There will be light spoilers about the games each character appears in. Use caution ahead.
This category is devoted to the ten best characters that were introduced to us in 2017. Characters are the backbone of any good story. These are the ten that I found to be the most compelling for one reason or another. I found it very challenging to write about why these characters affected me. I tried my best to keep my rambling to a minimum, but I don’t know that I succeeded. Let’s get started with a character that is sure to be a bit on the divisive side.
#10 - Dr. Suvi Anwar (Mass Effect: Andromeda)
Suvi is a bright light on an otherwise underwhelming and disappointing game. Suvi is the crew’s resident science officer. She is also deeply religious. It is something that I could immediately relate to. So often, the idea of science and faith are put at odds against each other. It was a giant breath of fresh air to experience a character that explored the ways in which the two things can exist as one. In a game that was rather lackluster, conversations with Suvi were one of the few things I looked forward to after each mission.
#09 - Magilou (Tales of Berseria)
I will admit that Magilou tends to exist through a big chunk of the game as a clichéd character. She’s not only the comic relief, but she’s also the one with unclear loyalties. Even so, she is a great one of those characters. She’s genuinely funny and learning her motivations and intentions is immensely satisfying. I would love to go into more detail, but it has been almost a year since finishing this game, and the details are blurry at best. The most important part is that Magilou is a fun character who often made me genuinely laugh out loud.
#08 - Sigrund (Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus)
Sigrund Frau’s introduction is devastating. She is being berated by her Nazi mother for being overweight, for writing in English in her journal, and finally for not being able to sever the head of a resistance member. Her mother continues by mocking her with the aforementioned severed head. It’s disgusting stuff. It’s easy to imagine that Sigrund was physically and emotionally abused by her mother her entire life. After a sequence of events, Sigrund joins the resistance and turns against the Nazis and her mother. However, as the daughter of a top ranking Nazi officer, she is often met with doubt and suspicion in the resistance. After being continually called a Nazi by the new resistance leader, Sigrund gives one of my favorite speeches in the game. It’s a great moment in a game jam packed with great moments.
#07 - Bayek (Assassin's Creed: Origins)
Ubisoft’s excellent return to the Assassin’s Creed franchise includes the best protagonist in the series since Ezio. While I was initially worried that his quest for revenge would paint him as a one dimensional character, the game began shining a light on other sides of Bayek’s character. Bayek genuinely seems to care about the plights of his fellow Egyptians. Through flashbacks, we get to see Bayek as a father, stargazing with his son and talking about life and what the future holds. We also get to see his dad side reemerge when he finds kids in need in small villages throughout Egypt. His relationship with Aya also felt incredibly real. The conclusion of their story was also heartbreaking. It was unsatisfying in a way that life sometimes can be. I would love to see Bayek return in future games or DLC.
#06 - Velvet Crowe (Tales of Berseria)
It’s been almost a year since I finished the latest Tales game, so I apologize if I don’t quite hit the mark. Like Bayek above, Velvet’s story is one of revenge. She experienced a terrible tragedy and lost everything and everyone. Her new mission is to destroy the one responsible. She is 100% antihero. Throughout the game, she is constantly ruthless in her journey for revenge, and it is up to the others around her to keep her in check. I don’t remember the exact details, but I truly enjoyed that her story didn’t take the easy, predictable route. She didn’t suddenly learn the error of her ways and become an unselfish person. She took a different route and the game was all the better for it.
#05 - Edith Finch (What Remains of Edith Finch)
Edith gets an unfair advantage by being the lens through which you experience the lives and deaths of so many other characters. She’s on a mission to find the truth behind a supposed family curse. As she makes her way through the unique house, she ruminates about whether or not she’s doing the right thing. Edith wonders if the stories themselves only perpetuate the idea of a curse. She never seems to come to a concrete decision, but ultimately decides to pass on her family’s history. This idea that myths can create history is fascinating, and Edith was a compelling central character to explore this idea. Valerie Rose Lohman also does a wonderful job voicing Edith.
#04 - Rachel Amber (Life is Strange: Before the Storm)
I’m using the term “new character” a little loosely here. While Rachel was introduced in 2015’s Life is Strange, it wasn’t until the prequel, Before the Storm, that we really get to know her. I’m not including Rachel because there’s something special or unique about her, but because she’s so incredibly believable. Rachel represents every teenager who seems to have it all but is falling apart on the inside. Her perfect parents aren’t perfect at all. Rachel’s world is shattered after learning her dad’s secret. Unequipped to deal with such emotions, she lashes out. Rachel’s whirlwind of anger, sadness, and hopelessness manifests itself as an actual forest fire burning everything it comes into contact with. This fire sets the tone for next episode. It’s always looming over Arcadia Bay just as it’s always sitting in the back of Rachel’s mind as she makes plans to disappear with Chloe. Deck Nine delivered on making a complex teenager feel genuine.
#03 - 2B (Nier: Automata)
I honestly don’t know how to properly write about my feelings on 2B. The way the player’s perspective of her relationship with 9S changes over the course of the game is just fantastic and terrible. At the beginning of the game, 2B appears to be cold and unwilling to be personable with 9S. However, there is a very specific reason for this. Her purpose is to eliminate him every time he learns the true nature of Project YoRHa. This means time and time again, she forges a bond with 9S only to have to kill him, ultimately resetting his memories. Hints of this permeate the early game, but it isn’t until you receive this context that the full impact this has on 2B is realized. It’s truly heartbreaking.
#02 - Aloy (Horizon: Zero Dawn)
Aloy doesn’t take crap from anybody. Aloy is a strong female character. Ashly Burch does a fantastic job bringing her to life. Aloy grew up as an outcast simply for having no mother. She was raised by Rost who became Aloy’s father figure. For years, Rost trains Aloy for The Proving, which would allow her back into the tribe if she wins. Of course, everything goes horribly wrong and Aloy begins her adventure to find her and the world’s truths. Years in the wilds taught Aloy to be compassionate towards others in need. Her interactions with others during some of the side quests are some of my favorites in any open world game. Aloy continually shows that she’s willing to persevere despite the devastating revelations she encounters along the way. This all culminates in one of the sweetest moments of the year to cap off one of my favorite games of the year.
#01 - Senua (Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice)
I am not affected by mental illness. I’m not qualified to speculate on whether Senua is a good representation of what mental illness is like. I will say, personally speaking, that I can imagine that she is the best representation in a major game of what mental illness could be like for some people. Senua is affected by psychosis. She sees things that aren’t there. Her father would have her believe that she is cursed. He would have her believe that all the tragedy she witnesses in her life is brought about by her curse. Eventually the guilt of this overwhelms her leading to the events that take place at the beginning of Hellblade. Every emotion Senua felt during her journey resonated through me. Any feeling of comfort while playing this game was short lived. Melina Jeurgens brought a character to life that affected me deeply.
In a year that includes so many wonderful games, it was hard to narrow this list down to just ten. I have no doubt hat there are dozens of other fantastic characters introduced this year, so let me know in the comments what some of your favorites were!
Aaron (me) is a lover of games, Extra Life member, Twitch streamer, and husband. I have never written much before, so I apologize if things start a little rough. I hope to improve in time.