Crash Bandicoot's sister was a computer genius. Space Invaders had families. Gordon Freeman's priest could seriously kick zombie ass. What else didn't we fully appreciate about the characters that populated some of history's greatest videogames?
To put it bluntly, a smeg-load, that's what. Did you ever consider the megaphysical angst of the ball from Pong? What about the girls who fought mechanical enemies almost topless, without a scrap of armour? Like so many from our beloved archive of games, a large number of remarkable characters were overshadowed by the main protagonists, or hamstrung by weak story-writing.
We've rewarded eight of the most underrated and under-appreciated characters we've ever seen, with the recognition they've missed -- in some cases for decades. And we begin with an evil genius.
From: Sonic The Hedgehog series
Remembered for: Mutilating bunnies
Forgotten for: Being an engineering mastermind
Sega's powerful storytelling throughout the Sonic The Hedgehog series convinced gamers that he was a twisted wrong-doer who must be stopped. But did anyone take the time to step back and think, "Hey, this Robotnik guy's an engineering genius"?
Leaving aside his regrettable obsession with ensnaring woodland animals for maniacal mutilation, we're talking here about a man capable of welding together some quite remarkable machines. An aircraft with an integrated cow-sized iron fist? A craft with its own gravitational field for manipulating smaller versions of itself within a localised orbit? That's some impressive work.
Yes, the man would've benefited from a one-on-one with a skilled mental-health professional. But break through that insane, anger-encrusted exterior, and you'll find a mind of remarkable vision and skill.
Space Invader third from the bottom, second from the left
From: Space Invaders
Remembered for: Invading space
Forgotten for: Having a family and life outside of space invasion
It is widely assumed that each and every Space Invader agreed that annihilating humans was a smashing idea. But they didn't.
Each Invader had his own personality, his own family and his own unique dreams of the future. A utopian future where life didn't just consist of attacking, dropping down and reversing direction. They had children, emotions, hobbies. And what's more, they had faces that, albeit crudely, conveyed emotion.
Look at the Invader third from the bottom, second from the left. We assumed for decades this Invader was hell-bent on destroying our vehicle, when really he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. We took it for granted that his destruction was a win for humanity, but we never took the time to consider that our short-lived triumph was an eternity of loss for the loved ones he left behind.
From: Crash Bandicoot series
Remembered for: Being Crash's cute sister
Forgotten for: Being a l33t haxx0r
Sister of Crash, Coco Bandicoot was a skilled computer hacker, Internet entrepreneur and accomplished engineer. More importantly, she encouraged the player to question whether intimate relations with another species is always wrong -- for a marsupial, she was hot.
Accompanying her brother on his adventures, she hacked the computer networks of enemies, designed and constructed a range of ingenious machines, and even founded her own Internet dating service. Her name has yet to appear in Nerd 'N' Basement magazine's Top 10 Girl Geeks, however, and this is a shame.
From: Final Fantasy X and X-2
Remembered for: Not wearing a great deal, being scared
Forgotten for: Being an engineering genius
She couldn't wield the force of powerful spiritual beasts, and she wasn't an internationally recognised sports superstar. But little Rikku beat down machines hand-to-hand, could dismantle them in one swift wrist movement, and she did it practically naked, without a scrap of armour. That, ladies and gentleman, is a chick with moxie.
Somewhere beneath the cute and cuddly blonde exterior, Rikku (aged 23 by now) was a fabulously gifted mechanic. Do we see her listed alongside engineering greats such as Henry Ford, Leonardo da Vinci and Alexandre Gustave Eiffel? Do we chuff.
Remembered for: Being the ball in Pong
Forgotten for: Deserving as much attention as the sodding bats
Forever trapped in a two-dimensional back-and-forth betwixt a pair of bats that snagged all the attention for themselves was the Pong ball. It sorely lacked the respect it deserved as a character, and it's time to remedy that.
True, it didn't boast many of the qualities required in order to be considered a character -- a face, a sense of emotion, the ability to speak, or indeed any kind of personality -- but these were simpler times, and less was always considered more.
The ball was, in many respects, the protagonist of Pong; the hero fiercely battling to escape the clutches of two conspiring entities hell-bent on denying it freedom from a life of eternal repetition.
So while you may have lost the game when it escaped, you should've been delighted that it had won its longed-for independence.
From: Super Mario series
Remembered for: Guarding those shelves
Forgotten for: Being the most would-be real-life badass
Mario's enemies ranged from Koopa Troopers that just walked up to you, to Goombas that just walked up to you, to plants that just sort of rose out of a pipe at you. These we all remember. But what about the Hammer Bros? These suckers, not content with the usual attack of 'walk up to you', would fling sodding hammers in your face just for walking past. What an unbelievable pair of winners!
Prior to this the most famous hammer-chucker was Thor, a revered Norse god. Yet somehow the similarity between one of the most powerful deities in history -- whose name inspired one of our seven days, no less -- and MCs Hammer is overlooked.
When preparing defences for your forts of the future, you can take your grumpy little mushroom things and Lakitu's lame cloud. We want an army of ticked-off turtles who'll gleefully launch mallets into the faces of our opponents.
From: Final Fantasy IX
Remembered for: Being that annoying fat thing that ate frogs
Forgotten for: No-nonsense enemy-scoffing
Armed with one of many dinner forks, Quina took an unusual approach to finishing off enemies. Not content with merely driving a sword through the blubbery skin of opponents, Quina viciously cooked them alive and devoured them in a single swallow, extracting skills from the body of victims as they were digested.
Truth be told, Quina was a badass. Yet no-one ever really wanted to play as Quina. He/she (the character's gender was never discovered), was always the last on the team to get picked, the runt of the battalion litter, the fat kid in FF games lessons.
As Final Fantasy IX progressed, Quina's disposable storyline and forgettable character interaction belied his/her prowess as a cold-hearted, human-sacrificing killing machine.
From: Half Life 2
Remembered for: Helping Gordon Freeman through Ravenholm
Forgotten for: Being an ass-kicking priest with more balls than Freeman
The most badass priest since Friar Tuck, Father Grigori briefly fights alongside Gordon Freeman, guiding him through the back end of Ravenholm while single-handedly annihilating wave after wave of zombies with a shotgun.
This is a guy who voluntarily lives alone, regularly battles ferocious creatures by himself, yet is qualified in a profession that has nothing in common with mindless violence. Much like Freeman himself, you might say.
Yet it's theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman who takes the credit for briefly surviving Ravenholm, while his vicar hangs back to fight continually for his life. What an unmitigated gimp.