It's not dead Jim.

It's a bit awkward continuing the grand endeavor to explain my choices for my top 100 favorite video game characters ever months after the last installment in the series was published.  So I'll start with a bit of an explanation.  While "real life" is largely to blame, 2017's many video game releases also are.  Because frankly, 2017 has been an incredible year for video games, and an incredible year for video game characters.  And as I continued to play new releases from this year, my original character list began to feel woefully inadequate, as these new released starred characters who most certainly would be on this list had I started writing it now.  Thus, I lost my drive to write my original character list, as I felt that over time, as I resented not having room for all the new additions on a list I had already started publishing.

However, I've mustered the urge to keep writing and have decided to continue publishing my character list as it was originally created.  Once the final installment is up, I'll post an epilogue briefly outlining some of the new characters that would've found a spot on this list, as there's quite a few of them.  Hopefully I'll be able to build back my old momentum and finish this series some time this decade...  So without further ado let's get started!

40) Big Boss

Appeared In:  Metal Gear Solid series

"We have no nation, no philosophy, no ideology.  We go where we're needed, not for country, not for government, but for ourselves.  We need no reason to fight.  We fight because we are needed.  We will be the deterrent for those with no other recourse.  We are soldiers without borders, our purpose defined by the era we live in."

If there's one thing I love to see, it's a good hero to villain story.  No human being is born inherently evil, but rather becomes someone who instigates or perpetuates terrible actions due to events in their lives that made them that way.  That's why I really enjoy when video games give us the opportunity to play as someone who was once purehearted and noble, but turns into something more sinister and jaded as the story progresses.  Unfortunately, far too few games do this, and fewer games chart this descent into villainry well.  The best example of a game that does this correctly however, is Metal Gear Solid, with recurring series protagonist/antagonist Big Boss.

In the original Metal Gear games, Big Boss was really nothing more than a generic bad guy who you have to blow to smithereens.  However, the third installment in the Metal Gear Solid series, Snake Eater, actually pits Big Boss as the protagonist, and players assume control of him in his younger years, long before he became the villain players had fought in earlier games.  During the events of Snake Eater, the man who would later be known as Big Boss takes on the codename Naked Snake (get your mind out of the gutter you!) as he tries to figure out the cause of his former mentor, the Boss', defection to the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War.

If you didn't know who Naked Snake was destined to become, you'd likely be shocked to find out that he would go on to become a villain, because Snake is nothing but endearing in the beginning of Snake Eater.  He is a campy, James Bond-esque archetype who has pride in his country and endlessly banters back and forth with his teammates in hilarious fashion.  Every time he tells Sigint to "get inside the box" I can't help but crack up.

Yet while Naked Snake certainly fits into the "lovable badass spy" niche that James Bond fills, Snake Eater plays with the tropes associated with 007 at the same time.  For starters, Snake is terrible with women.  He can't read them at all.  Early on in the game, when his partner EVA thrusts her breasts into his face he's so busy geeking out over the silenced pistol she gifts him that he hardly notices.  He also possesses this strange and endearing innocence that contrasts sharply with his hardened image.  Even though he spends most of the game eating raw animals and slitting throats to survive, he still believes in Santa Claus until his 30s, which creates a really unique contrast in his character.

Snake's tale is one that is ripe in heartache though.  It turns out that the government of the United States, which he once held in such high regard, was playing him all along.  The Boss, Snake's mentor, a woman whom he loved and respected like a child would their parent, never actually defected to the Soviet Union.  To make a characteristically long Metal Gear Solid story short, her defection was false and part of a cover-up to protect the U.S.' national security, and to make the cover-up convincing, the government needed Snake to kill her in "heroic" fashion.  And by accepting her inevitable death to secure her country's safety, the Boss was a true patriot until the end.

This leaves Snake an utterly broken man.  The government and country he had once placed so much love and faith in played him like a fiddle and cast him aside.  He was forced to murder a woman he loved and respected, even being tricked into thinking doing so was the right thing.  Even his aforementioned partner EVA, whom he started to develop feelings for, abandons him in the end after revealing she was a spy all along.  At the end of Snake Eater, everything that Snake had held in high regard betrayed him.

At a celebratory ceremony, Snake refuses to shake the hand of the President who tricked him.  Instead, he walks to the Boss' grave and salutes her as a single tear sheds from his eye.  You can see the pain in his face in this moment, and you can empathize with it too, having been tricked and used while assuming the role of Snake throughout the game.  It's incredibly easy to understand why this man would go on to become one of the series' most prolific villains, forming a private militia group to prevent any nation from growing too powerful, and giving him an excuse to keep fighting, as being a good soldier is all Big Boss had ever known.

