Protagonists: they’re our viewpoint for our games. Every game sees you taking control of an avatar, and whether carefully sculpted by the player or scripted by a team of writers, they are you in-world visage as you explore virtual realms.
These leads can make or break a game, depending on how charismatic or memorable they are. In the case of games like God of War, the entire focus centers around the protagonist, taking pains to follow Kratos with every shot and every scene.
This year saw an influx of new protagonists, competing with some well-established gaming titans. A tiny debate about the year’s best blew up into a bit of a Twitter fiasco yesterday, so we’re posing the question to you now: who’s the best video game protagonist of 2020?
There are a lot really phenomenal leads in games this year. Kasio from If Found, Maddy from Necrobarista, and Zagreus from Hades were some of my favorites. But I really, really still love Ichiban Kasuga from Yakuza: Like a Dragon. He is the wholesome, well-intentioned, bull-headed, lovable doof who cannot wait to tell you how great Dragon Quest is. He’s idealistic and eager for change, and helps those in need whenever he can. He’s the perfect fit to take up the mantle Kazuma Kiryu left behind, and easily one of my favorite characters of the year.
As I look at my in-progress Game of the Year list, a certain VR title is practically screaming at me to namecheck its lead here, but Alyx was already a pretty great character back in 2004. Instead, I’m going to name a character first introduced in 2013 and who’s more a member of an ensemble than a protagonist (this isn’t a Twitter poll and I’m not bound to your rules, Eric). Kentucky Route Zero’s Shannon Márquez is my favorite castmember. I always perk up a bit when given the option to pick between her dialogue choices, an opportunity to dig into the story of this drifter who’s nonetheless spent most of her life stuck in place with a TV repair business and little else. Shannon’s intimate knowledge on how to fix old things seems like a sort of crude life preserver of sorts, something to hold on to in a world where the same waters people float on seem poised to drown or erase them.
It’s definitely the B-Wing. I mean, think about it—when the Rebellion’s famed gun platform failed to appear in Star Wars Squadrons, what did everyone say? Where’s my B-wing! The outcry was enough that EA Motive buckled this December and released both the B-Wing and the TIE Defender as part of a free update that measurably improved the overall game. The B-wing is one of 2020’s heroes, and I will brook no dissent on this. Besides, did you see that they actually incorporated the rotating cockpit into the gameplay? It’s so good.