The 50 Most Iconic Video Game Characters of All Time

All your favorite characters and even a few surprises!
Michael Michael (179)
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Who do you think of first when you think about video games? That's the question we asked ourselves at Howchoo when making this list, which was a team effort. Everyone here weighed in with their favorite famous video game characters. And thus, this list was born.

Our list contains famous video game characters from the long past to the present. Given that more and more game companies seek to use their iconic characters as representations of their brand, you can find many of these figures on shirts, cards, and even as Easter eggs within other games. And while Nintendo certainly claims the most famous video game characters, you'll find representatives from most major video game publishers of the last thirty years.

Like all lists, this list of iconic video game characters is subjective, and we're certain that we've missed a few fan favorites. We hope you'll enjoy this list of the most iconic video game characters!

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Shy Guy

First appearance in a game: Doki Doki Panic (1987)

Shy Guys are the quintessential cute and evil minions of video games. They appear in several Nintendo titles as the minions of Bowser or Wart. They're thought to live in the Mushroom Kingdom, though that is just a rumor. What is consistent about the Shy Guys are their iconic masks and robes, as well as their cute and sneaky nature.

Did you know?

For many Nintendo fans, the Shy Guy is best known for his appearance and performance in Mario Power Tennis, where let's face it...Shy Guy had some skills.

Navi Legend of Zelda

First appearance in a game: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)

Even though Navi only appears in Ocarina of Time, the little sprite/fairy has still won our hearts. Navi is told early in the game by the Great Deku Tree to follow Link and help him out in his journey. Navi points out clues and other hidden things in the map for Link and points out the direction of quests. Navi is also a way for Link to lock on to certain enemy targets.

Did you know?

Navi has also made quite a few of lists of the most annoying characters in a video game with many players seeing Navi more as a distraction than something essential to the game.

Ash Ketchum

First appearance in a game: Pokémon Puzzle League (2000)

Contrary to popular belief, Ash Ketchum is not the protagonist of video games such as Pokémon Red, Blue, or Yellow. Instead, the main character of those games is named Red, who the anime character known as Ash Ketchum is based on. The only game Ash Ketchum appears in is Pokémon Puzzle League released for the N64 in 2000.

Confusing? Yeah, we know. Still, Ash Ketchum is what most people think of when they think of Pokémon and its main protagonist, which is enough to earn him the spot on our list.

Did you know?

The original anime used the name Satoshi Tajiri, who is the creator of the Pokémon game and series. Ash was meant to be like Tajiri when he was a child and showcased his love for catching bugs.

Duck Hunt Dog

First appearance in a game: Duck Hunt (1985)

Known only as "Dog," the dog that collects the ducks the player has shot has that winning smile that helps him onto our list of famous video game characters. Seriously though, "Dog" would likely not have made the list if it weren't for his character in Super Smash Bros, which has made him quite a bit more famous with gamers of the younger generation. Really all the dog does is appear on the screen to show off the ducks, but every time he does it just makes us smile. Oh, and he laughs every time a player misses, which makes him one of the most annoying characters of all time, as well.

Did you know?

There was an urban legend that a player could actually kill the dog in Duck Hunt, which wasn't true until the arcade VS. Duck Hunt, where it actually was possible to shoot the dog. We say...why would you want to hurt that delightful mutt?!

Sweet Tooth Twisted Metal

First appearance in a game: Twisted Metal (1995)

It was hard to decide between showcasing the image of Sweet Tooth himself or his iconic ice cream truck. We went with the killer clown, who might be responsible for a whole generation of people with coulrophobia or a fear of clowns. While he doesn't have much of a narrative, we learn from later cut scenes that Sweet Tooth is a former circus performer who's escaped from a mental institution. In-game, Sweet Tooth's ice cream truck is decked with some wicked machine guns and the screams of his victims.

Did you know?

For years, fans have been asking to learn more about Sweet Tooth's backstory, and finally, a cut-scene was made where we learn about a lover that Sweet Tooth doesn't much care for anymore, to put it mildly.

Note that the video below is quite scary and might be too frightening for some.

Watch the video:

M. Bison

First appearance in a game: Street Fighter II (1991)

The Dictator to some, M. Bison is the ultimate personification of evil and the main antagonist of the Street Fighter series, even while not appearing until Street Fighter II. Like many villains, M. Bison's ultimate goal is to take over the world. He tries to accomplish this through his underground crime syndicate known as Shadaloo. His in-game powers include a famous energy attack where he spins in the air at his opponent. He's known for the barely comprehensible "Ooga" he shouts throughout the match while he punches.

