The 25 Best Video Game Characters of the Decade

Updated: 5 Mar 2020 9:29 AM PST
Posted: 27 Jan 2020 2:26 PM PST

The past decade had some brilliant games and inside those games a slew of characters kept us engaged through their storylines. Check out our top video game characters of 2010-2020:

25. Connor (Detroit: Become Human)


Connor, an android police officer, is the personification of evolution in this story, showing just how complex video game stories can become. Like all great characters, he changes as the story progresses, challenging notions of what a police officer can be while simultaneously earning the respect of so many humans that despise him for who he is.

24. Marcus Fenix (Gears of War)

Marcus Fenix

Fenix appeared in multiple Gears games, serving as the hero who simultaneously destroys the enemies of humanity while uncovering more about his family. Truly great heroes don't just become good guys, they become people, struggling against forces beyond their control while managing their own lives, and Fenix brilliance is based on the fact that he is more than just a soldier.

23. Sam Porter (Death Stranding)

Sam Porter

Porter is the tragic hero of Hideo Kojima's controversial Death Stranding. While the game has no shortage of detractors, even they cannot deny the complex nature of Porter, voiced by the legendary Norman Reedus. Porter is more than just a delivery man. Of course - he's a guide and a beacon of hope in a broken world.

22. Nathan Drake (Uncharted)

Nathan Drake

Drake is the protagonist of the Uncharted series, appearing in multiple iterations of the game. While Drake starts as your prototypical macho hero, he evolves into so much more, not only collecting treasures but managing relationships while trying to control his true calling and passion. The internal conflict that Drake faces, combined with his evolution as a romantic partner, make him a fascinating and complex hero.

21. Booker de Witt (Bioshock)

Booker de Witt

De Witt appeared in multiple games in the Bioshock series. Truly great characters do more than shoot, and that's what makes de Witt so memorable: You watch his family history unravel before your eyes and watch his relationships with other characters evolve and explode, but particularly with Elizabeth. The various settings of the game also allow you to track de Witt's progress as a person across multiple time periods - and universes.

20. Joker (Arkham Series, Batman)


Joker is evil personified, and the way he tortures Batman throughout the Arkham series shows you the depth of his depravity. Still, the nature of Batman & Joker's relationship is astonishing. They need each other so severely that by the time Joker dies, you wonder how Batman will be able to live without his nemesis. Even when gone, Joker haunts Batman from beyond the grave.

19. Shepard (Mass Effect)

Shepard - Mass Effect

Shepard is the hero of Mass Effect, and his/her complex decisions, bravery, and leadership, as well are interactions with a slew of other characters, form the basis for this incredible gameplay. Of course, what truly makes Shepard great is that he - or she - is your character. You decide who Shepard becomes as they save the galaxy.

18. Samantha Greenbriar (Gone Home)

You never see Samantha Greenbriar, but by reading her notes and learning her story, you cannot escape her. This, arguably, is what makes her story of self-discovery and sexual identity so amazing: No game has ever told such a compelling story without having ever allowed you to meet the character.

17. 2B (Nier: Automata)

Nier: Automata

2B is a battle-type android, which evolves over multiple games. She is stoic and sturdy, but the longer you play, the more you learn about her real purpose in this broken universe filled with machine wars. At the same time, to truly understand and learn about 2B, multiple playthroughs are required. 

16. Hannah (Her Story)

Hannah - Her Story

Her Story is a truly unique video game where players learn the story of Hannah by typing in spinets of the narrative. You learn Hannah's crime out of order: As a result, Hannah's life is told in a broken series of strange snippets, giving players a truly unique experience.

15. Paarthurnax (The Elder Scrolls Skyrim)

Paarthurnax - The Elder Scrolls Skyrim

Paarthurnax, the Dragon, guides the Dragonborn into defeating his former friend, Alduiin. Paarthurnax knows he has done wrong and seeks redemption by helping the Dragonborn, but Skyrim's genius is that it shows these efforts may not be enough. As the hero, you may choose to kill Paarthurnax anyway, despite the wisdom he seeks to impart.

14. Edith Finch (What Remains of Edith Finch)

Edith Finch is walking tragedy, and her narrative overview provides the backbone for the terrible history of the Finch's. Playing this game is like watching a train wreck: You know how it's going to end and are powerless to stop it. All you can do is hope that Finch's unborn child can finally break the family curse.

13. Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)

Lara Croft - Tomb Raider

Lara Croft has been in so many games that she has practically become a Mario-like legend in her own right. She is an iconic adventurer, but as the art of video games have evolved, so has Croft, moving from a hero and sex symbol to a deep, multi-layered character with an impressive back story.

12. Michael (Grand Theft Auto)

Michael kills without remorse, but he's arguably the most complex of the playable characters in this game. You see his conflicted nature, his desire to be a good husband and father, and watch those desires fight with his need to keep stealing, robbing, killing and generally cause chaos.

11. Henry (Firewatch)

Henry - Firewatch

Henry is a strange anti-hero: He abandons his sick wife and grows close with Deliah, the voice on the other end of the radio which you never actually meet. Yet, as Henry solves the mystery of the game, he also discovers his pain, and possibly his ability to love in the face of tragedy. 

10. Madeline (Celeste)

Madeline - Celeste

Celeste is one of the most challenging platformers of the decade, but what makes it truly special is Madeline, the protagonist, who struggles to not only conquer the mountain but defeat her depression, anxiety and inner demons. Madeline is more than Mario: She is adorable, and you want her to succeed and be happy. 

9. Naia & Naiee (Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons)

Naia and Naiee - Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

An emotional journey of complex tragedy told as a co-op platformer that drives home the depth of the relationship between the game's two heroes. The Two Brothers are inseparable from each other, until the end of the game when they are separated by death as they find the cure for their father's illness. 

8. Geralt (The Witcher)

Geralt - The Witcher

Geralt is a Witcher who has made multiple appearances as the Hero in The Witcher series. One of his more unique aspects is his seeming introversion: Unlike most tough guys, he isn't just big and brash. He has a role to play and people to save, but at the same time, his family struggles give him a depth often lacking from big tough guys you usually see in video games.

7. Chloe (Life is Strange Series)

Chloe - Life is Strange

Chloe is the tragic figure of the series whose death kicks off this decision-based game. Her love for Max and sad romance with Rachel Amber, as well as her subtle portrayal of teen angst, depression, and finding your sexual identity, make this game one for the ages. And hey, if the character is holding your attention and love across multiple realities, she must be doing something right.

6. Clementine (The Walking Dead)

Clementine - The Walking Dead

Throughout this series, you watch Clementine grow up, evolving from a scared young girl in need of rescue to a hero, leader, badass and mother. The choice-based game allows you to control many of her decisions, but the core of Clementine's character and her bravery form the basis for who she is.

5. John Marston (Red Dead Redemption)

John Marston was a bad man, a bad man who did terrible things, but all he wants now is to live a life of peace with his family. You watch him struggle against his history and the authorities throughout Red Dead, and just when it appears he has won his freedom, you see it taken from him. 

4. Sans (Undertale)

Sans starts as a hilarious character who guides you through the Underworld, but as you play, it becomes apparent that Sans is so much more: He knows what is happening in the world and becomes your moral compass and mentor. If you fight him, he also becomes one of the most challenging bosses ever in video game history.

3. Pagan Min (Far Cry 4)

Pagan Min - Far Cry 4

Min is a fantastic villain and dictator who rules the country of Kyrat with a genuinely insane iron fist. He's Kim Jong Un in pink. However, as the game moves on, Min's actions become less cartoonish and more understandable, given what you learn about him and his family history. 

2. GLaDOS (Portal)

GLaDOS - Portal

GLaDOS is hilarious and evil, and any game which can successfully pull off this combination has gone to be a winner. She moves from evil villain in Portal to Chell's partner and friend in Portal 2, helping you save the testing facility and yourself. Secretly, don't we all want a friend like GLaDOS?

1. Kratos (God of War)

Kratos - God of War

Kratos is so much more than the typical big, strong man archetype. As the God of War series evolves, Kratos evolves from tortured hero to gentle Father, barely surviving death and serving as the voice through which the God of War series is played. What makes Kratos so stunning is his growth and evolution: He moves from a violent figure to a caring father who seeks only to keep the world safe for his son.

Who were your favorite game characters of the past decade? Let us know in the comments below.


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