Remember when good guys were good, bad guys were bad, and kids could tell the difference? Those days passed by the wayside in the 00s, with antiheroes and negative Nancies dominating the protagonist landscape. In this list, we'll run down the ten best examples of a bad lot.
TRAVIS TOUCHDOWN (NO MORE HEROES) - Like a mirror held up against our decadent and crawling subculture, Travis Touchdown forgoes muscles strapped to muscles growing in places where muscles don't grow for a ropey, gangly build. His weapon is a lightsaber he bought on Ebay, he can't find a girlfriend and he cannot, cannot stop spanking the plank. Borderline pedorastic, infantile and self-regarding - Travis Touchdown IS the hardcore gamer of today. Whereas games like GTA have you spending your ill-gotten gains on new safehouses, cars and guns, Travis buys t-shirts from an import shop and amasses a glut of nerd paraphernalia. Yet he's also an insanely competent fighter with a strongly developed sense of personal honor, rounding out what could have been a truly obnoxious parody into a redeemable figure.
Defining Moment: Having just murdered an entire houseful of people and decapitated an aging metalhead during a frenzied swordfight, Travis goes home to relax with his anime posters, and maybe to hump a pillow. Moe~!
MARCUS FENIX (GEARS OF WAR)
Gears Of War has always struck me as an interesting one. While the game features massive stacks of man-meat flexing their guns and doing insanely macho things while shouting FIGHT THROUGH THE PAIN! it also seems to be only hypothetically aware women exist. The subtextual repressed homosexuality becomes nearly entirely textual as your team of hunky beefcakes penetrate the evil Locust threat with hyper-phallic chainsaws and act like, and I quote "two assholes on a first date". Marcus (voiced by television's Joe DiMaggio, AKA Bender) is the spokesman for Generation Bro - an assembled mess of Xbox Live dork-holes not so much trying to distance themselves from their feminine sides as cut them out with a knife while listening to Insane Clown Posse and crying. Next time you hear some kid screaming hatefully about how totally gay those man-loving homosexuals are, just remember - every time he plays Gears he is extremely aroused and he has no idea why.
Defining Moment: After Marcus' bromeo Dom shoots his own wife in the face, the two warriors share a tender moment of killing everything that moves, broken only by guilty stolen glances at the other's cyberarmoured powerloin.
CARL (GRAND THEFT AUTO: SAN ANDREAS)
San Andreas was a real step up for the GTA series, what with literally hundreds of worthwhile side-quests, missions and distractions. None of this would have worked without a player character you didn't hate. The inclusion of a black protagonist ignited a minor firestorm of depressing racial intolerance on the irredeemably dumb parts of the Internet, but Carl proved to be the most rounded GTA protagonist to date. He's a murdering son of a bitch who'd slit your throat for a respect +, but Carl is a likeable asshole, with flawed motivations stemming from positive human impulses like guarding his family and keeping drugs out of his neighbourhood. Unfortunately, this makes your inevitable murder death kill rampage seem all the more insane - Carl starts the game being wrongly framed for the murder of a police officer, giving the SAPD's CRASH team a sinister hold on him. By the end of the game, however, you'll have killed all the police officers, with no consequences beyond having to outgun a SWAT team or five.
Defining Moment: Chasing down Chris Penn and killing him with a chainsaw.
BABY BOWSER (SUPER MARIO SERIES)
OK - the little runt isn't as cool as the Koopa Kids from Super Mario Bros. 3, and he has the misfortune of debuting in Super Mario Sunshine, a serious low point in the Mario stable. I'd have to direct you to to New Super Mario Bros. to show why this tyke belongs here - he's so badass he turns his horribly burned dad into a reanimated zombie skeleton to fight Mario. Man, if you think about it, that game is messed up!
Defining Moment: Using his father's own reanimated corpse as a revenge weapon. His cravat is so dapper!
THE SPY (TEAM FORTRESS II)
Overrated snoozefest Half Life II might get all the critical acclaim, but the real deal at Valve is Team Fortress II. Bringing character to the overly generic realm of team-based FPSes, every one of TFII's crazed mercenaries overflows with character - psychotic, hateful character. No shortage of jerks to choose from, here, but we're giving this one to the Spy. The Scout may be obnoxious, the Soldier psychotic and deluded, but it's the Spy who'd wait five days in a cess pit to jump out and stab you in the chocolate starfish. It's the Spy who strikes from behind, killing you to death invisibly and ruining your totally sweet string of kills. Not content with making one of the griefiest classes in the history of games, Valve went on to canonically establish that the Spy is such an jerk he'll sleep with your mother, show you the pictures then gut you like a fish, steal your identity and kill all your friends too.
