The more installments of this list I publish, the less I have to say in the introduction of each.  Today, we'll continue the journey through my favorite video game characters of all time.  Let's get started right away!

60) Justin Bailey

Appeared In:  Catherine

"I remembered how you saved me in the nightmare.  I talked a lot about myself.  I think... I just wanted somebody to listen to me.  I'm so weak...  These events aren't going to end naturally.  The police can't do anything.  This is when the mass media shines.  But I'm too afraid to write about it...  I think it's because I'm afraid to admit I have the power to save people with my words..."

2011's cult hit Catherine wasn't just a deceptive puzzle game about climbing towers made of blocks.  It told an intriguing tale that took a unique stance of romantic relationships, quite literally asking the players difficult questions about the nature of love and either forcing them to question their established beliefs, or reaffirm them.  However, this was not the only theme the game explored; another recurring concept in Catherine are the harms imposed on individuals by the notion that it is unacceptable for men to be emotional.  The stigma that men ought to be stoic and bottle up their emotions rather than discuss them can cause men to feel lonely and depressed, and if this continues for too long it could later fester into anger and have self-destructive results.  This is most notably seen in the many patrons to the game's central location, the Stray Sheep.

Every night in their sleep, the protagonist, Vincent, is thrust into a dangerous tower where dying also results in death in real life.  It's a curse imposed on him for (supposedly) for being unfaithful to his girlfriend, and it's a gruesome fate that he is not the only victim of.  After surviving a night in the tower, Vincent drowns his problems with alcohol at the local bar, the Stray Sheep.  Here, players have the choice to chat up the other patrons, many of which are also victims of the nightmare.  These chats are similar to the social links in Persona games - every night, the player uses some of the limited time available to them to chat these folks up, and as the conversations transition from superficial to meaningful, the player slowly gets to know these compelling characters on a deeper and deeper level.

The characters in Catherine all suffer from the same problem - they feel as though they have no one in their lives with whom they can discuss their emotional baggage, and this manifests itself in a lot of character flaws.  For example, we learn that the womanizing, arrogant businessman Todd only acts the way he does because his abusive father relentlessly pushed him to be a "real man" growing up.  The silent police officer Morgan drinks far too much each night because he's wallowing in the pain of his wife dying while he was on bad terms with her, never getting the chance to reconcile.  And so on.  These men can't discuss these problems with anyone however, and the player ignoring them or not providing the proper emotional support could cause their willpower to decline.  This could later result in them losing the inner strength to survive the nightmares each night.  As a result, I ended up growing attached to these characters over the course of the game, as I provided them with an outlet to vent their emotional frustrations, helping them survive the nightmares and live to become better people.

My favorite of these characters was Justin Bailey, who coincidentially shares a name with a famous NES password.  Justin is a reporter and takes great pride in his profession, but he hasn't written an article in quite some time, instead doing research for great stories and giving the information to his colleagues to publish.  It turns out that this is because Justin is afraid of the power that comes with his profession.  The power to save people with his words, but also the power to destroy.  If you manage to support Justin and keep him alive, he'll recount a tale of a young and talented ballerina whose skills won him over.  She worked countless part time jobs to pay for her ballerina classes, but making it big time as a dancer was her dream and she persisted regardless.  Justin then decides to use his reporter status to write a piece about her, a piece that ultimately helps her become a successful and incredibly famous ballerina.

However, the young girl's rivals resented her newfound fame and how she took the spotlight away form them, and so they did everything they could to make her life miserable.  One such girl even used her mafia ties to execute the ballerina's family.  Left alone and tormented daily, the ballerina was driven to suicide, thanking Justin in her last note for giving her the chance to realize her dream, however brief it might have been.  Horrified by how his piece resulted in the death of an innocent girl, Bailey could no longer bring himself to write.  He begins to wallow in self-hatred, drowning his sorrows each night at the Stray Sheep and finding himself unable to commit to his current girlfriend as a result.

Justin is frankly an extremely pitiful character, and helping him survive each night to slowly hear his story was a really rewarding experience.  On the final night of the game, players return to the Stray Sheep once last time before confronting the final boss, and Vincent has the opportunity to spend a few moments of calm with his surviving friends.  However, as I looked around the bar on the final night I was horrified to see many empty booths.  I had let so many of Catherine's characters down, not devoting enough time to supporting them, and they ultimately met their end in the dream world.  Justin was the only character with a determinant fate I was successful in saving, and I think that's a big part of the reason his character resonated with me.  We have the opportunity to help out countless NPCs in video games, but so many of them and their stories blend together.  I think the fact that Justin too, could have died before he had the chance to reconcile with himself and pick up journalism once more in an attempt to save more people is why his story has stuck with me years after finishing Catherine.  I still feel guilty over the characters that died because I wasn't there to help them in Catherine (a testament to the game's writing), but I also take solace in being there for Justin when he felt the whole world was apathetic to his inner character struggle.

