Empire, a blogazine known primarily for its film coverage, just released its list of the “50 Greatest Video Game Characters.” Woe be unto gamers when a publication outside the industry (and, unfortunately, sometimes within it) attempts an article like this, but Empire has clearly done its homework. Their editors clearly have a pedigree in silicon as well as celluloid and have managed to largely avoid the most obvious or “popular” choices. Sure, some like Samus and Link are still there, but this being a UK publication means that both well-known and obscure PC game characters make the cut, as well.
In fact, they kind of dominate the list (hint: Mario is not number one), and that means our beloved Warcraft series gets a little bit of extra sugar. Oddly enough, it’s not Thrall or Jaina or Tirion or any of those other pansy do-gooders that place, but two of Azeroth’s most menacing villains.
Excusing the unfortunate misspelling of his first name (corrected later in the article), Arthas Menethil clocks in at number 25:
Of all the characters in Warcraft lore, Arthas Menthil is the most tragic. The heir to the throne of Lordaeron, Arthas set out to save his father’s kingdom from The Scourge of undead, only to be tricked into joining their ranks by taking up the cursed sword Frostmourne and ultimately becoming their lord and master, The Lich King. Talk about doing a one-eighty
In World of Warcraft, Arthas is currently the boss to beat for stalwart bands of level 80s, since Icecrown Citadel has unlocked its gates and it’s now open season on the Lich King for raiders everywhere. However, you don’t need to face him head-on to appreciate Arthas’ nuances. The character’s personality is most keenly felt in the dozens of lore-woven quests scattered throughout Northrend. Whether it’s watching him anoint Scala Sorrowgrave, riding alongside his mortal self during the Culling of Stratholme or doing his bidding in the Death Knight starting zone, Arthas enriches every aspect he touches, his backstory filling in as you level and making the Lich King’s final fall (and phat lewt drop) all the more poignant.
But, wait, Amatera. You said villains, which means more than one! Well, I think having an entire expansion dedicated to the Lich King has sort of clouded our thoughts as players. While Arthas is certainly foremost in our minds right now, he isn’t necessarily the most powerful character in the Warcraft universe, nor is he the most prominent one. Now, I’m not sure if I agree with putting this particular fellow a few spots above Ole Lichy, but he probably does deserve a place on the list. Hit the jump to figure out who it is!
Coming in at Number 17 is Illidan Stormrage:
A night elf demon hunter who became a demon himself, Illidan made his appearance as an unlikely ally in Warcraft III, consuming the Skull of Gul’dan (obviously) and taking on a terrible, winged form as a result. But for all his impressive machinations in the RTS classic, it wasn’t until the release of World of Warcraft expansion The Burning Crusade that Illidan truly came into his own.As the lord of Outland, wielder of the Twin Blades of Azzinoth and the looming threat behind everything players faced in the long grind to level 70, Illidan was a force to be reckoned with. By the time you and 24 eager guildies had trekked to the heart of Shadowmoon Valley and stood (attuned) at the gates of the Black Temple, ready to face him, it was all the average warrior could do not to soil his chainmail pants.
An interesting bit to note — even though these characters first appeared in other games, they seem to be the only two from an MMO anywhere on the list. Considering how much harder it is to tell a quality story in this genre compared to others (especially those with primarily single-player experiences), it just confirms for me that despite all the complaints, Blizzard is always streets ahead in terms of memorable character design.
As for that Number One spot? The Tabula Rasa of video game protagonists himself: Gordon Freeman.