Over the past few decades, gaming has delivered a number of memorable survival-horror heroes, ranging from average joes battling supernatural threats to highly trained spec ops soldiers fighting otherworldly monstrosities. Due to the horrors they face, these heroes oftentimes struggle with their mental health as well, making them flawed, interesting characters.
Some survival-horror heroes are more interesting than others, though, and have left a bigger impact on the gaming industry. Out of all the survival-horror heroes seen in gaming so far, the following 10 are the best the genre has to offer.
Alan Wake (Alan Wake)
From the mind of Max Payne creator Sam Lake and Remedy Entertainment, the titular Alan Wake is like a character pulled straight from the pages of a Stephen King novel. In the Alan Wake video game, Wake watches his wife disappear beneath the depths of Cauldron Lake, itself located in the sleepy town of Bright Falls. Wake then spends the rest of the game trying to figure out what happened to his wife, all the while fighting off disturbing creatures that are weak against light. Wake stands as one of the most interesting heroes in survival-horror, as his damaged psyche plays a central role in the game’s story and gameplay.
Alexandra Roivas (Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem)
When Alexandra Roivas’ grandfather mysteriously dies at his home in Rhode Island, she takes the investigation into her own hands. At her grandfather’s home, Alexandra is bombarded by a number of horrors, and discovers a book that allows her to witness past events that offer clues about her grandfather’s death. Even though Alexandra slowly loses her grip on reality over the course of Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, she never gives up on solving her grandfather’s death.
Bill (Left 4 Dead)
There are eight playable survivors in the Left 4 Dead franchise, but none are quite as heroic as Bill. A grizzled Vietnam war veteran, Bill is the no-nonsense member of his group, and does everything he can to keep his fellow survivors alive as they mow down endless hordes of the undead. Bill’s desire to keep his friends alive sees him sacrifice himself in “The Passing” DLC, which allows Zoey, Francis, and Louis to survive long enough to meet the playable characters from Left 4 Dead 2.
Joel (The Last of Us)
In a genre full of death and sadness, survival-horror’s most tragic hero may very well be Joel from The Last of Us. When players first get to know Joel, he is living a normal, quiet life with his daughter in Austin, Texas. Over the course of The Last of Us, Joel is hit with one tragedy after another, molding him into an angry, gruff survivalist. Joel’s relationship with Ellie restores some of his humanity, and over the course of the game, he does everything possible to protect her from the monsters and murderous survivors roaming the streets of the post-apocalyptic United States.
Frank West (Dead Rising)
Frank West has covered wars, y’know. An ambitious photojournalist, Frank West goes to great lengths to break a story, even if it means traveling to a quarantined city in Colorado dealing with a zombie outbreak. In the Dead Rising games, Frank finds that he is especially adept at slaying the undead hordes, and he puts those skills to good use, killing zombies with everything from professional wrestling moves to any object that’s not nailed down.
Harry Mason (Silent Hill)
In the Silent Hill games, Harry Mason explores the creepy, shape-shifting town of Silent Hill in search of his missing daughter, Cheryl. Even when faced with unspeakable horrors, Harry never gives up his search for Cheryl, and is willing to do whatever it takes to bring her home safely.
The Wii-imaging Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, meanwhile, offers fans a more flawed take on Harry. Depending on player choice, the Shattered Memories version of Harry can be an alcoholic, womanizer, or an abuser, making him less of a hero and more of a villain.
Isaac Clarke (Dead Space)
Dead Space hero Isaac Clarke embarks on a repair mission to the stranded USG Ishimura in hopes of making contact with his girlfriend who was on the ship. When Isaac arrives, he and his squadmates are attacked by strange creatures called Necromorphs, which can only be killed by dismembering them limb by limb. Fueled by his desire to see his girlfriend again, Isaac does everything he can to repair the Ishimura and destroy the Necromorph threat.
Jill Valentine (Resident Evil)
In the original Resident Evil game, players are given the choice to play as one of two different S.T.A.R.S. members, Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield. Valentine starts the game with a larger inventory and a gun, making her the ideal choice for many first-time survival-horror players. Valentine’s penchant for picking locks and her bravery during the infamous “Mansion Incident” solidified her as a fan-favorite character, with Capcom bringing her back for multiple sequels. Valentine’s popularity even saw her become a playable character in Capcom’s Marvel vs. Capcom fighting game series, making her the first Resident Evil character to join the fray.
Leon S. Kennedy (Resident Evil)
Since Resident Evil is the longest-running and most successful survival-horror franchise to date, it’s fitting that two characters from the series are represented on this list. Introduced in Resident Evil 2, Leon S. Kennedy is perhaps the most recognizable character from the series, with high profile appearances in Resident Evil 4 and 6 following his Resident Evil 2 debut in Raccoon City. Leon has also appeared in two Resident Evil CG films to date, with a third, Resident Evil: Vendetta, set to release later this year.
Regina (Dino Crisis)
While not quite as popular as Jill Valentine, Regina from Dino Crisis is a great survival-horror hero in her own right. All things considered, Regina’s exploits are arguably more impressive, as she has to contend with fast-moving velociraptors and a massive T-Rex, as opposed to the slow, lumbering zombies in the Resident Evil games. Unlike Jill, though, Regina has only appeared in a couple of video games so far, but fans wouldn’t object to her returning in a potential Dino Crisis reboot or HD remaster.
These 10 heroes are the best that the survival-horror genre has had to offer so far, but even more could be on the way. With recent successes like Resident Evil 7 and Until Dawn, it’s clear that the survival-horror genre isn’t going away any time soon, and will continue introducing exciting new heroes to the world of video gaming.
Who is your favorite survival-horror hero? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!