By James Hawkins in Lists!
Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 10:00 am
5. Barry Burton Resident Evil Series
"That was too close. You were almost a Jill sandwich."
Barry Burton is the .45 magnum of supporting characters. He is a big, powerful badass who destroys zombies and aids survivors in their desperate escapes. But he is also a very complex character, one who has a complicated, difficult story to tell.
His story arc in Resident Evil 1 is among of the greatest in the Resident Evil franchise. As we realize Barry's motivations in the Arkalay Mansion, he turns from devious enemy to loyal ally, and we rely on his help to make the escape. We understand that he puts the safety of his family above all else -- including himself. And though we don't see Barry as frequently as many other Resident Evil characters, his actions in the first game are enough to solidify him as the most sympathetic.
4. Elena Fisher
Elena Fisher can hold her own alongside Nathan Drake, which is itself a testament to her quality as a character. And while her personality, conceptually, teeters on the edge of cliche -- an ultra-determined journalist covering dangerous parts of the world -- one could easily imagine that she becomes a cookie-cutter entity. But she certainly does not.
She is flawed in many ways, which makes her more compelling. She misreads people, poorly judges their characters and she gets bitten for it. She isn't coy like Nathan, rather she is serious and straightforward. But her compassion and helpfulness make her character endearing -- and so often a humorless character with unlimited determination is unappealing and stale.
Metal Gear Series
Ocelot is one of the great antagonists in video gaming. He is smooth and cool -- a character that is very likable and intriguing, despite his incessant attempts to cut off your hero's progress. We see him in many different phases of his like throughout the series, though he is most famously remembered as Revolver Ocelot, the gunslinging FOXHOUND agent with six-shooters and a duster.
But he stands out among the Metal Gear Solid heroes because of his appealing personality as the villain -- he is cunning and devious, a villain that has strong motives and high intelligence. He isn't a warring, loose-cannon psychopath. This is the kind of villain you have to respect, the kind that is formidable.
2. Alyx Vance Half-Life 2
"I heard stories about you and your air ducts."
Alyx Vance is everything that a supporting character should be. She has a distinct personality, one that not only makes her very likable, but one that brings out the character in our protagonist. No small feat, especially considering our hero is mute. But we see our personality in the way she reacts to our presence, and in how we interact with her.
Alyx is one of the first non-player characters in gaming that has a nuanced, substantial personality. We can see in her face that she has strong feelings for Gordon Freeman, the hero. And we can hear her try to cover it up as she worries over his safety. Alyx is every bit as important to the plot as Freeman -- a credit to her character and strong involvement in how the story plays out.
1. Andrew Ryan BioShock
"You came here to destroy what you could never build. A hun, gaping at the gates of Rome."
Andrew Ryan has become one of the most iconic characters in video game history. He is an amalgamation of libertarianism and the free market, of greed and narcissism. We hear from him constantly throughout the journey through the underwater city of Rapture and though we only see him briefly, the impact of his presence has rippled through the gaming community for a long while.
Ryan's character is unique in that we step into a world that is of him, rather than a place that he simply inhabits. Each piece of our gaming experience -- the setting, the story -- was forged by Ryan's will, and it is his philosophies and politics that sent Rapture on its doomed trajectory. And as we uncover the events of the city's demise, and we begin to see that Rapture is more than just buildings; it's Andrew Ryan's whole world realized.
Honorable Mentions: Tifa Lockhart (Final Fantasy), "Sweet" Johnson (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas), Ada Wong (Resident Evil series), Gaz (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare), Wrex (Mass Effect)