I could end this section by talking about David Hayter's excellent voice work, as his silly "gravel gargling" voice contained the perfect inflection to make Big Boss a campy hero before his tragic fall from grace.  However, instead I'd like to go back to a point I made earlier.  Remember how I said that Big Boss still believed in Santa?  The reason he found out he wasn't real is because he stopped receiving gifts after the Boss' death.  He thought at the time it was because he was no longer on Santa's "good" list after killing the Boss.  But in actuality, it was because the Boss was the one that was giving him gifts the whole time.  The Boss was his Santa.

Be right back, gonna go bawl my eyes out...

39) Mega Man

Appeared In:  Mega Man series

*Mega Man does talk in Mega Man 8, but I think we all wish he didn't.  So I'm going to pretend he's a silent protagonist and not leave a quote here*

Mascots are a funny thing.  While characters like Mario, Sonic, and Pac-Man are not centerpieces of emotional storytelling or incredible character studies, they still hold a special place in the heart of many gamers for being their link to incredibly fun gaming experiences.  It's for this reason, and this reason alone that Mega Man occupies a spot this high on my coveted character list.

Mega Man games never have good stories.  They only find new and increasingly low effort ways to hide that Dr. Wily is the true culprit of each game's catastrophic events.  Mega Man himself is pretty much a one-note do gooder, and the one time he was given a voice in Mega Man 8, it was insufferable to listen to.  However, there is a reason that Mega Man is a character held in such regard, so much so that the recently announced Mega Man 11 has me a bit excited (albeit a bit skeptical given Capcom's inconsistent track record as of late).

Playing as Mega Man is really damn fun.

In contrast to floatier, more acrobatic platforming heroes like Mario or Kirby, Mega Man is a big hunk of metal.  He's heavy, and his jumps reflect it.  He can't jump exceptionally high, forcing a high degree of precision of the player.  Clearing a room full of traps and enemies as a hero that can only get a bit off the ground is a satisfying experience that I will never tire of.  Mega Man's sole permanent form of attack is his trusty Mega Buster, and like his jumps, it's not exceptionally strong on its own, but timing your shots and taking on the world with what is basically a glorifying pea shooter is oddly enjoyable

What makes Mega Man a really dynamic and fun character to play as though, is his ability to copy the attacks of his defeated foes.  After defeating the Robot Masters (bosses) of his games, Mega Man can steal their abilities and make use of them to wipe the floor with other enemies and bosses.  Over the course of the past three decades, Mega Man has summoned miniature block holes to suck enemies into, frozen time, tossed lightning quick boomerangs and of course, thrown overpowered metal blades across the screen.  It's always fun to figure out how to make use of Mega Man's new Robot Master abilities, and getting proficient with the new skills he brings with him in each new installment and conquering the steep challenges that will inevitably await him never gets old.

Aside from a plucky and endearing optimistic attitude, there isn't much else to say in Mega Man's favor.  He may not be an exceptional case of character writing, but for being endlessly fun to play as, and thus I believe Mega Man deserves this spot on my character list.

38) Robo

Appeared In:  Chrono Trigger

"I'm sorry but... I cannot afford to lose anything else.  Not my precious memories, or my irreplaceable friends... Humans have taught me so much.  Chrono, Marle, Lucca, Frog, and Ayla... I will not betray my friends."

Chrono Trigger is a game that begs to be played over and over again to experience the story with different characters and possibly achieve a different ending.  And believe me, I have played Chrono Trigger over and over again... just not with different characters.  I've already discussed my fondness for Crono and Frog in previous installments of this character list, but my favorite hero from Square's exception SNES RPG is the lovable sentient robot creatively nicknamed "Robo."

On a surface level, Robo's character arc isn't something that's revolutionary to fiction or anything - he's a cold but curious robot that slowly comes to understand and achieve human emotions.  However, the way the game goes about delivering this arc is rather subtle.  When players first meet Robo, he's a useless hunk of metal that mechanical wizard Lucca repairs and brings back to "life."  He is thankful for her help and accompanies you on your journey.  His bulk and knowledge of the future makes him an invaluable ally, but he's mostly helping you to pay a debt.

