This list is full of dicks
Back in March, for Women’s History Month, I wrote about the world’s greatest thief, Carmen Sandiego, and declared her the greatest woman ever in gaming. She’s a badass and she taught me so much about all the different countries we’re going to go to war with over the next seven years. At the end of the piece I promised we’d talk about men in gaming, and just like a gay bachelor party, this list is going to be a total sausage fest.
Today is International Men’s Day – because you know, men need a day that’s all about them – so what better time than now to for me to rap about the swaggiest swag swag in gaming, BJ Blazkowicz.
First, let me say I am neither drunk nor Polish enough to properly pronounce his last name, and I really don’t want to type it any more than that one time, so I’ll stick to calling him BJ for the rest of this. After all, who doesn’t love BJ’s? They have an outstanding menu and the best Cobb salad I’ve ever tasted.
Anyway, BJ has been killing Nazis since Nazis were the most uncontroversial enemies you could plug into a game. Good golly how times have changed. BJ is the ultimate American success story: he is the son of Polish immigrants, he served his country during World War II and he shot Hitler in the face. If he came home from the war and started a successful small business he’d in the spank bank of every Ayn Rand disciple. In comparison, last week I ate a cheese puff I found on the floor.
Also… look he shot Hitler in the fucking face, what else do you need? Here he is killing Hitler:
And here he is killing Hitler again:
Let’s freeze frame on that death for a second.
Oh yeah, that’s the good shit right there. I don’t care what the rest of the Destructoid staff says. There isn’t a man manlier in his manliness than BJ Blahblahkowitz.
I may have a lot of bias here (Zelda is my favorite series of games), but I feel like Link is possibly the greatest male in gaming. Not only is he noble, brave and strong, but he can overcome insurmountable odds due to the Triforce of Courage that inhabits him. He never treats anyone with disrespect, he is dependable when it comes to helping others out and the dude can rock a wide range of fashion without looking like a buffoon.
The biggest thing I’ve always liked about Link is his ever-changing design. Nintendo has never been afraid to re-imagine what Link looks like or how he interacts with the game world, so it is quite difficult to ever be bored by him. You never know what the next iteration of Link will look or do and that brings an air of mystery and excitement at the announcement of a new Zelda title.
Could a Zelda game work without him? Sure, because they are more about the adventure than any one individual. Can I say that I wouldn’t miss him? No, because he has been the one constant in the series that draws me into the ever-expanding legend. For that, he is my favorite male in gaming.
I’ll admit that I’m picking Nathan Drake himself less out of a personal connection or affection for the character than out of searching for, in this case, “a few good men” in gaming’s big roster. Cutting out player avatars and ciphers meant for the audience to identify with (i.e. most JRPG leads) winnows the field quite a bit, to prewritten protagonists like Drake. Back in the first Uncharted, he was a shallow archetype, a Mummy-level rendition of the classic Indiana Jones and still the most tolerable of gaming’s many (many) “puckish rogues”.
What really works for him, though, is that over the course of the series we see him change, grow, and eventually conclude his own arc, something that rarely happens for any game protagonist, regardless of gender. In Uncharted 2 we saw the rougher edges around his frankly criminal outlook on life, which would lead him to a circle of betrayal and animosity with his partners. In Uncharted 3 we unpacked more of his past, and while the third game didn’t do nearly as much for him, we at least saw more of how he got to where he ended up, particularly in relation to the series’ father figure, Sully.
Uncharted 4 is what really brought it home, though. By the time we hear about the brother Nathan literally didn’t have until this last installment, Drake seems to be almost a different person at the start of Uncharted 4. He’s married, gone straight, and seemingly happy. And yet what follows is, in any logical sense, a tremendous series of mistakes on his part. Drake needlessly endangers everything he’s gained in the years, all for the thrill of the old life. That I see none of the above as cliched and instead as the sign of a life interestingly lived (insofar as fictional characters are “alive”) speaks well of how Naughty Dog has brought their character along.
