Gabriel Knight... April Ryan... Guybrush Threepwood. These names roll off the tongue of any adventure gamer as a testament to the importance of compelling protagonists in an adventure. But just as important are the villains, sidekicks, and significant supporting characters, which are often the juiciest parts. This category recognizes those who have made the most memorable contribution, regardless of role.
The Aggie award winners:
Whether it’s the off-putting personality of Sherlock Holmes or the fastidiousness of Hercule Poirot, the great detectives have a tendency to alienate those around them. Young detective Jenny LeClue seems headed down that same road: brilliant but condescending, observant yet standoffish. Throughout her first big case, however, Jenny is forced to realize she can’t do everything on her own and her grudging acceptance of help from others opens the door for true character growth. Which is especially impressive since she’s really a fictional character in a book. And yet she’s so much more, taking on a life of her own and becoming a real person whose isolating walls you’ll want to see come down so she can connect with those around her. A flawed hero, her struggles and personality quirks make her all the more relatable, and for that reason, who but the eponymous star of Mografi’s debut adventure could walk away with our shiny golden statuette for Best Character?
2019 Readers Choice' winner of:
Maybe he’s a sentient piece of discarded pocket lint? A stray speck of dust perhaps? Or possibly the resurrected furball of an old cat? In truth we have no idea what the titular character of Amanita Design's CHUCHEL is, but if nothing else is certain, he IS determined. Great resolve is needed to acquire the succulent cherries he craves in such a bizarre world, and in this he is unrivaled. Whether by contesting a superior alter-ego at a snail race, wrestling a set of giant dentures, or suddenly revealing the ability to summon laser swords, cannons and dinosaurs to ward off an alien invasion, nothing gets in the way of Chuchel and the object of his desire.
Yes, when the giant monkey-like hand of fate knocks you down, locks you in a glass jar, and uses drugs to transform you into a cyclopean blob, you’ve just got to get back up and push forward. It helps that our hero is so remarkably resilient: he can be stomped on, shot at, blown up, and swallowed whole, but Chuchel always bounces right back into form – or at least a form, because he can be molded into all shapes and sizes: squares, llama, fish, and even become downright Pac-Man-esque. And he does it all so expressively for someone with only a mouth, two bulging eyes, stick arms and legs, and no intelligible language, conveying more with every over-the-top gesture and gibberish exclamation than most characters say with reams of dialogue at their disposal. Whether black or orange (perhaps you’ve heard about the decision to change Chuchel’s colour recently), we applaud the loveable, hot-tempered fuzz-wad for reminding us to never give up. And we trust that our 2018 Aggie Award for Best Character is just the cherry on top.
2018 Readers Choice' winner of:
According to the dictionary, a paradigm is a model, a template or a prototype. At first glance, it may seem strange that the titular hero of Jacob Janerka’s Paradigm, with his stubby body, misshapen bulbous head and lack of nose could be a model for anything. Look past his hideous appearance, however, and this unusual protagonist has a positive and thoroughly endearing personality. Like the deformity on his head, the lovable Paradigm is sure to grow on you, and you’ll soon find yourself rooting for him against his nemesis, Olaf the candy-dispensing sloth, and hoping that he fulfills his dream of finding those “phat beatsies” he cares about so much.
Where does such a bizarre creature come from? Well, it probably has something to do with DUPA Genetics, the company that created the Prodigy Children program and decided to dump its mistakes in the dystopian country of Krusz, where Paradigm now runs the nuclear power plant. His true love is really composing and playing electronic music, however. As he travels around gathering the items he needs to complete various tasks, he uses humor – often at his own expense – while interacting with some very wacky characters. His Kruszian accent is easy on the ears, and while he often shows sympathy for the plights of others, he’s not above making pithy comments when appropriate. He’s not just another pretty face, either, as that sentient and sometimes helpful benign tumor on his head can be handy for vague hints and amusing remarks. Anything but the stereotypical hero, Paradigm is a true one-of-a-kind, and we love him all the more for it. For so uniquely and engagingly defying expectations and delighting us at every turn, Paradigm stands alone as our Best Character of 2017.