Did you know?

Originally the character was going to be named Mike Bison. Capcom feared, however, that they would be legally liable due to the close resemblance of that name to the boxer Mike Tyson, so they shortened the "Mike" to just an "M."

Dr. Wiley

First appearance in a game: Mega Man (1987)

Dr. Wily is Mega Man's nemesis; though, you probably haven't heard of him unless you played Mega Man or watched the animated show, where his character really took shape. Dr. Wily is essentially a jealous hack that is angry about the achievements of Dr. Light, who created Mega Man. Dr. Wily. In his anger, he reprogrammed many of the robots to become fighters with the final hope of...yes...taking over the world.

Did you know?

Albert Einstein inspires Dr. Wiley's character and design with the crazy hair and mustache. Oh, and his first name is Albert, as another nod to the great physicist.

Sarah Kerrigan

First appearance in a game: StarCraft (1998)

It's hard to make a list without at least one Blizzard video game character, and Sarah Kerrigan is certainly the standout. She appears in two Blizzard franchise titles: StarCraft andHeroes of the Storm. Before StarCraft fell out of favor, she really was the face of competitive gaming. Also known as the Queen of the Blades, Kerrigan is an assassin in-game, using her psychic powers to gain knowledge and take down her enemies. In Blizzard lore, she contains many narratives and is featured in many of the novels written about StarCraft.

Did you know?

Sarah Kerrigan was named after Nancy Kerrigan, Olympic gold medalist figure skater famous for her feud with Tanya Harding.

Altreus

First appearance in a game: God of War (2018 / Norse era)

When God of War first announced its Norse-era version of the game, fans were treated with a young boy emerging out of the digital forest. Altreus is the son of Kratos and Faye. He has a special ability to hear the thoughts of the creatures of the forest, which players can use to their advantage in the game. Altreus' journey in the game, both physically and emotionally, is quite complex. Along with the player, he needs to learn who he is and his place in the world around him.

Did you know?

Altreus' story loosely follows the story of Altreus from Greek mythology, who murdered his father in a quest for the throne of Olympia.

Fox McCloud

First appearance in a game: Star Fox (1993)

Fox McCloud is every gamer's favorite anthropomorphic fox. He is the leader of a group called Star Fox and most of the time players control him aboard the spaceship, Arwing. Essentially, Fox is a gun-for-hire, hired to perform various missions and...you know...save the world. Many liken him to video gaming's answer to Luke Skywalker, as he exhibits great bravery and heroism throughout the series of games.

Did you know?

Designer, Shigeru Miyamoto, was undecided on what kind of animal to use for the game until he visited the Fushimi Inari shrine which is a giant statue of a mythological fox.

Trevor Philips

First appearance in a game: Grand Theft Auto V (2013)

How does Trevor Philips get away with wearing sweatpants every day? Easy. When you're as dangerous as he is, you can pretty much wear whatever you want. Philips is a playable character in Grand Theft Auto V and certainly the most remembered. This is due, in part, to the stellar acting of Steve Ogg, who used motion-sensing controls to act out Philips' cut scenes and voiced the character. While he's certainly a bad dude in the game, however, Philips actually has a heart and cares about some people in his life. That certainly contributes to his stature amongst those who play GTA—that, and his being the main playable character in the online version of the game.

Did you know?

Steve Ogg, who acted Philips, claims that he used Charles Bronson as inspiration for the character's demeanor.

Gordon Freeman

First appearance in a game: Half-Life (1998)

Make a physicist and researcher a weapon-wielding hero, and you're going to end up with some cool weapons. Gordon Freeman, the protagonist of the series Half-Life, wields everything from an energy-field manipulator to a gluon gun. Freeman must fight an alien race known as headcrabs after being one of the few survivors of a massive attack. As a researcher, the game highlights that he did very little that was of actual effect; now, Freeman's saving the planet one headcrab at a time.

Did you know?

The original name for Gordon Freeman was going to be "Dyson Poincaré," which is a combination of mathematician Henri Poincaré and philosopher Freeman Dyson.

