The Best New Game Characters of 2017

Games Lists Best of 2017
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The Best New Game Characters of 2017

2017 was an absolutely amazing year for new games, and that goes double for all the fresh faces we met along the way. Not only was there an abundance of well-written characters across all genres and platforms, there were an astounding number of women dominating the most popular games of the year. From plucky puzzle heroines to Afrofuturist cyborgs, here are our favorites.

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Mina from Battle Chef Brigade

As the main character in a match three puzzle game, Mina doesn’t necessarily have a lot of depth to her, but that doesn’t matter. She is the high-flying, hard-kicking, food-fighting Iron Stomach, and her ambition and commitment to her family are as endearing as they are inspiring. —Holly Green


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Makoto Niijimi from Persona 5

Makoto is a strong fan favorite for a number of reasons, but the only one you need is this: supernatural motorcycle. In a year full of impossibly stylish videogame characters, the serious and strong willed leather-clad Confidante is a stand-out, not just for how she rocks a brunette bob and strappy black ensemble, but also for her superior strategic skills in battle. —Holly Green


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9S from Nier: Automata

Out of all the characters in Nier:Automata, 9S’s transformation is arguably the most pronounced, going from a childish figure who is only concerned with completing the task at hand to a vengeful soul intent on killing all machines. It’s a heartbreaking arc that’s made all the more upsetting by the time you spend alongside the character. —Jack Yarwood


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Orisa from Overwatch

In the lore, she is a defunct OR-15 defense drone reconfigured and recommissioned by Efi Oladele, an 11-year-old robotics specialist from Numbani, a technologically advanced city somewhere near Nigeria. Intentional or not, Blizzard introducing a character creating change on her own terms is a big deal…While she wants to be a force for good, Efi recognizes her limits, playing to her strengths to find her role in the struggle against terror and injustice. In today’s political climate, a black girl character building her answer to violence from scratch is a strong and timely affirmation of the work black girls and women do for social progress. —Chris Kindred


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Mae, Bea and Gregg from Night in the Woods

How could we pick just one character from Night in the Woods? Character is the game’s strength and it wouldn’t be as great as it is without any of these three central figures. Mae remains sympathetic despite her immature insolence, Bea’s amusing cynicism is a poignant reminder of her stressful upbringing and squandered potential, and Gregg’s enthusiasm and support, despite his own struggles with depression, make him one of the most likable characters in any medium this year. They each feel like a real person, and we can all see parts of ourselves and our friends and families in them. There’s a lot of real human depth beneath their absolutely adorable exteriors. (And yeah, Angus is pretty awesome, too.)—Garrett Martin


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Cala Maria from Cuphead

Over and over again this animated siren showed up in waves of Cuphead fan art, emerging as one of the most popular bosses in the game. What’s the secret of her appeal? Maybe it’s the face, which was based on the big eyes and plucky cuteness of the original Betty Boop cartoons. Maybe it’s the hypnotic animation of the menacing sway of her hips. It could be that she’s a freakin’ murder mermaid with Medusa hair. Whatever the case, she’s perfect. —Holly Green


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Twintelle from Arms

Like the other fighters, Twintelle is influential. Who knew playing with your hair could be so revolutionary? Of course, Twintelle won’t please everyone—there’s no way she ever could. But that’s okay because she pleases herself, and really, that’s all that matters. —Shonte Daniels


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Morgan Yu from Prey

Prey never directly grapples with race. Morgan never faces any discrimination, never hears any cracks about how good he is at math. Instead, though it brushes up against some racial tropes, Prey does something just as brave: without erasing Morgan’s heritage, it lets us see the face of an Asian protagonist as just another face. And that makes all the difference.” —Steven Scaife


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Pearl and Marina from Splatoon 2

