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There are plenty of gruff, lawless anti-hero types in the world of video games. An enormous number of game characters—too many, one could argue—fall under this trope’s umbrella.
But their desperado DNA isn’t limited to video games. A lot of them have one person in particular to thank for their inspiration: the incomparable Clint Eastwood. From Metal Gear Solid’s Snake to Splinter Cell’s Sam Fisher, these characters are all channeling The Man With No Name to some degree.
The dude may be a nut, but you can’t deny he’s been influential. Here are ten characters that summon Clint’s signature brand of curmudgeon..
’Mass Effect 2’
Although this alien’s attitude isn’t anywhere as nasty as Dirty Harry’s, the art designers of Mass Effect themselves admitted that they based his appearance heavily on Clint Eastwood’s face.
Starting with the traditional ideal of an alien (think little grey men), the artists tried to capture the intense squint, narrow cheekbones, and pursed lips that give Clint his unmistakable look. Personally, we find it tough to tell them apart.
’Red Dead Revolver’
Red Harlow of Rockstar’s original Western epic Red Dead Revolver is basically Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name distilled directly into video game form.
He’s a bounty hunter who’s a force for good only because his objective happens to be to kill the men who gunned down his family. The Western backdrop of Red Dead, with its grainy look and spaghetti Western soundtrack, all combine to make playing as Red feel just like watching a Sergio Leone film.
’Metal Gear Solid’ series
If there’s one character who just keeps going, no matter how close to death he is or how stacked the odds against him are, it’s Solid Snake. His quest to stop the evil Patriots is evocative of Blondie’s journey to find the cache of Confederate gold in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, and the gruff grumblings of voice actor David Hayter match Clint’s style perfectly. And he also has his own personal Angel Eyes in the form of Revolver Ocelot (whose character design was based on Lee Van Cleef).
Most importantly, though, Snake’s character was based on Kurt Russell’s Snake Plisskin from Escape From New York et al, a character who himself could have easily been played by Eastwood (not to detract from Russell’s acting mastery).
’Splinter Cell’ series
This grizzled ex-Third Echelon field operative is an expert member of the top secret Splinter Cell program, and a force to be reckoned with. From rescuing his daughter to traipsing through Afghanistan taking on reconnaissance missions, he’s seen it all.
But underneath his ruthless exterior as a no-nonsense tactical espionage expert, he’s also a great guy—as long as you don’t cross him. In this, he channels some of Eastwood’s later work, like Gran Torino, as Sam’s love for his daughter is much like the camaraderie between Eastwood’s character Walt and his young neighbor Thao.
GERALT OF RIVIA
’The Witcher’ series
Geralt is a Witcher, able to see many things that normal humans cannot, but his talents don’t come for free. He’s available to help, as long as the coin is right.
And yet he’s inherently good at heart, like Eastwood’s The Stranger from High Plains Drifter. Both characters’ come off as abrasive at first, but getting to know them reveals characters who regularly engage in (albeit begrudging) philanthropy.
The titular Max Rockatansky of the Mad Max franchise is gruff, short, and to the point. In his latest incarnation in Mad Max: Fury Road, he just wants to be left to his own devices as memories of his loved ones haunt him. It’s only after he’s captured by a group of mutants known as the “War Boys” that he reluctantly aids Imperator Furiosa in her quest to help five women escape from slavery.
It remains to be seen how the character in the upcoming Mad Max game relates to these elements. But regardless, it’s easy to draw comparisons between any version of Max and Eastwood’s most famous character: Max is also colloquially known as the “Man with No Name.”
’The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’
Never mind the fact that Sheik is (spoiler for a 20-year-old game!) actually Princess Zelda in disguise (wow!). Their personalities are night and day, with Sheik acting as more of the unaffected wanderer, offering sage advice and songs to Link throughout the second half of Ocarina of Time.
Sheik is devoid of any real expression, seemingly unconcerned with whether or not Link succeeds in his quest. Her quiet demeanor, blunt and critical advice, and ability to fight her way through a cruel world by herself are all hallmarks of multiple Eastwood characters.
’Final Fantasy X’
Sir Auron is the quiet, mysterious guardian of Yuna, and a modest man who’s loyal to the end. His salt-and-pepper hair, wireframe glasses, and enormous sword are just a few reasons why those he protects would willingly follow him to the ends of the earth.
He’s a great man beneath his unapproachable demeanor and threatening look, which speaks of several of Clint Eastwood’s characters at once.
’Final Fantasy XIII’
Having been referred to as the "female Cloud” (from much-loved Final Fantasy VII) by fans and Final Fantasy’s creators alike, Lightning is prickly to the extreme, hardly ever letting anyone in. She’s also amazingly strong, and surprisingly benevolent (especially when it comes to her sister Serah) given her other traits. But you wouldn’t know it from her attitude.
Unafraid to fight for herself and by herself, Lightning is a force to be reckoned with that evokes strong reminders of Clint’s role as William Munny in Unforgiven.
Desmond Miles’ ancestor Altair was the first to take us through the world of Assassin’s Creed, and he was perhaps the most volatile of all, with the cold demeanor of a killer and the steeliness from someone you’d expect to be on the wrong side of the law.
He wouldn’t have been out of place in one of Sergio Leone’s classics, that’s for sure.
Jason Faulkner is the Editor at G4@Syfygames, and a contributor at Gamezebo. He has an unabashed love for all things gaming and isn’t afraid to get a little sassy to prove it. He can be found on Twitter @JasonFaulkner and you can view his other work here.