Lets face it, some characters are just more "Hero" than hero. Sure, saving the princess is always worthwhile, but saving a whole planet is what separates man from moogle. With our own impending apocalypse on the horizon, its worth looking back on those whom stymied the End of Days best and saved more souls from mass destruction. So who is king of the people/aliens/robots- saving hill? Lets see the contenders, in no particular order (warning: major spoilers ahead...)
Link (The Legend of Zelda: Majoras Mask)
Lives saved: Have you ever played a Legend of Zelda game? We mean, really played it? Then youve probably noticed that its populated by just about enough characters to fill an 8-year-olds backyard birthday party (and theres always a clown). Majoras Mask, the second Nintendo 64 entry in the series, involves the moon crashing into the world over the course of three days, and Link must replay the scenario over and over again until he can cook up a way to stop it. This makes him less of a Hyrule messiah as it does a poor mans Bill Murray. Of course, the little elf kid did have the wherewithal to watch wanton destruction time and again until he figured out how to stop it. We can get behind that.
Desmond Miles (Assassin's Creed)
Lives saved: 6.9 billion
Altair, Ezio, and Connor all had their parts to play in the Assassin's Creed mythos, but in the end it was modern day Desmond Miles who did the heavy lifting to save earth from annihilation. Thanks to spending hundreds of hours in the Animus, this bartender-turned-killer was able to experience his ancestors' adventures first hand, thus arming him with the training and knowledge to thwart the Templars in 2012 and raise earth's defenses just in time to protect every last living creature from being wiped out by the mother of all solar flares. Since the final chapter takes place in the final days of 2012, that places his savior count at today's population of 6,973,738,433 people (give or take). That's deserving of a free drink, no?
Adam Jensen (Deus Ex: Human Revolution)
Lives saved: 8,856,647,809.91
We get it. If you were as RoboCop-rad as near-future hero Adam Jensen, youd think that the lives of close to 9 billion people is, well, paltry. Beneath you, even. Really, when you have modifications that can let you see through walls, you would think that, ethical distaste for human augmentation aside, you could save 10 billion; even 11, maybe. But that just aint the case, as Human Revolution takes place in 2027, and we can figure that Jensen saved the worlds population at a 1.8% increase year over year to our current world population of just under 7 billion. Stupid math--AJs way more rock and roll than that.
Lives saved: The known universe, TC 4767
The three games that make up the Xenosaga series of PlayStation 2 RPGs center around religious artifacts found on earth in roughly present day. Somehow, after us smart earthlings find a way off the planet and begin colonizing, we wind up forgetting where earth is, thus beginning a new era for humanity. Now thousands of years into the future, Nietzsches bermensch resurrects Mary Magdalene and tries to continue to reset the universe, which he had been doing for over a million years. Cheesecake robo-protagonist KOS-MOS, whom had Mary Magdalenes psyche stored in her, breaks free of her artificial life to dismantle the machine that triggers the reset, and becomes one with the universe. Yes, seriously. Also, theres Jesus.
Anonymous (Missile Command)
Lives saved: +/- 4 Billion (depending on your stamina)
Missile Command is the ultimate in Cold War depression. Its a game released in 1982, Gorbachav years, that subtly reminds you that no matter how well you work a trackball or at what deft speed, that war never changes, and the missiles will never stop. There is no ending to MC, and no matter how many cities are saved at the bottom of the screen (or how many points are scored to rebuild them), fatigue will eventually take over, and these cities will crumble to your inability to stay at the cabinet to save them. Sleep easy tonight, pal. Youre inevitable need to urinate screwed us all.
Marcus Fenix (Gears of War)
Lives saved: Gears of War COG Marcus Fenix sacrificed a lot to save the remaining population of Sera in Gears of War 3. Unfortunately, after all the wars, Locust invasions, and Hammer of Dawn attacks, the human population had been pulverized into 1% of its original size. While it's hard to pin down the exact number of Seran survivors at the end of Gears of War 3, the 15-year Locust war is said to have taken the lives of billions. Assuming Sera boasts almost the same population of Earth, which is quite possible given its size and number of tribes," we can deduce that there were nearly 5 billion Serans kicking around before Emergence Day and the previous wars. With 99% taken by the Locust war, and many more lost to other catastrophes, that leaves less than 10 million souls left to rebuild humanity (and we're being very generous). Still, a nice saviour count all the same.
Master Chief (Halo)
Lives saved: Billions upon billions
Here's where our math gets fuzzy. Halo mythology pegs the human population at 20 billion following the Human-Covenant wara battle won largely thanks to the efforts of Master Chief. These account for the humans not only on the overcrowded Earth, but those also living in nearby planets and space stations who were also in danger of extinction. Add in the untold number of alien civilizations who stood to fall under the Covenant had they not been stopped, and it's safe to say Master Chief is pretty much the savior of the known galaxy.
Lives saved: 399
In a perfect runthrough of Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee and Exodus, the plucky Mudokon can save 399 of his kind from being turned into food at Rupture Farms. It's arguable that the loss of 399 creatures isn't much of an apocalypse, but considering the Mudokons are a small race to begin with, and Rupture Farms CEO Molluck the Glukkon would have likely gone on to destroy all living things in his pursuit of profit, we consider Abe to be a saviou all the same. On the downside, Abe also ended the production of that sweet, sweet Mudokon meat. Now what are we suppose to do for lunch?
