Top 40 Iconic Non-Human Characters from Video GamesThis post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
Video games are a window into fantastic worlds where the only rule is to have fun.
This allows video game artists to create memorable characters not limited by conventional logic.
Genetically modified rodents from Australia, talking mushrooms, small super-sonic mammals… These characters could only exist in a medium as wacky as gaming.
Of course, video games also have humans – but who cares about those?
Instead, let’s look at some wondrous non-human characters that you can only find in video games.
40. Earthworm Jim
First appearance: Earthworm Jim (1994)
Earthworm Jim was set to conquer the world in the 90s.
He got video games, an action figure line, comic books, and even an animated TV series. He was even awarded “Best New Character of 1994” by Electronic Gaming Monthly!
So, what happened?
The main issue here was that he’s an Earthworm in a spacesuit. The concept just wasn’t going to work in the long run. It’s too silly and too “90s” for the new millennium.
Still, he made enough of a splash back in the day to remain relevant in the minds of any gamer older than 25.
First appearance: Rayman (1995)
Another weird 90s character that aged a lot better is Rayman – a limbless human-vegetable hybrid with an attitude.
Part of what keeps Rayman alive is the quality of the platformers he stars in. Whether it’s the original Rayman (1995) on PlayStation or Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition (2017) on the Nintendo Switch, you’ll have a blast playing as this iconic character.
Something else that contributes to keeping the world “Rayman” in everyone’s head is the popular Rayman Raving Rabbids (2006) spin-off, which completely hijacked the franchise for a while.
Speaking of which…
38. Raving Rabbids
First appearance: Rayman Raving Rabbids (2006)
Rayman lives on thanks to the prestige he’s accrued throughout the years, but the Rabbids stay relevant on their own merits.
These rabid rodents were initially meant to be the baddies in a mainline Rayman platforming game, but plans were changed in early development.
We ended up with Rayman Raving Rabbids – one of the most fun party games on the Wii. It was so good that it made the Rabbids blow up.
Rotund, silly-looking, and categorically insane, the Rabbids are basically the original Minions.
First appearance: Klonoa: Door to Phantomile (1997)
Klonoa is another iconic anthropomorphic animal that could’ve conquered the world but didn’t.
In contrast to Earthworm Jim, Klonoa is cute and fluffy but also cool and laidback, making him perfect for the 2000s.
What failed here was actually the games. The first two Klonoa platformers were worth their weight in gold, but subsequent releases squandered his potential.
Still, he’s probably the only character in the ranking with a game on the WonderSwan. That has to count for something!
First appearance: Minecraft (2009)
I may be pushing the definition of “character” a little bit far by including the Creepers, but nobody can deny that these towering green monstrosities are iconic.
Watching someone bump into a Creeper and panicking before getting blown to bits will never stop being funny.
Minecraft has become so popular that there are probably rural villages in the middle of nowhere where they won’t know who Jesus Christ is but will recognize a Creeper.
Fun fact: Their weird shape is actually the product of a pig model malfunctioning early in production. Creator Notch decided to keep it for what he called a “creepy creature.”
First appearance: League of Legends (2009)
Another character that might blow you up unexpectedly is Teemo.
Yordles, in general, are chaotic, but Teemo is entirely on another level.
This overly-enthusiastic Yordle walks a thin line between cute fluffy puff and homicidal maniac.
Even as a playable character in League of Legends, he seems designed to make everyone swallow uneasily whenever they see one on the enemy team or their own.
Terrible Teemo players getting obliterated by the enemy team and costing you the match are a dime a dozen, but a competent Teemo player will wear down your sanity with their Noxious Traps.
First appearance: Fallout 4 (2015)
The year is 2287.
You’re wandering the deserted Wasteland of the Commonwealth with no food, water, or will to live.
You see a canine figure on the horizon when you’re just about to give up and sleep with the Radroaches. It wags its tail when it notices you staring. The day is saved.
Dogmeat is the cutest companion you can get in any Fallout game. Taking him along on your adventures will change the tone of your adventure for the better.
You’re no longer cold and alone. You have Dogmeat, and he’s a Sole Survivor’s best friend.
