As the seventh generation of gaming enters its twilight years, we are beckoning in a new era of games, and with them new heroic protagonists. Already we've been introduced to the likes of Nick Ramos (Dead Rising 3), Marius Titus (Ryse: Son of Rome) and, erm, that weird Knack thing (Knack), and all are worthy heroes in their own rights.
But now I'd like to pay respects to the heroes of the previous generation; whether from franchises old or new, these characters all began their lives during the seventh gaming epoch and have left a fabulous legacy for all future protagonists to heed.
20 – Isaac Clarke (Dead Space series)
Battling horrors unimaginable against the onset of paranoia, dementia and isolation, space engineer Isaac Clarke stands firm as the classic reluctant hero, even when faced with necromorphs reanimating his dead co-workers, and terrifying and violent hallucinations. Sporting a killer and unique spacesuit, Dead Space does away with the classic HUD and instead stitches it perfectly into Isaac's body, making him a hero of space and gaming innovations.
19 – Professor Hershel Layton (Professor Layton series)
Proving you don't always need brawn to be a true hero, Professor Layton is all brains and charming charisma as he battles cunning villains through classic puzzle solving. Well-mannered and infinitely intelligent, through his genius and his sweet, comical relationship with his apprentice shines a simple character who transcends time and legend, yet always remaining down to earth and ever the gentleman.
18 – Marcus Fenix (Gears of War series)
Full of bleak humour and built like a brick shithouse, Marcus Fenix is just who you need when the planet is decimated by subterranean nasties. Not only is Fenix capable of shooting, slicing and pounding from one wave of Locusts to the next, but can remain optimistic throughout the bleakest of situations. His friends are his trusted squaddies, his homies, his bros. There is a real sense of loyalty and bromance that emanates from Fenix, and knowing he's always got your back provides some shining light against the depressing backdrop of total annihilation.
17 – Jack Cayman (MadWorld)
When suddenly a city is transformed overnight into some bizarre “Running Man” style gameshow with no escape, what's a man to do other than fight the oppressors and bag that big cash prize? Well, for Jack Cayman, not everything is as it seems and he has a few ulterior motives for entering this televised bloodsport. Sporting its own unique black and white art style, MadWorld has you literally painting the town red... with the blood of thousands of mutilated bad guys, of course. A hero more suited to bloodthirsty 80s movies, Cayman, with his trademark arm-grafted chainsaw, is a welcome, morally ambiguous hero to the list.
16 – Chell (Portal series) *Mild Spoiler Alert*
Mute she may be, but the heroine of the Portal series has fought back against her psychotic robot oppressor with the kind of guile and mind-bending puzzle-solving abilities that would make Stephen Hawking blush. Very little of Chell's character is known, but sporting one of the best weapons in gaming, and solving how to fire a portal onto the surface of the moon when firing one on a darkened, flat surface nearby isn’t possible, make Chell an iconic and mysterious hero.
15 – Wei Shen (Sleeping Dogs)
A classic staple of any undercover cop movie is 'when you go undercover, remember one thing... who you are'. Hong Kong detective Wei Shen infiltrates Triad gangs by going deep, deep, deep undercover - so much so that he kills fellow cops in their hundreds. But hey, he also takes down armies of Triads and other Hong Kong badasses through innovative fighting and gunplay, so that's alright, isn't it? A hero for Hong Kong justice and a hero for the criminal underworld, however morally ambiguous Wei may be, he will always be someone's hero.
14 – Commander Shepard (Mass Effect series)
Shepard's heroism transcends to the furthest reaches of the universe, and whether it's the fact that (s)he is the first human on the council of Spectres, his/her battle-worn history or his/her multiracial teams of intergalactic ass kickers, Shepard is a hero of epic proportions. Protecting his/her own race from the evils of the universe, Shepard is the standard bearer for the protection, promotion and preservation of humanity.
13 – Adam Jensen (Deus Ex: Human Revolution)
Part man, part machine, cyberpunk hero Adam Jensen begins as man-plus, and several upgrades, enhancements and augmentations later he becomes the ultimate superhuman. As head of security for shady corporation Sarif Industries, Jensen shows his mettle a stealth master, as a gun-toting mofo, and as a worldwide conspiracy solver. Shaking off his own physical and mental scars, Jensen cements his role easily as an unbelievable hero in a fairly believable future.
12 – Lightning (Final Fantasy XIII series)
Ever gloomy, Claire Farron (real name) is a fairly pessimistic lady for the potential saviour of mankind. Nevertheless, along her travels she gets cursed, fights her fate, transcends time and endures a few hundred years' worth of coma to fight for humanity at the very brink of apocalypse. A fine swordsmith, magic caster and doting sister, Lightning may be a tad long in the tooth for this world, but she fights selflessly for your soul, and goes through more bizarre encounters than your average protagonist could handle. A worthy heroine.
11 – Meat Boy (Super Meat Boy)
When your loved one is taken by some evil bastard, what are you prepared to do to get them back? Travel overseas and kill your way through hordes of sex traffickers like Liam Neeson? Child's play. Machine gun your way through a base camp of terrorists-for-hire like Jack Bauer? Pfft, amateur. These guys wouldn't go through the agony of having to die over and over again to reclaim their loved ones, but Meat Boy sacrifices himself incessantly through mazes of spikes, saws and lasers, all in the name of love. A red square of meat he may be, but his selfless heroism stands head and shoulders above most other protagonists, and earns himself a nod for his sheer altruism.