The Top 7... Most badass game characters of the generation

Let the badass games begin

Updated with the Community Choice entry!

Every once in a great long while, there comes a character that bleeds cinematic moments. They can't help themselves; they're hemophiliacs of awesome. They are, simply put, badasses, and we enjoy every minute we get to spend either by their side, or inside their awesome, awesome skin.

But forget about Cloud and Snake and Master Chief and Link--they're old school nowadays. Its 2012, and weve got a new roster of awesome, badass characters to worship and draw on our Trapper Keepers. So here it is, our list of the most badass characters that spawned exclusively from the current generation of games.

7. Cole MacGrath (inFamous)

Bike-messenger-turned-superhero/villain Cole MacGrath has an origin story that feels right at home with any of the traditional pantheon of classic caped crusaders: A delivery mission goes awry when his package turns out to be a massive, electronic bomb, and when it detonates, millions are killed. He survived the blast, albeit changed into a superhuman with the ability to fire lightning blasts from his hands, surf on power lines, and talk in a gruff, grizzled voice.

Oh, wait, that voice thing only happened in the sequel. Either way, Coles level of badassery is related mostly in his skills in kickassery. By the end of the second game the guy is packing some massive voltage, throwing whirlwinds of energy at foes and even gaining the ability to control other elements. Not bad for a guy who had previously spent most of his time trying not to drive his bike into opening car doors.

6. Isaac Clarke (Dead Space)

Isaac Clarke has lived through hell. He stared insanity in the eyes and peered down the throat of dementia. And what did he do about it? He seared insanitys eyes with a flamethrower and leapt into dementias throat, blasting himself out with jetpack boots before cutting off the mad beasts limbs with a plasma cutter. And then he stomped on its head, because thats just how he rolls.

Its not Isaacs proficiency in battle that makes him so badass, though--it's his ability to deal with insane circumstances without succumbing to madness that makes him so special. Maybe its because of love, maybe its because his name is an amalgamation of some of the best science fiction writers who ever lived (Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke), or maybe its because hes actually already so insane that this stuff doesnt phase him. Either way, Isaac Clarke is a badass, and this generation is better for his presence.

5. Damon Baird (Gears of War)

Theres a reason Baird is going to be the star of the next Gears of War game instead of Dom, Cole, or Marcus: Hes more interesting than any of them. Sure, Dom has a wife hes fighting for, Marcus is voiced by Bender, and Cole played football or whatever, but theyd all be locust meat if it wasnt for Bairds awesome mind.

While the other Gears are sawing through Locusts and high-fiving and flexing, Baird is thinking. Hes finding ways to kick a crate full of Tickers onto a giant leviathan, or hacking a door to get the team to safety. Hes still got the same brawn as everyone else, but he backs it up with a brain. Sure, you might call him a glorified door opener, but if Baird wasnt there to open the doors that the other guys are too stupid to open theyd all be dead twenty times over.

4. John Marston (Red Dead Redemption)

Though he lived much of his life as a no-good bandit, John Marston eventually turned things around, courting a wife and siring a child before being forced to return to the world of killing every person who looks at him funny. But even though he eventually returned to his revolver, John Marston did it for a good reason: his family. And theres no better excuse to go on a murderous rampage than family.

He also helps every person within spitting distance along the way, rescuing kidnapped damsels, slaying leaders of gangs, and eventually shooting every person worth shooting in the West. He has no special powers to speak of (besides the ability to slow down time, but thats bush league for video game protagonists), but he doesnt need them--he just gets the job done and, sometimes, thats all it takes. That kind of competency qualifies as supremely, totally badass.

3. Bayonetta (Bayonetta)

Its not Bayonettas pedigree as a 500-year-old witch that puts her on this list, nor is it her buxom figure or lascivious, erotic animations. Its not even the fact that her outfit is made from her own magical, demonic hair that reveals more of her naked body as she attacks--though well admit that it helps her case.

No, the reason Bayonetta is one of the most badass characters of the generation is because of her actions. Throughout the first game, she dispatches of gigantic demons in glamorous fashion, turning her hair into huge mouths to crush them or filling them so full of bullets (from both her hands and guns affixed to her heels) that theyre more lead than flesh. She even rides a missile at one point for like 20 minutes. That's a level of badassery that hasn't been seen since Dr. Strangelove. Your move, everyone else ever who has ever been badass. Your move.

2. Ezio Auditore Da Firenze (Assassins Creed)

Ezio starred in three full games this generation, and though he grew older with each release (eventually scaling the buildings of Constantinople in his 60s), he never outgrew his awesomeness. Though he wasnt the first, Ezio has become synonymous with the image of the video game assassin, clad in bright white cloaks and sporting hidden blades around each wrist, ready to be plunged into the throats of evil bureaucrats (as if theres another kind).

Lets run down the list of things he does throughout the course of the series: He avenges his familys killers, beats up the Pope in a fist fight, leaps out of dozens of towers into bales of hay, beds countless women, stabs countless men, and even talks to ancient aliens. If you had a bucket list of those badass things youd be lucky to complete one, maybe two, before being arrested for any number of crimes against humanity.

1. Garrus Vakarian (Mass Effect)

Yes, thats right, Garrus, not Shepard. Sure, Commander Shepard is the first human specter and he saves the galaxy every morning before eating breakfast, but hes still only as badass as the player. If you want to make him lame, then Shepard is lame. Want to make him evil, and hes sort of a dick. Theres no way, however, that you can make Shepards Turian pal, Garrus Vakarian, anything less than the awesome. No matter how boring you are, Garrus is still the most badass set of mandibles to be poured into a suit of armor.

After the events of Mass Effect, Garrus gives up his life of military work for a mercenary gig, going under the pseudonym of Archangel and single-handedly crippling the gangs of Omega with his sniper rifle and charm. Once he finds out that Shepard is alive, though, he joins back up, helping the good Commander save the universe, just because thats the kind of guy he is.

Community Choice: Asura (Asura's Wrath)

It appears that youve spoken. Though there were plenty of votes for Nathan Drake, Adam Jensen, and Kratos (who wasnt actually eligible because he was from a PS2 game), Asura was the character the most people asked to see added. Why? Gilgamesh310 explained that Asura is more badass than Bayonetta. He's able to beat beings bigger than planets, a fact that BladedFalcon backed up.

BladedFalcon says that its not just his ability to destroy giants, beat up gods, or destroy planets--the fact that he was able to do this all after losing all six of his arms is the definition of badass. At one point, even though he's armless, he picks up the broken blade of his former master (whom he also defeated) with his mouth, and proceeds to kick ass with just that! Also, as FOZ points out, most of his dialog is Shut up or I dont give a damn, both of which help raise his badassery to new heights.

Cast your badass vote

Surely we missed someone in our quest to weed out the mildly badass from the absurdly badass, and we want you to tell us which current generation characters youd add to the list. Let us know in the comments below and well update the article later this week with the Communitys Choice for the most badass game character of the generation.

Want to read about more lovely characters? Check out the top 7 game characters we (seriously) fell in love with and the top 7 fighting game characters.

Hollander Cooper

Hollander Cooper was the Lead Features Editor of GamesRadar+ between 2011 and 2014. After that lengthy stint managing GR's editorial calendar he moved behind the curtain and into the video game industry itself, working as social media manager for EA and as a communications lead at Riot Games. Hollander is currently stationed at Apple as an organic social lead for the App Store and Apple Arcade.