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Mt. Rushmore of Video Game Characters: Who Belongs?

Alright, I’m ready to ruffle some feathers. 

During my Mt. Rushmore of Video Game Characters selection process, I went back and forth between well over a dozen potential characters deserving of a spot. I racked my brain day and night, anxiously tapping my keyboard, awaiting the epiphany I was certain would appear. 

And day after day, it didn’t arrive. I looked to the tarot cards, read my horoscope countless times, asked the Magic 8-Ball, and even called my mother to ask her opinion (she didn’t care). By the time I rattled off a slew of names and finally thinned the herd to an Elite 8, I knew I would have to compromise with my indecisiveness. I had abused my backspace key to the point where it’s barely legible. No longer would I make my laptop suffer. 

Mt. Rushmore
COURTESY OF TEEN VOGUE

So here we are, moving into the profile process. What began as developing a solidified Mt. Rushmore has evolved into something akin to an electoral primary—as if we haven’t had enough of that as of late. 

Each candidate listed will have an argument for and against including them in the pantheon of video game characters. Some of you may agree with my selections, and some of you may consider this article utter blasphemy. In any case, here we go!

Kratos

First appearance: 2005

Mt. Rushmore
Courtesy of Santa Monica Studio

Reasons for: 

One of the many spawns of Zeus, the demigod Kratos is well-renowned amongst the gaming community and piques the interest of people privy to puzzles, extreme violence, and beautifully layered storylines. He’s a character that never falls victim to the classic, “Oh, I know him, but I can’t remember his name.” No, he’s Kratos: the God of War, Ghost of Sparta, Marked Warrior, Pale Champion of Bloodlust (that one is mine). 

As a hardened, battle-tested combat specialist with chilling crimson war paint, his candidacy also partially stems from the “fear factor.” Should he be left off this list, I may succumb to paralyzing trepidation as he haunts my dreams. 

Reasons against: 

The primary reason Kratos may not make the cut is his game’s inception date. Many of the following have been around for decades, laying the groundwork for the evolution of gaming. Don’t get me wrong, he’s iconic. But his lifespan hasn’t been on par with the others. The reality of him barely being old enough to drive a car hurts his candidacy for being a member of the Elite Four. Speaking of Elite Fours…

Pikachu

First appearance: 1996

Mt. Rushmore
 Courtesy of Nintendo

Reasons for: 

What sort of list would this be if the world’s most famous electric mouse wasn’t included? He’s cute, yellow, and has the capacity to send millions of crippling volts into dozens of beings simultaneously. Even people who don’t know Pokemon at the very least recognize Pikachu. 

A 25-year-old partnership with perpetual 10-year-old trainer Ash cements Pikachu’s loyalty.  This, coupled with his dedication to becoming the very best, gives him a “hero status” of sorts. Countless games, movies, and merchandise center around Pikachu, and with the franchise continuing to snowball its way towards greater success, a spot on Mt. Rushmore is more than deserving.

Reasons against: 

It hurts me to even add a section against Pikachu’s argument, but everyone is subject to criticism. The knock against Pikachu is that it shares the spotlight with the true main character of the franchise, Ash. While Pikachu is all action, Ash is most often the brains behind the operation—a minute but all-too-important detail. 

Mario

First appearance: 1986

Mt. Rushmore
Courtesy of Nintendo

Reasons for: 

It’s Mario.

Reasons against: 

Outdated wardrobe?

Pac-Man

First appearance: 1980

Mt. Rushmore
 Courtesy of Namco

Reasons for: 

Pac-Man is the oldest game character on this list at over 40 years old. This little yellow ball with an insatiable appetite has been consuming dots and ghosts since before most of us picked up a controller. Pac-Man has cunning, agility, and unequaled endurance, which makes him one of the best video game characters when it comes to getting the job done. 

Like Pikachu, he’s an international sensation that even people far disconnected from the world of gaming recognize by name or picture. His adventures are a timeless staple of history. Those devoted to vintage games won’t pass up an opportunity to gobble up ghosts for hours on end. His immunity to becoming obsolete makes Pac-Man a legitimate threat to the rest of the characters on this list.

Reasons against: 

Pac-Man doesn’t have quite the following he once had. The vintage gamers make up only a niche portion of the community. The formula for Pac-Man is so tried and true that it’s difficult to connect with young gamers, and changing that formula isn’t an option. Like any top athlete or performer, “time catches up with everyone.”

