10 Video Game Anti-Heroes We Can’t Help But Love –
Even when he’s shootin’, lootin’, and – most heinously of all – tootin’, it’s difficult not to have a soft spot (or a hard spot, depending on your predilections) for Red Dead Redemption 2’s rogue-with-a-heart-of-gold Arthur Morgan.
Perhaps it’s a form of digital Stockholm syndrome after spending Lord only knows how many dozens of hours on the prairies with the van der Linde posse, but either way we gradually grow not just to understand our outlaw avatar, but perhaps even love him. Or at least, like him an appropriate amount. We don’t have to go down that DeviantArt route.
It raises a certain moral quandary: should we really empathise with a guy who has no real compunction when it comes to slaughtering ol’ Western varmints just because, when he’s riding into the sunset, he’s not such a bad chappie afterall? Does familiarity breed, in this case, not contempt, but fondness?
Perhaps so – but Morgan isn’t the first video game character to propose these difficult questions – questions we’ve chosen to ignore since Mario first squashed a poor Goomba flat. Heck, he isn’t even the first in his own franchise.
It didn’t matter how bad these guys got (and tellingly, they are all guys): we loved them anyway. Maybe that makes us bad people.
10. Jimmy Hopkins (Bully)
Bullworth Academy’s Principal probably had full-blown cats, let alone kittens, when he discovered notorious rapscallion Jimmy Hopkins was transferring over.
The pimply pipsqueak arrived with a rap sheet worse than Holden Caulfield’s, having been kicked out of schools all around the country for low test scores, truancy and giving oh-so many wedgies. But was he any worse than the rotters already under the Bullworth register? Sure, he’s got some cheek on him, and doesn’t shy away from a scrap, but he also works to unite his classmates’ cliques against the real nasty bullies, like a Lilliputian Lawrence of Academia. We give him an A+.
9. Kain (Legacy Of Kain Series)
Kain’s a time-travelling vampire with a face that looks like an apple which has been left out for too long, but don’t let appearances – or even his actions – fool you: he’s nowhere near as gnarly as it first seems.
Nosgoth’s Mr. Potato Head has a bloody good reason for his eternal rivalry with Soul Reaver’s own rebel-without-a-jawse Raziel: it’s an excessively convoluted ploy to help the blue-bloodsucker ultimately get the better of Moebius the Timestreamer and the manipulative eldrtich abomination The Elder God, so he can restore the pillars, but not before… well, we told you it was convoluted.
Either way, Kain, in spite of all that nasty wing-tearing business, is really as cuddly as, if not a cat, then at least a cat’s corpse.
8. Ben Throttle (Full Throttle)
Polecats biker gang leader Ben Throttle is as coarse as the asphalt he rides on, and damn near as taciturn. But the fact the smell of the burning black stuff makes him all nostalgic over a certain Maureen lets on that his outer appearance, coated in a layer of leathered roughness on top of another layer of weathered gruffness, protects him not just from the road, but his own sentimentality.
That doesn’t mean he won’t decorate the bar with your face, or shine his boots on your spleen. He will, and boy, he does. But he always means well. Except when it comes to blowing up robotic rabbits. That’s just fun.
7. John Marston (Red Dead Redemption)
Years before Arthur Morgan clip-clopped into our lives with a saddlebag as full of saccharine as it was swag, Red Dead Redemption’s John Marston was the prototypical cowboy bad boy gone good boy.
The name of the game should have been a big enough hint that perhaps Marston isn’t quite the bastard-coated-bastard we’re introduced to. The inveterate outlaw dreams of going on the straight-and-narrow, to raise a family on his ranch, but is extorted out of retirement by evil Federal agents, who want him to do (sigh) “one last job” before granting him amnesty. Begrudgingly, he accepts – and that’s when guns start blazing again.
