It’s sometimes overlooked how some of the most impactful video game characters of all-time have had less to say than a man accused of stealing – with a sawn-off shotgun in one hand and a big bag, with a dollar sign, in the other. We’ve been simply buzzing about a game so much, soaking up all the different facets of excellence it offers, yet we never actually learned what made our silent video game protagonists tick.
Grand Theft Auto, Half-Life, Bioshock, and many more. All universally regarded as some of THE great franchises that have delivered some of gaming’s greatest moments and memories. So, I feel it’s my job to put these mute monsters on the spot and single them out for not communicating back to us. Just to be clear, there have been a lot of characters that haven’t spoken a word in their debut – especially going back to the NES/SNES era.
But for argument’s sake, these are my personal choices that I’ve opted for in this list. If you feel this is an issue that is simply eating you up too much, then let me know, and maybe we’ll highlight some other shy souls in the future. For now, here are 9 silent video game protagonists that really didn’t have much to say for themselves.
1. Jak – Jak and Daxter (2001)
Jak and Daxter was Naughty Dog’s first real foray into the world without their beloved orange bandicoot. They opted to create, in my mind, one of the all-time, greatest platforming games. But one of the themes that they carried over from Crash Bandicoot, was having their main character not say a single word. I think there were a couple of occasions when it seemed like we were on the cusp of some linguistic linguine from Jak, but alas it was not the case.
Instead, Daxter firmly takes the reigns and has a lot of humorous dialogue that hits all the right notes. Jak would receive a vastly different persona in Jak II, as he became a lot angrier and gained the ability to express his moody feelings. Probably pent up because of repeated listens to Linkin Park’s Meteora album around that time.
2. Claude – Grand Theft Auto III (2001)
Grand Theft Auto; a franchise synonymous with Scorsese-like dialogue, fully developed characters, and up-and-down narratives that would make a roller coaster feel nauseous. Yet its first real protagonist, Claude, did all of his talking through his driving and shooting. It’s quite bizarre to think about now as after this, Rockstar would consistently conjure one memorable protagonist after another: Tommy Vercetti, CJ, Trevor, Michael, and Franklin.
Rockstar even addressed this long-standing mystery of Grand Theft Auto III back in 2011:
“So we decided that the game’s protagonist would not talk, partly to aid people identifying with him, but mostly because we had so many other problems to solve and this did not seem like a major issue.”
Regardless, GTA III was a groundbreaking game that would revolutionize the sandbox genre forever.
Here’s our GTA 3 retrospective look at this game-changer.
3. Tombi – Tombi!/Tomba! (1997)
Genuinely such an underrated classic. Such was the zany, outlandish nature of the two Tombi games, I often wonder how what could’ve been. They’d look insanely pretty now I know that much. All of the wackiness was fronted by a feral, pink-haired child that wanted to retrieve his grandfather’s bracelet, stolen by evil pigs. It sounds like some nonsense out of random plot generator, but it was fun. So many missions, so many weird and wonderful levels to boot.
Obviously Tombi’s lack of upbringing caused him to remain unable to communicate with humans. However, his facial expressions and mannerisms allowed him to get his message across just enough. If not, his savage chompers would happily reside in someone’s flesh.
4. Gordon Freeman – Half-Life (1998)
A game so far ahead of its time that if it was released for the first time in 2020, it wouldn’t look out of place at all. An absolutely scintillating game with exquisite gameplay, unique, physics-based puzzles, and it truly redefined the FPS genre. But if you wanted some emotives to try to sympathize with our unlucky scientist, then you’d be better off to talking to one of the many headcrabs in this game. Or the crowbar.
Half-Life’s hero of the hour knows one language – crowbar. Arguably the most famous crowbar in existence. That shiny, red scepter has seen its fair share of bloodshed, alien juices and meaty, Nihilanth brain. The “woosh” of a swinging crowbar or the tender rustling of Gordon’s prickly beard is the only audio you’ll get back from godlike Gordon.
5. Jack – Bioshock (2007)
What an unfortunate turn of events for our dear Jack. Once second he’s flying, care-free towards Rapture, with a cigarette in one hand and a picture of his family in the other – the next he’s taking on water like a runner in a marathon. This game deserves a RAPTURE-ous ovation for being another all-time great, that would go on to become a legendary trilogy of games…
Before you attack me in the comments, as someone that’s played this game multiple times, I’m well-aware there’s a brief soliloquy when Jack is on the plane. HOWEVER, this was a last-minute addition to counteract the negative feedback received in playtesting, and was never planned.
Bioshock Creator Ken Levine, had this to say on the subject:
“We were like, “Well, what do we do? What do we think is missing? Because we can’t make something new. What is already there that they’re not connecting to?” We decided it was who they were. What their identity was.
