15 Best Protagonists In Video Games

The protagonists in narrative-focused video games are the ones we spend most of our time with during gameplay. In a way, the likeability of a protagonist can make or break the gaming experience.

Liking a main character also means we’ll be more inclined to follow their journeys. After all, one of the best parts of single-player games is character growth.

These protagonists have been hand-picked for being community favorites, coming from iconic games, and being well-received by critics and fans.

1. Arthur Morgan — Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018)

Red Dead Dedemption 2
Image Credits: Rockstar Games.

Arthur Morgan is one of the greatest protagonists to have starred on the big screen. In Red Dead Redemption 2, players follow his journey as a member of the Van der Linde gang.

After pivotal moments in the storyline, players can see Arthur grow as a human and change his opinions. At the end of the game, Arthur is more of a friend than a playable character, one that will stay with players long after the credits roll.

2. Kratos — God of War (2018)

God of War
Image Credits: Sony Interactive Entertainment.

The God of War games have plenty of bloodshed and battle. In these games, players control Kratos as he seeks revenge on the Gods who murdered his family.

Kratos’s journey spans several games, transforming him from a fearful monster to a peaceful God. The first few games emphasize revenge and the consequences it brings. By the end of the saga, Kratos’s personal growth has wholly separated him from the person he once was.

3. Nathan Drake — Uncharted (2007)

Uncharted 4
Image Credits: Sony Interactive Entertainment.

The Uncharted games are all about treasure hunting, finding friends in unlikely places, and high-octane action. Players control Nathan Drake, who seeks out several treasures with his friend and mentor, Sully, throughout the games.

Nathan is funny, honest, and charming, and he knows it. Throughout the games, he grows as a person, and we see his ideals change. He falls in love, faces imminent death, and rethinks his life’s purpose.

4. Jin Sakai — Ghost of Tsushima (2020)

Ghost of Tsushima
Image Credits: Sony Interactive Entertainment.

Ghost of Tsushima is a beautiful tale about what it means to be a samurai. This game has many jaw-dropping vistas, unforgiving battles, and tales of honor. Players control Jin Sakai as he navigates his ravaged homeland after Mongols attack it.

Jin Sakai is a man of honor. He seldom strays from his path or questions his superiors. However, when faced with imminent death, he must rethink the ways of the samurai. What follows is an engaging journey in which players grow as much as Jin does.

5. Solid Snake — Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (2015)

Metal Gear Solid
Image Credits: Konami.

The Metal Gear Solid series offers players a gripping storyline filled with betrayal, on-the-go action, and grand setpieces. These games are critically acclaimed for their player freedom and strategic combat encounters.

While all of the Metal Gear Solid protagonists have depth, Solid Snake takes the win for being an absolute menace. He’s not only a combat veteran but a man who sticks to his ideals no matter what. Solid Snake doesn’t wander from his philosophies despite being betrayed, lied to, and manipulated.

6. Joel Miller — The Last of Us (2013)

The Last of Us
Image Credits: Sony Interactive Entertainment.

The Last of Us has incredible characters, an immersive narrative, and simplistic gameplay. In this game, players control Joel, a survivor in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies. Joel has been through a lot; he’s suffered loss, made harsh choices, and shut off his emotions.

The narrative of The Last of Us follows Joel as he must care for a teenager, Ellie. Joel and Ellie grow closer throughout the story as they face increasingly dangerous threats.

7. Ezio Auditore — Assassin’s Creed 2 (2009)

Assassin's Creed 2
Image Credits: Ubisoft.

Assassin’s Creed 2 is one of the best games in the franchise because of its robust parkour system and stealth mechanics. In this game, players play as Ezio Auditore, an iconic character in the franchise.

For many players, Ezio elevated the series from an action-focused game to a poetic masterpiece. Everything from how Ezio interacts with others to his dedicated and passionate nature is loved by fans. As it stands, he’s the best protagonist in the franchise, with Edward Kenway being a close second.