59) Shadow

Appeared In:  Final Fantasy VI

"Baram... it looks like I can finally stop running.  Come and find me all right?"

Final Fantasy VI, as I mentioned in the last character list installment, benefits from having an ensemble cast of characters with wildly different backstories and personalities all fighting for a common goal.  Perhaps the most intriguing of these characters is the ruthless mercenary Shadow.  As his name implies, Shadow is a somewhat edgy character.  He insists he's "killed his emotions," and throughout much of the game he comes across as cold and apathetic to everyone but his beloved canine companion, Interceptor.  He also shows the least dedication to stopping the Empire of any party member.  Shadow is a character that is initially motivated purely by his own self-interests.  He only joins the party if he feels in an adventurous mood or they pay him a respectable fee, and even then there's a chance he could just leave after battle without any warning.  As his character description clearly states, "he comes and goes like the wind, swearing his allegiance to no one."

And frankly, that's pretty awesome.  Shadow avoids being as plucky and annoying as many JRPG protagonists, while simultaneously sidestepping coming across as so edgy it's comical or obnoxious.  He's a genuinely cool character and his curt dialogue, superb character theme (linked above) and motivation purely to do what's best for himself make him a character that's both interesting and intriguing, and the writers really leave you wondering what his story is for the first half of the game.  And the player will find out... if they are able to keep him alive.

Though he never comes close to even saying it, Shadow does begin to grow fond of his temporary travel companions.  In one particularly tense moment on a floating island, Shadow shows up at just the right time to save them all.  As he gives them a window to escape, he assures the party he'll meet up with them so they can leave together.  However, doing so is purely optional.  Shadow isn't able to make it to the party's airship until there are 5 seconds left on the timer that shows when the island will fall, so many players abandoned Shadow to die on their first playthrough, even after he went out of his way to save them.  For a 90's RPG, that was an incredibly bold writing decision.

However, if Shadow survives, players can find him later in the game and recruit him as a permanent party member, where he becomes an excellent asset.  A character of the assassin class, Shadow is able to toss shurikens, summon Incerceptor to add additional damage to his attacks, and all around be awesome in battle.  But recruiting Shadow also allows the player to learn how he became the assassin he is today through flashbacks told by his nightmares if players stay at an inn.

Here, players learn that Shadow once went by the name Clyde and he and his partner, Baram, were the greatest train robbers of their time, amassing a lot of wealth over the course of numerous raids and heists.  However, when one such job goes very wrong, Baram is mortally wounded.  He begs Clyde to put him out of his misery before the authorities arrive, but Clyde finds himself unable to do so, choosing to flee instead of ending his friend's pain.  Clyde tries to get as far away from his days of thievery as he can, ultimately settling down in a village with a wife and child.  And as it turns out, that child is indirectly revealed to be none other than Relm, another one of the party members in the main game.

Clyde comes to love his family very much, but when his past life begins to catch up to him he wants nothing more to protect them.  He leaves his home, adopting the name Shadow and becoming a sword-for-hire, but not before the village dog Interceptor chases after him and joins him on his self-imposed exile.  Through these flashbacks, it's revealed that contrary to what he says and how he behaves, Shadow is an emotional person, as the whole reason he adopted his edgy persona was to distance himself from his child to protect her.

At the end of the game, the party is successful in defeating the madman who conquered the world.  As his tower begins to collapse and the party rushes to escape Shadow decides to...stop running.  Not just literally, but metaphorically.  He's been running from his true identity his whole life, burying his emotions and trying to forget about his fallen friend Baram, the family he left behind... he just can't live with the guilt anymore.  So he stops running.  He pushes Interceptor away to force him to leave the tower afterward and remains behind, allowing the falling rubble to put an end to his endless attempt to run away from himself.

