We’re counting down the 40 most iconic video games characters ever. No matter when they were from, what platform they were played on, or what they act like, we have created a wide variety of characters that we believe are recognizable as core characters to their respective franchises or, have transcended the bounds of video games as some of best video game characters around. To lay some ground rules, we ranked characters from how popular they are in the gaming industry and out of it. We also ranked them according to how recognizable they are and what they have done to further their genres. We’ve also taken merchandising and pop culture into effect, as characters and franchises are more easily marketed than others. The test of time was also factored in, whether these characters have lasted throughout the years and whether they will continue to. This is also just our opinion, as obviously not everyone will be pleased with what character is where but in saying so, please don’t threaten to kill us. But also, sounds off in the comments on your own personal list. We love hearing from passionate gamers! Without further ado, let’s get this thing started. Here are the top 40 most iconic video game characters!
40. Banjo & Kazooie
If you talk to any fan of this game, you will instantly be met with “Banjo is the best game ever” and honestly, it’s hard not to see why some gamers think this way. The first Banjo-Kazooie game included platforming and puzzling at it’s best. The game is full of character and incredible creativity. Banjo actually first starred in Diddy Kong Racing along with Conker and then they went on to star in their own games! It’s pretty clear that Banjo was influenced by Mario 64 in the level design and overall concept, but many would argue that Banjo-Kazooie does it better. There are actually characters in each world, they all have stories and motivations and there is a much bigger emphasis on puzzles and finding secrets. People remember these games very fondly and they have become a staple of classic gaming. Banjo-Kazooie set the standard for what it means to have collectibles in your games. There is so much to find and so much to do that I have so much respect for the people who found all that stuff back in the day without internet guides. We truly have it easy nowadays. If only there could be a truly great sequel that Banjo & Kazooie deserve. Let’s just all forget about nuts and bolts and remember the iconic characters that Banjo and Koozie are.
39. Trevor Philips
Grand Theft Auto 5 is the highest selling piece of entertainment ever, selling over 90 million copies and some can argue one of the most iconic video games of all time, period. If there is one guy that really stands out in the series, it’s Trevor Phillips. Modeled after Steven Ogg, whom also does his voice work, Trevor is the perfect storm of crazy and dangerous. He was such a force to be reckoned with, extremely fun to play and at the same time, a complete nuisance to deal with if you’re playing as the other two protagonists of the game. Grand Theft Auto has always been held in the media as an extremely violent game and you can bet your ass that Trevor doesn’t help that image. You never know whether he is going to be sympathetic and do the right thing, or if he’s going to crush your skull with his boots. It’s all just part of Trevor’s charm. Also, doing copious amounts of drugs doesn’t help with Trevor’s sanity. He was the main man during the famous torture scene, he chased a falling jet on a dirt bike half walk across the San Andreas, as well as flying a biplane into the open back of a cargo jet. Trevor’ insane and spontaneous nature definitely earns him a spot among the most iconic video game characters.
From the first moment you step off the bus in Borderlands, you’re greeted with the ever so cheerful voice of Claptrap who’s regarded as the best character of the series. He’s a multipurpose robot that seems to do nothing besides bug vault hunters. Sure, there are tons of Claptraps in the Borderlands universe, but there is only one original (or so it seems?). Claptrap is so memorable because he’s the first one you meet in Borderlands, he’s extremely annoying and whiny and he’s in every Borderlands game. There is so much about the personality of this little robot that makes you want to put your fingers in your ears to drown him out. But even though he’s overenthusiastic and brags a lot, deep down he’s lonely and quite the coward. To be fair, there is one aspect of Claptrap that shines; his humor. Looking at the cover of any Borderlands game would never let on that it’s big on comedy. And Claptrap is often at the center of all the jokes. Whether it’s about being tortured or … um… engaging in sexual activities with Handsome Jack’s skull out of vengeance, the little yellow robot has made me literally laugh out loud on multiple occasions. He even becomes playable in the Pre-Sequel! Although, the game asks you multiple times if you REALLY want to play as Claptrap before they let you select him. Whenever I wanted to screw around in Borderlands, I usually just wasted all my ammo shooting at Claptrap, who’s one of the most annoying and iconic video characters.
Final Fantasy 13 had the reputation of being the black sheep of the franchise. People who have played it either love it or absolutely hate it. One of the most memorable and iconic parts of the game is its female lead, Lightning. She’s the brooding, strong-willed soldier who wants nothing more than to save her sister from a terrible fate. Lightning is a nice change of pace when it comes to female video game characters since she’s not oversexualized and an independent badass. I’m sure most have us have been in the gaming scene for quite a while now, and if so, I’m sure you have noticed that there isn’t a lot of female leads in video games, unfortunately. Even if there is, they aren’t as popular or incredibly over sexualized. JRPG’s can be known for having incredibly sexualized characters, especially when it comes to women so it’s nice knowing that Lightning doesn’t fall into this category. If Cloud is the face of old-school Final Fantasy then Lightning is the face of the new school. From her pink hair to her Blazefire Saber, Lightning will forever be one hell of a character. Not to mention she’s a star outside of video games! Lightning appears and adverts and commercials all over Japan for some of the biggest brands. This combination of badassery and transcending the bounds of video games makes her one of the most iconic video game characters of all time.
