Platform: Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Developer: 343 Industries
Being a hero is no easy task, and it’s doubly hard when you’re the new savior on the block. With every new console generation comes new franchises and returning favorites. Everyone knows characters like Master Chief and Samus are great heroes – some of our favorites, even – but what about the new faces donning a mask for the first time, or those who have found themselves fighting for good against all odds? What about the ones who have simply fallen into a bad situation but have come out better for it?
Those heroes are some of the best in recent memory, and with a couple more outings in their future, it’s easy to see how they could become icons like Chief and Samus. Here are our favorite heroes of the generation so far, ranked in chronological order of appearance.
Spoilers for Final Fantasy XIV Shadowbringers and Endwalker ahead.
Following the events of Shadowbringers, G’raha Tia has become a new member of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, but hasn’t fully transitioned from his previous life. Formerly a leader with immense political and magical power, he now travels alongside the Warrior of Light and doesn’t quite know how to deal with some of the crises you face together and struggles to find where he fits in with the Scions. Throughout the Endwalker expansion, G’raha slowly regains his confidence and, in turn, his natural leadership skills as he’s able to keep cool under world-threatening pressure. The through-line from his humble beginnings as a historian to an extradimensional traveler might be the most exciting aspect of the adventure, but his eventual rise from mere companion to loyal best friend and a valued Scion is one of the best hero arcs this generation.
Insomniac’s version of Miles Morales was first introduced in 2018’s Marvel’s Spider-Man. Though we didn’t see him actually become Spider-Man, it was clear that this was where Insomniac was headed, and sure enough, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales launched with the PlayStation 5 in 2020. Through its eight hours, we all grew to know this already-great character even more, and perhaps most importantly, we watched him become the protector New York City needed in a time when Peter Parker wasn’t there to defend it. Miles comes out the other end of his journey a hero – not a lesser web-slinger or Peter’s fill-in, but a true Spider-Man that stands alongside the original. It’s heartwarming to watch the story unfold, and it’s got us excited to don Miles’ trademark black and red suit once more in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.
In many ways, Selene is a new Samus. No, she’s not from Metroid, but, much like Samus, she’s a stoic, alien-killing, badass intent on completing the mission, no matter the cost. In Returnal, we’re introduced to Selene as just that, and every action she takes through the game’s mysterious narrative further proves our point. But there’s more to Selene than meets the eye. Horror-like house sequences fill in crucial backstory that completely change the perspective of what’s going on, and some late-game revelations flip all of that on its head once more. Still, through it all, Selene is determined, capable, and the kind of space soldier we all want to be. We’re not sure what the future holds for Selene – something tells us it will be similar to the day before and the day before that – but we can’t wait to see what else Housemarque and PlayStation do with her character.
The Wielder does not begin the game as a hero. She’s simply a janitor and fangirl of the world’s savior, Chicory. But when Chicory inexplicably locks herself in a tower, leaving the world devoid of color, this janitor picks up her brush and does what any hero would do: save the day herself. It’s a wild premise that captivated us quickly, and growing from the janitor to the savior of Picnic, a place where everyone is named after food, was enthralling. Plus, Chicory’s message about overcoming imposter syndrome, which is seen through the eyes of The Wielder who feels it after picking up the mantle, is important, as is seeing Chicory lean on The Wielder to cope with her depression. In the end, both are better for relying on the other to overcome personal obstacles and insecurities. The Wielder is the hero who restored color, beauty, and life into her world. She stands as an inspiration for us and future heroes this generation. Not everyone might feel like a hero, but that doesn’t mean they can’t become one. We hope that Chicory is just the start of The Wielder’s adventures this generation.
Kit is a new character introduced in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, serving as Clank’s multiversal counterpart. Everyone knows the iconic duo of Ratchet & Clank are heroes, but Kit represents the inspiration the pair can have on others through their good deeds. When we meet Kit, she’s emotionally bogged down by her villainous past. She’s a robot built for destruction, but she’s put aside those tendencies to be a peaceful, and ultimately better, person. Kit struggles with her misdeeds and regularly doubts herself, but Ratchet instills in her the potential to help others. When nobody else believed in her, Ratchet said, “I do.” Now, Kit is an ally we can’t wait to see more of. Whether she’s kicking butt or sitting down to gaze at the stars, Kit is the perfect face to remind us that imposter syndrome has no place in our lives.
