This week, we’re stopping to take a breath from the Resident Evil reviews – they will continue soon, but I thought it’d be a good idea to break them up with a list post. Specifically, I am expanding on a recent tag that went around the community online, where we had to select our favourite video game characters; an enjoyable and painfully tough challenge, I gotta say! Thinking about it, though, I thought it would be fun to add some context to my five choices in a post. Here, then, I am going to be briefly running through the reasons why I chose the five that I did. Before that, though, I’d just like to bring up one character it hurt me a lot to cut: Captain Toad! It isn’t exactly a secret that I am a huge fan of the character and their adventures, but ultimately, they came in just out of my selection. I think I may have to rectify this soon with some Captain Toad content, perhaps a review of Treasure Tracker or just a post generally explaining why they’re awesome…
As some extra clarification, I kept to one character per game series, and also only chose characters that originated in the medium of games – so, for example, someone like Batman wasn’t in consideration. In addition, my top five are in no particular order; it was painful enough getting to this point, okay? Finally, prior to starting, I’d like to thank The Gamer With Glasses for tagging me in the first place, and Nepiki for the inspiration to do a featured image putting my choices together – maybe, even, other people could do a detailed edition of their selection as blog posts too, if they feel inclined! Right, intro done: let’s talk my top five game characters!
-WARNING: SOME SPOILERS FOR THE GAMES INVOLVED AHEAD-
Favourite Appearance: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
As the iconic titular character of, in my opinion, the best game series out there, there are immediately many reasons why Princess Zelda would be on this list. However, out of all the incarnations of the character across the iconic The Legend of Zelda franchise, why is it that I choose the Princess Zelda from Twilight Princess (which is, incidentally, my favourite game ever)? Well, even though we see relatively less of her throughout the game compared to other entries, her appearances uniquely steal the screen when they do come around. Characters such as Zelda and Link are slightly older relative to other games in the series, and you get the sense that Zelda, in particular, has witnessed a lot during the twilight takeover of Hyrule, and is utilising that experience to properly plan a return strike from behind the scenes. Though Link is given a lot of responsibility in this, none of it would happen without the guiding hand of Zelda (felt, by extension, through your companion Midna). Take your secretive first meeting, on the rainy, gloomy rooftops of Hyrule Castle, where Zelda stealthily reveals herself from beneath a cloak to reveal details on the state of events. Part of why Twilight Princess appeals to me is the edge of darkness and maturity to the desperate battle to save Hyrule, and this improvised rooftop meeting is an apt demonstration of that. It feels as though Zelda has the traits of Sheik from Ocarina of Time inherently rolled into her character.
Speaking of that scene, the character design of Zelda in Twilight Princess is wonderful, whether it be that understated entry, or later on when she reveals her regal yet practical attire. This elegant outfit suits the more mature iteration of the character; this is matched by her actions in combat, whether it be with her delicately dangerous sword or her shining light arrows (in either Twilight Princess or Super Smash Bros.)! Overall, this visual design combos with the more adult personality to form, for me, the standout version of the character in the long-running series, and I’d really like to see the concept of slightly older versions of Zelda experimented with more – the games tend to lean towards the characters being younger, which is fine, but there is leeway to play with different ages. Zelda is proactive in the plot of Twilight Princess, and even when Link does have to help her, it’s more of a two-way stream than it has been at other times, culminating in an epic fight for Hyrule in which Zelda plays a key role. As usual, talking about Twilight Princess has me feeling like playing it (again)…
Favourite Appearance: Pokémon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum
Anyone who has talked to me for more than 5 seconds about Pokémon probably knows two things: Steel is my favourite typing in the game, and Jasmine is my favourite character in the series! Jasmine was introduced in Pokémon Gold/Silver as the Olivine City Gym Leader, and is the first trainer you face focused around the at-the-time-brand-new Steel type. Immediately, though, Jasmine stood out for battling not necessarily being her focus – indeed, when you arrive in Olivine City, you find an empty Gym, as Jasmine is at the local lighthouse tending to the sick Ampharos which lights it. Jasmine has a touching care for the wellbeing of Pokémon, and will not return to her Gym until you help heal Ampharos – though, don’t think this means you are in for an easy battle against the young Gym Leader when it does come, as she introduces the strengths of the defensively-inclined Steel type with her signature Steelix; a powerhouse of a Pokémon that the unprepared will struggle to defeat. There is a wonderful juxtaposition between this seemingly shy girl and her impressive proficiency in battle with a towering Pokémon such as Steelix, and this reserved yet strong personality is one I admire.
