As we celebrate a tumultuous MLK day this year, we look back on a year when gaming has never been so far-reaching and culturally important, yet so far behind in terms of Black representation.
The industry is slowly diversifying, but it has always seemed to lag in terms of fair representation. Regardless, there remains a handful of well-written and impactful Black characters that deserve a shout out today. Here are some of the best Black video game characters in gaming.
Elena – Street Fighter
Elena Street Fighter
A princess from an African tribe in Kenya, Elena was one of the first playable Black women in video game history and a first for the Street Fighter series when she debuted in Street Fighter III: New Generation. Elena is a swift and nimble fighter, who relies less on landing punches and more on her Afro-Brazilian dance-fighting style of Capoeira to slam her foes. Her movement is graceful, and her fluidity makes her a joy to play.
Avery Johnson – Halo
Avery Johnson Halo
One of the most compelling side characters in the Halo universe, Sgt. Johnson is not only a source of comic relief in the series but a source of inspiration for Master Chief. His pumped up pep talks will make anyone wanna get out and gut some aliens. His go-getter personality makes him a strong ally in the Halo universe, and Master Chief wouldn’t be who he is without him.
Anita “Bangalore” Jackson – Apex Legends
One of the toughest characters in the Apex Legends squad, Bangalore is a humble but gritty soldier who is a lot tougher than she looks. Her kit is pretty standard for an online shooter, but her tried-and-true loadout still packs a hefty punch. She’s not only a heavily decorated vet but also a dedicated family woman, as she reveals that family is her sole inspiration for fighting. Not to mention, Bangalore rocks an accurate Black hairstyle.
Carl “CJ” Johnson – Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Carl CJ Johnson
The main protagonist of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, CJ, confronts a plethora of social issues throughout the game alongside his colorful crew, all of whom were genuinely written to be full-fledged Black personalities.
Legendary creative DJ Pooh was in charge of crafting an authentic Black story for the game, and while many of the group’s antics are absurd and over-the-top, the social commentary and criticism throughout the game remain heartfelt and earnest. Tackling real-world racial issues head-on, San Andreas was a groundbreaking new chapter in the GTA series.
Cere Junda – Jedi: Fallen Order
One of the sole survivors of Order 66, Cere Junda severed her connections to her Jedi heritage and disappeared into hiding. She is haunted by her past, but throughout the span of her return in Jedi: Fallen Order, she confronts her tumultuous past trauma and rises to take down the organization that destroyed the Jedi. She is (still, somehow) one of the only Black characters in the Star Wars universe and is also one of the series’ most complex.
Alyx – Half Life 2
Alyx Half Life 2
The biracial daughter of Dr. Eli Vance and Azian Vance, Alyx Vance is merely an ally of Gordon Freeman in Half-Life 2. But regardless, she gets Gordon out of many sticky situations throughout the game. She’s smart, a swift combatant, and so popular that the VR-only upcoming Half Life game will be solely based on her experiences. Half-Life: Alyx will be the first game in the Valve Software series since 2007.
Barret Wallace – Final Fantasy VII
As the leader of an eco-terrorism branch, Barret fights aggressively and passionately to protect the environment. Also, despite his brutish appearance (he literally has a machine gun as an arm), he is an incredibly empathetic character throughout Final Fantasy VII. He strives to be a good father to his daughter, Marlene, and always defends his friends.
Grand Theft Auto V – Lamar Down: Tanisha Marks Visits Franklin Clinton “You Ain’t Changing” Cutscene
Franklin is one of the most fully-formed Black video game characters in history. One of the main protagonists in Grand Theft Auto V, he is by far the most sympathetic character in the game. He is actively striving to put his gang life behind him, despite his toxic family always trying to keep him tied to street life.
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