The 50 most iconic characters in PC gaming

50 most iconic characters
(Image credit: Valve)

PC Gaming has so far given us decades of incredible characters, with their memorable faces and stories leaving an indelible mark on our hobby. They'd make quite the line-up, with fearsome warriors and many-tentacled cosmic monsters standing next to sad teens and adorable critters. Developers can't seem to stop spitting out heroes and villains that take up residence in our minds. Indeed, when it comes to the best characters in PC Gaming, you could probably fill a list from the work of a studio like BioWare alone. 

But which PC gaming character is the most iconic? Who is the best representative of the big box beneath your desk and most deserving of a statue, or at least a high quality, poseable figurine? That's what we're deciding. This list is dedicated to the people, monsters and megalomaniacal AIs who epitomise the hobby, who first spring to mind when you sit down and boot up your computer for a long night in.

 50. Announcer – Unreal Tournament

(Image credit: Epic)

Unreal Tournament's announcer is such an icon of PC Gaming that he doesn't have to show his face to be recognised. Hovering unseen above Unreal Tournament's sci-fi battlefield, this booming, disembodied voice would call out the grisly events of the match. Phrases like "First Blood!" "Headshot!" "Double-Kill" and of course "M-M-M-Monster Kill!" will be ingrained in the minds of anyone who played Epic's 1999 multiplayer masterpiece.

49. The Abominable Snowman – Skifree 

(Image credit: Chris Pirih)

Skifree's Yeti may not look like much to modern eyes, just a nondescript grey blob with stick arms and legs. But this grinning monstrosity was the terror of the school IT lab back in the 1990s. If you passed the 2,000 metre mark in Microsoft's lo-fi skiing simulator, the Abominable Snowman would begin to chase you, and wouldn't stop until he caught your doomed skier and swallowed them whole.

48. Commander Keen – Commander Keen series

(Image credit: Epic)

It's strange to think that the FPS as we know it exists because id Software were denied the right to port Super Mario Brothers 3 to PC. In response, the team led by Romero, Carmack and Tom Hall made their own version of Mario, and the result was Commander Keen, a sci-fi platformer about an eight-year-old boy wearing a football helmet exploring alien worlds. Keen was id Software's first taste of success, and while the studio would go on to make much bigger titles, Keen's colourful helmet-and-sneakers combo remains an icon of early '90s PC gaming.

47. Kyle Katarn – Jedi Knight series

(Image credit: LucasArts)

PC Gaming's own Jedi Master, Kyle Katarn was an Imperial pilot who turned rebel agent in 1995's Dark Forces. Originally characterised as a cocksure Han Solo knockoff, Katarn's character matured as he learned the ways of the force in Jedi Knight and Jedi Knight 2, before becoming instructor to the player-created protagonist of Jedi Academy.

Katarn's legacy has been eroded by Disney's meddling with the Star Wars canon, but as far as we're concerned it wasn't Jyn Erso and her one-dimensional comrades who stole the Death Star plans.

46. Zoe Castillo – Dreamfall

(Image credit: Funcom)

It's a toss-up between Zoe and April Ryan for who best represents Ragnar Tornquist's series of science-fiction adventure games. But while April was The Longest Journey's original lead, the series has focussed more heavily on Zoe of late. What's more, Zoe also represents one of gaming's more subtle representations of mental health issues, with her battle with depression portrayed in a nuanced and understated fashion as she pursues the mysteries of Dreamfall's twin worlds.

45. Big Daddy – BioShock series 

(Image credit: 2K)

BioShock isn't short of iconic characters, from the objectivist entrepreneur Andrew Ryan to the deranged artist Sander Cohen. But it's the drillbit and diving-helmet of the Big Daddy that perhaps best represents Irrational's lauded FPS. BioShock's most fearsome foes embody both the terror and tragedy at the heart of Rapture's fall. Engineered specifically to protect the Little Sisters who harvest the powerful substance known as Adam, their plaintive groans and passive, protective nature make them a foe you genuinely don't want to fight. That, and the fact they turn into ferocious metal whirlwinds when attacked. In the sequel, you get to experience this from the other side, stomping around Rapture and murdering people with your drill as a rogue Big Daddy.

