Whether they are battle-worn grunt, hearty plumber, or cute-sey farmyard animal, the colorful stars of video games have become emblems of their eras. Mario, Sonic, and more of the gaming world maybe even closer to the hearts of fans than any Hollywood icon could be. In this article, we have painstakingly assembled our list of the most influential video gaming characters ever devised.

Diablo

It is hard to beat the devil, and the eponymous infernal sovereign of Blizzard could be a grueling adversary if taken lightly. In this Judeo-Christian mythos informed gothic fantasy series, he is the most powerful of the prime evils, the lord of terror, the liar in the guise of the dark wanderer, the goading adversary at the heart of each eschatological installment. Diablo is also the archetypal foozle of gaming, an illimitable damage sponge into which players pour the worth of tactical preparation of a game, informed by savvy inventory juggling, scrupulous looting, and ability streamlining.

Big Daddy / Little Sister

It seemed wrong to sunder this character binary at the heart of Irrational’s harrowing BioShock games. And so we have included both the forbidding diving suit-imprisoned mutants of the series (Big Daddies) and their lithe, electric-eyed ragamuffin wards (Little Sisters). This couple’s dynamic explorations, symbiotic cooperation, and brutal retaliation catalyzed waves of experimental A.I. ecologies in subsequent games that stressed players tinkering and emergent consequences. But it is important to recall how much they exemplify the sort of Cronenberg-ian building-block body horror that we have seen hence in games such as Dead Space, Inside and Soma.

Vault Boy

Much that is mordant comedic in modern gaming feels like it is standing on the shoulders of this relentlessly blithe Fallout-series mascot. A blue-eyed, blond-haired, cartoonish young male in the style of Mr. Monopoly, Vault Boy emblematizes character stats, chance actions, and dull math in Bethesda’s post-apocalyptic role-playing romps. It is his glorious absurd and irreverent spectrum of postures and dispositions, from grisly dismemberments to hyperbolic simpering, making him gaming’s most Pythonesque icon.