36. Big Daddy
The Big Daddy is one of the most memorable characters in BioShock and now iconic in the video game industry. I saw someone cosplay a Big Daddy from BioShock at a convention once and let me tell you, it was terrifying. These guys are a force to be reckoned with and well… really creepy. Big Daddy’s are people who have had their skin and organs molded to a huge suit of deep-sea-diving armor. Their only purpose is to protect little sisters and they communicate in very low pitched tones, much like a whale. Did I also mention they have huge drills for a hand? What’s so interesting about the Big Daddies is that they add a certain atmosphere to the world of Bioshock. Not that Bioshock was lacking in atmosphere, what with Rapture being one of the best environments in gaming. Bioshock has become a modern gaming giant and 2K says the franchise is here to stay. Maybe we will get more Big Daddies in the future. They set a good bar for video game mini-bosses for being so intimidating, difficult, memorable and now, iconic.
Everybody loved the self-centered, full of himself, demon hunter… right? Okay maybe not in real life but in video games, these kinds of characters are cool. Dante in the Devil May Cry series is demon hunter on a mission to avenge his dead mother and corrupted brother, and really one of the best and coolest video game characters. If there was any way to describe him, it would be that he is basically the Deadpool of video games. He truly makes a joke out of almost anything during any kind of situation, even the most dangerous kind. The Devil May Cry series has been known to influence other actions games and the creators of Bayonetta have said that it was a huge influence for their game. A lot of people compare Dante to Bayonetta. Also, Devil May Cry was rebooted in 2013, giving Dante a new look and at times, different characterization. This seems to be a pattern with games that Capcom make, as Chris Redfield looks different in every damn Resident Evil game he appears in. But, Capcom is known for making great franchises that fans love and DMC is absolutely one of them. Even though Dante sure is an a**hole, he will always be loved.
34. Nathan Drake
Pretty much the male version of Lara Croft, Nathan Drake is the dashing yet sarcastic hero from Naughty Dogs Uncharted series. First released back in 2007, Uncharted was an instant hit. The gameplay was fluid and fun, but Nathan was the real star of the show. He has incredibly dry humor, often cracking jokes when the tension is high or in very dangerous situations. This can lead to some people not taking him very seriously, as a person and treasure hunter. But the guy is just so lovable. He’s a bit of an everyman kind of guy because that’s how Naughty Dog wants him to be, but the journey you experience with him is truly beautiful. Yes, the Uncharted games are pretty similar to Tomb Raider, but I really don’t think they would be as popular without Nathan Drake. He helped cement the PS3 as one of the best systems of all time, and Uncharted really became a system seller. Plus, that voice acting from Nolan North, so good.
33. Minecraft Steve
Minecraft is known throughout the world due to its easy accessibility and simple premise, build whatever your heart desires. Even though Minecraft isn’t really a story game, it still has a main, default character named Steve. The thing about Steve is that he doesn’t really have any characterization or anything to really define him other than what he looks like. What makes him really iconic is just his skin, not his literal skin, but the default skin he technically is. He’s an iconic video game because Minecraft is an iconic video game he is on most of the promotional art and merchandise. Minecraft has sold over 140 million copies over multiple platforms and Steve is on most of those copies sold. The game is also very popular among kids and kids love to wear graphic T-shirts, T-shirts that have Minecraft stuff on them. If you’ve gone to a mall, convention or perhaps you have kids of your own, you’ve seen people wearing Minecraft merch. The merch alone makes millions of dollars a year, which just shows how popular it is. THE GAME EVEN HAS IT’S OWN HUGE CONVENTION IN VEGAS. VEGAS BABY. Just one more fact to prove how popular Minecraft and Steve are then I promise I’ll stop. The franchise was sold a few years back for 2.5 billion dollars. 2.5 BILLION PEOPLE. I don’t know what else to say to convince you, people, that both Steve and Minecraft are extremely iconic in video games.
32. Vault Boy
If you’ve been in any pop culture related store or anywhere that sells video games, you’ve seen merchandise that has Vault Boy on it. He represents the average vault dweller, and appears on ingame manuals and products as well as in training videos for the very very successful game, Fallout. He is also used to show off each stat that the game employs. Sure, Vault Boy doesn’t have a huge role in the game play or the narrative of the Fallout series, he’s synonymous with the Fallout franchise and video games. I mentioned it before, but its his marketability. If you walk through a mall or convention, you’re bound to find someone wearing a Fallout shirt with Vault Boy on it. His design is simple, yet not too dorky as to make people feel self conscious when wearing the merchandise. He’s on clothing, backpacks, shot glasses, posters, hats, mugs, anything you can think of that’s logical, he’s probably on it, making him an iconic figure in video games.
