Video Game Heroes that define the 21st Century

 Photo by: commorancy / // CC by 2.0
Photo by: bagogames // CC by 2.0

Photo by: bagogames // CC by 2.0

Did you know that, globally, we spend 3 billion hours a week playing video games? It’s an industry that has grown to epic proportions, becoming bigger than the movie and music businesses combined. Altogether, the gaming industry rakes in almost $100 billion annually. Video game studios spend hundreds – and often thousands – of hours crafting new video game characters and scenarios, and it’s no surprise that they become such a huge part of our lives.

In the last few decades a new type of video game hero has emerged. These new protagonists feature compelling character arcs, and are combined with major technological advances in terms of game development that would make Steve Jobs proud. Let’s put it this way, video games have really moved on since those early platform days of Sonic the Hedgehog and the Super Mario Brothers!

I wanted to introduce you to some of the new wave of video game protagonists, who are all good examples of leading characters. They are 21st Century icons whose players have battled their way into the record books across the world, taking gaming to a whole new level.

First up is the 2013 Naughty Dog Studios game, The Last of Us, and its main character, Joel, who is a gruff, cynical, battle-weary survivor of a ruinous world. After losing his daughter Sarah, he is tasked with protecting his surrogate, Ellie, with whom he eventually forms a close bond. When the game was released it was praised for its ultra-realistic portrayal of human relationships and emotions. Its central theme of survival makes for some captivating exposition and gameplay. To date, the game has gone on to shift almost ten million copies.

Next up is the mobile blockbuster Clash of Clans and its village hero Barbarian. Barbarian is known for being the first line of defence in helping attack other villages and fortifying your own community. Bearing something of a resemblance to a younger Hulk Hogan with his striking Scottish moustache and bulging comic muscles, he first appeared in 2012, when the game was released as a freebie by the studio Supercell.

Barbarian has become a part of popular culture since he first appeared in Clash of Clans

Barbarian has become a part of popular culture since he first appeared in Clash of Clans

Barbarian is an all-around loveable character that uses blunt force to get what he wants wielding his giant sword to devastating effect. As players advance in levels his attire changes from headbands to Viking helmets. What makes Barbarian fun is that he is so easy to use and versatile. Clash of Clans is a genuinely fun game embraced globally for its addictiveness, with the game going on to be downloaded almost one hundred million times.

Before we go any further, let’s take a moment to salute the top ten supporting characters who have been there for these heroes since day one! Supporting characters, like the pivotal Ellie in The Last of Us or Tifa Lockhart out of Final Fantasy, offer some much needed assistance and occasionally comic relief when you’re deep in game world.

Next up is the game-changing Italian Ezio Auditore da Firenze from Assassin’s Creed. Developed by Ubisoft in 2009 It’s a game that revolutionsed storytelling and visuals. Trained as an assassin after he loses his family at the hands of Templar conspirators, Ezio becomes involved in a fight to save the world from a devastating solar flare. A mysterious and intelligent figure, the game bears overtones of The Da Vinci Code, but it’s Ezio’s endearing principles to fight the underworld that set this game apart.

Assassin’s Creed went on to sell over 100 million copies of its entire franchise. Ezio is so central to the game that was also voted as the third top character of the 2000s by readers of Game Informer magazine.


 Photo by: commorancy / // CC by 2.0

Master Chief, the iconic protagonist of the Halo franchise

And finally, what list would be complete without mentioning Master Chief from the first-person shooter game Halo released in 2001? Developed by Microsoft/Bungee, its central character Master Chief is up there with gaming cultures greatest icons Lara Croft and Mario.

With his faceless hi-tech outfit and striking silhouette, the bionic Master Chief is employed to help fight an interstellar battle against an alien civilization. He even manages to do so by uttering very few words throughout the game! Halo has been released in 12 different, explosive editions to date and remains one of the most popular video games in history, selling over 65 million copies worldwide. Master Chief is such a popular character that you can even see a wax copy of him at Madame Tussauds.

These kinds of lists always elicit debate, I’m aware that I’ve missed out key characters from iconic games like Grand Theft Auto and Angry Birds. However, the characters listed above are notable for their creative originality, attention to detail and authenticity when being played. However, as the game industry develops decade by decade, there’s a whole host of iconic characters waiting just around the corner to unseat these favourites from their thrones!