Video game characters, especially protagonists never have it easy. Unless you’re playing Goat Simulator, coz that guy has it made. But games thrive off conflict, constant conflict so your standard character is going to subjected to a round of character developing trials, followed by another round and another round and another round. And if they’re particularly unlucky these rounds will go again for the sequel or three. But some characters more than others get a really tough time of it, constantly being fucked over before being bent over backwards and fucked again, join us on a run down of ten characters who have it bad. Really bad. And then have it worse. Followed by another bout of bad.
Laguna Loire (Final Fantasy VIII)
FFVIII's Laguna looks like he has it made. He's the President of Esthar, the largest and most technilogically advanced (albeit xenophobic) city in the world, after bumbling his way into the position with no political ambitions or experience whatsoever. But while he might seem like he has it made, his sweet, sweet situation comes at a high price. For wherever Laguna goes he seems to leave behind a heartbroken and dead lady love. In the first instance; Julia Heartilly, pianist with ambitions of being a singer. Laguna meets her while on leave but they never proceed with the relationship because of Laguna's crippling social anxiety. While they promise to meet again after Laguna's military service they never do, Julia goes on to marry another man with whom she has a baby, while never forgetting her lost love – the subject of her most popular song. Her heartbreak is short lived however as she dies in an accident while her daughter is still toddling.
Meanwhile Laguna is setting up house with another woman; Raine, and her adopted daughter Ellone. They meet after Laguna falls for her (quite literally) after she nurses him back to health after finding him at the bottom of a cliff he had jumped off because reasons. Raine and Laguna's marriage is also short lived as Ellone is kidnapped and Laguna ventures forth to rescue her. In doing so, Laguna accidentally finds himself heading up a resistance movement against a tyrannical sorceress and ruler of Esthar. When his efforts in removing her prove successful Laguna is rewarded with the presidency himself. Having learned Raine has since died in his absence, he accepts not knowing that she died giving birth to a son he knew nothing of. A son he doesn't find out about until seventeen years later when he is reunited with Ellone, the daughter his xenophobic city wouldn't allow in to see him.
Ash Ketchum (Pokemon)
Ash is living the dream. He travels the world with friends wholly dedicated to cathing Pokemon and becoming a Pokemon master. When he set out on his journey the prospect of catching every Pokemon was challenging but not impossible, what with him only needing to explore the hardly vast world of Kanto and a hundred and fifty Pokemon to discover. With a bit of training, luck and some pretty nifty necromancy for those extinct Pokemon what they have, Ash could be well on his way to Pokemon fame.
Or he would be if the world wasn't continually expanding. Each island/continent he discovers is populated by entirely new Pokemon with an entirely new gym league to best. Each time he competes he manages to confuct himself relatively well before he must move onto the next competition and start all over again. As the Leagues are entirely separate his performances in each one are practically forgotten as soon as they happen. Far from becoming a Pokemon master instead he seems doomed to have his achievements and progress reset every time he crosses an ocean.
He also doesn't seem to be in the habit of looking back. When we first saw Ash back in the 90s he was aiming to mess up the Indigo League and he progresses to the top sixteen. Despite having trained harder and finding new Pokemon to fight with he never actually returns to continue his progress there, instead he just looks for the next challenge, rather than try and battle his way to the top.
Isaac Clarke (Dead Space)
The road to stable employment never runs smooth for most of us, but we can at least say that we're not Isaac Clarke, who, bless him, only wanted to work in systems maintenance. Hardly the most inauspicious of job titles. But Isaac's problems start young when his mother blows his college fund and the family fortune on a totally legitimate “give us all your money and you'll reap totally non metaphorical rewards” church scheme. After struggling financially he graduates and fulfils the dream of becoming a systems engineer for a mining company. You go guy!
Of course it all goes to pot when the ship his girlfriend works on sends out a distress call and then goes ominously silent. Isaac, naturally, volunteers to help the rescue effort and that's when the real trouble starts mostly in the form of an alien virus that reanimates and mutates corpses with the sole aim of creating more Isaac shaped corpses to reanimate. I feel the notable facts section from Issac's profile on the Dead Space wikia does this more credit than I could: Sole USG Kellion survivor, Survivor of the second Aegis VII incident, Survivor of the Titan Station outbreak, Survivor of the New Horizons incident, Survivor of the Second Tau Volantis incident.
That's a lot of shit to survive. But survival is not just a matter of keeping your organs strapped firmly inside your skin, oh no! Isaac's experience takes its toll, after his first bout with the angry alien necromancy virus he is left, the sole survivor, waiting to be picked up with only a video of his missing girlfriend's suicide for entertainment. Rescued he eventually is but instead of sending him back to his colleagues in systems maintenance, Isaac is instead experimented on for three years before he is, rather unsurprisingly, declared insane complete with hallucinations of his dead girlfriend. His love life seems doomed as when he does pick up with another chick, she also goes missing in an alien virus related incident and he has to go save her too, which he does at the expense of his own escape. As of the last game Isaac's situation was unknown, but if EA does decide to revisit the series we can be sure that he isn't going to be welcomed home for tea and medals before retiring to his three bed, two bath cottage in the Cotswolds.
