11. Joel (The Last of Us)
Ah Joel, the man who made us do so many unfortunate things. Save the world? Eh. Shoot someone you know dearly? May as well. Drowned in sorrow for his daughter, Joel barrels through everyone and everything in the game with little to no abandon. A masterstroke from the writers, you dont even realize how unraveled Joel is until its too late, and by then all you can do is be his vehicle for self destruction. The reversal of roles, between the player and the character, is the reason good ol Joel takes is spot at number 11 on this list.
10. Andrew Ryan (BioShock)
"A man chooses," says Ryan, judging you more than you've ever been judged while simultaneously ordering you to beat him to death with a golf club. "A slave obeys." Andrew Ryan is one of the most dedicated, intelligent, stubborn sociopaths to ever saunter into gaming. He's the master of his future, he's responsible for himself, and he's willing to build a city under the ocean to prove it. And it's not even a city that looks like it should be on the bottom of the sea, either! It's a regular city, with tall, rectangular buildings giving architecture and physics the middle finger.
The reason Ryan is so impressive, and the reason he's one of the best villains of all time, is because his stubbornness is actually respectable. His downward spiral is often blamed on hubris, but it's more the fact that he refuses to be a hypocrite. He's a man who did a thing and doesn't want to admit that the world is crumbling around him. Come on, that's pretty damn deep considering half of this industry is "GUYS WITH GUNS."
9. Lee Everett (The Walking Dead)
Lee Everett's personality is dependent on the choices you make in The Walking Dead, but the Lee we got to know was kind, considerate, and extremely skilled at taking down zombies and sawing off limbs. As a professor convicted for murdering a guy who was having an affair with his wife, it was hard not to root for him. Plus, we never knew what the exact circumstances were. Maybe it was an accident?
But it wasn't until he met darling little Clementine when we knew he was a keeper. Throughout the episodic season, all we ever wanted was for him and Clem to be okay in the end. Every step of the way, Lee proved to the group that he was an inspiring leader, friend, and father figure.
8. Wheatley (Portal 2)
Portal might have one of the smallest casts around, but its also the strongest. In any other game, Wheatley would be the breakout character, but here the dangerous moron is part of the menagerie. After your run-ins with GLaDOS, you might've initially found Wheatley to be little more than a lovable goof. But as story unfolds he shows his dark side, while still managing to be entertainingly stupid.
Wheatley was created by Aperture as a purely idiotic personality meant to limit GLaDOS, but instead the bumbling robot spends his time in the remains of Aperture until a small taste of power corrupts him absolutely. And while hes incredibly well-written, we wouldnt love Wheatley nearly as much if he wasnt played with geeky, English menace by Stephen Merchant. Together, the actor and writing squeeze so much personality out of what amounts to a single mechanical eye.
7. Lutece Twins (BioShock Infinite)
...good question! We have no idea. That's the problem in following up games like BioShock--it comes with the added baggage of people expecting the unexpected. They think they're in for a surprise, or a shock, or a bait and switch, and because of that, they're harder to confuse. But mere moments into BioShock Infinite, the game finds its way past this issue with the introduction of the whimsically intriguing Lutece twins and one, basic phrase: No, he doesnt row. What the fuck does that mean? He doesn't row? Wait, and now they're back, asking Booker to flip a coin?
They keep vanishing and appearing, working their way around the world in ways that don't make sense. "The bird, or the cage?" they ask. What does it matter? How does this work? The more you think about the Lutece twins, the more important their role in BioShock Infinite becomes, and the more interesting they end up being. Which begs the question, how will the developer follow up an experience like BioShock Infinite? Well, that's a...
6. Vaas (Far Cry 3)
Forget Jason Brody--Vaas is the star of Far Cry 3. Hes the most wonderfully unhinged character of this generation, and a contender for best motion-captured video game performance of all time, thanks to the energetic work done by Michael Mando, his real-life voice and body actor. Simply, he steals the show with his meandering speeches that lurch between wisdom and smart political comment to utter, chilling madness in the blink of an eye.
Vaas was even turning heads during Far Cry 3s pre-release campaign. The E3 trailer where he talks about the definition of insanity is one of the most memorable game videos of this generation. Vaas intense brand of insanity is tough to maintain, and its a testament to both script writing and performance that not only does he dominate every scene he appears in, but we were left wanting much more Vaas long before Far Cry 3s credits even rolled.
5. John Marston (Red Dead Redemption)
The cowboy is a icon of American culture, a rugged individualist that lives by his own code. John Marston is wrapped up in that ideal, but has little love for his old life riding the range. And yet hes forced back into it by a government that hates John almost as much as the crooks hes tasked with killing. Players spend hours with John as he explores a Wild West thats dying all around him. Its a brutal place, but also one that might be preferable to the modernity that the 1900s are bringing. Marston is the man out of time at the center of it all.
And players dont just connect with Marston when hes blasting people with revolvers or hunting wild bears. They get to see him live out the mundane family life he's always wanted; the boring slice of heaven with the wife and son he never planned on having. It gives John a vulnerability that we didnt anticipate from a Rockstar character, and those moments make it all the more brutal when that life keeps getting ripped away from Marston.
4. Ezio Auditore (Assassin's Creed 2)
Few games let you follow a characters life from newborn to impetuous teenager to wizened old man, but thats exactly what happens over the course of Assassins Creed 2, Brotherhood and Revelations. And Ubisoft couldnt have chosen a better man. Ezio is a classic loveable rogue; the Han Solo of Renaissance-era Italy. The first few minutes spent with Ezio see him fleeing the father of a girl hes been sleeping with, fist-fighting rivals on Florences Ponte Vecchio, and racing his brother to the roof of a church so they can admire the view.
As Ezios character develops throughout AC2, we share the emotional loss of his family, his transition from young scrapper to lethal assassin, and the hollow victory of his final confrontation with the ones who came before. Along the way Ezio befriends some of historys greatest artists and thinkers, builds the Assassins Guild from scratch, test-pilots a flying machine, and invents the cappuccino. What a guy.
3. Garrus Vakarian (Mass Effect series)
Space secret agent? Hero of his species? Intergalactic sex symbol? Garrus Vakarian is all these things wrapped in an avian shell, causing more collective swoons (from men and women alike) than all of the other characters on this list combined. It's no wonder he's found himself ranked as number one on our list of the top 7 game characters we fell in love with. Oh, and the top 7 most badass game characters of the generation. What? Listen, we like putting Garrus on lists. Back off.
But for as much as we appreciate his general swagger (gurl), it's really his loyalty that keeps us. While all of the other characters in Mass Effect judge and question Shepard--which makes sense, because he can be a goddamn idiot--Garrus remains on your side throughout. He's a good friend at all times, always showing up when he's needed, always doing whatever need be done.
2. Nathan Drake (Uncharted series)
Nathan Drake is the man every teenage boy wants to be. A puckish ne'er-do-well with a heart of gold, Drake roams the land in Sony's mega blockbuster Uncharted series, bagging treasures and bedding women as he goes. He's Indiana Jones if Indie were an underwear model. His milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.
So yes, there is this component of Drake also being a sociopathic murderer, killing, as he does, hundreds of men in each and every game. But his charm! Look at that ingratiating smile, the iconic half-tucked shirt, the I-don't-EVEN-care hair. Listen to those one-liners: so apt, so clever. With all that going for him, his penchant for wanton murder is reduced to not much more than an excusable foible. Damn you, Drake--you're just so awesome.