Check out Destructoid’s favorite new video game characters of 2022

A roundup of this year’s new gaming icons

2022 has been an incredible year for games, and along with them, exciting new video game characters. From enigmatic movie stars to adorably pixelated version of extinct animals, the host of fresh faces games introduced to us has been nothing short of delightful, thought-provoking, and badass. As time goes on, our memories of certain game mechanics or buggy technical details may fade, but what will always remain are our memories of the virtual friends we made along the way. It’s the way they act as our analog into the digital worlds we explore, and the way they stare into our souls, that will stick with us for years to come.

To take you through our favorite new video game characters of 2022, we rallied the Destructoid staff to tell you all about the colorful personalities that painted their experiences this year. These staff posts are admittedly some of my absolute favorites that we get to do, and something that always surprises me is just how varied our tastes are in the games we play. Reading over this list has me all excited to try out some new titles I may have missed this year, and of course, meet the rest of this lineup of newfangled gaming icons. — Noelle Warner

Marissa Marcel Immortality

Noelle Warner: Marissa Marcel from Immortality

This is a bit of an interesting one, because while we’re used to actors in video games lending their voice or performance to be layered over some of kind of animated avatar, Immortality utilizes full motion video and live action performances to tell its story. The game’s protagonist Marissa Marcel has got to be my choice for this year, because I was absolutely blown away by this character’s evolution over the course of the game. Not only that, but the entire thing was portrayed to the player in a non-linear fashion, which only added to the mystery.

When we first see Marissa, she’s doing an interview for her Hollywood debut — she’s bubbly, radiant, and ready to take on the spotlight. As the classic story goes, the further she goes into her new life, the more complicated and corrupted things become. While the bulk of her screen time that we get to see comes down to her performances in the raw footage of the films she’s working on, I found myself craving more and more of that behind the scenes footage to get a better sense of who Marissa really was.

Marissa’s character had to be pitch perfect the entire time when it came to the writing and performance in order to elegantly tie into the game’s main themes, and I’d say that feat was achieved with flying colors. Immortality was probably my favorite game of the year, and the nuanced, carefully crafted character of Marissa Marcel was a highlight of that experience, for sure.

Eric Van Allen: Eunie from Xenoblade Chronicles 3

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 hit with full force this year, as a titanic RPG for the Nintendo Switch. A big part of that appeal, I’d argue, is its core cast; any of them could easily make this list, from the pensive Taion and meat-headed Lanz to the girl with the gall, Sena.

But I have to be honest with myself: Eunie is the frontrunner. She might come across as comic relief at first, but she’s a source of levity in the ongoing drama of Xenoblade. Her overblown accent and jokes about feathers soon give way, though. During one early story beat, Eunie makes a shocking discovery, one that leaves her a bit shaken as the story goes on.

Seeing how she kept up the jokes while dealing with internal worry and trauma made Eunie an instant favorite. A careful balance is struck here, and it works out. Even as other characters get a bit more spotlight as the game goes on, Eunie keeps that contrast carefully balanced, with comedic wit and emotion in equal measure, making her one of the more interesting main party members to me throughout the story.

Arven

CJ Andriessen: Arven from Pokémon Violet & Scarlet

This was a surprisingly tough pick this year because so many characters throughout 2022 resonated with me. Kay from NORCO is a good example of somebody I probably should be writing about instead of Arven. The same goes for any of the characters found in The Case of the Golden Idol, a game that unfortunately only came onto my radar about a week ago. But I experienced something in December that had me reevaluate my love and appreciation for Arven, the good dog owner. Early in the month, two locals went on trial for allegedly mistreating their animals. Animal Control took nine dogs–two English Bulldogs and seven Frenchies–from small cages and charged their owners with criminal neglect.

I was on the jury for this case. In fact, I was the jury foreman. And for three days of witnesses and testimonies, I had to listen to stories about the terrible conditions these dogs were in. By the end of it, it was clear to all of us on the jury these two were bad dog owners. That’s why I’m going with Arven.

After a week of hearing about dogs suffering from skin conditions and disgusting secretions, I had to remind myself there are decent people out there in the world who will do anything for their pets. And Arven is one such individual. The dude’s entire questline in Pokémon Violet Scarlet revolves around his love of his Mabosstiff and how he’ll fight to help heal is dogémon. He’s arguably not the most interesting character of 2022 (Noelle’s already written about them) but he is the character I want to celebrate right here, right now for being such a good dog owner.