Lara Croft (Tomb Raider 2013)
The Lara Croft of old had a pretty sweet deal. She turns her back on her gentrified life in favour of thrill seeking adventures raiding tombs and discovering lost artefacts, while still maintaining the lavish wealth of the former. We should all be so lucky. Then in 2013 the series rebooted itself with the originally named; Tomb Raider and Lara Croft went from being the confident, privileged aristocrat who locked her butler in a freezer just coz, to a totally not privileged, graduate who's down to earth and just like you or me because she worked a bar job once while at uni. The point is that new Lara is younger and lacks the experience of her former self seeing as the series takes off during her first adventure where she must contend with all manner of problems forcing her to think on her feet and learn some survival skills fast.
For Lara the expedition in which her adventure takes place is her big chance. Despite being a recent graduate, she apparently demonstrates enough flair for ancient history to convince an archaeological team to search an entirely new location for the remains of the Sun Queen; Himiko. And find them she does. Along with a cult worshipping the immortal albeit antagonistic goddess who are hell bent on sacrificing at least one of Lara's friends to Himiko and decorating her chambers with the internal organs of the others.
The game sees Lara having to do usual tomb raider-y stuff. She has to kill a load of dudes, climb a load of hazardous drops, shoot a load of wolves etc etc, but this time she has to deal with the aftermath as this is one of those gritty reboots that requires her to be actually disturbed by her hand in someone else's death. And so to this end Lara is constantly put in peril.
The game is one long advertisement for having an escape plan for every situation as it seems like every other stage to the game has Lara/her friends/Lara and her friends being either captured and needing to escape only to find escape is temporary as they can't actually leave the island. All this before her friends start turning on her for being the one who brought them there in the first place. For Lara it's a harrowing experience, made worse by the end of it most of her friends are dead and she has killed a fair few people with her own hands. Of course after disaster has been averted, the goddess defeated and the cultists dead, Lara cheerfully states that it's been a learning experience and she intends to stay on the island doing her archaeological thing. Assumedly because she'd rather face off against wolves than go back to her bar job. We know we would.
Hookers (Grand Theft Auto)
Being a hooker is not a glamorous job. You are going to get dicked, figuratively as well as literally. There are so many dangers present to your person, health and general wellbeing that it's actually hard to come up with some light hearted witticisms about something which is absolutely not to be taken lightly. Prostitution is a shit situation to be in however much you enjoy a good rogering and getting a ton of cash for the privilege. Kudos to GTA for making an already crap situation seem even crappier. As even the youngest of gamers knows, when you sleep with a hooker, all together now! Kill them and get your money back.
NPCs aren't really people, they're just filler to make the game seem less empty and to tell you how much they wish for a nuclear winter, but hookers in GTA are even less than non-people. They're walking free health potions. Sex with a hooker restores your health with the added bonus that if you pop a cap in their particularly fine ass after the fact you can get your money back and keep the health. In fact killing hookers has become such a staple of GTA gameplay that we have to wonder if anyone actually lets them live? Do you even need that health??
Raziel (Legacy of Kain)
Raziel has had three lifetimes and he can't catch a break in any of them.
Lifetime the first – has a pretty neat gig as the leader of the Sarafen knights in charge of killing vampires. Is also a colossal prick. Gets killed by his future self for being a colossal prick. Lifetime the second – has a pretty neat gig as the firstborn lieutenant serving the emperor of the weorld. Is cast into eternal fiery torment by said emperor when you offend him, because he is a colossal prick. Lifetime the final – it is revealed to you that you are trapped in an eternal and inescapable round of death and rebirth wherein your ultimate purpose is to die over and over and over and over again. Because the universe is a colossal prick.
Raziel is but a pawn in a universe of dicks. Although unique in that he solely has free will in a world bound by predestination this simply makes him the target of manipulation for all interested parties. Doomed to be moved around like a pawn or a mindless playable character controlled by some unknown, invisible presence, Raziel's only real driving force is revenge against Kain, the man who damned him to eternal torment not to mention his current jawless form. Oh and Kain had his clan murdered because colossal prick.
Between Soul Reaver 1 and Soul Reaver 2 however the devs decided to make Kain a little more heroic in nature, in fact he becomes the saviour of the universe wherein every dickish act he commits is fully justified in his grand plan of being the sodding messiah. So when Raziel finally kills him the very first thing someone says to him is along the lines of, “the world is going to hell! And only one man can stop it! Not you you stupid git, find Kain, go get someone more interesting and capable than you, you expendable means to an end you.”
Nothing says immersion more than silent protagonists and nothing does silent protagonists better than Half Life, and therefore by extension; Portal. Very little is known of Chell, some vague hints suggest that you are a child of an Aperture science employee but apart from that, the only things you know for absolute certain are:
- you are trapped inside a science facility.
- the science facility is controlled by an insane A.I with the power to kill you.
- the A.I very much wants to kill you.
None of which are particularly reassuring.
