Well, this is a right dusty old list rant. Damn thing’s 5 years old now! I reckon it could use a bit of updating, and expanding. Enjoy the new and improved list, all.
Let's face it, folks: there are a lot of RPG characters out there who are just plain crappy. That's to be expected; it's par for the course of any entertainment medium that there are going to be a lot of characters found who are poorly written, cheap cop-outs, shallow husks, unimaginative filler archetypes, and just outright silly.
Of course, just because it's to be expected doesn't mean we aren't going to and shouldn't complain about it, and demand better, mind you.
However, even knowing that disappointingly bad characters are inevitable in the course of RPG-playing, sometimes we encounter one who just bugs the shit out us. Or at least I do; I can't speak for you. You might be such an accepting saint that you’ve never felt the compulsion to wring the neck of that demanding, bratty ingrate Shion (Xenosaga series), or to apply no less than 50 lines of duct tape across the mouth of the staggeringly moronic Gemini (Sakura Wars 5). Maybe interacting with simpering little twits like Chihiro and Ayane from Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 and 4, whose personalities are based entirely around their maddeningly dumb self esteem issues, does not bother you in the slightest. But from what I've seen around the fabled crap-encrusted halls of the internet's gaming forums, most people, at least, have a few characters that they just can't stand. I'd like to think that I'm more accepting than the average internet rambler (I've never decided to hate a Final Fantasy character based on what they wear, so I know I'm at least a more worthwhile human being than 90% of Gaia Online), but after 260+ RPGs, I've definitely encountered a few game people which I'd love nothing more than to shove a hot glue gun into their mouths and just hold down the trigger. Here are the top 10. Or the bottom 10. Whatever.
One note before we begin (have you noticed how many of these provisions and amendments I make to these list rants of mine? It’s like I think I’m writing out legal documentation): Villains are disqualified from this list. Oh, sure, Earthbound and Mother 3’s Porky is incredibly annoying, way more so than many of the individuals on this list, and lord knows Final Fantasy 9’s Zorn and Thorn get real grating real fast. But the thing is that a lot of villains, definitely including Porky and probably including Zorn and Thorn, are bothersome by design. You’re not supposed to like them. And this list is sort of supposed to be a negative criticism of the characters on it, showing examples of characters who almost surely weren’t actually meant to be as obnoxious and grating as they are.
10: Lita (Atelier Iris 1)
Since I can’t just put the entire collective cast of Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals into a slot, we’ll settle for starting with Lita from Atelier Iris.
In most regards, Lita is a bland but inoffensive character, a standard plot-relevant character type. What I really can’t stand about her, though, is the way she acts in regards to Klein. Lita has got it into her head that Klein is her territory; she likes him and other people should stay the hell away from him. Well that would be acceptable, if she weren’t a gutless coward about letting Klein know how she feels. She shies away from any honest expression of her feelings whatsoever where Klein is concerned. I’d say her issue with retreating from honest expression of her emotions is a little less severe than Prier from La Pucelle Tactics, and a little more severe than Allen from the Xenosaga series--and if you have any familiarity with how romantically passive Allen is, that should say something to you.
Well, that’s annoying in and of itself, but the problem here is that despite Lita making no attempt to confess her interest in Klein to see if he’s interested in her back, she is a jealous fucking shrew about him. When one of the item shop NPCs starts to become attracted to Klein, Lita is a complete bitch to her, getting incredibly jealous and acting like the woman is trying to steal Klein away from her. Lita, you nitwit, you have laid no claim on the guy. If you want him to be your guy, TELL him so, and maybe he will be. But if you refuse to inform him of your interest, you do not have any right to actively try to drive off others who are interested in him! What if Lita drives someone off that Klein would actually have been happy with? How is that fair to him? Shit or get off the pot, Lita, either tell the guy and get together with him or stop acting like he’s your fucking property.
9. Arnaud (Wild Arms 4)
Arnaud is the guy who prides himself, and I quote, in “everything from the neck up.” Well, I really hope he just means that he has some outstanding dental hygiene, because Arnaud is an unfiltered, authentic, Class A Moron.
You know Elenor Silverburg from Suikoden 4? She’s your army (er, navy) strategist in the game, and is a chronically drunk, shriveled-up old cat lady, whose much-touted combat genius amounts to nothing more than “Pincer attacks are pretty cool” and “Oh hey if we get behind our enemy that might help.” In a series that has given us the impressive Caesar Silverberg and Lucretia Merces, and the outright awesome Mathiu Silverberg and Shu, we’re supposed to buy Elenor’s Tactics 101 drek as something legitimately insightful. Uh, no.
