Mario, Kirby, Samus and Donkey Kong will not appear on these pages. Neither will Ezio, Sam Fisher or Commander Shepard. While we spent plenty of time with these videogame stars in 2010, they're old. Familiar. Expected. Lovable yet predictable.
You certainly can't say that about the following 10 characters, first introduced to us over the past 12 months. They're new. Surprising. Exciting. We'd barely heard of them at the start of the year, but by the end, we couldn't stop talking about them. Or wanting to see more of them.
Who were your favorite freshman faces? Tell the world in the comments below.
Introduced in… Bayonetta
Her clothes are actually her hair? No, stop right there. If Bayonetta were the shameless, overtly sexualized puppet her naysayers would have you believe, Platinum would have made her more instantly likeable. More giggly. More vacuous. A kind of popcorn/soft porn character with 'titillation' as her middle name. Bayo Titillation Netta.
The reality is, past the crotch shots and glimpses of soft girl bits, Bayonetta's quite abrasive and initially difficult to like. She's cruel in conversation, more womanly than girly (well, she is over 500 years old) and it's not until you're quite a way into the game that you come to appreciate the true depth of her character.
She's intelligent. Maternal. She's got utmost confidence in her abilities and a strength that takes over instantly when it needs to. And sure, her hair attacks leave her in little more than her birthday suit, but we're all mature enough to enjoy that while still taking in the rest of the spectacle on offer, right?
Introduced in… BioShock 2
As we've written a million times before, we thought BioShock 2 was a mistake when originally announced. And as we've admitted a million times since, we were wrong. What changed our minds? What convinced us that a one-of-a-kind artistic achievement could be replicated after all and, in some ways, even surpassed?
Two words: Eleanor Lamb. Sure, the weapons were stronger, the plasmids were cooler and the enemies were scarier, but the biggest thing that BioShock 2 had over BioShock 1 was an emotional core. Until the famous twist, our only motivation in the first game was saving an unseen stranger's family. In the sequel, our motivation is clear and strong from the start: save your Little Sister, or you will DIE.
Eleanor wouldn't make this list if she was merely a helpless MacGuffin, though. She's later revealed as a surprisingly badass grown-up with incredible fighting prowess and – during the final scenes – as a living, breathing reflection of your moral choices throughout the game. In the end, she is you.
Introduced in… Red Dead Redemption
The man pictured above is one mean motherfucker. Or, at least, he was. That’s the beautiful - and poignant - thing about John Marston. Unlike every other Rockstar protagonist we’ve played as thus far, John’s days of greed, lust and immoral violence are behind him. He used to be an outlaw, but now he just wants to support his family, and the only reason he’s quit tending cattle and restarted killing men is because he needs to save that family.
Even then, he only kills the bad men (unless you want the game to punish you, of course). He’s polite to pedestrians. He’s patient with crazies like Seth and Irish. He turns down prostitutes. Hell, he even picks flowers when the mood strikes. Niko Bellic and CJ Johnson talked a lot about cleaning up and going straight, but then spent their entire games acting increasingly psychotic. John Marston has already succeeded in turning his present life around... tragically, however, his past life is destined to catch up with him.