While video games have been around for well-over 25 years, there are only a num­ber of char­ac­ters they can be con­sid­ered tru­ly icon­ic. Gam­ing real­ly took-off in the 80’s and 90’s, but now has become a mul­ti-bil­lion dol­lar a year indus­try. The bet­ter the games get, hope­ful­ly, the more we will see remem­ber­able characters. 

The list below includes both cur­rent icons and ones from the past, that most peo­ple should rec­og­nize right away:

  1. Pac-Man 

Top 20 Iconic Game Characters

Peo­ple who don’t even reg­u­lar­ly play video games, will know about this char­ac­ter. Not only has he been fea­tured in sev­er­al dif­fer­ent iter­a­tions of his game, he’s been on the big screen, a lot­tery tick­et, and even has a female ver­sion of him. He’s prob­a­bly the most well known gam­ing char­ac­ter to date.

First Seen On: May 22nd, 1980 (Japan)

2. Mario

Top 20 Iconic Game Characters

Mario has been around for a very long time and is almost as icon­ic as Pac-Man. He has stood the test of time, with plen­ty of games through the gen­er­a­tions, each one slight­ly bet­ter than the rest. Many old­er gamers grew up play­ing as this Ital­ian plumber and now kids can play him in the newest Mario Odyssey on Nin­ten­do Switch. He first appeared in Don­key-Kong, but blos­somed into his own series.

First Seen On: Don­key-Kong — July 9th, 1981

3. Son­ic the Hedgehog

Top 20 Iconic Game Characters

While Son­ic has not had such a glam­orous time aging, he was still very pop­u­lar when he first arrived. With numer­ous games since then, although not as suc­cess­ful as the orig­i­nal, Son­ic still hold a spe­cial place in the list as one of the most icon­ic char­ac­ters of ear­ly gaming.

First Seen On: June 23rd, 1991

4. Samus Aran

Top 20 Iconic Game Characters

Samus is well known for expos­ing her iden­ti­ty under­neath that suit of armor. Peo­ple where sur­prised to see it was a woman, but that nev­er hurt the series. She has­n’t had a game on major con­sole, in a while, but she will be fond­ly remem­ber as one of the first female char­ac­ters in a game series (that does­n’t include princess­es in peril).

First Seen On: August 6, 1986

5. Mas­ter Chief

Top 20 Iconic Game Characters

This is one visor lift that prob­a­bly will nev­er hap­pen. Mas­ter Chief is famous for his lack of face, and well know among Halo fans. He’s tran­scend­ed his series to films, books, food and drink pro­mo­tions, among others. 

First Seen On: Novem­ber 15th, 2001

6. Lara Croft

Top 20 Iconic Game Characters

Lara is anoth­er icon­ic female lead role that most gamers (and maybe even non-gamers) should imme­di­ate­ly rec­og­nize. She had hum­ble begin­nings on the orig­i­nal PlaySta­tion, mov­ing to mul­ti­ple plat­forms with sev­er­al dif­fer­ent types of games and char­ac­ter mod­els. She’s also had a cou­ple of movies in the ear­ly 2000’s fea­tur­ing Angeli­na Jolie as Lara. She cur­rent­ly has a film set for release on March 16, 2018, which is based on the reboot of Tomb Raider in 2013. 

First Seen On: Octo­ber 25th, 1996

7. Kratos

Top 20 Iconic Game Characters

This is one angry man, with the will­ing­ness to destroy the entire world to exact revenge on the Gods who did him wrong. Although his rage defli­nite­ly defines him, Kratos suf­fered a hor­ri­ble loss when he was tricked into killing his own fam­i­ly. The sto­ry of how he came to be is yet anoth­er rea­son peo­ple remem­ber Kratos. God of War has anoth­er game com­ing to the series, April 20th, 2018, where you meet an old­er Kratos who now has a son.

First Seen On: March 22nd, 2005

8. Link

Top 20 Iconic Game Characters

Even for peo­ple who don’t know his name, Link is a very well know char­ac­ter from The Leg­end of Zel­da series. His green garbs and wood­en sword will always be remem­ber by fans. He’s always embark­ing on a jour­ney to save the Princess Zel­da. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, even though peo­ple have heard of the game, they tend to think that Link is Zelda. 

First Seen On: Feb­ru­ary 21st, 1986

9. Spy­ro

Top 20 Iconic Game Characters

This lit­tle pur­ple drag­on will for­ev­er be remem­bered by many chil­dren from of the 90’s. The first three titles in his series were extreme­ly suc­cess­ful. Although he’s got more games on sev­er­al plat­forms, none faired as well as the orig­i­nals. There have been talks of a tril­o­gy remas­ter, includ­ing Spy­ro the Drag­on, Spy­ro 2: Rip­to’s Rage, and Year of the Dragon.

