Unless the creators of a game are specifically trying not to, most protagonists in games are made with the intent of making them likable to the player. This is because, with a few exceptions, the inability to identify with or like the protagonist can seriously impact perception of the entire experience. Most game developers succeed in this regard and I can say that I’m quite fond of the majority of protagonists I’ve played as throughout gaming. However, sometimes, whether the creator meant it or not, the protagonist of a game is just not likable for any number of reasons, from being insufferably whiney to completely annoying. To go along with that, I’m listing the 10 game protagonists that I simply hate to play as. Be aware that there are massive SPOILERS for a few games in this list, so don’t read if that will bother you.
Wario originally came into being as an enemy for Mario in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. He has since appeared in many games involving Mario and eventually ended up with two series for himself with the WarioLand and WarioWare series. Now, I was never fond of Wario from the very beginning. In my eyes, he never had the qualities that would have made him an enjoyable villain and he hasn’t gained them over the years. When he got his own series, I looked to them to see if they would change my opinion and they did not. Wario is still the greedy jerk he originally was and he was never funny or interesting enough for me to see him as anything more than that. I understand he was meant to be this way, but that doesn’t mean I have to like him and if there’s one thing I don’t like it’s an unentertaining protagonist being a jerk or villain for the sake of it. Wario does exactly that and that’s why he is on my list.
When Shadow originally appeared in Sonic Adventure 2, I was indifferent about him. He was kind of a jerk but, like many other anti-heroes, he helped everyone out in the end and seemingly died with pretty good closure. It wasn’t anything special, but it was an okay character and story …, until Sega decided to bring him back for later games. After seeing him in more games, I began to dislike him more and more until Shadow’s actual starring role in the game of the same name, where I grew to really hate him. The thing is, to me, Shadow is pretty much the archetype of a poorly-done anti-hero.
Shadow has a “tragic” backstory, acts generally like an asshole to many others for no discernable reason, likes playing for whatever side benefits him, although he tends to pick the right side in the end, and the games act like he’s one of the coolest things ever. I don’t really like anti-heroes in general unless the creators of the characters give them lots of development and other reasons to like them other than just being “cool.” There is nothing unique or interesting about Shadow in this regard and the behavior he exhibits because he is an anti-hero is cliché, predictable, and annoying. He gives me no reasons to like him and I really wish he would have stayed dead at the end of Sonic Adventure 2.
Braid was an interesting time-travel based puzzle game made by an independent developer few years back. The protagonist, Tim, was going through these platforming levels in order to try and rescue a princess from a monster, or so we were told in narration. As it turns out in the final level, Tim was the monster that was chasing the princess and the knight that she seemed to escape from in the final level was actually the person she was running to in order to escape Tim. Even though the game is rather ephemeral and it’s unsure if what happened in the game really did happen, it’s still very clear that Tim is a creeper who was chasing a woman who wanted absolutely nothing to do with him. The protagonist is the bad guy here and whatever his reason, what he’s doing makes me dislike him. After all, it’s very hard to like a guy who’s chasing after someone who so obviously doesn’t want to be with him and is even referred to as a “monster” in her eyes. There is also nothing done to offset this perception of him, so players have virtually no reasons to like Tim and I’m no exception to that.
7.) Jim Corbijn
Anyone who’s seen AngryJoe’s review of MindJack or played it, like I have, can tell you that the game is just a third-person shooter that had problems in pretty much every area it was possible to have them. One of these areas was character and while there weren’t really any good characters in the game, the protagonist, Jim Corbijn, stands out as an asshole among boredom. He is the standard “agent who plays by his own rules” and this is clearly and annoying demonstrated in the first few minutes of the game, where Jim, who is following activist Rebecca Weiss and is told by his adviser to not make contact with her after another man pulls her aside to talk to her.
What does he proceed to do a minute later? He walks up to the two, starts fighting with the man who was talking to Rebecca, ends up killing the man, acts like an asshole to her, and then forcefully takes her with him. He had no reason to do any of this other than to be “edgy” and that’s just plain stupid. He doesn’t get any better over the course of the game either. He always acts like an asshole and every moment of his presence in cutscenes made me dislike him more and more. As I said before with Wario, I hate when the protagonist is a jerk just because, and that’s exactly the case with Jim.
6.) Alex Mercer
Alex Mercer is another anti-hero from the game Prototype. Due to a virus called BLACKLIGHT, Alex gained tons of crazy powers, chiefly among them high stamina, high strength, the ability to use biomass in different forms, and the ability to absorb other people in order to know what they know and copy their appearance. Those powers themselves are kind of evil by nature and the way Alex uses them only fulfills the expectations you would have for someone with those powers. Don’t get me wrong here; Alex does some really awesome stuff with those powers, but that doesn’t excuse the things he does. He kills many innocents, whether they are just collateral damage or people he has to absorb to learn more about himself, as he has amnesia like so many other anti-heroes do.
As I’ve said, I don’t mind villain or anti-hero protagonists and the tropes that come with them as long as they are given great character and development. I don’t generally like killing random people, but give me a good reason why the character would do so, and I would be far more okay with it. Unfortunately, Alex doesn’t get the kind of development a character like this needs to grow on the player and, as such, he comes off as an unlikable dime-a-dozen anti-hero, just like Shadow. Alex is just worse because his innocent body count is far beyond anything Shadow managed to do.