44. BT-7274 – Titanfall 2

(Image credit: EA)

Titanfall 2's lovable green mech is the heart and soul of Respawn's masterful FPS, which is ironic considering he doesn't have either. Respawn uses the asymmetrical relationship between Pilot and Titan to create a sci-fi buddy-cop story and cleverly turns BT's hard-coded lack of human emotions into a distinctive personality. He's also got a hell of a throwing arm, which you'll personally experience right before you soar through the air. The result is one of the most memorable FPS characters of the last decade.

43. Duke Nukem – Duke Nukem 3D

(Image credit: 3D Realms)

Duke's ass-kicking, bubblegum-chewing attitude epitomises the gaudy edginess that dominated PC gaming in the mid-'90s. His standing has fallen somewhat over the last 20 years, partly because of the honking disaster that was Duke Nukem Forever—memorable for all the wrong reasons—and partly due to not being hugely relevant in 2021. But he nonetheless remains one of PC Gaming's most famous faces, earning him a place on this list.

42. Max Caulfield – Life is Strange

50 most iconic characters

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Life is Strange's Max Caulfield is a believably-drawn teenage girl trying to navigate the complicated social hierarchy of her new school. She deals with bullies, falls for her friends and occasionally gets dragged into the principal's office—typical high school stuff. Oh yeah, and she also happens to possess the power to manipulate time. Despite her power, it's her nervous and unassuming nature that makes her stand out in a sea of cocksure action-heroes and amoral assassins. While the series is now with a different studio, Max really set the tone, and established Life is Strange's representation of LGBTQ+ characters.

41. M'aiq the Liar – The Elder Scrolls series

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Gaming's most eloquent Easter Egg, M'aiq may have started out as a Bethesda in-joke, but over the course of three Elder Scrolls games has become arguably the series' best-known character. The friendly Kha'jit is the source of all manner of dubious information, and can be found wandering throughout Morrowind, Cyrodiil and Skyrim. It's always a treat to bump into M'aiq on your travels, even if he is about as reliable as the Wikipedia entry on the Chinese Communist Party.

40. Knight Solaire – Dark Souls

(Image credit: From Software)

It's hard to pick a favourite from Dark Souls' menagerie of monsters and miscreants, but Dark Souls' salubrious sunboy is notable for symbolising something other than your impending death. Solaire is a ray of light in Dark Souls' dismal fantasy realm, a rare helping hand in a virtual world that wants you dead more than most. He's the provider of Dark Souls' most famous gesture, and several of its most famous phrases. You may only meet him a handful of times as you explore Lordran but there are few characters in gaming you'll be more pleased to see.

39. Abe – Oddworld series

(Image credit: Oddworld Inhabitants)

Known for his goofy charm and ability to possess enemies before making them kill themselves in horrible ways, the former Rupture Farms employee and humble saviour of the Mudokon race would probably rank higher had he not ABANDONED THE PC FOR THE XBOX in his third game, Munch's Oddysee. Not that I'm holding a grudge or anything. Still, Abe has since patched up his relationship with PC via 2014's New 'n' Tasty and this year's Soulstorm. Munch's Oddysee even found its way over here, eventually. It only took 15 years. It's good to have him back. The traitorous git.

38. Horned Reaper – Dungeon Keeper series

(Image credit: EA)

Also known as Horny to anyone who wants a quick and bloody death, the devilish mascot of the Dungeon Keeper series is one of the management genre's biggest icons. Beyond his distinctive look, the Horned Reaper is notable for his utterly foul temperament, a sort of cross between Gordon Ramsey, Liam Gallagher and the Hulk. He's an incredible asset in battle against the goody two-shoes heroes of Dungeon Keeper's world, provided you can get him to the frontline without him wrecking your dungeon beforehand.

