The most over-powered video game characters of all time

Most video games, particularly action games, are about letting the player live out a power fantasy. Perhaps the player can vicariously became a space marine, if only for a few hours. Or maybe life as an American commando, raiding enemy installations and shooting in corridors, is preferable. Sometimes, people just wish that they, too, could be an unwitting clone of an eye-patched American hero-gone-rogue, while sneaking into compounds run by yet other clones. All these games feature powerful heroes as their protagonist: the best of the best, the elite, the chosen, the "HERO" with a capital-H, and also -E and -R and -O.

But some games go in a different direction. While they're still power fantasies, they don't star grizzled veterans with decades of combat experience. Rather, they feature average guys, regular Joes, the kind of hero you'd normally find fixing your sink. And yet, despite all odds, these average citizens become champions in their own right. Alternatively, sometimes a game will start with a powerful hero, but then ratchet up their capabilities to stratospheric proportions: it's one thing to be an elite soldier, and another to be the queen of an entire alien hivemind.

Here's a list of those main characters who are simply over-powered, whether because they began as nobodies, ended as near-gods, or both.

Gordon Freeman earned a PhD in Alien Combat

You wouldn't necessarily call Gordon Freeman 'ordinary.' He graduated from MIT with a PhD in Theoretical Physics, so he was already someone with special abilities. Unlike other PhD grads, however, Gordon Freeman is more capable with a gun — and a crowbar — than the rest of the Earth's militaries combined. When his place of work, Black Mesa, runs into a bit of an issue (you know, an alien invasion) in Valve Software's Half-Life, most of the scientists there are either killed, scared, or turned into headcrab zombies. Not Dr. Freeman! Without fear, or speech for that matter, Freeman calmly sets out to fight off the entire invasion by himself and close the portal the aliens are pouring through. What's more, he succeeds!

Except that, actually, he fails. Despite his success at the end of the original Half-Life, by the time Half-Life 2 rolls around, the Earth has been conquered. While there is a scattered resistance group fighting back, there is no major combat force left to fight the oppressive Combine. No major combat force — except for Dr. Gordon Freeman, that is! Armed with literally nothing at the start of the game, except his PhD of course, Freeman eventually escapes Combine custody, fights off the alien wildlife, rallies the scattered resistance, and destroys the alien portal to Earth (again). And he does it all without talking.

Anyone who earns a PhD is a hero. But Gordon Freeman is more so.

Kratos killed all the gods

From their thrones on Mount Olympus, the gods rule our lives. From the skies to the seas, from war to love, all the facets of the human experience are governed by these flawed, petty personalities. We are all subject to their whims, and have no choice but to bow to our respective fates, and suffer our way through our brief existences.

Unless you're Kratos. If you're Kratos, you just kill them all.

Greek mythology is based on the concept of fatalism: whatever your fate is, that's what you are doomed to live, no matter how hard you try to avoid it. Kratos literally killed the Sisters of Fate, rewove his destiny on their loom, and then murdered his way through Mount Olympus itself. That has some shades of the American sense of self-determination, crossed with a very Greek sense of tragedy: that the man consumed by rage is all-powerful, yet blind to the consequences of his actions.

Whatever else, it does make Kratos as over-powered as any character in literature. His unceasing anger destroys not just Olympus, but the Greek world below: storms, floods, and plagues wrack the hapless civilians without the gods' protection. Meanwhile, Kratos himself is killed several times, only for his wrath to fuel a rampage right out of Hades. Kratos from the God of War franchise is unstoppable. He is invincible. He is a primal scream in human flesh. And there is nothing anyone, not even the gods, can do to stop him.

Sarah Kerrigan was the best … until she got better

Sarah Kerrigan, on the surface, looks like a composite of the standard power-fantasy heroes: she's an elite military operative fighting in an interstellar conflict. So the fact that she's a powerful fighter upon whom major plot points turn is not necessarily surprising, and in that sense, she isn't 'over-powered': she's right where she should be.

Until the alien Zerg decided to convert her into one of their own.

Captured by the insectoid race, Kerrigan was transformed into a Zerg-hybrid known as the Queen of Blades. Blessed with augmented psychic abilities, carapace armor, and built-in high-heels, Kerrigan became the key weapon in the Zerg arsenal. Once the Zerg Overmind was destroyed in the war, Kerrigan regained her free will and set out to consolidate control of the alien race under her command.