2017 Readers Choice' winner of:
Perhaps it’s a little unfair to pit a long-revered adventure game protagonist against other first-timers and upstarts. After all, Sierra first introduced us to Graham way back in 1983(!), when he was still a yellow-skinned, chunky-pixeled cypher, and since that time we have helped him save his kingdom, find true love, and rescue his family, not to mention having to save him from a heart attack. So we know the hero of King’s Quest pretty darn well at this point. Even so, his latest incarnation offers a whole new take on the character that does far more than merely capitalize on existing familiarity. That was a risk that could have gone astray, but instead The Odd Gentlemen managed to infuse their Graham with such a winning personality that he thoroughly won our affection all over again, and in doing so claimed our Best Character Aggie for 2016.
As it has in real life, a lot of time has passed since Graham’s previous appearance at Alexander and Cassima's wedding. He’s now a frail, sickly old man confined to bed, yearning but unable to experience one. last. adventure. Fortunately, he’s always eager to regale chip-off-the-old-block granddaughter Gwendolyn with tales of past glories, so through flashbacks we get to relive his life story, whether as a gangly, vivacious young wannabe knight staring down (or at least trying to sneak past) a ferocious beast; an earnest young royal torn by newly-formed allegiances; a sincere but bumbling suitor of not one but TWO potential queens; an inexperienced father of angsty teenagers; or the wizened old king struggling with his own memory and mortality. Brought to life with vivid animation and stellar voice acting, he made us laugh, he made us cry, as well as gasp, shake our heads and sometimes even swear. But most of all, he filled us with an unbridled sense of fun and adventure. King Graham, accept this humble award as a token of our appreciation.
2016 Readers Choice' winner of:
The diminutive young gnome Wilbur Weathervane has come a long way since we first met him interning as a busboy in a dwarven pub in The Book of Unwritten Tales. Not only did he secure his Mage Diploma by stoically overcoming a host of challenges, his understated heroics against the dreaded Army of the Shadows won over even the most jaded of hearts. That war is now over and Wilbur has settled down in the village of Seastone, but he is having a tough go as the first gnome professor of the Mage School. Tired of being trolled by his awful students, he tries some fancy magic to awe them, but things go horribly wrong, leading to the hijinks of The Book of Unwritten Tales 2.
It's no surprise that Wilbur is the heart and soul of the sequel too. He plays a pivotal role in resolving the main crisis, and is a nucleus for the rest of the cast, his altruism unifying their individual goals into a greater purpose for common good. An ideal balance of goodness, courage and competence, Wilbur confronts each challenge, no matter how twisted, with sense and sincerity. And though often defeated by shrewder, stronger opponents, he always bounces back good-naturedly and keeps his focus on the big picture. He builds a strong rapport with Ivo, the elven heroine of the saga, and through his charisma, diplomacy and sheer hard work, rallies the loyalties of assorted characters against the forces of darkness (and pinkness) threatening their realm once again. Credit must also be given to the talented Nicholas Aaron, who voices Wilbur as the sensitive, articulate gnome, eliciting his entire gamut of emotions, from exultation to indecision, with the subtlest of intonations. For having the big, brave heart of a true hero, little Wilbur is the winner of 2015’s Best Character Aggie.
2015 Readers Choice' winner of:
Tex Murphy is one of the most beloved adventure game protagonists in genre history, who left us on a cliffhanger well over a decade ago, apparently forever. When Tesla Effect was successfully crowdfunded in 2012, devoted series fans were thrilled by the opportunity to renew acquaintances with the lovable PI from future New San Francisco who embodies a mix of Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, and more than a touch of Jacques Clouseau. The series has always managed to walk the line between hard-boiled noir and comedy, peppering Tex’s mysteries with wry humour and even goofy slapstick. It’s hard not to root for a detective who spends one minute searching the apartment of a murdered man for clues, and the next scaring a hardened criminal with an animatronic clown.
