There are a ton of household names that just roll off the tongue when discussing the characters within the AAA scene. Kratos, Lara Croft, Master Chief, Cloud Strife. I could spend all day naming elite gaming characters, and I would imagine you would nod your head as I did, mumbling, ‘Know that one, and that one…’
However, the phenomenon of iconic and immediately recognizable characters doesn’t start and end with mainstream AAA games. There is a wide variety of indie game characters that have just as much star power and mass appeal as their AAA counterparts.
Indie games have the ability to cover more taboo and risque topics, not to mention, they tend to offer much more diverse characters that don’t fit into the AAA mold, with characters concocted purely to ship units and merch. Indie games are made with love, and by extension, the characters within are better equipped to steal our hearts.
We actually had a huge discussion about the most iconic indie characters in a recent episode of the Indie Game Culture Podcast if that’s how you would rather absorb this info, but for those that want the skinny right now, we have put together a list of the most instantly recognizable, memorable and important indie characters to grace our screens, giving them the time in the spotlight that they deserve.
So, without further delay, here is Indie Game Culture’s list of the Most Iconic Indie Game Characters of All Time! Enjoy!
This is a tough list to put together, as a player’s relationship with a character will be affected by so many personal factors before we even get into the overall quality, depth, and star power of the character in question.
So, for that reason, we have drawn up some criteria to help make sure the characters listed warrant a place here. Check them out below:
- All characters must have primarily featured in one or more indie games
- All characters must have a unique quality that makes them stand out from the crowd (Aesthetic, Personality, etc.)
- All characters listed must be primary characters in their respective games and have plenty of screen time
- All characters listed must be relatively well-known within the indie community
- Only one character per game
Alright, it’s time to crown some indie characters as IGC Hall of Fame characters. Let’s do it!
Most Iconic Indie Game Characters Of All Time
#1 – Garl
Game Featured: Sea of Stars
Personality/Traits: Altruistic, Loving, Determined
We begin this list with a character that does a lot of heavy lifting within the new retro-meets-modern JRPG Sea of Stars. Garl is the Warrior Cook of your party that serves the group not only with tasty meals on their travels, but with a steady stream of optimism and joy, lifting everyone’s spirits.
He’s someone that will fight tooth and nail to protect his friends, he has the ability to befriend just about anyone, and generally speaking, it’s damn near impossible to dislike the guy.
In a game that is largely dominated by stoic and serious hero archetypes and larger-than-life antagonists, Garl not only acts as the comic relief, but the relatable everyman of the group, making him an instant fan favorite.
He’ll make you laugh, he’ll make you cry, and he will live in our hearts forever. Plus, he has his own awesome theme tune when he appears. How neat is that! Garl is our guy, and we reckon you’ll love him just as much when you finally meet him.
#2 – Kim Kitsuragi
Game Featured: Disco Elysium
Personality/Traits: Level-headed, Serious, Law-abiding, Analytical
We were really spoiled for choice when choosing a Disco Elysium character. You have the disaster that is Harry Dubois, you have the chaotic entity that is The Cuno, and you have other interesting people like Evratt Clare, Tidus Hardy, Klasse, and many more.
However, of all those options, we believe that Kim Kitsuragi is the obvious choice. Kim is your partner ojn The Hanged Man case, representing Precinct 57 and will accompany you on your travels through Revachol. He will initially come across as cold and clinical, but as you get to know Kim, you’ll soon come to find that they are much more than some stiff pencil pusher.
They are as loyal as they come, sharp as a tack, and have a soft and silly side if you dig deep enough to find it. Never have I encountered a character in a game where I would seek the approval of more than Kim Kitsuragi, and when you do have a breakthrough and nail a particular encounter, that pat on the back feels amazing.
If you are someone who assigns to the general viewpoint hidden within the abbreviation ‘ACAB,’ Kim Kitsuragi may be the cop to change your mind.
#3 – Zagreus
Game Featured: Hades
Personality/Traits: Sarcastic, Confident, Gregarious
This one was hard to pin down, as the whole Hades cast our excellent as an ensemble, but if I were to choose only one, it would have to be our protagonist Zagreus.
In a lot of games, especially those with strong side characters, a protagonist can often fade into the background, serving as a vehicle for those around them to shine. However, Hades doesn’t fall into that trap, offering players the chance to play as Zagreus, a rebellious, but wonderfully charming teen who is hellbent on escaping the Underworld.
