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25 best game heroes ever

We extol the virtues of our favourite gaming heroes and heroines

We extol the virtues of our favourite gaming heroes and heroines (in no particular order)…

A quiet boy in a green tunic and tights isn’t your typical hero, but Link has always been one of gaming’s greats. Armed with the legendary Master Sword, boomerangs, slingshots and a whole arsenal of other nifty weapons, he valiantly defends the mythical land of Hyrule from the evil Ganon.

Finest hour… Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)


It’s-a-me, Mario! The most recognisable character of all time has smashed his way through countless monsters and brick blocks, and on weekends he relaxes by maniacally pelting fellow drivers with turtle shells. We don’t know what Nintendo were smoking when they thought a moustachioed Italian plumber would be a good protagonist, but we’re sure glad they did.

Finest hour… Super Mario Kart (1992)

Cloud Strife

Don’t let the feminine cheek bones and silky blonde hair fool you. Cloud Strife more than proves himself as a mercenary in Final Fantasy VII as he wields his gargantuan sword against Sephiroth and his minions to deadly effect. Still not convinced? You try wielding that thing. Seriously, look at it. It’s ridiculous.

Finest hour… Final Fantasy VII (1997)

Sonic the Hedgehog

Meet the only hedgehog in existence that’s too fast to become roadkill. A spiky blue mammal with attitude and snazzy red trainers, Sonic lays the smackdown at blistering speeds as he blazes through different worlds to foil the evil Dr Robotnik.

Finest hour… Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992)

Master Chief

You know someone’s a badass when they hardly speak two words and never show their face. Armed with a host of human and alien weapons, the armoured Chief ploughs his way through hordes of slimy, ugly alien cannon fodder and goes on to singlehandedly save the human race.

Finest hour… Halo: Combat Evolved (2004)

Duke Nukem

The ultimate all-American hero. The Duke is a cigar-smoking, alien-stomping jacked-up machismo-filled ass kicker with snazzy one-liners and a desire to spill the guts of any alien scum that cross his path.

Finest hour… Duke Nukem 3D (1996)

Miner Willy

Mr Willy risked his life constantly by collecting shiny objects before his oxygen supply was depleted. Not only that, but he masterfully avoided the wrath of all kinds of nasty lurkers, including poisonous pansies, spiders and manic mining robots. True courage at its finest.

Finest hour… Manic Miner (1983)

Simon the Sorcerer

Would you follow a dog called Chippy through a magic portal into another dimension? Well Simon did and he soon found himself on a great adventure, evading goblins and saving Wizards. Not bad for an ordinary teenager (with the voice of Red Dwarf’s Chris Barrie).

Finest hour… Simon the Sorcerer (1993)

Lara Croft

Okay, so the chances of finding a stunningly beautiful woman skilled in combat, weaponry, free running and archaeological treasure hunting in real life are slim to none, but the hordes of fans with Lara Croft desktop wallpapers don’t seem to care.

Finest hour… Tomb Raider (1996)


One of the most popular of the Street Fighter characters, Ryu is the reason why thousands of kids at school were thrusting their hands forward at each other and yelling “Hadouken”. The crushing disappointment at the lack of any erupting fireballs still haunts us to this day.

Finest hour… Street Fighter II (1991)



The two bubble dragons, Bob and Bub, blow bubbles. In fact, they do this so well that they can entrap their foes in soapy prisons, before popping them into oblivion. Just goes to show you there are other ways to meet your end other than bullets and fire.

Finest hour… Bubble Bobble (1986)

Guybrush Threepwood

Guybrush’s clothes are as eccentric as his name, and his razor-sharp wit comes in rather handy on a colourful journey in which he meets ghosts and cannibals before becoming a pirate and finally getting the girl. Makes our own lives seem rather dull.

Finest hour… Secret of Monkey Island (1990)

James Pond

Terrible naming pun aside, this mutated anthropomorphic fish is a respectable secret agent whose trademarks include seducing mermaids and firing a bubble gun with lethal accuracy. How’s that for the CV?

Finest hour… James Pond 2: RoboCod (1991)

Rick Dangerous

Apart from having the name of a questionable adult film actor, Rick Dangerous also has the honour of being modelled after Indiana Jones, fighting Nazis and evading boulders a la Harrison Ford. Guns and dynamite helped mow down those pesky enemies while quick reflexes prevented being taken apart by deadly traps.