First Seen On: Sep­tem­ber 9th, 1998

10. Sol­id Snake

Top 20 Iconic Game Characters


Who could ever for­get this one-eyed char­ac­ter from the Met­al Gear Sol­id series? He’s a head­band wear­ing, stealth icon. Even if you haven’t played any of the games, you will prob­a­bly rec­og­nize him.

First Seen On: Sep­tem­ber 3rd, 1998

11. Crash Bandicoot

Top 20 Iconic Game Characters

Much like Spy­ro, this cooky guy is a mem­o­rable fig­ure for chil­dren of the 90’s. Run­ning through jun­gles, avoid­ing rocks and pit­fall traps, and doing a spin move to bust open box­es. Crash Bandi­coot also has a tril­o­gy remas­ter, which was released on June 30th, 2017.

First Seen On: Sep­tem­ber 9th, 1996

12. Leon S. Kennedy

Top 20 Iconic Game Characters

While Leon was­n’t the orig­i­nal char­ac­ter from the Res­i­dent Evil series, he has been a playable in sev­er­al games, show­ing up in ones where he was­n’t a playable char­ac­ter, and also being men­tioned in oth­ers. He’s also made an appear­ances in sev­er­al movies.

First Seen On: Jan­u­ary 21st, 1998 (Res­i­dent Evil 2)

13. Duke Nukem

Top 20 Iconic Game Characters

Nukem has­n’t had a suc­cess­ful game since… well it’s been awhile. How­ev­er, he’s still extreme­ly icon­ic, due to his crude and tough atti­tude, weird pig crea­tures, and a stripper. 

First Seen On: July 1st, 1991

14. Nathan Drake

Top 20 Iconic Game Characters

Drake is the male ver­sion of Lara Croft, with bet­ter hair. Through the four games he’s led, Nathan has seen many lands and untouched tombs, but always has a vil­lain to stop at the end. Because of his titles were so pop­u­lar, two oth­er mem­o­rable char­ac­ters, from with­in his series, also got their own spinoff. 

First Seen On: Novem­ber 19th, 2007

15. Ganon­dorf 

Top 20 Iconic Game Characters

Though this evil green-skinned and orange-haired char­ac­ter isn’t playable, Ganon is well know as Hyrule’s bad guy. Link has been bat­tling this creep since 1986. He’s been depict­ed in his demon­ic and humanoid forms across sev­er­al games and is always try­ing to stop Link from tak­ing back the Triforce.

First Seen On: Feb­ru­ary 21st, 1986

16. Don­key Kong

Top 20 Iconic Game Characters

This ape was orig­i­nal­ly seen in an arcade game, fight­ing Jump­man (now Mario). Since his antag­o­nist role in the orig­i­nal Don­key Kong, he became one of the good guys in Don­key Kong Coun­try. Although his pop­u­lar­i­ty has dwin­dled, he’s still one of the most well known apes in video games.

First Seen On: July 9th, 1981 (Japan)

17. Gor­don Freeman

Top 20 Iconic Game Characters

A the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist, Free­man caused hav­oc when a bunch of aliens came through a dimen­sion­al rift in space­time that he inad­ver­tent­ly cre­at­ed. How­ev­er, he does try to rem­e­dy his mis­take, albeit in vain. It’s too bad Half-Life 3 will nev­er come to fruition, we miss him.

First Seen On: Novem­ber 19th, 1998

18. Ezio

Top 20 Iconic Game Characters

Although Ezio Audi­tore isn’t the orig­i­nal assas­sin in the series, he is def­i­nite­ly a fan favorite. He’s been fea­tured in sev­er­al games, but fans were upset when he was no longer in the series. His out­fit has well out­lived him, appear­ing in pret­ty much every oth­er Assas­s­in’s Creed title, and has showed up in sev­er­al oth­er Ubisoft games, as well as others. 

First Seen On: Novem­ber 17th, 2009

19. Mega Man

Top 20 Iconic Game Characters

This is Cap­com’s pride a joy, sell­ing more than 50 mil­lion copies of the Mega Man series. There are many, many games in the series, as well as sev­er­al iterations. 

First Seen On: Decem­ber 17th, 1987

20. Joel & Ellie

Top 20 Iconic Game Characters

These two real­ly should­n’t be sep­a­rat­ed, as their sto­ry is an extreme strug­gle through a mutat­ed fun­gus infest­ed Amer­i­ca. No one will ever for­get the love Joel had for the young Ellie, giv­ing up a pos­si­ble cure to save her life. The Last of Us ΙΙ is cur­rent­ly under devel­op­ment and is high­ly anticipated.

First Seen On: June 14th, 2013

*This list is subjective