I am doing a four part miniseries where I will be discussing my personal list of the top videogame characters of all time. Part 1, will be Robots/Machines/AI. Part 2 will be female video game characters; followed by Part 3 male video game characters; part 4 will be villains. These characters will be decided by me, based on a variety of variables. Kicking off this mini-series will be characters that are synthetic in nature. They could be robots, androids, or AI.
The Cake is a Lie. No list about machines could be complete without this science curious villainous robot Glados. In portal, a human is trapped in a maze while an evil robot does all the observing. Portal being one of the greatest puzzle games of all time, is only enhanced with the commentary from Glados as you traverse her mazes. I considered Wheatly or even companion cubes for this list, but the honor had to go to Glados. After all, she eventually gets promoted to take care of Palpatine.
HM: Wheatley, Companion Cubes
"Hello Friend!" Pathfinder has one of the most disarming and pacifying voices in history. He is eternally happy, and every word that comes out of his mouth makes you smile and laugh during a fight for your life. Now if Respawn could just bring his grapple cooldown to some time less than an entire match that’d be great.
One of the cutest droids ever made, Jedi Fallen Order’s, 2019’s Game Infinite GOTY introduced players to this brave little helper. Not only is BD-1 essential to the story of the game, he’s brave enough to take on Vader himself. If that’s not droid bravery I don’t know what is. BD-1 is more than a cute droid presence, or a companion for Cal to talk to on his journey, Respawn managed to make BD-1 essential to the navigation and puzzle solving in the game, as Cal would be unable to progress on his journey without BD-1.
I’ve said on multiple occasions that I think Mass Effect is the greatest video game ever made, so it should come as no surprise such greatness was capable of generating not one but two amazing synthetic characters. First up, EDI is first introduced to players in Mass Effect 2 has a formless blue hologram, before she is upgraded with a remote android body in Mass Effect 3. Her conversations with Shepard are great, but it is observing her interact with Joker that really sells it. Plus, EDI really represents the counterpoint to one of the themes in Mass Effect and in many scieince fiction stories as well, what happens if an AI is unrestricted. Rogue AI are a common trope in science fiction, but EDI shows us a more optimistic future where AI could have free will and choose to be friendly.
Sometimes "stoic soldier characters" are not relatable and hard to connect with, and it is only harder when the character is supposed to be a machine. It could have been very easy for 2B to be a character that didn’t connect with players, as her stoic, almost soulless nature at first could come off as cold. However, she slowly grows on you. There is something about watching 2B fight that is so rhythmic, more like a dance than a battle. She wins you over with the dance instead of her conversation. She may not be one for words, but watching her fight is like watching a battle ballerina.
Overwatch sits on a major milestone in my gaming experience. From 2016 to 2019 many many hours were spent on that game. It was a game that made me enjoy and appreciate multiplayer only games more than ever before. It was a game that connected me with total strangers or coworkers as we bonded over our favorite heroes to play as. While Overwatch is starting to show its age, a major expansion dubbed “Overwatch 2” is coming that will hopefully give us the lore and story we want! One of my favorite heroes in Overwatch is the robot Bastion. He can be incredibly frustrating for new inexperienced players to deal with, especially when facing him when Bastion is on the defense. Bastion is one of the most defense focused characters in the game and is amazing at holding choke points. Besides being fun to play, and having a childlike charm about him with his meaningless chirps and fondness for birds, Bastion really stole our hearts in his overwatch short. We learn he is a former militarized machine fighting in a war, and it almost seems like he suffers from a form of robot ptsd. Definitely watch his story short above if you have never seen it.
Detroit Become Human is a phenomenal game, and it recieved a rare 10/10 score from Game Infinite, reviewed by yours truly. It is one of the most visually impressive games I have ever seen. I remember just spending hours staring at things absolutely blown away at the cinematic detail. Besides the world elements, one of the most impressive things about Detroit was the character models. Just upon loading the game, there is an Android who greets you and operates the main menu. Seeing Chloe for the first time was insane at how she is so stunningly realistic.
I thought about picking Chloe, or Kara, or Markus for this list. Really all of them are very well acted, and each have phenomenal stories. Kara goes all the way back to the original PS3 tech demo that inspired the game. Markus is the android Malcom X, Ghandi, Martin Luther King of the story, as the leader of the Android uprising? The players choices and actions can shape Markus’s philosophy from total pacifist, to peaceful but determined, to full blown violent. His arc has even more relevance in 2020 as the question of violence and its place in protesting is an even more timely and relevant conversation than it was in 2018. All these characters are amazing, but the cale has to go to Conor. The game has three protagonists, including the leader of the uprising Markus himself, but somehow Connor is the one who feels like the center of the story. To me at least, It feels like this is HIS story. Connor is a Android Detective, and the banter and dialogue between and his human partner is some of the best. Connor also gets a special gameplay mechanic where you investigate crime scenes. Connor is also crucial to the positive or engative nature to the ending of the game as he is the machine tasked with hunting down the rogue Androids. I can’t stress enough how great of a character he is and how much everyone should play this game. I know this cinematic story focused genre isn’t everyone’s style, but the story is good enough to push through that.