Well, Arnaud is like Elenor in that the game desperately wants to convince us that he’s really sharp, yet absolutely nothing he says or does gives evidence of this. At the very best of times, Arnaud’s smart enough to come up with a plan that seems obvious to you (such as his stunning insight that his team shouldn’t spend long on a train filled with enemies because it is, y’know, filled with enemies). Most of the time, luck and other people’s talents are passed off as evidence of his intellect. So much like Elenor being passed off as brilliant in Suikoden 4, or Id being passed off as in any way powerful in Xenogears, or that clown Kai Leng being passed off as anything but a laughable little glee club wannabe-ninja in Mass Effect 3, Arnaud is annoying for the game constantly insisting to its audience that he is a worthwhile character for virtues he clearly doesn’t have.
Aside from that, Arnaud is incredibly annoying for being groundlessly arrogant of this so-called intelligence, and he actively takes part in and adds stupid perspectives to the incessant, wildly idiotic conversations and whining sessions of Jude (WA4 protagonist) about adults and how they’re all evil and why that is and how that could be changed and so on and so forth. Arnaud’s not usually the one actually STARTING the stupid conversations, so he’s not nearly as horribly bothersome as Jude, but he does add to the unceasing foolishness, so he definitely earns a place here.
8. Albel (Star Ocean 3)
Much like Arnaud’s misplaced pride in an intelligence that simply isn’t there, part of what makes Albel annoying is that he thinks he’s some super awesome swordsman and that everyone else is below him, when in reality, he’s really quite easily beaten any time you fight against him and he’s honestly not that impressive a team member if you, for some unfathomable reason, want to recruit him. And like Arnaud, Albel is unaccountably arrogant in this inaccurate self-image.
But you know what makes him more annoying than Arnaud on this point? The fact that Albel is a fucking asshole about it. It’s not just that he thinks he’s God’s gift to swordsmanship--he sneers at everyone else, and is so utterly stupid that he is unable to revise his opinion of how great he is and how he should try treating other people even as he’s defeated multiple times. Arnaud may be fantastically dumb, but I’ll take an annoying moron over an annoying jackass any day of the week. Albel is basically Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z--a worthless, selfish, arrogant prick who lacks the basic humanity to learn from his experiences, barely half a step above a rabid dog. Except that even Vegeta eventually, though it takes fucking forever, becomes sort of not a complete dickhead, while we certainly don’t see any indication that the same will ever happen for Albel.
He’s not exactly the first or worst character in RPGs to pull this crap--quite a few villains, such as Id from Xenogears, or Kai Leng from Mass Effect 3, or that infuriating little shit Porky from Earthbound and Mother 3, are arrogant and insulting even after getting their ass summarily handed to them multiple times with little effort. But Albel has the distinction of doing this while being a potential party member, not solely a villain. I don’t count villains on this list, but I sure as hell can count this douchebag.
7. Navi (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
What is there to say about Navi, really, that has not been said before by so many others? Hell, what's there to say that hasn't been said before by ME, in my TLoZOoT Characters rant? You should probably check that one out for most of my thoughts on Navi, but let me just say that when Nintendo decided to burden Link with this whiny-sounding, incessant, attention-feeding mosquito in fairy's clothes, it reminded we the players, like an all-powerful and whimsical video game God might, that just because it can deliver gaming wonders and hours of happy enjoyment, that doesn't mean that it can't also hurt us very, very deeply and grind our minds to powder with something even so small as a single sound clip saying, "HEY! LISTEN!"
...Y'know, just in case we had forgotten about Nintendo's capability for audible cruelty in the span of time between TLoZOoT and our experiences with Baby Mario's bawling in Yoshi's Island.
6. Rinoa (Final Fantasy 8)
I’m sorry, is there really anything I even have to say here? If you don’t know why Rinoa’s here, then you just haven’t played FF8. Listing out every annoying thing about Rinoa would be like cataloguing every unfunny joke Ricky Gervais has ever made--you’re basically just providing a transcript of every time your subject opens his or her mouth. I guess I’ll just speak about 1 quality of Rinoa’s in particular that bugs the hell out of me, but is a little more subtle than her other incalculable faults which are far more obvious. It drives me crazy how she has to turn every goddamn thing around to be about her, can’t let anyone else have anything that she’s not a part of.
