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Top 5 Influential Retro Game Characters

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July 19, 2021

Many gaming companies such as Nintendo and Sega, have developed famous characters within their games, these characters make the game stand out and increase their popularity. Certain characters however, stood tall above most and these influential retro game characters set the tone for the gaming industry. Seen below are what we perceive to be the top 5 most influential retro game characters that have been created. Before we begin our rankings, we’d like to give special mentions to characters like Pikachu, Luigi, Mega-man, and many more who just missed out!

No.5- Lara Croft

Coming in at 5th place we have Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider Franchise. First seen in the original retro game ‘Tomb Raider’ in 1996, Lara Croft was immediately a fan favourite. Being one of the first female-lead games series’ just 10 years after the reveal of Samus in 1986, it gave the game an extra element of interest. Tomb Raider allowed retro game fans to get behind Lara Croft as this strong, independent female protagonist. Lara Croft has also become a franchise within herself, selling countless action figures and starring in multiple Tomb Raider film adaptations.

No.4- Crash Bandicoot

In 4th place we have the crazy bandicoot, well known to retro gamers as Crash. First bursting onto the gaming scene in 1996 with ‘Crash Bandicoot’, the character immediately became an icon. Whether it was the bold looking orange-red colour which made him stand out from other characters, or his lack of words and him only being able to speak gibberish. The character became an avatar for PlayStation and completely ruled the early 2000’s with top retro games such as ‘Crash Team Racing’ and ‘The Wrath of Cortex’. It wasn’t again until 2017, that crash re-emerged from his 7-year hiatus with the release of the remade ‘N’Sane Trilogy’ as well as future games all the way up to a mobile game in 2021.

No.3- Link

Moving into the top 3 retro game characters, we start off with the lovable protagonist named Link. The character made his debut in the Legend of Zelda Franchise, through the release of the title ‘The Legend of Zelda’ in 1986. This retro game created two very famous gaming characters, these being Zelda and of course Link. The game allowed players to use Link and adventure through the map to complete his quest. It is astonishing to see how in 2021, Link and the Legend of Zelda franchise are as popular as ever with the upcoming sequel to ‘Breath of the Wild’ winning the award for the Most Anticipated Nintendo Game at E3 2021. All in all, when it comes to influential retro game characters, Link is most definitely up there with the greats.    

No.2- Sonic The Hedgehog

Now these last two rankings may divide opinion depending on what side of the fence you are. However, at Arcade Mania, we believe that there is a clear winner. Due to this we have ranked Sonic The Hedgehog 2nd place, in our most influential retro game characters list. The franchise went from a fun platforming game to having one of the most famous mascots of all time in… Sonic speed. Sonic The Hedgehog made his first appearance in the title with the same name in 1991. The character is so popular that it may have even taken over Sega themselves a more household name! Selling countless units of merchandise, this retro game character had people looking for blue hedgehogs in their back gardens. The influence of Sonic on the gaming industry can only be topped by one certain plumber.

No.1- Super Mario

Of course, at 1st place on our list is Super Mario. There is not a retro game character existing that can top the influence of this red cap wearing plumber. This character followed on from the huge success of ‘Donkey Kong’ in 1981 with players using him to beat Donkey Kong, back when he was first named Jumpman. His first leading appearance was in the well-known retro game ‘Super Mario Bros’ in 1985 along with his brother Luigi. Mario was simply a 2D character that could jump and use power-ups to complete each level. In 2021, Mario is known by almost everyone, with people who have never even looked at a video game being familiar with the name. We chose Mario as number 1 in our list as it could not have been anyone else, Nintendo and Mario will continue to grow together and will this retro game character will remain a constant for decades to come.

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