Cortana

First appearance in a game: Halo: The Fall of Reach (2001)

Many players know her as the voice in their ears as they learn the storyline behind the Halo series of games. Cortana is an artificially intelligent character that provides information throughout the game and figures into the story. She has a complex relationship with Master Chief, who also appears on this list. While she's artificially intelligent, she also contains real emotional depth, which critiques the idea that robots are incapable of the same levels of humanness as humans.

Did you know?

Cortana inspired Microsoft's artificially intelligent personal assistant with the same name.

Sam Fisher

First appearance in a game: Splinter Cell (2002)

The protagonist of both the Splinter Cell games and a series of novels by Tom Clancy, Sam Fisher, is your classic black-ops video game hero. He's proficient with computers, tracking bad guys, and generally saving the world. He's employed by a fictional branch of the NSA called the "Third Echelon" and involved in various undercover missions. Later he becomes the leader of the "Fourth Echelon," another branch with a direct line to the President of the United States.

Did you know?

In the novels, Sam Fisher has the ability to fall asleep at will, which is an ability that proves useful when he needs to sleep in less-than-comfortable circumstances.

Diddy Kong

First appearance in a game: Donkey Kong Country (1994)

Diddy Kong is a mini-Kong of sorts and has more chimpanzee elements than Donkey Kong. He lives with Donkey Kong on Donkey Kong Island, where they romp and explore as best friends. While Diddy Kong is certainly not as recognizable as Donkey Kong, he is a fan favorite and even has his own set of games from Nintendo, such as Diddy Kong Racing and Diddy Kong's Quest. In-game, Diddy Kong can jump higher and climb easier than his clunkier counterpart, Donkey Kong.

Did you know?

Diddy Kong marks the first time that Nintendo has branded its logo in-game. Notice Diddy Kong's red hat? Guess what logo can be seen adorning the front.

Ellie Last of Us

First appearance in a game: The Last of Us (2013)

Soon to be portrayed by Bella Ramsey in the upcoming HBO show The Last of Us, Ellie is the video game character everybody roots for. She is escorted by Joe Miller, who also appears on our list, through the US, as she is one of the few immune survivors of a plague. She becomes humanity's last hope of overcoming the terrible infection. Her subversion of the classic stereotypes of a scared little girl makes her unique among video games and helps win the respect of many gamers. She is also one of the first video game characters to be openly queer, winning her approval from the LGBT community.

Did you know?

Players of the game received a welcome surprise when Ellie became playable for a portion of The Last of Us. Developers kept this a secret before the game's release, and most players were really excited to control the secondary character.

Jill Valentine

First appearance in a game: Resident Evil (1996)

Here's the character you'd want with you anytime you had to go into a spooky house! Jill Valentine has seen it all and somehow keeps coming back for more. She's the main character in the Resident Evil series of games, which are downright scary to play. She fights against the Umbrella Corporation, which has used genetic mutations and drugs to unleash zombies and other foul creatures upon the world. A handful of Resident Evil films helped to solidify her position on the list of iconic video game characters.

Did you know?

Resident Evil was one of the first games to offer alternate costumes for its playable character, which became a staple for the series and the gaming industry as a whole.

Big Boss Metal Gear

First appearance in a game: Metal Gear (1987)

Father of "Solid Snake," who appears later on our list, the aptly named Big Boss is the leader of a group of terrorists—Outer Heaven. Many critics note that what makes Big Boss such a great character is his believable evolution into a villain. In prequels to the main storyline, Big Boss is revealed to be a special forces officer who becomes disillusioned with the US government when he is betrayed and lied to. His earlier name is revealed to be "Naked Snake," though he's often just referred to as "Snake" in the game.

Did you know?

There's a love scene between Big Boss and EVA that was actually inspired by the original Pink Panther!

Spyro

First appearance in a game: Spyro the Dragon (1998)

The cutest dragon in all video games—Spyro! Cute as Spyro is, he can still breathe fire with the best of them. His other attack is to charge at enemies and knock them up. His ability to glide in-game allows him to land on some hard-to-reach platforms and areas. This made him fairly unique in the platform gaming world and made the gameplay more unique.

Did you know?

Spyro's egg was lost when his family disappeared, so Spyro was raised by dragonflies.

Ezio Auditore da Firenze

First appearance in a game: Assassin's Creed: Lineage (2009)

When Assassin's Creed was first released, the game received high praise for its ingenuity in gameplay and story-telling. A big part of the success was due to its main character, who appears in the game as the descendant of Desmond Miles. Desmond returns to his ancestor's memories by force so that a secret organization can learn the truth of the past.

