12. Jack the BioShock 1 Guy
The silent protagonist of BioShock may not have been full of witty and colorful dialogue, but his lack of a voice really helped to cement the connection the player felt to the world of Rapture. His mysterious past and introduction make him intriguing the moment you first take control of him, and it isn’t until the end of the game that you get to truly understand what and who Jack is. The mystery behind his past and his relationship to Fontaine and Ryan kept gamers on the edge of their seats, and when Atlus finally reveals the magic behind “Would you kindly”, everything starts to make sense. The art of a silent protagonist was perfected in BioShock 1 making Jack a very memorable and worthy video game character.
11. Master Chief
Like Kratos, Master Chief started his career on the generation of consoles that preceded the PS3/360 era, but he reinforced his popularity on the Xbox 360. Halo 3 packed an emotional tale that left the Chief’s fate up in the air, which provided for a heartfelt conclusion to the first Halo trilogy. With Halo 4 the Master Chief was reborn, and he finally showed off a bit of his humanity. Prior to Halo 4 the Chief is more or less a human robot, always doing what he’s told and sacrificing himself for the greater good. In Halo 4 he shows that he does indeed experience human emotions while dealing with the corrupted Cortana, who in a sense has become his best friend and soulmate.
Halo 4 ends with a cliffhanger of sorts, but its biggest impact is the first ever shot of the MC without his helmet, which provided fans of the series a look at John 117 himself. The Master Chief is one of the biggest badasses in gaming, and his legend only continues to get better with each new release. Here’s to hoping he makes this list again in 8-10 years for a look back at the best PS4/Xbox One characters.
10. Nathan Drake
Drake is one of the characters responsible for defining the PS3 era. His three games showcased how powerful the console was with its ability to render amazingly clear and lifelike visuals, and his personality was impossible to not like. He’s Indiana Jones meets Han Solo, which is a concoction for character excellence. Drake can bring the wit regardless of the situation he’s in, and he’s also got the detective skills to solve some of history’s most secretive mysteries. He can make the ladies swoon with his good looks, as well as slap him thanks to his brashness. Drake is hands down one of the best non-super-power-having heroes of the past generation, and his impact on gamers is what made the Uncharted series so popular. He’ll be making an appearance on the PS4, so his legend will surely continue to grow in the eyes of gamers.
Before the advent of the Arkham franchise Batman didn’t fair to well in the video game space. Nearly every Batman game prior to Arkham Asylum had the Dark Knight appearing more like a hapless hero than the super vigilante we know him to be. Thankfully Rocksteady finally figured out how to showcase this character in a video game setting, which allowed for video game Batman to be reborn in the hearts and minds of gamers. Controlling him finally felt like you were in charge of one of the most compelling comic book characters ever created. He could take out massive groups of thugs with his ninja-like reflexes and powerful combos with ease and grace. His gadgets allowed him to become the Bat while he glided through the Gotham skyline, or hid out of sight from unsuspecting foes.
Finally controlling a worthy Batman was the highlight of many gamers during the past generation of gaming, so now he’s not only a wildly popular comic book character, but he’s also one of the best video game characters to ever grace your gaming console.
8. Gears of War’s Delta Squad
Gears of War is one of the best franchises to come out of the previous generation, and its cast is one of the main reasons why. Delta Squad proper was made up of Marcus Fenix, Dom Santiago, Damon Baird, and Augustus “Cole Train” Cole. These four hulking badasses single handily defeated the Locust horde in all three GOW games. This group managed to elicit an emotional response from gamers thanks to the tight bond they all shared in the game. It’s very hard to make a franchise like Gears of War touching, but Epic did just that thanks to the members of Delta Squad. Every Gears fan will remember the heartbreak Dom experienced in Gears 2, and his tragic end in Gears 3. I shed a tear in his honor, which just goes to show how impactful this group of unlikely heroes were on those who played the Gears of War games.
