Top 10 “Silent Protagonists” of the gaming world

Legend of Zelda Wind Waker

The world might look on it as a relic and an aging tool for video games, but I’ll always been in love with the idea of a silent protagonist. Not that having a central character in a story, one with his own objectives and flaws driving him to complete his quest, is a bad thing, but I’m an old fashioned kinda guy. Sometimes, I like to imagine myself as the hero of the video game. There is an adventure to be had, and nobody is better suited to accomplish this quest than for myself, the player of this game! Without me, the game can’t even be turned on!

Silent protagonists act as the perfect avatar for placing yourself in a video game, allowing for players to become immersed in the world and plot around them. I can’t do that while Tidus is laughing his butt off at the top of a mountain because simply put, I wouldn’t do that if I was trying to comfort a disheartened woman. I’d try to be a bit more suave and not impose my obnoxious personality onto her.

Silent protagonists more often than not allow their party members and antagonists to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to providing the necessary exposition for the plot. It is their actions that can greatly affect the world, as they rarely act without player input, and only if the player himself allows them to speak can they alter a story line through words.

However, to their detriment though, sometimes silent protagonists are also more defined by the supporting cast and the world around them. If a game ultimately proves to be boring, with a stale supporting cast and an adventure devoid of conflicts or purpose, then there is little that a silent protagonist can do to save it. He is at the mercy of his writers to provide enough reasons for him not to have his own voice.

Needless to say, that would mean that these protagonists are all from games that I love because if I didn’t love the game, I wouldn’t have no reason to like the character. At the same time, my experience with these games would be vastly different if these characters had a voice, and who knows if I would have liked the game nearly as much without their aid in helping me see the world through my own viewpoint.


Alundra takes the characterization a little bit further with a “savior” air about him. His ability to leap into other’s dreams is a unique power to him in video games, and it is the reason many flock to him as the champion of their village. A man who can save them from the nightmares that kill inhabitants in their sleep. Nothing is worse than being forced not to sleep with death as a threat if you do, but with Alundra on the job, you can sleep easily at night.

At the same time, it is also a cause for suspicion among other villagers, meaning that as a player, you’ll have to deal with not everyone seeing your struggles for them in the most positive of lights. It’s tough to fight for people who despise you, and Alundra gives players the chance to do that.



Deep down inside, ICO is a game about discovering love at that first, special time in your life. The protagonist is a young, horned boy locked away in a castle, and when he finds the opportunity to escape, he refuses to do so in place of aiding a mysterious girl glowing in white named Yorda. Throughout their escape, Ico must place himself in many dangers to ensure her safety, and with the way they hold hands, it is impossible not to play ICO and feel some sort of emotional connection.

If Ico had said any words in English rather than in his game’s unique language, expressing his feelings to Yorda, it would be awkward and hardly the classic that it is today. It becomes apparent through his actions alone, and they’re enough to make the player feel they are part of the relationship too. Don’t tell me you didn’t tear up at the end of ICO the first time you played it, or maybe even your third or fifth, because I wouldn’t believe you.


The ultimate silent protagonist when it comes to using words to manipulate the world around you. Fallout: New Vegas’ Courier can be sharp as a tack or dumb as a rock. The Courier can break entire factions with the power of his voice, turning its members on one another or manipulating alliances to turn groups onto one another. The Courier can approach the final confrontation as a gun fight or a battle of wits, all depending on how the player chooses to flesh him or her out.

Those who played New Vegas understood how limited of a game Fallout 4 was because, in the end, every situation must be resolved with the use of bullets. New Vegas provided a more vast array of options, all through the power of speech. Bethesda has got the whole “immersion” thing in video games down pat with its massive approach to open-worlds, but it wasn’t until Obsidian expanded on its formula to make Fallout: New Vegas that a silent protagonist felt it reached its full potential.

Tir McDohl/Riou

Talk about decisions, but I’m being torn apart here by choosing between the protagonists of Suikoden and Suikoden 2, so I’m just not going to. Sorry. However, deep down inside, they aren’t that different from one another. Both are fugitives on the run from the countries that they formerly served, both rise through the ranks to become leaders of a massive rebellion, and characters in both games claim they possess a certain leadership quality in their eyes that defies all description and inspires nothing but loyalty.

Where they differ is that they are both cursed to confront those that they love. Tir, in the first game, kills a good many of his friends and family thanks to a “Soul Eater” rune stuck to his arm. Riou is cursed to eventually battle with his friend, the two of them equipped with runes that are ultimately destined to be reunited with one another. If I had to give a choice as to who is better, I would pick Riou just because his relationship with his friend is far deeper than the suffering Tir must endure.

And the player can ultimately decide the fate of their conflict if they pay enough attention. Still, both character allow the player to feel like an inspiring leader of an under dog rebellion, one of the best feeling a game can deliver.

