As part of International Men’s Day, let’s celebrate healthy masculinity in video games
Everyone knows of International Women’s Day, which is celebrated on March 8. It’s only natural to get curious about the existence of a designated day for men. While it may differ in some regions, the most commonly used day is November 19. As you can guess, fellas, it’s today, thus we couldn’t think of a better moment to talk about famous video game characters that inspire us to be better men and people in general.
This occasion has a different theme each year. Today it’s “Zero Male Suicide”, which highlights a serious, yet rarely discussed issue in modern society. We decided to make a tiny positive impact to support the cause by discussing the best male lead.
The gaming industry is dominated by morally grey characters
To be frank, coming up with the list of 10 wasn’t as easy as you might expect, and that’s due to a problem with morally grey characters. Sure, men are clearly dominating the industry in terms of protagonist design. However, once you start breaking down their traits and actions, you eventually come to a realization that they actually aren’t that positive. Joel from The Last of Us is a great example of a complex, likable, and one of the most iconic video game characters of the past decade. But after finishing Part I, would you classify him as a good role model?
Having various protagonists, including morally ambiguous or straight-up villains in video games is what makes this means of entertainment so attractive. Nonetheless, in alarmingly many cases, the male video game characters are presented as sociopaths and murderers. Despite the fact that they tend to act in good faith, it is difficult to describe them as “good role models”, even taking into consideration that people aren’t goody-all-shoes in real life. That’s why we think it’s important to praise the developers who masterfully create charismatic heroes.
What are the best male protagonists in video games?
Now that we’ve addressed that elephant in the room, let’s come back to the main topic of the discussion. Despite the difficulties, we’ve found the 10 best male protagonists who, in our humble opinion, are great role models. No matter how old or what gender we are, we can learn something new from our fictional friends.
Sora (Kingdom Hearts series)
Let’s kick off our lineup of the best male leads with an obvious choice. Sora from Kingdom Hearts feels no shame in showing support and kindness with literally everyone. His naivety will end up causing trouble for him, but he continues greeting new faces with a wide smile and open heart. He’s a genial and caring friend everyone would love to have but not everyone is lucky enough to meet.
This spiky-haired boy is a wonderful role model. Not only he’s aware of own emotions, he’s not afraid to express them. Sora sets and example that even heroes that save the worlds and loved ones can feel helpless and shed tears. If he can do that, so can you, and that’s okay. A truly important message on International Men’s Day.
Kiryu Kazama (Yakuza series)
One of the world’s most notorious criminal organizations sounds like a splendid environment for miscreant and morally grey characters. Nevertheless, Kiryu Kazama couldn’t be any further from being a baddy, especially considering his tragic past. Despite being brought into a criminal world as just a kid, he follows his “don’t kill” principle and remains a great example of positive masculinity.
For the most part of the Yakuza franchise, he tries to find his way out to a peaceful life. He’s not afraid of taking responsibility and having honest conversations with enemies and closest ones. Plus, he teaches us an important lesson: no matter how grim the situation is, always find time for activities that spark joy, be it pocket circuit fighter races, fishing, or managing a cabaret club.
If you also have huge respect for this gangster, our ranking of the best Yakuza games might pique your interest.
Phoenix Wright (Ace Attorney)
The world can be unfair, with vile murderers framing innocent people. Luckily, we have diligent and straight-laced lawyer Phoenix Wright to uncover the whole truth. This cheerful and hard-working chap is always persistent in his search for clues. No matter how dire his case from the Ace Attorney franchise appears to be, he’ll discover that itsy-bitsy detail that’ll make him scream “Objection!”
It often takes just one string of a lie that eventually unravels the master plan and demask the real culprit. That’s why his faith in his clients and persistence make him one of the best male video game characters. It may not be a realistic portrayal of real-life court hearings, but it is one of the best visual novels with detective elements and a generous splash of corny humor.
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Peter Parker & Miles Morales (Marvel’s Spider-Man)
“With great power comes great responsibility” – those words of wisdom from Uncle Ben have been thrown around so many times that they’re rarely taken seriously. But Peter Parker & Miles Morales live by them. A pair of bright lads behind the masks of Spider-Men have impressive abilities that are incredibly fun to play around with and upgrade. Plus, their scientific curiosity could potentially help them earn a fortune.
