Having missed several deadlines, I have to make up for lost time.  You know the drill by now, these are my favorite video game characters, and I'm gonna talk about why they resonated with me.  Let's get right to it!

70) Barret Wallace

Appeared In:  Final Fantasy VII

"You gotta understand somethin'...  I don't got an answer.  I wanna be with Marlene... but I gotta fight.  'Cause if I don't, the planet's gonna die.  So I gotta keep fightin'!

Final Fantasy is a series that has birthed numerous memorable characters through the years, but none of the games have a more iconic cast than Final Fantasy VII.  From possibly the most famous JRPG protagonist of all time Cloud Strife, to the endearingly immature ninja Yuffie, and Aeris Aerith, whose death is still one of the most iconic video game moments ever, Final Fantasy VII is crammed full of characters most Japanese RPG fans will at least recognize.

There's no denying Final Fantasy VII was a turning point for the evolution of the JRPG genre and that's part of the reason its characters have left such a strong impression on people.  However, while most people claim their favorite party member from the game to be Cloud, Tifa, or Cid, my personal favorite was the gun arm toting Barret Wallace.

Barret is an outstanding hero because he is simultaneously a character hiding a great amount of depth and maturity and the source of constant and effective comic relief.  He's the first party member to join Cloud and right of the bat, his design is such a refreshing departure from the standard JRPG protagonist.  He's not some scrawny wide eyed kid naive in the ways of the word, but rather a hulking 35 year old with a gun where his arm should be and a massive chip on his shoulder.  Rough around the edges, Barret also speaks in ebonics, which helps his dialogue have a much different feel from his allies.

Early on in the game, we learn that Barret is a man who values his daughter, Marlene, above all else.  In one particular scene in the beginning we get to see the previously curt and hotheaded man rush to hug Marlene, relieved to see her again, which was nothing short of heartwarming and showed players that the hulking Barret had a soft side and a great amount of love for his daughter.  However, the depths of the relationship between these two isn't fully revealed until much later.  It turns out that Marlene isn't actually Barret's biological daughter, but rather that of his friend Dyne.  When Barret and Dyne attempt to take back a Mako Reactor (an energy creation device that saps life from the planet) built in their home town from the vile organization Shinra, the two are gunned down.  Dyne ends up desperately holding on to Barret's hand for life, but they are both shot in the arm, resulting in Barret losing his and Dyne's apparent death.  Rather than seek a prosthetic, Barret instead asks to have a gun placed on his arm, both to remind himself of what he lost and give him a means to fight back against Shinra, even if he'll always stand out in public as a result.

Shortly thereafter, Barret adopts Marlene; even though he is single and knows nothing about raising children, he can't just leave this girl to become an orphan because that's just the kind of guy Barret is.  Barret is the centerpiece of many of the most iconic moments of Final Fantasy VII for me, moments that showcase the hidden maturity of his character beneath his hotheaded and doofy exterior.  He founds the eco-terrorist organization AVALANCHE to destroy Mako Reactors under the pretense of saving the planet, but in actuality he's doing so to vent his pent up rage against Shinra for taking everything from him.  He claims he's saving the planet for heroics sake, but he's actually only concerned with making the world a safe place for Marlene to grow up, because he cares about her above all else.  When he reunites when Dyne, who apparently did not die, he finds a man that has gone insane after years of imprisonment, and is forced to put him out of his misery in one of the most epic 1 v. 1 duels in JRPG history.  A scene even more powerful since Barret sees some of himself in the maniacal Dyne, but chooses hope instead of madness to prevent ending up the same way.  When Cloud and Tifa temporarily leave the group, he elects Cid the new leader, admitting that Cid would be a more responsible leader than himself.  And most notably, he wonders if his cold, bloodstained metal hands are even capable of holding on to the love of a little girl.  Barret regrets all the lives he took in his ecoterrorist days when he was fueled by revenge, wondering if he's even worthy of Marlene's love after all that.  Barret is a character that initially comes across as doofy, but he displays more and more depth at a satisfying rate as the game goes on.

