20 heroes who deserve better games

It could be said that, at the heart of any good videogame, there’s a great hero – but that would be a lie. Plenty of games have been awesome without any help whatsoever from their lunkheaded, personality free space-marine protagonists. It’s a lot rarer to find crappy games that are elevated – or at least made a little more interesting – by their heroes, but they’re out there.

Above: Here are some of them

Sometimes it’s that the characters in question are brilliantly written, or that they won us over with earlier, better games. Other times, it’s just that a license we like was done a grave injustice by a cheap tie-in game. Whatever the reasons, the following heroes are way too good for the games that confine them, and could do a lot better if given the chance.

1. Matt Hazard

Matt Hazard, a washed-up former videogame star who’s pulled out of retirement for what may be the most fourth-wall-breaking game ever, was the character that inspired this feature. It’s not that he’s particularly fascinating; in fact, seemingly everything about him is designed to be as generic as possible, from his bald head and gruff (Will Arnett-voiced) rasp, to his armored vest and love of guns.

Above: Oh look, a zombie. What an original enemy

But it’s what Matt does, and what he represents, that make him awesome. He’s a slightly exasperated old pro who’s starred in every conceivable game genre, habitually gets tossed into different ones and ends up fighting his own deathmatch-happy programmers. His games can be pretty funny, and their concept is brilliant, but unfortunately they’ve both been mediocre at best. Parodying stupid action-game tropes doesn’t mean you have to imitate them and make your games boring, and the sooner his creators at Vicios Cycle realize that, the happier we’ll be.

2. Sonic the Hedgehog

It’s difficult to think of anything to say about Sonic that we haven’t already. The blue Hedgehog started out stronger than arguably any other character besides Mario, and he’s had a couple of critical successes in recent years. In the main, though, his games gradually went from the most awesome things ever to a tired, recurring joke on the industry.

Above: Also, they gave us, uh… this. And… and we’re kind of out of words to complain about it

Sonic has gone from an awesome blue rodent that ran very, very fast to a weirdly personality-free mascot with an embarrassing stable of dumb animal sidekicks, an increasing lack of gameplay focus and a black, gun-wielding evil twin who got his own game because Sonic just wasn’t that cool anymore.

Unlike most of the other characters on this list, however, there’s still some hope for Sonic. After years of whining from the hedgehog’s fans, Sega has finally caved and promised Sonic the Hedgehog 4, which will apparently bring back the laser-focused, high-speed, side-scrolling gameplay that made Sonic great.


Even so, we’ve made the mistake of getting our hopes up about “old Sonic” coming back before, so we can’t simply have faith that Sonic 4 is going to be good. Call us cautiously optimistic, at least until later this year, when the first episode of Sonic 4 releases.

3. Turok

Before GoldenEye 007 redefined console shooters on the N64, the Son of Stone single-handedly commanded FPS fans’ attention with one of the bloodiest, best-looking, most flat-out awesome shooters we’d seen up to that point.

Above: Ignore the thick fog layer – at that point, we didn’t know it wasn’t cool

The secret to Turok’s success was pretty obvious: he was a badass Native American warrior from the distant past, who used extremely high-tech weaponry to bring down mercenaries, giant robots and – most importantly – dinosaurs, some of which were outfitted with ridiculous cybernetic implants. It was like everything the internet could possibly want, delivered years before the internet even knew it wanted it.

The sequel did away with most of the game’s infamous fog, looked incredible for its time and delivered a lot more (wholly unnecessary) story than its predecessor, but from there the series took a sharp dive downhill that culminated with Turok: Evolution, a game so notoriously shitty that the great game-mag EGM adopted its cavalry-cyborg villain, Tobias Bruckner, as the mascot for its worst-of-the-year awards.

Above: No, seriously, guys, this looks great. Go ahead and ship it just like that

A few years later, Turok made a comeback… in another mediocre shooter that fell into bargain bins after everyone made a point of ignoring it. Adding insult to injury, this Turok didn’t even have a connection to the Turoks in the original games; he was just Joseph Turok, a space marine of Native American descent who found himself stranded on a planet filled with dinosaurs. Because, you know, if there’s one thing that gamers need to see more of, it’s space marines.

4. Golgo 13

It never ceases to amaze us that a cold-blooded, womanizing assassin like Duke “Golgo 13” Togo ever made it onto the NES, sniper scopes and heavily implied sex scenes intact. And that he did it twice is nothing short of incredible.

As awesome as that stuff made his games seem at the time, though, in retrospect they kind of sucked. Substandard side-scrolling action was mixed with unbearable 3D mazes and impenetrably difficult sniper sequences, and in the first game, Top Secret Episode, Golgo himself (along with all his enemies) looked like he was going barefoot.

Above: Shoe-rendering technology was still a good two years away

A Golgo 13 game released today, however, could have everything its 8-bit predecessors never could: Competent sniper sequences. Smooth transitions from on-foot shooting to vehicles. Speech that consists of more than “…” Hell, anything would be better than those goddamn mazes.

5. Vanessa Z. Schneider

Despite the protestations of GR Executive Editor Brett Elston, P.N. 03 is one of the lamest, most uninteresting shooters to ever be a high-profile GameCube release. It did, however, have one saving grace: its heroine, Vanessa Schneider, whose dancing and gyrations powered the attacks she leveled at the game’s corridor-dwelling somethings.

