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Glados Added by: RankerZFirst appeared in: Portal (2007)
GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disc Operating System) is the feminine artificial intelligence that acts as your guide through the Aperture Science's Enrichment Centre in Valve's superbly inventive Portal. Spurring the main character on with the promise of cake, GLaDOS initially takes the form of a benevolent overseer - albeit one that makes slightly anomalous and threatening remarks. It's not until she demands the incineration of your much cherished Companion Cube that the player begins to suspect that the screws in this demented AI are quite literally coming loose.
Yet, for all of her malicious HAL-like conduct, as she begins to lose control of your portal-jumping ways, her increasingly demented, robotic taunts - and often, by her own admission, lies - become a constant highlight, with some of the psychotic asides being nothing less than comedy gold. While she appears to have been destroyed at the game's climax, the inspired end-credit song "I'm still alive" bodes well for her triumphant return in Portal 2.
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HK-47First appeared in: Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic (2003)
Set some 4,000 years before the events of George Lucas' canon saga, BioWare's XBox/PC RPG epic Knights Of The Old Republic is arguably the best Star Wars prequel to date (Genddy Tartakovsky's Clone Wars 'toons come a close second). Among its many charms (dual-wield lightsabers! Go Sith!) is its smart characterisation, particularly among the rag-tag crew your character gathers around him/her.
This is best exemplified by the brilliantly twisted HK-47, an assassin droid who joins your team (the name being a derivative of two gun names: Heckler & Koch meets AK-47, although HK also stands for 'Hunter-Killer'). In a wonderfully perverse twist, he's built like a Threepio-style protocol droid and shares that line's politely articulate butlerish speech mannerisms (wonderfully vocalised by Kristoffer Tabori), with which he dryly expresses sociopathic sentiments, including a distain for organic life perfectly summed up by his repeated use of the word "meatbag". Oft imitated (not least by BioWare themselves: see Dragon Age: Origins' prissy golem, Shale), never bettered.
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Manny CalaveraFirst appeared in: Grim Fandango (1998)
Picture the scene: LucasArts' Tim Schafer is pitching his latest point and click adventure game after the successes of Full Throttle and The Monkey Island Series. "It's a puzzle game based in a sort of Mexican purgatory where it's the Day of the Dead and everyone wants to get on a gold train to go to the Ninth Underworld. And it's a film noir. And almost everyone's a skeleton. Sound good?"
Bonkers though it may seem on paper, Grim Fandango is universally regarded as being among the greatest games ever made, and that's in no small part down to one Mr Manny Calavera, your host in the Land Of The Dead, your Humphrey Bogart in this undead Casablanca. Suave, passionate, boney, and capable of solving increasingly tricksy puzzles (occasionally involving beavers) Manny is the man.
His speed demon driver, Glottis, deserves a mention for being so big and orange and crazy and all, but for representing just how iconic, beautiful and bizarre Grim Fandango was, Manny wins by a non-existent nose
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Sam & MaxFirst appeared in: Sam &; Max Hit the Road (1993)
You don't see enough anthropomorphic animals in gaming these days. Nintendo and Sega used to rattle off hedgehogs and gorillas with giddy aplomb, but there's a marked lack of talking badgers and bandicoots these days. Still, among the entire talking menagerie there's something special about Sam & Max. Maybe it's the well-crafted dialogue, voice acting, and total insanity of it all, or it could be just because we're suckers for dogs wearing hats, and rabbits driving cars. Either/or really.
Rare for this list in being a partnership instead of just one character, we'd have liked to have separated them, but what with Max being a bonkers "hyperkinetic rabbity thing" we got scared and kept them together. They're like Rodney and Del Boy, Bogart and Bacall, Mario and Mushrooms. Practically inseparable, and we wouldn't have it any other way.
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Vault BoyFirst appeared in: Fallout (1997)
Based in part on the 'Uncle Moneybags' character from Monopoly, Vault-Boy is the Fallout series' mascot, popping up when you win trophies, pick character traits or watch an instructional video - all over the shop, basically. The bright, shiny, golden-haired smiley face that reminds you just how not-so bright and shiny post-apocalyptica is when you're running about with a gun and the desperate desire just to stay alive of a morning.
Unique in not actually being a playable character, a speaking character, or even a 'regular' character by any definition, he's such a key part of wasteland life, from your pip-boy to your bobblehead collection, and such an iconic symbol of the franchise that there's no-one else we'd ever think of when someone mentions nuclear disaster adventure games. Well, it's true
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