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The 10 Best Protagonists in Video Games

What's a good story without a good protagonist to go along with it?

Video games are one of, if not the best medium for telling stories. Being able to control a character that interacts with the world and story is a great way to build a connection with the player and the main protagonist. But that doesn’t mean much if the main protagonist isn’t well-written.

Thankfully, there are plenty of great games out there with beloved main characters. Whether its an average Joe you can relate to or a heroic figure you can look up to, there’s something for everyone in the industry. And here in this article, I’ll be going over and ranking my picks for the ten best good guys in video games.

#10 – Henry (Firewatch)

Henry is a character that I don’t think enough people are talking about. He is the main protagonist of the 2016 game Firewatch. In this game, you play as a firewatch, a person tasked with monitoring a national park, enforcing rules, and keeping an eye out for any wildfires. While the premise and story are interesting, I think the character of Henry himself is what really makes this game great.

Henry is a good protagonist because his character perfectly reinforces the main themes of the game. Sometimes in life, instead of facing our problems head-on, we run away from them and try to avoid them. Henry is no different. It’s only over the course of the story that he realizes his mistake and sets out to fix it by the very end. I can’t give much more details other than that as I don’t want to spoil much, so you’ll have to trust me on this.

#9 – Master Chief (The Halo Series)

The Master Chief is perhaps the most iconic character on this whole list! The Chief is a genetically enhanced super soldier fighting to protect humanity from the Covenant, a religious organization Hell bent on destroying humanity. Master Chief made his first appearance in the 2001 game Halo: Combat Evolved, where he was mostly just a blank slate for the player character to fill in.

It wasn’t until Halo 2 and 3 that his personality became more fleshed out. For the most part, he was still the strong but silent type that many players had grown to love. But when he did speak, he had some great dialogue that many people are still quoting to this day. While the Chief may have hit a rough spot with Halo 5: Guardians, he’s still an iconic character who deserves a spot on this list.

#8 – Geralt of Rivia (The Witcher Series)

Geralit of Rivia is next on this list of the Top 10 Best Protagonists in Video Games. For those who haven’t played The Witcher, Geralt is a monster hunter who has been trained in the art since he was a young child. The game sees you travel through a medieval fantasy world heavily inspired by Polish mythology, where you’ll hunt and kill monsters while making a variety of story choices.

Geralt is a really solid protagonist with numerous shades to his character. He is strong and well-trained in combat, but also fatherly and compassionate. And his sense of humor really adds to his character as well. You should go play The Witcher series if you have not already, words can’t really do him justice.

#7 – Cole MacGrath (inFAMOUS 1 + 2)

Cole MacGrath is a personal favorite of mine. He is the main hero (or villain) of the first two inFAMOUS games. Cole began his story as a simple package courier. It was only while delivering one special package in particular that he found himself exposed to technology that granted him the power of electrokinesis. With these new abilities, he set out to become the hero–or the villain–he was always meant to become.

Cole has a lot of really great story moments and a good character arc that takes place across two games. The moral choices that the game provides really help develop Cole and add to his character. He’s really the perfect protagonist for a game like inFAMOUS, and it makes sense for him to become either a hero or a villain.

#6 – BJ Blazkowicz (The Wolfenstein Series) 

Wolfenstein: The New Order is one of my absolute FAVORITE first-person shooters out there. The game took place in a post-WWII era in which the Nazis took over the world using advanced technology. BJ Blazkowicz is an American soldier who wakes up from a coma years after the end of the war to find everything he knew and loved had been stolen from him.

BJ Blazkowicz is a really great take on the strong but silent video game protagonist. He has all of the features we’ve come to expect from these archetypes, but he manages to add his own spin on things. This is mainly done through his constant inner monologue and the way he comments on events in the story through the use of poetry. It’s a great contrast to his violent behaviors and traditionally masculine personality.

#5 – Clementine (The Walking Dead Series)

Clementine is one of the most beloved characters from any game series I’ve seen. She was first introduced in Telltale’s The Walking Dead back in 2012 as a non-playable character. It wasn’t until later on that she took over as the series’ main protagonist. And oh boy did she steal the show.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED Lee in the first game. He was an amazing character to, and even when typing this I’m not sure if I should put him on this list instead of Clementine. But Clementine is a much more tragic character who has gone through more development.

#4 – Niko Bellic (Grand Theft Auto IV)

Could this really be a Top 10 Best Protagonists in Video Games list if it didn’t have a Rockstar protagonist in it? I don’t think so. Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto IV was a really intelligent satire and criticism of the “American Dream” that told the story of an Eastern European immigrant–Niko Bellic–who traveled to America for a better life.

Upon stepping off the boat, instead of reaching a land of opportunity, Niko found himself forced to partake in the criminal underworld as a means to provide for himself and his family. Niko is a great character not only because of how well he reinforces the game’s message but also because of how complex he is. He’s morally at odds with himself and is more than just a mindless killing machine.

#3 – Joel (The Last of Us)

The Last of Us Part I is one of my favorite story-driven games of all time. Say what you will about the sequel, you can’t deny that the first one was nothing short of fantastic. This was helped thanks to the main character Joel. The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic America, where a strange virus has turned everyone into hyper-aggressive zombies. Joel is one of the few survivors.

Like everyone else, he has lost a lot because of the apocalypse. It’s this loss and his subsequent character arc that makes him so great. My favorite thing about him is that he isn’t a villainous character, but he also isn’t a heroic one. This makes him more realistic and a whole lot more interesting.

#2 – V (Cyberpunk 2077)

Cyberpunk 2077 may have had a really terrible launch, with numerous bugs and glitches, an underdeveloped open world, and RPG mechanics that left something to be desired… But one thing that has been fanatic since launch is the main story. Cyberpunk thrusts players into the world of Night City, a futuristic dystopia where corporations rule the world.

You play as V, a cybernetically enhanced mercenary who takes up dangerous jobs as a way to make ends meet. The story of the game itself is already top-notch, but how V interacts with that story makes it all the more engaging.

#1 – Arthur Morgan (Red Dead Redemption 2)

And last but most certainly not least, my pick for the very best protagonist in a video game is Arthur Morgan. If you disagree with me, that’s fine, but I don’t want to hear it! There’s nothing you could say that could convince me he isn’t the best protagonist out of any game currently released.

Red Dead Redemption 2 takes place during the final days of the Wild West, where gangs of outlaws roam the American South while civilization expands ever rapidly through the West. In the game, you play as Arthur Morgan, the lead enforcer of a gang of outlaws called the Dutch van der Linde gang.

Arthur makes for an amazing protagonist for several reasons. Firstly, he’s a badass who makes for an intimidating presence in just about every scene. Secondly, he’s incredibly funny and has a great sense of sarcasm. Third and most importantly, he has the BEST character development. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that this was the first game in a long while to genuinely make me sob.

 

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