Polls have shown he’s more widely recognized than Mickey Mouse. He’s credited with breathing life into what is now a more than $10.5 billion industry. He’s an Italian-Japanese American living in a magical kingdom. He’s a racecar driver, a tennis champion, a fighter pilot, a world-class golfer, an NBA star, a referee, a doctor, a toy maker, a construction and demolition worker, a typing instructor, a plumber, a brewer, a baseball player, an astronaut, a stunt biker, a theme park owner, a soccer striker, a diver, a sanitation engineer, a hunter, an Olympian, an artist, a time traveler, a submarine captain, a circus trainer and a freelance adventurer. Mario, ladies and gentlemen, is truly the most interesting man in the world.
Luigi is the Samwise Gamgee of video games. While Mario has his name on the box and gets all the credit for more than three decades of victories, everyone’s favorite “player 2” is content to be the eternal second fiddle. In every Super Mario game to date, Luigi is there helping his brother along and quietly taking his emotional abuse. He doesn’t get invited to have cake with the princess or to go on vacation in paradise and even his girlfriend Daisy is Mario’s sloppy seconds, but he is still the one to rescue Mario when he goes missing. Time after time, the younger brother prevails, shrugs off adversity and is likely the only reason Mario ever succeeds. After all, he can still jump higher.
The heroine of Beyond Good and Evil is one of the less recognized names on this list, but it’s hard to question her qualifications. A photojournalist who protects war orphans is inspiring enough, but when Jade takes on an assignment to uncover the truth behind the war and her government’s shiny exterior, she exposes herself firsthand to conspiracy, torture, genocide and the deaths of those closest to her. Though it’s only about a 10-hour game, Beyond Good and Evil shows Jade as a character who loved deeper, laughs stronger, works harder and hurts more than many of our favorite literary protagonists. And if you didn’t cry just a little before all was said and done, go see a physician: you’re missing a heart.