Captain Price (Modern Warfare 2)
Lives saved: 6.9 billion (debatable)
Lets be straight with each other; Captain Price from the phenomenally successful Call of Duty franchise isnt as important for saving billions of lives by thwarting a nuclear attack (plus the fallout) as he is for rescuing the real worlds economy every November. On the one hand, the precedent set by Modern Warfare 2 for being one of the largest entertainment franchises in history keeps cash flow rolling into retailers and Activision developers, whom deliver bigger and crazier CoDs every year. On the other, some of this money is going straight to favorite whipping post Bobby Kotick, which, depending on your perspective, saves absolutely no one.
Alan Wake (Alan Wake)
Lives saved: 1 (kinda)
Were not bleak enough to give an entire entry to Eternal Sonatas depiction of Polish pianist Chopin, because the RPG that took place in his head while dying did nobody any favors. Instead, lets turn our collective critical eyeballs to pretentious horror novelist Alan Wake in the Xbox 360 adventure of the same name, who also saved an impressive (albeit imaginary) amount of people. Due to the ambiguous ending of the game, which [spoiler] we find that just about nothing happens other than Wakes wife still being missing. As such, despite the apocalyptic circumstances in Bright Falls, nobody was really saved except Wake. In his mind. Sigh.
The Lone Wanderer (Fallout 3)
Lives saved: 5 million (est)
According to Fallout lore, the Great War of 2077 cut a swath through the human population, leaving pockets of survivors to pick up the pieces in the years that followed. From what we can gather, only 300 Fallout shelters were made before the war, and only half of those were actually populated. None to maximum capacity. Add in New California Republic's population of 700,000, plus equal numbers in New Vegas, the Mohave Wasteland, Caesar's Legion, and other military groups, and that gives us an approximate count of nearly 5 million survivors (give or take a few hundred thousand ghouls and mutants). That's 5 million people who would have eventually perished had The Lone Wanderer not used the Garden of Eden Creation Kit to kick off Project Purity and bath the wastelands in crisp, cool drinkable water. Well, 5 million minus a hundred depending on whether or not Megaton was still standing.
Death (Darksiders II)
Lives saved: 6.8 billion
Death is the last person you'd expect to be thanking for saving the human race, but that's exactly what this handy reaper did in the conclusion of Darksiders II. Following the premature apocalypse depicted in the original Darksiders, Death threw himself into the Well of Souls to resurrect all humanity and vindicate his brother War, who was being scapegoated for the whole mess to being with. That's nearly 6.8 billion billion lost souls right there, according to estimated earth population circa 2010, when the original Darksiders takes place. And then, let's not forget the handful of Makers, army of Angels, and Hell fiends that were saved from Absalon's reign of terror. Granted, the game ends with War shattering the final seal and kicking off the official apocalypse, but for now Death and his siblings are still in our good books.
Yuna and Tidus (Final Fantasy X)
Lives saved: Billions
Granted, Spira isnt a world that actually exists, so its tough to come up with real numbers. Still, dig this: the aquatic faux-Okinawan world of the PlayStation 2 RPG was leveled time and again by a giant monster (named [ALLEGORY ALERT] Sin). The role of Summoners, like demure protagonist Yuna, was to sacrifice themselves to kill the monster and afford Spira a brief period of peace before God resurrects it to continue the cycle of destruction and rebirth. Since theres still a leftover world population, we can surmise that Sin never actually wipes things out Reaper-style. But after a thousand years of decimation, its still a whole lot of folks in belly shirts.
Liu Kang (Mortal Kombat)
Lives saved: 5.44 billion
YOU: Hang on, hang on. Youre saying that kung fu hepcat Liu Kang saved the world in a martial arts tournament that would have otherwise resulted in an invasion by Outland. Why the low number?
US: Because Dr. Scissor Kick uppercutted Scorpion down that pit with peg-legged jeans and a Walkman loaded with a Gin Blossoms tape. Which is to say, he did it in 1992. The SD arcade screens of the time werent advanced enough to show you that those sassy black pants were stone washed. Now you wish you never read this.
Heroes you can count on
From the saviors of cities to redeemers of humanity, there are no shortage of apocalyptic heroes to account for in gaming. We picked our favorite 15. Now it's your turn to tell us who we missed and if you have an issue with out math (go easy--we're games writers for a reason)...
Itching for more heroic fun? Make sure you catch this week's Top 7 most embarrassing apocalypses in video games (opens in new tab) and our list of Top 7 villains we liked better than the hero. (opens in new tab)
Commander Shepard (Mass Effect)
Lives saved: Infinite
Shepards a cool guy. Or girl. Depending on whom we talk to about it, we always get different answers. Thing is, the Commander stopped the Reaper invasion for good. That means he/she put the kibosh on a mechanical race that routinely lets organic life thrive for tens of thousands of years just so it can show up and wipe it out and assimilate it. How many times has this happened? Er, nobody knows. Lets just say its happened before, probably more than once. For that reason alone, its mathematically impossible to boil down even a ballpark number for how many (romance-able) humans/asari/turian/other the good Commander has saved, should the Reaper cycle had not been ended. Or not. Theres a petition going around to make BioWare do the math because we deserve it.