It takes a lot to make a successful video game. It needs a good story, good music, a high fun factor, and a fair difficulty level. Most of all, however, it needs to have memorable characters. Now, some game protagonists have become iconic (Mario, Sonic, Donkey Kong), but oftentimes it’s a side character that merits the most attention. This article will showcase some of the best examples of characters that have stolen the spotlight away from the intended main characters of these video games.
10. Miles Edgeworth (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney)
The Phoenix Wright franchise is not very well known, but it is recognized as a very innovative and original game series. The series focuses on Wright, a rookie defense attorney who repeatedly comes to the rescue of innocent clients. It also focuses on the eccentric Miles Edgeworth, a famed prosecuting attorney and childhood friend of Phoenix Wright, with a perfect win record, and a reputation for doing ANYTHING to prove the defendant guilty. His perfect winning streak was soiled when he was met in a court case against Wright, and the two formed a friendly rivalry that would carry across the series. The climax of the game came when Edgeworth himself is accused of murder, and it is up to Phoenix to defend him. The trial involves history that stretches back all the way to Wright and Edgeworth’s 4th grade year of school, at the decisive moment where Phoenix decided to become a defense attorney and Edgeworth a prosecutor.
While Edgeworth acts as the game’s antagonist of sorts, it is shown that he has a good sense of right and wrong, and does his best to act in ways that he deems fair and just. He is an oddly likable character, which resulted in him being a fan favorite. He was so well-received, in fact, that a spinoff game was released with him as the star.
9. Meta Knight (Kirby)
Meta Knight made his debut alongside Kirby in Kirby’s Adventure. He began as a minor recurring boss, who developed as the series did. He gradually grew in popularity until becoming a fan-favorite and ultimately receiving his own semi-spinoffs in the form of sub-games “Meta Knightmare” and “Meta Knightmare Ultra.”
His appearances in the games have shrouded him in great mystery, and his intentions are never made clear. Therefore, his relationship with Kirby ranges from dreaded foe to fierce ally, and can change at any moment. All that is known of him is that he is an honorable fighter, as he always offers Kirby a sword before any fight with him. As a standard win animation, his mask is broken and you briefly see his face, which strongly resembles Kirby’s. Speculation on this tends to point towards him being a member of the same species as Kirby … whatever that may be.
His notoriety helped nab him a spot on the roster of Super Smash Brothers Brawl as a playable character, and he shows up as a recurring character in the television show: “Kirby: Right Back ‘Atcha.”
8. Hunter the Cheetah (Spyro The Dragon)
Hunter the Cheetah is a longtime friend and ally of Spyro’s, and has been a fan favorite since his first appearance in Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage. He initially was showcased as a laid back, but somewhat dull-witted slacker, who was directly responsible for bringing Ripto to his home world of Avalon by putting his birthday in as the coordinates to the Professor’s experimental portal. After Hunter’s friend learned of Ripto’s fear of dragons, Hunter was guilted into helping bring Spyro to Avalon to stop Ripto.
He serves as a helpful tips-and-tricks guide throughout the game, and makes cameo appearances in nearly every level, oftentimes to offer a minigame. His lovable personality made him an obvious choice to include in all future Spyro games, and he even became a playable character in Spyro: A Hero’s Tail. He is a very skillful character, showcasing great ability with a bow and arrow (as his name implies) and is very strong and agile. He makes for a very entertaining character throughout the series, which simply wouldn’t be the same without him.
7. The Great Mighty Poo (Conker’s Bad Fur Day)
Conker’s Bad Fur Day was a very well-received game at the end of the Nintendo 64 era. Although it didn’t sell well, due to its limited demographic and lack of advertising, it has gained a cult following and has become extremely popular for its mature content, absurdity, and hilarity. One of the most memorable parts of the game also serves as one of the most disgusting moments in video game history: a boss fight with (quite literally) a giant pile of crap.
The Great Mighty Poo is a giant, living pile of feces with corn for teeth and an affinity for opera. You must battle him by throwing toilet paper into his mouth whenever he belts out an aria, whilst avoiding the toxic poo he flings at you. The fight ends when he belts out a high note and breaks the glass between you and a toilet lever, allowing you to flush him to death. His death is greatly overdramatized, and he even references The Wizard Of Oz as he dies (“I’m fluuuusssshing! I’m fluuuuuussssshinnnnnngggggg!”) He has gained notoriety for … well, being a giant pile of poo, but he is the first thing anyone familiar with the game associates it with. Although for all the wrong reasons, he well and truly steals the show.
(Video contains some language)
6. Nina Cortex (Crash Bandicoot)
Nina Cortex made her appearance relatively late in the series. She was first introduced in the racing game Crash: Nitro Cart as a playable character, but wasn’t expanded upon until the game Crash: TwinSanity. She was introduced to the series as Dr. Neo Cortex’s niece, who showcased a brilliant intellect and a love of animals as a young girl. Angered by the signs of a kind heart, Dr. Cortex fitted her with bionic arms and sent her to Madame Amberly’s Private Academy of Evil. In TwinSanity, Cortex and Crash break in to the academy to sneak her out and recruit her in their quest to stop the Evil Twins from destroying N. Sanity Island.
Her unique look, sass, and extendable bionic arms helped her quickly became a fan favorite. She became a recurring character, and gained a more prominent role as the series went on. She even went on to replace Cortex as the main antagonist of Crash of the Titans, which only served to heighten both her notoriety, and her fans’ love of her.
5. Shadow the Hedgehog (Sonic the Hedgehog)
Throughout his tentative lifespan in the game, comic, and television series, Shadow the Hedgehog has become the single most popular character in the Sonic universe. He is a perfect example of the antihero: a character that is loyal to neither good nor evil, but rather to whichever side currently fits their interests, and who effectively is on their own “side.”