Chell battles on through the first game and successfully defeats the A.I, but she fails to escape. Instead she is put into stasis for a long, long ass time while the facility falls to rack and ruin around her. When she wakes for the second time she has to run the gauntlet again. Of course this time she does manage to escape. Well sort of...The A.I decides she's too much trouble to have hanging around so sends her packing.
Into the world of the Half Life 2 universe.
Where humanity is a slave race to their powerful alien masters.
Mario (Super Mario)
I'd be willing to place a bet that anyone who considers themselves to be a gamer has played a Mario game. You could argue that once you've played one Mario, you've played them all. The games features might change, the scenery may improve and the power ups may alter but the premise at least never changes. Princess Peach, Bowser, blah blah, save me Mario etc etc.
Mario games have been around since 1985. That's thirty years of 'your princess is in another castle'. I've written before about how the relationship between Mario and Peach is hilariously platonic but poor Mario has had to put up with this whole rescue malarkey for thirty sodding years. It can't be much fun for Peach either. Every time Mario defeats Bowser's minions he's told, 'great job champ but the chick you're looking for isn't here'. Every single time.
At this point we're wondering if there isn't some hidden subtext to the series and Mario is actually trapped in a purgatorial hell dimension, doomed to forever rescue the unattainable princess because he failed to rescue his lady love in real life.
Shit's deep yo.
Joel (The Last of Us)
Zombie apocalypses don't bode well for anyone. You either become a zombie or you survive long enough to run a zombie gauntlet everyday. Unless of course you live in Hull in which case the population are already zombies anyway, they just haven't noticed. For Joel the nightmare begins, as it does for the rest of the world, when the cordyceps fungus starts to infect humanity creating a zombie plague. His daughter is among the first casualties of the plague, but not because of the zombies but because of a scared soldier who reacts badly to their presence near him...with bullets.
And it's Joel's birthday.
But of course life, such as it is, must go on and Joel takes up residence in a cordoned off safe-zone where he becomes a smuggler. His life is calm for a while but when a client loses a bunch of weapons Joel must embark on an unwanted mission to get them back. A mission involving the transportation of a young girl, around the age his daughter was when she got shot. Of course we all know exactly where this is going, but even given the predictable nature of the emotional-replacement daughter we could never have imagined how poignant it would become.
Joel suffers all the usual setbacks you would expect from running the zombie apocalypse assault course. There are zombies, obviously, lots of them, everyone he meets is either killed by a zombie or killed by Joel himself to stop them becoming a zombie, Joel gets injured, badly and he faces off against the surviving humans who mostly, are far worse than any horde of the undead. All this while protecting a living reminder of his greatest loss.
All of this is made that much worse knowing that Joel never wanted or ask for any of this. He didn't want to hang out with this girl because he knew exactly how it would go, he would get attached. He just wanted to get his weapons back.
Spoilers: He never gets his weapons back.
Harry Mason (Silent Hill)
By rights any character from Silent Hill could fill this list and leave us with enough spares to write a part two. Silent Hill, after all, is a tourist trap purpose built to torment the unsuspecting tourist with their own personal brand of hell. But Harry holds a unique position among the tormented, even when he is not in Silent Hill he is still dicked over And all of this before the town decided to increase the tourist trade by manifesting a person's deepest fears for kicks. Harry Mason manages to get continually dicked over by a town, whose thing is to continually dicked over, before it started dicking over people. Now that's just bad luck.
When Harry's wife dies it's tragic but hardly a portent of the dicking to come. The problems arise when the Masons' (who forewent the normal adoption procedure in favour of picking up some baby they found on the side of the road) daughter decides she really really wants to visit Silent Hill. Upon entering the towns borders, Harry promptly crashes the car and Cheryl wanders off and let the dicking commence. Harry must contend with horrific monsters, suspicious cops and deranged cult members to get his daughter back. But get her back he does. As a baby.
But hey, it's ok. Having escaped the town, albeit with a baby rather than his daughter, he can re-raise Cheryl mark 2.0 in pace. Or he would if the dastardly cult would leave him alone long enough to do it. Having tracked him down, a cult member attempts to kidnap Cheryl (again) forcing Harry to kill a man. But this is in the real world between instalments, and with real crime comes real punishment and although Harry is acquitted for self defence, it involves a police investigation and a trial. Frankly we'd rather contend with the monsters.
After changing Cheryl's name to shake the cult, the Masons relocate, but are of course found again after the cult hires a present day P.I who seems to think his line of work still involves wearing that kind of hat, that kind of coat, chain smoking and talking in a gruff voice. The cult leader summons a rather large monster inside Harry's house, which I think we'll all agree is just bad form, and Harry is at last killed. But the important thing to note here is that the vast majority of the above happens between games, while Harry is trying to lead a normal, single dad life. Somehow Harry manages to get dicked over far more in the narrative between games than he ever did trapped in a hellish otherworld fighting demons hellbent on knocking up his significantly under age daughter. And all this not even mentioning the reimagining where it turns out he was dead all along.
And he gets abducted by aliens.