Dad of boy, son of Zeus, Killer of Gods, Ghost of Sparta and recent father, Kratos from God Of War has quite the history in gaming and has become an iconic character of his own. I mean sure, it’s been a bloody, vengeful history, but memorable all the same. He’s known for being the meanest and angriest guy in all of gaming and these titles are definitely earned. There is something so satisfying about playing as Kratos, maybe because he makes you feel so strong, whether its using his blades of chaos, or pummeling someone to death with his barehands, Kratos is as strong as he is cruel. Whats really cool about Kratos and the God of War franchise as a whole is that it’s grounded in different mythologies (Greek mythology for the first trilogy and Norse for the newest installment). All in all, it’s just really fun to kill other gods, no matter where they may come from. Kratos is very distinguishable from other video game characters due to having white skin, a face tattoo, and a wickedly deep and manly voice. His blades of chaos are probably even one of the most iconic weapons in video games.
An Iconic Bunch
30. Sora, Donald and Goofy
16 years ago, Square Enix (formerly known as Square) dared to ask the question, “What if we took characters from Final Fantasy and mixed them with Disney?” Luckily for us, this worked surprisingly well, and thus came the birth of the Kingdom Hearts franchise. With the production of Kingdom Hearts came arguably one of the most iconic trios in video game history – Sora, Donald, and Goofy. We all know Donald Duck and Goofy from our favorite disney movies and TV shows, but in Kingdom Hearts, these two play a different kind of role. In the universe of Kingdom Hearts, there exists a powerful weapon known as the keyblade; a blade that possesses the power to open or close any lock, including the seals between different worlds. Donald and Goofy are sworn to protect the wielder of the keyblade, who in this case is our protagonist, Sora. He is a young boy who grew up on a small world known to us as Destiny Islands. After his home world was destroyed by darkness, Sora found himself transported to a new world, while now in possession of the legendary keyblade. While remaining determined to find his lost friends, our keyblade wielder finds himself in the company of Donald and Goofy, marking the beginning of a long and unforgettable adventure. What makes these characters so iconic, is not only the unbreakable bond they share, or the many adventures they have and friends they meet along the way, but is also what they represent to the video game industry as a whole. Square and Disney did the impossible by mixing two completely different franchises to create a series that is equally unique and amazing, and is a great example of why developers should never be afraid to step outside of their comfort zone to try something new. Sora, Donald, and Goofy have become the face of an ever-growing franchise and as a trio, have become one of the iconic video game character teams.
I very specifically remember when Skyrim first came out. That was back in 2011 and it was a gaming giant at the time. Hell, even now it is because of all the ports of the game. All my friends were talking about the game and it was my first year in high school so all these new friends I was making were bonding over the game. We hung-out on the weekend and gathered in the living room to witness the beauty that was Skyrim. If you’ve played, you know that Skyrim doesn’t have a main character and has a character creation. Throughout the story, you find out that you’re the legendary Dragonborn, or in this case, Dovahkiin. Even though everyone’s character will look different, the character in most of the promotional trailers, posters and even box art, is the Dovahkiin we’re talking about. He’s pretty iconic for two reasons; one being that Skyrim is such a massively popular game and really set a new standard for the RPG genre. Many in the gaming community have played Skyrim or have at least seen it. The second one was the FUS-RO-DAH memes that we’re made when the game first came out. They were hilarious and really creative, if you haven’t seen them, I recommend looking them up. I can’t wait for the Elder Scrolls 6 memes… If the game ever comes out. But for now, we’re FORTUNATELY stuck with an iconic game in Skyrim and an iconic video game character in Dovahkiin.
As mentioned above with Cloud, Final Fantasy 7 is a really important game in the industries history. Cloud is easily the most recognizable protagonist in Final Fantasy history, but who is the most recognizable villain? I’m sure it really varies depending on who you ask, but we think that spot goes to Sephiroth. It just goes to show how great Square Enix is at characterization, being fresh off the heals of Final Fantasy 6 and its monstrous villain Keftka. Sephiroth is possibly even more evil and terrifying. Fallen from the grace of being known as the world’s most renowned solider, Sephiroth is much more menacing and crazy. He developed a messiah complex and a God complex and believed he could lead the world. Being the arch enemy of Cloud, you know he has to be wickedly strong. I mean, HAVE YOU SEEN HIS SUPERNOVA MOVE. Sephiroth also has a very iconic look, with his large stature, flowing long hair, even longer sword … oh and did I mention he has one angle wing? Yes only one. He even has one of the most iconic moments in gaming history, when he actually kills a member of your party. Someone that you’ve spent all this time leveling up and getting to know and boom, he just straight up murders them. I’ll leave you with that depressing fact and the fact that Sephiroth has become one of the most iconic video game villains of our time.
