10 Best Antiheroes of Gaming
The antihero has been a character archetype that has been frequently implemented throughout gaming over the past two decades. Given most protagonists have traditionally had stale and predictable heroic qualities to them until the mid 90s (selflessly thwarting the bad guy, saving the girl/world, etc.), both players and developers have come to embrace the antihero in order for its sense of unpredictability. The 10 Best Antiheroes of Gaming represent the characters who most efficiently blur the line between hero and villain; they might save the day, but they tend to leave us questioning “at what cost?” Instead of being virtuous, the antihero can be corrupt, which opens the door for the player to soak in some of humanity’s dark side. Duke Nukem might be the most macho man of gaming, but there’s more to being an antihero than theatrical one liners and saving women with large bosoms. So be ready for some greed, some sloth and the rest of the big seven, because we’re weighing good and evil in our list of the 10 Best Antiheroes of Gaming.
Kick-starting our list of the 10 Best Antiheroes of Gaming is Conker, who had a complete make over between Conker's Pocket Tales and Conker's Bad Fur Day. In his initial title, Conker the Squirrel was acting as the quintessential, goody-goody, animal gaming-hero, whose kind plagued the mid-to-late '90s (Bubsy and Gex, you will not be missed). In Bad Fur Day, Conker turned out to be always angry, pessimistic, sour, violent, cynical or drunk. Like Fur Day's opening cinematic, Conker took a completely different turn into an adventure that was thousands of times more enjoyable and shocking than any stereotypical animal mascot game would ever be.
Ever since his debut in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, Wario has been known for being Mario's polar opposite. Mario is known for jumping upwards, Wario is known for shoulder-tackling sideways. Mario goes on adventures for the sake of saving the Mushroom Kingdom and rescuing the princess, Wario goes on adventures for his own personal gain. Wario isn't meant to be liked, but being the complete opposite of a character we have grown accustomed to just encourages us to follow him. Besides their physical features, another thing that Wario has in common with gaming's poster-plumber is that he evokes a sense of confidence and charisma that just keeps us drawn to him.
Even though nearly every playable character from the entire Grand Theft Auto series could have made this list, Tommy Vercetti exhibits antihero qualities more so than Claude, CJ, Niko and the rest of the gang bangers. Prior to the events of Vice City, Tommy already had a large criminal history working for the nefarious Forelli family. Toss in GTA's take on the Scarface plot along with a revenge story, and Tommy is one bad mofo. Unlike CJ or Niko, Tommy shows no remorse for resorting to murder. In Vice City, Tommy didn't have a Roman Bellic or Grove Street family to look out for, only himself.
Despite all of the internet backlash to Dante's revamp in this year's DMC title, Ninja Theory managed to take an already badass antihero and rev up his nefarious qualities even further. In Devil May Cry 1, 3 and 4 (2 never happened -- ever), Dante was all about the girls, showing off and killing demons in the most elaborate ways possible. In DMC, they made him younger, even more rebellious, apathetic, and tossed in a lot of anti-social tendencies. Despite all of these negative traits stacked upon an already dark character, Dante has always fought the good fight and did what was right when it mattered the most.
Cloud Strife started a very detrimental (and now cliche), trend in the Final Fantasy series: apathetic, emotionless protagonists. Fortunately, FF7's narrative didn't leave us in the blue as to why our main character is a quiet, uninspired weirdo. We remember Cloud for not caring about Barrett's fight to save the world from Shinra, enlisting in squat contests for underwear, and dressing like a woman to seduce Don Corneo. Even worse, Cloud lied to us all about his past escapades of being a part of Soldier; he even lied and bragged about achieving all of Zack Fair's triumphs to his girlfriend, Aeris, after he died! Toss in all of his antisocial behavior and psychological issues, and Cloud measures up to being quite the antihero.
Right in the middle of the 10 Best Antiheroes of Gaming is the fallen vampire, Raziel. In Soul Reaver, Raziel had his wings and lower jaw ripped off from him due to him sprouting wings before Kain did. After being revived, Raziel finds that the planet, Nosgoth, has been rid of humanity and vampires have long been the dominant species. Furthermore, the planet is literally (not figuratively), falling apart. Raziel became a phantasm that devoured the souls of his former brethren. Raziel's broken, mysterious features and dreary adventures through the cataclysmic, spectral realms of the shattered Nosgoth solidified his spot in antihero history.
We had to put Kratos on this list otherwise the internet backlash would put us out of business. When you think antihero, one of the first characters that come to mind better be Kratos. Kratos has dismembered more bodies than the entire Lego franchise and still has time to bag some of the foxiest women in Greek mythology. Take an already angry guy, give him the Blades of Chaos, trick him into murdering his family, permanently smear the ashes of their corpses onto him, make him super strong and point him in the direction of the Greek god that caused his pain. Whether he is ripping the eye out of a giant cyclops or breaking Aphrodite's headboard, Kratos is, easily, one of the greatest antiheroes we've ever controlled.
Pill-popper and boozehound, Max Payne only exacerbates the sad realities of his life by burying them with addiction. Then again, finding your wife and newborn daughter killed by drug dealers just moments after it happened shows that he is one of the most unluckiest game characters ever. The one-man-wars that Max has fought show that he has heart and is ultimately trying to do the right thing, but after dealing with such a traumatic experience followed by gunfights and death wherever he went, we understand his affinity for painkillers and alcohol, along with his apathetic view towards life.
The No More Heroes series revolves around being an antihero. Nothing screams "antihero" louder than having a title called "NO MORE HEROES". And, living up to its namesake, Travis is an all around antihero. The only reason he even participates throughout the story is so he can try to sleep with Sylvia Christel. Travis openly enjoys professional wrestling, pornography, Gundam-like action figures and anime. Travis' personality and his attempts at trying to become the number one assassin in town cement him in anti-heroism.
Commander Shepard (Renegade)
Throughout the Mass Effect trilogy, Shepard's key goal is to prevent the Reapers from destroying all organic life in the universe. But that doesn't necessarily mean that we had to play nice in order to unite the galaxy and fight off the Reapers. By sticking with a predominantly "Renegade" storyline, Shepard betrays most of the people he interacts with (including his comrades), murders innocent people (including his comrades), and is constantly hitting on people left and right (including his comrades). Whether it was lying to Wrex about curing the Genophage, shooting Mordin in the back, leaving the Council to die, cheating on his love interests, giving the Reaper tech to Cerberus, or simply not bothering to save his crew members, Renegade Shepard completely obliterates the line between good and evil. This ultimately boils down to Shepard becoming the Machiavellian schemer, trying to attain power at all costs -- there is simply a Reaper issue that he attends to along the way. Nevertheless, the nefarious acts of Renegade Shepard put this N7 vet at the top spot of the 10 Best Antiheroes of Gaming. Now if only he could off whoever made the original ending (including his comrades).