Where would video games be without the characters that inhabit their worlds? Whether they’re silent protagonists that never utter a word or provide motivation for their actions, like Pac-Man, or deep and fleshed-out characters like Lara Croft, video game characters have become a part of popular culture since the very early 1980s. Here are four of the most recognisable.
Our favourite tomb raiding archaeologist has seen and done it all. Ever since her first appearance in 1996’s Tomb Raider, the first of many games she’d feature in, she’s captured the hearts of those who play the games. Thanks to the power afforded to game developers from the evolution and ever-increasing power of gaming systems from systems like the ultra-fast Ryzen 7 Gaming PCs, the Tomb Raider games have got bigger and more ambitious over the years and are still being made today.
She’s transcended video games too. Lara Croft has been seen not only in video games, but also portrayed by two Hollywood stars – the 2001 movie Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie, and the 2018 offering of the same name starring Alicia Vikander.
Perhaps the most famous plumber in all the world, Mario is consistently considered the most recognisable game character of all time. He first came into the world in the 1981 Nintendo game Donkey Kong, but it would be two years later in 1983 when he was made the star of his own game, along with his brother Luigi, that would cement this character as the world’s most recognisable. Since the home console debut of Super Mario Bros, Mario has been seen in over 200 video games, like Mario Kart and Super Mario Odyssey. There’s no doubt that he’s going to be around for a few years to come.
In 2001, a new hero was born. His name was Master Chief Petty Officer John-117. Despite his name not exactly rolling off the tongue, we can certainly recognise this alien-murdering hero that takes centre stage in Bungie’s Halo game franchise. Over the 20 years that followed, Master Chief would appear in 15 Halo titles, including most recently Halo Infinite in December 2021. The character has been adapted to books, comics and anime and even a television series. He’s a staple of the gaming culture, and thanks to early titles being exclusive to it, one of the reasons for the popularity of Microsoft’s Xbox game console.
There probably aren’t many of us who haven’t played at least one iteration of Bandai Namco’s Pac-Man in our lifetime. From roots in video game arcades going back to the year 1980, this mysterious pebble-eating circle has been avoiding ghosts ever since. Legend has it the character’s creation drew inspiration from a pizza with a slice missing from it. Like the other characters on this list, Pac-Man has been featured in other media too, like a cartoon, and had cameos in movies like Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph.
There are an almost infinite number of video game characters, from blazingly fast hedgehogs to bald lab-grown assassins. They’re the indispensable vehicle through which we experience the game worlds that game developers create for us.