37. Lemmings – Lemmings series

(Image credit: Psygnosis)

The green-haired lemmings of DMA Design's quirky puzzler—and its many sequels and spin-offs—had a lot of personality packed into a few pixels. And, even more importantly, they had a habit of exploding. This helped propel them to fame, and after initially releasing on the Amiga, the Lemmings marched their way across just about every platform going. The extent of their legacy is particularly impressive considering that there hasn't been a notable Lemmings game for at least twenty years. Then again, giving small children the power to murder cute creatures is guaranteed to help them stick in the memory. DMA Design is now better known as Rockstar North. Two years after the launch of the third Lemmings game, it gave the world Grand Theft Auto. 

36. Dorian – Dragon Age: Inquisition

(Image credit: EA)

What makes Dorian such an important PC Gaming icon—aside from the vast amount of fan art that he's inspired—is his overt refusal to compromise on who he is and what he believes. Inquisition's effusive and wickedly talented mage refuses to allow social norms and cultural prejudices of his conservative homeland to get in the way of what's right, and this applies to his views on the practice of magic as well as his sexuality. He really pulls off the moustache, too.

35. Mothership – Homeworld series

(Image credit: Gearbox Publishing)

Homeworld's Mothership is more than just a mobile base from which Relic's sci-fi strategy game unfolds. It's also the game's protagonist. The Mothership is the last refuge for the Kushan as they search for a new home, and as such is symbolic of the stakes and emotions bound up in that quest. It represents hope, loss, ingenuity, determination, and courage in the face of overwhelming odds. It's given a voice, too, through the scientist Karan S'jet, who's wired into it and does all the invisible nitty gritty parts of maintaining a fleet while you're blowing up ships and crying over the haunting soundtrack.

34. Villagers – Age of Empires series

Age of Empires 4

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Age of Empires has a bunch of iconic units, from its ridiculously powerful hoplites to its wololo-ing priests. But it's the humble villager who perhaps best represents Ensemble Studios' RTS classic. Clad in a simple linen loincloth, these innocuous units form the backbone of any empire, merrily hunting, gathering, fishing and farming all while uttering indecipherable barks that have become synonymous with the PC gaming soundscape.

33. Bosh – Line Rider

(Image credit: Boštjan Čadež)

The role of Flash in PC Gaming is a hugely overlooked part of the platform's history. Flash is the source of some of the PC's biggest games and most recognisable figures, from Samorost's gnome to Canabalt's runner. But it is perhaps Line Rider's Bosh, with his cute little sled and red-and-white scarf, who perhaps best represents this enormous and now sadly defunct aspect of PC Gaming.

32. The Detective – Disco Elysium

(Image credit: ZAUM)

Disco Elysium only launched two years ago, but the detective RPG's amnesiac cop has already cemented himself as one of PC Gaming's greatest characters. It's hard to describe what his character is like, however, as the whole point of the game is deciding, in absurd detail, what kind of detective you're going to be. Whether you're going to be a genius gumshoe, an empathetic communist, or a drug-addled human wrecking ball that solves all his problems with his fists. Maybe you'll just be really, really sad. You even get to pick an interesting new name, if you're not too fussed about remembering your real one, while draping yourself in horrific neckties, gaudy trousers and leather jackets with threatening auras. Whatever choices you make, expect things to get weird. 

31. Garrett – Thief series

(Image credit: Looking Glass)

When it launched in 1998, Thief was a different kind of first-person game, and therefore needed a different kind of protagonist. The result was Garrett, the wry, laconic master thief who is the crux of the series' darkly humorous personality. Garrett's incisive and witty commentary is a welcome bit of levity as you explore Thief's many dark and dangerous corners, while his pre-mission briefings remain some of the best objective summaries ever written for a game.