27. Ratchet and Clank
Our heroes Ratchet and Clank are another one of gaming’s dynamic duos. The two are rarely seen apart and have gone through many adventures together through the years. One of the reasons their names are so iconic and recognizable is because it’s the name of the damn series. Their games are known for being wacky adventure platforming games that have absurd weapons and gadgets. These two are described as having the same relationship like buddy-cop movies characters do, which works really well. The two became very popular among Playsation exclusives and their characters. In 2016, they were also in their own feature film which starred some rather famous actors but unfortunately didn’t please fans or critics. The tie-in game however, was loved and sold very well, and breathed new life into the Ratchet and Clank series. I hope we get to see them again soon.
26. Crash Bandicoot
I’m sure back in the day, Crash Bandicoot was considered THE mascot for Sony. He is easily recognizable and is just as cartoony as Mario and Sonic. Crash was very popular during the PS1 era but since then, he has admittedly kind of dropped off the gamer radar. Luckily, his popularity has risen again due to the remastering of his first three games on the PS4 Xbox One and Nintendo Switch in the form of the N. Sane Trilogy. Crash games are fun, hard and very creative. The character himself is a bit wacky and lovable. I’m sure you’ve heard his signature “woah” somewhere on the internet by now. A lot of people who fell out of gaming even still remember who Crash Bandicoot is and I’m sure a lot of them picked up the N’Sane Trilogy for pure nostalgic reasons. Crash was huge during the older generations of gaming, and I’m sure he will soar in the future of gaming.
25. Marcus Fenix
Xbox is the newest company in the business to be a major player. They’re a generation after Sony and Playstation and many generations before Nintendo. Since the original Xbox, Microsoft has built some really good franchises. Games like Fable (which is rumored to have a sequel), Halo and especially Gears of War. At the center of the Gears of War franchise is the iconic war hero Marcus Fenix. He’s a dedicated solider and even more loyal to his friends and family. Marcus has lasted throughout the years, literally and figuratively. Much like Sony’s Solid Snake, you get to see Marcus through the long years of his life as he fights many battles. Stories like this always have great characterization and fans can really grow with the character. Microsoft is known for creating some long lasting franchises and characters that fans get to spend a lot of time with. They have created life long supports to their games and I’m positive that many people have become dedicated to the Xbox brand because of games like Gears of War and characters such as Marcus Fenix.
The artificial intelligent life form from the Halo series, Cortana has become just as important as Master Chief. She often gives Master Chief vital info or backstory, and in some cases, motivation to keep moving forward. She’s a very strong female character she can often be the main focus during multiple parts of the series. She saves the galaxy as often as Master Chief while also being a vital part to his journey. Cortana is also the inspiration for the virtual assistant for Windows, Microsoft phones, Xbox One and many other Microsoft products. You can ask her questions and she will look them up for you on Bing, she will recognize you voice, set reminders and even check the weather for you. Because of the events of Halo 5, Cortana will be an even bigger focus of the Halo franchise moving forward. Cortana’s uses are many and because she was the inspiration for this virtual assistant, she has become a huge part of people’s lives, inside and out of video games.
23. Ezio Auditore da Firenze
Possibly the original Italian Stallion, Ezio has had one hell of an impact on gaming. The jump from the first Assassins Creed, to the second game was huge. Everything about the sequel was better and that includes the main character. Ezio Auditore da Firenze is a Renaissance man, no pun intended. He is clever, charming, resourceful, incredibly athletic, and a great leader. He is the leader of the Italian Assassins and accomplished some amazing things. Like meeting a literal God. Ezio has the most screen time out of anyone in the Assassins Creed franchise and is many fans favorite protagonist. Still, to this day I remember how to say “Rest in peace” in Italian and it’s all thanks to Ezio and his dashing accent and Ubisoft’s cool inclusion of foreign languages. Ezio is another video game character that transcends the video game median by having his own book series and appearing in other games such as Soul Caliber 5. Assassins Creed helped popularize modern video games having huge open world maps, lots of collectables and map markers, as well as franchises that normally wouldnt’t have multiplayer, actually… have multiplayer for some reason. I’m sure most people could recognize Ezio by his iconic assassins garb alone. Everyone and their mother wanted to become and assassins once Ezio was introduced and he is incredibly iconic and important to video games.
22. Spyro the Dragon
Much like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon was a staple of many childhoods back in the PS1 era. The original trilogy was received very well and created some life long fans. On April 5th of 2018, the Reignited Trilogy was announced as a remaster of the first three games. This just goes to shows that developers will listen to fans, as they were begging for a remaster of the old games. Another significant thing about this remastering was that a lot of fans who fell out of love with video games over the years were really excited and seemed interested in buying this game and getting back into the series. It’s apparent that Spyro is still relevant even in non hardcore gamers which makes him very memorable, recognizable and iconic. Nintendo already has years on Sony when it came to making games and understanding what worked and what didn’t , so kudos to Insomniac games for doing it so well against the competition. If you have noticed a theme in these Iconic characters then you aren’t mistaken. A lot of them are from people’s childhoods. People love to feel young again and to have those fun memories of youth and no obligations as they sat inside all summer and played video games. Who the hell ever went… outside? Nostalgia is a powerful thing.