To be perfectly honest, I’m not a great fan of most male game characters. I generally find female characters much more interesting to play as, all else being equal. But that’s not to say there aren’t a few standouts. Luigi, Link, Ike and Edgar (FFVI) are all great, and even Travis Touchdown has his own unique brand of charm.
But my all-time favorite has to be Shulk, star of one of my all-time favorite JRPGs.
In comparison to other JRPG protagonists, Shulk is kind of an everyman. He’s not a fighter by any means: he’s more of a tinkerer than anything else. When he’s shown capable of using the legendary sword Monado early on in the game, he barely knows what to do with it. Even the ability to see a few seconds into the future does him exactly zero favors at first.
When Shulk is propelled into the world at large after a robot army invades his village and kills most of its inhabitants, Shulk isn’t going out there on some epic quest to save the world. He’s not going to revive the Crystals and slay the evil emperor. He just wants to scrap some goddamn toasters.
Of course, since this is a JRPG that’s not where Shulk’s development ends. By the end of Xenoblade Chronicles, Shulk has come farther than almost any other character I can think of, going from someone who can barely hold a sword to someone who rewrites reality itself.
I was with him the whole way. Rarely have I empathized with a video game character as much as Shulk. He’s genuinely nice, relatable, courageous, the core that keeps the party together, and an unlikely leader who easily draws people to him. He’s a guy I could easily be friends with, and he’s a guy I’ll gladly follow to the ends of the Earth Bionis.
I think Capcom stated it, best and most succinctly, in the intro for 1989’s Final Fight:
“He is a former champion Street Fighter. He is the new Mayor of Metro City. He has mastered professional wrestling skills and is expert at the BACK DROP and PILE-DRIVER.”
Mike Haggar is gaming’s alpha-male. How shall I count the ways? His mad single-parenting skills, his glittering wrestling career, his hands-on approach to cleaning up the city, even in his successful political ambitions. This is without even touching upon the times he fought Galactus and piledrove a shark.
Father. Mayor. Moustache. Mike Haggar is top dog. Put that in your steel pipe and smoke it. “NYARR!”
Occams Electric Toothbrush
How many of us have booted up Doom in some form or another and mowed down Imps and zombies while imaging the day’s worries plastered on the pixelated faces? Most of us. There was a time many moons ago when my evenings were spent playing Doom II on my friend’s computer while Nirvana Unplugged and Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream repeated for hours. Now smash cut to present day where Doom is reborn for a new generation who find the endless meat grinder of unholy monstrosities a refreshing and invigorating experience. Different generations but the song remains the same.
Rip and tear.
Rip and tear.
My pick is everyone’s secret man crush, Leon S. Kennedy. He went from rookie cop to zombie killing badass overnight and soon graduated to a full blown 80’s movie action hero.
You also have to give the man credit for being the star of the best Resident Evil game. RE4 has been released on just about every platform since the Gamecube for a reason.
It doesn’t get more cliche than saving the President’s daughter, but Leon manages to do so with style, and let’s not forget that epic knife fight.
Now those are some fine-ass men… and Tingle. Although, I think maybe this time — for the first time — we’re all wrong on just who is the greatest guy in gaming. To quote Salt-N-Pepa’s “Whatta Man,” the perfect guy, quote:
… is smooth like Barry, and his voice got bass
A body like Arnold with a Denzel face
He’s smart like a doctor with a real good rep
And when he comes home he’s relaxed with Pep
He always got a gift for me every time I see him
And a lot of snot-nosed ex-flames couldn’t be him
He never ran a corny line one to me yet
So I give him stuff that he’ll never forget
He keeps me on Cloud Nine just like the Temps
He’s not a fake wannabe tryin’ to be a pimp
He dresses like a dapper don but even in jeans
He’s a God sent original, the man of my dreams
Going by that definition of what makes a man a mighty, mighty good man, it’s clear there is only one gaming guy that can be the best: Tecmo Bowl‘s Bo Jackson.