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The Best Video Game Character Bracket: The Elite Eight

After a Sweet 16 full of blowouts, this much is clear: The remaining characters are the best ones in video game history

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.

Common sense holds that the matchups in a bracket will become closer and closer with each round—so I don’t know what the fuck happened in the Sweet 16.

On Wednesday, the closest matchup was Tony Hawk prevailing over Mega Man, 61 percent to 39 percent—which really isn’t very close at all. Elsewhere, Mario took in more than 94 percent of the vote against Tails, while Link demolished Arthur Morgan. After some close moments in the first two rounds, the Sweet 16 was a round of blowouts. Everyone is apparently very sure that the eight remaining characters are the best eight characters in video game history. To be fair, it’s pretty hard to disagree with that:

One positive of the last round being a bunch of routs is that this round is guaranteed to be tight across the board. These remaining eight have demolished their competition—now they have to face each other. For the first time all week, it’s getting difficult to predict what’ll happen next.

But that’s up to you. You can place votes here, on Twitter, and on Instagram until 6 p.m. ET. Now let’s dive into the regional finals.

Mushroom Kingdom

(1) Mario, Super Mario Bros. vs. (2) Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong

We were always headed toward this, weren’t we? Two Nintendo legends, who’ve been rivals since they both debuted in 1981’s Donkey Kong. (First DK stole Mario’s girlfriend; then Mario put DK in a cage. Real messy stuff.) They have a score to settle. And while Mario has been utterly dominant in this tournament—earning an average of 96 percent in his matchups—if someone’s going to beat him, it might as well be the guy who used to chuck barrels at his face.


Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 82%
    (1) Mario, ‘Super Mario Bros.’
    (16664 votes)
  • 17%
    (2) Donkey Kong, ‘Donkey Kong’
    (3429 votes)
20093 votes total Vote Now


(1) Link, The Legend of Zelda vs. (2) Pikachu, Pokémon

Can I just say what I suspect many have been thinking? Pikachu has been riding his success and popularity in non-gaming fields to victory in this video game bracket. People are voting for the guy in the animated series, or even the Pikachu who has Ryan Reynolds’s voice. I certainly can’t tell a voting public how to cast their ballots—and judging from the way Link’s been winning, perhaps this’ll take care of itself—but I just wanted to make it clear that at this point, a vote for Pikachu is a vote for fraudulence.


Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    (1) Link, ‘The Legend of Zelda’
    (14398 votes)
  • 28%
    (2) Pikachu, ‘Pokémon’
    (5632 votes)
20030 votes total Vote Now


(1) Sonic, Sonic vs. (6) Yoshi, Super Mario Bros.

Yoshi has to be the most surprising remaining character, right? So far, he’s defeated Crash Bandicoot, Mike Tyson, and Ryu. How is he doing this?! And can he keep doing it? Yoshi taking down Sonic would be the biggest upset in this entire bracket.


Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 58%
    (1) Sonic, ‘Sonic’
    (11780 votes)
  • 41%
    (6) Yoshi, ‘Super Mario Bros.’
    (8286 votes)
20066 votes total Vote Now

The Milky Way

(1) Master Chief, Halo vs. (6) Tony Hawk, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater

In The Ringer’s Teen Movie Bracket last year, all four 1-seeds advanced to the Final Four. We’re on the precipice of that happening again. But if anyone is going to disrupt that harmony, it’s gonna be Tony Hawk. Tony has skated through this tournament, taking down Tom Nook, Ellie from The Last of Us, and Mega Man. His turn-of-the-century vibes have just been too undeniable. And if any 1-seed is vulnerable, it’s Master Chief. So what happens next? All chalk, or will there be a wild card in the Final Four (who really loves ska music)?


Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    (1) Master Chief, ‘Halo’
    (10060 votes)
  • 49%
    (6) Tony Hawk, ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’
    (9968 votes)
20028 votes total Vote Now
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