Ezio is a skilled assassin who climbs walls and completes quests that lead toward uncovering dark secrets. His movement in the game was fairly novel at the time and has been repeated by many games since.

Did you know?

While there's no real evidence that an assassin's guild—like the one portrayed in the game—really existed, the closest such organization was a medieval Islamic guild that preferred public displays instead of secret killings.

Scorpion

First appearance in a game: Mortal Kombat (1992)

"Get over here!" One of the original playable characters in the game Mortal Kombat, he quickly became one of the fan favorites. Scorpion is an undead ninja out to avenge his death and his family's. His main nemesis is Quan Chi, an evil sorcerer. His other main rival is Sub-Zero, a ninja from a rival clan who bears some resemblance to Scorpion. His signature (and some say OP) move in the game is to throw a spear with a rope attached to it, stunning and pulling his enemies toward him.

Did you know?

To save money, designers liked the idea of essentially having a ninja recolor become two separate characters, each with their own backstory. Thus Scorpion and Sub-Zero were born.

Marcus Fenix

First appearance in a game: Gears of War (2006)

A former escaped convict turned into a weapon by the government? We've never heard that storyline before. Okay, so many Marcus Fenix doesn't have the most original background of the characters on the list, but he does have the hearts of anyone familiar with the Gears of War franchise. He's your classic tough guy and saves the world by taking down one baddie after another. He a sergeant for COG (The Coalition of Governments) and fights against the Locust Horde.

Did you know?

Not everyone loves Marcus Fenix...not at all! In fact, many game publications regularly disparage Fenix for his foul mouth and just general cliche character tropes.

Joel Miller

First appearance in a game: The Last of Us (2013)

Joel Miller is likely to move way up our list once HBO releases their upcoming series based on The Last of Us. It's been confirmed that Joel Miller's character will be played by Pedro Pascal, who's known for playing the Mandolorian in the Star Wars series with the same name.

In-game, Joel escorts a little girl named Ellie through a landscape ravaged by a deadly disease. They attempt to bring the girl to a place where a cure can be made from her immunity. Joel is a very likable character in the game if a bit complex at times. And it's his heroic and friendly nature that's won him so many fans.

Did you know?

Troy Baker, who plays Joel in the games, has won numerous awards for his voice acting and portrayal of the character from institutions like the British Academy of Video Games.

Chun-Li

First appearance in a game: Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (1991)

Imagine getting kicked by Chun-Li. Yeah, it would hurt...a...lot. Chun-Li is a Chinese martial artist, Interpol officer, and all-around wickedly cool character to play in-game. She seeks revenge against M. Bison for the death of her father. She's known for her flipping-attach, which some consider still to be one of the best moves in the entire game.

Did you know?

Chun-Li holds the distinction of being the first playable female character in ANY fighting game!

Duke Nukem

First appearance in a game: Duke Nukem (1991)

There's nobody more in love with themselves than Duke Nukem! And fans love him too. He's known mostly for his skills with sidearms and his trademark RayBan sunglasses. In his earliest iterations, Duke Nukem barely spoke and played like more of a silent assassin. That changed with the later games in the series, with Nukem becoming more and more of a hyper-macho-action character with a slightly snarky attitude. There's even talk of an upcoming film starring John Cena as Duke Nukem.

Did you know?

Duke Nukem wrote an autobiography. In Duke Nukem II, the Duke himself wrote a book called "Why I'm So Great." I can think of only a few real-life people who might be so bold as to title an autobiography like that.

William Joseph "B.J." Blazkowicz

First appearance in a game: Wolfenstein 3D (1992)

Long before Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, Wolfenstein was the series that rewrote history and allowed players to kill Nazis at will. Its main character, BJ Blazkowicz, was an American of Jewish and Polish descent, so there's a built-in revenge tale to his story. A former Army Ranger, he was recruited by the OSA (Office of Secret Actions) to kill babies for the US government.

Did you know?

The 2019 movie Doom: Annihilation made a nod to Blazkowicz when an identified body found on Mars is named "William Blazkowicz."

Toad

First appearance in a game: Super Mario Bros. (1985)

Toad has the distinction of being one of the only non-playable iconic video game characters to be featured on our list (though he is playable in a couple of spinoffs and in Super Smash Bros). Toad is more of an assistant and an attendant to Princess Peach. Toad also represents the many Toads that make up the population of the Mushroom Kingdom. Even given his minimal role in many of the games, Toad is popular with gamers because he's cute and might be the jolliest character Nintendo has ever made.

