Characters vastly improved by sequels

Before Mario became the most iconic character in videogame history – not to mention the most famous plumber in, well, plumbing history – he was just a carpenter named Jumpman, starring in a game named Donkey Kong. Our point? Even the best need a little time to blossom.

Such is the case with these 8 characters. Like Mario, they weren’t necessarily bad or below average in their debuts, but they were truly spectacular in their sequels, to the point that we almost forget our first impressions of them. How much they changed, and how much they improved. Here, then, is a reminder…

Contributors: Henry Gilbert, David Houghton

Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 4


Raiden is a joke on so many levels. He was forced on fans as the surprise star of Metal Gear Solid 2, a switch that creator Hideo Kojima purposefully hid until the day of release. He was modeled after the “pretty boy” anime archetype when a single letter to developers complained about playing an “old man” like Snake. He and his love interest (real name Jack, and Rose) are inspired by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet of Titanic. Oh yeah, and he cartwheels… in the nude.


Raiden continued to be a joke in the years following Metal Gear Solid 2, but the teasing was good-natured and self-deprecating instead of outright deceptive – Kojima understood the angry backlash his new character had created. If you choose “I like MGS2” at the start of Metal Gear Solid 3, your hero wears a mask that clearly mocks Raiden. During an early trailer for Metal Gear Solid 4 at E3 2005, Raiden fought for control of the game with Snake, and lost in appropriately humiliating fashion. The fans laughed, cheered and forgave.

When Metal Gear Solid 4 finally arrived, however, they were in for another shock – Raiden was awesome. Now a fearless cyborg ninja assassin who survives being crushed under a warship at one point, and battles waves of enemies with no arms and a sword grasped between his teeth at another point, Raiden is cooler than Snake (who has ironically aged into the pruney geezer despised by the original letter writer). He’s even replacing Snake – again – as the hero of next year’s Metal Gear Solid: Rising. Only this time, no one minds. Guess Hideo Kojima enjoyed the last laugh after all.

Isaac Clarke in Dead Space 2


Strong. Protective. Bright. Also, rusty and slightly dented. What, you assumed we were describing Isaac Clarke’s personality here? In the original Dead Space, his helmet is his personality, and the only unique, memorable thing about his character. He has no voice, no face (until the end) and, based on how quickly and obediently he follows orders from his smug superior officers, no opinions. Just another masked mystery man cliché.


Dead Space 2 gives Isaac Clarke a voice and a face, but more importantly, the sequel gives him the ability to act like a real human being. He not only talks, he converses, asking questions and demanding information instead of submissively listening. He doesn’t just emote, he reacts to the horrifying situation unfolding around him with believable, relatable expressions of fear, anger, shock, guilt, sadness and exhaustion.

Isaac can finally think for himself, too. He argues with, then rebels against, the people in power. He resists, and ultimately exorcises from his mind, the ghost of dead lover Nicole. He’s even willing to sacrifice his life near the end, not because someone tells him to, but because he wants to save his friends. Dead Space 2 introduces us to the man behind the mask… and the pleasant shock is how good and decent that man turns out to be.

Garrus Vakarian in Mass Effect 2


If Garrus was a comic book superhero – which, by the end of this entry, he practically will be – the first Mass Effect could serve as his humble origin story. He starts off an ordinary cop with ordinary powers, driven by a righteous sense of justice and frustrated by the obstacles of bureaucracy, but not extreme in any way. Then the radioactive spider bite… his commander, mentor and best friend Shepard is killed in combat, and the Council government won’t even acknowledge the existence of the enemies that killed him. Cue transformation.


How is the new Garrus different? Your pilot Joker summarizes this pretty well: “It seems like he’s finally worked that stick out of his butt, but now he’s trying to beat guys to death with it.”

If anything, that’s an understatement. Working under the identity Archangel, Garrus is now a crime-fighting turian vigilante willing to do whatever’s necessary to enforce peace and rid the galaxy of bad guys. He ignores the law. He operates off the grid. He single-handedly wipes out entire mercenary armies with a sniper rifle. He headbutts uncooperative middle-men when he’s feeling friendly, and shoots out their kneecaps when he’s not. He never forgets those who betray him, ceaselessly chasing them across the stars until he can exact his revenge. According to the Shadow Broker’s files, he even has a flair for the dramatic / ironic:

In other words, Garrus 2.0 is a total unapologetic badass, and arguably the sequel’s best “new” character. Plus, romance option!


  • Sleuth - April 27, 2011 4:16 a.m.

    Garrus/Turian Batman is always in my crew.
  • GamesRadarCharlieBarratt - April 25, 2011 11:34 p.m.

    That's sort of the same Price, but not really.
  • soxknight1127 - April 25, 2011 9:49 p.m.

    Soap was a good call but I would have gone with Price. He goes from cool but forgettable in COD2 to badass with great facial hair in COD4 to badass with great facial hair who nukes a space station in Modern Warfare 2.
  • wrpen99 - April 24, 2011 8:59 p.m.