But with the excitement of Tex’s long-overdue return came a little trepidation. As the star of his own live-action FMV series, could series creator Chris Jones successfully pick up where he left off? Fortunately, the years have been kind to Jones, and Tex proves just as charming and lovable as ever. Donning the familiar brown fedora and trench coat feels just as comfortable as ever, and we can’t help but agree with Tex’s friend Louie LaMintz that it sure is good to have the ol’ "Moiph" back. For bringing the magic one more time, even in the face of intense competition, the rough-around-the-edges but ever-endearing gumshoe with a heart of gold gets an Aggie to match as our pick for Best Character of 2014.
2014 Readers Choice' winner of:
In Ron Gilbert’s latest adventure, you choose which of seven intrepid explorers to guide into the bowels of an enigmatic cave, but it’s the Cave itself that steals the show. Part omniscient narrator, part jaded observer, part bored tour guide, the Cave is your constant companion on this curious journey, providing running commentary while each spelunker quests to find the thing he or she desires most. It may seem unusual for us to reward an inanimate object as the Best Character of 2013, but this Cave isn’t just any cave, and once inside you’ll find it’s far more animated than you might at first believe.
This game’s explorers – and also its players – are drawn to this place not knowing what awaits within. Without its insights, well, The Cave wouldn’t be The Cave. As a disembodied voice with no limbs to gesture or face to convey expression, this year’s Aggie winner managed to nab the title through dialogue alone. Speaking lines written by Gilbert and Chris Remo and voiced by Stephen Stanton, the Cave pops in and out while we explore its damp caverns and twisty passages, going quiet to let us figure out puzzle solutions and chiming in to let us in on the significance of our actions. The tour may be rigged and the explorers’ fates sealed, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun at their expense, and the Cave’s wry rejoinders to the explorers’ attempts provide much of the game’s humour. But the more cynical observations are what deepen the narrative beyond its surface elements, revealing context and irony that morph The Cave from a light, cartoony story of exploration into a darker morality tale about human nature.
2013 Readers Choice' winner of:
For the second year in row, we simply couldn't bring ourselves to pick a single best character of the year. It's not a matter of indecisiveness, but the fact that this year's co-winners are inextricably linked. You simply can't imagine one without the other. In fact, The Walking Dead is chock full of unique and memorable characters, but the two who will remain forever etched in our minds are Lee Everett and Clementine: the convicted felon and the young girl he befriends throughout the course of the game. Both are complex and engaging on their own, but what really cemented them as our favourites and became the driving force of the game is the deep bond that forms between them. Their unlikely guardian-child relationship is the one touching constant in a story full of conflict and insanity. We see Clem look up to Lee and grow attached to him in the wake of her parents’ disappearance, and we witness Lee’s softer side as he gets to know Clem and teaches her to survive. The two of them grow both individually and as a team, making it easy to root for them right up until the dramatic ending.
Lee Everett's turbulent past may haunt him from time to time, but he never lets it define him. His strength and wisdom make him a worthy protagonist and natural leader for other characters to look up to, though not without some resentful hostility. But while certainly one of the more rational characters in this small, fractious group of zombie apocalypse survivors, Lee is far from perfect and is pushed to his emotional limit on more than one occasion. Then there’s young Clementine. One of the hardest characters to write in any medium is a child, but Telltale managed to portray Clem perfectly. She’s innocent, but not naive. She’s naturally frightened of the horror all around her, but tries to be brave and acts more mature than most of the adult characters. She’s resourceful and intelligent, but she's also clearly just a kid who is still dependent on adults for both love and safety. You can’t help but feel protective of her, as does Lee, as she is forced to grow up all too fast. Together, the two form a whole that's greater than the sum of its parts: Lee just isn't Lee without Clementine, and Clem wouldn't have lasted long without Lee, so it's only fitting that they share this year's Best Character(s) Aggie.