However, Barret remains a relatively goofy character throughout, much to his benefit.  When Final Fantasy VII's ridiculously bonkers storyline gets really convoluted, he jokingly complains he has no idea what the hell is happening (right alongside the player most likely) Cloud can actually take him on a date to the Golden Saucer in one of the most hilariously awkward video game scenes ever.  And when he constantly complains about how high the stairs of Shinra Corporation are as the party is climbing them to infiltrate the facility, Tifa calls him a ret ard in a humorous moment that writers could only get away with in the 90's.  Barret is in many ways the buttmonkey of the Final Fantasy VII party, constantly the butt of the other members jokes, to which he responds in equally hilarious and over the top ways.

 Over the course of the game, Barret evolves from a simple comic relief character to one of the most deeply written heroes in the history of the storied Final Fantasy franchise, all while remaining an endearing, wacky, and lovable character throughout.  I've admittingly never finished Final Fantasy VII in its entirety, but I don't have to to know that Barret absolutely deserves a spot on this list. 

69) Chrom

Appeared In:  Fire Emblem:  Awakening

"You honor me with your fealty.  I will not falter again!  We shall answer this outrage!  The Mad King must be stopped!"

One opinion of mine that constantly irks my friends is that I just don't like the older Fire Emblem games.  There are a myriad of reasons for this, but one of them is that many of their characters feel wooden and stuffy.  Moreover, one of the main tenants of the series is getting attached to characters, so that their permanent deaths after falling in battle feel meaningful.  However, when much of the cast is about as exciting as watching paid programming at 3 A.M., it's hard to feel much when they get an axe stuck in their skull.  Most notably, the series' many blue or red haired protagonists failed to leave much of an impression of me.  Ike is a noteworthy exception, but I couldn't even really describe Marth, Eliwood, Eirkia and the rest of the gang's personalities well, because they all kind of blended into one another for me.  In fact, considering I also can't tolerate Fates' awful protagonist Corrin, this leaves Chrom as the only lord in the series I actually hold in really high regard.

The reason I like Chrom so much is that he acts like an actual human being.  Unlike other lords such as Marth who were very noble, proper, professional, effeminate and well, not very interesting, Chrom is direct, says what's on his mind, and doesn't behave like nobility.  Despite being the prince of the Kingdom of Ylisse, he prefers to be on the battlefield fighting alongside his soldiers as captain of the Shephards, a group of heroes out to protect the "flock: of their fellow citizens.  Chrom is in many ways an interesting leader that stands out from other Fire Emblem lords by not really acting regal or demanding any special treatment at all, which made him an easier character to relate to.

But the main reason Chrom found this way on his list is that he is a top tier buttmonkey.  If you couldn't tell already from this list, I really like 'buttmonkey" characters, ones whom everyone, including their friends, pick on for fun because there's just so much to work with.  I can relate to this in real life as most of my friends and immediate family relentlessly tease and mock me in good fun, so it was nice to see a video game character basically treated the same way.  While all of Chrom's comrades undoubtedly respected him, they weren't afraid to poke fun at his expense, and many of the games support conversations felt like an episode of "Everybody Hates Chrom."

The poor guy just can't catch a break.  One of his best friends and bodyguards posts naked paintings of him across camp to "raise morale" with the army's recruitment slogan "Chrom wants you!" which naturally ends about as badly as you'd expect.  During a cooking contest, he almost kills his friend from food poisoning because his dish was so vile.  Heck, Chrom even gets mocked outside of his own series, as the entire Robin reveal trailer for the most Super Smash Bros. poked fun at the fact Chrom wouldn't be playable in the game, as he laments at the end, "I suppose I'll get my chance another day."