First appearance: Pikmin (2001)
If you skip every text box in the original Pikmin or any of the sequels – or if you only know him from Super Smash Bros. – you might think Olimar is a human.
Nothing farther from the truth.
Olimar is a Hocotatian from Planet Hocotate, where worker protection laws are nonexistent, and your employer can send you out into space on a rocket with no asteroid shields.
It’s outer space, man! It’s full of asteroids!
That’s how Olimar first crash-landed on the planet of the Pikmin, giving us the best RTS on GameCube.
32. Rash, Zitz, and Pimple
First appearance: Battletoads (1991)
There was a time during the 90s when the Battletoads were set to become the next big thing.
Battletoads was like Dark Souls back then – and everyone wanted a piece of the titular characters.
People were comparing them to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and some even thought that Rash, Zitz, and Pimple had already surpassed the pizza-loving reptiles.
Regrettably for the ‘Toads, the Turtles proved to be more durable.
First appearance: StarCraft (1998)
Sarah Kerrigan used to be a human esper fighting with the Terran Confederacy’s “Ghosts.”
After being captured by the Zerg swarm, she used her psychic abilities to avoid being consumed. Instead, she merged with the hivemind and became the Queen of Blades.
Her journey of transformation doesn’t end there, though. After many unlikely events, she ascended and became a Xel’naga – a cosmic god.
This woman knows no limits, and StarCraft wouldn’t be the same without her.
30. Sylvanas Windrunner
First appearance: Warcraft 3 (2002)
Here’s another bombshell who doesn’t take kindly to “limits.”
Sylvanas Windrunner began her journey as a Blood Elf fighting bravely against the evil encroaching on their peaceful territory, but that’s the boring part of her life.
The true story begins after Arthas Menethil – also known as the Lich King – killed her and transfigured her soul into that of a diabolical Banshee.
Since then, it’s been war after war for Sylvanas. From Queen of the Forsaken to Warchief of the Horde, she has fought for Azeroth for 20 years.
First appearance: Destiny (2014)
From another MMORPGs comes Cayde-6: the coolest, most beloved Guardian in Destiny.
As the leader of the Hunter faction, Cayde-6 earned the love of every Guardian under the Traveler.
This made his eventual demise all the more traumatic.
Cayde’s death was a bleak reminder that even a Guardian can die for good if you hinder their Ghost.
Losing a big personality like Cayde changed the tone of the world of Destiny forever. He lives on in the heart of fans and many small memorials scattered around the Last City.
28. Mega Man
First appearance: Mega Man (1987)
Mega Man can be a robot, a “reploid,” or a computer program depending on the continuity.
It all depends on whether you’re playing the original Mega Man, Mega Man X, Mega Man Battle Network, or… well, there are too many series to list, and you get my point.
This heroic robot boy carved a place for himself in the hearts of many with some of the most entertaining (and hardest) action platformers in 8-bit gaming.
Since then, the franchise has had ups and downs – but it remains beloved by fans worldwide.
27. Ratchet & Clank
First appearance: Ratchet & Clank (2002)
Anyone who knows Ratchet & Clank will surely forgive me for listing them together as a single entry.
Ratchet and Clank are both excellent characters and badass warriors by themselves, but they shine brighter together. They’re like peanut butter and jelly!
Insomniac Games hit it out of the park by pairing this malfunctioning warbot and Lombax mechanic.
These adventurous pals trust each other deeply and operate perfectly as a team despite their differences.
26. Crash Bandicoot
First appearance: Crash Bandicoot (1996)
Some game developers dedicate months to creating complex, believable and relatable personalities for their characters.
Others just choose a random animal from a list of endangered species and make them as wacky as possible.
Naughty Dog needed something to compete with SEGA’s Sonic the Hedgehog – so they did the mid-90s equivalent of googling “obscure small mammals” and came up with the Australian bandicoot.
What makes Crash so prevalent in the hearts and minds of 90s kids isn’t his species, though. He’s remembered because of the unforgettable games he starred in.
Let that be a lesson to game developers of the future!
First appearance: Halo: Combat Evolved (2001)
Cortana was created from a copy of the mind of Dr. Catherine Elizabeth Halsey – but they’re hardly the same person.