30. Worms – Worms Series

(Image credit: Team17)

A staple of PC gaming since 1995, the armed annelids of Team 17's Worms series are the source of some of the finest slapstick comedy gaming has ever produced. Try not to laugh as your invertebrate infantryman cries "Watch this" in a squeaky voice, before throwing a banana bomb onto his own head, and accidentally blowing up half his own team. And unlike the lemmings, these diminutive comedians are still getting solid new additions, like 2016's Worms WMD. 2020 then gave us Worms Rumble, a real-time arena deal with deathmatch and battle royale modes. The worms are still great, though the original format continues to be where they shine. 

29. Dogmeat – Fallout series

(Image credit: Bethesda)

PC Gaming isn't short of canine companions, with major mutts including Skyrim's chatty hound Barrabus, and Metal Gear Solid V's spotter wolf D-Dog. But Fallout's Dogmeat is both the most famous and most long-standing, having appeared in one form or another in every mainline Fallout Game since 1996, the latest of which lets you dress him up. Goggles! Bandanas! It's adorable. 

Two fun facts about Dogmeat that I definitely didn't crib from Wikipedia: He was inspired by Mad Max's unnamed dog from Mad Max 2, and he was originally intended to be called Dogshit, before somebody mercifully scooped that idea off the pavement and put it in a little plastic bag.

28. Clementine – Telltale's The Walking Dead series

(Image credit: Telltale)

Clementine's a fascinating character for several reasons. For one, it's rare to see a child portrayed with such depth and nuance as in The Walking Dead's first couple of seasons. But we also see Clementine grow up as the series progresses, going from a vulnerable child to a capable survivor in her teenage years, to a leader in the series' final season. Despite the turbulent end of Telltale Games, which closed its doors before the series finished, we still got to see the conclusion of Clementine's story. She had a good run, and she remains the face of one of the best videogame stories told on PC.

27. Heavy Weapons Guy – Team Fortress 2

(Image credit: Valve)

You could probably feature every class in the TF2 roster on this list, such is the brilliance of Valve's character design. But if any single member of the Team truly represents the game, it's the Heavy. Towering above the other TF2 crew and wielding an underslung minigun, the Heavy's jovial nature and exaggerated Russian accent make him the ideal face for TF2's chaotic gunplay.

26. Lord British – Ultima Series

(Image credit: EA)

Lord British is the ruler of the Kingdom of Britannia in the long-running Ultima series of RPGs. Famed for his noble demeanour, his pricey healing spells, and being (almost) invincible, British can be found at Castle Britannia in every Ultima game, and has become the series' most renowned character.

British is the alter-ego of Ultima's creator Richard Garriott, who also provided the voice for the character in Ultima VI. In 2008, Garriott flew to the International Space Station as a private astronaut, making Lord British the only videogame character that has been to actual space.

25. Arthas Menethil – Warcraft series

(Image credit: Blizzard)

One of PC gaming's most infamous anti-heroes, Arthas Menethil's was once a noble paladin who fell into the thrall of Warcraft's powerful Lich King, before eventually becoming the Lich King himself. Arthas' story, as told in Warcraft 3 and its expansion the Frozen Throne, was one of the most crucial elements in the game's enormous success, in turn laying the groundwork for the launch of World of Warcraft two years later. He eventually made a comeback in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion—one of the MMO's high points—and while the heroes won the day, his legacy can still be seen all over Blizzard's biggest game.

24. The xenomorph – Alien: Isolation

(Image credit: Sega)

Alien: Isolation's xenomorph represents some of the best character design in the last ten years, in that it made a forty-year-old rubber monster scary again. A masterful combination of visual, audio and AI design, Isolation's xenomorph is one of the most frightening foes ever committed to code. Gaming may not have created the xenomorph, but it knows what to do with it better than Hollywood does. We're not going to talk about Colonial Marines.