Yu Narukami

Yu’s demon-hunting year of high school lets players feel like they are part of a clique of Japanese high school country bumpkins, which is the ultimate dream for many suburban American weeaboos. He is certainly strengthened by the relationship he establishes with each of his friends and the magic of the city of Inaba, but he is also a poster child for how giving a voice to a silent protagonist can completely ruin him.

The anime and future Persona 4 games, like Persona 4 Arena and Persona 4 Dancin’ All Night, Yu is the ultimate square and a total goody-goody, hardly how I interpreted the character at all. Luckily, I’ve suppressed my memories of those games and can still appreciate Yu in my own light. The same way I’ve suppressed my memories of Metroid: Other M.


Our most recent addition to the list makes the biggest statement as to how the silent protagonist can still exist in this day and age. As Undertale’s fans know, and will infamously tell you until they are blue in the face, the game provides the ultimate morality challenges. Do you fight monsters and gain EXP or do you realize that they are living beings to and help them with their problems?

Undertale’s protagonist, Frisk, is rare character without race or without gender, and absolutely any player can identify. If Frisk delivered a single line of dialog in this modern masterpiece, the entire experience would be ruined because of how much it relies on the input players put into Undertale with Frisk as their avatar. Pre-programmed dialogue could possibly not match Frisk’s actions through a particular playthrough, rendering Undertale’s ultimate purpose as useless.

Frisk doesn’t need a voice either because Papyrus, Sans, and the rest of the game’s beloved cast provides plenty of it. What a perfectly written video game.

Gordan Freeman

If you’re a nerd and need to feel like the ultimate savior, then Half-Life 2 is the game to play. Everywhere “science man” Gordon Freeman steps, people praise his name. They rally around him as the ultimate warrior, turn to him for tactical advice, and in the end, he wins the heart of one of gaming’s most iconic females.

Well, we don’t yet know the end, do we? Still, Half-Life 2 is the ultimate power fantasy for any computer nerd who loves first-person shooters and wants to impose themselves on a badass avatar.

Dragon Quest V hero

Dragon Quest V was ground-breaking for its storytelling back in 1992. Rather than tell a tale about how a group of ragtags save the world from ultimate evil, it instead revolves around the life of a single man, all the high and lows of one’s life. Okay, Dragon Quest V’s lows are a bit lower than others including a childhood of secluded slavery and having his spouse kidnapped, but in the end, it boils down to the ultimate family man fantasy.

Our hero earns manhood by separating from his own father, falls in love from a selection of beautiful women, gives birth to two adorable kids, one of whom has quite a destiny of his own, and together with his offspring and army of pets, he must save the world and the woman he loves. Liam Neeson has nothing on Dragon Quest V’s protagonist. He is the ultimate every-man Dad just waiting to explode.


I guess the amount of investment you have in Link is determined by which Legend of Zelda games you consider your favorite and where you got your start in the series. I’ve been with The Legend of Zelda since it first hit the market, and Link was the absolute greatest “link” into an expansive fantasy world available at the time.

In my favorite game, Link to the Past, he brings players into an even more detailed world and has an absurd amount of weapons and abilities at his disposal. My favorite incarnation of the character, in Wind Waker, he is one of the most expressive character models of all time and really helps the player establish an emotional response to his current predicaments.

Link makes the list because of just how iconic he is. The Legend of Zelda is at its best when the plot backs off and just lets players experience the adventure through their own right. The less character Link shows in cutscenes, the better, one reason I feel so distant from Twilight Princess. However, I wouldn’t call him gaming’s greatest silent protagonist though… sorry, there’s just one more who I think is the best.


Awe yeah! There ain’t nothing like rocking a flaming red Akira Toriyama haircut while pulling off the slick katana moves, battling alongside a pleasant robot, a chivalrous frog, and a bruising cave-woman. Crono is admittedly grand because of the adventure he finds himself in, and I’m not really sure what it is that sets him apart from the rest of our protagonists on the list.

There is a quality about him that just attracts others to love him, and that is never more apparent than in his sole, shining moment of the plot where the player loses control of his actions and the worst of things happens. Not just the action Crono takes, but rather, the response of his comrades define his character. They are shattered, and in spite of their misery and against all odds, they seek out a way to help the player regain their lost connection to their world.

Chrono Trigger just never seems the same while he is not present, but don’t worry, your friends are there to help you get back into the swing. He is the ultimate silent protagonist, putting just enough in to the plot on his own and leaving more than enough for the player to connect to his quest on their own.

If I would have differentiated in any way from Crono though, it would be the ultimate ending in his love interest side-story. Seriously? Marle? Crono, buddy. Lucca is clearly the way to go!

Chrono Trigger (1)

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