Shadow was created to be the perfect living weapon, but certain events led to his being placed in suspended animation until his release years later by Dr. Eggman. When he awoke, he had no memory of his past, and he was used by Eggman in an attempt to conquer the world. He nearly brought about the Earth’s destruction, but had a change of heart in the nick of time, saving everyone. He has since made a habit of flip-flopping sides to achieve his goal of regaining his lost memories. He grew to great popularity after his introduction in Sonic Adventure 2, and became a playable character in many games, even getting his own eponymous spinoff game. He has made many appearances in the later games, and has developed his own spinoff comic series, continually growing in popularity all the while.
4. Zero (Mega Man X)
The ’90s was a time when video games were going through a period of modernization. Not wanting to be left behind, Capcom made the decision to modernize the Mega Man series, and creating Mega Man X. Zero began as a prototype for the revamped Mega Man, but the creators decided that they had actually made him too different. So they made him a side character instead, which was a smart move on their part.
In the game, Zero was the last creation of Dr. Wily, made for the purpose of eradicating Mega Man once and for all. However, Zero had a bug in his programming that made him wildly violent and uncontrollable. Wily shut him down and put him in a suspension chamber until he could calm down. Decades later, he was awakened by a group of Reploids, who were all slaughtered upon his release. Despite his destructive nature, Zero soon became close allies with Mega Man X, as the two fought to stop the evil Sigma and his army of Mavericks.
Zero acts as X’s mentor throughout the first game, and fights alongside him throughout the rest of the series. He becomes a playable character in the later games, and became significantly more popular than X, gaining enough popularity to lead his own spinoff series Megaman Zero. More than anyone, he helped bring the new generation of Mega Man to fruition.
3. Captain Qwark (Ratchet And Clank)
Captain Copernicus Leslie Qwark is the superhero of Metropolis and the savior of the universe … according to himself. Captain Qwark is a self-appointed hero, and will jump on any chance to improve his image. His persona is based entirely on stealing the show, so if we hadn’t put him on this list, he’d harass us to no end until we did.
Throughout the Ratchet and Clank series, Captain Qwark plays a significant role, ranging anywhere from bumbling adversary to bumbling ally. As the figurehead of the Ratchet universe, he makes a nasty habit of showcasing the heroics of others as his own, gaining him MANY enemies. Qwark’s ego is overshadowed only by his cowardice, which has gotten him into several tight situations. However, through his astonishing luck, he has managed time and again to come out on top, receiving credit where it is not due and very loosely maintaining his “superhero” status.
Qwark has been well-received by fans and critics alike, and is seen by many to be funnier and more interesting than either Ratchet or Clank. Qwark is also said to appear in the Ratchet and Clank movie, set for release in 2015. His appearance makes fans of the series even more excited for the film’s release.
2. Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid)
Psycho Mantis began as a former KGB agent with strong powers of psychokenesis, a combination of telekinetic and psychic abilities. He was a detective who would get inside the minds of targets for information and leverage. During one such assignment, he delved into the mind of a serial killer and went in too deep. As a result, he took on the same mindset and went insane. He then went on to become a freelance assassin, until he crossed paths with Solid Snake. The result is one of the most infamous boss fights in video game history.
During the fight, he showcases his amazing psychic powers by breaking the fourth wall. He does this by reading the player’s memory card to find out the games they like (and their gameplay style,) and making the controller move by activating the rumble feature. Throughout the fight, he psychically reads you so he knows exactly what you’re going to do next, making it impossible to hit him. He even messes with the television settings to throw off the player, making them think the channel was changed. The only way to beat him is to remove the controller and put it into the opposite port, taking him by surprise and rendering him temporarily unable to read you. After beating him, he commends you for your ability to do what no one else has done before, and gives you valuable information you need to continue.
Psycho Mantis was polled as the 8th Greatest Video Game Villain of All Time by IGN, and his boss battle ranked as the 2nd Greatest Moment in Gaming, which is more than enough to earn him such a high spot on this list.
1. Kefka Palazzo (Final Fantasy)
The Final Fantasy series has faced its share of ups and downs, but undeniably one of its greatest moments was Final Fantasy VI. The villain of FF VI was Kefka, often described as one of the greatest villains in all of video game history. Through experimentation with Espers and the power of magicite, Kefka gained fantastical magic powers, albeit at the expense of his sanity. Throughout the game, he gradually usurped more and more power until he reached a godlike level. The self-proclaimed god of magic, he terrorized the world until he was finally defeated at the hands of your party.
Despite his ultimate defeat, he achieved his goal of destroying the world; even in death, events played out entirely the way he wanted them to. He is a sado-masochist who delights in pain, suffering, and most of all, destruction. His mind is broken to the point where he pathologically cannot comprehend love, friendship, and compassion, and he is physically incapable of feeling happiness with the exception of sadistic glee. He is every bit as evil as The Joker, right down to his sadistic jokes, warped laugh, and creepy clown makeup.
Kefka returned years later in Final Fantasy: Dissidia, an experimental fighting game that featured the focal hero and villain of every Final Fantasy beating the tar out of one another. Kefka was the representative villain of FF VI and, due to the nature of his character, there’s no way he COULDN’T have stolen the show. The game expanded upon many different aspects of his character, showcasing insanity in every form. His philosophical craziness was showcased with his many thought-provoking and intense monologues on destruction; his demented sense of humor was shown constantly in his erratic behavior; his utter scariness was shown in his undying sadism; and the list goes on. He makes very noteworthy appearances in both Dissidia and its sequel, Dissidia: Duodecim 012. His appearances served only to fuel his already-astronomical standing in the villain hall of fame, and they also help clinch his spot as #1 on this list.