Did you know?

Toad received his name from the word "toadstool," which is another word for mushroom. Toadstools are often depicted with their red caps and white spots, which resemble Toad's cap.

John Marston

First appearance in a game: Red Dead Redemption (2010)

As if straight out of a classic Western film, John Marston is the playable protagonist in the Red Dead Redemption series and everybody's favorite gun-for-hire. To secure his family's safe return from the US government, Marston must hunt down and kill his former gang members. What makes Marston a compelling Western-themed protagonist is that he is both hero and a villain at times. We are aware of his seedy past, and yet we still sympathize with his struggle to return to normal family life.

Did you know?

Marston's in-game character, played by Rob Wiethoff, uses performance capture—which blends actual scenes captured by the actor along with voice acting.

Solid Snake

First appearance in a game: Metal Gear (1987)

The ultimate super-soldier, Solid Snake is the controllable protagonist in the iconic Metal Gear series of video games. He is a former Green Beret and a highly-trained special operations soldier with an incredibly high IQ (180) and a knowledge of various languages. Think Jason Borne, minus the memory loss. Like many other classic video game soldiers, he ends up being a loner for much of the game. He only really feels alive when a player controls him to complete missions, which is pretty convenient!

Did you know?

Solid Snake is named after "Snake Plissken," played by Kurt Russel in the movie Escape from New York.

Bowser

First appearance in a game: Super Mario Bros. (1985)

One of gaming's classic antagonists, Bowser made his debut in Super Mario Bros. as the classic villain who steals away the princess, Princess Peach, from Mario. Make no bones about it, Bowser is obsessed with Princess Peach, just as much as he's obsessed with gaining control of the Mushroom Kingdom. His popularity was immediate in one of the highest grossing video game franchises, and he's appeared in just about every Mario game since his first appearance. We have this to say about Bowser: he's the angriest turtle ever made!

Did you know?

Originally, Bowser was designed to be an ox. An ox? Yes, an ox. It's kind of hard to imagine the greatest videogame villain as an angry ox, which is likely why he was changed to a massive turtle.

Cloud Strife
Pinterest (Edited)

First appearance in a game: Final Fantasy VII (1997)

The main character in what some call the greatest video game ever made, Cloud Strife is immediately recognizable to most video game fans with his blonde, spikey hair and massive sword, The Buster Sword. Many relate to Cloud's rocky past. His origins are with the SOLDIER group, but he later becomes a rebel with the AVALANCHE. He is the main protagonist in the story and the leader of the player's party throughout the game.

Did you know?

The earliest versions of Cloud had him with slicked-back hair and a more muscular physique. This was due, partly, to the limitations expected on the graphics upon release. His much more cartoon-like character morphed into what we know as Cloud Strife once the graphics improved as the development continued.

Kratos

First appearance in a game: God of War (2005)

Kratos looks like he could be a bouncer at one of the toughest bars in the world—and in many ways, that's kind of what he is. The character Kratos is based on the Greek god with the same name. In the God of War series, Kratos a part-villain, part-hero, with the player learning his tragic backstory throughout the game. It's exactly that complexity, based on real narratives from Greek Mythology, that make this character so iconic.

Did you know?

In Greek mythology, Kratos, along with his siblings Nike, Bia, and Zelus, each personifies a particular trait. Kratos, as you might guess, personifies "strength." I mean...just look at those shoulders.

Big Daddy

First appearance in a game: BioShock (2007)

The ultimate steampunk robot dream, Big Daddy is essentially a mechanized human who's been heavily "spliced." His role in the game is to protect the Little Sisters who appear throughout Rapture. Players encounter Big Daddy often during the game when trying to acquire ADAM—a substance that gives energy and strength to the players in the game.

And as long as you don't mess with the Little Sisters, Big Daddy will not harm you during gameplay. But harm the Little Sisters, and a player will be facing quite a menacing foe. What contributes to his iconic stature is both the popularity of the game BioShock and the incredible design of the character itself.

Did you know?

The earliest designs of Big Daddy weren't anywhere near as impressive as what he became. In the earliest iterations of the character, he was nothing more than an underwater diver with a diving helmet.

