Everyone’s heard of the Guinness Book of World Records. It is the definitive voice, the tome of the best and the longest and the smallest. If you want notoriety for the tallest stack of mattresses or the Dancing Cats of Applesap, you want to be in this book, because it means you’re the whateverist, ever, in the world, in all of history.
What I didn’t know, however, is that there’s so many records out there pertaining to gaming that they actually make a Gamer’s Edition of the book. This is pretty major, when I think about it; currently there’s no Edition for sports or any other subject that I know of. But it makes perfect sense; the sports world has tons of ways to secure worldwide appreciation of their best and brightest. On the other hand, I had no idea who was the worldwide highest scorer on a specific Guitar Hero game until I looked at the Gamer’s Edition website.
In most cases, making it into the Guinness Book of World Records is pretty cut-and-dry, with a very specific and strict set of regulations (I once observed a World Record attempt, from the planning stages up). Typically, numbers don’t lie; either you make it, or you don’t.
The annual Gamer’s Edition, however, has a few categories that, in my opinion, are a little more nebulous and subjective. Case in point: The Top 50 Video Game Characters of All Time.
How were these characters chosen? Via voting on the Gamer’s Edition website. Apparently there were only about 13,000 voters, which, in the scope of the gaming industry, isn’t really all that much. My ire grows.
But then I think, well, how could it have been better? Would more publicity have caused silly campaigns to be waged? Would more people have really changed the results? Looking at the list, it seems like a fairly representative sample. And like the world’s longest fingernails or fastest swim time, it’s subject to change in the face of history. This is what one group of people think, right now. Which, in and of itself, is pretty cool and interesting.
Ok, let’s see what information we can draw from the list. First, the winners:
1. Mario (Donkey Kong, Nintendo, 1981)
2. Link (The Legend of Zelda, Nintendo, 1986)
3. Master Chief (Halo: Combat Evolved, Microsoft, 2001)
4. Solid Snake (Metal Gear, Konami, 1987)
5. Cloud Strife (Final Fantasy VII, Square, 1997)
6. PAC-Man (PAC-Man, Namco, 1980)
7. Lara Croft (Tomb Raider, Eidos 1996)
8. Gordon Freeman (Half-Life, Valve, 1998)
9. Kratos (God of War, Sony, 2005)
10. Sonic (Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega, 1990)
11. Crash (Crash Bandicoot, Sony, 1996)
12. “Soap” MacTavish (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Activision, 2007)
13. Nico Bellic (Grand Theft Auto IV, Rockstar, 2008)
14. Samus Aran (Metroid, Nintendo 1986)
15. Ratchet (Ratchet & Clank, Sony, 2002)
16. Nathan Drake (Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Sony, 2007)
17. Captain Price (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Activision, 2007)
18. Kirby (Kirby’s Dream Land, Nintendo, 1992)
19. Marcus Fenix (Gears of War, Microsoft, 2006)
20. Pikachu (Pokemon Red/Green, Nintendo 1996)
21. Yoshi (Super Mario World, Nintendo, 1990)
22. “CJ” Johnson (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Rockstar, 2004)
23. Mega Man (Mega Man, Capcom, 1987)
24. Sam Fisher (Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, Ubisoft, 2002)
25. Shadow (Sonic Adventure 2, Sega, 2001)
26. Jak (Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, Sony, 2001)
27. Duke Nukem (Duke Nukem, Apogee, 1991)
28. Dante (Devil May Cry, Bandai, 2003)
29. Naruto (Naruto: Konoha Ninpoch, Bandai, 2003)
30. Altair (Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft, 2007)
31. Zelda (The Legend of Zelda, Nintendo, 1986)
32. Sephiroth (Final Fantasy VII, Square, 1997)
33. Donkey Kong (Donkey Kong, Nintendo, 1981)
34. The Prince (Prince of Persia, Broderbund, 1989)
35. Ezio (Assassin’s Creed II, Ubisoft, 2009)
36. Leon S (Biohazard/ Resident Evil, Capcom, 1996)
37. Ash Ketchum (Pokemon Red/Green, Nintendo, 1996)
38. Guybrush Threepwood (The Secret of Monkey Island, LucasArts, 1990)
39. Spyro (Spyro the Dragon, Universal, 1998)
40. “Ghost” Riley (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, Activision, 2009)
41. Goku (Dragon Daihikyoe, Epoch, 1987)
42. Max Payne (Max Payne, Rockstar, 2001)
43. Jill Valentine (Biohazard/ Resident Evil, Capcom, 1996)
44. Princess Peach (Super Mario Bros., Nintendo, 1985)
45. Larry Laffer (Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, Sierra, 1987)
46. Augustus Cole (Gears of War, Microsoft, 2006)
47. Bowser (Super Mario Bros., Nintendo, 1985)
48. Eddie Riggs (Brutal Legend, EA, 2009)
49. Ryu (Street Fighter, Capcom, 1987)
50. Sackboy (LIttleBigPlanet, Sony, 2008)
Nintendo has 11 characters. Sony has six. Capcom has five. The years with the most characters are: 1996 (5), 1987, 2001, 2007 (4 each). That’s what the numbers tell us.
However, the years given are only the first appearances of each character. I would be surprised if every person who voted for Samus was thinking solely of the original Metroid, and not one of the later games – or, heck, Super Smash Bros.
And let’s not forget the retro effect: Sonic the Hedgehog not only has a major franchise behind him, he’s also got the support of Hot Topic and other teen chains. I’m not joking – I went to the mall last month and found the stores I used to frequent in my juvenile delinquent days are now decked out in Sonic Snuggies. He never really died, but he’s getting a second life regardless.
Similarly, while Final Fantasy VII was a mind-blowing game for me as well as most of my generation, I’ll bet it doesn’t hurt that Cloud Strife and Sephiroth have been introduced to the next generation through games like Kingdom Hearts II. After all, while I have no proof, I’m convinced the attention that game gave Tron led to interest in the sequel.
The list of characters may span 30 years, but giving it a rundown, I’m becoming more and more convinced that the average voting age was 20 to 25. Spyro and Pikachu scream a very specific generation to me.
On the other hand, maybe I’m just biased, viewing the list through my own late-twenties lens. And there’s no doubting that some characters are instant legends, no matter how recently they hit the scene.
So I want to hear your thoughts, good and bad, about this list. Do you agree with it? Who would you include? Who would you cut?