Criminals aren’t the most respected members of society in real life, but they can make for some fantastic video game characters. Perhaps it's because the game industry is clearly trying to turn our nation's children into a breed of hyperviolent superthugs, just like all the know-it-alls who don’t actually know much of anything keep saying.
At any rate, we've chosen our favorite prisoners from gaming history, so read on for our glorification of digital lawbreakers and give them the credit they deserve. If you don’t, they’ll just steal it anyway.
Cody (Street Fighter series)
We have to give Cody credit where credit is due. This man isn't afraid of the law, and he demonstrates this by breaking out of prison only to compete in one of the world's most famous martial arts tournaments where anybody could spot him. Some pansies may flee their former captors and keep their heads down, but Cody flaunts his ill-gotten freedom by publicly doing the thing he was originally jailed for - street fighting.
Not only that, but it seems that Cody, like The Joker, can break out of prison whenever he likes, and does so simply because he is bored. This man fancied a break from incarceration and joined the S.I.N tournament for a laugh, without even bothering to take his handcuffs off. You can't get much more badass than that.
Torque (The Suffering)
A silent, brooding, fearless man who may or may not have murdered his own wife and may or may not be able to transform into a mutant killing machine. Oh, and he also has the world's most amazing sideburns. Torque was rocking moral choices before moral choices became trendy, with The Suffering being one of the first games to make a big deal out of optional dilemmas that affected the course of the game. Whether Torque was a knight in shining armor or a dyed-in-the-wool villain was up to you.
What isn't up to you, however, is the amount of insanity that Torque has to put up with. Pursued by an army of Geiger-inspired monstrosities, haunted by mad doctors and vengeful executioners, Torque deals with a lot of nonsense, all while trying to remember exactly what happened on the day his wife was killed.
For all the mixed ratings it received, The Suffering was an ambitious and deeply intriguing game, and those chops are enough to make any title great.
Claude (Grand Theft Auto III)
One of gaming's most classic escaped convicts, Claude's "silent protagonist" status doesn't take much away from his personality. On the contrary, it makes for some amusing comical moments, as typified by his cameo appearance in San Andreas. Claude is legendary for being our avatar in the first fully 3D Grand Theft Auto, the game that made Liberty City a household name - at least in the screwed up households we know.
It was with Claude that we first sniped an old woman's head off. It was with Claude that we first took down an LCPD chopper behind that police building where it was really hard for the cops to reach us. And lest we forget, it was with Claude that we first slept with a prostitute and killed her to get the money back, scoring "points" for it, as many erroneous news reporters would later claim.
Kuroda Kanbei (Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes)
There's nothing better than a man who isn't afraid to live his gimmick. We like Kanbei because he's spun a negative into a positive, turning his status as an escaped convict into part of a brutal fighting style. This vassal-turned-rebel broke out of jail to participate in Capcom's quasi-historical battle for Japan, but rather than take off the handcuffs and remove the giant ball-and-chain, Kanbei has chosen instead to use his restraints as a most deadly weapon.
Instead of acting as a hindrance, that big metal ball is instead being swung around to smack AI-devoid Japanese soldiers in their stupid faces. If that's not devastating enough, he also has a habit of kicking the ball with his own unprotected foot, turning it into an absurd projectile that drags himself along behind. That's stupid... yet ludicrously brilliant.
James Seth Lynch (Kane and Lynch)
any of the convicts on this list have some heroic or at least vaguely redeemable qualities. Sometimes, however, you want pure bastardry, and that's something provided by James Seth Lynch in abundance. You know he's a psycho because he's got three names, like all the mental ones have!
Lynch might look like a cross between Jeff Minter and The Grinch, but he's a fascinating character, not least due to his role within videogame lore. It's not often you get to play as an old, bitter, insane, thoroughly despicable character. Say what you will about Kane & Lynch's overall quality, the sheer hideousness and deplorability of the "heroes" made it unique. Not to mention, the fantastic co-op angle in which Lynch's hallucinations are made horrifyingly clear seals the deal. An outstanding videogame convict, if perhaps also a truly awful human being.
Riddick (Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay)
In your host's humble opinion, Butcher Bay started to fall apart as soon as the prison angle was dropped. During the opening chapters where Riddick was a true inmate, the atmosphere was great, the mission system was interesting, and the feeling of oppression was very unique. It kind of stopped being so good once Riddick made his escape and the game stopped feeling like an adventure game in favor of devolving into a straight shooter.
In any case, you can't say no to Vin Diesel, and that's why he's on the list. From his lovely bald head to a voice so dense you could lose a ship in it, The D-Man is perfect criminal anti-hero material. That's a skill your mother can be proud of.
Marcus Fenix (Gears of War series)
Is Marcus Fenix shitloads of amazing? More like ten shitloads! This husky-voiced grub scratcher is undeniably a rock-hard bastard with a face that only a mother could love and a mouth that only George Carlin could be proud of. Sentenced to 40 years on dereliction of duty charges, Fenix gets an early release thanks to the fact that destroying genocidal subterranean monstrosities is more important than jailing a war hero who missed his daddy.
Marcus may not have much more personality than your average videogame space marine, but his gallows humor and no-nonsense attitude betrays a surprisingly likable and identifiable old scrapper underneath the cynicism and swearing. He's a meathead, but we love him.
Ganon (The Legend of Zelda series)
Ganon is perhaps gaming's most determined re-offender. Despite having been found guilty of heinous crimes and imprisoned multiple times across several potential realities, the self-styled King of Thieves has managed to trump the likes of Cody and Lynch thanks to the sheer scale of his daring escapes. While our more human convicts have broken out of mere brick-and-mortar jails, this guy can wriggle out of prisons that have been made by Gods. Alternate dimensions, underwater prisons, bodily destruction, nothing locks Ganon away for good. That's pretty impressive.
Ganon was put on trial by the Sages and originally sentenced to death, but he was so awesome that he couldn't even be executed properly. That's what a fantastic convict this Gerudo git happens to be, and why he'll never get parole. Besides which, who else could combine green skin with ginger orange hair and still be taken seriously as a credible bad guy?
Guilty as charged
Have there been any other great characters with a record in the years since this was posted? Keep us up to date in the comments.
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