Kitana Mortal Kombat

First appearance in a game: Mortal Kombat 2 (1993)

Kitana is a playable character in the Mortal Kombat franchise of games and princess of the Outworld (later becoming the ruler). She is best friends with the character, Jade, and fights alongside her to overthrow the rulers of the Outland. In the early games, Kitana believes her father to be Shao Khan but later learns that her birth father is King Jerrod, who she killed.

For many, Kitana is their favorite Mortal Kombat character because she was one of the earliest female characters in the game. She has a storyline that's much more compelling than most female video game characters.

Did you know?

Talisa Soto, who played Kitana in the 1995 film Mortal Kombat, underwent extensive martial training to perform some of the moves with Kitana's signature deadly fan. She also underwent extensive learning from her nephews and nieces about how cool Kitana was!

Tom Nook Animal Crossing

First appearance in a game: Animal Crossing (2001)

Cute but greedy would be one way to summarize Tom Nook's character in the game Animal Crossing. The only real estate agent in town, Tom Nook sells players their first house when they start the game (with a payable mortgage of course!). He also operates the village store in town. Some really dislike Tom Nook and see him as an exploitative opportunist who's greedy and with little good to him. Others really love Tom Nook and see him as a shrewd businessman. Either way, he's definitely a recognizable character in a game series that's sold more than 50 million units to date.

Did you know?

Tom Nook's character is based on a tanuki or Japanese raccoon-dog, legendary in Japanese culture as sly and mischievous little creatures.

Luigi

First appearance in a game: Mario Bros. (1983)

Hey! It's Mario's twin brother! While he might not be as high on our list as his fraternal twin, many gaming fans prefer Luigi a lot more. For one, he's got a killer shade of green on his outfit. Like his older brother, Luigi is indeed a plumber. His traits differ slightly from Mario, however. While Mario is undoubtedly brave, Luigi tends to be more timid, shy, and scared. Just check out his character in Luigi's Mansion for evidence of that (which happens to be a great game). In some games, Luigi can also jump higher, though his jumping can be unwieldy.

Did you know?

Luigi was inspired by a pizza parlor near the Nintendo offices in Washington. The restaurant was called "Mario & Luigi's," and thus, the names of the plumbers were born.

Yoshi

First appearance in a game: Super Mario World (1990)

It's Yoshi—the lovable dinosaur sidekick of Mario and Luigi! First appearing in Dinosaur Land in the Super Mario World game, Yoshi became one of the first rideable characters in a video game. He can grab objects with his tongue, spit them out aflame, or lay them into an egg thrown by the player.

Besides being a side character in various Mario games, he has his own set of games as well, where he features as the main character. He's also a trendy character to play in the Mario Kart series. Yoshi has to be the most recognizable video game dragon, even if he is more cute than scary!

Did you know?

Designers originally intended Yoshi to be in the original Super Mario Bros. and even made drawings of him for the game. However, the processing limitations at the time prevented adding a rideable character to the game.

Commander Shepard (Female Version)

First appearance in a game: Mass Effect (2007)

While we showcase the female version of Commander Shepard, players could choose to have Shepard be either male or female in the game. There was some careful writing of the dialogue in the game to maintain a gender-neutral atmosphere for the player. And really, that reflects a lot of what makes Commander Shepard so popular with gamers. She/He is a kind of blank canvas, on which the player can customize a character that feels the most enjoyable with which to play the game.

Mass Effect also happens to one of the best video games of all time and certainly one of the best-written games ever made. And it's that compelling storyline, one that is character-driven like a great novel, that seals Commander Shepard as one of video gaming's great protagonists.

Did you know?

When deciding on what to name the character, developers chose to honor astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American to travel into space.

Agent 47

First appearance in a game: Hitman: Codename 47 (2000)

The assassin from the Hitman franchise of games has to be one of the most iconic suit-wearing video game characters of all time; though, his outfit will change when doing various missions. Agent 47 is actually a clone from the DNA of five different men, each with certain physical and mental attributes. He can be controlled by another agent, who is the player. This doesn't leave him with much of a personality, of course, which makes him all the more attractive to many fans. He has one mission: to kill his target—though if he enjoys his work, we would never know it!

Did you know?

The actual location of Agent 47's safehouse has never been revealed in any of the Hitman games thus far.