Timothy Monbleau: Larry from Pokémon Violet & Scarlet

The target audience for Pokemon is a bit baffling in the modern day. While the franchise undoubtedly moves forward with kids in mind, its core audience since Red & Blue are pushing into their 30s at least. It’s debatable how well Pokemon caters to both these audiences, but Larry is easily the best gift they’ve given to their adult fans yet.

I’ve yet to meet a single person who said anyone other than Larry was their favorite gym leader of Generation 9. Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I can’t stop laughing that a deadpan, overworked businessman even exists within a universe as filled with shonen optimism as Pokemon. He’s just so dang relatable to anyone who has ever worked an office job. He shows up for work, does what he must do, but he’s not happy about it. That’s not to say Larry doesn’t put in ample effort, since he specifically mentions he’s been told to cut his overtime hours. He’s just a normal person leading a normal life, which is the best representation of the Normal Type in the series yet.

There is a small part of me that can’t help but analyze Larry on a deeper level. Did the Pokemon League make him this way? Was Larry once a young trainer with dreams of grandeur that were beaten out of him as he aged? Is Larry an aspirational figure, or a cautionary tale? I don’t know if these questions have clear answers, or if they should be asked at all. I’m just happy he paid for my meal after the gym battle. After all, he worked hard to make that salary.

donut dodo best characters 2022

Jonathan Holmes: The Dodo from Donut Dodo

Old-school, single-screen arcade action platformers needed to do a little with a lot in order to draw players in. Competing head-to-head with dozens of other cabinets in your local video arcade is no small struggle. The key to winning that battle was almost always a battle of mascots. There’s a reason why the likes of Donkey Kong and Pac-Man are still iterated on today, while aspiring franchises like I’m Sorry and Wiping were left in the dust. While most everyone can relate to a sincere apology or a good old-fashioned wipe, unless you communicate the essence of those concepts with a fun, evocative icon, your game just isn’t going to land.

That’s why I’m confident that if it had been released as an arcade title back in the 80s, Donut Dodo would have thrived and survived through the decades. And that would be thanks, in no small part, to the retro title’s kooky, cute-ugly mascot; the titular Dodo. Like the largely extinct genre of game he stars in, this inviting-yet-threatening bird is single-minded in purpose: He wants a donut.

In that way, he’s more of a rival than a villain to Donut Dodo’s playable character, the hapless, toilet-beguiled baker who has to grab every fried ring of dough in the land before he can move on with his life. It’s amazing how much character and memorable feeling the developer of Donut Dodo managed to pack into this relatively one-dimensional little game. I will be thinking of that dopey-but-dastardly bird’s asymmetrical blink and shameless theft of my hard-earned junk food for a long time.

guilty gear strive testament bridget

Chris Moyse: Testament & Bridget from Guilty Gear Strive

I know… I know… Look, I’m sort of wing-wording this, so bear with me…

While Guilty Gear Strive stars Testament and Bridget are not new characters per se, (Bridget made her debut in 2002’s Guilty Gear X2, while Testament’s lineage dates right back to the original 1998 release), 2022 saw these two characters come to important realizations about their pasts, their futures and, crucially, themselves. Having been, arguably, two of the most androgynous characters in the history of the long-running franchise, This year saw both Testament and Bridget finally hatch into their true selves, driven by newfound confidence and the desire to seize the reins of their own destinies.

The transition of Testament and Bridget was met with enthusiastic glee by many in the gaming community. A battalion of GG fans voiced their joy at the characters’ reaching a peak in their respective arcs, with social media awash with beautiful artwork, passionate cosplay, and fun videos — some fans even weeping with delight. The hatching of Testament and Bridget is, assuredly, a seminal gaming moment of 2022. And in a year where Rainbow Six Siege, Need for Speed Unbound, and Apex Legends also introduced new trans characters, sees the important field of inclusivity in gaming broadened.

On a more personal note, Testament’s transition came at something of an ironic time for me. For while this goth has spent 2022 in a mind maze regarding their own identity, (I’m still to find the map), it was wonderful, inspirational even, to see that goth find peace with themselves. As a (supposed) writer, I should probably be able to form my words and thoughts in clearer fashion. But matters of identity are not always clear. And for now, much like the person I see in the mirror, this will have to suffice.

Sam Arthurs: the Lamb from Cult of the Lamb

I knew that I wanted to play Cult of the Lamb from the moment I saw the adorable cult leader. I’m drawn to indie games anyway, but the use of a cute lamb in bold red and black had me instantly in love. It took a few months before I could buy and play the game, but once I did, I was obsessed. The Little Lamb cult leader without a name is my favorite 2022 game character because I basically mind-melded with them.