As a sentient AI, Cortana has her own view of the world and her own list of priorities.
At first, that was keeping Master Chief alive – but this began to shift as the series drew on.
This blue holographic lady went from supporting character and love interest to the main antagonist in just a few games.
The last time we saw her, she had ascended to godly levels of power – and who knows what the future has in store for her?
First appearance: Cuphead (2017)
The creators of Cuphead chose to keep things simple.
His name is Cuphead. He has a cup for a head. What else do you need to know?
The game was inspired by classic cartoons from the 1930s, an era known for its whimsical storylines and characters with rubber hose limbs. You couldn’t add much backstory or exposition to these short films, so a simple character like Mickey Mouse or Cuphead did the job wonderfully.
Cuphead’s irreverent and impulsive personality is perfect for a game that requires you to enter a level knowing that you’ll spend the next hour or two getting whooped by the boss.
First appearance: Tekken (1994)
Who, or what, is Yoshimitsu?
That’s the eternal question that has plagued every Tekken fan since this bizarre ninja warrior first beat them up while balancing himself on the tip of his katana.
It doesn’t help that his outward appearance changes with each game, with the only common thread being how weird he looks.
An excellent way to think of Yoshimitsu is as a concept rather than a person. He’s a fearsome ninja with a heart of gold – don’t sweat the details!
First appearance: Super Mario Bros. (1985)
Some things burn themselves into your memory as effortlessly as a cupcake becomes part of your waistline.
Toad’s shrill, squeaky voice is one of those things.
The character had a long time to build popularity before he even had a voice. There weren’t many, but Toad’s fans loved and respected him.
You may not love or respect Toad, but that voice is unforgettable.
First appearance: Ōkami (2006)
Everyone thinks they have the loveliest, most special dog in the universe.
But is your pooch the Japanese Goddess of the Sun?
Created by Clover Studio’s Hideki Kamiya, Amaterasu travels an idealized version of Edo-period Japan, trying to recover her divine power to defeat the eight-headed serpent Orochi.
It’s one of the most memorable adventures on the PlayStation 2 and the Wii, thanks to its unique gameplay, Sumi-e watercolor art style, and storyline inspired by Japanese folklore.
20. PaRappa the Rapper
First appearance: PaRappa the Rapper (1997)
Another canine that made its fame on a PlayStation console is NanaOn-Sha’s PaRappa the Rapper, a rad and laid-back doggy always ready to spit some rhymes.
PaRappa the Rapper was one of the most unique and memorable games on the original PlayStation. It was the birth of the rhythm game as a genre, and this paper-thin dog was instrumental in making it happen.
I was a little too young in 1997 to appreciate PaRappa, but I fell in love with the character 15 years later while playing PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.
It’s just amusing to rap your foes into submission.
First appearance: Spyro the Dragon (1998)
Spyro is one of the coolest-looking mascots to come out of the 90s video game scene – and he looks even cooler in the Spyro Reignited Trilogy (2018).
Believe it or not, Spyro is part of a video game dynasty. He was designed by the same dude behind Crash Bandicoot – Charles Zembrillas – and they even starred together in some games for the Game Boy Advance.
More recently, you can see Spyro racing a bad-ass armored dragon kart along with the bandicoot in Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled (2019).
I feel like Spyro lacks a little edge to make it as a gaming mascot in the 2020s, but I’ll never forget the freedom I felt while gliding around The Dragon Realms on the PlayStation.
18. Squid Sisters
First appearance: Splatoon (2015)
Splatoon has been one of Nintendo’s major contributions to the realm of multiplayer gaming, and the Squid Sisters have been there to liven things up from the very beginning.
This duo of singer-songwriter idols took Inkopolis by storm with singles like Ink Me Up and Calamari Inkantation, eventually becoming the anchors for Inkopolis News and the biggest Splatfest announcers.
Callie and Marie’s contrasting personalities are one of the Squid Sisters’ most magnetic traits. Callie’s optimistic and peppy character is perfectly balanced-out with Marie’s aloof and sarcastic nature.
They were replaced by Pearl and Marina from Off the Hook for Splatoon 2, but they remained key players in the storyline.