Look at the point of the game where the team is going to try to assassinate Sorceress Edea. The trained commandos have a precise, logical plan for killing her, a plan that even has a backup option if it doesn’t initially succeed, that employs coordinated teams of trained fighters, and has had its timing and method planned out by a military general. What does Rinoa do? She bursts into the room with a half-baked...no, that gives it too much credit. She bursts into the room with a one-tenth-baked notion of finding some way to get the sorceress to willingly slip on a bangle that will, in theory, theory because it is untested, suppress her magic abilities. So again, this is the entirety of Rinoa’s plan:
1. Find a currently unknown way to break into the secured area where the sorceress is.
2. Convince the sorceress that she should put on this suspicious accessory.
3. Just hope really, really hard that it even functions.
Putting aside the staggering stupidity of this plan (I said I’m just doing 1 of Rinoa’s flaws here, and I mean it), she’s coming in when the team is on their way out the door to go on their mission, and she expects them to drop the plan that has been thought out in advance, has multiple methods to accomplish its objectives, and actually knows how to get its players into place without having to rely on climbing up conveniently parked cargo trucks, and go with her cockamamie, vague little tenth-of-an-idea. Then she gets upset when they don’t jump up to follow her idiotic whims, and decides to go out and jeopardize their mission by trying her idea all by herself. And why? Because it’s HER plan and she wants to do things HER way, whether or not that’s the right way, that’s why! Rinoa, not be special and included and important and the star? Impossible!
It’s like this through the whole game. Any time she can insert herself into a conversation and make it about herself, you better damn well believe Rinoa’s gonna do it. Rinoa has a whole bag of annoying tricks that earn her a spot on this list, and this is just 1 of them, but it’s less overt than the others while contributing just as much to how detestable she is. The next time you’re filled with enough self-loathing that you decide to do a replay of Final Fantasy 8, watch for it--the whole “me, me, me, me!” thing starts sticking out like a sore thumb if you’re looking for it.
5. Teddie (Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4, and Shin Megami Tensei: Persona Q)
I swear to God if I hear this stupid piece of shit bear talk 1 more time about scoring with chicks or act like he’s some fucking smooth casanova then I am gonna hop the next flight to Japan and fucking END Atlus.
4. Squall (Final Fantasy 8)
You know, I have to admit, I was somewhat surprised with myself when I made this list up. I mean, I knew Squall would be on it somewhere, but I wouldn't have thought, initially, that he’d have actually topped Rinoa (nor, for that matter, Teddie and Albel) for being an irritating twit. I mean, Rinoa's personality is that of a remarkably stupid, attention-starved little Daddy's Girl who throws a polite and subdued (usually subdued, anyway) tantrum whenever things don't go her way, and as I mentioned above, hates to give up the spotlight in any conversation to another person. It's really a good thing for the player that every other character in the game inexplicably wants to indulge her, or we'd have to put up with little hissy fits from her the whole game.
But back to Squall. Squall is, initially, not as annoying as Rinoa, or some of the others lower on this list (fucking dumbass Teddie). He IS a pain in the ass, though, make no mistake. He's a lackluster, sullen jerk who pushes everyone who gives half a shit about him away with as much hostility as his half-assed personality can muster. If you took away all the amusing and clever dialogue, the passion for knowledge, and all depth whatsoever from Dr. House of the show House MD, keeping only the caustic nature and whiny desire not to have to ever do anything for anybody, you would basically have Squall.
But like I said, even though every single thing Squall says or does makes all but the most patient person, shallow looks-swooning fangirl, and/or idiot teen who doesn't realize that Squall is an insulting caricature of himself want to kick him in the balls until a response is gotten that isn't just a belligerent scowl, he's still not as bad as Rinoa. The thing is, though, with Squall, you get TWO incredibly annoying characters in one package. See, I've mentioned this before, but partway through FF8, for reasons no logic can explain and with 0 warning whatever from the game's character development, Squall falls crazily in love with Rinoa. While you will still be subjected to Squall Version 1's capacity for being a jerk at times after this point (basically whenever he interacts with non-Rinoa human beings about non-Rinoa subjects, which happens less and less frequently), for the most part he becomes an insensible, lovesick idiot whose sole conscious thought and desire is to be around Rinoa. Now look, I'm all for strong, loving devotion in relationships, and I know romances in RPGs tend to be a little wonky, but it's just silly, stupid, and irritating. Squall Number 2 is an entirely different, but equally stupid and irritating, teenager stereotype from Squall Number 1, the stupid teenager stereotype that loses all concern and sense of identity to the idea of being in love with someone that they know little to nothing about and only met a short time before.
So that is basically why Squall earns his place here over the competition--because he's not just one incredibly annoying character, but two.