23. Jinx – League of Legends

(Image credit: Riot)

The chaotic queen of League of Legends, Jinx made her explosive debut into League of Legends in 2013, and has since become something of a mascot for the game. With a personality not entirely dissimilar from Batman's Harley Quinn, Jinx's unpredictable personality and love of wanton destruction has made her a favourite among League's community. Little wonder that the recently debuted Netflix show Arcane centres around League's mistress of mayhem.

22. JC Denton – Deus Ex

(Image credit: Eidos)

JC may not be the most effusive character in PC gaming—his monosyllabic utterances are so devoid of emotion that his own game makes fun of them. But as the frontman of what remains one of the richest and most ambitious PC games ever made, there's no question that he's a PC gaming icon. The cover image of him staring through sunglasses at a New York skyline will be burned into the minds of anyone who played PC games at the turn of the millennium.

21. Agent 47 – Hitman series

(Image credit: IO)

Agent 47 made his deadly debut on PC back in the year 2000, but it's in more recent years that the bald killer clone has really come into his own. Not only have IO's recent Hitman games been masterclasses in sandbox gaming, 47 has also grown into his non-personality, with his deadpan one-liners becoming a staple of the series' dark humour. He's a snappy dresser, too.

20. Manny Calavera – Grim Fandango

(Image credit: LucasArts)

Grim Fandango's rogue reaper was LucasArts last great adventure game character. Charming, witty, and just a little bit sly, Manny's wheeler-dealer personality belies a heroic streak that grows as Grim Fandango's adventure progresses. He's one of the finest figments to emerge from Tim Schafer's imagination. Just don't get lost in the woods with him—you'll be trapped there until the day you die.

19. Drizzt Do'Urden – Where there's a D&D game, there's probably Drizzt 

(Image credit: WotC)

The CRPGs of BioWare and Obsidian are filled with fantastic characters, but none are quite so iconic as Drizzt Do'urden, the dark elf mascot of the Forgotten Realms. Originally created by author R.A Salvatore, the heroic drow outcast has appeared in numerous RPGs, such as Baldur's Gate and its sequel, 2015's Neverwinter: Underdark, and this year's reboot of Dark Alliance. He's just extremely cool. He dances around battlefields with two scimitars, has a magical pet panther and keeps on saving the world. He's also one of the few drow you could take home to meet your mum without worrying about her being enslaved or eaten by spiders.

18. Max Payne – Max Payne series

(Image credit: Remedy)

Originally, Max Payne was most notable for his slowmo dodging skill and wearing the screwed-up visage of Remedy founder Sam Lake. But over the course of three games, he's become just as famous for his internal monologues and penchant for self-loathing. PC Gaming is filled with iconic action heroes, but none can extend a metaphor—or rock a Hawaiian shirt—quite like Max.

17. Peely – Fortnite

(Image credit: Epic)

Arguably the world's most popular skin, Peely is Fortnite's unofficial mascot, thereby earning his place in this list through sheer force of numbers. Is it fair that a walking banana should be more iconic of PC Gaming than Manny or The Walking Dead's Clementine? Not in the slightest. But that's life, my fellow droop sacks, so you'd better get used to it. The kids are our future, and they worship at the altar of this weird banana man.

16. Spaceman – Among Us

(Image credit: Innersloth)

Perhaps the most literal example of an "iconic character" in this list, the nameless, faceless spacemen of Among Us have become world famous in just a couple of years. These simple blobs have become synonymous with anonymity, treachery and suspicion courtesy of Among Us' compulsive hidden-role gameplay. And if you think this entry is sus, well, methinks thou dost protest too much.

15: Tracer – Overwatch

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Overwatch isn't exactly short of notable character designs, but none of them have inspired quite as much enthusiasm as Lena Oxton, AKA Tracer. With the ability to teleport short distances and rewind her own timeline while spouting cartoonishly Cockney one-liners, Tracer has been a favourite among the Overwatch community since the game's launch, and her popularity hasn't waned in the slightest as the game's character roster has expanded.

