The challenge to pick five best and worst male video game characters is a rather daunting one. There's no way a single person could create a condensed list of the absolute best and worst characters in the history of gaming, so let's instead call this list a springboard for conversation. I've chosen five relatively recent video game characters that have failed to impress and five that I think are examples of great character-building or are simply eminently likeable. Share which characters are on your own lists in the comments section.
These little guys seem to be multiplying with every Mario game, and yet they remain as obnoxious as the day they told us that the Princess was in another castle. These entirely incompetent little mushroom-heads appear to only be capable of two basic emotional states: terminal cheerfulness or abject terror. Neither state is particularly helpful to our long-suffering plumber, who is either hindered by Toad's well-meaning assistance or is simply squeaked at with useless information like, "Help! Bowser attacked and stole the princess!" Of course he did, Toad. That's what he does. Learn some freaking kung fu and protect her for a change. Do I have to do everything around the Mushroom Kingdom?
The original Duke Nukem was at least somewhat amusing as a parody of the prototypical '80's action hero. Unfortunately, during the interminable development cycle of Duke Nukem Forever, the Duke became that which he formerly mocked. His jokes fell flat and the toilet humor he employed could be considered lame by the average eight-year-old. Lacking the proper level of camp and taken out of historical context, the new Duke is nothing but a jerk and a bully. The absolute worst part of the character is his treatment of women. Violent misogyny is never okay, even if it's supposed to be a joke. It's time to retire the old guy for good and look to the cast of the upcoming Overstrike for comedy action heroes better suited to this century.
Fargoth may be a bit of a gimmie, but he has a proud history as one of the more well-known obnoxious quest givers in RPG history. Fargoth acts as a greeter of sorts, accosting the character at the very beginning of the game and demanding for help finding a lost ring. With a whiny demeanor and a face that only a Bethesda texture artist could love, this hapless NPC never had a chance. Fargoth is now famous for starring in innumerable YouTube videos in which he is punched in the face by Chuck Norris, punted into outer space, or slain in various creative ways.
Poor Prince of Persia. After an amazing reboot in The Sands of Time, the Prince has been stuck in a morass of bad characterization and questionable game design choices. His portrayal in The Warrior Within is the genesis of the Internet meme phrase, "I smolder with generic rage," originally used to mock the character in a Penny Arcade comic. He may not be the first video game character to suffer from Perpetual Anger Syndrome (hi, Kratos), but he's one of the more unfortunate victims of the disease. He's supposed to be the prince of witty banter, not of overwrought grimdark gushiness.
Few things are more annoying than a video game villain who just won't die. Seymour of Final Fantasy X is a great example of this. Despite being killed by the party early in the game, he manages to reincarnate himself and must be "killed" several more times by the party throughout the game. In addition, he has terrible fashion sense and the bad graces to attempt the old "forced marriage" technique on the main female character. Probably worst of all, though, is his motivation for being evil in the first place. He's a miserable person and thus has decided to blow up the world so that no one will ever be miserable again. Lame!