The 25 best new characters of the decade

Sly Cooper (Sly Cooper series)

Gentleman thief is an archetype thats woefully underrepresented in videogames, but at least well always have Sly Cooper to show us how its done. Quick-witted and nimble, Sly was a globe-trotting master criminal who was like Nathan Drake crossed with Solid Snake and divided by George Clooney, and while he always seemed to be in over his head, he always managed to keep one step ahead of his foes and his archnemesis/love interest, Inspector Carmelita Fox.

Inhabiting a brilliant cartoon world, Sly wasnt a total anti-hero; while he made his living pulling off elaborate heists, he only stole from other master criminals, some of whom even joined his crew down the road. (It also didnt hurt that Slys acrobatic platforming skills and increasingly devious bag of tricks made him a blast to play as.) He wasnt a loner, either, as his back was watched constantly by his childhood friends, gadgetsmith Bentley and their driver/strongman Murray (both of whom became a little less compelling once they were playable in later games). Still, their presence only made Sly look that much better, and because they genuinely cared about him as he did for them it made it a little easier for us to care about him, too.

Tim Schafer's Imagination

Awarded to the entire cast of Psychonauts, Brtal Legend et al

Nobody creates more memorable, legitimately funny characters than Tim Schafer, head of developer Double Fine Studios. Take Psychonauts: Your character a young boy who was raised in a circus and has psychic powers is actually the straight man. This is possible because of characters like Mr Pokeylope, a pet turtle who spouts seductive Barry White-style patter, and Dogen, a young Ralph Wiggum-alike who wears a helmet because his brain waves keep making squirrels explode.

But Schafers characters arent mere caricatures they have real depth, pathos and often tragic pasts. Psychonauts Milla is an ever-happy party girl with a secret that breaks your heart. Edward is a black-velvet artist so lovesick he cant paint. And if Brtal Legend takes flak for drawing too much real-world inspiration the Killmeister is Lemmy, Eddie is Jack Black, etc then wed like to meet the gothic angel who inspired Ophelia. And how can we forget Psychonauts Linda? Shes a giant, mutant, talking lungfish, and you will love her, because Schafer wants you to.

You can say we copped out by giving an award to the entire cast of two separate games. Wed argue it was the only way to give any other games characters a chance.

Tom Nook (Animal Crossing series)

At first glance, ol Nook is an adorable raccoon merchant on par with most of Nintendos cuddly creations. Delve any deeper and youll be subjected to his limitless greed that forever binds you (and the other furry citizens of Town X) to his cause. Right from the start, Nook dangles financial stability like a delicious carrot in front of you, forcing you into servitude and what seems like never ending debt. Oh, you can pay him back, but then hell add a level onto your house (without your consent) and boom, youre back in the hole with a pile of bills.

What a dick! Look at him, content with his life, indenturing countless passersby for his own gain. He frequently reminds you of your woes, usually with a cheery demeanor and not-so-subtle hint at the consequences of missing a payment. Youre never told this explicitly, but it sure does look like Nooks involved in some shady business (opens in new tab), and hes passing his problems onto you. His mix of raccoon cuteness with the ruthlessness of a Wall Street tycoon has earned him not just a place in gamers hearts, but also the internet as a whole, having become the personification (and viral meme) of a deceptively devious character.

Pey'j (Beyond Good & Evil)

Sure Jade, the sexy, photojournalist/martial artist, is the star. But the real heart and soul of BG&E is her adopted uncle Peyj (pronounced page). A jolly pig-man, Uncle Peyj zips around on fart-powered rocket boots he invented himself and speaks with the warm-hearted bellow and simplicity of a stereotypical good old-boy. Uncle Peyj, as Jade calls him, seems at first to be just a caretaker of orphans and a handyman. However, when things go bad, he charges enthusiastically into the fray with one simple goal: Protect Jade, and everyone else as well.

Even as government conspiracies and an alien invasion take center stage, Peyj remains fiercely loyal despite the danger. By games end, hes been uncovered as a resistance spy, beaten unconscious, kidnapped, and even killed before being revived and rescued. The games final scene reveals hes also been infected by an alien virus, which hell no doubt nobly conceal until the sequel. But even after all of that, whos right at Jades side for the final battle? Peyj, making clear hed do it all again without a moments hesitation. That is what makes Peyj a fantastic character.

Well that and the fart-powered rocket boots.

Yorda (Ico)

She embodies feminine sweetness, innocence and maternal caring, though thats about as deep as her persona goes. Yorda is an idea more than a fully-realized character, and thats what makes her so appealing. Dont lie you had a crush on her, too. Shes the perfect archetypal damsel-in-distress, and it helps that shes in one of the best games of all time.

Dont assume that her shallowness and helplessness are anti-feminist qualities because, well okay, so they kind of are. But screw you if you want to deny us our male fantasy. Right, we know, women are as strong and independent as men. Still, in a statistically unproven yet generally accepted majority of men, there exists a natural paternal desire to suffer for the safety of others. That desire will be expressed, whether by getting our asses kicked in a fight (just being realistic), or by killing monsters and jumping on shit in a game.

And when Yorda finally proves her strength and carries her exhausted hero out of the collapsing ruins, its heart-melting. We could continue for pages on the topic of the paternal/maternal balance occurring here, but so this Freudian analysis of Ico doesnt get too weird, well skip to the point: we

Yuna (Final Fantasy X/X2)

Their romance is among the most legendary and heartfelt stories in gaming history, but its easy to see why Tidus fell for Yuna: her demure, girl-next-door cuteness was complemented by her ability to summon raging beasties to fight alongside her. She was compassionate, generous and dutiful to the end, ever willing to sacrifice herself for the greater good.

As such, her update in Final Fantasy X-2 was shocking. Shed lost half her skirt, picked up a pair of pistols and transformed from a reserved priestess into a seductive pop idol. Her sassy new attitude chafed with many fans, who felt it was too dramatic a shift in her personality. Whether you loved the new Yuna or hated her, the simple fact that she warranted her own sequel speaks volumes about how popular shed become.

But what about...

Doubtless you've your own favorite new faces from the last decade, and doubtless you're not about to shy away from sharing them below. For inspiration, check out GamesRadar's Ultimate Character Battle (opens in new tab), or cool your enthusiasm with a review of The top 7... Most disappointing games of the decade (opens in new tab).