However, Chrom is much more than just a pathetic sap to make fun of.  Over the course of Awakening, he does have many serious and heartwarming conversations with the other people in the army.  He kindly helps his sister overcome her feelings of insecurity and not having much use to the team.  He shares a hilarious comradery with Vaike, with the two constantly butting heads to see who is better at everything.  And most notably, Chrom shares a fantastic bromance with the male incarnation of the avatar Robin.  Over the course of Awakening, the two develop a really compelling friendship; Chrom is one of the few people to initially trust the amnesiac Robin, and the two come to confide in and rely on each other with things they can't or don't want to reveal with anyone else.  By the end of the game, Chrom even refuses to abandon his friend even though Robin is liable to be possessed by the enemy to harm or kill Chrom.  It's a very touching relationship and I like that though Chrom spends much of his game being degraded by everyone around him, he's also a party in some of the most heartwarming relationships in Fire Emblem history.

A lot of older Fire Emblem fans don't react well to people criticizing the older games in favor of Awakening's characterization, but Chrom's character really resonated with me far more than any other Fire Emblem lord.  His down to Earth and direct nature made him far more relatable than previous lords, and both the constant humor brought about at his expense and some of the meaningful relationships he held with his troops and allies made him an unforgettable hero.  Fire Emblem is more popular now than ever before, but it has yet to top Chrom as my favorite lord in the series, and if Fates is any indication, I doubt it will any time soon.

68) Ann Takamaki

Appeared In:  Persona 5

"You know what?  I'm not some cheap girl you can toy with... you scumbag.  You stole everything from Shiho...  You destroyed her.  Now it's your turn!  I will rob you of everything!"

From late 2016 onwards, I think that Japan has been absolutely slaughtering the West in the characterization department.  Between Final Fantasy XV, Yakuza 0, NieR: Automata, and Persona 5, the characters that have stared in Japanese games have had a level of charm and personality that a lot of the West's more serious and brooding heroes have lacked.  However there was a time not long ago where I thought the reverse was true, due to Japan's over reliance on anime tropes.  Perhaps the most obnoxious of these tropes (and one my buddy Heropon wrote about before) is the way in which male and female characters were regarded as "different" and always had awkward reactions as a result.  Persona 3 and the early hours of Persona 4 are pretty big examples of this, as when the male characters weren't being perverts to the females, the females were being complete jerks to the males.  Seriously, Junpei and Yuakri's interactions were so vitriolic, that I got the sense they didn't murder one another solely because they were both friends with the main character.  These interactions weren't even funny or clever though, just obnoxious and unrealistic.  Thankfully, this is a trend a lot of Japan's recent games have bucked, most notably Persona 5.

You would think the attractive first female party member of Persona 5, Ann Takamaki, would fall right into the trap of this trope, but she mercifully dodges it with grace.  Even though for 25% of Persona 5 she is the only female party member, the game doesn't treat this like it's a weird scenario.  Ann gets along great with all the other members of the team, and in particular, her relationship with her friend Ryuji is fantastic.  The two allies are constantly trading hilarious quips back and forth that don't feel spiteful like the banter between a few of the guys and girls in earlier Persona games.  While Ann mocks Ryuji for being loud and reckless, and Ryuji teases Ann for being a bubbly airhead, you still get the sense that these two characters like and respect one another, evidenced when Ryuji immediately protects Ann from a guy who appears to be stalking her, or when Ann is really shaken up when Ryuji is thought to have died later in the game.

Like all the members of the Phantom Thieves, Ann starts off as someone who is shoved into a stereotypical role by society and feels trapped by it before finally starting to break free.  For starters, she is 1/4 American, and many of her classmates avoid her because she looks different.  As Ryuji puts it, the shy kids are afraid to talk to her because she is seen as too attractive and out of their league, while the popular crowd wants nothing to do with her because of her appearance.  For a long time, Ann felt very alone until she met a girl named Shiho, who treated her no differently than anyone else because of her appearance.  Ann is so loyal to Shiho that she would even allow herself to be taken advantage to help her, evidenced by when the corrupt gym coach Suguru Kamoshida forces her into a relationship in exchange for Shiho having a place on the volleyball team and a chance at a scholarship.