But heroes that inspire generations don’t take their powers for granted or use them purely for their own benefit. They find their purpose in saving and helping others. Peter and Miles from Spider-Man games sacrifice their lives on a daily basis to save New York citizens from criminals of all calibers. Marvel’s latest games, they realize the importance of easing the burden by asking other people for help and sharing their troubles with the dearest. That’s a particularly fitting message coming from iconic video game characters.
Geralt (The Witcher Series)
This has to be one of the most famous video game characters of recent years. After the release of the Netflix TV series, even non-gamers recognize this fella by white hair, a pair of swords behind his back, and a deep, calm voice. Despite being looked down upon by intolerant folks and being called a monster or Butcher of Blaviken, he remains a true friend of humanity.
Hostility of others doesn’t stop Geralt of Rivia from the Witcher series, from helping others. There’s no quest that’s too dangerous or insignificant for him. Whether the gang of bandits terrorizes the village, a haunted well is endangering lives, or a granny is looking for her favorite frying pan, Gerald will find some time to help others. After he gets some rest or finishes playing Gwent, of course.
Ezio Auditore (Assassin’s Creed series)
Renaissance is full of interesting and influential men: Leonardo da Vinci, William Shakespeare… and Ezio Auditore da Firenze. Trends change, and Ubisoft continues releasing new Assassin’s Creed games, but after the wild adventures from AC II to Revelations, this mighty warrior keeps occupying a special place in our hearts.
He started off as an arrogant, self-centered punk but changed drastically over the years and found the strength to walk away from the world of violence. He teaches us that self-growth is a life-long journey, not a destination. For that life lesson and the ability to kick butts in the most astounding ways possible, he gets his well-deserved spot among the best male leads.
Arthur Morgan (Red Dead Redemption 2)
Once you start off Red Dead Redemption 2, you’re greeted by a classic example of morally grey characters. Despite being motivated by honorable feelings like gratitude for and responsibility towards his “family” (a.k.a. Dutch’s Boys), Arthur Morgan commits crimes and inflicts pain and suffering. Later on, due to certain events that we’re not going to spoil, he gets more than just a change of heart.
Apart from self-reflection on his past decisions and experiencing insufferable guilt, he tries to use his time and resources to make a positive impact on a community. Arthur Morgan’s life journey demonstrates that even scoundrels have the capacity to get better, and it’s never too late to acknowledge mistakes and start a path toward recovery.
His story captivated players not only because of the top-notch screenwriting. It comes to life thanks to the vibrant setting full of locations and quests. Check out our list of the 20 best open-world games on PC & Steam if that sounds like your cup of tea.
Commander Shepard (Mass Effect Legendary Edition)
We’re aware that it’s a bit of a stretch since you can choose between two genders. Yet, the male protagonist is considered the default choice by the majority of Mass Effect players. Commander Shepard captivated our attention a long time ago, and the two-year-old Legendary Edition brought fond memories of his journeys and social interactions.
A certain issue is present with the top RPGs: a player gets to spend dozens (even hundreds) of hours with a blank character that works as merely a vessel for the will of the player. On the other hand, Commander Shepard is a charismatic lad who abides by his noble mission of keeping peace in the galaxy from destruction. He (or shall we say “you”?) gets to choose the means of achieving his objectives, which can be just, polite, and non-violent. And that’s exactly the ones that we all picked… Right? 🙃
Cal Kestis (Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order & Survivor)
The STAR WARS franchise is packed with famous video game characters: virtuous warriors, good-turned-bad villains, and charming scoundrels that have nothing to do with the force. The galaxy far, far away is vast and full of complex lore that deserves multiplex protagonists like Cal Kestis.
Is he a good Jedi? That’s up for hours-long debates about the strict rules of the order and whether they can be applicable. With that being said, there’s no doubt that Cal Kestis is a positive character who, despite losing everything after Order 66, acts in good intentions.
Master Chief (Halo)
A nameless hero hiding behind the helmet and suit is a trademark of the Halo franchise. He needs no face, no ID, and no soapy backstory to become the best male lead. How could Bungie Inc. draw so much love and admiration towards a protagonist who might be deemed flat and underdeveloped in 2023?
Instead of hyper-detailed facial expressions and pompous monologues, Master Chief lets his actions speak for himself. Top-notch shooting gameplay and excellent level design perfectly portray him for who he truly is: a Spartan supersoldier who’s focused on his tasks. It’s a completely opposite approach to the protagonist design than in Mass Effect, yet it does a splendid job drawing attention.
What do you think of the whole idea of the International Men’s Day? Should it be celebrated with a similar enthusiasm as the International Women’s Day? Let’s start a civil conversation in the comment section below.