In the beginning of the game, the Lamb is sacrificed to the Old Gods, but a devilish figure brings him back to life. The deal makes the Lamb immortal, but in exchange, they need to gather followers and kill the Old Gods. While you can make your cute animal followers and cult headquarters as wholesome and picturesque as you want, the dark seeps in. As the leader for individuals with thoughts and needs, it’s never as simple as growing a mindless flock.

Decisions have to be made. The Lamb doesn’t have a fixed personality of their own, but the way the game plays out makes it like the Lamb lends a darkness to the player. I walked into the game thinking that my cult would be a totally vegetarian and sacrifice-free paradise. On the first day, an elder died of natural causes, but I had nowhere to bury the body. We ended up eating him. Later that day, a follower became a dissenter so strong that I almost lost half of my flock! So he had to go. Tentacles came out of the ground and turned him into meat.

What I’m saying is that playing this game, I’m not just me, and I’m not the Lamb either. We’re in this together, making choices the best that we can to take care of our followers. Does it feel a little fucked up? Yeah. But we got past it. Burial plots take up space, and meat feeds hungry mouths.

Priest Simulator Orlok

Zoey Handley: Orlok from Priest Simulator

I ran through my list of games I played that were released this year, and my first thought was Blaidd the Half-Wolf from Elden Ring. But then, he didn’t really do all that much to make him a compelling character. I was mostly interested to know if he was furry all over, if you know what I mean. It’s actually disappointing how little development we got, but that’s kind of the way of these games. It’s often more about how your imagination fills in the blanks, and I can tell you my imagination is filling in a lot of blanks when it comes to Blaidd. If you know what I mean.

Instead, I’m going with Orlok from Priest Simulator. I love Orlok because he’s flawed in a way that makes him the perfect video game protagonist. There’s a Korok in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, who says the quiet part out loud by imparting, “If you keep doing everything everyone asks of you without question, you’re gonna get conned eventually…” That’s a phrase that can be applied to a lot of protagonists, but for Orlok, that’s central to his character. He aligns himself with the church because it nets him adulation. He doesn’t care what he’s doing so long as it gets him attention. He’s very much a representation of a lot of internet personalities who seek only to get their genitals touched softly by as many people as possible, no matter how much it makes them look like a softly-touched genital.

Whispering Willow: Ranni from Elden Ring

I think it was inevitable someone from Elden Ring would make this list and who else but best girl Ranni The Witch? She’s the only person in The Lands Between that seems to know what’s up and has a worthwhile plan to address it. She’s quite frankly had enough of this Outer God/Greater Will business

And what else isn’t to like about her? She’s a four-armed frost doll witch with a second spectral face conjoined to her left eye. Given how many people gave their lives for a doll version of Lady Marie in Bloodborne (the blood sacrifices are still ongoing), I suppose it’s natural to want to put a ring on Ranni. She’s Eldenlordesexual, so she’s okay with you marrying her.

Of course, this does have a tragic twist regarding cool wolfboy Blaidd and leaves a giant blacksmith lonely, but if you want to set the universe right some eggs must be cracked before you can scramble the stars and bring about the Age of the Dark Moon.

Some folks act like gay marriage is going to break the universe, that it will leave humanity broken, isolated and alone for a thousand years under the dark moon. That’s not true in real life, but in Elden Ring it’s the stuff baby tentacle gods dream of, as well as four-armed witch dolls. And so in marrying Ranni, I broke the cycle and saved the universe.

Sorrel Kerr-Jung: Neon White from Neon White

Everything I love about Neon White can be summed up by the title character. In an increasingly sexless medium, here is a dude who just wants to get laid. In an era where the only “cool” characters are sad dads, here is a ghost with a parkour addiction who loves anime swords. Neon White is a badass hero from a bygone era, and I love him for it.

It’s so rare for video games to represent this specific type of cool guy – an idiot in most areas who’s just so good at what he does (slicing through the demon-infested cities of heaven) that you just have to respect him. White can oscillate effortlessly between being the butt of the joke and being the star of the show. He’s like a gun-toting Phoenix Wright with a double jump.

It’s hard to imagine a character like White showing up in any game other than Neon White. He’s entirely out of place in the modern gaming landscape, but so is this specific game. As games creep toward the furthest extremes of cynicism and sentimentality, this horny dumbass with a heart of gold and a rocket launcher is a breath of fresh air.

Noelle Warner
Features Editor