The character design, too, reflects this, with a simple and distinct bow-wearing outfit that crafts her own look without shouting about it. Another essential part of her character is Olivine City itself and her love for the seaside town, paired with a desire to explore other regions. One highlight of my favourite Pokémon games, Diamond/Pearl/Platinum, is the surprise Jasmine cameo in Sunyshore City late on to give you the Waterfall HM. Sunyshore is similar to Olivine in multiple ways as a waterside town, and they even have a relatively understated Gym Leader of their own in Volkner. Furthermore, Jasmine appears in the Cute Contests with Steelix (genius) as an extra layer to the appearance, and her addition to Pokémon Masters drew me back to the mobile title, where Jasmine has new interactions with other characters in the Pokémon world. For example, one recent story event had her meeting Gym Leader Raihan from Sword/Shield and their Duraludon; the sudden enthusiasm from the often-quiet Jasmine at training with another Steel-type Pokémon surprises the others, to which Jasmine is left adorably flustered. These sorts of moments are incredibly endearing, especially as you know that behind them is an iron-strong trainer who can more than hold her own. Gradually more and more Steel-type specialists have been introduced over the years, but Jasmine still stands as my favourite – and, indeed, my favourite character in the Pokémon universe.
Favourite Appearance: Celeste
As a conduit for the important story Celeste tells, Madeline had to make this list, as that game – and this character – changed my own outlook on how I see the world. For those unaware, Celeste is a brutal 2D screen-to-screen platformer where you play as Madeline; she has gone to climb Celeste Mountain as a journey to find her path in life, and the game soon surprises you with the poignant story it tells. Through subtle hints here and there – such as your conversations with another adventurer, the social-wise Theo – you realise that Madeline is struggling with an anxiety permeating her life – indeed, this climb is an attempt to find some sort of resolution from it. Also, early on, you meet the opposite side of yourself, as it were, who the developers nicknamed “Badeline”. Climbing higher and higher, you’ll run into Badeline several times, continually outrunning her until it appears as though you are on the home stretch. This is the moment that Celeste suddenly and literally knocks you down to the base of the mountain. At rock bottom, you realise the way to really move forward is not to run away from your other side or attempt to suppress it, but to embrace it and make it work with you. One article I am very proud of is my more detailed explanation of this here – my main point, though, is that this is a character developed through gameplay in a way only video games could do it. To me, Madeline and Badeline are essentially one amazingly-developed character, not two separate ones.
There’s an impressive efficiency to how the character of Madeline evolves whilst you’re also playing a very intense platformer. Every moment of dialogue and every new sprite reaction has absorbing charisma, and experiencing Madeline finding the answers she needs is extremely cathartic. Throughout the game, you get the feeling of the great person Madeline can be and the positive life she can lead, if she can find the means to unlock that path; so, seeing that in the endgame shots of Madeline and Theo fills my heart with warmth. It all feels earned, too, as you’ve gone through the game with her. Madeline feels like a very down-to-earth, real character, and that relatability helps with the themes and topics the game tackles. Her climbing and casual outfits show this with contemporary style that you’d imagine someone would actually wear, whilst still having a fantastically bold colour palette. The striking red hair, the practical padded climbing jacket, it all fits, and getting to see that in both sprite and artwork form – often intertwined – adds extra aesthetic layers too. If you have somehow not played Celeste and become familiar with Madeline, I highly recommend it, as there is a richly satisfying platformer and character-driven story to be found simultaneously.
Favourite Appearance: Rise of the Tomb Raider
Clearly, Lara Croft is an icon of gaming, but it was actually not until the 2013 reboot of the series that I started to properly play entries in the series; when I first got my PlayStation 4 back in 2014, I bought Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition with it, and was soon captured by the blend of action, exploration, and character it achieved so well. This origin version of Lara Croft is a young woman with an eye for archaeology, but she is nowhere near the confident adventurer seen in other games and mediums – instead, this reboot shows the beginning of her path to becoming that person. Thrown into a horrific situation on the island of Yamatai, Lara suffers many threats and survives by any means necessary as she unravels the ongoing mystery. Wisely, this game does not seek to completely develop Lara by the end, instead extending into a trilogy that includes Rise of the Tomb Raider and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Second game Rise, in particular, is where I became completely sold on this story and character. In this game, Lara faces the mysterious Trinity in snow-strewn locales, with more personal connections tying into the narrative. By no means does Lara sail through; there are constant setbacks, and part of why I enjoyed playing as this version of Lara Croft so much is her enduring motivation to never stop, to keep getting back up – and the performance of Camilla Luddington that goes into this is exceptional. Weave that with silky smooth and astonishingly pretty gameplay (including a focus on a bow as a signature weapon, which plays to my tastes!) and you’re left with a game and a character I come back to repeatedly.
