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The Most Iconic Video Game Characters That Even Non-Gamers Recognize

As gamers, we may be able to explain the difference between Princess Peach and Princess Daisy, but to a lot of people, Mario and Luigi are the only characters from those games that they recognize.

So we thought it would be fun to assemble a list of ten video game characters that almost everyone recognizes, whether they are gamers or not. What do you think? Did we miss any big ones?

10. Doom Guy aka Doom Slayer (DOOM)

Doom Guy
id Software

A pioneering first-person shooter game, DOOM was released in 1993. Players control Doom Guy (or doomguy). The series has also spawned comic books, novels, board games, and feature films, bringing Doom Guy to public awareness. Since 2016, Doom Guy has been known as Doom Slayer.

9. Steve (Minecraft)

Steve from Minecraft

Since 2011, Minecraft has become both a worldwide gaming and pop culture juggernaut and the best-selling game of all time. It was hard to escape Minecraft in the 2010s with official books, merchandise, events, and more. Coverage was all over the news, on YouTube, and in memes. Minecraft’s protagonist Steve was instantly recognizable with his blocky, everyman design.

8. Scorpion (Mortal Kombat)

Scorpion from Mortal Kombat
Warner Bros. Entertainment

Mortal Kombat made its debut as an arcade game in 1992, and its violence prompted the establishment of a game rating board. Its most colorful fighter is Scorpion, a vengeful, undead ninja. With his iconic kunai rope dart weapon, Scorpion reached public consciousness through comic books, card games, animated TV series, feature films, and even a live-action tour.

7. Master Chief (Halo)

Master Chief from Halo
Xbox Game Studios

Ever since the Halo series launched as an FPS in 2001, its protagonist, Master Chief John-117, became a revered and iconic character in gaming. He is also a mascot for the Xbox. Halo spinoff media such as TV series, feature films, books, and graphic novels, have carried Master Chief into pop culture.

6. Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Square Enix

Ever since appearing in the first Tomb Raider game in 1996, the character of Lara Croft has fascinated gamers and the world at large. Intelligent, athletic, and brave, Lara is simply a combo of ever badass trait you can think of. The franchise has spawned novels, comics, and feature films, making her known to the general public.

Link from Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda series is centered around various incarnations of Link. The elf-like Link of the Hylian race has appeared as both a child and a young adult. Link is the embodiment of the selfless hero on a journey of transformation. While this is a timeless storytelling trope, Link’s journey in each series installment never fails to draw us in.

4. Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog is the titular character of the video game and media franchise that has spanned print, animation, feature films, and merchandise. Known as the first “mascot with attitude” of the gaming world, Sonic has also had a shelf life that’s one of the longest since its launch in 1991.

3. Pikachu (Pokémon)

Pokemon Company International

Pikachu is the fictional species of “pocket monster” from the Pokémon series and the mascot of the franchise. Pikachu has appeared in video games, animated series, films, and trading cards. Pikachu’s image is so ubiquitous, it has attracted gamers and non-gamers alike, as well as people of all ages.

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2. Pac-Man


Most people recognize Pac-Man on sight. This iconic image of a circle with a mouth is unmistakable. Since 1980, the titular character of Pac-Man has been a cultural phenomenon that persists to this day. It even inspired the hit song Pac-Man Fever which reached #9 in 1982, going gold.

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1. Mario


With the longest shelf life of any character in gaming, Mario has been an icon since he first appeared in Donkey Kong in 1981. He’s developed into a mega-franchise, with a plethora of series and spinoffs. Beyond games, Mario is featured in various forms of media such as comic books, feature films, television series, and even theme park attractions.

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