17. Tom Nook
First appearance: Animal Crossing (2001)
In the original Animal Crossing and most of its sequels, Tom Nook forces you to take out a loan to pay for your accommodations.
If you’re a conscientious person, the pressure of paying back this crooked raccoon will consume you for the first few hours of the game.
On the other hand, you’d be left to live on the streets if it wasn’t for Tom Nook lending you that money, so maybe he’s not that bad.
That said, the idea of living on a deserted island with Tom Nook as its leader adds a dystopian edge to Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
16. Liara T’Soni
First appearance: Mass Effect (2007)
Dr. Liara T’Soni is one of the biggest bad-asses in Mass Effect – and she’s the hottest romanceable companion by a longshot.
This sexy blue alien belongs to the Asari – an advanced all-female race that reproduces through a special psychic ritual to reshuffle their DNA into a new individual.
It’s a bit esoteric, but it sounds like a lot of fun.
She’s not only a resourceful and courageous companion but a genius researcher and one of the galaxy’s foremost experts in ancient Prothean technology and dig sites.
Archaeology hadn’t been this hot since Indiana Jones.
15. Iron Bull
First appearance: Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014)
Iron Bull isn’t as well-known as Liara T’Soni, but they’re both the hottest and most iconic characters in their respective BioWare game.
Also known as Hissrad by his Qunari compatriots, the Iron Bull is a towering mountain of rock-solid muscle with the skill and strength to take down entire battalions by himself.
He doesn’t have to, though. Iron Bull leads the Bull’s Chargers, a band of mercenaries that follow him like a wolfpack. It’s a testament to his magnetic personality.
Something else people love about Iron Bull is how far he’s willing to take things. For example, he enjoys getting people to punch his stomach as a weird sort of meditation. Hardcore stuff!
First appearance: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006)
Link has had many companions throughout his adventures in The Legend of Zelda series.
Talking hats, shiny fairies, and even a magical version of Apple’s Siri are only some of the different characters that have helped guide the hero on his journey.
One of the most unique was Midna – a sarcastic and mischievous imp from the Twilight Realm looking for a way to save her people from the evil wizard Zant.
She’s the perfect height to ride Link in his wolf form, and her hair-hand thing comes in very useful. She also has the most amusing personality out of any TLoZ companion.
13. The Knight
First appearance: Hollow Knight (2017)
We never really recovered from Dark Souls (2011) as a society.
Video game companies are still tripping over themselves to create the next big “Dark Souls” with a tweak that sets it apart and makes it memorable.
Hollow Knight hit the nail on its head with a 2D roguelike adventure focused on hardcore bosses and in-depth exploration of an interconnected world.
At the helm of it all was The Knight, a cool and adorable warrior ready to take on the world despite his diminutive size.
Just another example of how a good game can catapult its main character to icon status.
First appearance: Super Mario Bros. (1985)
Bowser is the textbook definition of a Big Bad.
This fire-breathing turtle dragon is the first thing that pops into my mind when someone uses the word “villain” – and I’m not alone.
He’s behind virtually every coup to the Mushroom Kingdom’s monarchy and tries forcing Peach into marriage at every turn.
In recent years, Bowser has taken a page from real-world geopolitics and refocused his competitive passion to sports.
He’s shown his dominance in tennis, go-karting, and even horse racing on Mario Sports Super Stars (2017) for the Nintendo Switch.
First appearance: The Legend of Zelda (1986)
Another iconic Nintendo villain we’d be fools to forget is Ganon – the pig-faced Dark Lord always looming ominously over the Kingdom of Hyrule.
Since his first appearance as the final boss of The Legend of Zelda, Ganon has undergone many transformations.
He was a dashing revolutionary leader in Twilight Princess (2006) and an evil old man with Darth Sidious vibes in Wind Waker (2002).
More recently, he became a rampaging beast of pure evil known as Calamity Ganon in Breath of the Wild (2018).
First appearance: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
Navi is a tiny forest fairy assigned to watch over Link by the Great Deku Tree in his first 3D adventure.
She follows you around to warn you of incoming danger and point you in the right direction. She also does the all-important job of helping you lock on to enemies during combat.
Her iconic “Hey! Listen!” is loved and hated in equal measure, and it has made her unforgettable.