We came up with a very cheap way to add the opening scene with the plane crash. I wrote one line. We had this idea that you’d be smoking a cigarette on a plane, which to me set the time period really well. We wanted something right away that would not just say it with text but would put it in your soul.”
Jack never speaks again after this, and I almost ignore those fleeting moments when Jack’s head speaks. Instead, his tortured screams from the grotesque sights and sounds of this dystopian city can describe more to me than words ever could.
6. The Chosen Undead/Hunter – Dark Souls (2011) / Bloodborne (2015)
A bit of a two-parter here but, the more the merrier. Quite an ironic thing to say really when discussing should fiendishly difficult games. This is another prime example of characters undergoing repeated resurrection and letting out shrieks of agony – as opposed to a cursory “hi” to a 50ft dragon. The “Soulsborne” genre is cemented in history and the impact of these games simply cannot be understated.
Despite your never-ending immortality, your characters are stubbornly reluctant to speak to the myriad of NPC’s that are more than happy to converse with you. Instead, you stand there eyeballing the potential souls in front of you, praising the sun. I mean, I’d be quite irate if this undead show-off was running around in their underwear, after slaying a tree the size of Texas; and instead of saying “Lovely weather we’re having”, they just came up to me and started clapping sarcastically.
7. Doomguy – DOOM (1993)
The single-most badass motherducker (damn auto-correct) that has ever walked both the face of the Earth, and the eternal fires of hell. Doesn’t say a word. Doesn’t need to. His superhuman vessel has more awesomeness in his left index finger, than the entire human race does. Ignoring the newfound lore introduced in DOOM: Eternal; the Doom Slayer was the first line of defense against all hellish entities that showed even the slightest malignant tendencies. He was a mysterious, slaughterer of demons that was so xenophobic towards them, you’d think they’d tried to kill him. Over and over again. Across multiple games. On Earth. In Hell. In Space. He’s basically a vigilante for justice. Doomguy is Batman.
He never needs to speak. I don’t care if we find out if he’s some genetic deity comprised of part Cyberdemon, part Spider Mastermind, and part Cacodemon eye. His aura is unlike any. He’s the one, above all else, that needs to remain a silent video game protagonist forever. I do reckon he needs a fishing weekend every now and again though to relax – singing campfire songs and all that palaver.
We also recently published our DOOM: Eternal review, check it out!
8. Red/Blue – Pokemon Red/Blue (1998)
I’m fully aware that the original debut of this game was Pocket Monsters Red and Green in 1996, in Japan. But again, for arguments sake, we’ll go for the more commonly recognized games that came out two years later, Pokemon Red and Blue. The Pokemon games are a weird one, you speak to so many different NPC’s: some want to fight you, some want to hurt you and some just want to surrender to your immoral house plundering. Instead, you give them the silent treatment; it’s not really becoming a world champion, Pokemon master now is it?
Your incredibly generous grandfather gifts to you your first Pokemon, even though you didn’t do anything to deserve it, and what does your character do? He gives Professor Oak a colder shoulder than a piece of frozen pork. Still, if there’s a dude walking around with a level 100: Mewtwo, Gyarados, Articuno, Zapdos, Articuno, and the mythical Vermilion City Mew – then I wouldn’t want him to look at me…oh no he did…Andrew fainted!
9. Mario – Super Mario Bros. (1985)
The undisputed king of video game characters. Using only the tip-top, academic research that I could get my hands on – Wikipedia – I was able to determine that the list of video games, featuring Mario, totals 258. Just think about that for a second. Even if the figure is wrong, I’d be fully confident of the figure being north of 200. Mario saved the world of video games after it was headed for a complete crash in the 1980’s. You can especially thank Super Mario Bros. Not E.T.
Nowadays, Mario is a mish-mash of sounds and broken English. On his debut though, he was just an Italian John McClane, ascending the Nakatomi Castle to rescue Princess Holly Peach. Boinging on Koopas and developing calluses on his head was the name of the game for Mario. No words though.
Furthermore, I’m going to treat you to a bonus section. Lucky you!
There is a belief that Mario’s first words were in Super Mario 64; some even think it was in Hotel Mario. I hate to be the bearer of some awful news, but it appear his first words came even earlier. There’s a bombshell you weren’t expecting! After researching this more than I should’ve done, it appears that some game called Mario Teaches Typing (1991) actually had the pleasure of featuring the talents of… someone. I couldn’t even find out who. It’s definitely not the legendary Charles Martinet, that still voices Mario to this day. We may never know who it was.
Warning – the following video is equally hilarious and terrifying. I now want an 18-rated Mario game called “Madhouse Mario” with Mario as the maniacal villain.
So there you go! 9 silent video game protagonists that might actually prefer the echoing silence of a library to the various worlds of peril they’ve all faced at some point. If you enjoyed this list and want to know about some more famous silent video game protagonists, then let us know in the comments below!