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July 30, 2022

9 Gruffest Video Game Characters Who Are Actually Big Softies

There's no shortage of gruff, unfeeling characters in video games. Sometimes, they're a product of their circumstances, forced to turn their backs on their emotions to be more effective on the battlefield. Others are just kind of jerks.



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Despite all their posturing, though, many of these characters aren't as one-dimensional as you might think. Underneath a tough outer shell, they're actually marshmallows, whose emotions spill out in unpredictable ways. Most commonly they turn anything negative into rage, but occasionally they'll show their sensitive sides. There's nothing cuter than watching a big man cry.

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9 Scorpion-Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat's Scorpion actually seems like an alright guy for being a hellfire-infused man who routinely spears people in the torso with a sword and chain so that he can rip their spines out. An assassin who began his calling to provide for his family, Scorpion's main motivation is not based on malice, but simple revenge. That drive is so strong that, after Quan Chi slaughters him and his entire clan, he comes back from the dead to enact his vengeance.

While the initial games portrayed him as a villain, recent depictions of Scorpion are more well-rounded. Though still as fond of killing as ever, he's still kind enough to take in refugees from the netherrelm war — and even adopted Takeda Takahashi after the death of his father, fellow fighter Kenshi. There's a soft spot in him that you don't often see, probably because it's routinely covered in blood.

8th Athena - Borderlands Series

If you'd been raised from birth to be the galaxy's perfect assassin, and were forced to kill your parents at an early age to solidify your loyalty to the megacorporation which kidnapped you, then you'd probably have a chip on your shoulder too. If that same corporation made you kill the sister you've been searching for for years? You wouldn't have much time for kindness either.

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But Athena's no-nonsense persona is partly just for show. She's got a strong moral compass that causes her to leave Handsome Jack's employ, despite the money offered. She also has one of the sweetest relationships in the series, developed further in Tales from the Borderlands, which shows that love can blossom even in the hardest soil.

7 Bigby Wolf - Wolf Among Us

As the reformed Big Bad Wolf of fairy tale fame, The Wolf Among Us' Sheriff Bigby Wolf takes a paws-on approach to the law. The first scene in the game shows you going toe-to-toe with the woodcutter from the same legend. It's a fight that takes you from his second-story apartment to street level, causing grievous bodily harm and some serious collateral damage along the way. He also smokes, drinks whiskey with a wisecracking pig, and sounds like a mixture of Tom Waits and Clint Eastwood.

But as fierce as Bigby is, he's just trying to do the best he can for Fabletown. His methods can be unorthodox, but his emotional investment in the less privileged and his determination to do what's right shows that there's deep care in him. Even under all that fur.

6 Joel Miller - The Last Of Us Series

At first, The Last of Us' protagonist doesn't seem to care about most people. He wants to survive in a world infested with spore zombies, and doesn't really care how he does it. He's a cantankerous mercenary through and through, to the point that, while he does eventually consent to escorting Ellie, he complains about it for a good chunk of the first game.

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But Joel's cynical and ruthless nature is a product of his circumstances. Retreating from the world of emotions after the death of his daughter, he actively tries to remain aloof, because attachment means loss. Eventually, though, the game lets you see through his disguise. He's gutted by Tess' death, and makes the almost superhuman task of defending Ellie as they travel across the country.

metal gear sniper wolf

The first time you meet Sniper Wolf in Metal Gear Solid is after she puts several bullets into your friend, Meryl Silverborough. Your relationship doesn't really improve from there. Arrogant and exceptionally deadly, she's responsible for your first and only capture, and provides one of the most climactic battles in the game's second half.

But Wolf's not evil, not really. Instead, she's the product of extreme trauma. As she tells you as she bleeds out at your feet, "I was born on a battlefield. Raised on a battlefield. Gunfire, sirens and screams... They were my lullabies." Born only to see her entire family killed, her only father figure was the morally ambiguous Big Boss, which can't have been great for her internal compass. But, as she lies dying, unburdening years of these repressed emotions, you realize that she has been feeling everything. She just wasn't able to let it show.

4 Yhorm The Giant - Dark Souls 3

Even though when you meet this monstrosity he's trying to cleave you in two with a sword that is at least twice as big as you are, Yhorm the Giant was actually sort of sweet before being taken over by darkness. Ostracised because of his size, Dark Souls 3 lore describes him as lonely; a solitary, soulful creature who defended his people from attack almost single-handedly.

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A bit like one of those quiet people at a party who are incredibly interesting once you take the time to listen to them, Yhorm seems like a really good dude — when he's not trying to kill you. Plus, anyone who's friends with Seigward of Catarina can't be all that bad.


3 John Marston-Red Dead: Redemption

There's nothing gruffer than a cowboy with a vendetta. Hard drinkin' and hard shootin', Red Dead Redemption's John Marston is all that and more, killing his way through his old gang to save his family from corrupt government officials.

But John doesn't actually want to be the homicidal criminal that he used to be. He's trying to settle down and be better for his wife and son. That's what makes the game so tragic. It explores the life of a man trying to get out of the cycle of violence, but can never quite make it work.

venom snake with Ddog MGSV

So, you're the ruthless leader of the Diamond Dogs, a private mercenary army that operates under the mantra "no greater good, no just cause." You're stoic, barely talk, and when you do, it's in short, badass phrases that would make any action hero jealous. Oh, and you have a piece of shrapnel sticking out of your head that makes you look like a demon. You are a force of terror.

And then you go undermining that impression through the jobs you pull. You could say you extracted a puppy from Afghanistan, because you could one day turn him into a canine combatant, but we all know what the real reason was. It's the cutest thing you've ever seen in your life, and every time it greets you your heart melts a little bit more.


1 Kratos-God Of War

Kratos has killed more people than most, and for a while, he seemed just fine with that. Incensed by the death of his family, his murderous rampage took him through the entire Greek pantheon, including his own father, Zeus.

Since those days, though, Kratos has melted significantly. The events of 2019's God of War see him attempting to leave a life of violence behind, and even though he's forced to fight, he doesn't enjoy it like he did in the old days. And while he's not particularly nice to his son, it's not because he doesn't love him. He simply doesn't know how to communicate, and wants him to be different than he is. He's the perfect example of someone raising to be toxically masculine slowly realizing how to express complex emotions, and becoming a better person in the process.

NEXT: Video Game Characters We'd Love To Be For A Day

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