21. Miles “Tails” Prower
Tails from the Sonic The Hedgehog series is one of the most famous and important “Player 2” much like a very similar iconic video game character which we’ll get into in a bit. He’s Sonic’s best friend and he really looks up to the blue blur. Although he doesn’t quite have the same speed, Tails has the ability to fly for a short period of time due to spinning his twin Tails. If you ask me, I have no idea how that makes sense and I just find it funny that Tails has a helicopter butt. Tails was introduced in the 2nd Sonic game and thus brought 2 players to the world of Sonic the Hedgehog. Even though the Sonic franchise is known for it’s large cast of talking animals, Tails has appeared in almost every mainline and spinoff Sonic game since his debut. There’s no denying that the Sonic franchise is widely popular, so it’s no doubt that Tails would be an iconic character.
Pretty Damn Iconic
Another one of Blizzard’s massive hits, Overwatch has become a gaming giant. It was released in 2016 and shows no signs of slowing down. It’steam-basedsed shooter with an emphasis on certain player roles as well as teamwork. Even if you haven’t played Overwatch, I’m sure you’ve seen Tracer somewhere on the internet by now. She’s on the cover of most of the physical copies of the game, she’s in countless Overwatch memes all over the internet (there are tons), and I’m sure you’ve seen your fair share of Tracer cosplay. She was even seen in Ready Player One (2018)! Tracer also represents the LGBTQ community, as she is confirmed to be gay. It’s nice that there is starting to be more representation in video games these days. Blizzard is known for making games that are played for years and years so I’m sure we are just seeing the start of Overwatch. Over time, I’m sure Tracer will become even more iconic.
19. Solid Snake
Metal Gear Solid dfined the stealth genre for years, and our main man Solid Snake is one of many to thank for that. And probably Hideo Kojima (Konami, not so much for what they did to him. SHAME). Metal Gear is a franchise that transcends into pure art with its beautiful gameplay, cinematic story, gorgeous cut-scenes and great characterization. I’d say Metal Gear has a very strong cult following, but that makes it sound like the game is only liked by a small number of fans. The game is clearly widely loved. Now, with all the things I’ve mentioned above, why wouldn’t Solid Snake be an iconic character? He’s one of the main characters of this beloved series, he essentially changed the stealth genre, hell, even his voice acting is fantastic. You get to watch Snake go through many revelations through the years of his life and you don’t get to see that with many video game characters. Video game stories usually only span a couple of days or weeks and a lot of games don’t get as many sequels as Metal Gear does. A good game and a good main character draws fans in and makes them life-long fans, and trust me when I say I’ve never heard someone say they are no longer a fan of Metal Gear or that they think the series has ever dipped in quality. Unless you’re talking about the recent Metal Gear Survive… But, unless the story of Metal Gear somehow continues, maybe we can just hope to see Snake in Smash Bros again!
18. Cloud Strife
This spiky-haired, moody mercenary made headlines in 1997 when Final Fantasy 7 hit the fray. Many regarded it as one of the best RPG’s of all time while others consider it one of the best games of all time. It was the franchises first jump to 3D and it hit a lot of JRPG tropes. The game was ridiculously long, spanning three disks and had a ton of mini-games for the player to enjoy. And man, talk about reading a lot of dialogue. Cloud is known for being very distant and often coming off as if he doesn’t really care about anything. He’s basically every teenager going through puberty. Deep down though, he’s very loyal, cares deeply for the planet, and can even be a bit humerus. Final Fantasy is an incredibly big franchise, being the second best selling RPG of all time, so it’s no surprise that Cloud would be so popular. Final Fantasy 7 is the best selling game in the franchise and the guy is pretty recognizable; Just look at that massive Buster Sword!
Although Princess Peach wasn’t the original damsel in distress (it was actually Pauline), she is basically the plot behind every mainline Mario game. She could be caught while baking a cake for Mario, or while vacationing on a tropical island but in the end, she’ll always be caught. In a few of Mario’s adventures, we even get to play as Peach! In Mario Bros 2 and Super Mario 3D World, peach is a playable character and has the ability to float for a few seconds at a time. And just like most Mario characters, she’s basically in every spin-off and sports title the franchise has to offer. Peach even has her own game for the Nintendo DS, Super Princess Peach that sees her saving Mario for once. She is one of video games first female faces and is the subject of “but our princess is in another castle”, one of the most popular lines in video game pop culture. Bottom line is, Peach is synonymous with one of the most famous and iconic video game franchises in history and makes it all worth it for Mario to save his princess in the end.
