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Who are Some Famous Video Game Characters?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

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Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for EasyTechJunkie. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon257456 — On Mar 27, 2012

I love those characters mentioned in the article. They deserve to be main attractions in the Video Game hall of fame for decades or even centuries to come, but by today's standards they are hardly characters and are more like simple avatars. They have no story or emotion behind them.

How about a character that matches their iconic place in history, but also has story and depth, like Link from the Zelda series? What about newer characters that give you an experience to rival and, in some cases, exceed their movie and book brethren?

I'd bring up characters like Solid Snake, from the Metal Gear series, Master Chief, from the Halo series, or Commander Shephard, from the Mass Effect series.

In fact, the Mass Effect series has taken great strides in gaming stories. While, as far as I know, Knights of the Old Republic was the first series to have differences in the story depending on how you played previous titles, Mass Effect has grown the idea greatly. Each choice you make is collected into a save file at the end of the game and can be loaded into the next game in the series to give you an exponentially unique experience as you play each game in the series.

Pac-Man, Mario, and Sonic are legendary in their own way, but are weak as characters. Even Aeris, who will always be remembered as one of the most jarring deaths in gaming, is weak as a character, since her death is the only "epic" part to her story.

With the way gaming has developed in the 35-ish years it's been around, I can't wait to see where it's at in another 35 years.

By anon96740 — On Jul 16, 2010

I don't see how console gaming can become obsolete compared to PC gaming. I'd say quite the reverse. PC gaming at one time was pretty close to the only way to play unless you had an arcade near you. Console gaming is the future as consoles approach PC levels of power without the 2k plus price tag on some high end gaming spec pc. Digital distribution is one way it is going, it is growing all the time with Forums like Steam and the PSN and X-Box Lives out there they will only grow.

I think the revolution may happen if they learn to collaborate more having Xbox owners able to play vs PS3 vs PC etc although this would interfere with the competitive market these companies thrive on at the moment and which needs to be there in some form to allow games to evolve and improve all the time.

Video games will expand into other media, soundtracks are improving all the time making their music worth listening to and movies are now worth watching (the Assassins Creed ones for example) The line will blur and it will be down to the gamer to decide what he wants to do at any given point.

By Georgesplane — On Jul 03, 2010

@ parmnparsley- The success of video games is amazing. Some of the modern era’s most successful titles will surely be remembered alongside video game greats like Mario, Zelda, and Sonic. Games like Halo, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto have grossed more in sales than most other types of entertainment media.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II holds the record for the highest grossing release of any piece of entertainment media in the world. In one day, the game grossed over $400 million dollars in sales, topping the $1 billion mark in less than two months. To put this in perspective, Titanic (the highest grossing movie of all time) grossed $600 million in the first four months in theaters.

By parmnparsley — On Jul 03, 2010

I often hear people say that the video game industry is overdue for a revolution. They say that console gaming will become obsolete, and virtual and PC gaming will be the future. This often comes up in talks about investing in game console manufacturers and game retailers.

While there will be some deviation from the traditional hardware and disc style of video games, I find this to be a narrow-minded statement.

The success of some of these classic video game characters will guarantee that some of the big names in the industry last well into the future. Every successful console has an iconic video game character associated with their brand. Companies like Nintendo have Zelda, Mario, and Pokemon. Microsoft has Halo and Gears of War. Playstation has Gran Turismo and God of War.

These games are some of the most successful pieces of media in the world. The video game industry, which many once called a fad, now sells more software than the music industry sells music.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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