While it's debatable if Shadow is the best character in Final Fantasy VI, it's easy to make the case that he is the coolest.  On top of having fun and awesome assassin capabilities in battle, he serves the role as a suave, cold, and merciless mercenary in the first half of the game, only to later be revealed to be a caring father who is coping with all the loss he's been forced to bear in life.  His claims throughout the game's that he has no emotions because he's killed them are proven to be flagrant lies when he chooses to stop running in the game's finale and let his sins catch up to him.  Shadow was simultaneously cool, fascinating, and had an excellent character arc.  He's one of the most memorable Final Fantasy characters in existence and putting him on this list was really a no brainer.

58) Adam Jensen

Appeared In:  Deus Ex series

"I never asked for this..."

I've always found it disappointing the Deus Ex franchise never cemented itself as a serious staple in the modern gaming landscape.  The original is a cult classic sure, but its sequel is (perhaps rightly) ignored, and the modern installments, Human Revolution and Mankind Divided, failed to make a major commercial or critical splash.  Contrary to what you might think at a glance, Deus Ex is actually a very unique series that manages to occupy its own niche thanks to its intriguing worldbuilding and delightful simulation genre gameplay.  It depicts a world not too far from our present where humans have discovered ways to augment their bodies with technology.  Missing limbs can be replaced with fully functional and stronger mechanical equivalents.  Neurochips can increase a human's processing speed and quicken their reflexes.  Nanomachines can help heal the human body faster than ever before.  This idea of using technology to control the evolution of our species and change what it means to be human, transhumanism, is explored at fascinating length in the Deus Ex series.  While the benefits of transhumanism are clearly laid out, it has very vocal and reasonable critics too, fearing that some aspect of our humanity is lost when we alter our corporeal form too much.  As one "aug" (augmented human) laments, he can walk across fire with his mechanical limbs, but can't feel the sand between his toes.

However, protagonist Adam Jensen never gets to choose whether or not losing a part of his humanity is worth the upgrades mechanical augmentation brings with it.  After the company he was hired to protect as security chief is attacked by heavily augmented terrorists, Adam is beaten almost beyond repair, and in order to bring him back from the brink of death, his employer, one of the leading transhumanist companies of the time, heavily augments his body without his consent.  Adam is thus given a new lease on life, but at what cost?  While Mankind Divided is a bit heavyhanded in its thematic development, Jensen made for an intriguing protagonist in Human Revolution because he's a man whose body was altered almost beyond recognition without his consent.  Subtle dialogue clues and environmental hints like the fist sized hole in his bathroom window indicate Adam's struggling with his new self image, but he hides it well in the pursuit of the attackers that irrevocably changed his life.

Jensen is far from an emotional person, often coming across as incredibly stoic.  While protagonists like this are a dime a dozen in 2017, Jensen's quiet demeanor makes perfect sense as over the course of the series, almost every person in his life that he places his trust in goes on to betray him, leaving him increasingly confused and alone.  For example, his girlfriend, renowned transhumanist scientist Megan Reed, only struck up a relationship with him because his genes were the key to advancing transhumanist technology (it's a long story).  She helped him get hired as the security chief of Sarif Industries not for his benefit, but for her own, as they could perform tests on him with his DNA close by.  Similarly, Jensen's boss, David Sarif, for whom Jensen had great respect, was using him for similar reasons, caring more for his genes than his personality.  Being betrayed like this constantly leaves Jensen bitter, but little nuances show there's more to the character than a gravelly voiced cynic.

His apartment and work station are littered with boxes of the kinds of sugary cereals children love.  Among his collection of literature are self help books that detail how to get over a bad break up.  Humorous emails in his apartment reveal that he's broken so many bathroom mirrors that the tenant refuses to buy him replacements.  And even after he's moved halfway across the world from Detroit to Prague, he's maintained framed pictures of his beloved dog Kubrick, who was put down while Jensen was in a coma following his accident.  It's never explicitly stated, as the Deus Ex games tend to respect the player's intelligence, but little clues like these scattered throughout the world add a nuanced soft side to the seemingly robotic tough guy Jensen.

However, the main reason why Adam found this way on to this list is that he's an absolute joy to play as.  Sure, he's skilled in firearms, but what modern game protagonist isn't?  More importantly, Jensen's body is heavily augmented with tech that makes stealth or combat endlessly flexible and exciting.  He can use augments in his skin to reflect light and appear invisible for brief stretches.  Foot augmentations can muffle any noise made from him walking or landing.  Enhancements to his legs allow him to jump several meters into the air.  He never has to worry about fall damage thanks to the Icarus Landing System.  He can literally punch through walls.  He can breathe in poisonous gases without any bodily harm.  Heck, he even has blades INSIDE of his arms he can immediately deploy to kill two people at once silently. Take that Assassins' Creed hidden blades!

