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The Best Video Game Character Bracket: A Classic Final Four (and Tony Hawk)

Mario, Link, and Sonic have made quick work of their opponents. And then there’s one unlikely hero ...

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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.


The classics are the classics for a reason, right? Video game characters like Mario, Link, and Sonic are the most storied, most recognizable, most beloved characters in the medium. Sure, they all come from an era that didn’t prioritize character development like our current one does—Link is literally mute, and Mario has been fighting the same bosses and chasing the same princess for decades. But each of these characters stand as symbols of the early promise of video games. If you’re of a certain age—and the way voting’s gone this week, I think you are—it’s more than likely that your first time picking up a controller was to play as one of these characters.

And that’s why each of them has run roughshod over the rest of the competition on the way to the Final Four.

In matchups against Sam Fisher, Trevor Philips, Pac-Man, and Yoshi, Sonic never dipped under 58 percent of the vote. Link has been even more dominant, averaging 79 percent in victories against arguably harder competition: the Prince of Persia, Luigi, Arthur Morgan, and Pikachu. But no one has made a Ringer bracket look like such easy work the way Mario has. Heading into the Mushroom Kingdom regional final, Mario had won his previous matchups with a stunning average of 96 percent of the vote. (I don’t have the data in front of me to confirm, but I’m quite sure Mario is the most dominant contestant in the history of Ringer brackets.) And if you thought Donkey Kong was going to prove a fair fight, well, I have a few broken barrels to sell you. Mario put DK in a cage like it was Donkey Kong Jr. all over again: the man in the overalls tallied 84 percent of the vote. Against Donkey Kong! This isn’t some scrub we’re talking about, it’s a character who seemingly belongs in the same class as Mario, Sonic, and Link. And Mario wiped the floor with him. (If we’re placing bets on the Final Four, the voting patterns for Mario make him the favorite by a long shot.)

But then, hanging around these three undeniable icons is a scrapper who’s perhaps more famous at the X Games than in video games. In a tournament that’s been extremely low on upsets, Tony Hawk has been surviving and advancing all week, culminating in a shockingly narrow victory over Halo’s Master Chief.

Things set up pretty well for Tony Hawk in the early rounds: his first-round opponent Tom Nook was a layup, and Mega Man took down Solid Snake for him. But once Hawk easily defeated Ellie from The Last of Us, it was clear that he had a shot at going far. And in the regional final, Hawk proved just how high his ceiling is: against Master Chief, Hawk edged him out by just 217 votes. (For more context, there were over 50,000 votes total.) In a tournament that went nearly all chalk, and as we hurtled toward a Final Four with all 1-seeds, Tony Hawk kick-flipped this thing onto its head. A 6-seed still stands. And while, sure, anyone who actually played as Tony Hawk in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was a cop, the character is deserving as a beacon of late ’90s glory. Play some ska in his honor—it might be your last chance.

Because now comes a Final Four with some real heavy hitters. Will Tony’s stunning run continue on into the final, or will Link destroy him just like he’s destroyed so many others? There’s only one way to find out …

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 86%
    (1) Mario, ‘Super Mario Bros.’
    (14188 votes)
  • 13%
    (1) Sonic, ‘Sonic’
    (2227 votes)
16415 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 70%
    (1) Link, ‘The Legend of Zelda’
    (11568 votes)
  • 29%
    (6) Tony Hawk, ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’
    (4940 votes)
16508 votes total Vote Now

Timing for the Final Four and the final are a bit different than the rest of the rounds: Voting on the Final Four will close at 3 p.m. ET on Friday; voting on the final will then open at 4 p.m. and continue on until midnight. As always, you can vote right here, on Twitter, and on Instagram.

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