However, as Robo continues to journey along his newfound friends, he slowly comes to understand what it's like to experience feelings.  After being disowned by his fellow robots for being "tainted" by Lucca, he experiences despair.  After being accepted by Crono's crew, he enjoys a sense of belonging.  And over the course of the story, you can sense a really subtle change in Robo's demeanor.  There's never a particular moment in the story where his character does a 180 and he's suddenly this incredibly emotive android, but you can sense a slow change in his mannerisms over the course of the narrative.  The time periods you visit, the people you meet, the stories they have to tell... they all profoundly impact Robo's character as he comes to understand the struggles and joys of being human.  By the time the end of the game comes around, he considers himself no less "alive" than his party members, and is ecstatic to fight alongside you to protect all the life in the world.  Again, it's not revolutionary storytelling, but it's still heartfelt and well done.  The subtlety of his transformation makes it feel much more realistic.

One of my favorite moments starring Robo though occurs in a side quest.  Chrono Trigger's side content is all incredible stuff that puts modern day video game fetch quests to shame.  Many of Chrono Trigger's sidequests revolve around a particular party member, and Robo's is possibly the best of the bunch.  After investigating an abandoned factory in the future, it's revealed that Robo was designed differently than his peers, to actually be a spy and infiltrate humanity.  To make humans trust and come to love him, only for him to then spill their secrets to the rogue robots and wipe humanity from the earth.

Robo remembers his original function and for a second he looks like he is going to revert back to that... but in an instant, he chooses his own fate and fights back against his creator and corrupted love interest to protect his newfound friends.  It's really cool to see your ro-bro has your back and reflects how much his character has changed since you met him.

There's other things working in Robo's favor.  I love his bulky, somewhat silly looking design.  His high health, defense, and ability to cast group healing and shoot lasers make him the most flexible and fun party member to control in the game.  And you can pretty much rickroll people with his character theme (linked above).

There are no shortage of video game androids I hold in high regard, and while Robo's character arc isn't necessarily revolutionary, the subtlety of his gradual character change makes his character growth feel realistic, and every time I replay Chrono Trigger I'm reminded of why I fell in love with the hunk of metal to begin with.

37) Andrew St. John

Appeared In:  Telltale's The Walking Dead

"Don't you DARE walk away from me Lee!  Get back here and FINISH this Lee!"

The first season of Telltale's ongoing The Walking Dead series was my first taste of Robert Kirkman's vision of a post-apocalyptic Earth.  And frankly in the years since, most forms of The Walking Dead fiction have become aimless and shambling corpses not unlike the zombies that feature so prominently in their stories.  However, I still hold the first chapter of Telltale's The Walking Dead in such high regard because of the emotional impact in left on me.  Reformed prisoner Lee Everett's journey to protect the safety and innocence of young orphan Clementine in a dangerous and savage new world was an incredibly heartfelt one, and I experienced equal parts joy, despair, and anger over the course of his adventure.  The latter of those three emotions was in large part thanks to a despicable man known as Andrew St. John.

Andy, as he prefers to be called, first appears in the second episode of Lee's five part journey.  At a time when Lee's group is incredibly lacking in supplies in food, the seemingly kindhearted Andy offers to take the survivors into his family farm and feed them in exchange for some gasoline.  While Walking Dead fiction veterans were no doubt immediately suspicious, I was still relatively new to this series, so I immediately trusted Andy and thought highly of him and his family.  I found it refreshing that in a world so full of bandits and ruffians, there were still kind people left willing to help our band of survivors out.

Yet over the course of the episode, I grew increasingly suspicious of Andy and his family.  It grew more and more clear he and his family were hiding something.  They wouldn't allow anyone near a certain door in their barn.  They refused to let Lee see his injured friend Mark, who they were supposedly caring for.  They wouldn't reveal what they were serving for dinner.  In hindsight, it was incredibly obvious what was wrong at the St. John ranch, but me, being an innocent newcomer to The Walking Dead series couldn't see what was so obviously in front of my face.  After an incredibly tense and well executed lead-up, the truth is revealed... Andrew and his family are cannibals.

After the demented family attempts to feed you meat stripped from your friends' limbs, they capture you, Clementine included, no doubt with the intention of making you their next meal.  After you inevitably break out, a tense stand-off with Andy begins, and it's immediately clear how far he is gone.  He thinks he is completely justified in his behavior of kidnapping people and eating them, because "that's how the world works now."  The strong feed off the weak, because the weak would die anyway, and this way at least the strong can carry on healthy.  His justification made me sick to my stomach, and after fighting and subduing Andy, the game gives you the option to punch his face to your heart's content.

