Who’s Your Video Game Valentine? DualShockers’ Chooses Their Favorite Characters Of All Time
Here at DualShockers, we really love video games. And no matter whether you play games looking for a deep, artistic experience or just a way to kill time on the train for a few minutes, no game would be complete without its characters, some of whom — like Nintendo’s Mario or Pikachu, NetherRealm’s Scorpion and Subzero, or Capcom’s Ryu and Ken — are instantly recognizable and universally loved. So that’s why we took a little time to shout off the digital rooftops of the internet our love for our favorite video game characters, characters who complete our geek passion in ways no other ever could.
And no, this isn’t a list of our favorite Dating Sim paramours, so please exit that way if you’re looking for a virtual bride or groom.
(Note: Thanks to deviantart user PuccadomiNyo for the Mario Bros. cartoon screenshot above, and to Fighters Generation for the Akuma art below).
Commander Shepard, Mass Effect Series
Ryan Meitzler, Staff Writer
Love is important in the life of one of my favorite characters, Commander Shepard, and it’s just as much one of the things that drew me into one of my all-time favorite series, Mass Effect. While my “relationship” now with the series is full of fondness and admiration for the franchise’s amazing universe, great story, and more memorable characters than I could ever begin to describe my love for, it’s funny now to think about how originally my love for the series was more along the lines of a love-hate relationship than the infatuation I have with it now.
I first bought the original Mass Effect back in 2008/2009 after the first game had already been out for a year or so: critics raved about it, fans flocked to it, and many of my friends had nothing but praise for it. I had been drawn to playing the first game for quite a while having had it on my backlog, and when the time came to make my “first date” with the series…I had to say, I wasn’t quite enamored.
With the first game’s admittedly slow beginning and my desire to see what it was all about a little softened by its lengthy and at-times confusing opening, Mass Effect was a game that I really had to warm up to at first. Like the start of any relationship, it took some time and effort to really get to know the series before I could really understand what the fuss was all about. But, after three or four repeated attempts at getting into the game, and once I left the Citadel and was introduced to the exciting, visionary world that Mass Effect had to offer…well, it quickly turned into love at first sight.
For me, Shepard is as much a part of my love for the series as much as he/she is integral to Mass Effect. While everyone’s Shepard can look different, act different, and have entirely different outcomes that involve not just the player, but every character that you come to know, speak to, love, or at times force into situations of life and death, that freedom of defining who I wanted Shepard to be intrigued me the most. Sure, “Commander Shepard” is not one entity in the Mass Effect series: there are potentially hundreds, or even thousands of Shepards out there in every permutation of Mass Effect that has been played out there, and my Shepard is surely very different from the hundred of thousands out there.
But, that’s what ended up drawing me into the series the most, and made my “relationship” with Mass Effect so strong. I could make Shepard who I wanted to be: I could decide how I wanted to act, who I wanted to fall in love with, and how I would be seen and act in front of so many other characters I grew to equally love, like Jack, Thane, Liara, Mordin, and so many others. If it weren’t for (my) Commander Shepard, I probably wouldn’t have been in love with Mass Effect as I am: it’s a series I’ve come to love and can’t wait to see in the future, even when that relationship got off to a rocky start.
Welkin Gunther, Valkyria Chronicles
Allisa James, Reviews Editor
When I first received Valkyria Chronicles as a birthday gift, I certainly knew what to expect in terms of gameplay. After all, I did play the demo extensively and adored the battle system. What I was not expecting, however, was to fall madly in love with the main character of the series, Welkin Gunther.
We all know the trope: seemingly average guy main character who discovers he has a magic penchant for strategy. Usually these types are as boring as dry toast and even less convincing ability-wise. But Welkin was different. When the game first starts, we learn a bit about his relatively normal life and the fact that he is a university student, which is a great explanation for his intelligence and education. I also personally love his design–it’s balanced and isn’t forced. Welkin looks neither too “cool” and unnaturally different nor does he have that overly plain and generic look “everyman” heroes are usually given. His design is subdued and natural but still distinctive, as people tend to look like in real life.