Alex Chen had quite the feat before her in Life is Strange: True Colors. Not only did she have to solve the mystery of her brother’s death while navigating being the new girl in a new town, but she also had to stand out in a franchise built on the shoulders of fantastic characters. She did so effortlessly, and it was clear she’d join the ranks of characters like Max Caulfield and Sean Diaz shortly after the start of True Colors’ first episode. Her powers, which see her use empath abilities to read other people’s emotions and, in some cases, take them on as her own, are understated, but they are essential to navigating her story as the narrative arc she goes through is pretty inspiring. True Colors’ Alex Chen showcases how important it is to trust your gut, and why, when you believe in something, you should stand up for it against all odds. Alex Chen took on a mountain of corporate structure destined to silence her, but crucially, she put her love of friends and family alike above all else and persevered because of it. Life is Strange typically moves on after each entry, but we’re left hoping that True Colors is not the last time we’ll see Alex Chen.
Colt Vahn becomes a character you want to spend more time playing as within Deathloop’s first few minutes. He winds up in a terribly strange situation, and unlike most heroes in video games, he asks, “what the hell is going on?” It’s great because it’s the same question we all would have had if we woke up on a beach, destined to repeat the same day over and over again. He doesn’t try to tough-guy it or hide his fear. In fact, he doesn’t even try to become a hero, and you could argue he never becomes one by traditional standards. He’s just a guy who wants to break the loop so that he can no longer be a part of it. He’s the kind of protagonist we can all respect – someone who has no freaking idea what’s going on but perseveres nonetheless. There are plenty of twists and turns to be found along the way, but in the end, Colt comes out as an unlikely hero we already want more of. Plus, he’s a Black lead who doesn’t lean into harmful stereotypes, which is, unfortunately, a rarity in gaming. Hopefully, his success inspires developers to write more Black heroes because if Deathloop proves anything, it’s that gaming needs and deserves more of them.
We all know Drax is a hero – he’s part of a very famous superhero team, after all – but Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy expanded on the heartbreaking backstory that drives everything he does. Yes, he defeated Thanos. Yes, he’s virtually unstoppable, and if you looked at him, you might write it off as, “well yeah, look at him – dude’s a beast.” But, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy highlights that it’s the loss of Drax’s family that fuels him and keeps him motivated to fight another day. This leads to one of the most heartwarming and heartbreaking moments in games last year where Drax must painfully reconcile with his loss for the greater good, a moment that solidified Drax as one of our favorite heroes. Star-Lord, Groot, Rocket Raccoon, and Gamora are great heroes in their own right, but Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy proves that Drax is the true unlikely heart of the group.
It’s no easy feat stacking up to one of gaming’s most iconic heroes, Master Chief, but Cortana’s successor, The Weapon, did it with ease in Halo Infinite. Cortana’s character took a heel turn in Halo 5: Guardians, and while some fans weren’t happy with the direction, it was set in stone, and Halo Infinite had to address that. The Weapon did just that, bringing all of the spunk and optimism of Cortana with an extra dash of innocence and naivety that has us excited to bring her on more world-saving missions in future Halo entries. Cortana is almost irreplaceable, but fortunately, 343 Industries found a way to, well, replace her. And they did it in the best way possible: by introducing us to someone who doesn’t want to be Cortana; The Weapon simply wants to be herself.
Aloy was an excellent protagonist in 2017’s Horizon Zero Dawn, but due to the nature of the game and its overarching mystery, she doesn’t really come into her own as a hero until the game’s final hours. Horizon Forbidden West, though, is all about Aloy’s newfound stardom as the savior of Meridian (and the world), and we get to watch her come to terms with that title. She’s unwavering in her commitment to helping people and won’t stand aside when authority asks her to. If she believes in something, she will commit herself to it and watching Aloy become the hero everyone claims she is, is incredibly fulfilling. We can’t wait to see where her journey takes us next.
What are some of your favorite heroes this generation? Let us know in the comments below!