3. Jude (Wild Arms 4)
There's a LOT of competition for the title, but I think that Jude is perhaps the Stupidest RPG Protagonist of All Time. And not in the amusing way, like Terranigma's Ark or the Secret of Evermore kid. Now sure, you can argue that a Fallout 1 and/or 2 main character with an Intelligence score of 3 or below is technically less intelligent, but in neither Fallout will your character spend the entire game theorizing about why adults do things that aren't nice, as though reaching the age of 21 somehow mutated people into an entirely different species of alien bug-monsters. I know that kids don't always get adults and don't always agree with their actions, but by 13 years old they ought to at least know SOMETHING about human beings' actions and motives. He wasn't raised by wild animals all his life or something.* And the damn kid never shuts up. On the off-chance that he can find a topic of conversation besides how evil everyone who shaves must be, he's still yapping, asking stupid questions, getting typically obvious and simple answers, having said answers explained, and then having to be reminded 5 minutes later what the answers were because he still didn't understand them then and forgot them anyway. Jude is just the kind of dimwit that makes you want to bang your head against a wall--and then, on second thought, makes you want to bang HIS head THROUGH a wall much more.
2. Shana (The Legend of Dragoon)
To be honest, I thought for years that I would never encounter another character in ANYTHING, let alone RPGs, that could be as infuriating as this whiny, clingy idiot. Just describing her adequately is challenging; I feel like I'd have to be quinta-lingual just to find enough words for how repulsively needy and aggravating she is. I recognize that even good game girls end up needing rescuing sometimes (although I think it's stupid and needs to stop happening all the damn time), and I don't hold it against one if they end up needing to be bailed out once or twice, but Shana needs to be saved over and over and over, at times when the heroes actually have something important to be doing. And her personality! If you can even CALL it that. Imagine Rinoa. Now try to imagine, if it is within your mental capacity, that she is more clingy, sappy, and childish, while being less useful to her friends and boyfriend, and that her existence is not only a pain in the neck to the player, but also legitimately to her entire species. This is about as close as I can get to describing how annoying Shana is.
1. Alfina (Grandia 3)
And yet, just as Shana surpasses Rinoa at her own game of driving players crazy, so, in turn, does Alfina beat Shana. The personality is mostly the same, save for an extra dose of nauseating, meaningless saccharine that comes from a voice actress who somehow manages to make already repellently stupid lines even sappier. Everything else I have to say on this little twit can be found in my rant on Grandia 3, but let me just say that without Alfina, Grandia 3 would have been a boring, mildly bad RPG. With her, it's one of the worst in existence. Navi and Teddie couldn't ruin their games, Lita and Shana couldn't make their games bad, Albel couldn’t sour his game, and Arnaud, Rinoa, and Squall come from games that suck all around even without their contribution (though they sure as hell didn’t help matters). Even in the case of Jude, whose ceaseless, chattering stupidity is the focal point of Wild Arms 4, the game would still have been a wretched, obnoxious waste without his influence. But Alfina directly, immensely worsens her game; she is the most significantly faulty, unenjoyable part of Grandia 3 and makes it a drastically worse title simply through her presence within it. It is an RPG that would have been, if not actually good, at least not a horrendous catastrophe, had it not been for Alfina. That is how annoying she is.
Dishonorable Mention: Lynette (Fallout 2)
Okay, Lynette is kind of a stretch here, because even though she’s not really a villain, I’m reasonably sure that Fallout 2’s developers didn’t exactly intend her to be particularly likable. Still, I want to throw her in here. Part of that desire comes from just how incredibly obnoxious I find her--she’s an arrogant, smug, self-assured power-hungry bigot and she doesn’t exactly make a grand effort to cover it up as she condescends to you.
But the main reason I think First Citizen Lynette should have a place on this list is that she is sort of a miracle of unlikeability. I don’t think I’ve encountered a single Fallout 2 player, ever, who didn’t find Lynette at least a little distasteful. I’ve met people who like Rinoa. Just like with Vegeta, many people have no problem forgiving Albel for his shitty personality and lack of character depth because they somehow misidentify him as being cool. There are players who don’t find Arnaud or Jude particularly annoying when they play Wild Arms 4. Teddie is actually a fairly well-liked character. There are people who believe Sarah Palin has the slightest goddamn clue about what she’s talking about, fans of Chris Brown and Robin Thicke still exist, and plenty of worthless asswipes think Hitler was onto something.
But Lynette? No one likes Lynette. No one. How does that even happen? I mean, obviously the sampling of people familiar with her is going to be a hell of a lot smaller than the number of people familiar with most of the individuals, fictional or real, that I just mentioned, but still. It may not be an admirable distinction, but being the most universally annoying character I’ve ever seen is definitely notable enough for a spotlight in this rant.
* This wouldn't even be an excuse anyway; Tarzan and Mowgli get the hang of human beings about 10 times faster than Jude does.