Some guys get the girl. Some guys get all the luck. Some guys just get a pat on the back. Typically, though, the hero of a game ends up coming out on top. Then there are others whose daily lives revolve around them getting beaten down, kicked around, and in the end, forced to make the ultimate sacrifice for a world that never really understood them to begin with. So, with it being the season of giving, we’re finally giving these heroes some of their due, since they definitely don’t get it in the digital world.
inFamous series – PS3
Why He’s Punished:A lot of protagonists deal with more mental and emotional pain than physical—like Cole MacGrath from Infamous. Always caught in no-win situations, Cole was infused with electricity powers—at which point, he thought his troubles might be over. Instead, he’s cast into the role of the reluctant hero who ends up losing no matter what he does. If Cole chooses to be good, he’ll be cast out from his home, have the love of his life die, and watch as others perish from a plague he’s carrying before making the ultimate sacrifice himself. If he chooses to be bad, he’ll be cast out from his home, have the love of his life die, watch as others perish from a plague he’s carrying…and will have to kill his best friend. Choices, choices.
Super Meat Boy – XBLA, PC
Why He’s Punished:As more and more modern games bow to marketing’s desire to coddle and cuddle the average gamer, Team Meat’s Super Meat Boy seems to find a sadistic sort of joy in slicing, smashing, crushing, and otherwise pummeling the f*** out of the game’s protein-packed hero, Meat Boy, as he does his best to save his sweetheart from the evil Doctor Fetus. What’s more, the developers actually allow you to relive each of your untimely deaths in sequence, with the meaty mess from each fatality sticking around to paint the level with your apparent lack of skill. Luckily, each death is a learning experience, and the game allows you to instantly return to the action, leaving you more inclined to laugh your ass off than feeling a need to smash your 360 controller.
Gears of War series – Xbox 360
Why He’s Punished:While having your people and society destroyed is enough to make any man cry, Gears’ Dominic Santiago has also faced a series of personal problems in his digital life. First, his kids were killed in the initial invasion. Then, his wife was captured, and when he finally found her—after searching for years—she was so traumatized from being tortured that he had no choice but to put her out of her misery and it haunts him till the very end. But perhaps the worst indignity Dom has had to suffer over the course of his digital life in the Gears games is that abysmal hip-hop remix of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” Epic Games used in the Gears trailer. Seriously, guys—hasn’t the dude been through enough?
Rule of Rose – PS2
Why She’s Punished:Rule of Rose builds on an interesting premise: Children can be cruel little bastards when given the opportunity. The game’s heroine, Jennifer, finds herself dropped off at a creepy old orphanage, where a group of girls calling themselves the Red Crayon Aristocrats await with devilish smiles and devious plans. Right off the bat, Jennifer’s called “filthy” and ordered to bow to their whims; the rest of Rule of Rose is then one long, sadistic streak of mental, emotional, and physical torment directed at poor Jennifer. Purposely leading a character through the things Jennifer goes through isn’t something all players can or will enjoy; for me, though, it was an utterly fascinating and enthralling experience.
-Eric L. Patterson
God of War series – PS2, PSP, PS3
Why He’s Punished:At the center of the God of War universe is a mean, mad, kill-everything-in-his-way badass motherf***er. And he’s also got some deep issues driving that horrific angst. On the surface, Kratos is a videogame protagonist booming at the most clichéd highs, but there’s a vulnerability and desperation to his borderline madness that makes him really tick. We share his need to exact revenge through a godlike power of strength and ferocity every bloody step of the way—and it feels great, tortured or not.