P.N. 03 was nothing less than a sad waste of a fantastic (and sexy) idea, one that had forced countless men at the previous E3 to stop and stare whenever they saw Vanessa’s hip-twitching special moves. It was a fun game to watch – for a little while, at least – but why publisher Capcom would put a visually arresting, constantly active heroine into one of the most thuddingly dull space-shooters of the last generation is beyond us. Unless, of course, the company just had a thuddingly dull space-shooter it thought needed some visual flair.

Either way, Vanessa left us wanting to see more of her – just not in this awful, boring game.

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  • axelgarcia1 - July 3, 2010 5:45 p.m.

    well i actually liked the first two Harry games for the ps1, and the third for ps2 was good. only one i played after that was half blood prince and it sucked.
  • MaynardJ - July 1, 2010 7:29 a.m.

    Spyro should be on this list, he became mediocre after Year of the Dragon.
  • xmattyoungx - June 30, 2010 6:16 a.m.

    Man, I still say Death and Return of Superman on the SNES kicked ass.
  • ViolentLee - June 30, 2010 1:19 a.m.

    This is a bit off-topic, but damn does Rolling Thunder need a sequel! I worry, though, since Namco likes to shit on its old properties. Look for the guy from Splatterhouse and Jack Slate from Dead to Rights to make this feature next year...
  • skynetiscoming - June 29, 2010 1:54 a.m.

    Jesus, I played that Blasto demo from that PlayStation Underground disc so many times when I was like 4 years old. Then one day my dad rented the full game and he got pissed trying to beat like the fourth level or something like that. I downloaded it to play it on my PSP a few months ago and it was totally unplayable. I wanted to like it so much. :(
  • hardcore_gamer1990 - June 28, 2010 9:29 p.m.

    @Frontaloom - HOW DID I FORGET CRASH? :'( Sorry for thte DP
  • hardcore_gamer1990 - June 28, 2010 9:26 p.m.

    I thought Killer 7 would have got mentioned. Or at least Okami... Or Bayonetta. But mainly Okami.
  • DrJanitor - June 28, 2010 3:23 p.m.

    I'd love to play a good Superman game - the thought of a sandbox world where you could fly to any part of Metropolis is awesome. And I'd like to tear it apart like Red Faction: Guerilla. But in a nice way...
  • ensabahnur - June 28, 2010 12:11 p.m.

    Heres hoping to some better remakes of these. Not that it was bad but what about Legacy of Kain.
  • pin316 - June 28, 2010 9:27 a.m.

    Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was the first game i played on my N64, and i loved every minute of it...the sequels were responsible for one of my biggest disappointments ever with gaming
  • Frootaloom - June 28, 2010 7:45 a.m.

    I may be biased but I feel that Crash Bandicoot was once badass and now lacks any solidarity. The first game was all about him trying to save his girlfriend so he can get some...where's my Crash Bandicoot Galaxy game :( maybe that's just my nostalgia for once awesome titles before they became money laundering franchises talking.
  • ouchmytaint - June 28, 2010 4:48 a.m.

    the evil dead games were ok, i enjoyed the fact there was a button just to hear one of ash's many quips. superheroes need a better represention, they were ok with ultimate alliance, but it got old quick. idk what they can do with turok, the concept seems odd now...kinda like the game run like hell.
  • Silenus - June 28, 2010 12:56 a.m.

    I'm sorry, but having a Steven Heck standalone game is a terrible idea, and it's not just because Alpha Protocol is underrated and deserves the Mass Effect trilogy treatment. Heck is a crazy awesome, off-the-wall character, but that works in small doses. Having an entire game starring him and his 'xtreme 'tude would be too much, and the tone would be way too zany. He worked in AP, where he was a very light-hearted crazy awesome character in a game where mostly everyone else was serious, even Gelato Man. Making a Steven Heck game is as dumb as making an entire film about Les Grossman from Tropic Thunder. And since publishers tend to be as dumb as film studios, that's what's probably gonna happen.
  • Blasto - June 28, 2010 12:21 a.m.

    *top 20
  • Blasto - June 28, 2010 12:21 a.m.

    Yay! I was in a top seven!
  • Psylockerules - June 27, 2010 11:17 p.m.

    i gotta say i agree completely on P.N.03 i loved the design of vannessa but after a few levels that game was very blugh!
  • JohnDagger - June 27, 2010 10:21 p.m.

    I think that the characters from Advent Rising deserved a better game. Say what you will about the game itself, I know it wasn't great, but I thought the chracters and story were really interesting.
  • sean187 - June 27, 2010 6:42 p.m.

    i think a Avatar the last airbender game would be awesome if done properly
  • crazyer - June 27, 2010 2:12 a.m.

    ya Crypto needs a better game, but spyro the dragon needs better games what he needs is to have insomniac make his games again
  • WickedSid - June 27, 2010 1:15 a.m.

    Captain Marvel, or Shazam if you want to be a douche about it, he needs his own game. He can fucking call Lightning from out of Nowhere. He has his own catchphrase, and he's a mortal, boom, bullshit health-meter right there. P.S. Gratuitous Appreciation for this article, Thank you, WhiskeyParaz.