Pikachu

First appearance in a game: Pokémon Red and Blue (1996)

When one individual Pokémon comes to define the entire franchise, you know that it's really something special. And Pikachu has done just that! Pikachu is an electric-type Pokémon in the video games. One big reason for the pokémon's popularity is that he is the partner of Ash Ketchum as the starter Pokémon in the anime series. Another likely reason is that Pikachu is just so darn cute! And it doesn't hurt when you have your own film made about you (Pokémon Detective Pikachu), and you're voiced by Ryan Reynolds.

Did you know?

Pikachu was one of ten Japanese mascots in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Geralt of Rivia

First appearance in a game: The Witcher (2007)

Most recently played by Henry Cavill in the television show The Witcher, Geralt of Rivia is now a recognizable figure even among non-gamers. Geralt is a magical demon hunter known as a "Witcher" and possesses magical abilities through genetic mutations.

While the video game doesn't explore Geralt of Rivia in as much depth as the television show or the novels, players learn about the training he received to be a "Witcher" and his quests. However, if you really want the full experience of the character, you'll need to combine gameplay with some TV binging!

Did you know?

For many, Geralt of Rivia is more known for his appearances in short stories and novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. A box set of the complete Witcher novel series can be purchased, translated into English.

Master Chief

First appearance in a game: Halo: The Fall of Reach (2001)

The supersoldier protagonist of the Halo series of games, Master Chief holds a special place in the hearts of anyone who grew up on the iconic shooting game franchise. He's often compared with Superman and Spiderman in terms of his character and motivation. He's a protector and about as tough as they come. One of the most surprising things about players' love for the Chief is that Master Chief rarely speaks in the games. That love probably stems from allowing the players themselves to really be Master Chief and speak for them in their own minds.

Did you know?

The only time Master Chief's face can be seen is when beating Halo 4 on the highest difficulty. A cut scene will briefly show his eyes as he removes his helmet.

Ryu Street Fighter

First appearance in a game: Street Fighter (1987)

Not to be confused with Ryu, the protagonist of the Breath of Fire series, this Ryu is the lead character of the Street Fighter series. He is a Japanese martial artist based on real-life karate master—Mas Oyama. Over time, Ryu evolved into a more muscular figure with a widening array of attacks and defensive moves in the series. He's likely the most iconic fighting-game character of all time.

In the 1994 film version of the game, Ryu is played by Byron Mann, and both Ryu and his brother Ken have found their way into many animated films and shorts, as well. Ryu is famous for the misquote: "You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance."

Did you know?

Ryu's Hadouken (or energy-ball attack) was inspired by the sci-fi anime series Space Battleship Yamato from the 1970s, which the game designer used to watch as a kid.

Mega Man

First appearance in a game: Mega Man (1987)

Some may point out that there are several Mega Mans, so maybe he shouldn't be on the list. But we include him as one character from the classic video game series from Capcom, Mega Man. Mega Man is the bionic hero who dashes, jumps really high, and shoots energy pulses out of his arm cannon. And if you played games back in the day, he was a fixture on your video game cartridge shelf.

In each new version of the game (and there have been many), Mega Man gains new abilities and new attributes to enhance him and the gameplay. He's a classic and has to be in the top 10 of any list of famous video game characters.

Did you know?

A unique gameplay feature that Mega Man began was the ability to steal weapons and their features from downed robot enemies. This offered choices and reward to the players for taking down their foes. Now, it's a standard element in many RPGs and side-scrollers.

Link Legend of Zelda

First appearance in a game: The Legend of Zelda (1986)

While many people mistakenly refer to Link as Zelda, it should be noted that Zelda is the name of the princess that Link attempts to rescue in the various Legend of Zelda games. Link, on the other hand, is the sword-fighting, arrow-shooting hero of the games that the player controls. He wields legendary swords, such as the Master Sword, in the various games and uses other legendary artifacts to complete his quests.

What makes Link so iconic is, of course, the uniqueness of the video game series itself, as well as his status as the classic coming-of-age hero. He's pure in many ways and has no dialogue, except for a few grunts and groans, in the games. Still, players love Link, maybe more than even Zelda!

It also makes our list of best video game by year of birth an impressive four times!

Did you know?

The name Link was chosen because designers wanted Link to connect the "Triforce," three computer chips that symbolized different periods of time.

Sonic the Hedgehog
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First appearance in a game: Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)

He dashes. He rolls. He runs really, really fast! Some diehard Sega fans would argue that Sonic (aka The Blue Blur) should be number one on our list. Certainly, there's certainly a case to be made for that too, particularly given the latest movie starring the hedgehog with sneakers, Sonic the Hedgehog, starring Jim Carey as Doctor Eggman.

