Top Ten Voiceless Protagonists in Video Games

A column article, Top Ten by: Nick Boisson, Dylan Tano

 

Many of us here at Comics Bulletin are very big on the concept of voice in comics, films, television and video games. But rarely ever the physical voice of a character (otherwise, comics would be damn near unreadable), but the voice of the writer, the director, the game developer. With video games, television and film able to incorporate the audible along with the visual, we take advantage of the fact that voice can be portrayed in other methods than mere speech.

Here, Nick Boisson and Dylan Tano share some of their favorite experiences playing characters in video games who say so much without ever speaking a word.


 





“B.J.” Blazkowicz from Wolfenstein 3D / Doomguy from Doom / Generic FPS Bad-Ass



Killing Nazis, demons from Hell, aliens, all around nogoodniks in the first-person perspective: that all started with id Software’s Wolfenstein 3D. “B.J.” Blazkowicz was the first FPS character I ever played and Wolfenstein 3D is the closest I have ever come to conquering social injustice. I have been known to donate to charities and have occasionally attempted to make a child or two laugh, but that still does not seem as important to me as this game was for young Nick. After all, taking out the SS soldiers holding you prisoner inside a Nazi castle is not only the best way for one to stay alive in such trying times, but it is a hell of a lot of fun! And nothing really ever gets done after speeches are made anyway.

Then after Wolfenstein came Doom and the beauty that was the BFG 9000. And frankly, who the hell needs a voice when you have one Big Fucking Gun?!

The Master Chiefs, the Gordon Freemans, the Duke Nukems, the Serious Sams, the counter-terrorists in Counter-Strike, every soldier in every Medal of Honor and Call of Duty game: without “B.J.” and Doomguy, they would never be. [Let us save discussion for whether that is a good or bad thing for another time.]

 

by Nick Boisson





Wander from Shadow of the Colossus



What would you do to save someone you loved? Would you steal an ancient sword from the most powerful shaman in your world, break into the forbidden land and make a deal with a disembodied voice to slay sixteen colossi? That is just what Wander did. Doing this all without saying a peep, aside from calling upon his faithful horse Argo. So what does Wander get to fight the sixteen behemoths? Wicked magic spells? A great two handed sword enchanted to crack mountains? How about those Kratos thingies with the chains and blades? NOPE! Just a sword and a bow. Our hero climbs these things, figuring out where to poke and stab the mythical beasts. No wings, no parachute and he can't hold on forever. With all these limitations in place, he still manages to scratch, claw, climb and slay all sixteen of these gargantuan monoliths.

 

by Dylan Tano





Nameless Boy from Limbo



Not only is the protagonist in Limbo voiceless, but also faceless, colorless and nameless. And since he is searching for his lost sister on the edge of Hell (Limbo), he is also without family and -- very possibly -- life. Never has a child in a video game come off as so bleak and hopeless (there goes one more -less), but never so much has a young child come off as a hero to all players either. All this young lad wants to do is save his sister from the depths of eternal nothingness (that’s a whole lot of -less) and he will not let darkness nor fear stop him from doing just that.

Who needs a voice, or a name, or even a life when you have someone willing to give that all up for? Now, that may seem a little dark and melancholic, but we are talking about Limbo here.

 

by Nick Boisson





Bill and Lance from Contra



When you get called in to stop an alien invasion -- not just once, but thrice -- then you're a bad-ass. When you do that with just yourself and one other dude with nicknames like Mad Dog and Scorpion, without saying a word? That gets you put on this list. Now, it may not be such an amazing feat for today's super soldier who carries a whole armory on their backs and look like Rob Liefield started designing gaming heroes. These guys had the guns they brought to battle, a shocking lack of armor, some fancy ammo, their ability to flip and each other. Running in guns-a-blazing, they've turned the tide against everything from terrorists to aliens. The reason they never said a word? They were in awe of their own awesomeness.

 

by Dylan Tano

 




Pac-Man



Pac-Man is one of the few classic game characters that has stuck to his roots. There have been changes to his games (check out Pac-Man: Championship Edition DX; even if you hate Pac-Man games, you’ll probably have a good time), but Pac-Man is still the same golden, ghost-eating, spherical bundle of joy that he has been since his debut in arcades around the world in 1980. He may have gotten a wife and sprouted a kid, but I’ll be damned if that yellow dude can’t eat a Power Pellet like nobody’s business! 
And he does it all while foregoing speech. [No, those crappy cartoons from the '80s don't count.]

It has also just occurred to me that Pac-Man and the misses would have needed to consummate their relationship to have had Pac-Man Jr. How does Pac-sex work? How would they-- You know what? Let’s just move on...