7. Booker and Elizabeth
Up until BioShock Infinite, having a NPC to take care of was a pain in the ass. You would either have to ensure that they didn’t die, or their own actions would usually end up killing you. Both of these are frustrating gameplay mechanics that luckily never rear their head in Infinite. Elizabeth is a more than capable partner who helps aid Booker throughout their journey on Columbia.
Obviously her assistance isn’t the main reason why these characters made this list though. The bond between them, and the mind bender of an ending that they experience at the end of BioShock Infinite is what solidifies them as memorable video game characters. Trying to wrap your head around their multiverse was enough to make you study the subject online to find out exactly what was happening. Watching the Elizabeths end the cycle of Bookers is heartbreaking, but the final ending manages to suck you back in and question the characters of Booker and Elizabeth all over again. This is a pair of characters that I’d gladly spend another 20 hours with just to exercise my brain’s ability to keep multiple timelines in order.
6. Lee and Clementine
The main reason for The Walking Dead game winning game of the year in 2012 is its cast of characters, namely the leads – Lee and Clementine. Lee was a criminal headed to prison before the zombie outbreak, so he didn’t have the best moral judgment. He lived in the grey area between right and wrong, and made some bad decisions that led to his incarceration. Clementine on the other hand was just a little girl doing what little girls do before the zombie infestation ripped her family from her. Thanks to the zombie apocalypse each one of these characters found solace within the other, and they ended up forming one of the most memorable bonds of the generation.
Lee took on a fatherly role, and was willing to sacrifice everything for Clementine, while she looked to him as her protector and surrogate dad. The two were at the heart of The Walking Dead’s first season and its emotional tale of survival. Watching how their relationship played out was an exercise in video game storytelling excellence, and proof that a game can be a work of art.
This AI may not have been a living breathing character, but she’s definitely one of the most iconic video game characters ever created. She even starred in Pacific Rim thanks to her popularity! There’s just something undeniably awesome about GLaDOS and her matter-of-fact approach to systematically torturing the subjects at Aperture Science. Her smooth robotic voice taunts you throughout your trials, and her dry wit remains with you even after beating the game. She played a great villain in the original Portal, and an even better surprise hero in Portal 2.
For a machine that hangs from a ceiling she had more personality than most any organic based video game character to appear over the last generation of gaming. She even somehow managed to make cake more awesome than it already is, which is reason enough for making this list. Not to mention she also has a hit single thanks to her diddy at the end of Portal, so she’s not just a video game star, she’s a cross-genre pop culture magnate.
4. GTA V’s Big 3 – Franklin, Michael, and Trevor
Grand Theft Auto 5 is pretty much a lock for GOTY in 2013, and one of the reasons for it is the game’s three main characters. Franklin, Michael, and Trevor each offered completely different personalities that all worked well together and on their own. Frank provided the standard GTA male lead of a young gangster making his way up the organized crime food chain, while Michael offered a look at life as a retired criminal living with ungrateful kids and a wife that loathes him. Trevor on the other hand provided one of the most insane video game characters of all-time. When you first meet him he’s banging a girl doggy-style in his trailer, which leads him to curb stomping her boyfriend. From there he goes on a killing spree to end all killing sprees to wipe out his competition. Once he makes it to Los Santos his insanity only heightens to epic proportions. How many games have you played where you wake up from a mission on a beach, in your underwear, with dead bodies strewn across the sand?
Trevor is my personal favorite, but all three GTA 5 lead characters are what made the game so special. Each one offers a wildly different personality, but they all have the same end game, so their unique styles of living all benefited the larger group as a whole. A movie could be made about these three video game characters and gamers would flock to see it. They’re the three stooges of crime, and easily one of the best groups of main characters to ever grace the video game landscape.