So she's a highly-trained human military operative, and a top-tier psychic, and an ace Zerg combatant, and the ruler of an ever-larger slice of the entire Zerg swarm. And still, she had further to rise. At the end of StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void, Kerrigan ascends to yet another stage of existence: she becomes a xel'naga, a kind of ascended creature of pure energy. More powerful than ever before, she sets out to defeat the most ancient and powerful creature in all the universe. And she does. Which makes Kerrigan literally the most powerful single being, anywhere, ever.

Over-powered yet?

Alan Wake is all-powerful

Meet Alan Wake. He's an author. He has not served in the military. He doesn't have superpowers. He has not now, nor has he ever, fought aliens in space. What he does have is a struggling marriage and a bad case of writer's block. So he and his wife head out on a vacation to forget their troubles.

In other words, Alan Wake is basically almighty. Wait, what?

While on vacation in the town of Bright Falls — any similarity to Twin Peaks is entirely coincidental — eerie, spooky events begin to transpire. His wife disappears, he starts suffering from extended blackouts, and bizarre shadow-people attack him. Worst — or maybe best? — of all, he starts finding pages of a manuscript scattered throughout the town. It's his manuscript, and yet, he doesn't remember writing any of it. What's more, everything he reads from the pages comes true in the real world. As an author, Alan's power to create worlds with words has now manifested in his actual life, yet he cannot control any of it.

Effectively, this makes Alan Wake all-powerful. Destiny, fate, and time are at the mercy of his typewriter. That alone makes him as over-powered as anyone can ever be. But let's not lose sight of the real superpower here: he apparently wrote an entire novel without knowing it. If only it was so easy for all of us.

Doomguy doesn't need a name to be the best

Once, there were no first-person shooters. Then along came id Software, first releasing Wolfenstein 3D in 1992, and then Doom in 1993. Doom became one of the most influential games ever, popularizing the FPS genre and turning game design in a darker, bloodier, faster-paced direction. It did it all by pitting all of the combined forces of hell against … a guy. In Doom. He's called Doomguy.

Just who is Doomguy? Nobody really knows, or, for that matter, cares. What's his motivation? Demons, that's what. What does he hope to achieve? Dead demons. With the help of a twitch-fingered player and a couple inventive weapons, plus buckets of gore, Doomguy sets off into Mars to fight the forces of the underworld.

Yes, Mars. The demons are on Mars. Why wouldn't they be?

So far as we know, Doomguy has no formal training in, you know, defeating darkness. He's often referred to as a Marine, so he probably has some combat experience. Still, even a good Marine would normally have trouble defeating entire legions of monsters single-handedly. Doomguy, though, handles everything with ease. If that weren't enough, he returns for more in Doom II and then Final Doom, and takes care of any creature unfortunate enough to cross his path. If he ever gets back to Earth, we might as well cancel all wars, because this guy would just win them by himself. Think of the lives he'll have saved then!

Elizabeth knows no boundaries

There are plenty of games in which the gun-toting hero must escort an unarmed civilian through a dangerous situation. There are also plenty of games that feature powerful magic-casters. But no game has woven those two concepts as closely together, or pushed them quite so far, as BioShock Infinite. The player character, Booker DeWitt, spends nearly the entire runthrough shepherding young Elizabeth through the seemingly-perfect city of Columbia. Fortunately, thanks to some finely-tuned AI, Elizabeth is never a burden: she hides from enemy fire and even tosses Booker items and ammo she finds around the map.

Oh, and she can cut holes through reality. That's nice.

Elizabeth harbors a unique ability to tear through the thin veils separating various parallel universes. In gameplay terms, this means she can summon, or delete, useful weapons like turrets. But in narrative terms, this gives her the capacity to rewrite history, travel through time, and eventually, burst through the fourth wall and deliver commentary on the very nature of game design itself.

That makes Elizabeth way more than your standard helpless civilian. Rather, she's the most powerful character in the game, vastly more so than even Booker. Don't like her? Don't worry: there are other versions of her out there. Infinite, in fact.

The Dragonborn is the one true dragonslayer

It's all fun and games until you get caught, right? Well, in Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, that's where you start. You're a prisoner, convicted of some crime, going to get your head chopped off. You're in rags, you have no abilities to speak of, and you can't even overpower the basic guards that escort you. You're nobody. A loser. Who's about to die.