16. Donkey Kong
Much like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong’s rise to stardom started during the arcade era with the original Donkey Kong game and is one of the original video game villains. I’m sure you’ve all seen some sort of iteration of it or have played it Shigeru Miyamoto’s very famous arcade game. DK gained massive success and then came the Donkey Kong Country Trilogy. These games were amazing fun each game had very different, creative level design. Donkey Kong Country hit when Nintendo was big on sidescrollers and platformers, so it’s big when people say these games are some of the best in the genre. The newest game of the franchise, Tropical Freeze, has recently been called an absolute masterpiece, and I’m sure will pave the way for more Donkey Kong games. DK is also ironic because he was Mario’s original enemy in the Donkey Kong arcade games where Mario had to save his Pauline from the giant ape. It spawned it’s own Mario VS Donkey Kong series that had lasted through multiple generations of consoles. I also hope that many of you have seen the Donkey Kong cartoon because it’s pure cringe-worthy gold.
Street Fighter was another huge game that came out of the arcade era. Fighting games were big back then I can remember gathering around the machine at my local bowling alley to watch the older kids fight against one another. The amount of quarters that I wasted on weekend on Street Fighter could probably pay my college debt and I bet every bowling alley owner who had these arcade machines made bank. The arcade era really helped the game industry out because it only gave limited time for kids to play, and then once consoles came out, they realized they can spend the money to buy the consoles and these games to play on their own in their own house. At the center of Street Fighter, was Ryu, the bulky, red bandana wearing fighter whose legendary among fighting games. His rivalry with Ken has and probably always will be talked about in the gaming world. What’s also iconic about Ryu is his move set. No doubt that when you’ve been fighting with your friends, they pushed out their hands and yelled “Hadouken” or maybe they did a spinning uppercut and yelled “Shoryuken”. I’m sure there are many kids, and most certainly adults who have wished they could fight like Ryu in real life. Although if I had a choice, I’d rather Goku’s Kamehameha, but I wouldn’t mind settling for a Hadouken.
Mortal Kombat is known for being extremely violent and thus is always criticized by the media and Scorpion is at the forefront of this game. And whew, lemme tell you, Scorpion is one violent dude. He’s a resurrected ninja that hold the distinction of being in every Mortal Kombat game. He’s definitely viewed as more of an anti-hero, often acting for the right reasons but using more … bloody methods to get things done. Fighting games were very popular back in the arcade era of gaming and Mortal Kombat was no exception. Two of the biggest fighting games from that era are Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. The series reputation for being so violent is one of the reasons Scorpion is such a well-known character, due to him being the poster boy for the series. Scorpion and Sub-Zero’s rivalry is also one of the most legendary in the industry, much like Ryu and Ken or Mario and Sonic. I’m sure many people have parodied Scorpion when they fight and yell “Get over here!”
Metroid is an incredibly popular series that has gone through some changes through the years. One of the biggest surprises of the franchise is when Samus took the helmet off to reveal she’s actually a woman. She’s a bounty hunter from the earth colony of K-2L, Samus has done missions thought to be practically impossible. Thus giving her a reputation that reaches far and wide. Although she is often lonely and brooding, Samus actually seeks vengeance against space pirates and Ridley, for the death of her mother. One of the reasons Samus is so popular is because of that legendary reveal at the end of the first Metroid game where it’s revealed she’s a woman, and because the series she is in has helped coin the term “Metroidvania” which refers to a type of action adventure game that takes inspiration and gameplay mechanics from the two series Metroid and Castlevania. Samus helped Nintendo cement themselves as a gaming superpower back in the NES era and has thus gained a cult following. But just how popular she is? Just look up some reactions to Metroid Prime 4 being revealed.
12. Mega Man
Capcom is known for having a ton of massive video game franchises. Back in the day, one of these hits was Mega Man. Yes, he’s still very relevant today, and even has a collection coming out soon that is sure to sell well. The franchise was incredibly popular during the 80’s and 90’s and Mega Man 11 is set to release in the near future. The franchise was different due to its non-linear gameplay which was different compared to popular side scrollers like Mario and Metroid. The 2011 Guinness Book of World Records even listed him as 23rd most popular video game character ever. Yes, that may seem low, but in the grand scheme of just how many characters there are in the industry, that number is incredibly impressive. Capcom has some franchises like Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Monster Hunter, Devil May Cry, and Dead Rising. All this and people will still consider Mega Man the mascot of the company. The games are legendary for featuring fun and creative gameplay as well very fun weapons. Mega Man will last throughout the ages. When we all go extinct, maybe Aliens will dig up a copy of one of the games and think our whole purpose was to defeat Doc Wily.But for now, Mega Man remains one of the most iconic video games of all time.
