Since the invention of video games, some characters have become iconic to the gaming world. Like Hamlet, Jane Eyre, or Holden Caulfield, these characters have won their way into gamers’ hearts through tragedy, perseverance, and occasionally shared inability to leap over a lake full of crocodiles. Recognizable to millions across the world, famous video game characters established a decades-long tradition of occupying the mind and occasionally touching the heart.
Famous video game characters don’t need to be people or even animals; sometimes they can simply be an indistinct circle with a mouth. Pac-Man is often considered the symbol of classic gaming, with his simple depiction and basic function. Pac-Man was one of the earliest games to feature an actual depicted avatar, making Pac-Man one of the first well known video game characters. He was touted as attractive to both male and female gamers, although Ms. Pac-Man was later introduced, featuring a small bow on her head to distinguish her from the original.
Spawning films, TV shows and card games, the stumpy, mustached Mario is doubtless one of the most famous video game characters in history. Mario was originally unnamed, appearing as the hero in the Nintendo arcade game Donkey Kong. According to urban legend, the character was named “Mario” after the landlord of a Nintendo office in the United States, who resembled the chubby plumber from the Mushroom Kingdom. Since his inception, Mario has appeared in more than 200 games, and is often considered the official mascot of the Nintendo Corporation.
Mario’s long-time rival is a tough guy covered in spikes and a wicked ability to spin really fast. Sonic the Hedgehog was the flagship game for the Sega Genesis ® system, and its speedy blue main character quickly became an icon. Since then, Sonic has appeared in dozens of games and even had his own television show and comic books. He has been pitted head to head with Mario in several games, although the rivalry has died out somewhat since the invention of multi-platforming game systems.
Some famous video game characters are known by the effect they have, rather than their regular appearance. In the seventh installment of the extremely popular Final Fantasy game series, a young and innocent female character named Aerith Gainsborough was killed by the game’s villain, Sephiroth. The death, which came in the middle of the game, was considered a total shock by many players, and more than a few will even admit to crying in response. Many subsequent lists of top gaming moments include the death of Aerith as a point of major realization about the emotional capabilities of video games.
Characters often work in video games as they do in any other medium; they are meant as figures both inspirational and identifying. They are cooler than us, stronger than us, and sometimes an entirely different species than us, but yet they indulge our fantasies of what we could be when presented with an adventure. Famous video game characters are a sign of many things, including excellent marketing and addictive game designs, yet they can also serve a higher purpose. To many gamers, beloved icons represent their dreams and wishes, and allow interactions with their own possibilities.