Even better was his personality. The game doesn’t beat you with “nice guy” over and over; instead we learn through his relationships and conversations what kind of person he really is, which makes discovering he truly is nice that much more substantial.
Best of all is the fact that Welkin is one of the most laid-back and easy-going protagonists I’ve ever seen. It’s like you could truly be friends with someone like him in real life. At the same time, his passion for Animal Sociology is refreshing and genuine, and once again his knowledge is proven to be earned, not bestowed upon him like royalty.
Then when Welkin is called into battle, his tactics and strategies (based on his studies) are simple, highly effective and most importantly, actually make perfect sense. He’s a fair and strong commander whose position inside the tank is both safe but puts him at incredible risk–unlike other soldiers that have a chance to be rescued in battle, Welkin must always be present and at the forefront until he wins or until the tank he resides in explodes, killing him. This actually puts him in the riskiest position, and yet he handles that danger fearlessly.
Welkin is an excellent protagonist who earns his knowledge and intelligence, has a genuine and kind personality, is brave and strong and comes up with creative yet practical battle tactics. These are the reasons why Welkin Gunther has been chosen to be my Video Game Character Valentine.
Akuma, Street Fighter Series
Tony Polanco, Staff Writer
This may be an odd pick for a character we love but I’m going to go with Street Fighter’s Akuma.
Why Akuma? It has to do with his demonic presence and power, something that made the character instantly appealing when I first played as him. Akuma embodied the thing I wanted as a teenager: limitless power. He was the coolest looking of the shoto characters because his gi was black and torn and his red spikey hair gave him an instantly recognizable silhouette. Let me not forget to mention how awesome he looked in shadows where you could only see his red eyes glowing.
Being an angry teenager, Akuma’s rage also made me gravitate towards him whenever I played the Street Fighter games of the ‘90s. Akuma would appear in dozens of other Capcom fighting games as well and I always made sure that he was one of my main guys to use. Destroying opponents with Akuma’s signature Raging Demon move was my favorite way to end matches.
Akuma represents a childhood power fantasy. Just thinking about the fun I had playing as him brings back fond memories. I think the fact that I have Akuma’s symbol tattooed on my right arm lets you know how much I love the character. Every time I see my ink, I think of Akuma and it brings a smile to my face.
Clementine, The Walking Dead Saga
Thomas Luke, Staff Writer
While she doesn’t have the nostalgic appeal of other game characters I’ve developed ‘relationships’ with, Clementine does have the appeal of being both a fantastically written character and an example of how to do escort characters right.
‘Well written characters’ is of course one of the first phrases that springs to mind with Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Playing their games, there is a sense of humanity, of insecurities in characters, but also resolve to push forward and live, all of which shines though in Clementine.
While Clementine is a human character, she is also one you have to protect, something which games often fail to execute properly. Bad escort missions are one of the most irritating banes of gamers, forcing them to slow down to try and stop a squishy AI companion from running to their doom.
Telltale however, takes a different approach to escorting. Instead of trying to protect Clementine in combat, you’re trying to protect her from the horrific nature of the zombie apocalypse. Because she feels so human, I actually began to warm to and care for Clementine. I found myself making decisions not based solely on what I felt like doing, but how Clementine would react.
While Clementine is far from the first video game character I’ve felt a connection to, she is perhaps the only ‘escort character’ I’ve actually felt protective of, a testament to how well she’s written.
Clementine, The Walking Dead Saga
David Rodriguez, ShockCast Host and Staff Writer
I have a niece who is four years old (five this May). Naturally, I love her like a daughter – I care about her, and I want her to have a rich, fulfilling, and positive life as she continues to get older. I’ve made it one of my missions in life to be there for her in every possible capacity. I would not consider my connection to the fictional character of Clementine from Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead to be anywhere near synonymous with the relationship I have with my niece, but being an uncle to a young girl made my connection with Clementine resonate much deeper than I thought was possible.
When I play a game, I am able to examine its story and characters from a critical perspective. It is not common that there is any sort of emotional tether formed with the characters themselves. In the case of Clementine, the connection I felt was certainly augmented by the real-world relationship I have with my niece, but it was also due simply to her characterization. Clementine was one of the better examples in gaming, a young character whose writers successfully nailed the attributes associated with the innocence of youth.