2012 Readers Choice' winner of:
It’s rare to be honouring two characters for this Aggie award in tandem. It’s similarly rare to be recognizing two characters that aren’t even alive, at least in the traditional sense. Welcome to the world of Portal 2 and the stars of its demented show, GLaDOS and Wheatley. The former was the stand-out star of the original game, whose scathingly funny taunts and insults return for an even more impressive encore in the sequel. We’re used to megalomaniacal evil-doers with nefarious plans of domination, but what makes GLaDOS such a different take on the archetypical villain is that she can do just as much damage with one lash of her barbed, computerized tongue. Conspicuously absent at the beginning of the game, she later takes center stage to lay down another healthy dose of backhanded cruelty, and we loved every sadistic minute of it. And yet GLaDOS also shows a very “human” side, even as her appearance devolves from towering mechanized robot to a… well, you’d just have to see it to believe it.
This time around, proving every bit her equal is Wheatley, the bumbling companion who accompanies you on some of your travels through Aperture Science. A round metal ball, he’s the first character you meet and sets the tone for the game beautifully, innocently declaring that “you’re proof that brain damaged people are the real heroes.” To call him merely a sidekick would be doing Wheatley a disservice, though at first he follows you through the crumbling structural mazes, sometimes aiding and other times hindering your progress. Before long he becomes much more than that, however, setting the wheels in motion for a game-spanning battle of wills with Aperture’s reigning A.I. From that point on it’s GLaDOS vs. Wheatley, Wheatley vs. GLaDOS, with us caught in the middle, right to the bitter end of a final confrontation. Sort of like this Aggie award. The difference is, we never could decide which of the two came out on top. Though not voted in as a pair, there’s just so little separating them that the two finished in a dead heat, fated to go down in history as the first co-winners of our Best Character category.
2011 Readers Choice' winner of:
Everybody loves Edgie! Even in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, where he and the titular character were bitter enemies, there's little doubt that Miles Edgeworth was the real scene-stealer: foppish, elegant, impeccably dressed, subtly sarcastic and tirelessly defiant, he was Phoenix's perfect nemesis. Then, when we got a chance to explore his troubled past, he emerged as a deeply human character, even a flawed one; an idealist turned cynic in the face of a harsh reality. There's no surprise that he instantly became a fan favourite. Watching his renewed friendship with Phoenix grow was nothing short of a pleasure, and we were thrilled to hear that the “perfect prosecutor” was to get his own game. We weren’t disappointed.
Sure, Ace Attorney Investigations isn't as strong an adventure as the previous installments, but Miles Edgeworth's charisma is more than enough to overcome the game's other shortcomings. Surprisingly, Capcom originally intended the new series to star Ema Skye, but then changed their minds after hearing from the fans. Smart move, as Edgie’s presence is what really sets the game apart. His banter with Detective Gumshoe keeps the various investigations fresh and enticing, and his flippant demeanor is what motivates players to sift through the long (and sometimes far-fetched) dialogues. He's not only deserving of the Aggie Award for best character this past year, he arguably deserves a spot amongst the likes of Gabriel Knight and Guybrush Threepwood as one of the most intriguing characters ever to grace an adventure game.
2010 Readers Choice' winner of:
Readers Choice' Award winners:
So would you say you’re more of a cat person? A huge number of voters certainly are! If you’ve ever wondered what a cat is really thinking, be careful what you wish for. Protagonist Buzz Kerwan finds out in Gibbous when he inadvertently grants his pet Kitteh the power of speech. While remaining in cat form (a fact you’ll be reminded of as Kitteh stretches and even licks herself ungraciously during idle moments), she is ever quick with the quip (usually sardonic – she is a feline, after all) and can occasionally be used to help out in a pinch to go where humans cannot. The real star of a game isn’t necessarily the STAR of a game, and in winning this reader award, Kitteh joins a distinguished list of beloved adventure game sidekicks.
Larry Laffer is a brazen womanizer and shallow, self-absorbed, dim-witted loser. But boy do we love him for it (although you folks a bit more than AG staff, apparently). For all his egregious character (and physical) flaws, Larry is an endearing protagonist (from this side of the screen), partly because he’s usually the butt of all the jokes. But he’s also very much a man of his time, which makes his sudden leap into present day a particularly interesting one. And yet who better to serve as a mirror to today’s social and technological advancements than a man encountering them for the first time, while still horny as ever and hoping to score. For making such a successfully entertaining leap into the modern era, Larry takes home his second reader Aggie. Maybe that will help boost his Timber profile.