The importance of all of these augmentations is that it allows for a really flexible gameplay experience.  Usually, it's a hassle to have to switch from stealth to combat immediately after getting caught by the enemy in a video game, but in Deus Ex, getting caught isn't a death sentence.  Using the invisibility augmentation, you can easily sneak away and formulate a new plan of attack with the many deliciously fun to use augmentations at your disposal, ensuring there's never a dull moment when sneaking into enemy territory.  What's more, the game never judges you for how you play as Jensen, so you can be a pacifist or a serial killer and it won't detract from your ending or anything of the like.  So you can choose a playstyle that's fun and specialize in whatever augmentations you find most interesting without fear!

Jensen is a riot to play as not only because his abilities make him feel like a superhuman, but because they explain away a lot of "game-y" ideas we usually suspend our disbelief for. For example, the reason the player can see a HUD at all is because Jensen has augmentations in his eyes that allow him to see his vitals and a map of his surroundings.  He regenerates health when not getting attacked because of nanomachines in his bloodstream that heal tissue quickly.  Little details like that help the immersion of a game.  It doesn't make sense for a man like Nathan Drake to take a shotgun shell to the chest and walk away after resting for thirty seconds, but it does for Jensen.

With Mankind Divided's unimpressive sales numbers, it's doubtful we'll see a continuation of Adam Jensen's adventures any time soon.  It's a shame too, because the game does a great job of depicting why the man is so stoic, adding nuances that show a softer side to the character, and offering up a protagonist that is riotously fun to play as.  Getting to explore the implications of transhumanism by playing as someone whose body was heavily altered through technology was just the icing on the cake.

57) Mipha

Appeared In:  The Legend of Zelda:  Breath of the Wild

"Yesterday, I was awash in a pool of tears.  I had nearly given up hope and resigned myself to being trapped here, as a spirit for the rest of eternity.  But now you're here.  All this time, my hope was to see you once more."

One mistake I made with this list was the order of certain characters.  Mipha ended up quite a bit higher on here than I originally intended, but once I started the list it was too late to change her placement.  That being said, the unique manner in which the game introduced her role in the story has earned her a spot on here regardless.

Mipha is an interesting character because even though she was heavily promoted as a main character alongside the other Champions prior to the release of Breath of the Wild, she's actually been dead for a century before the game even begins.  Breath of the Wild is one of the few examples of Japanese video game storytelling that actually makes great use of amnesia as a plot device.  As Link, players wake up without a sense of purpose or identity.  While they soon learn they have to discover the means to defeat Ganon once more, Link's history and connection to this incarnation of Hyrule are unknown.  As players explore more, they manage to regain more and more of Link's memories to figure hout what happened to the world to ravage and transform it into its current ruined state, and how Link ended up being forced to take a century long nap.  Breath of the Wild is unique in that most of the story events happen before the game even begins, and the game revolves around the amnesiac Link remembering these events and rediscovering a sense of purpose.

Mipha was a great example of how this style of storytelling benefited the game as a whole.  When players first stumble upon this game's take on Zora's Domain, they don't have any real connection to it other than "oh boy, a dungeon's coming up!"  However, exploring the town reveals that Link was closely tied to the long living Zora people before he was forced into stasis.  He was great friends with the Zora race and especially close with their princess, Mipha, before she was killed during Calmity Ganon's strike on Hyrule. However, Link can't remember a thing about the girl and his connection to her until later in the story, when it is revealed that the princess even had romantic feelings for the Hylian, feelings that are ambiguously implied to have been mutual.  Even though the scenes when we see Link and Mipha alive together are incredibly brief, I think the game did a great job of making us quickly care about Mipha's character and feel as though something was lost after learning of her fate.  Things become especially depressing when Link is giving this game's incarnation of the Zora Armor.  The garb is instrumental in the fight against Ganon, but in Breath of the Wild, Zora Armor is only created as an engagement present by the Zora Princesse.  Thus, it's indirectly revealed that Mipha wished to propose to Link before her life was prematurely cut short by Ganon's forces.  When Link is successful in purging Ganon's influence in the Zora's region, he is able to meet up with Mipha's spirit once more.  It's a tender but sad reunion as players learn that all this time, Mipha's been waiting and hoping to see Link one last time, even though with her having passed they can never be together once more.