Eventually, Ann decides to stand up for herself and refuses to elope with Kamoshida, to which he responds by sexually assaulting Shiho instead, driving her to attempt suicide.  The whole affair devastates Ann; for a year, she endured being taken advantage of to protect her one true friend, and now when she stands up for herself, she is only met with more pain.  This is what drives Ann to awaken to her Persona, and the moment when she does so and makes a stand against the disgusting Kamoshida was a great moment in a game that was already crammed with memorable scenes.

It was a satisfying moment for Ann to finally begin to assert herself against the man who was abusing her and her friend, and after she overcomes this ordeal, she remains an entertaining friend for the rest of her game.  In stark contrast to previous Persona games, which would likely throw Ann and co. into awkward hot springs scenes and the like, Ann instead has genuinely grounded and compelling conversations with her friends, namely the protagonist and Ryuji.  They're able to talk about simple things like what kind of people they're attracted to without any awkwardness, and it reminded me of the own friendships and conversations I had with my friends in high school.  More so than any other game I've played, Persona 5 does a great job of depicting realistically written friendships and dialogue, and Ann was the center of a lot of these great exchanges.

Ann was a refreshing departure from the first female party members of previous Persona games in how she interacted with her male friends, as there wasn't any awkward tension between them, just entertaining teasing and actual respect for one another.  Her character arc was also a great one to follow, with her gaining the confidence to be comfortable in her own skin, not caring that others think differently of her for her appearance and having the strength to stand up against being taken advantage of.  Given the success of Persona 5, Persona 6 is no doubt on the way, so I can only hope that the eventual next installment will have the relationships between male and female party members feel more like Ann and Ryuji's than Junpei and Yukari's.

67) Nathan Drake 

Appeared In:  Uncharted series

"Yep, that's my blood... that's a lot of my blood."

As I stated in a previous character list installment, even though I'm not the biggest fan of the Uncharted video game series, I really enjoy the characters that star in them, as I think their banter back and forth is some of the most realistic and enjoyable dialogue I've heard in any video game.  So it should come as no surprise that the series' iconic lead has found his way onto this list.

In the original Uncharted trilogy, for the most part Nathan simply plays the part of a snarky treasure hunter, travelling the world and engaging in all manner of illegal activities to uncover relics of yesteryear for profit.  And he is unbelievably, absurdly, constantly suave throughout the entirety of his adventures.  Snarky protagonists are a dime a dozen in video games today, but Nathan Drake is leagues above his many peers.  No matter how dire the situation, Nate will always try to infuse humor into the situation to diffuse the mood, even if it's incredibly inappropriate.  Whether he's got a gun barrel shoved in his face, is bleeding out on a freezing mountain, or about to fall out of a jet plane, he's always got a sarcastic quip on hand for the scenario in question, and surprisingly, they very rarely feel forced or cringeworthy, which is a testament both to Naughty Dog's writers and Nolan North's outstanding voice work with the character.  Nathan Drake's endless well of dry wit somehow never grows old over the course of the entire trilogy, and the endearing humor he brought to almost every scene of the game made me stick with the series even when the bullet sponge enemies and finicky platforming frustrated me to no end.

However, it was Uncharted 4 that truly took Nathan Drake from a good character to a great one, and cemented him a spot on this list.  Uncharted 4 was the first game Naughty Dog worked on after writing The Last of Us, and as a result there's much more nuance and depth to both the storytelling and characterization on display in A Thief's End.  In this outing, we meet up with Drake after he's retired from a life of treasure hunting, working an "ordinary" job at a salvage company and settled down with his wife, Elena Fischer.  Nathan has everything anyone could want - a nice house, a cushy and well paying job, and an incredibly supportive spouse.  Yet in the early chapters of Uncharted 4, there's a certain restlessness to Nathan's character, a wistfulness even.

He misses his old life.

