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Last seen in: Golgo-13 Part 3 (Arcade, 2001, Japan-only)
What's his deal? If Travis Touchdown had a polar opposite, it would be Duke "Golgo 13" Togo. Cold, efficient and always impeccably dressed, Golgo 13 (nicknamed after the 13th hill of Golgotha, on which Jesus was supposedly crucified) is like a cynical James Bond with no gadgets or humor. In spite of his cold-blooded personality, villainous profession and void of a past (his nationality, real name and any other personal details are always listed as "unknown"), he's had enough charisma to star in four live-action and animated films, hundreds of Japanese manga stories and at least seven videogames.
Two of those made it stateside: 1988's Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode and 1990's The Mafat Conspiracy, both for the NES. One was mostly ignored; the other is fondly remembered for reasons wholly unrelated to its gameplay.
Signature weapon: A custom M-16 rifle with attached sniper scope.
Highest-profile hit: Hard to say; Golgo 13 has tackled a lot of high-profile assassinations over his long career, which started 40 years ago in a long-running manga series. As far as the games go, though, we'd probably have to say international terrorist Ahmad Khan, who met his end after being repeatedly kicked in the face during The Mafat Conspiracy.
Why he's awesome: Golgo 13 is an infallible badass with a taste for blood and unerring aim, able to pull off impossible feats of marksmanship and kick his way out of any scrape. And for many gamers who were kids in the '80s, his first game - Top Secret Episode - was an introduction to concepts like a ruthless "hero," first-person sniper sequences and the use of "…." as an acceptable response when someone's talking to you. But if there's anything he's remembered for above all else, it's for bringing the sexy when the sexy needed bringing.
Forget all this foofaraw over Mass Effect and its PG-13 love scene - almost 20 years ago, Top Secret Episode slipped under parents' (and presumably Nintendo's) collective radar with the first real sex scene to grace the NES. Granted, it consisted entirely of two silhouettes in a window moving toward each other, a light going out and Golgo's life meter filling up, but to sheltered grade-school kids it was naughty as all hell.
Oh, and the game itself was pretty good too we guess.
Last seen in: Hitman: Blood Money (PS2/Xbox/360/PC, 2006)
What's his deal? Cloned in a lab and raised from birth to be the perfect assassin, 47 is a cold, conflicted soul. All of his contracts are passed down to him through a shadowy agency, and despite the obvious moral ambiguity of what he does, he's steadfast in his belief that he's doing the right thing - that, or he just doesn't care. It's hard to tell sometimes. He certainly doesn't seem to enjoy his work as a killer, but relies on it mainly because he's never known anything else. And whatever his reservations, the fact remains that he's fantastically good at it.
Signature weapon: Paired Silverballer .45 pistols.
Highest-profile hit: The Vice President of the United States, who eats it near the end of Blood Money.
Why he's awesome: Agent 47 is everything a successful assassin should be: resourceful, ruthless and - in a best-case scenario - totally undetected, even after he's made the hit. And as a tall, completely bald man with a barcode neck tattoo, staying undetected around suspicious people is no mean feat. But the fun of playing as 47 has always been in setting up the hits themselves; will he put on a disguise to get close to his intended victim? Should he instead lay some elaborate trap that'll spectacularly kill his target while he's far away? Or will he just go in guns blazing like a big stupid bastard? It's up to you, and it's likely to be a lot of fun however you decide to tackle it.