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The development of video games into compelling, virtual-reality narratives highlights the importance of good characters. As these games are increasingly viewed as a form of art, in addition to an engaging pastime, the role of the video game hero becomes ever more important. This throws a bright spotlight on the playable characters, the protagonists of popular games. Unfortunately, not all of them pass muster. Here are some of the worst video game heroes ever created.
Lester the Unlikely
It's not the premise that makes Lester the Unlikely a somewhat unbearable game: A slightly geeky, slightly sleepy teenager could make for a great protagonist. Everyone loves to play a relatable character, and there are plenty of successes in this genre. Lester isn't just an unlikely hero though, he's an unbearable one. He's not particularly relatable, despite the makers' attempts, because he's a painful, cringe-worthy stereotype of a geek that just doesn't fly with anyone who has been a teenager in the last few decades. Beyond that, he's impossible to play: In trying to make him realistic or some such nonsense, they, in fact, made him completely recalcitrant, cowardly, and downright obnoxious.
Duke Nukem, especially in Duke Nukem Forever (judgement on Duke Nukem 3D can be withheld) is the anti-Lester, and not in a good way. He's a prime example of swinging WAY too far to the opposite extreme, resulting in a "protagonist" that's about as likable as the lovechild of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Biff Tannen from Back to the Future. The designers probably thought they were making some kind of point about sensitivity here, with bathroom jokes and general crassness supposedly passing as humor, but it gets real old, real fast. Not only is the game itself unbearable, but being forced to navigate it in the skin of this gross excuse of a hero leaves you feeling vaguely unsettled and in need of a shower.
Fans have been fighting over the best/worst playable characters in GTA V for a long time now, and there's no doubt that every option is at the very least, divisive. While it's true that Trevor Phillips has perhaps the most compelling and complete backstory, which gives you some sympathy for him, that doesn't change the fact that he's pretty unbearable to have to play. He's impulsive, irrational, violent, and generally kind of demented. Now, I'm sure some will argue that that's the whole point, it is GTA after all, but I think plenty will also agree that he is an unnecessarily exhausting character to try and play as.
Big the Cat
I think the best argument for making Big the Cat a playable character is humor. Maybe there's something to it, at least as a general idea. Especially as a kid though, being forced to play as a slow, lazy, kinda gross "hero" was just never that appealing. It seemed like every time he popped up, you just couldn't wait to get back to the good stuff. I'm not saying he's precisely a detestable character, because I think he actually makes a great addition to the games and the series, but he should never have been a main character, or one you actually have to play as. Sonic has always been hit or miss though, claiming one of the worst games of 2017.
Jake Muller is perhaps one of the most forgettable video game characters of all time. Now, this doesn't necessarily make him the worst in terms of character, but it does make him one of the most unnecessary and uninteresting playable characters, at least to come out of the generally intriguing set of Resident Evil characters. Playing the game as Muller feels kind of like having your memory wiped, being dropped into the game, and suddenly realizing all you've ever wanted to do with your life is punch things. It's disjointed, doesn't really make sense, and gives you no compunction to actually care about the character.
Quite possibly the weakest of the entire Resident Evil franchise (few exceptions may be argued), Resident Evil 6 is chock-full of pretty unlikeable and uninteresting characters. Unfortunately, one of the few with an actually fleshed-out and in-depth backstory is Helena Harper, who probably deserves it the least. You're supposed to be sympathetic to her "moral quandaries" and dedication regarding her sister, but her total lack of remorse for the deaths she causes and her frequent hypocrisy very quickly take her from tragic hero to total nuisance. Plus, her entire story is more or less a waste of time, but there's still nothing you can do about it.
In an epic saga like Shenmue, there's simply no excuse for flat, un-nuanced characters. Unfortunately, if it weren't for Ryo, this game would be one of the best in terms of plot, cast, graphics, and basically everything else. However, the leather-jacket-toting bad boy is so painfully emotionally stunted that it pretty much ruins the magic, and makes every other success of the entire game feel like a tease. There's nothing wrong with flawed, laconic, even slightly uninteresting characters, and in fact, a good level of stoicism often makes this kind of character even more compelling and fun to play. However, the emotional nuance present in the rest of the world, and Ryo's complete lack of response to it, makes him seem more like a sociopath than a stoic.
He's not so bad in MGS4, but your initial introduction to Raiden is not a flattering one. It's unfortunate that your introduction to the character has to be under such circumstances, because he is ultimately a compelling foil to Snake. Coming off of the original MGS, fans of the hard-boiled Snake just feel cheated when the new hero is revealed, and his otherwise-excusable human flaws devolve into painful vapidity and whininess. He wouldn't otherwise be amongst the worst video game heroes ever made, but his contrast to a beloved character like Snake makes it almost impossible for players to like him, and he, at best, leaves you feeling cheated and resentful.
It hurts the classic gamer in me to list Luigi as one of the worst video game heroes because he is, of course, an iconic and often well-loved member of the Super Mario Bros. crew. Given all the Baby Mario hate, too, it may surprise you to find him on this list, and not the little red guy. However, if you've ever had the misfortune to have to play Luigi's Mansion, you'll probably understand. It's not that it's a bad game in and of itself, of course—it's actually a really fun one. There are just some general thoughts about Luigi, and his overwhelming cowardice gets real old real quick. You might end up playing with the sound off (or at least turned WAY down), just so you don't have to listen to his pathetic yelping. That still won't help you when you have to watch him crawl around like a terrified worm while you grow increasingly bored with the slow movement.
The character options in Final Fantasy VIII aren't the best, and many of them will wind up on "worst video game heroes" lists. At least with certain tropes, like the slightly obnoxious child prodigy that makes up Quistis' personality, you get some redeeming human flaws. That makes the character at the very least interesting, if annoying or underdeveloped. Selphie Tilmitt doesn't fail from any particular offensive personality traits. She can't, really, since she doesn't have much of a personality at all. Add, on top of that, her rather boring powers and weapons, and you'll be itching to get past her part of the game and back to something that's at the very least interesting, if not deeply compelling.