Early on in one of the game's best scenes, we assume control of Drake in the attic of his new home, as he pores over photographs and artifacts from his many globetrotting adventures, making remarks about how much he misses the people and places he's seen, as well as the thrills associated with his travels.  He then picks up a toy gun and begins to shoot out drawings of thugs and monsters scribbled in the attic, getting really into his little game and trash talking threats that aren't really there.  Through this scene we get the sense that even though Nathan has a nice life he should be grateful for, he's not happy.  It reminds me a lot of the feeling of purpose that many retired police officers, firefighters and other professions feel after they retire and lose the thrill of their job.

So it's understandable, however morally wrong it may be, why Nathan risked everything he had to pursue an adrenaline rush once more.  He lies to Elena and drags his friend Sully back into danger after his brother, whom he long thought was dead, returns with the promise of a great treasure they'd once searched for.  This decision really grounds Nathan, turning him from a silly comic relief hero to a realistic and flawed character, as he hurts some of the most important and caring people in his life in a selfish pursuit of riches and thrills.  And it results in A Thief's End having a wonderful story of Nathan coming to terms with the fact he needs to stop throwing his life into danger and cheating death, slow down, and be there for the people in his life that need him.  It's a very grounded tale, and a wonderful sendoff to one of the most iconic video game characters of recent years.

There's also some nice nuances to Nathan's character.  I enjoyed how Uncharted 3 and 4's gradually revealed that "Drake" isn't Nathan's actual last name, but rather one he assumed because he truthfully believes he's the descendant of the famous pirate and explorer, Sir Francis Drake.  He has a crippling fear of clowns.  And the amount of times he's shouted "oh crap!" rivals Sully's numerous "***"s throughout the franchise.

I enjoyed Nathan Drake's characters on two levels.  On the one hand, he's the pinnacle of what a "snarky video game protagonist" should be, as his writing and voice work helped make almost every one of his hundreds of quips actually humorous.  He simply has really hilarious and realistic comradery and banter with his many friends and allies.  But most importantly, Uncharted 4 took the same charming Nathan we all loved and made him into a deeper character, by telling the tale of a man who had to learn to leave his reckless and selfish lifestyle behind him.  With a Thief's End, Nathan's story has finally come to a close, but I couldn't be happier with the way it ended, and even though Uncharted will never rank among my favorite game franchises, I'll always have a soft spot for its wise cracking, endlessly hilarious protagonist.

66) Ganondorf

Appeared In:  The Legend of Zelda series

"My country lay within a vast desert.  When the sun rose into the sky, a burning wind punished my land, searing the world.  And when the moon climbed into the dark of the night, a frigid gale pierced our homes.  No matter when it came... the wind always carried the same thing... Death.  But the winds that blew across the green field of Hyrule brought something other than suffering and ruin.  I coveted that wind, I suppose."

Video games have thrown us thousands of antagonists over the course of the past four decades, but few are as iconic and have as enduring an image as Ganondorf.  And for good reason, as every battle with this physical incarnation of evil does not disappoint.

The Zelda series timeline is just as bonkers and convoluted as Metal Gear's, but it's built on a fairly simple premise.  The original incarnation of all evil in the world, a nasty creature known as Demise, placed a curse on a hero for both their spirits to be reborn and duel time and time again without cessation.  Every Legend of Zelda game is thus a continuation of this cycle with a reincarnated form of Link destined to fight Demise in his new form, which is more often than not Ganon or Ganondorf.  Though the names are similar, and the entities technically the same being, it's worth making a distinction between the two for the purpose of this blog.  Ganon is just a one dimensional, evil pig monster with littler personality or development that's forgotten as soon as the credits roll.  He exists purely to give you a purpose on your adventure - defeat Ganon.  

Ganondorf on the other hand, is a human being that possesses a far greater degree of intelligence and leaves much more of an impression.  Oddly enough, despite what you'd think, Ganondorf has only appeared in three games in the series:  Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker and Twilight Princess.  While his Ocarina of Time outing was do doubt iconic and memorable, and he made for a great final foe in Twilight Princess, Wind Waker is ultimately the game that fleshed out the series' most iconic and recurring threat far more than any other.