Zagreus has a very charismatic nature that sees him hold his own in conversation with all the larger-than-life gods and demons he encounters, and his sarcastic quips are just the right amount of sassy without straying into cringeworthy territory.
He can also come across as brash, stubborn, and arrogant at times, but hey, what teenager isn’t? All in all, a very good example of how to create an engaging and likable protagonist.
#4 – Issac
Game Featured: The Binding of Issac
Personality/Traits: Fearful, Religious
Naturally, there are going to be a few characters on this list that don’t appear because of their nuanced personalities and dialogue, but simply because they serve as a great mascot for their respective games, and the first character of this nature is Issac.
Issac is the son of an uber-Christian mother who has been tasked with sacrificing their son to prove her devotion to god. This has naturally caused her son to run away, delving into the bowels of the basement to uncover the demonic horrors that lurk below.
While Issac doesn’t really offer much in terms of charisma or charm, he makes up for that by being an instantly recognizable mascot.
As soon as you see that bulbous head, you immediately remind yourself of the tears you used as projectiles to fend off enemies, and the grotesque demons you battled on your way to a final battle with your mother.
Mascot characters are a dying breed, but Issac is an indie example of how to do it right. If you want a game that’s perfect for short gaming sessions and ‘turn-your-brain-off’ gaming, then give The Binding Of Issac a try.
#5 – Sans
Game Featured: Undertale
Personality/Traits: Laidback, Comical, Compassionate
Can you hear MEGALOVANIA in the distance? That can only mean we are talking about Sans, the runaway standout character of Undertale. Much like Hades, I would argue that Undertale succeeds off the back of the entire cast rather than one character, but Sans is the most memorable for sure.
Sans is a Guardian of the realm who must rid the world of any humans he encounters, much like his brother Papyrus. However, he’s far too lazy, relaxed, and focused on telling bad jokes to ever do his job.
He does have a dark side that players will see if they ever threaten his loved ones, but generally, Sans is a real sweetheart who just wants to bring joy to others and see those around them succeed. He’s a wholesome indie character that we have all the time in the world for.
#6 – The Goose
Game Featured: Untitled Goose Game
Here comes another mascot character, but weirdly, based on the fact that this goose is a complete agent of chaos, it’s very easy to build a character profile for this menace to society. Famously, Untitled Goose Game began as an office joke between House House devs, but this love for geese soon transformed into a fully formed game where players can take control of the feathered villain in a quiet Shropshire town and cause mayhem.
Due to the cute art style, the sandbox nature of the game, and the viral reception of Untitled Goose Game, The Goose has become a prominent gaming character in their own right, and there was even a period where everyone was wearing a ‘Peace Was Never An Option’ T-shirt depicting this maniac bird wielding a knife. I know I was.
The Goose isn’t a character that will go down in history for their witty repartee or their deep backstory. However, for pure slapstick comedy alone, The Goose deserves a mention here.
#7 – Madeline
Game Featured: Celeste
Personality/Traits: Anxious, Determined, Insecure
Anyone platforming fan worth their salt will know the game Celeste, a game that sees you control Madeline as they intends to climb Mount Celeste.
If you boil the story down to that and simply engage with the platforming, you’ll still have a swell time, but you’d be missing out on a brilliant story that deals with depression, anxiety, and learning to accept yourself as you are.
Madeline is right at the heart of this message, representing someone who simply wants to do something great to prove their worth, but throughout the course of their journey, and their run-ins with their alter-ego Badeline, she will find that it’s okay not to be okay, and that depression is not something we truly cure, but something we can manage and learn to live with.
While other games like Sea of Solitude and Omori do a great job of representing this topic through gaming, Celeste probably does it in the most succinct and accessible way, all the while offering some of the tightest platforming gamers have ever seen.
If you haven’t played this one, stick on a few warm layers and head for the summit!
#8 – Stella
Game Featured: Spiritfarer
Personality/Traits: Caring, Altruistic, Comforting
Spiritfarer isn’t short of complex and impactful characters. In fact, if you take the time to get to know any of the residents aboard your ship throughout the game, every single one of them has a unique and touching story to tell.