Defining Moment: Making you ragequit after dominating you for the whole match. Having sex with your mother.
MAX PAYNE (MAX PAYNE SERIES)
Max Payne is so gritty he chews asphalt for breakfast while rubbing his nethers with a cheese grater and so far he's never cried ONCE. The man with more internal monologue than a busload of Spider-Men gunned and euologised his way through two New York nights full of deceit, murder and clumsy symbolism to avenge his wife and child while proving that a Hawaiian shirt under a leather jacket DOES look hideous. Everything Max loves dies, but that's OK, because it gives him catharsis and closure when he goes out and shoots three million gangsters in glorious bullet time. He really, really loves painkillers.
Defining Moment: Being shot multiple times in the chest, thrown into a a deep pit, then being shot in the skull - and finishing the game without so much as a limp. Those painkillers must be good stuff, man.
SHADOW THE HEDGEHOG (SONIC THE HEDGEHOG SERIES)
Honestly, when this guy popped up who didn't see the writing on the wall for Sega? To celebrate the 10th birthday of their mascot, Sega proceeded to stop making fun games and introduced Shadow, Sonic's angsty Trent Reznoresque doppelganger and complete sack of unoriginal horse dung. Gone are the days when Sonic games were all about rescuing cute animals from robot slavery, here to stay are such insane plot points as wanting to destroy the world because the government shot your best friend who was a little girl with AIDS and no, I'm not lying about this. Shadow's own game is even more insane, with the vile non-entity variously committing genocide, trying to kill the president, blowing up Washington DC with an orbital laser and crushing Dr Robotnik's skull with a karate chop. Sega are the real jerks here, but Shadow is their herald.
Defining Moment: Ruining Sega FOREVER. Hanging out with a freakish bat-girl and her big ole floppy tits. Doing drivebys on aliens in a car with an MP5 submachine gun. Too many to list.
ALEX MERCER (PROTOTYPE)
Prototype was an excellent snack of a game, bringing everything we loved about Hulk: Ultimate Destruction together with some fun new Venom-style moves. While the cutscenes are at pains to stress what an awesome guy you are, the actual gameplay sees literally every action you take resulting in at least five surrounding innocents exploding in a fireworks show of viscera. You regain health from eating brains, for god's sake. Mercer's battle for the heart and soul of Manhattan gives you all the toys you need to be the biggest jerk ever, like a whip tentacle that you can use to hookshot onto targets or vertically bisect everything in a fifteen foot radius. That's before you've even bothered to hijack a tank, crush hundreds of New Yorkers, throw a conveniently placed senior citizen into the rotors of pursuing attack helicopters or impersonate the commanding officer you just ate and calling in an artillery strike on his loyal, unquestioning charges.
Defining Moment: Releasing a deadly virus that destroys half of New York, then making up for it by eating, slicing and otherwise decimating the half you missed.
HARMAN SMITH (KILLER 7)
Harman's not just a complete jerk, he's lots of complete jerks all at once. While he may be wheelchair bound this pro sniper has the curious power to absorb the personas of his victims and manifest them, creating the deadly "Smith Syndicate" of Killers. Understanding the plot of Killer 7 involves a great deal of staring hard at the back story and a working vacation to a place I call "vicodin island", but the gist is simple: Harman and his trapped personas wage a bloody war against the "Heaven Smile" organisation - a bizarre subculture that turns people into hideous invisible time bombs, taking time out to fight perverted rival assassins, Afro-sporting messiahs and enigmatic Super Sentai-teams.
Defining Moment: Murdering himself.
THE KING OF ALL COSMOS (Katamari Damacy series)
Parent issues rarely lead to great art - Korn, Eminem and the greater mass of Livejournal.com users are proof of this. Yet it's the dysfunctional relationship between the King and his son The Prince that drives the beloved Katamari series. As the lord of the universe, the King Of All Cosmos frequently annihilates great portions of the universe on drunken whims, only to send his psychologically tormented offspring to destroy entire towns and communities while stealing enough matter to replace all those dead star systems. Consider us The Republicans Of All Cosmos, because this guy is a dick,
Defining Moment: Destroying the homes of hundreds of cute animals with a massive tsunami.