And punch his face I did.  Over and over.  I was enraged.  This character whom I had previously trusted and held in such regard was actually a disgusting cannibal who thought what he was doing was right.  Even after your group, children included come over to watch (clearly an attempt by the game to make you feel guilty and stop attacking), I refused to stop pounding Andy's face in.  It was possibly the angriest a video game story has made me.  As Lee begins to walk away from Andy, clearly too weak to fight back, Andy desperately taunts you to finish what he started in a chilling fashion.  While I was given the option to spare Andy, I promptly refused and kicked him into an electric fence in front of everyone instead.

I think my unique experience with Andy was in part because I had never been exposed to The Walking Dead universe before, where cannibalism is a common trend.  But being so thoroughly tricked by Andy left me very upset nonetheless, and that moment where Lee pounds his face to the point Andy likely suffered brain damage, all while a storm howls and the wistful "It's Over" plays (linked above) is a moment that's been etched into my brain and won't be forgotten any time soon. 

Screw you Andy.

36) Bruce Wayne

Appeared In:  Telltale's Batman

"This suit... the car... This ENTIRE CAVE... Everything I built!  I created all of this because I didn't want any more innocent people to die!  If Falcone's telling the truth about my parents, then what the hell did we do this for?"

I'm sure this choice will surprise many avid followers of this list.  One, because Bruce is the first character to appear on this who hasn't originated in a video game.  And two, because I specified Bruce freakin' Wayne instead of Batman in this slot. Rest assured, this was no typo, as Telltale managed to do the impossible by making time spent in Bruce Wayne's business suit more engaging than punching faces in while donning the Batsuit.  Telltale manages to do this with a two pronged approach.

First, Telltale was given a lot of creative liberty to twist established conventions of Batman lore, creating their own universe that didn't have to adhere to common elements of Batman fiction, crafting their own story and playing with player expectations, while simultaneously staying true to what people have loved about the past few decades of Batman story.  The most shocking of these twists on the familiar formula is how Telltale altered Thomas Wayne's backstory.  As DC loves to constantly remind us in every Batman adaptation ever, Bruce Wayne's parents were killed in front of him when he was but a boy during a random mugging, an event that scared Bruce forever and motivated him to don the Bat Mask and fight crime.  He truly loved and admired his parents.  They were good people, and Bruce tries to make the world a better place just as they did in life.  Except in Telltale's Batman, this isn't the case at all.

In the world Telltale has crafted, Thomas Wayne was actually just as big a crime lord as the people Batman hunts down.  A corrupt businessman in bed with politicians and criminals alike, Thomas was a ruthless man that went so far as to condemn innocent people to insane asylums in an effort to obtain more power and concentrate his hold over Gotham.  Naturally, when Bruce discovers the truth of his father's nature, he is shocked and devastated.  As was I, the player, since I've experienced countless forms of Batman fiction throughout the years, and one thing that never changed was the pureness of Thomas' heart.  So I too was shocked alongside Bruce, and the accompanying adventure was an intriguing one to navigate.  Gotham comes to resent and distrust Bruce for his father's actions... so how does Mr. Wayne simultaneously navigate being the most hated man in Gotham and its savior at the same time?

The second aspect of Telltale's Bruce Wayne that makes him such an engaging character is that managing Bruce and Batman's relationships with important faces from the series' history, like Commissioner Gordon, Catwoman and "John Doe," a proto version of The Joker, has made for a captivating experience the past two years.  Telltale gives players the freedom to mold how Bruce interacts with crucial players in his life and Batman history, and it's impossible to keep everyone happy.  Managing these relationships has made navigating Bruce's dual identity thrilling.  Who will you confide in about your secret identity, if anyone?  How much do you trust Alfred after he lied about your father's history?  How violent are you willing to be to villains to protect Gotham?  Telltale's Batman may not be as action orientated as the Arkham series, but it's certainly made assuming the role of Batman and molding what he stands for infinitely more interesting.

Throw in some characteristically strong voice acting from the venerable Troy Baker and I hope it's easy to see why Bruce ranks so highly on this list.  Telltale managed to take Bruce Wayne, a character that was previously just a boring alter-ego for Batman, and made him an interesting character in his own right.  Telltale's Batman constantly asks the player what their real mask is.  Is Bruce Wayne just a persona Batman uses to protect his identity?  Or is Batman just a necessary persona Bruce hides behind to stay safe?  Telltale's Batman is the only Batman fiction to make me lean towards the latter, and I love the game and its take on Wayne's character for that reason.