Look, I’m a traditionalist. When I realized Callie and Marie wouldn’t be returning from Splatoon I was bummed. How could any squidkid-come-latelies hope to compare to the Squid Sisters? I shouldn’t have been worried, though—Pearl and Marina, the duo known as Off the Hook, are an even more rousing team, spurring those squids on with fizzy pop star insouciance. And hey, their songs are actually pretty good. Marina’s the clear star of the two—Pearl’s just a tad too eager, just a little too arrogant, but then you often need those traits if you’re going to be an effective frontwoman. Pearl and Marina perfectly embody the over-the-top fashionable aesthetic that makes Splatoon 2 so goofily charming. Name a more iconic duo.. I’ll wait.—Garrett Martin


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Urbosa

After all these years, it’s nice to meet such a thoroughly fleshed out Gerudo in a Legend of Zelda game, and one that gets to be a hero in the story, too. She’s got the hip, disaffected charisma of a cowboy, with an aloof but affable charm that stands out among Hyrule’s Champions. And she can run across the sand in freakin’ high heels. Her calves are clearly as strong as her personality, and for that, she’s a standout character in Breath of the Wild. —Holly Green


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Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn

In terms of depicting female agency, Aloy is one of the better female protagonists I’ve ever seen in a videogame. She is delightfully both unimpressed and unconcerned with impressing, independent, yet tenderhearted. Her aloof but principled commitment to helping others makes her my personal superhero. —Holly Green


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Rachel from Life is Strange: Before the Storm

Meeting Rachel in Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a strange but sentimental experience. In the original game, her absence served as a key reminder to the game’s protagonist, Max, that she was an outsider for some of the most significant events in the lives of her fellow students at Blackwell Academy. In the prequel, Rachel can be seen and felt in a way that was so inaccessible before, and her bond with Chloe, Max’s former best friend, is complicated, profound and messy in ways that only teenagers can truly understand. And the beautiful moments spent with her feel all the more precious, almost solemn, for the knowledge of what’s to come. —Holly Green


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Mayor Pauline from Super Mario Odyssey

As of one of the oldest and most overlooked characters in the Mario universe, Pauline’s appearance in Super Mario Odyssey came as something of a surprise. But hey, if the Shy Guys from Super Mario Bros. 2 (which wasn’t originally a Mario game to begin with) can be kept as part of the vital Mario canon, then so can Mario’s first damsel in distress. With her own career and a lucrative side gig as the talented singer of her own band (and the ability to wear the heck out of a smart pantsuit), she’s one of the most aspirational figures in all the Kingdoms. —Holly Green


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All the women from Agents of Mayhem

It’s impossible to narrow down the best cast member of Agents of Mayhem, especially when it comes to the ladies, so our vote is basically for all of ‘em. The way Braddock lights her cigarette on the laser strip of her gun, Daisy’s binge drinking and power skating, the impossibly catchy beat of Fortune’s Mayhem attack: every last female Agent is probably too cool for school, and definitely too cool to be my best friend. —Holly Green


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Grace from Wolfenstein II

MachineGames’ portrayal of Grace, the leader of the Black Panthers who joins forces with B.J. Blazkowicz in Wolfenstein II, has its flaws, but it stands out for a number of reasons: it’s rare to see a character that so directly, verbally, and colorfully challenges white supremacist patriarchy, in any artistic medium, much less videogames. —Holly Green


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2B from Nier: Automata

Over the course of Nier:Automata, 2B’s character changes quite a bit. She goes from a staunch follower of commands to a much more personable figure. This is shown through her relationship with 9S. Initially greeting him with a cold and resolute tone, she eventually warms to him and even starts to use his nickname “Nines”. It’s a sweet relationship that stands out as one of the game’s most endearing attributes. —Jack Yarwood


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Prince Sidon

Prince Sidon? More like Prince I’m Gonna Slide On Into Your DMs. What is it about this vaguely dolphin like character that got everyone so riled up on social media after the release of Breath of the Wild this year? He’s broad shouldered, energetic, and strapping, and the sequence where Link rides his back while shooting giant chunks of ice is probably one of, if not the, most exhilarating parts in the entire game. And to top it off, he is amazingly supportive and positive, and he’s got the strong thumbs up and plucky smile of a young Agent Cooper. Maybe the better question is, what’s not to love? —Holly Green