Sonic has appeared in five different games, which isn't a lot given his popularity. Though Sega has all but shut down operations, Sonic remains popular even with new gamers. Currently, Sonic the Hedgehog games are available as a package in SEGA Classics.

Did you know?

The Sonic figure's first actual appearance in a game was as a dashboard decoration in the game Rad Mobile, a racing game released in 1991.

Donkey Kong
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First appearance in a game: Donkey Kong (1981)

One of the earliest video game characters ever, Donkey Kong has come a long way from those days of throwing wooden buckets down a series of slopes at "Jumpman." He's also one of the few video game characters that began as a villain of sorts and became a protagonist in later games. He won many hearts when he debuted in 3D in Donkey Kong Country and has since become one of Nintendo's most iconic characters.

Donkey Kong was certainly based on King Kong from Universal Studios, with the latter even suing Nintendo over trademark infringement. (Universal lost the case.) And there's something loveable about each of the great apes.

Did you know?

The original Donkey Kong holds a Guinness World Record for "First Use of Visual Storytelling in a Video Game" because it was the first to include basic cut scenes.

Laura Croft
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First appearance in a game: Tomb Raider (1996)

With multiple movies starring Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft, she shot all the way up our list to number two. And it's not hard to see what made her so popular with video gamers. It's her...ummm...killer boots of course! In all seriousness, she was one of the first female video game characters to shed some classic stereotypes. She's well educated and can kick butt with the best of them. And developers have evolved her character over time to move away from the obvious sex appeal of the character to highlight those other attributes that make Lara Croft a favorite with fans.

As the daughter of an archeologist, Lara's main quest in life is to discover answers to the disappearances of her mother and father. She explores tombs in the faraway places of the world, searching for clues and some really cool ancient artifacts.

Did you know?

Lara Croft holds a Guinness World Record as the most recognized female video game character and has a star on the "Walk of Game" in San Francisco.

Pac-man

First appearance in a game: Pac-Man (1980)

Pac-Man was really the first video game character to define an entire brand and become so popular as to be merchandised. So what's so appealing about a yellow circle that eats up little dots? Well, it turns out that Namco, who owns the rights to Pac-Man, gave him an entire backstory. He's a family man, married to Mrs. Pac-Man, with two kids. In later games, he has a kind and adventurous personality that really embodies the video game industry as a whole. Heck, even Mario creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, claims that Pac-Man is his favorite videogame character!

Did you know?

Pac-Man has even found his way into business lingo. A "Pac-Man defense" is when one company that's under threat of a hostile takeover attempts to reverse its fortune by hostile taking over the other company.

Mario Character
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First appearance in a game: Mario Bros. (1983); Donkey Kong (1981) as "Jumpman."

Ask anyone to name a video game character—even someone who's never played one—and they'll likely say "Mario!" Mario has come to be more than just a famous video character; he represents video games as a whole and even...well...America as a whole. Mario's not your typical video game hero. He doesn't wield a sword or have a fancy outfit. He's just a plumber and dresses the part. I guess that's why we love him so much. He reminds us of the everyman from the Mushroom Kingdom who just wants to find his love.

To date, Mario has appeared in more than 200 video games for the Nintendo franchise, giving him the record for the most video game appearances.

Did you know?

The designer of Mario, Shigeru Miyamoto, originally intended to use the characters of Popeye, Brutus, and Olive Oil for the role of Mario, Donkey Kong, and Princess Peach, respectively.

Check out 20 of the best video game theme songs of all time!
Odin Odin (25)
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I’ve been a gamer for most of my life, starting with simple games on my old Macintosh 128K, diving deep with the classics of my GameBoy and N64 collections, and then surfing up the years with XBOX and my growing collection of PC titles. During these years, one thing has stuck out for me above all others: that the best games are those with a killer score. The most unforgettable games in my memory are the ones with music that stirred my soul. Whether somber or uplifting, a great video game soundtrack ties a game together and produces in the player a sense of what J.R.R. Tolkien might have termed “enchantment”, where the player is so totally immersed that they experience the game as a child might experience a story being told: totally brimming with life. This list isn’t exhaustive by any means, but contains a wide-ranging collection of my personal favorites from the world of video game soundtracks, as well as hitting at least one title from every decade starting in the 1980s through to 2021.