A big part of what makes the Tales franchise tick is its characters. These strong personalities always inspire and clash with each other in all the right ways. But as with every series, some characters simply have more gumption and deserve additional recognition. This menagerie of personalities is a big part of what pulled me into the Tales games.

Warning: Spoilers ahead 

Tear Grants (Tales of the Abyss) 

Tear Grants is one of the better-written female characters to grace RPGs. She’s headstrong, resourceful, and a little feisty, never letting the whiny Luke get away with any lip. But what makes Tear stands out as a great character is how realistically she’s written. She puts on a front at the start of Tales of the Abyss, not showing a hint of emotion, but then her facade begins to crumble. You start to see the impact of her past, especially how losing her parents at a young age affected her. Tear also has enough strength to stand up to her brother, the only family she has left, because she’s set on doing the right thing. Her banter with Luke is where she lets her hair down, showing a softer side and displaying her love for the adorable Mieu. Tear stands as a great example of a character with emotional depth and complexity. Most importantly, despite all her resistance, when she finally does show her humanity, it’s beautiful. 

Zelos (Tales of Symphonia/Dawn of The New World)

Zelos loves the ladies, but you know what he loves even more? Himself. He definitely comes off as immature and self-absorbed upon first glance in Tales of Symphonia, but initial impressions can be deceiving. Soon you find out he has emotional baggage that explains his behavior. His parents married out of obligation and not love, and neither gave him the time of day growing up. Poor Zelos could never catch a break; if you think you have family drama, take a look at Zelos to put it in perspective. His own stepmother tried to murder him so his stepsister could become the “Chosen of Mana.” Due to all this emotional abuse, Zelos grew up feeling worthless, like he’d never live up to being the “Chosen.” Watching Zelos come to terms with his dysfunctional childhood and strive for something better is a high point in Symphonia. 

Raven (Tales of Vesperia) 

Raven is the goofy “old” guy. At 35 years old, he stands as the oldest party member in Vesperia, and he never lets you forget it with his melodramatic complaints about how he’s too broken down for tasks. He doesn’t have much of a filter, providing plenty of laughs with innuendo-filled jokes and inappropriate flirtation with female party members. But what makes Raven stand out is his backstory – he died and was brought back to life by a man named Alexei. Ever since then, Raven’s felt indebted to his savior, even taking on corrupt tasks for him. Raven wasn’t really living a life of his own, causing him to desire release in death. When working for Alexei, he lives as Schwann, but once he meets Yuri and company and survives a near-death experience, he decides it’s time to wash his hands clean of previous transgressions, renaming himself “Raven.” The best part of Vesperia is watching Raven find a reason to enjoy life again – on his own terms. 

Cheria Barnes (Tales of Graces f) 

Cheria earns a spot because of her unique circumstances. Most games don’t focus on a character who has an illness, but Tales of Graces f made Cheria memorable by having her start out as a sickly child. Later she’s cured, but the impact of spending much of her life constrained by sickness is always there. Cheria is extremely kind and faces every challenge with a positive demeanor. Her illness gave her maturity beyond her years and the ability to appreciate life differently than most, but where Cheria shines brightest is in her determination to give back. She becomes a dedicated healer in a quest to help every injured person she encounters. Sometimes this is her downfall, because she runs headlong into danger to save someone. Still, it’s admirable, and you can see where her desire to heal comes from: she knows what it’s like being stuck on the sidelines. 

Jade Curtiss (Tales of the Abyss)

Jade has plenty of snarky quips that make him a delight to have as a party member. He speaks the truth, but his sarcasm can sometimes come off as mean-spirited or inappropriate. That’s part of the fun in having him around, though; you never know who he’s going to offend or what’s going to come out his mouth next. But Jade is also a complex man; he caused the death of his beloved Professor Nebilim after mistakenly releasing a powerful force, and he’s never been the same. Throughout Abyss, you watch him hide his feelings, but occasionally his guilt creeps in and you experience a softer side to the man with the silver tongue. He also keeps you smirking because he’s always a few steps ahead of the group and often tries to delicately point them in the right direction. The best part is when the group comes to a revelation he’s figured out ages ago; his face says it all. 

[Next Up: A comedic duo, a pooch with attitude, and a heartthrob...]