The original player 2 palette swap! Luigi is Mario’s brother and often his partner in crime. As shown by his diary entries in Paper Mario, Luigi is constantly stuck in Mario’s shadow and just wishes to be as loved as his brother. Luckily, Luigi has had his moments, being the start of his own series, Luigi’s Mansion. He also is the protagonist of Mario Is Missing, which maybe you should skip. Our green hero is also a bit more distinguished due to him having more of a personality than Mario. Luigi is extremely cowardly, often too scared to run head first into battle like Mario does, he still somehow manages to pull himself together and fight for those he loves. So why is Luigi so iconic? Well, because he’s Mario’s brother. They have been inseparable since the first Mario Bros game. Even someone who has never played video games in their life could look at Luigi and still know who he is. If you were the younger brother or sister of the family, you most likely played as Luigi and for that, I tip my green hat to you.
The Cream of the Iconic Crop
10. Geralt of Rivia
My boy Geralt earns his spot in the top 10 for so many reasons. Many consider The Witcher to be their favorite series, and The Witcher 3 is many people’s favorite game ever. What’s so iconic about Geralt? He is so badass, looks so unique, he’s gone through this amazing journey and he’s been in a ton of forms of different media. From the original books to the Witcher television series being made by Netflix, Geralt is certainly doing his part to solidify himself into pop culture. The developer of The Witcher 3, CD Projekt Red, is based in Poland and the Polish government actually endorses the company. Whether it’s his trademark grey hair, his hatred of portals or his love for Gwent and gambling, Geralt is one iconic Witcher, inside his games and in the real world.
Like many Legend of Zelda characters, Ganon has had many incarnations. The dark prince himself is destined to reincarnate throughout time forever and try to take over the world. He’s one powerful guy… or Gerudo… or demon… whatever. He’s got the tri-force of power and he’s no joke…except for the joke I just made, damn it. The Legend of Zelda is one popular game and Ganon is the main villain in most games, especially the most popular ones. He’s in A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess and Breathe of the Wild. A lot of people argue that he’s a way better villain than Bowser, and although we are inclined to agree, Bowser is a bit more iconic. The popularity of the Nintendo 64 and Ocarina of Time being such a staple of many childhoods definitely helps Ganon in the iconic department. Another cool thing is that our King of Darkness has another form, his beast/boar form which is super cool to see. He’s usually the end game boss and due to his terrifying look and stature, it makes him one of the most iconic villains and video game characters.
Pac-Man was a cultural sensation and icon during the 80’s. The game was a hit in the arcade era of video games and has held 8 world records to date including; Most successful coin-operated game, the game’s creator Toru Iwatani, has the record for most coin-operated arcade machine installed worldwide, etc. I could spend all day talking about them. Pac-Man even has a business term named after him called the “Pac Man Defense”. There was a Pac-Man television series in the early 80’s and even a song by Buckner & Garcia called Pac-Man Fever. The song was number 9 on the top 100 billboards chart. As a fun bit of trivia, if you’ve watched Scott Pilgrim VS The World, then you know the character was supposed to be called Puck-Man, based of the Japanese Word paku-paku, which means to open and close one’s mouth. I would need to write a whole article on how many games Pac-Man has appeared in and guest appeared in. There has essentially been a Pac-Man game on every console you can think of, and a Pac-Man arcade machine in every arcade and video game inspired bar you can think of. They even featured Pac-Man as a fighter in Super Smash Bro’s for the Wii U and 3DS. Even if you haven’t played Pac-Man, I’m sure you can still hear the sound effect of opening and closing his mouth, it’s that iconic.
Just like Mario but the opposite, Bowser is the face of video game bad guys. The strange thing about Bowser is, he really isn’t that much of a bad guy. He isn’t menacing, doesn’t do anything truly terrible (aside from kidnapping and attempted murder). I guess that’s to be expected when he’s the villain of a family-friendly game. Bowser is the main villain of almost every mainline Mario game and has been on the scene for over 35 years. Once you think about it, Bowser has influenced a lot of video games and villains alike. He started the trend of hurting a boss three times before he dies, being able to play as the bad guy for the first time, as well as a bad guy turning to a more comedic role over the years. The Mario franchise also has the benefit of having a plethora of spin-off titles that our big bad-guy has starred in. Yes, Bowser has raced karts, clubbed golf balls, kicked soccer balls, played party games, batted baseballs and even teamed up with our mustachioed hero a few times. Bowser is pretty much a household name like Mario & Luigi and he’s got the reputation, history, and personality to back it up.
6. Lara Croft
The Tomb Raider introduction into video games can only be described as a catalyst for strong female leads into the industry. She was strong-willed, highly skilled and most importantly, she got things done and on her own terms. Lara very quickly became a cultural icon and was very iconic in the gaming world as well as the movie and coming book world. Tomb Raider has been credited with greatly helping 3D gaming work and become a work of art. Many even credit Lara Croft with the rise of PlayStation sales back in the 90’s. She also holds the Guinness World Record as the most recognizable female video game character to date! With the resurgence and reeincarnation of the Tomb Raider series, and with Shadow Of The Tomb Raider set for soon-ish release, we’re excited for the future of Tomb Raider and Lara. She has been a major influence on gamers, on women, and on men around the entire world.