I would have loved to include some side characters that left me blubbering on the floor, like Atul or Alice, but I thought it only fair to include Stella, as she is a wonderful protagonist with her own touching story to tell.
It’s very hard to discuss why Stella is such a wonderfully crafted character without giving the big twist of the story away, and I wouldn’t dare take that moment from you, readers.
So I’ll simply say that Stella is a delightful, dedicated, and selfless character willing to give her all to make sure that those passing through the everdoor are comfortable until they are ready to depart.
Never has a game hit me in the feels as hard or as frequently as Spiritfarer, and Stella plays a huge role in this, so if you want an emotional release like no other, play this cozy management sim about dying!
#9 – Hat Kid
Game Featured: A Hat In Time
Personality/Traits: Playful, Resourceful, Silent
Just as Gordon Freeman managed to cement themselves as one of the most iconic video game characters without uttering a single word, Hat Kid from A Hat In Time has managed to do the same within the indie scene, popping up as a rare example of a memorable modern 3D platformer mascot.
Unlike modern 3D Platformers like Kao The Kangaroo, Clive N Wrench, or Hell Pie, A Hat In Time places you in the shoes of a lovable and multi-faceted character who, without uttering a word, exudes charm and charisma as they navigate the many wacky worlds of A Hat In Time, battling against their friend turned enemy Mustache Girl.
Hat Kid succeeds as a character due to their silly and playful nature in the face of adversity, and their silent nature allows the player to fill in the gaps regarding their origin story as an interplanetary time traveler.
I will concede that the situations Hat finds themselves in often cover for their lack of dialogue, but all in all, Hat Kid is a brilliant mascot platformer protagonist, and in this modern era, we just don’t get to celebrate that enough.
#10 – Sunny
Game Featured: Omori
Personality/Traits: Introverted, Reserved, Empathetic
If you are someone who has even had the slightest amount of trauma or hardship in your life, then you can likely relate in some way to Omori’s titular character.
Omori is the alter-ego of Sunny, a fifteen-year-old boy with repressed feelings and deep psychological trauma. It doesn’t seem like the kind of subject matter that would make for a fun game, but Omori is a very enjoyable game, capable of offering lighthearted moments, that just so happens to deal with some very heavy themes and present a resonant narrative, not to mention offering some very chilling psychological horror to boot.
The game is multifaceted, and so is Sunny. Sunny is a deeply troubled character who has to create a headspace to escape as a means of self-preservation. As a means of forgetting the tragic truth that exists in reality. He is flawed, fearful, and in a lot of ways irredeemable, and yet, he’s empathetic, caring, and good at heart, making you root for him to overcome the emotional hurdles he faces.
I won’t go any deeper than that, as this story should be witnessed firsthand, but if you seek a powerful story where there is no true happy ending, just acceptance or denial. Then Omori is a wonderful game to check out.
#11 – Venba
Game Featured: Venba
Personality/Traits: Compassionate, Resilient, Accepting
This one may be a little more niche than the others on this list, but based on the fact that this little indie delivers such a profound and powerful story in as little as two hours tops, makes this game, and its protagonist, Venba, worth a mention.
Venba is an Indian immigrant living in Canada with her husband and must face the trials and tribulations of raising her son in a Western culture.
She will question where she fits in society as she and her husband aim to stay true to their roots and instill these teachings in their son, and later, she will question whether these same ideals and values are the same that have caused those around her to drift away.
It’s a very relatable story of living away from your home in the hope of offering a better life for the next generation, and this tale is told through the medium of food in a Cooking Mama style format, minus the chaos.
It’s a compelling and routinely gut-wrenching story that will resonate with many. So, if this sounds like your thing, you should give Venba a try.
#12 – The Traveller
Game Featured: Journey
Personality/Traits: Curious, Resilient, Determined
This may seem like an odd inclusion, as the Traveller is more of a vessel for the silent narrative of Journey to be delivered to the player, but that’s the thing.
As there isn’t anything other than the Journey itself to represent this game, all the thoughts and feelings one has about this epic game are tied up in this little figure in the red cloak and the long flowing scarf, which is pretty much why I have a tattoo of the little guy on my arm.
The Traveller is a physical representation of a human making their way through life, beginning with a stage of curiosity and learning, followed by feelings of euphoria coupled with devastating lows engulfed in darkness, culminating in a tumultuous period of old age, and a finale as you ascend to the great beyond. Which is all told through the medium of traveling to the summit of a mountain.
