The Rebellious Royal
"I hate you, dad!" Even if they never actually say it, this phrase is what's running through The Rebellious Royal's head at all times. They come from a place of power, wealth, and prestige, yet they've felt helpless their whole lives for how little control they have over their own destiny. The Rebellious Royal is often related to a primary force of evil, by blood or duty--but they've since renounced the ways they grew up with as wrong and unjust. Now, with the help of you and your fellow party members, The Rebellious Royal can finally show their ancestors their newfound independence and ideology.
Notable examples: Ciri (The Witcher 3), Sabin (Final Fantasy VI), Mint (Threads of Fate)
The Merc with a Heart of Gold
Greed is what motivates these Han Solo types when you first meet them. Joining you on a righteous quest is all fine and dandy, but The Merc with a Heart of Gold always puts profits before the greater good. As an adventurer for hire, they're constantly reminding you of the mercenary profession's self-centered ways, and the eventual payoff they expect to receive at your journey's end. But somewhere along the way, The Merc with a Heart of Gold gets over their obsession with money, experiencing a Grinch-like revelation when they realize that there's more to life than coins and bills. Way to go, champ.
Notable examples: Balthier (Final Fantasy XII), Vashyron (Resonance of Fate), Zell (Final Fantasy VIII)
The Unwitting Bigot
Sad, but true--even in fantastical realms or the deepest reaches of the universe, racism is alive and well. Skin color typically isn't the determining factor--it's a more a species thing where The Unwitting Bigot is concerned. When they first join your party, The Unwitting Bigot will make you and all your allies extremely uncomfortable with their rampant intolerance and discrimination. But after a few anti-elf or xenophobic outbursts, The Unwitting Bigot will inevitably snap out of their prejudice-filled ways after something drastic happens. Whether that's salvation at the hands of their feared race or a righteous punch to the jaw depends on the game, really.
Notable examples: Javik (Mass Effect 3), Wakka (Final Fantasy X), Mordin (Mass Effect series)
The Grizzled Veteran
They had their chance, and they blew it. But now, here you are, offering The Grizzled Veteran one last chance at redemption before they succumb to death and/or disease. They can be a mentor, father figure, or reluctant curmudgeon, but they always have some wisdom to impart when your party needs it most. The Grizzled Veteran has seen what evil can do to the world, and they're pretty keen on making sure that you don't repeat their mistakes. They may be old enough to be one of your grandparents, yet they can somehow hold their own in swordfights.
Notable examples: Vesemir (The Witcher 3), Wrex (Mass Effect series), Basch (Final Fantasy XII)
The Staunch Optimist
Nothing gets The Staunch Optimist down, no matter how much you wish they would just shut up for a second. As the upbeat member of your party, they always chime in with compliments and reassurances, even when things look grim. For some players, this constant reassurance will be a comfort; for others, it'll be like chipper nails squeaking down a jolly chalkboard. The Staunch Optimist usually fills the role of your protagonist's best friend, or the party's comic relief. They seem to wear a smile at all times--but as the plot progresses, you might learn that it's all a front to forget a dark past. Or maybe they really are just that happy.
Notable examples: Teddie (Persona 4), Snow (Final Fantasy XIII), Riki (Xenoblade Chronicles)
The Bench Warmer
You don't care about The Bench Warmer. Whenever they open their mouths, you either yawn or groan. They probably have a lot going on in their virtual lives, but you can't be bothered to find out what that may be, exactly. At best, you'll forget that they even exist, since you never speak with them or take them into battle. At worst, something in the plot will force you to utilize them, creating an agonizing stretch where one of your party slots feels utterly useless. There's probably someone out there who loves The Bench Warmer--but you just wish they weren't wasting precious time and game memory.
Notable examples: The Bard (Final Fantasy IV), James Vega (Mass Effect 3), Quina (Final Fantasy IX)
And then there's you, The Amnesiac Hero
Can you think of any other party member archetypes we missed? Think some RPG characters are simply undefinable? Tell us about it in the comments below!
And if you're looking for more, check out The most ludicrously impractical RPG weapons and 9 crazy overpowered RPG bosses that (almost) made us rage quit.