Thank goodness for unexpected dragon attacks! A draconian intervention sets you loose, both out of your chains and into the vast expanse of the land of Skyrim. But this isn't the last dragon you'll see. In fact, you'll discover that dragons have returned to blight the country once again. But no matter how many dragons are slain, they always seem to come back!

But you, gentle ex-con, are the key to defeating them. For you are the Dragonborn, blessed with the ability to kill any dragon permanently by absorbing its very soul. Where most "chosen one" archetypes are more about having the heart, courage, or fighting talent to win the day, here you're literally the only person even capable of maybe ending the dragon threat (if you actually complete the main quest, that is). That's pretty over-powered for a simple criminal. Which, of course, is the game's entire point: to give you the feeling of growing into a hero of your own making.

Legal tip: don't try this excuse during your own trial, if you ever have one.

Every class in Diablo is a whirlwind of destruction

Blizzard's classic Diablo series doesn't have any one hero. Instead, the player may pick from a range of classes, running the gamut from melee brawler to ranged sniper to magical caster. And to start, they're all pretty weak. In standard RPG fashion, each will eventually rank up, both through experience and gear, and slowly take on tougher and tougher challenges. So far, so ordinary.

Then you get to the later stages of the games. Which are ridiculous.

It's not uncommon for a high-level Diablo hero to be fighting several dozen monsters simultaneously. The screen becomes a riot of lights, sounds, and gore as the character smashes, shoots, and disintegrates his or her way through a seemingly endless stampede of demons. Precision movement, a keen eye for cooldowns, and a steady (if rapid-fire) trigger-finger can elevate a character model into a near god. Particularly up in the higher difficulty modes, the feeling of raw power a Diablo player can wield is unmatched even in other power-fantasy games.

Earthworm Jim is a worm. Really.

When you think of great heroes, the kind of champions that could traverse the very stars to defeat enemies of all stripes, the first thing you think of is … not a worm. A worm is pretty much a byword for weakness, ugliness, uselessness, and all-around terribleness. A video game starring a worm sounds like a gag, the next piece of shovelware thrown on Steam for a quick laugh and forgotten before it was ever known.

And yet, one of the classic franchises of the 16-bit era starred an invertebrate. Earthworm Jim, the story goes, was just an ordinary worm. Then one day, a supersuit fell from space (like supersuits do), landed on the worm, and gifted him with intelligence (sort of) and even eyes. Taking the name Jim, because why not, the over-powered worm defies the odds, defeats bad guys across the universe, and would have won the heart of a princess if not for the unfortunate arrival of a cow. Yes, this was actually a game.

The Earthworm Jim series is absurdist and farcical, intentionally zigging where any sane game would zag. The idea of having a worm for a hero itself might have been a dig at conventionally 'cool' characters. Whatever the reason for putting the little pink guy in the lead role, Earthworm Jim remains an inspiration to invertebrates everywhere. He's saved the galaxy multiple times over. As long as he's around, "worm" will never be an insult.

Mario brought glory to plumbers everywhere

When your sink springs a leak at 1 a.m., any plumber willing to come right away is a hero. That said, no plumber has rescued as many princesses from dinosaurs as a certain Italian dreamt up by Japanese developers. For as wildly successful as the Super Mario franchise has been, it's never really discussed just how weird the whole premise is. Mario, a plumber, is presumably dating Peach, a princess. Right there, Mario seems pretty over-powered: at the very least, he's exploding class expectations around relationships. As you might expect, Peach has caught someone else's eye. What you might not expect is that that someone is a dinosaur named Bowser.

Bowser kidnaps Peach, and Mario goes to rescue her. He doesn't call the police: this plumber can handle this all by himself. He sets off into the world alone, and what a world it is! Filled with dinosaurs, giant bullets, rideable clouds, and boxes filled with life-giving mushrooms, Mario sets off on an epic journey with nothing but the ability to jump. And he conquers all obstacles in his path. In the end, he defeats Bowser and rescues Peach.

For someone with no combat training, no superpowers (except what mushrooms and flowers give him), and presumably a leak to fix somewhere, this is an extraordinary accomplishment, far beyond what's normally requested of a plumber. Maybe that's the true moral of Mario: if even he can be over-powered, what can't any of us become?