    Koei had a good thing going, and they were smart not to change it. Better to keep something good and have it get boring over the years than change it for the worse by accident. Besides; 7 is everything great about the other 5 games put together, plus the added Jin campaign and playing as a general kingdom instead of only a single character, not to mention the ability to use any weapon you want, and the different element effects. To summarize, Dynasty Warriors is a great game, and it's best if it stays generally the same way. Though I'm pretty sure no one would mind if they added a mode similar to the first game.
  • Zeb364 - April 24, 2011 7:48 p.m.

    I know this has been said in these comments before but just want to state how completely I agree. Garrus rules. He came with me on every mission from the moment I recruited him in both Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. Obviously the Bioshock entry is spot-on. I really enjoyed learning about the Big Daddy process and who they used in their tests. The Dom and Maria scene is what made Gears 2 more than just an epic (no pun intended) shooter for me. Lastly, I agree with FVDub that Desmond and Lucy became not only much more likeable but actual three dimensional characters throughout ACII and AC: Brotherhood. I think putting it as Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher lite is a bit generous but I agree with the overall idea.
  • jackthemenace - April 24, 2011 3:15 p.m.

    I was almost in tears when Dom found Maria. TBH, I always liked Raiden, but mainly because I played as him before I ever played as Snake. Seeing Raiden in MGS4 was a reason to finally bitch-slap my friends and tell 'em they were wrong, despite non of them giving a toss. And Garrus? When I finally found out who Archangel was, I jizzed in my pants.
  • NaughtySnape - April 24, 2011 5:14 a.m.

    Dom was always my favorite character, and my first choice in multiplayer. GoW3 will have no exception
  • nbamike - April 24, 2011 4:26 a.m.

    How about Sora in KH1 Before: Scrawny little kid who happens to be surprisingly good at killing heartless. After: Sorta scrawny teen who is good at killing heartless and nobodies.
  • LordZarlon - April 24, 2011 2:24 a.m.

    I agree with Soap. I loved Call of Duty 4 but I always thought that Soap was a stupid name for a character. I just recently bought Modern Warfare 2, cause the price finally dropped on the PC version, and when I saw that Soap was a my badass Captain it made me smile. Great article.
  • Clovin64 - April 23, 2011 9:43 p.m.

    I brought Garrus along with me in every mission in ME2... and banged him three times with my lady Shep. Awyeah.
  • 510BrotherPanda - April 23, 2011 9:08 p.m.

    I wish Nintendo would bother evolving Luigi like Capcom did with Ken. Always getting only second fiddle... Dom's beard... it's awesome, but Batman5273 should just Photoshop Mikel Reparaz onto him and make it infinitely better.
  • FauxFurry - April 23, 2011 6:13 p.m.

    The whole list is pretty much air-tight. Even a character as good as Garrus was, he only reached true greatness in the sequel. Any other characters vastly improved by sequels will have to wait until the list itself has a sequel if such a time ever arrives. I'd like to recommend, for if and when that day comes, Yuna from Final Fantasy virtue of association with Paine. That's all she needed, really. Then there is also Dan Hibiki who went from minor palette swap joke character to the one of the most hilarious fighting game characters ever. Would the sequel list focus on character who lost their mojo/minds when the sequel rolled around, then Anders from Dragon Age 2 ought to be guaranteed a spot, two if Justice counts as a separate character there.
  • Japanaman - April 23, 2011 5:12 p.m.

    What about Wee-Gee?
  • manicania - April 23, 2011 4:55 p.m.

    I've only played two of these: Dead Space/Dead Space 2 and Wario Land.
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - April 23, 2011 4:46 p.m.

    I hated Garrus in Mass Effect 1. I took him with me two times and then stopped because he sucked at combat and bored the hell out of me.
  • kluivertus - April 23, 2011 4:14 p.m.

    It needs to be pointed out: Mario Land 3 aka Wario Land is the best in the Mario Land series, and one of the best Mario games period. I think I beat that game ten times when I was a kid . . .
  • egregious - April 23, 2011 3:35 p.m.

    Garrus' badass upgrade in ME2 means he needs his own comic book series.
  • Sjoeki - April 23, 2011 1:54 p.m.

    I almost never left the normandy without garrus at my side. And raiden... he's better in Metal Gear 4, but I'm still happy I didn't have to control him instead of snake, I'm a big fan of the metal gear series but so far I'm not impressed with metal gear rising.
  • md1292 - April 23, 2011 12:36 p.m.

    Soap McTavish could never be on the same level as Captain Price. "What's a muppet like you doing in the S.A.S.?" Plus, Captain Price is the protagonist for two of the best levels in FPS: "All Ghillied Up" & "One Shot. One Kill."
  • BlackElement17 - April 23, 2011 11:10 a.m.

    Considering that Soap reverts back to being the nameless gunman by the end of Mawa Deuce is his place on this list still justified?

Showing 1-20 of 44 comments

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