Those traits of determination and always pushing forward are boldly put to the test in the third game, Shadow, which delves into her vulnerability and asks just why she is really doing all this, and whether it is worth the costs. One of my only criticisms of the Trilogy is the body count you rack up (even if not to the degree of an Uncharted), and I was glad that Shadow dared to delve into that. Lara makes considerable missteps, culminating in a fiery and emotional set piece roughly midway into the game; her dependable friend Jonah is there in that moment, not to wave away the situation, but to genuinely offer help, and I was so grateful for how real their friendship felt (there is no generic oh-they-have-to-end-up-together even hinted at). My opinion is that Shadow is very underrated for the risks it took having Lara not always in the right; risks that pay off to make Lara a more layered character you can invest yourself into. In addition, these games effectively show the enthusiasm for exploration Lara has, even letting you return to environments postgame. These places may have once been intense battlefields, but they’re now rich landscapes packed with secrets to discover at your own pace – I utterly love this, as it feels like going on your own expedition to another country in video game form. Combined with an awesome variety of outfits to mix up your look (I am a fan of the Indiana Jones-esque overshirt), these sections are a joy, and I’d actually be fine with them as the focus going forward, instead of the world-ending plots. By the end of Shadow, Lara satisfyingly completes her personal arc of becoming the Tomb Raider – and, whether there is more to come from this edition of the character or not, she’s one of my favourite in gaming.
Jill Valentine (Resident Evil)
Favourite Appearance: Resident Evil 3
Here we are at my fifth choice, Jill Valentine, and my most recent addition. Going into my education on the Resident Evil series in 2020, I knew very little about the cast of characters the series offered, but I soon discovered that they are one of the strengths of the series. Out of all of them – and there are a lot of great characters, for example the Redfield siblings or Leon Kennedy – it was Jill Valentine who I must enjoyed playing as. They were also the first, with Revelations being my starting point, where you see Jill impressively react to being trapped on a claustrophobic cruise ship filled with monstrosities. Immediately clear to me was that Jill (and Chris Redfield, too) were not ridiculously over-the-top like a lot of the side characters, and instead reacted much more intelligently to the horrors they faced. This confidence, combined with a optimistically kind approach, was only bolstered from playing other games in the series. In the original Resident Evil, I discovered Jill as one of the original playable characters, explaining her seasoned expertise. In Resident Evil 3, I got to know the person recovering from that trauma, but also being adaptable enough to evade the ruthless Nemesis and escape a zombified Raccoon City. In Resident Evil 5, I felt the urgency from Chris as he attempted to save his partner from the clutches of Albert Wesker. As I went game by game, I found that I enjoyed the ones where Jill was involved much more, and she always seemed to ground the story a bit more in reality (as much as they can be).
That is not to say Jill does not get her share of delightfully dramatic moments, with many quotable high points just in Resident Evil 3 alone. Inherently, Jill is one of the most proficient characters you get to play as in the franchise: she is skilled with a range of weapons, including her iconic Samurai Edge handgun; her lockpicking abilities are infamous; and she is skilled in close-quarters situations too. Playing as such a self-assured character, but one that still has to battle through multiple obstacles and mistakes, is an awesome occurrence – this is similar to why I put Lara Croft on this list, even if they’re characters in very different genres. Like Lara, again, the most recent design is my favourite (in the remake of Resident Evil 3), with the welcome outfit update paired with an engaging performance from Nicole Tompkins. See, Jill has gone through several iterations, designs, and voice artists, and there are definitely some misjudgments: Resident Evil 5, for example, took some questionable decisions in terms of representation. I’m glad when I see the more practical designs, with another example being her S.T.A.R.S. outfit of the first game or her BSAA gear in later entries (generally, blue is the colour theme). Now I’m just waiting for more games where Jill plays a part, with her noticeably not around in the sixth, seventh, or eighth Resident Evil games. So, Capcom… I’m waiting on you!
There you go, then, my top five video game characters at this moment! I hope you enjoyed reading this, and maybe it has even got you thinking on which five you would choose. For more of my list posts, you can go here. Thanks for reading, and have an amazing day!