DBH Honorable Mentions: Chloe, Kara, Markus
The fact that you may not know who BT is a sad fact that I blame on the suits at EA. Rewind to 2016, one of the greatest games of the year was hurting in sales because someone made the idiotic decision to put Titanfall 2 up against Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty. Launching within weeks of these mega franchises significantly hurt Titanfall 2’s sales, eventually leading to the fact we will probably never see Titanfall 3. It’s not completely horrible because we did get the amazing Apex Legends. However, I am still salty at EA for doing this. Titanfall 2 recieved critical praise, and it was in my opinion the second best game of the entire year next only to Overwatch. Amazing fast paced multiplayer aside, Titanfall 2 contains the single greatest military shooter campaign on this generation. If that sounds like a lofty claim, I am far from the only one who says that. The campaign is well written, features beautiful locations, and contains one mission with one of the single-coolest gameplay mechanics I have ever seen in a shooter. I wont spoil the “Effect and Cause” mission because it is phenomenal. But really putting the icing on the cake for game was the relationship between the player and BT, the Titan of the campaign. Titanfall 1 was purely multiplayer focused, and in the multiplayer of the two games, Titans can last for mere minutes in a match before being destroyed. A single pilot can call down several titans in the course of a single battle. They came across as lifeless expendable suits. The campaign of Titanfall 2 introduced the idea of a bond between titan and pilot, that they were synthetic beings. Throughout the course of the game you really connect with BT in an incredible journey that cumulates in a massive ending. One of the things that makes BT so great is how well voice actor Glenn Steinbaum portrays him. I think one of the things that really gave BT’s voice some gravitas is how much Steinbaum’s performance reminds me of Dick Tufield who voiced the Lost in Space robot. Both robots have the same booming voice. Titanfall 2 has been free so many times across most platforms and is available super cheap that honestly if you still haven’t played this phenomenonal game you are severely missing out.
Shepard Commander, does this unit have a Soul? One of the greatest machines in all of science fiction comes to us from the greatest video game of all time, Mass Effect 2. If you haven’t played that game, I truly hope the rumors of a 2021 remaster are true because it is phenomenal. Legion is a sentient machine of the Geth that Commander Shepard meets and recruits onto his crew. It was an incredible moment as it was the first time we saw the machines from the big enemy faction, speak and make known their intelligence. Legion is an incredibly well written and well acted character. Everything about the way he speaks makes you believe he is a real life machine (a reverse turing test?) while at the same time having so much life in him. Whether it’s the quirkyness in the way he calls the main protagonist “Shepard Commander” to discussing Biblical mythology, the conversations with Legion are amazing. There’s ethical decisions to be made in his story arc, up to and not limited to genocide and the morality of rebellions. Legion’s story is about oppression and racism and fear, and parts of it will strike a chord with modern audiences. I still haven’t forgiven Bioware for my choice options in Mass Effect 3 for Legion, and I’ll take that forgiveness to my grave. I would have sacrificed every single Quarian to save Legion.
The OG herself, miss Cortana of the Halo series. Was there any doubt who should rank number one? Cortana is so at the center of gamer culture she was large enough to become the inspiration for real life virtual assistant Microsoft’s Cortana. Some of my earliest gaming memories are of the early Halo games on the original xbox. Halo is one of my oldest and longest gaming favorites. I can still remember the very first time seeing Cortana’s blurry purplish holographic figure talking to Master Chief. Way back in 2001, the concept of a talking computer was way more novel and alien. Cortana was helping Master Chief save the galaxy long before Siri was helping you find the nearest Starbucks. Cortana kept getting more and more impressive of a character with her holographic self getting more and more visually improved. It wasn’t until Halo 4 that she got her first mega upgrade. Halo 4 gave us the photorealistic Cortana, giving her details that made her so real. One of my biggest con regrets was missing out on seeing Cortana in real life. I almost got to meet Jen Taylor in real life at Halo Outpost, but I was too late. I missed her by maybe an hour. Perhaps if this pandemic ever ends, I might have another shot at some convention sometime. At least we can hope for more Cortana in Xbox’s upcoming Halo Infinite!
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