First appearance: Portal (2007)
GLaDOS is a murderous AI who presides over the Aperture Science Enrichment Center where the original Portal takes place.
She continues to conduct experiments long after the humans that created her are long gone (spoiler: she poisoned them).
Her snarky, sarcastic comments and all-around vicious personality made GLaDOS a video game icon back in the day.
8. Fox McCloud
First appearance: Star Fox (1993)
Star Fox 64 (1997) was one of the best gaming experiences of my childhood.
Flying around the galaxy doing barrel rolls and fighting powerful bosses as Fox McCloud is one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have on an N64.
That said, I didn’t fall in love with the main character until I got Super Smash Bros. (1999). Fox’s moves and character design were simply the coolest in the game.
As anyone into competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001) will tell you, Fox continued to bring the pain in subsequent installments.
First appearance: Pac-Man (1980)
You need a distinctive and unforgettable design to become iconic as a video game character.
Look at Namco’s Pac-Man, for example.
This little guy remains a household name over 40 years after first bursting onto the scene, and almost anyone could pick him out from a crowd of video game characters.
Because he’s a bright yellow sphere.
Really, I challenge you to try and forget what Pac-Man looks like. You can’t.
Pac-Man has made his way onto television, music, films, and tons of merchandise – and he’s not about to stop.
He’ll continue to remind us that a balanced diet includes lots of fruit, ghosts, and pills for a long time.
6. Donkey Kong
First appearance: Donkey Kong (1981)
Only a year after Namco released the original Pac-Man, Nintendo came up with Donkey Kong: one of the most influential arcade games in history.
At first, DK was presented as a villain, but the years have softened him.
Nowadays, he’s an irreplaceable part of the Marioverse cast, taking part in Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart with the rest of the gang.
While not as easily recognizable as Pac-Man, Donkey Kong maintains a dedicated fanbase that keeps growing with every new game.
First appearance: Undertale (2015)
Most video game icons have been around for decades, but new heroes keep popping up all the time.
Sans is easily the most enigmatic character in Toby Fox’s Undertale. He’s as powerful as he’s mysterious, and it always feels like he knows something that the player doesn’t.
The epic confrontation against Sans in Undertale’s Genocide Route was an earth-shaking moment for anyone who gave Undertale a chance.
First appearance: Super Mario World (1990)
Most humans have a weakness for anything tiny and adorable.
Characters like Yoshi know how to exploit our collective love of babies and baby-like things to climb to the top of popularity charts.
Hardcore gamers love Yoshi’s games, but even people who don’t know what a platformer is can appreciate Yoshi’s cute form.
First appearance: Kirby’s Dream Land (1992)
You think Yoshi is cute?
Then what do we call Kirby?
This amorphous pink blob from Planet Popstar has made a name for itself through incredible games, incredible cuteness, and being a kick-ass playable character in the SSB series.
If I had to guess why Kirby is so universally liked, I’d say it’s because of the copy ability.
It only takes Kirby becoming your favorite character’s round and pink double once to turn you into a lifelong fan.
2. Sonic the Hedgehog
First appearance: Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)
If there’s one non-Nintendo mascot that can compete with Mario on equal terms, it’s Sonic the Hedgehog.
This blue hedgehog’s rise to fame was as fast as you’d expect from someone who prides himself in being the “fastest thing alive.”
Video games, comics, cartoons, movies… The blue blur has done it all, and it doesn’t look like he’ll stop anytime soon.
Every day, I pray to God that SEGA may find a good direction to take the Sonic franchise and stick with it.
This is the only character that gets nothing but mediocre games for over a decade and is rewarded with a live-action movie starring Jim Carrey.
First appearance: Pokémon Red & Blue (1996)
Pikachu isn’t just the most iconic non-human video game character.
All things considered, this yellow rodent might be the most iconic video game character in general.
Pikachu hooks you with its cuteness and ever-so-slightly mischievous personality – and they’re every 90s kid’s dream pet.
Thanks to nine generations of mainline Pokémon games, countless spin-offs, and an anime series with more episodes than One Piece, the series’ mascot Pikachu has seen immense exposure worldwide.
Then Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019) happened, and all hell broke loose.