This character represents the highs and lows of existence, the beauty of life and death, and the wonder of every moment in between. If that’s not a reason to pop them on this list, then I don’t know what is.
#13 – The Rot
Game Featured: Kena: Bridge of Spirits
Personality/Traits: Playful, Bashful, Energetic
Do you ever look at some video game characters and think to yourself, that character was made to be a plush toy?
Well, if there is one video game creature that embodies that notion more than any other, it’s The Rot from Kena: Bridge of Spirits. I don’t know if it’s the game’s visual similarities to Pixar movies, or the fact that these little bundles of dark fluff are so damn adorable, but they immediately stole my heart from the moment I laid eyes on them.
I do list them as a collective, though, as there are loads of them to collect in the world, and innumerable hat combinations to accessorize them with.
They do play a rather secondary role in proceedings, but it would be cruel not to give these little guys their moment in the sun. Plus, they play a key role in the adventure, gathering the courage to help Kena rid the world of evil and restore the environment to its luscious best. So I think they earned it.
#14 – The Prophet
Game Featured: The Messenger
Personality/Traits: Charismatic, Well-Read, Enigmatic
For those of you who loved what was on offer within Sea of Stars, I can only recommend that you try out The Messenger, Sabotage Studios’ debut game.
Sea of Stars happens to make a lot of nods to The Messenger within its world, and one such nod is to The Prophet, who doubles as The Archivist in The Messenger. He’s an entity that exists in a separate plain of existence and will provide you with tools, upgrades, and information that will prove useful on your quest.
However, the best thing about this character is undoubtedly the stories that you can request from him upon each interaction in a new area of the game. The writing within this game mirrors the silly, self-aware, fourth-wall-breaking content present in Sea of Stars, and The Prophet is the driving force behind this.
I will warn you: The Messenger is a much tougher game than its JRPG counterpart, but if you are up for a platforming challenge like no other, then The Messenger is a must-play, and The Prophet will be someone you become very close to, believe me.
#15 – Super Meat Boy
Game Featured: Super Meat Boy
Personality/Traits: Courageous, Tenacious, Loyal
If you were to take a survey with a random batch of bystanders in the street, asking them who the most famous video game character is, I would wager that the top answer would likely be Mario of Super Mario Bros. fame.
Which goes to show that the damsel in distress, rescue the princess narrative is one that works, even today. Well, Super Meat Boy is the indie game equivalent, which will have you try to rescue Bandage Girl from the clutches of Dr. Fetus.
From a narrative perspective, it doesn’t get much more complex than that. However, the platforming is about as tight and testing as it gets within the sub-genre and will test even the most veteran platformers to their very limits.
So why is Super Meat Boy so iconic, you ask? Well, because he’s a cute sentient cube of meat, and he’s one of the first-ever indie game protagonists, trailblazing the way for others on this list. He’s an OG Indie platforming mascot, and if you ask me, that more than justifies their spot on this list.
#16 – Leshy
Game Featured: Inscryption
Personality/Traits: Enigmatic, Eerie, Intimidating
If you have ever wondered why the first half of Inscryption is so wonderfully chilling, and why the card-based roguelike meets escape-the-room format works so well.
Then all you need to do is look to Leshy, the enigmatic figure that is conducting everything that occurs in The Cabin. The game’s horror themes and dark setting rely heavily on the eerie and unsettling character that is Leshy to keep players on edge throughout, and it’s a role that is fulfilled masterfully by this character.
Whether it’s the strange alter egos he takes on through the use of masks, his long gangly arms, or the general creepiness of his eyes piercing through the darkness. The mere sight of this horrifying man will send a shiver down your spine, which makes him an iconic indie character. At least until the game tails off in the second act, that is.
#17 – B-12
Game Featured: Stray
Personality/Traits: Helpful, Friendly, Resourceful
The cat within Stray may have been the reason that many flocked to this viral sensation, but after the credits roll, you’ll come to appreciate that the real star of the show was your little robot companion B-12.
B-12 is a helpful companion that allows our feline protagonist to uncover new areas and navigate the dystopian underground cities like The Slums and Midtown in ways that a kitty with no opposable thumbs simply cannot.