14. The Space Cadet – Windows Pinball

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Yes, the grinning Space Cadet from the Pinball demo that came bundled with Windows 95 is one of PC gaming's most iconic characters. He may not have said much or, well, moved. But that cheeky grin and raised thumb is symbolic of optimism in the face of adversity. No matter how rubbish your PC, or how few games you could afford, the Space Cadet was always there as a backup, providing hours of pinballing fun on every PC in the land.

13. B.J. Blazkowicz – Wolfenstein Series

(Image credit: Bethesda)

The blond and blue-eyed hero of Wolfenstein is one of PC gaming's oldest icons, with a history stretching back all the way to 1981. It was 1991's Wolfenstein 3D that made him a PC gaming mascot, but the work of Machine Games in 2014's Wolfenstein: The New Order gave this icon an actual character. Today's B.J. Blazkowicz is a soft-spoken, contemplative fellow, but one still capable of blasting the ribcage out of a Nazi's back with twin shotguns.

12. Alyx Vance – Half-Life series

(Image credit: Valve)

Valve's decision to put a female person of colour at the centre of their hugely anticipated FPS sequel was a big step forward at the time. But twenty years on from Half-Life 2's debut, what really stands out about the characterisation of Alyx Vance is just how understated she appears. At a time when games are dominated by quirky, quippy characters, the rounded nature of Alyx's personality stands out all the more. Her character isn't dominated by a particular trait like hyper-intelligence or a need to constantly be funny. In fact, what jokes she cracks are often pretty rubbish. But it all serves to make her appear more human. It says much about the success of her character design that Valve made her the protagonist of their VR-exclusive follow-up.

11. GlaDOS – Portal series

(Image credit: Valve)

The second-best psychotic AI in gaming, GLaDOS is the reason why Portal is remembered as being more than just an intelligently designed puzzle game. The combination of humour and threat she infuses into Portal adds incalculably to the experience, and she's arguably more synonymous with Portal than the core mechanic the game is named after. The events of Portal 2 also help to round out GlaDOS' character, not least because at one point she gets turned into a potato.

Top 10

10. Guybrush Threepwood – Monkey Island series

(Image credit: LucasArts)

Still the face of adventure gaming after thirty years, everybody's favourite wannabe pirate has lost little of his bumbling charm since The Secret of Monkey Island's debut in 1990. What makes Guybrush such an enduring character is his self-belief and determination in the face of his own lack of talent and competence. The gap between Guybrush's image of himself and everybody else's image of Guybrush is a fantastic springboard for comedy and calamitous adventures, which helps keep the Monkey Island games fresh and relevant three decades on.

9. Creeper – Minecraft

(Image credit: Mojang)

The Creeper is the star of Minecraft, which is ironic considering that the Creeper's effectiveness hinges upon not being seen. You'll be in some cave happily mining away, when suddenly you hear a hissing noise behind you. You'll have just enough time to panic before you're blasted across the cave as the Creeper detonates. No in-game enemy has made me jump as many times as the Creeper. It's a simple but enormously effective design, and consequently the Creeper's sad green face will forever be linked with Mojang's masterful game of creativity and survival.

8. Commander Shepard – Mass Effect Series

(Image credit: EA)

It's the female version of Commander Shepard specifically that's earned a high spot on this list. This is partly down to Jennifer Hale's superior performance, and partly because of the character's influence on the argument over representation. Mass Effect was hardly the first RPG to let players choose the gender of their character, but the affection for Femshep made people demand more female leads, more female choices, and marketing that didn't default to the male hero. And since Mass Effect 3, where Femshep was given just as much of the spotlight, we've started to see more games beyond RPGs offering gender choices, as well as more female leads.

7. Kane – Command & Conquer Series

(Image credit: EA)

From the moment he introduces himself by shooting his lieutenant in the head and sitting in his place, Command & Conquer's Kane grabs your attention and never lets go. Thanks to a consistently brilliant performance from Joe Kucan, the Brotherhood of Nod's leader and self-proclaimed messiah is a menacing, maniacal villain who has been the dark heart and soul of the series for 25 years.

