5 compelling video game character types

Discover what makes a video game character compelling enough to make players feel attached to them.

Video game character design

Storytelling in video games depends on more than plot and progress. An equally important part of the gaming experience Is the personality of your characters and how they react to the story that’s unfolding. The most important video game character of all is the one that the player controls.

Your main character steers the emotional impact of your entire game. This is how your players connect to your game world. If you make your main character both relatable and compelling, you can enhance the overall playability of your game. Here are a few character types that successfully pull players in.

1. The conflicted hero

Conflicted heroes draw people into their mindset and mission because of their relatable flawed humanity. Their thoughts and emotions are often at war, and they struggle to do the right thing, even when that’s in opposition to majority opinion or the law. This main character is at once familiar and fascinating, and sympathy for them is sometimes hard-won.

Some famous conflicted heroes include:

We’re all flawed, and we all have the capacity to do good and make amends despite those flaws. The conflicted hero often reminds us of this fundamental truth, thus endearing players.

2. The unlikely hero

What do these movie and video game characters have in common?

  • Bilbo and Frodo Baggins 
  • Luke Skywalker 
  • Ori
  • Gordon Freeman 
  • Abe the Mudokon

Give up? None of them were meant to be heroes, yet all of them became one.

The unlikely hero is universally identifiable by a few common traits. They typically come from an ordinary background and lead a simple life. They have a great amount of responsibility suddenly thrust upon them by unforeseen circumstances. Finally, rather than submit and accept defeat, they instead bravely face the resulting conflict, no matter how improbable victory may seem.

Most story heroes tend to be variants of this hero type. This is because their stories tend to mirror our own. The unlikely hero type speaks of people that conquered adversity despite their utter normalcy, just like us, even if we don’t fight dragons. We recommend watching videos and reading about the hero’s journey to learn more about creating this type of video game character.

3. The legendary hero

Some characters are the stuff of legend from the start. Characters like 

  • Lara Croft of Tomb Raider fame
  • Master Chief from the Halo franchise 
  • Commander Shepard from the Mass Effect series 

These characters are identified as total badasses from the beginning of their tales. Commander Shepard comes from an elite special forces background; Master Chief is a bionic supersoldier; Lara Croft is a world-renowned archaeologist and treasure hunter. 

Heroes like this allow for true escapism. As the legendary hero, we as players get to become larger than life. We overcome highly improbable odds, we deftly surmount any obstacle, and we make the dragon from the unlikely hero’s story our pet. This is the true value of the legendary hero character type: their ability to give players a way to feel extraordinary.

4. The silly hero

Everyone loves a bit of humor – it makes characters seem invulnerable. Their aloofness, goofiness and devil-may-care persona tell you they are not afraid to take on any challenge, large or small. But these video game characters usually share another common trait: they often use silliness and sarcasm to mask tenderness, empathy, or downright weakness, which endears them to us. Or sometimes, they are just hapless, stupid or crass – and fun to watch.

Popular silly heroes include:

  • Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Nathan Drake
  • Conker the Squirrel
  • Duke Nukem
  • Tiny Tina

If video games are an escape, a way to take players away from the dullness of daily life, who better to follow around on adventures than an absurd, vulgar, clumsy character?

5. The wanderer

It’s the character type that never settles down. They’re never in one place, they roam from town to town. The wanderer. Yeah, the wanderer. They roam around. This character type has become incredibly popular in the age of the open-world video game. Characters like…

Well, it doesn’t really matter who these characters are. Sure, some have a backstory. Some are even pivotal to the story in the game. But these characters, more often than not, depend entirely on the player.

How the player interacts with other characters, the story paths they choose to follow, the hero or villain they choose to be ... these are the important facets of this video game character. The wanderer is led by the player’s own wanderlust, and this is what makes this particular character a compelling one.

A type for everyone

When it comes to different video game character types, the list above is anything but exhaustive. There truly is a main character for everyone to escape into and enjoy, across many different genres of video game. Your players know this, and they are genuinely looking forward to the next game they can dive into. 

So what are you waiting for? Start making games, and be the hero your player needs.

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