8. Geralt — The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)

The Witcher 3
Image Credits: CD Projekt Red.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt offers players hundreds of hours of gameplay, exploring the world, and finishing side quests. There are plenty of beasts to slay, quest givers to meet, and secret locations to uncover.

Players control Geralt, a Witcher known for slaying monsters. Geralt’s interactions with friends and strangers are both entertaining and informative. While Witchers typically don’t feel much emotion, Geralt does his best to convey his feelings.

9. John Marston — Red Dead Redemption (2010)

Red Dead Redemption
Image Credits: Rockstar Games.

Before players fell in love with Arthur, they toughened up with John Marston. John is a family man, and he’s left behind his ways of thieving and murdering. He now has a wife and son to care for.

Red Dead Redemption follows John’s life after his involvement in the Van der Linde gang. He finds his way back into a dangerous life, but this time, he must endure the risk for his family. John Marston becomes a friend by the end of the game, and we can’t help but want him to succeed.

10. Leon S. Kennedy — Resident Evil 4 (2023)

Resident Evil 4
Image Credits: Capcom.

The Resident Evil titles blend horror, action, puzzle-solving, and strategy elements to make for some awesome games. These games have different protagonists, but Leon remains a fan favorite.

Leon S. Kennedy is an expert combatant, a quick thinker, and agile on his feet. Fans especially love the fourth Resident Evil as it shows Leon’s dedication to his job and caring nature. He moves mountains to protect those he cares for and to fight injustice.

11. Lee Everett — The Walking Dead (2012)

The Walking Dead
Image Credits: Telltale Games.

Players follow Lee Everett throughout the first few episodes of The Walking Dead interactive game. In this game, players must make difficult decisions that directly influence the narrative.

Lee’s focus shifts from survival to caring for a little girl, Clementine, whom he’s forced to care for. He’s relatable, and players grow closer to him as they make harsher choices. The game pits Lee in dangerous situations, and players must care not only for him but also for Clementine.

12. V — Cyberpunk 2077 (2020)

Cyberpunk 2077
Image Credits: CD Projekt Red.

Cyberpunk 2077 may have had a disastrous launch, but it has since become a fan favorite. Cyberpunk’s photorealistic visuals, realistic facial animations, and path-traced lighting system make every scene true to life. Players create their own character in great detail and can customize just about every aspect of their character’s physical appearance.

While everyone’s V grows differently, they all aim to become a Night City legend by the end of the game. The various dialogue options give players freedom over the narrative and how V acts towards others. For all intents and purposes, the player is V.

13. Kazuma Kiryu — Yakuza 0 (2015)

Yakuza 0
Image Credits: Sega.

To begin with, Yakuza 0 is the best game in the franchise. It serves as a prequel setting up the world, future characters, and lore. While it may not look like much on the surface, Yakuza 0′s narrative is highly gripping.

In this game, players control the fierce and deadly Kazuma Kiryu. Kiryu is a buff, mean machine who eats goons for breakfast. Underneath the bulky exterior, he’s a caring man who enjoys his hobbies and friends. Players especially love his inner monologues, as they illuminate his supporting thinking process.

14. Commander Shepard — Mass Effect Legendary Edition (2021)

Mass Effect
Image Credits: Electronic Arts.

The Mass Effect trilogy takes players on an intergalactic adventure as Commander Shepard. Players create Shepard’s appearance themselves and influence his decisions.

Mass Effect is known for expansive player freedom over the narrative. Your decisions may cause supporting characters to side with you, oppose you, or even die. As such, many find themselves growing into the role of Commander.

15. Trevor Phillips — Grand Theft Auto V (2015)

Grand Theft Auto V
Image Credits: Rockstar Games.

Grand Theft Auto V’s chaotic single-player has players control three protagonists. Trevor Phillips is the most unhinged of the three. His erratic lifestyle, out-of-touch morality, and unpredictable anger make him as threatening as he is humorous.

While all three game protagonists have their strengths and weaknesses, Trevor is the most prominent. The marketing for the game heavily relied on Trevor and his destructive nature.

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