Sidekicks often get the best roles. While a game’s lead protagonist is typically stuck playing it straight in order to do the heroic thing, their companions get to hang back and crack wise at every opportunity. According to you readers (and who are we to argue, having made him our second runner-up), Officer Patrick Dooley’s name now belongs on the list of award-winning sidekicks. The kicker is, Dooley doesn’t mean to be funny – he just can’t help himself. For a cop he’s not too eager to do anything dangerous, and his glib observations frequently drive Detective McQueen up the wall – and we wouldn’t have it any other way. (By the way, for not picking him first, Ransome says [beep] you!!)
So the formula is clear: If you want to win the reader Aggie for Best Character, name your game after said character! Worked for Kathy Rain, and almost for top runner-up Nelly Cootalot. We’re being facetious, of course, as really it’s the other way around. When you’ve got such a great character, why not name the whole game after her? Kathy Rain is a biker-chick journalism student who looks the part with her ripped jeans, piercings, and colourfully streaked hair. Her difficult childhood has equipped her with a self-described “horrible mood and contempt for humanity” plus a delightfully acerbic sense of humor, cloaking complicated fragilities. She’s shrewd and resourceful, with a good nose for a mystery – even when that mystery has tragically personal consequences. But it’s time to embrace the establishment, young rebel: you’re now the award-winning Kathy Rain.
While some games were guilty of having too many good characters, suffering the curse of vote-splitting as a result, this winner held up even with stiff competition from within. While Life Is Strange’s lead protagonist Max got some consideration as well, as so often happens it’s the spunky sidekick that gets the juiciest role. Chloe Price is fun to be around, always doing the unexpected, and able to draw Max out of her shell. She has a selfish streak and anger that makes her push people away, but she cares deeply about her few friends and is willing to put herself on the line for them. The blue-haired rebel with the turbulent home life grabs the Best Character reader award that Chloe would probably pretend means nothing to her. But we know better: her tough-talking, risk-taking swagger is just a façade for her hidden insecurities. She’d secretly be thrilled.
Like there was any doubt! Tex would arguably be top-five on a best character of all time list, so he had no trouble taking the crown for 2014, even in a field of strong contenders. Smarter than Smart Alex. More charming than a sentry robot. Up on the rooftops using a zipline, down in the labyrinth sneaking past cloaked guards. We needed a stubborn hero, a wise-cracking lover. We needed a detective with a bullet hole in his fedora. For sixteen years we needed Tex Murphy. He finally returned, and nothing says “welcome back” quite like a unanimous Aggie Award.
Swiss Constable Anton Zellner is anything but your prototypical adventure game protagonist. He’s middle-aged, overweight, and bald, and he’s done nothing to distinguish himself in his career. But he’s also delightfully amiable, and his playful sense of humour belies a stubborn streak that makes him so determined to succeed in his latest assignment. He’s a most unusual choice of heroes, and a breath of fresh air that earned The Raven star the best character honours from our readers.
See what we mean? It was impossible not to fall in love with eight-year-old Clementine, separated from her parents and forced to face the end of the world with a group of disparate strangers. And just like us, you were equally impressed with her friend and protector, Lee Everett, who fell short of Clem by one – count it, ONE – vote. (Apparently someone out there hasn't played the final episode yet!) But they're a powerful duo, and clearly left a deep impression on all of us.
How can you not love a shy, adorable little Welsh-accented gnome who bravely confronts his fears with the fate of the world resting in his hands? You readers were certainly fond of Wilbur Weathervane, voting him the top character of the year in an extraordinarily competitive race that settled lots of in-game debates along the way (Wheatley over GLaDOS; Sam over Styles; Doc over Marty; Harvey over Edna; Joey over Rosa; and Missile over Sissel).
Apparently everybody loves clowns, too (at least, those who aren’t afraid of them). In a wonderfully diverse race that included characters from 22 different games, The Whispered World’s childlike protagonist won over hearts with his determination to overcome not only the physical obstacles standing in the way of saving the world, but his own fatalistic cynicism as well.