Despite its kid friendly and colorful graphics, Wind Waker is hiding arguably the deepest and darkest narrative in the series' storied history.  Wind Waker takes places centuries after Ocarina of Time, in a Hyrule where Ganondorf is reborn, but without a reincarnated Link around to stop him.  In an effort to prevent Ganondorf from conquering the land once and for all, the gods of Hyrule create a ceaseless rain that floods and destroys the land, Ganondorf included.  Only a handful of survivors who were told to start new civilization upon the mountaintops (which become islands after the flood) remain.  

However unfortunately for the gods, you're not getting rid of a timeless evil like Ganondorf that easily.

In The Wind Waker, Ganondorf's motivations are more fully fleshed out and he comes across as a far more interesting and understandable character as a result.  In Ocarina of Time, he just wanted to conquer Hyrule because he's a jerk.  That's it.  He's evil, and ya gotta defeat him.  Ocarina of Time is more about the adventure leading up to the last battle than the final confrontation itself.  On the other hand in Wind Waker, Ganondorf too is disturbed by the destruction of Hyrule and yearns to have his homeland revived.  He pursues the Triforce not just to acquire godly power and subjugate the land once more, but undo the effects of the flood and restore Hyrule.  He is a man that is firmly stuck in the past and unwilling to let it go.  A central theme of Wind Waker is the importance of letting go of the past and working towards a brighter future.  This is what Link and the other characters strive to do in the new civilizations they've built on top of the ocean, but Ganondorf instead stubbornly clings to a land that no longer exists.  

What's more, Wind Waker does a great job of fleshing out Ganondorf's past motivations in Ocarina of Time.  He has an excellently written short monologue before the final battle where you describes his harsh life growing up in the Gerudo Desert and how he both resented and coveted the rest of the Hylians for being blessed with an easy life full of anything they could have wanted.  This jealously is what compels him to become the evil king we see in Ocarina of Time, which is a far more interesting motivation than the one the N64 classic offered up.

Lastly, it's worth noting that the final battle with Ganondorf in Wind Waker is absolutely incredible.  Ganondorf is successful in reassembling the Triforce and is about to use it to wish Hyrule back into existence.  However, the Hyrulean king shows up at the last minute and steals the Triforce, using it to wish for the last remnant of Hyrule to be sealed away forever.  As the oceans begin to close in around them, a maniacal Ganondorf, who has lost his last chance of bringing back the past, challenges Link to a duel.  This Ganondorf is far taller than Wind Waker's childish Link and duel wields katanas, resulting in a fantastic sword fight that tests the player's timing and skills, all while an excellent musical theme plays.  It's truly one of the greatest final battles in gaming history.

And when it's finally over, Link plunges the Master Sword into Ganondorf's head, putting an end to the curse that plagued Hyrule once and for all.  What's particularly interesting is that the old king of Hyrule, Link's partner and friend secretly yearned to revive Hyrule as well. He sees a part of himself in Ganondorf despite the two being mortal enemies, which impacts his final decision to remain in Hyrule and drown with it at the end of the game rather than return to the surface with Link.  It's a fantastic end to both Ganondorf and the King's character and one of the best written and most thought provoking moments in the entire Legend of Zelda series.

Ultimately, Ganon is a fairly standard and forgettable foe, and Ganondorf's appearances in Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess, though iconic, weren't especially deeply written.  However, Wind Waker's take on the ancient evil provides bar none, the greatest villain The Legend of Zelda series has ever pitted Link against.  I think many of us can relate to wanting to return to and bring back something from our past, which makes Ganondorf's pining for a return of Hyrule relatable, and the character Ganondorf himself to a small degree, sympathetic.  On top of having a very interesting and compelling motivation, the final fight with Ganondorf himself is nothing short of unforgettable, and even though the Zelda franchise has given us some epic battles and duels since, I wonder if anything it ever conjures will be able to top it.  Simply put, Wind Waker's Ganondorf is both one of the greatest villains I've ever fought, and one of my favorite video game characters of all time.