Donkey Kong

First appearance: 1981

Mt. Rushmore
Courtesy of Nintendo

Reasons for: 

Donkey Kong is not only one of the Godfathers of gaming, he learned to adapt and evolve (maybe not how Darwin envisioned) as time went on. He began as a pixelated gorilla that spent his time angrily throwing barrels and went on to make friends, learn to operate vehicles, and magically turn into other animals by jumping into what was once his weapon of choice. 

Because Donkey Kong is so iconic, he’s joined the ranks of Smash Bros., becoming a linchpin in the massively successful franchise. On top of becoming a sensation across decades of success, his sidekick Diddy Kong went on to do great things with his own game: Diddy Kong Racing. As a great friend to his peers and pioneer of fun-loving activities, I find it hard to argue that his meteoric rise to fame isn’t deserving of a spot on the rock. 

Reasons against: 

As much as Donkey Kong is for everyone, he isn’t. His adventures aren’t on the same level as games we have today with their exquisite graphics and storytelling saturation. He’s an ape of simplicity, which may not be enough for gamers today. Sorry, Mr. Kong: technology and creativity aren’t working in your favor.

Master Chief

First appearance: 2001

Mt. Rushmore
Courtesy of 343 Industries

Reasons for: 

Master Chief has kicked a lot of ass over the years and shows no signs of slowing down. The military-style science fiction genre was taken to new heights by the lord commander and spartan savior back in 2001. With six game installments, seven animated movies, and a show series, Master Chief has established himself as one of the all-time greats. And with a new game coming out in 2021 (fingers crossed), the following is as strong as ever. I’m sure we’ll see Master Chief and his arsenal of otherworldly weapons destroy alien lifeforms without batting an eye. 

With that, his intimidation factor should also be noted. If getting their name in the ultimate annals of history were to come to a combat scenario, you can bet Master Chief would be one of the last characters standing. Let us acknowledge the fact that Master Chief is well-deserving of a spot on this list.

Reasons against: 

The case against Master Chief lies in the loyalty of his fans, fans being the keyword. Although some gamers live and breathe the Halo franchise, outsiders aren’t as knowledgeable of his endeavors—including me. Maybe I’m not educated enough to give him the credit he deserves. But to those who don’t follow Master Chief’s agenda, his credibility takes a blow. 

Lara Croft

First appearance: 1996

Mt. Rushmore
Courtesy of Ubisoft

Reasons for: 

The epic heroine and trailblazer Lara Croft drops into this list with one of the strongest cases for the Mt. Rushmore of characters. The super-intelligent English archaeologist is far more than a purveyor of cave-hidden treasures. Lara Croft is savvier than Indiana Jones, more lethal than Liu Kang, and more acrobatic than Simone Biles. In short, she’s the total package and in the upper echelon of protagonists. 

For years I joined her in her crusades, spending hours on end to watch her expertly take down enemies and unearth some of history’s greatest artifacts. And for years, I watched her accomplish the unthinkable. With 24 (!!!) game installments and another on the way, Lara Croft continues to set a nearly unmatchable standard of hardcore adventurers. 

Reasons against: 

I had a hard time coming up with a case against the uber-talented pioneer, putting me at a loss for words. With dozens of games and a live-action film wonderfully brought to life by Angelina Jolie, there isn’t much to say. She has more than enough credibility.

Link

First appearance: 1986

Mt. Rushmore
Courtesy of Nintendo

Reasons for: 

Get ready for a spot of bias here. As my favorite video game hero of all time, you can assume Link’s going to get a spot on my Mt. Rushmore. While he may be a manchild, his courage and valor are second to none. The physical skillset Link possesses isn’t necessarily flashy, but combined with his mystical prowess he’s taken down some of the most horrifying creatures gamers couldn’t have imagined in their wildest dreams. 

Link is also one of the first characters to master the art of calling on powerful elemental energy to aid him along the way. With a propensity for necessary violence and a drive to make Hyrule a better place, Link is a nearly perfect savior. Let’s face it: if you’re the Hero of Time, your spot is almost guaranteed.

Reasons against: 

A hero that can’t talk and sleeps in too late? Not a good look, Link.

Final Decision

At last, we’ve arrived. For my Mt. Rushmore, I’m going with…

1. Mario

2. Lara Croft

3. Link

4. Pikachu

As I said, I’m sure there will be some of you that find this list somewhat accurate and others that find it laughably ridiculous. Sound off in the comments section with your agreements, grievances, and suggestions. I’m interested to hear what you think!

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