The Most Epic Characters in Video Gaming History

The Most Epic Characters in Video Gaming History


From platformers to FPS games, the world of video games is reliant on interesting characters - but which characters remain the most popular?

Top 10 Epic Video Game Characters in 2023

Good character development is a crucial element of the best video games. Whereas much emphasis is placed on graphics, mechanics and gameplay in the world of video games, there's simply no substitute for a well-developed character. Oftentimes, fans will place even more stock into key characters than the games themselves - this is why the most popular video game characters of all time have stood the test of time. Epic characters are memorable, unique and relatable. But which characters in particular are still widely regarded by gamers as the most epic of all time?

Mario is undoubtedly the most iconic and recognisable video game character of them all. Having first burst onto the scene as the side character 'Jumpman' in the classic 1981 platformer Donkey Kong, Mario quickly became a fan favourite. The red-suited, moustachioed plumber and his brother Luigi were the main protagonists of their own adventure platform game in 1983, Mario Bros. Since then, there have been countless sequels and spin-offs associated with the Mario franchise, with some of the most popular including Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart, Mario Party, Super Mario World and Super Mario Galaxy. Mario has also appeared on the silver screen, most notably with the notorious 1993 turkey Super Mario Bros. and, more recently, the better-received Super Mario Bros. Movie, released in 2023.

One of the most popular video game characters to have also emerged from the wide-reaching Mario franchise is Yoshi, the friendly green dinosaur who started his life as the famous plumber's assistant and steed. Best known for his long elastic tongue and for laying spotted eggs, Yoshi has made plenty of appearances in video games over the years. Some of Yoshi's most popular outings in both console and PC games include Yoshi's Crafted World, Yoshi's Story, Yoshi's Woolly World and Yoshi Touch & Go. He first appeared in his own spin-off in 1991 with Yoshi, which was released for both Game Boy and the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Donkey Kong
Although he may have first emerged as Mario's enemy in the influential 1981 arcade platformer, the Donkey Kong character evened out in subsequent releases and is now regarded as one of video gaming's best-loved protagonists. Famous for using barrels as weapons, Donkey Kong has appeared in a wide range of popular releases including Donkey Kong Country, Diddy Kong Racing and Donkey Konga. The loveable ape has also appeared in plenty of popular crossover game series including Super Smash Bros, Mario Party and Mario Kart. He's set for his first official silver screen outing in 2024 with the hotly-anticipated Donkey Kong Movie.

Link is the main protagonist and hero of the iconic game franchise The Legend of Zelda, having first appeared on video game screens way back in 1986. Though his appearance has evolved somewhat throughout the years, the Shigeru Miyamoto-created character remains instantly recognisable to countless video gamers across the world. According to this research on video game characters inspired by AI, Link would look a little different these days. At 56 years of age, Link would be donning a grey beard - but don’t worry, he’s still wearing his famous headgear!

Solid Snake
Solid Snake is the main character of the classic video game franchise Metal Gear. This fan favourite was inspired by the character of Snake Plissken, who was played twice by Kurt Russell on the silver screen in 1980s cult classics Escape From New York and Escape from L.A. As a former green beret, Solid Snake is a skilled and ruthless special operations soldier and assassin who was created and developed by Hideo Kajima and the Konami team. In video games, Solid Snake was popularized through his appearances in much-loved titles such as Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.

Agent 47
Agent 47 is a mysterious and formidable assassin who appears as the main anti-hero of the Hitman game series. First appearing in the classic 2000 title Hitman: Agent 47, the famously bald, barcoded killer is said to be inspired by comic book aesthetics and Hong Kong action movies of days gone by. While you certainly would not want to get on the wrong side of him, Agent 47 is the subject of many fans' favourite games, including Hitman Go, Hitman: Sniper and Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. He has also appeared twice in movie theatres, namely in Hitman and Hitman: Agent 47, released in 2007 and 2015 respectively.

Lara Croft
As the main female protagonist of the hit hybrid Tomb Raider game series, Lara Croft is probably the most tangible feminist icon in the history of video games. First created by the Core Design development team, Lara Croft is now well-known as a butt-kicking British archaeologist and sex symbol who has appeared in popular titles such as Tomb Raider II, Tomb Raider: Anniversary and Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. While her first appearance on the silver screen (as played by Angelina Jolie in the 2001 flick Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) was notoriously panned by the critics, the character fared better in a 2018 outing, when she was played by the Swedish star Alicia Vikander.

Max Payne
As the titular hero of the deep and dark 2001 neo-noir classic, Max Payne is often considered the most iconic revenge-fuelled video game character ever created. In the first title of the series, Payne scoured the underworld to hunt down those who killed his family. Since then, he's appeared in subsequent titles in the franchise including Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne and Max Payne 3. He's perhaps best remembered for displaying some of the most realistic, cinematic and in-depth character development ever seen in the world of video games. While the 2008 movie version of Max Payne (with Mark Wahlberg playing the titular hero) was poorly received, the character remains a firm favorite amongst gamers around the world. We hope that he will be awarded a more worthy silver-screen appearance in the coming years!

Desmond Miles
As the light-fingered, acrobatic protagonist of the first five entries in the popular Assassin's Creed game series, Desmond Miles is regarded by many as one of the best video game characters of all time. As a direct descendant and member of the Assassin's Brotherhood, Miles famously traversed the boundaries of space and time to experience the memories of his ancestors, visiting historic locations such as ancient Syria and Italy in the time of the Roman Empire. Despite his popularity, Miles did not feature in the well-received 2016 Assassin's Creed movie, which focused instead on fellow Brotherhood member Callum Lynch. Despite this, he remains the most popular character in the franchise for many fans.

Master Chief
Master Chief (aka Master Chief Primary Officer John-117) is the main protagonist of the Halo series, which is considered by many gamers as the finest sci-fi shooter output from the modern era. Developed by the Bungie game studio team, Master Chief is a Spartan super-soldier who has become instantly recognisable for his iconic military uniform and weaponry. Interestingly, Master Chief's face is never shown on-screen in the Halo games aside from a shot of his eyes, which is only unlockable at the conclusion of Halo 4 when played on the highest difficulty level. In 2023, he remains one of the most popular game characters of all time - this is no mean feat considering that we don't even know what he looks like underneath the helmet!

Honourable Mentions - Who are Your Favourite Video Game Characters?
Iconic video game characters really are ten-a-penny, so it wasn't possible to fit them all into this list. Some honourable mentions that didn't quite make the grade include Kirby, Rayman, Pac-man, Crash Bandicoot, Kratos and, of course, Sonic the Hedgehog. Other notable mentions include Geralt of Rivia, Spyro, Commander Shepard, Samus Aran and Ryu. If we've missed out your favourite character, don't hesitate to get in touch and let us know! In the meantime, why not get reacquainted with some of these classic video game characters? We know you want to!