I read the name Pikachu and the classic theme of the Pokemon series hit me hard. That little song that comes on when you get to the opening menu of the first generation of Pokemon. Ahh you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t played or even watched Pokemon then you have at least seen Pikachu and you must know what he/she is. Is Ash’s Pikachu a guy or girl? Lemme check …IT’S A DUDE. Anyway. Pokemon is a worldwide sensation and that was even way before Pokemon GO. In fact, Pokemon has been called Japan’s greatest export. It’s the best selling RPG in the world, which is even more impressive considering it’s a turn-based RPG which many consider being a boring genre (well not in this household). Pikachu is literally the poster child for Pokemon, due to him being Ash’s main sidekick in the Pokemon anime that has been running since 1999. Pokemon has really come a long way in video game culture. From hand helds to conoles, and with a Pokemon game coming to the Nintendo Switch, we’re excited about Pomemon for years to come. In the Pokemon manga, and the first two games in the series, Pikachu was not the main character’s starter Pokemon (in the original manga, Red actually started with a Poliwag!). Pikachu’s fame transcends the video game platform, as I’m sure those who don’t even play Pokemon know who he is.
The Blue Blur, the Mario killer, the fastest thing alive; Sonic The Hedgehog has tons nicknames as he is well known throughout the zones. First released in 1991, Sonic became a huge hit and put Sega in the market. He also became the companies mascot and the series has sold over 350 million copies. Sonic games were massive in the 90’s and even though they don’t sell as well today, Sonic is is still a huge mascot within the industry. He changed sidescrollers by putting the emphasis on speed and creative, fast-paced level design that focused on the speed mechanic, compared to the slower, more exploration based Nintendo sidescrollers. Unlike Mario, is also fully voice acted, which is different from our plumbing hero and most video game stars from the late 80’s and early 90’s. It’s crazy to think that Sonic games were system sellers but now they struggle to get over a million copies sold. Maybe his games just don’t work in 3D? You gotta hand it to the blue blur though, he can sell merchandise and is easily marketable. Just look at how many cartoons they have based off the franchise!
It would be an absolute understatement, a true crime, if I said that The Legend of Zelda was a major part of gamers childhoods and their journey in gaming. People don’t just love The Legend of Zelda, they live it. They wear it on their hats and backpacks, they tattoo the triforce on themselves, they cosplay as Link to their hearts content. Of course at the center of all this love, is Link and his many reincarnations. The guy has done a lot to capture our hearts, he’s the hero of Hyrule, Waker of the Winds, The Hero Chosen By the Gods. The list goes on. There are so many smaller things that Link is remembered for in the gaming community. Navi screaming at him constantly to listen, him smashing every pot in existence, turning into a wolf and the newest one of being terrified of rain when you’re climbing in Breathe of the Wild. Ocarina of Time really helped 3D gaming with how to work with camera angles worked in a 3D space, The Zelda franchise sets itself apart from a lot of other Nintendo franchises for having rich lore. Link has made so many things iconic in gaming and in life itself. Whether it’s green tunics, master swords, or playing ocarina’s, Link is a staple and hero in gaming itself.
2. Master Chief
If video games had a Superman (not counting the Superman games), it would be the Master Chief. From that very first day back in 2001, when Halo: Combat Evolved first released, Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 didn’t just become synonymous with the Xbox brand or sci-fi video games, he became ingrained within pop culture. From movies to to TV shows, from cosplays to books, The Master Chief has become one of the most iconic video game characters of our generation. Strong, fast and most importantly lucky, he’d be a welcomed member to any team. Master Chief has been a staple character for the Xbox franchise and will continue to be the face of not just Xbox gaming, but modern day video games for years to come.
I think it’s safe to say that not alot of people can say that they don’t know who Mario is, he’s pretty damn iconic. He is basically the face of video games at this point. I mean, his original character name was Mr. Videogame! Even if you don’t like Nintendo, you cannot deny that they are the reason that video games are popular. Mario has appeared in over 200 games with over 500 million copies sold, what an absolute powerhouse. It’s common to hear stories about how Mario games were a lot of peoples first game and a lot of people’s favorite games. Games like Mario 64, Super Mario Bros. 3, and Paper Mario are among some of the most famous games that Mario has been in. People have Mario clothing, Mario themed tattoos and some pretty cool Mario themed accessories. From books to comic books, from TV shows to mvovies, Super Mario has been Nintendo’s mascot for all the right reasons. He’s brave, colorful, fun to play as and a easily marketable. If you’ve ever met Charles Martinet, he lives and breaths Mario and all things Nintendo. The guy is cheery as hell and he is an absolute pleasure. I can’t even imagine a time where Mario wasn’t the face of video games, making him our most iconic video game character on this list.
So that’s our list! Of course, our list is just our opinion. Who would be on your list? Leave some comments below, we’d love to see what characters you’d put where or, just let us know what you think! All this work is for your folks.
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