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The Best Video Game Character Bracket: Round 2

Pikachu and Kirby are headed toward the most adorable matchup of all time, while Master Chief reloads and Fox McCloud looks to slay another beast

Ringer illustration

This week on The Ringer, we’re hosting the Best Video Game Character Bracket—an expansive competition between the greatest heroes, sidekicks, and villains of the gaming world. And along with delving into some of those iconic figures, we’ll also explore and celebrate the gaming industry as a whole. Welcome to Video Game Week.


With the first round of The Ringer’s Best Video Game Character Bracket in the books, a couple of things are clear: The Nintendo universe came ready to play, and the question of what makes a great video game character has a multitude of answers.

Out of the 64 characters who made the cut, 11 originated in Nintendo-branded games. Of those 11, nine won their first-round matchup, including an absolutely astonishing upset by 15-seed Fox McCloud over the God of War 2-seed, Kratos. (The only Nintendo losers were Animal Crossing’s Tom Nook to Tony Hawk and Princess Peach to Mega Man.) This is the opposite of recency bias—most of these characters have seemed to wedge their way into our hearts, where they’ve remained for decades. Their hold is powerful. (As opposed to football’s hold, for example; both Bo Jackson and Michael Vick got sacked in Round 1.)

Overall though, the first round proved that there’s no one right way to be a compelling video game character. Nathan Drake, a modern protagonist buffeted by the gift of narrative storytelling, dominated his matchup—but so did the oxen from Oregon Trail and Scorpion from Mortal Kombat. This tournament is still up for grabs for 32 characters from different eras, styles, and genres.

Voting on the second round is officially open. Remember: You can place votes here, on Twitter, and on Instagram until 6 p.m. ET. Now let’s dive into each region.

Mushroom Kingdom

Chalk City

Not a single upset in this region. I like to think that means we did a good job seeding the bracket, even if the angry people on Twitter disagree. But this result might also just speak to the strength of these eight winners. Mario, Ms. Pac-Man, Tails, Geralt of Rivia, Bowser, Scorpion, Chun-Li, and Donkey Kong are about as elite as you can get. Any of them could come out of this region and it wouldn’t be a surprise, and Round 2 in this region is full of great matchups. There’s the faceoff of classics between Mario and Ms. Pac-Man and my favorite, Mortal Kombat’s Scorpion versus Bowser. Something just feels harmonious about that one—if you really think about it, Bowser is low-key just a fat version of Scorpion.

The Matchups

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 95%
    (1) Mario, ‘Super Mario Bros.’
    (19857 votes)
  • 4%
    (8) Ms. Pac-Man, ‘Ms. Pac-Man’
    (1015 votes)
20872 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    (4) Geralt of Rivia, ‘The Witcher’
    (7862 votes)
  • 60%
    (5) Tails, ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’
    (12183 votes)
20045 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    (3) Scorpion, ‘Mortal Kombat’
    (8551 votes)
  • 58%
    (6) Bowser, ‘Super Mario Bros.’
    (12052 votes)
20603 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 78%
    (2) Donkey Kong, ‘Donkey Kong’
    (16221 votes)
  • 21%
    (7) Chun-Li, ‘Street Fighter’
    (4396 votes)
20617 votes total Vote Now

Hyrule

The Most Adorable Matchup Ever

Pikachu had no issues against Max Payne, cruising to victory with 84 percent of the total vote. That’s the sort of win that you expect out of a 2-seed in the opening round. Less expected, though, was the rise of another adorable Nintendo figure, the Pink One Who Was Promised. That’s right: Kirby absolutely cooked Joel from The Last of Us. As a 10-seed, the character brought home a stellar 72 percent of the vote. Utter domination.

Now we’re looking at the cutest second-round matchup in the history of second-round matchups. Would you rather this guy …

… or this guy?

I don’t wanna choose. I just want to hug them both for a very long time.

The Matchups

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    (1) Link, ‘The Legend of Zelda’
    (16543 votes)
  • 19%
    (8) Luigi, ‘Super Mario Bros.’
    (4132 votes)
20675 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 49%
    (4) Arthur Morgan, ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’
    (8883 votes)
  • 50%
    (5) Nathan Drake, ‘Uncharted’
    (9079 votes)
17962 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 79%
    (3) Lara Croft, ‘Tomb Raider’
    (15551 votes)
  • 20%
    (11) Doom Slayer, ‘Doom’
    (4026 votes)
19577 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 67%
    (2) Pikachu, ‘Pokémon’
    (13586 votes)
  • 32%
    (10) Kirby, ‘Kirby’
    (6618 votes)
20204 votes total Vote Now

Mobius

I Love Mess

If you’re wondering what the opposite of chalk looks like, well here it is. Half of the Round 1 matchups in this region ended in an upset. GTA V’s Trevor Philips took down Leon Kennedy; Mike Tyson punched his way to a rout over John Marston. But most shockingly, 15-seed Fox McCloud came out of nowhere to defeat God of War’s Kratos.

I can’t explain how surprising this is. When The Ringer staff initially voted for this bracket, Kratos came in ranked sixth overall, behind only the likes of Mario and Sonic. Kratos is just a few years removed from headlining one of the best games of the last console generation. And here he is, getting a spear to the gut not from Ares, but from a fox who can do barrel rolls.

Fox McCloud is an agent of chaos in a chaotic region. Anything is possible. I’m now looking on in both excitement and fear.

The Matchups

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 85%
    (1) Sonic, ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’
    (17320 votes)
  • 14%
    (9) Trevor Philips, ‘GTA V’
    (2869 votes)
20189 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 88%
    (4) Pac-Man, ‘Pac-Man’
    (17572 votes)
  • 11%
    (12) Marcus Fenix, ‘Gears of War’
    (2361 votes)
19933 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    (14) Mike Tyson, ‘Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!’
    (7012 votes)
  • 65%
    (6) Yoshi, ‘Super Mario Bros.’
    (13263 votes)
20275 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 52%
    (15) Fox McCloud, ‘Star Fox’
    (10315 votes)
  • 47%
    (7) Ryu, ‘Street Fighter’
    (9496 votes)
19811 votes total Vote Now

The Milky Way

The oxen from Oregon Trail made it to Round 2! Democracy is good again!

Dispatching Ryu Hayabusa is one thing, though. It will take some Fox McCloud–style magic to overcome Master Chief on Tuesday. Honestly, within 24 hours I expect to get a message from my computer saying, “Your oxen went to war with a man who carries an intergalactic machine gun. They’re all dead now.” I’m holding out hope for something extremely weird to happen, but if I’m being real, the Milky Way looks destined to end in a battle to the death between Master Chief and Solid Snake.

Unless … ?

The Matchups

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    (1) Master Chief, ‘Halo’
    (12621 votes)
  • 36%
    (8) The Oxen, ‘Oregon Trail’
    (7322 votes)
19943 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 78%
    (4) Samus Aran, ‘Metroid’
    (14894 votes)
  • 21%
    (5) John Price, ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’
    (3996 votes)
18890 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    (3) Ellie, ‘The Last of Us’
    (5378 votes)
  • 72%
    (6) Tony Hawk, ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’
    (14084 votes)
19462 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    (2) Solid Snake, ‘Metal Gear Solid’
    (8827 votes)
  • 54%
    (7) Mega Man, ‘Mega Man’
    (10371 votes)
19198 votes total Vote Now
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