Skip to main content

The 20 greatest PlayStation icons of all time

11. Spyro

Known for: The only dragon to really rock the Mohawk.

Before big-eared Lombaxes were in fashion, Insomniac gave the world Spyro. Hes no Alduin hes much cuter than his fellow dragons, and hes got no dastardly plans to enslave the peoples of Earth. Rather, his quest was only to rescue his fellow dragons from capture and look like a Toy Story pin-up while doing it. The only unsettling thing about him was his drowning animation. We still see it when we close our eyes.

10. Batman

Known for: Hanging crims from gargoyles. Ineptly piloting Remote Batarangs.

Okay, so 09s Arkham Asylum wasnt technically the Dark Knights first PlayStation outing but it was the game which best demonstrated how to do a comic book licence right, revolutionising hum-drum hero-on-thug action and hitting us with a rogues gallery of colourful villains to pacify with our bat-gizmos. Our only surprise is that Joker didnt make the list, too.

9. Cloud Strife

Known for: A hero with a giant weapon and even bigger hair.

Long the benchmark against which other PlayStation characters were measured, FF VIIs Cloud Strife burrowed his way into PlayStation gamers collective consciousness like a carnivorous beetle and has nested there for nearly 20 years. Not just a mercenary with a gigantic sword to twiddle, Clouds journey from cocksure soldier to despondent anti-hero was as solid a piece of characterisation as PS1 has to offer.

8. Pyramid Head

Known for: Phallic headwear, suggestive stabbing motions.

A tortuous embodiment of protagonist James guilt and an irresistible cosplay project rolled into one, Pyramid Head stalks Silent Hill 2s not-quite-hero throughout his quest to save his wife, skewering secondary enemies with his executioners blade. His later appearances in Silent Hill media never made quite as much sense as his debut, but this relentless, unknowable hunter has become a grim poster child for survival horror on PlayStation.

7. Big Boss

Known for: Being the worlds greatest soldier. Bringing back the eyepatch.

As with Batman, were fudging Big Boss first appearance as it came all the way back in 87, when games were still used to keep sentries awake while protecting the cave from wolves. 20 years on, BB still has enough clout to command his own game in MGS V, in which, besides saving the world from corporate-military interests, he also finds time to unwind by wrenching enemies (and sheep) into the air with his signature Fulton Recovery System.

6. Lara Croft

Known for: Stealing pottery. Abusing housekeepers.

Lara gets such cred for being one of gamings first proper female protagonists that you can almost overlook that shes a murderous thief whose crimes against animals alone would have her named and shamed on her own special episode of Crimewatch. Since her debut in 1996, the old girl has pilfered priceless artefacts across six continents, re-extincted dinosaurs and ragdollised horribly at the bottom of spike pits.

5. Scorpion/ Sub-Zero

Known for: Bloody violence, complimentary wardrobes.

True, neither Sub-Zero nor Scorpion made their debuts on PlayStation, but let it never be said that the Sony faithful arent welcoming of newcomers especially when they can burn your skin off/pop your frozen skull off like an ice cube. They may not be the best advocates for the games are art debate, but still retain an iconic beat-em-up status that series such as Tekken and DOA struggle to match. And you love em, apparently.

4. Nathan Drake

Known for: Knocking Lara off her wobbly pedestal. Then stealing it.

Oh, how we scoffed when Nathan Drake swaggered onto the PS3 back in 07s Drakes Fortune. Who was this pretender, flouncing about killing mercs in jungles and stealing treasures? Put those back, we said, as one. Laras going to want those.

And now here he sits at number four on your list of best-ever PlayStation characters, two whole places higher than his veteran predecessor. How did it happen? Perhaps you could point to the lack of really killer Tomb Raider games available to PS3 owners until the 2012 reboot. Or maybe it was Uncharteds flair for armchair tourism except instead of slouching around museums looking half-interestedly at ancient tools, now we could run about wide-open ancient ruins knocking over antiques, crouching behind sarcophagi and blasting baddies off ledges with shotguns.

But the real reason for Uncharteds leapfrogging of Lara, we suspect, is down to its hero. Drake wasnt a blank slate like old Lara, but genuinely likeable a funny, loveable mate who charms ladies, tells great stories in the pub and occasionally steals artefacts.

3. Kratos

Known for: Tortured growling, albinism, half-baked misogynist controversy.

Its not that we dont feel for Kratos our days a write-off if PSN goes down, so being tricked into slaughtering your own family by a vengeful god has to be at least twice as bad. But extenuating circumstances aside, that PlayStations least likeable personality consistently makes it to the top of your favourite ever characters is a wonderfully gory anomaly. Lets review the evidence: not only does his quest for revenge against the gods of Olympus doom the world to Armageddon; he also uses a wailing woman as a doorstop, bashes Zeus face into mulch and repurposes another gods head as lamp.

And yet, theres a simple purity to Kratos bloodlust. When hes condemned to the Underworld, he just ups and walks out again. When faced with monsters the size of mountain ranges, he gamely scurries up their legs and pokes their eyes out. And theres not a body part on any mythical creature that the God Of War cant remove with the right QTE. We doubt Kratos bloody quest for vengeance will ever bring him the peace hes after but it would be a sad day for PlayStation if it did.

2. Solid Snake

Known for: Gravelly exposition, impenetrable motivation, travelling by box.

Like Big Boss, we know that Snakes first appearance wasnt actually on PlayStation archaeologists now date his first appearance back to the original Metal Gear, for which his likeness was chiselled onto a plastic cartridge using a mammoth tusk and dye made from very grey beetle shells. Since then, Snake has grown from well-oiled Sticklebrick infiltrator to wheezing pirate-like curmudgeon, tranq-ing baddies around the globe and keeping a full-time staff of Metal Gear Wiki contributors busy.

A cursory glance over his CV reveals hes saved the world, defeated his own clone siblings and bested adversaries from invisible robot octopus ladies to giant, nuke-firing robots. Youd think a service record like that would all but guarantee Snake the top spot on this prestigious list, and youd be right if it werent for the one marsupial who could best him

We are Play magazine, the biggest-selling,100% independent, magazine for PlayStation gamers. Founded in 2021, it's brought to you by the same team of writers, editors, and designers as the Official PlayStation Magazine, with the same deep industry access, quality of writing, and passion for all things PlayStation. Follow us for all things PS5, PS4, and PlayStation VR.