It would have been easy for this character to merely serve as a function, allowing our cat to progress through the game, but the bond between B-12 and our kitty is enriched as the game progresses, and as we accomplish B-12’s ultimate goal of getting outside and finding the humans, we witness an emotional gut-punch which comes out of nowhere, cementing their hero status and their spot in indie game folklore.
In a world filled with robots, B-12 is a cut above the rest, and a wonderful indie game character worth getting to know.
#18 – Octodad
Game Featured: Octodad (Dadliest Catch)
Personality/Traits: Floppy, Deceptive, Family Man
Much like our previous entry, The Goose, Octodad earns their spot on this list mainly through slapstick humor and their chaotic nature.
To boil it down, Octodad is an octopus masquerading as a human, and is desperately trying to maintain his suburban lifestyle in a bid to avoid returning to the Aquarium he escaped from. However, his mortal enemy, the Sushi Chef, is hellbent on outing him to his family, and serving him up to his customers. It’s a hearty dose of wacky, and then some.
The charm of Octodad as a character is that, while he is unable to speak on account of, you know, being an octopus, his mannerisms, panicked nature, and clear love for his family make them an endearing and wildly entertaining character.
Then throw in some obnoxiously clumsy controls and some ridiculous scenarios, and you have a truly unique experience that will leave you smiling from ear to ear.
So, if things like Surgeon Simulator or I Am Bread are up your alley, then we assure you, this one is too.
#19 – Neon White
Game Featured: Neon White
Personality/Traits: Confident, Competent, Morally Reprehensible
There are a couple of characters on this list already that represent the best that modern platforming has had to offer us gamers. Well, Neon White is yet another example of that, serving as the protagonist for the title of the same name.
Neon White is an assured and professional assassin who happens to find himself in ‘Heaven’ and has the unique opportunity to remain in Heaven, provided they can solve the demon problem they have up there in the celestial clouds above.
This leads to a wonderful FPS-meets-platforming romp that has players speedrunning through meticulously crafted levels. However, the fun doesn’t stop there, as you’ll get to know a cast of colorful assassin friends from your past life, and get to know more about yourself, as coincidentally, you have a touch of amnesia; go figure.
It’s rare that I would say that the stoic, hero-archetype, straight-man is the best character on offer in a game, but due to the mysterious nature of Neon White’s past, as well as the fact that they have a little more about them than just a malleable hero mold would makes them a top-tier character in my book.
#20 – Alex
Game Featured: Oxenfree + Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals
Personality/Traits: Witty, Curious, Independent
Then lastly, we have a character that is the antagonist of their original outing, and the antagonist of the sequel. Mind spoilers, I suppose, but that doesn’t give much away.
Alex Reye is just one of the angsty teens that make up the collective that opens the rift to another timeline on Easter Island, but she’s the beating heart of the storyline, alongside Jona her stepbrother, of course.
Their relationship and the teen-boppy drama of those around them help to paint a picture of Alex’s background, her deep-rooted trauma, and how the loss of her brother has affected her.
The way that Alex is perceived by others, and how her story plays out is mainly in the control of the player, as this is a choice-based, narrative-driven game, but what is consistent throughout, is that Alex is incisive, sharp-witted, and thoroughly interesting, even amongst a cast of intriguing characters.
She does return for a cameo in Oxenfree 2, but if you want to get to know Alex best, you’ll want to play the original in the series.
Then, finally, before we call it a day, we want to give you a quick list of the characters that perhaps weren’t featured enough in their respective games to be deemed ‘iconic enough’ for this list. Here is a list of some cool characters that just missed out on a spot on this list:
- Dave (Dave The Diver)
- Linus (Stardew Valley)
- Paw Paw (Norco)
- The Vessel (Hollow Knight)
- William Afton (FNAF)
- The Pentient One (Blasphemous)
- Niko (OneShot)
- Neil (Coffee Talk)
- Lamb (Cult of the Lamb)
Indie A-List Celebrities
As you can see, despite the fact that indies don’t have the same reach or appeal as the mainstream games within the industry, there are quite a few characters that penetrate through to become instantly recognizable members of the gaming character A-listers.
I hope that this guide reminded you of some amazing characters and the adventures you shared, and as always, thank you for reading Indie Game Culture.
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