Nathan Drake, Uncharted Series
Dana Abercrombie, Staff Writer
There are many things in life that no matter what, no one will ever forget. Love would be one of them. That moment when your eyes lock and you can’t ever imagine living one more day without that person. For me that moment came when I was introduced to that slightly off-kilter and always hilarious Nathan Drake.
There are many things that made me love Drake, but the very first moment I fell in love with him was when I heard that humor in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. There’s nothing more that I love in a man than his humor. What other character can make jokes while killing people (yes there’s Deadpool but right now I’m focused on Drake). He constantly keeps me laughing.
One of the other things I can respect is his realism. He’s a low-key sort of man, low maintenance who would laugh in the face of those other male divas. He’s easy going and enjoys the moment. When he runs, he stumbles, things don’t always go his way; much like life. He’s always aware of the ridiculous surrounds he finds himself in which is a good indicator of him always being aware and present in a relationship.
These are the perfect qualities of a man and I couldn’t be more happier with my man Drake.
Red and Blue, Gunstar Heroes
Jorge Jimenez, Staff Writer
Technically I love two characters who are twins and no, I’m not talking some lame bandanna-wearing genetically enhanced dullards like Solid and Liquid Snake. The brothers I’m talking about come from a lineage of champions of justice. They have defeated giant mechs, a board game style deathtrap called Dice Palace and they also defeated a monster made of rice and curry. Nothing can stop them.
I’m talking about masters of combat, pillars of human triumph, examples of true brotherly love, the Protector’s of Planet G-9. That’s right, I’m talking about Red and Blue, the god-damn Gunstar Twins, from the fantastic side scrolling shooter Gunstar Heroes on the Sega Genesis.
There’s something so egregiously 90s about how Gunstar Heroes looks and plays that still hold up. The twins have these adorably bad haircuts and equally offensive matching outfits that make them look a figure-skating duo.
Fun Fact: Gunstar Heroes has been always been my ‘intro to gaming’ game I use when I try to get a girl I like to play videogames. Its mainly because the plot is so silly and active, while engrossing and freakishly frenetic, and is easy to learn and master.
I always equate Gunstar Heroes with fantastic cheap dates involving pizza, laughter and awkward lean-in kisses with a 60% success rate. #thatsmorethanhalf
Masoud House, Features Editor
Okay, so maybe I’m cheating here. Sue me, I’m taking executive action here. And let me say that no, I’m not a self-centered egotistical narcissist who happens to be looking into a mirror while writing this.
No, I’m in love with the idea that games let me play as myself in ways that no other creative medium can do.
Yes, there’s a slew of games whose customizable extent is letting you choose your name and the color of your hair or skin from a palette whose small selection have never been seen on a human body before. But then there’s the true masterpieces which really create an experience that puts You in the driver’s seat in an interactive world that books (which I truly love) and movies (which I also deeply love) just can’t deliver.
There’s games like the WWE series, which allow you to painstakingly create wrestling protagonists who can be shaped from the top of their mask-covered head literally to the toes of their boots. There’s games like the Saints Row series which allow you to save the world as the President of the United-freaking-States of America, while also dressed as a space samurai or starkly clad in your birthday suit. There’s games like the Mass Effect series, which give you the power to save the entire universe — or destroy it — based on your decisions, while also giving you a fully rewarding and fully realized world that includes harrowing missions, an array of romantic options, and the ability to right hook the most annoying slandering journalist this side of Andromeda.
And finally, there’s games like Telltales The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, which offer you the chance to play as an established character, but to give you consequences made wholly by your carefully or wantonly made decisions.
For me, this is what gaming has always been about: exploring new worlds where I’m empowered — rightfully so or not — to lead a band of misfits, take up a lonely quest, to seek retribution or revenge, and to save entire nations from destruction. And with the right writing and design, it truly can be Me behind the driver’s seat.
Giuseppe Nelva, News Editor
Giuseppe hates Valentine’s Day with his whole being, therefore he declined to participate.