6. Lara Croft – Tomb Raider

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Gaming's greatest relic hunter has been a core part of PC gaming ever since the original Tomb Raider launched in 1996. Always iconic, Lara has gradually become a more definitive character over the years. The Legend era lent her a more explicit action-hero vibe, while the 2013 reboot attempted to make her more human and vulnerable. She's been in spin-offs, movies and an advert for Lucozade, and we'll likely be going on more adventures with her for a long time.

5. Gordon Freeman – Half-Life series

(Image credit: Valve)

There are funnier characters, more empathic characters, characters that actually, y'know, say things. But as the resistance fighters of City 17 understood, it isn't what Gordon says or does that matters, it's what he represents. Not only is Freeman the frontman for arguably the PC's greatest shooter, he was also the face that launched Steam, which has been the focal point of PC gaming for the last two decades. Without Gordon, PC gaming would be a very different space. With Valve refusing to tie up his story, he's also gained a mythical status, waiting in limbo with his trusty crowbar until Valve finally lets him out for Half-Life 3. Where is Gordon? What's he doing? We need to know. 

4. Geralt of Rivia – The Witcher Series

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

It's strange to think that this grizzled monster hunter born from Polish folklore is now one of the most recognisable characters in gaming. Even stranger to think that he made his first virtual appearance in a wonky (but fascinating) PC game. Granted, Geralt didn't exactly cover himself in glory in his awkward first outing—plenty of bugs, though—but The Witcher 2 proved he was a monster hunter to watch. The Witcher 3, one of the greatest RPGs around, then turned him into one of the most beloved protagonists the medium has, with so many complexities hiding under that extremely gruff exterior. To prove our undying affection for this horny old man, PC Gamer will never stop posting screenshots of Tub Geralt. Never!

3. SHODAN – System Shock Series

(Image credit: Looking Glass)

What could be more fitting for a list of PC gaming's most iconic characters than a computer that wants to kill you? Well, probably a couple more things, since we're not quite at the top, but the murderous AI from System Shock and its sequel is possibly the greatest foe PC gamers have ever faced. SHODAN's corruption of Citadel station made her an instant hit in 1995, but it's her subtler, more malevolent role aboard System Shock 2's Von Braun that really seals her legendary reputation, as you're forced to work with her to defeat the hostile organic Hivemind known as The Many. There's no asking, no bargaining, no promises that you'll be spared. She even insults you as you meekly do exactly what she wants. Such is the power of this perfect, immortal machine.

2. Doom Slayer – DOOM series

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Doom's marine (aka the Doom Slayer) isn't so much a character as he is a force of nature, but either way, his bright green suit and penchant for bursting demons into mulch is about as iconic as PC gaming gets. One could make a compelling argument that the blinking, bloodied visage that sits at the centre of DOOM's HUD is the face of PC gaming itself. And let's face it, are you going to question him? 

1. You: The Sims series

50 most iconic characters

(Image credit: EA)

It's OK. We all do it. There's nothing to be ashamed of. Games are all about putting your own stamp on a world or a story or a system, whether it's naming your Skyrim Kha'jit after your pet cat, or turning your work colleagues into alien-busting soldiers in X-COM. And there's one series that's the ultimate expression of this, letting you create yourself and then enjoy the perfect life. Or a perfect catastrophe. 

There's no finer example of the player's agency in storytelling than recreating your own life in The Sims. Who hasn't created virtual versions of themselves, their family and friends in Maxis' world-conquering life simulation, before giggling childishly as your alter-ego bakes a terrible cake, or your fake dad gets a job as a clown? It's some of the best bits of RPGs, sims and creative sandboxes, letting you do whatever experiments or tell whatever stories take your fancy. More than anything else, that, to me, is what PC gaming is about.

If this has made you all nostalgic, don't forget to vote in the Golden Joystick Awards' 50 Years of Games categories, where you can pick ultimate game and hardware of all time.