With Breaking Bad‘s finale over and done with, we’d like to look back on all our favorite morally ambiguous heros and heroines from gaming. Like Walter White, many characters begin with noble intentions but slowly find themselves unveiling their darker side.
Videogames are no stranger to this downward character arc. Nearly all mature titles now showcase antiheroes in grim settings, struggling with their surroundings and themselves. Grand Theft Auto V is a recent, good example. Actually, any Rockstar game is a good example.
Gone are the days of wholesome, Superman-like heroes. Fiction is now full of flawed cowboys, lovable hitmen and paternal meth cooks. And we couldn’t be happier.
Here is a short list of some of our favorite antiheroes from gaming’s past and present. Feel free to comment and mention your own favorites. And if you disagree with us, all we ask is that you tread lightly.
Favorite Antihero: The Illusive Man (Mass Effect 2 )
The Illusive Man himself embodies the idea behind Mass Effect‘s renegade moral path: that the ends justify the means. In Mass Effect 2, Shepard is forced into an uneasy alliance with the Illusive Man and Cerberus, the human supremacy group he’s in charge of. Despite Cerberus’s shady history, the game largely lets the player decide whether the Illusive Man is your greatest ally or worst enemy.
Though he has a piercing stare and enjoys the view of a burning sun, Mass Effect 2 will have you wondering about him the entire game. The Illusive Man is undeniably using Shepard for his own means, but he’s also responsible for bringing Shepard back to life and reuniting his/her friends. He also arms and funds them in their mission against the Collectors, so in some ways, he’s responsible for the “good guys” winning. The Illusive Man will always say his priority is defending and protecting humanity. But at what cost for the rest of the galaxy?
Donning brilliant character design, and a wonderful vocal performance from Martin Sheen, The Illusive Man remains my favorite antihero in the series. I specify his role in ME2 because in the third game he drops all ambiguity and turns into Doctor Doom. This transformation in character is functional for the story of ME3 but it’s much less interesting. True villains think that they are the hero.
- Stephen Hilger
Favorite Antihero: Kratos (God of War )
It’s easy to see the God of War series simply as a brutal hack and slash action game, but you’d be ignoring the intriguing storyline within. The tale of revenge told through Kratos has depth and nuance and his limitless anger with the mythological Greek gods leads him to do some terrible things. And yet with each terrible thing, the player has an “oh my god” reaction to the visual and then a strange satisfaction. It’s not tied to the violence but to helping Kratos further his goal.
His love for his lost wife and daughter is so intense that he would go through hell (literally) to bring those responsible to justice. But the most interesting thing is that, in a very real way, Kratos is responsible for their deaths. He knows this and thus his lust for revenge isn’t just against the gods but himself as well.
- Ken Smith
Favorite Antihero: Cole MacGrath (inFAMOUS )
With the powers of electricity coursing through his body, MacGrath can shock enemies and civilians alike. While those that choose the good path have to worry about saving and being careful around civilians, that is not the case when you go evil. You can freely throw electricity grenades and rockets and cause widespread explosion as you get rid of any surrounding threats. And when things get hairy, downing a civilian and sapping out all of their energy is a fast and efficient way to get you back to full power. Why be looked at as a hero when you can rule the town by force?
Choices made throughout the game’s story alter Cole’s looks and available powers. inFAMOUS 2 took it one step further with the dynamics between two fellow conduits, one representing good and the other, evil.
While some videogame characters are shown as purely antihero, the contrast between Cole’s good and evil path is what made him my favorite.
- Allain Richard
Favorite Antihero: Jeanne (Bayonetta )
*Spoilers for Bayonetta follow*
Rivals since childhood, Jeanne matches Bayonetta’s strength, though she is far more aggressive and serious than her sassy counterpart. From challenging Bayonetta to a fight to rule the witch throne to sealing her “sister” at the bottom of a lake, Jeanne seems nothing more than a formidable foe for most of the game.
The truth lies in perspective, as we soon learn that Jeanne’s actions were not only justified but done to protect the witch legacy as well as Bayonetta herself. Jeanne still makes a tough boss fight (four in total), though being able to unlock her as a playable character is worth the challenge. I’m personally looking forward to her reappearance in Bayonetta 2.