 

by Nick Boisson

 



Kirby



Pink. Little red shoes. Super cute, can inhale better than anyone in Holland's red light district and has a stronger stomach than a hobo by the dock. Kirby's gastrointestinal tract alone gets him on the list and lungs that would make a shopvac envious. Seriously, the guy sucks and blows his way across the planet Pop Star, defeating enemies with his mouth and legendary stomach. He gets so good at it that he swallows their essence and becomes one with his foe. Meanwhile, I get gas from eating too much Tex-Mex. I'd hate to see what would happen to me if I inhaled one of King Dedede's minions.
But he seems to enjoy it, since he barely speaks a word, and it is all he does. Perhaps we are all fooled and Kirby is just a mad cannibal terrorizing Dream Land and the true heroes are Meta Knight and poor King Dedede. Either way, Kirby earns his spot on this list and to the victor go the spoils.

 

by Dylan Tano

 




Chell from the Portal series



Have you ever woken up in an abandoned lab and been forced to complete tests all in the efforts of science? If you have said ‘No’, then you and I have a very different recollection of what childhood was like. I am still waiting for all those cakes I was promised, too!

That said, I’m pretty sure Chell is one the gal that would totally get me! In Portal, she wakes up after what we can assume was many years in cryogenic hibernation to find a gun that fires portals into surfaces and an artificial intelligence -- named GLaDOS -- that wants her to keep running through dangerous obstacle courses until she fails (i.e. dies). She not only completes all these tests (for the efforts of science), but manages to defeat GLaDOS all without muttering a single word. But hey, if you could do all of this, you wouldn’t need to worry about audibly expressing yourself either.

 

by Nick Boisson

 




Link from The Legend of Zelda series



Master of time. Often mistaken for the girl he is trying to save. He has died countless deaths at the hands of his enemies yet he silently comes back for more. Relying more on guts, guile and a medieval arsenal than anything else he has saved Hyrule and the world countless times over since birth. Granted Link isn't one man, but lineage. Link isn't a person, it is a title. A silent hero, a guardian of Hyrule, he isn't the hero we want, he is the hero—Nolan wants me to stop? All right, all right.
Link has transcended generation after generation, reality mirrors the games to this extent, there must always be a Link to stop Ganon. A good to balance evil.

 

by Dylan Tano



 


Red from the Pokémon series



As far as I know everyone reading this was ten at some point. Right? Right. When you were ten, you didn't head out on an adventure full of dangerous monsters, adults skulking around waiting to strike and a criminal organization bent on stealing every Pokémon? But you did. We were all Red at some point, catching, training and bonding with these creatures we met along the way. We dreaded Lavender Town, we dreaded bumping into Blue at an inopportune moment and we really wondered what was up with those guys in black. Not only does he accomplish this, but he becomes the master trainer. At TEN. Seriously, what were you doing at ten? Learning to play in the street? He spends nights in caves, raids towers taken over by the Poké-mafia, faces ghosts and unbelievably powerful monsters without a word. Perhaps he is silently looking for his father, who you never see. Or perhaps he is just burning with a deep desire to be the very best, like no one ever was! To catch them is his real test, to train them is his cause!

 

by Dylan Tano


 



Gordon Freeman from the Half-Life series



Does anything one says hold value if a portal to an alternate dimension were opened at their place of business and all they had was a crowbar, a bunch of aggressive, interdimensional aliens and a prayer? Gordon Freeman didn’t think so.
In Half-Life, players are thrown right into the worst day in the life of Dr. Gordon Freeman, theoretical physicist at Black Mesa Research Facility. No cut-scenes, no real idea of what is going to happen, no voice. And when Gordon Freeman is around, he makes “B.J.” Blazkowicz, Doomguy and Bill & Lance look like characters from My Little Pony: awesome, but much more cute and fluffy than anything else. Gordon Freeman proved that the geek in us all can still be a total and complete bad-ass merely by being intelligent and having pretty good aim.

Gordon Freeman was the start of a whole new kind of protagonist in video games, and the fact that players feel as if they know how he thinks without ever uttering a solitary syllable is a credit to the game and the industry as a whole. He is also the reason why I continue to wear black-frame glasses.

 

by Nick Boisson

 

 

 


 

Pop culture geek, Nick Boisson, lives in front of his computer, where he is Section Editor of Infinite Ammo -- Comics Bulletin’s video game appendage -- and shares his obsessive love of video games, comics, television and film with the Internet masses. In the physical realm, he works in Comic Guest Relations for Florida Supercon in Miami as well as a day-to-day job, which he refuses to identify to the public. We’re thinking something in-between confidential informant and professional chum-scrubber.

He rants on about the things he loves (and hates) on Twitter as @nitroslick.

 

 


 

Dylan Tano has been playing video games since before he could walk. He's scaled castles and rode on the backs of giants. He has lived many lives, and will live many more.

 

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