Finest hour… Rick Dangerous 2 (1990)

Nathan Drake

The sharp-witted Mr Drake is the result of Lara Croft and Indiana Jones’s procreation. He can shoot like a pro, solve puzzles, scale ruins and all the while crack jokes. We bet he’d have a few interesting stories to say over a few pints too.

Finest hour… Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009)


This cute, adorable little star of LittleBigPlanet is more than happy to run around your created worlds, exploring and jumping, avoiding all challenges you throw at him. The jury’s still out on whether it’s a person in a sack, or an actual sack being, so we’ll get back to you on that.

Finest hour… LittleBigPlanet (2008)

Samus Aran

If Master Chief were to play the dating game, Samus would surely be his first choice. A hot blonde in a futuristic super-suit with built-in missiles, lasers and energy beams who’s not afraid to buckle down and kick butt. Frighteningly alluring.

Finest hour… Super Metroid (1994)


Initially egg-shaped due to the ease of animation, Dizzy the egg is more than just breakfast fodder. What other food can move, talk and go off on crazy adventures such escaping the wrath of pirates and surviving on a desert island? Hopefully none. We don’t like the idea of intelligent food that can destroy us from within.

Finest hour… Treasure Island Dizzy (1987)

Jill Valentine

Jill Valentine is an original protagonist of the Resident Evil series and can dish out a good zombie bashing in style, no doubt helped by her impressive Delta Force background. Also voted as one of the sexiest female gaming characters of all time, which is no mean feat given the competition.

Finest hour… Resident Evil (1996)


Less man and more a yellow thing with a mouth, Pacman is a being with an insatiable lust for the taste of pac-dots. Artfully evading the ever-chasing ghosts and chomping away at bonus fruit, this little guy will be known throughout history as being one of the first true gaming heroes.

Finest hour… Pac-Man (1980)

Marcus Fenix

Built like Arnie and wielding a gun-mounted chainsaw with deadly accuracy, Marcus Fenix effectively curb stomps his way through locust alien swarms in size 20 armoured boots. Definitely the kind of man you’d want in your corner.

Finest hour… Gears of War (2006)

Agent 47

Too cool to have a name, Agent 47 is the mysterious professional life-ender who was created from the genetic DNA of some of the world’s most dangerous criminals. Not the kind of person you’d want to push in front of in a queue.

Finest hour… Hitman 2: Silent Assassin (2002)

Gordon Freeman

Representing geeks everywhere, Gordon Freeman is a theoretical physicist with a goatee and glasses; not your average action hero. Wielding his trusty crowbar, he’s a man of no words, simply getting down to business and taking it to waves of alien scum.

Finest hour… Half-Life 2 (2004)

Geoffrey Longsword

Leader of the Saxons in a medieval onslaught against the Norman hordes, the stunning (for its time) graphics and mixture of action and strategy have cemented both game and hero in gaming folklore. Oh, and those “liberating the damsel in distress” scenes…

Finest hour… Defender of the Crown (1986)

Fox McCloud

Leader of the elite Starfox team (which includes a falcon and a toad), Fox McCloud helps defend his home planet against an onslaught of enemies, with daring space manouvers and sharp shooting. Just Google “do a barrel roll” to gauge the impact of this series.

Finest hour… Star Fox (aka Starwing, 1993)


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Profile image of Dan Grabham Dan Grabham Editor-in-Chief


Dan is Editor-in-chief of Stuff, working across the magazine and the Stuff.tv website.  Our Editor-in-Chief is a regular at tech shows such as CES in Las Vegas, IFA in Berlin and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as well as at other launches and events. He has been a CES Innovation Awards judge. Dan is completely platform agnostic and very at home using and writing about Windows, macOS, Android and iOS/iPadOS plus lots and lots of gadgets including audio and smart home gear, laptops and smartphones. He's also been interviewed and quoted in a wide variety of places including The Sun, BBC World Service, BBC News Online, BBC Radio 5Live, BBC Radio 4, Sky News Radio and BBC Local Radio.

Areas of expertise

Computing, mobile, audio, smart home