All of the Champions managed to leave an impression despite their role in the story taking place after they've already died.  Urbosa was like the mother Princess Zelda never had, and Daruk and Revali had no shortage of charm to them.  But Mipha's story stuck out the most to me.  I'm not a romantic type at all and video game love stories usually do nothing for me, but I found Link and Mipha's tale to be sad one, and after learning about Mipha's premature death before she was able to tell Link how she truly felt, the world of Breath of the Wild felt that much lonelier, as you realize just what Link had lost when he was defeated by Ganon 100 years ago.

I didn't know Mipha from a stick in the ground before entering Zora's Domain, but by the time I left, I couldn't get her story out of my head for the remainder of the game.  She played a relatively small role in Breath of the Wild, but she certainly left a lasting impression, and her death stuck with me until the end of the game, which is a testament to the game's writing and characterization.

56) Frog

Appeared In:  Chrono Trigger

"Mine name is Glenn!  Cyrus' hopes and dreams... and now the Masamune, these will now become my burden!  Fortwith I will slay Magus and restore honor!

I really would've loved to have been in Square's writers' room for Chrono Trigger when they conceptualized the characters' names.  "Okay, next up we have a knight who is cursed and transformed into an anthropomorphic frog, any good ideas?"  "I dunno man, how about Frog?"  "I love the way you think newbie!"

Absurdly lazy naming aside, Frog is among the most memorable JRPG protagonists I've adventured alongside, largely thanks to his gradual character growth and the conclusion of his character arc.  Through flashbacks, we learn that Frog was once a timid boy named Glenn, always bullied and too weak to fight back, with his only friend being Cyrus, someone whose bravery and strength was a constant source of inspiration for Glenn.  When the two grew older, Cyrus was able to become one of the knights of their kingdom, and he appointed Cyrus as his squire.  While Cyrus' strength greatly exceeded Glenn's the two were inseparable and Glenn enjoyed beginning to find greater self confidence.  Their friendship was gruesomely cut short when the two were tasked with defeating a malicious wizard named Magus.  Magus makes quick worth of killing Cyrus, and not even deeming Glenn worth his time, transforms him into a humanoid frog and leaves him to his fate.

Frog spends the next decade in isolation, wallowing in self-loathing and disgust.  His new form is not just a physical adjustment, but a constant source of embarassment and shame, as he deems his own weakness the reason why Cyrus died, as he wasn't strong enough to protect his friend.  Every time he looks in a mirror he's reminded of his own failure.  When Crono and co. travel back in time to defeat Magus, they're able to break Frog out of his depression by proving to him that he was always meant to be the true wielder of the Masamune, a powerful blade able to strike down Magus.  Frog gladly takes up the sword and proudly joins the fight to avenge his friend, hoping that defeating the wizard will also undo his curse.

Over the course of Chrono Trigger, Frog slowly grows more comfortable with his amphibian form, even utilizing it in battle to jump high in the air to strike foes for more damage, or use his tongue to drag enemies towards him for great damage.  This reflects how outside of battle, he begins to grow in self confidence and forgive himself for his moment of weakness ten years ago, realizing there's nothing he could have done to protect Cyrus then, but everything he can do to avenge him now.  There's even a touching side quest where Frog can find the courage to visit his friend's grave and make peace with his spirit, fully absolving himself of the guilt and self-hatred that consumed ten years of his life.

At the end of it all, Frog is able to confront Magus.  As Magus taunts Frog for the death of Crono, the friend who helped Frog come to terms with himself and walk with his head high once more, players are faced with a choice.  Forgive Magus, or slay him.  And both are satisfying ends to the conflict that ruined Frog's life.  In the former instance, Frog realizes that killing Magus will do nothing to bring his friend back, and taking Magus' life is unessential.  It's a great character moment as Frog has come to terms with his new form and realizes that letting himself get consumed in his malice for Magus isn't worth it.  However, I always found the alternative choice more attractive.  The 1 v. 1 duel of Frog vs. Magus is perhaps the most epic one I've encountered in JRPG history, with Frog insisting his allies step back so that he can finish what Cyrus started, avenging his dear friend in the process.  Doing so also allows Frog to regain his true form at the end of the game, and that's a prospect I could never bring myself to turn down.  No matter what choice the player makes, it's a strong character moment for Frog, and one that's always made him stand out to me in the ever widening sea of cookie cutter JRPG protagonists.

Check out the second page to read about the next five characters!