6. Wario (Wario Series)
They say money makes the world go round – and so too does it make Mario’s nefarious doppelganger ever rounder. When Wazza first guffawed his way onto our tiny LED screens in the Game Boy’s Super Mario Land 2, he was your common-or-garden variety castle-stealing evil mimic, but over time he’s become a lovably hateful staple of the Mushroom Kingdom clan.
We’ve learned to appreciate the inverted M’s avaricious intent – especially when it allowed him to pump his riches into superfun microgames. There’s a very good reason why Wario’s been in more spin-offs than pretty much all of Mario’s mates – including his brother Luigi. Can you just imagine a WaluigiWare? (*shudder*)
5. Wander (Shadow Of The Colossus)
Shadow of the Colossus’ wobbly, waifish hero is a bit of an inversion of this theme. With each passing Colossi our proxy David manages to surmount, we gradually get the impression that his seemingly noble quest perhaps isn’t quite as noble as we thought.
Yes, he wants to revive his stricken girl, we get that. But who is she anyway? And does her life equate to that of sixteen largely innocent albeit largely large lumbering beasties? Wander’s progressively cursed visage coupled with Shadow of the Colossus’ dramatic conclusion suggests: probably not.
4. Guybrush Threepwood (Monkey Island Series)
It might not be immediately clear why inherently adorable dork Guybrush Threepwood is an anti-hero, but stop and think about this for minute. Why does he wash up on Mêlée Island in the first place? That’s right: to become a stinkin, theivin’, rotten pirate. Even if he looks more like a flooring inspector.
Guybrush doesn’t need to complete three arbitrary buccaneering trials to demonstrate his corsair credentials. Ransacking the governor’s mansion to prove his skills in larceny hardly seems necessary for kleptomaniac Guybrish, having already pocketed everything around town which isn’t nailed down. Then there’s the unspeakable things he does with a rubber chicken…
And that’s just in the first game. By Monkey Island 2, Guybrush, addled by fame, is a mordant, egotistical bastard. With an evil goatee.
3. Geralt Of Rivia (The Witcher Series)
It’s very difficult not to like grisly Witcher Geralt, in spite of his nearly unforgivable tendency to constantly drop definite articles and pronouns (plus all the butchery and womanising). Rivia’s moodiest monster hunter might come across colder than Skellige at dawn, but that’s only because he’s been trained to suppress his emotions (and his volume).
When Geralt’s not rubbing oil into his blades, he’s rubbing it onto his scabrous skin, and between revealing his physical scars he reveals just as many emotional ones. Witchering makes maintaining relationships mighty tough, and then there’s all that business with his adopted daughter being kidnapped. It’s hard not to feel for the guy – even if, when it comes down to it, he’s just one massive walking cliché.
2. Max Payne (Max Payne Series)
It’s not just the scrunched up face of Sam Lake and his frequent quips which makes the unfortunately named Maximilian Payne so endearing (although it helps).
The eponymous anti-hero makes good on the promise of nominative determinism, shooting up literally hundreds of baddies throughout his travails – but not without good reason. Haunted by agonising ephialtes of his family’s murder, Payne turns vigilante and vows to gun down their killers – as well as several vanloads of henchmen who get in his way in the process.
Turns out two wrongs do make a right.
1. Magus (Chrono Trigger)
When Crono and his cronies first encounter the weird Magus in his 600 A.D. lair, he is, to put it mildly, a right tw*t. Having first bested his equally strange, heavy-metal inspired majordomos, the time-travelling trio face the castle’s king, and gosh is he a toughie.
He’s that sort of boss who can’t be killed, but instead takes a knee when you’ve sufficiently battered him. That’s enough to tell you that’ll be seeing him again – but not before being hurtled back in time several thousand years.
Some time later, back in the Middle Ages, Crono finds Magus standing on the edge of a cliff, all cape-blowing and cool-like. Turns out he’s not such a bad chap after all, and offers to join your team – or otherwise stand staring out to sea for all eternity. He might be a goodie now, but he’s still weird.