Through the decades, video games have provided us with countless memorable characters. Ask 100 people for a list of their top ten, and odds are not a single list will look the same. And for many of these characters, we refer to them by name. Mario, Sonic, Master Chief, Nathan Drake. The list goes on.
But what about the characters who are never given a name? They make appearances on these lists, too, but they’re at a significant disadvantage. Names are an instant recognition of identity. Everyone knows who Link is. But to be memorable without a name? That’s something special.
Today, we at Power Up Gaming present our list of the top five unnamed characters in video games.
5. The Protagonist (Saints Row)
When players first meet the sociopathic main character of the Saints Row series, the Protagonist is merely seconds away from having a bullet in their head. Fast-forward four games later: that very same nobody saves the human race from an alien invasion.
During an incredible four-game journey, the Protagonist guides the Third Street Saints from virtual nonexistence to being… well, literally virtual superheros. Along the way, they deliver some amazing (and often times ridiculous) moments, plenty of hilarious one-liners, and, just occasionally, some truly heartfelt moments.
Why was this character so memorable? Sure, there was the time they were a toilet or took part in the occasional sing-along with Pierce. And let’s not forget that they were the President of the United States at the end of it all.
What really made the character stand out, however, was that they were just absolutely psychotic. While not always a popular trait, we’ll quote another famous psychopath, Borderlands’ Handsome Jack: “It’s a tough universe, but there’s no excuse to be an asshole. Unless you’re funny with it, then it’s kinda totally fine.”
4. Lone Wanderer (Fallout 3)
Okay, yes. Technically, you give Fallout 3’s protagonist a name at the beginning of the game. But fans know the character better as the Lone Wanderer.
Initially starting out on a quest to find their father, the Lone Wanderer quickly gets caught up in the immense world of post-nuclear war Washington, fighting off a host of mutated monstrosities and visiting plenty of fascinating places. In the end, they even play a major role in saving the Capital Wasteland.
It’s an incredible journey that literally spans from birth to death (DLC notwithstanding) and leads to some incredible gaming moments. Do you remember the time you blew up Megatron?
While this might easily be an entry on a list of characters meant to immerse the player, the story of the Vault 101’s former resident earned them a spot on this list as one of the most recognizable heroes in any game.
3. Immigration Inspector (Papers, Please)
Whether you loved or hated Papers, Please, one thing is pretty easy to agree on: Arstotzka is not a place you’d want to live.
The player’s role as an inspector at a newly opened immigration checkpoint of the dystopic nation is both tedious and stressful. The game starts off with a simple message of congratulations, but immediately declines from there.
We get virtually no backstory for the inspector, other than he comes from a poor background and must care for his family. His job, while simple at first, becomes increasingly complicated – where even minor slip-ups can cost his family food or warmth.
This character’s memorability comes from the world around him. He plays a small and otherwise insignificant role in the overall world of Arstotzka, but his job leads him to getting caught up in terrorist attacks, human trafficking, and an attempt to overthrow the government. And through all of it, the inspector must balance moral dilemmas with the possibility of losing his job.
Where so many games center around characters who save the world or make otherwise grand impacts, it’s refreshing to take on a role that can, at times, feel truly insignificant. And that insignificance is worth a spot on this list.
2. Marine (Doom)
The player character from the Doom series, known by fans as Doomguy, helped lead the first-person shooter to the main stage of gaming, paving the way for future heavy hitters like Halo and Call of Duty.
After being stationed on Mars as a punishment for assaulting an officer, the Marine must unexpectedly, and singlehandedly, fight off an invasion of demons. From the moons of Mars to the depths of Hell itself, Doomguy’s tale is one of nightmares, but the character remains largely emotionless throughout the game. Whether intentional or a limitation of ‘90s game design, the resulting stoic character paired perfectly with the gory, horrific setting of a dystopic Mars.
Though the character himself has very little backstory, his legacy, and his role in one of the most important video games in history, are enough to earn him a spot on this list. Sure, “Doomguy” is a bit specific, but the very mention of him provides a nostalgic experience for countless gamers.
1. The Rookie (Halo 3: ODST)
When you’re going up against an all-star cast that includes both voice-over legend Nolan North and sci-fi icon Nathan Fillion (not to mention the rest of the star-studded cast), you’ve got your work cut out for you.
And yet, there is little doubt that the Rookie is the star of the brief departure from Halo’s main storyline.
Walking the lonely streets of a post-attack New Mombasa, we never get a word from the Rookie, but his quest to reunite with his squadmates provides an eerily depressing look into a Halo universe that is normally filled with explosions and energizing music.
Though a bulk of the gameplay actually puts players in the role of other’s in the Rookie’s squad, much of the game’s strength (not to mention its defining quality from the rest of the series) comes from the solitary moments of the soldier-turned-detective in a rainy, deserted city.
There’s no doubt that the most recognizable name for Halo is Master Chief, but the Rookie certainly makes his case in his own game.
Did we miss out your favourite unnamed character? Does the GTA Online Protagonist deserve a place on the list, as several PUG staff members have vehemently argued? Join in the discussion below.