Everyone loves “top X” lists. They are fun, since they can introduce the reader to things they may not have seen before (such as games they might not have played) and harrowing for the writer since inevitably, the most vocal of those who read the list will be those who disagree and have various epithets to toss towards the author of the list.
Regardless, I’m going to jump in anyway. I’m making two lists, so I’m sure to get double the hate mail. The first is The Top 5 Video Game Fighters and the second is the Top 5 Toughest Women In Games. The former list will be showcasing the coolest fighters in terms of character and abilities while the second will showcase the women of games, who are often made more memorable than their male counterparts for things other than their..er… ass-ets.
This is a tough one to call, since there are a lot of cool ones. Most, though, when you really boil them down, are just Street Fighter clones with lame names and rather generic moves. Beyond just fight moves, what makes a really badass video game fighter persona is character. Cool flaws, background, etc. that come out in the game.
#5 Mike Haggar of Final Fight. He’s over-muscled, of course, and a blatant Jesse Ventura ripoff, but his backstory of powerbombing sharks and working as Mayor of Metro City are so over the top that it’s awesome. His night job as a one man police force makes him uber-whoopass too.
#4 Little Mac of Punch Out!! I remember when this game was brand new and only found in the shopping mall’s video game alley. It was the lamest bit of graphics inexpertise on the market, but it was addictive and fun anyway. Little Mac was aptly named since most of his opponents were WAY out of his weight class. He kept body blow and head punching away, though, scoring points for the sequels. What he lacked in real backstory and characterization he makes up for in sheer tenacity and status as the most underdog of all underdogs.
#3 Bryan Fury of Tekken. The guy was once a kickboxer, then a cop, and is now a zombie. How’s that for backstory? He’s evolved from lowly guy with the pony tail and sideshow battle moves to the kickboxing cop zombie main event. His moves are arguably the most brutal of the game too. Plus he kind of looks like Sting.
#2 Asura of Asura’s Wrath. This guy is so bad buttocks that he gets his own game. He’s like the Hulk of the Hulk took steroids and had glowing eyeballs. He’s so far out there with his fury that he makes Riddick look like a chump. Glowing blue chest? Pah! Asura’s got a glowing red body that can take on planets, for hell’s sakes. Best of all, this character is so simple that you only need to know two things: he gets really peeved and he punches stuff really, really hard – like into other dimensions hard. If Stephen Hawking turned into the Hulk, he would be Asura.
#1 Terry Bogard of Fatal Fury / King of Fighters. This guy is more than awesome. While his brother Andy might be the show-stealer, Terry is the one with the funny dialogue (Engrish anyone?) and trucker cap. His moves are pretty street level and his main ability seems to be taking a lot of punishment despite the extra-high collar on his moto vest. In short, he’s funny, strong, realistic, and has great style.
Alright, so now that the first list is done, let’s dig into another. Who are the five toughest women to hit video games? For safety’s sake, I’m going to forget all of the fun female characters that appeared back in the days when pixels were measured in tens per inch and go with more modern games. Again, these picks are based on a combination of great style, cool abilities, and great characterization.
#5 Commander Shepard of Mass Effect. You probably didn’t know that you could be a girl in this game, did you? Shepard can be either a male or female lead and the girl version is way more balanced and interesting as a character than is the male one that adorns all the boxes. She has an emotional dimension that comes off as lame in her male counterpart and she is probably the most well-done character as a whole in any shooter.
#4 Lara Croft of Tomb Raider. No list like this can be without Croft. She’s the most iconic of all female game leads. Sadly, as the game has progressed through its iterations, she’s lost most of her characterization in favor of becoming more top heavy and capable of using larger weapons. In the beginning of the series, however, she was a great mix of character, hotness (to attract the pimple-faced male gamer crowd, of course) and mysterious background.
#3 Samus Aran of Metroid. She’s been around for a very long time and has evolved with the gaming world to become not only iconic, but also more developed as a character than most. Usually, she’s pretty unisex in her orange suit, but occasionally, that suit goes and she shows off her ability to kick butt without the mech gear.
#2 Jill Valentine of Resident Evil. This whole game is full of girls who know how to shoot, blow things up, and generally wreak havoc. Jill, though, is the top of the line. She’s hot (always helpful), very smart in both books and street, and can kill zombies like no tomorrow. She’s awesome on all fronts, but manages to have some kind of extra dimension in her sad eyes and occasionally depressing commentary.
#1 Alyx Vance of Half-Life 2. If you’ve ever played Half-Life, then you know that the game is pretty depressing. I mean, the whole point is that the world is bereft of happiness and lives under the onus of some huge threat. Every corner, every tree, every object can be or be hiding something that’s gonna kill you. How do you brighten this kind of heavy backdrop? Why, you throw in a character like Alyx Vance who isn’t too JarJar and isn’t too Ripley, but is instead somewhere in between. Alyx brings personality to the game and for that, she is a top pick. She’s also pretty badass.
As an added bonus, here’s my pick for the lamest video game character of all time. This guy is more than just a lame cliche, he’s got zero real back story (unless you’re into all of the outside-of-game accoutrements), and his entire persona basically hinges on the color of his helmet and the fact that bad guys almost literally run from him. Otherwise.. he’s got nothing but a handful of one-liners. Even Bruce Willis does a better job than this.
Who am I talking about? Why Master Chief from HALO, of course. He gets way more attention than he deserves.