3. Joel and Ellie
Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us is also a contender for GOTY in 2013, and just like GTA V, a main reason for it being so is its lead characters. Joel and Ellie’s adventure is packed full of harrowing ordeals that reinforce their need for each other to survive. At first Joel wants nothing to do with Ellie and her ability to not get infected, but thanks to a promise he made to a dying friend he accompanies her on her journey to save mankind. Overtime Joel becomes attached to Ellie, and forms a paternal bond that bolsters the emotional qualities of The Last of Us. You can feel his desperation as he tries to protect her from clickers and humans alike. By the end it’s clear that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to protect Ellie, which just goes to show how much his love for her grew over the course of the game.
Ellie on the other hand came into the relationship already having lived a tough life. She’s one of the bravest and most grown up video game kid characters to ever be created, and her adult-like responses to Joel just go to show how grown up emotionally she is. Like Elizabeth, Ellie manages to not be a distraction in The Last of Us, but rather a competent AI partner that stands on her own. Her bond with Joel makes the dialogue choices difficult to make during the end of the game, and the look in her eye while talking to Joel as the game concludes will resonate with gamers for many years to come.
2. Commander Shepard
Quite frankly nearly every main cast member from the Mass Effect trilogy could have made this list outside of Vega, but when you break it down Commander Shepard is the true star. After all, it’s he or she that you experience the game through, and it’s the Commander’s choices in the end that affect how your Mass Effect experience plays out. The fact that gamers were able to create a Shepard in the first Mass Effect and continue to mold him/her over two more games makes it hard not to latch onto the character. He/She became the gamer, or the gamer became him/her. Through Shepard millions of gamers got to live out their own unique space opera making him/her one of the most effective video game characters to embrace for escaping the doldrums of real life. Each decision Shepard had to make carried weight in the game, and put pressure on the gamer controlling him/her to do the right thing, or if you’re evil, the wrong thing.
Gamers became so invested in Shepard and his/her journey that they threatened to sue Bioware over the ending of Mass Effect 3. These zealots had become so attached to their Shepards that they just couldn’t handle the thought of him not making it in the end. The controversy got so bad that Bioware provided an expanded ending to help assuage the heated community of gamers who hated the original ending. This just goes to show you how immensely popular the Mass Effect franchise is, and how important the character of Commander Shepard was to all gamers who got to experience his/her epic journey.
1. Jodie Holmes
David Cage and Quantic Dream have become synonymous with video game storytelling. They released two games on the PS3 that bucked the system of traditional gameplay, and showed that a video game can be passive and still engaging. Cage’s latest cinematic video game, Beyond: Two Souls, approved upon that mantra thanks to the character of Jodie Holmes. One of the main reasons for Jodie being so impactful on the minds of gamers is the fact that she was played by a real deal Hollywood actress. Ellen Page didn’t just voice the character, she donned the mo-cap suit for the entire performance, which most definitely helped to bring a sense of realism to Jodie Holmes.
Page managed to give Holmes an authentic feel thanks to her ability to act. One could feel the pain Jodie experienced throughout her life as she dealt with the mysterious entity Aiden, thanks to Page’s facial expressions and dialogue delivery. The character felt real because she was real, just like the characters you experience in a film. Beyond relied heavily on character and narrative, which may not sound like an exhilarating video game experience, but it truly was thanks to the character of Jodie Holmes. She, through Page’s acting, was able to take hold of gamer’s imaginations and bring them into her world unlike any game before.
Experiencing the life of Jodie Holmes is the best part of Beyond: Two Souls, and it offers many reasons why video games can be passive experiences that border on the line of being an interactive film. Without Page bringing life to this character, Beyond wouldn’t have been the same game. Cage proved that real deal actors have a place in the video game space, and that they can bring value to a game’s overall experience. Beyond is worth playing just to see this experiment in action, and it will surely lead to even better video game characters as the art of creating video games gets even better during this burgeoning new generation of console games. We can all thank Jodie Holmes for the inevitable push to provide lifelike performances in our video game characters as this lovely art continues to grow and get refined.
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