Go into any game store, and you’ll see the usual suspects on the game covers. There’s Super Mario, Master Chief, Sonic the Hedgehog, Brown Hair White Man, Kratos, Crash Bandicoot, and so on. The list of leading heroes continues, but it’s also a cycle. Top billing always goes to the same group of video game superstars. But at the same time, there are several protagonists that contribute so much to their respective spaces, but never get enough credit for it. Today we’re going to take a look at some of those characters who are always around and do great things for the gaming public, but they are either made fun of constantly, dismissed, ignored, or simply don’t get quite enough credit.
Yeah, I’m giving a shout out to the little fox child who bounces around and ticks everyone off. Everyone loves to either complain about Tails, or make fun of him because of his sometimes dopey AI, especially in games like Sonic the Hedgehog 2. But the reality is that Tails is really great! He’s always around in a contributing capacity, usually as a proxy for gameplay mechanics that Sonic doesn’t normally have access to. Sometimes he brings his airplane or other tech, and other times he’s more of a utility hand with his flying powers. He can even join Sonic for fun combo moves. In the classic games, he can also contribute additional damage to bosses and collect rings for you. Tails is a real MVP when it comes to sidekicks.
I’m sure you may be wondering why one of the most iconic characters in gaming history is in this article about characters who don’t get enough respect. That’s because Donkey Kong doesn’t get enough respect, damn it. Sure, the original arcade game and the Rare Donkey Kong Country trilogy are revered, but what else?
Donkey Kong has since largely been relegated to cameo appearances in party games, the occasional gimmicky platformer, or whatever small game that sort of fades quietly into history. Retro’s new Donkey Kong Country games are excellent, but sometimes disrespected merely because they aren’t Metroid games. Donkey Kong is a great character who deserves more of the Nintendo mindshare than he has. Make a Donkey Kong Country Musou spinoff or something!
No, we’re not talking about Mortal Kombat. That series and its characters get exactly the amount of credit they need, if not more. I’m talking about the guy everyone was mad about playing as in Metal Gear Solid 2.
Kojima’s tremendously sloppy storytelling aside, Raiden has turned out to be a great character. Most of that is due to people who are not Hideo Kojima, ironically enough. Changing Raiden into a tragic robot man in Metal Gear Solid 4 was weird, but PlatinumGames made chicken crap into chicken salad with Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. The creative team on that game took a character who was largely maligned into one with a ton of depth and a backstory that became a criticism of games writing as a whole. It’s good stuff.
Everyone loves Final Fantasy, but not everyone loves Final Fantasy VIII. It’s a weird game for sure, but so is the rest of the series. One of the standout things about it is protagonist Squall, who was done absolutely dirty by Squaresoft’s subpar 90s localization work. In the English version, he comes off as a cartoonishly angsty teenager in the worst sort of way. His “whatever” lines are a modern punchline in a way that really dismisses what Squall is really about.
Dude has issues, but issues that would be much more relatable if the game was translated with a little less goofiness. But even so, the way Squall deals with his internal conflicts are coated with grounded realism, that anyone struggling with mental health can attach themselves to.