When we think of great people we often veer toward the positive, but what makes great character? Art showcases the very best and worst we can imagine. Through well-written characters, we delve further into the human condition. These are our picks for the best video game characters of 2023.

Cal Kestis

Taking down a fascist galactic empire is hard to do alone in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. So is restoring a benevolent order wiped out by said empire. At least Cal Kestis has a couple allies, after most of his squad was slaughtered. Despite how alone he may be, his resistance and very survival ensure that hope survives. Enduring loss and sacrifice, Cal’s story is unfortunately relevant considering today’s global climate.

Clive Rosfield

Clive Rosfield is the eldest son to the Archduke of Rosaria, but failed to inherit the Phoenix’s blessing in Final Fantasy XVI. After an absolutely brutal coup, Clive ends up a slave mercenary for the empire. When he saves his childhood friend, he joins a rebel group to liberate those like himself. Clive may not be the most dynamic character, but his pursuit is a sight to behold as well as a time-tested allegory: Maybe there’s more to life than revenge?

Karlach

Formerly enslaved to fight in the Blood Wars, Karlach thirsts for life now that she is free in Baldur’s Gate 3. Depending on your playthrough her impact can be huge or nearly nonexistent. Some aspects remain; she radiates enthusiasm, especially for the little things. Why? Her heart is an Infernal Engine, ready to go out any moment without proper care. Following her strong moral compass, she makes sure to experience life to the fullest. Karlach’s genuine support is welcome in a game that can appear overwhelming. Although, we’re sure every party member deserves a spot here.

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Link

One of the most iconic characters out there, let alone video games. What sets Link apart from someone like Mario is the heightened vision Nintendo has crafted for him. Despite all his capabilities, Link fails to rescue who he has been entrusted with in Tears of the Kingdom. Essentially starting at zero, he learns old and new skills. With a stoic air, Link reclaims Hyrule from Ganondorf as he searches for Zelda. That isn’t to say you can’t pull off some stunts using the sacred powers. It’s a classic tale for a classic character.

Peter Parker

Peter Parker is an indelible character in culture for decades. Specifically in Spider-Man 2, he wrestles with power and morality. How do you cope with your best friend becoming your antithesis? What do you do with a burgeoning apprentice in need of self-reliance? Peter even gives in to the symbiote’s allure but ultimately accepts the relationship outcomes, reconciled or not. Over the course of three games we can see him grow in his multi-faceted journey.

Sadly, we haven’t played every single release of 2023. We’re sure we missed out on your favorites, so tell us about them! Share how a character made you laugh, cry, or moved you by simply being who they are. It’s great looking back on how an entire year of game characters, big or small.

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Luke Sakanashi
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