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5 Video Games That Nailed Character Progression

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5 Video Games That Nailed Character Progression

A character that fits into a box goes stale. Like bread that was forgotten for weeks in the pantry. Okay. Maybe not that stale. But, we generally like to see characters evolve across playing a game. Whether you prefer that they evolve for the better or worse is up to you. Provided they evolve, I’m good with that. That way, playing the game feels fresh and exciting. If you can give me utter shock yet believable progressive moments, more points for you. Unfortunately, some video games like to stick to their guns. And, even though sometimes the recipe works, it becomes pretty predictable each time a new game is released. The more real a character is, the more enjoyable it is to play as them. It creates the sense that they too can get shot. That they can age, heal, or even grow weary after consecutive fights. So, for all intents and purposes, here are the five video games that nailed character progression.

5. GTA San Andreas

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas PlayStation 2 Trailer -

I’ve always thought life simulators must have some form of character progression. When you go to the gym on a daily or always use a bicycle to run errands, it has to show on the character in some shape or form. For GTA San Andreas lovers, this is exactly the case depending on which activity you engage with the most.

For instance, if you eat takeout for every meal and always use your car to get to places, your character will no doubt start to gain a few pounds. It seems like nothing much. However, life simulators have for the longest time ignored these atomic habits that would normally add up in normal life. Like if you never shave your beard, it should start to grow out with time. And maybe that’s exactly the style you were going for.

4. Metal Gear Solid V

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain - Debut Trailer

Released in 2015, Metal Gear Solid V is a stealth game that features an open-world gameplay design. Among its many accolades are the game’s photo-realistic visual fidelity, a factor Hideo Kojima is known for in the gaming world. The protagonist, in particular, enjoys a cup full of love and care in his design. 

He’s called Venom Snake, or Punished Snake, and his signature piece of shrapnel stuck to his skull singles him out right off the bat. It’s somewhat of a souvenir piece he got when a bomb went off near him at the end of Metal Gear Solid V. As painful as it sounds, it seems the piece of shrapnel stuck to his head gets bigger and bigger the more he engages in brutal combat.

In the first few hours of gameplay, it’s pretty easy to miss, coming off as a horn to the side of his head. However, toward the end, it’s more like a devil’s horn, goringly sticking out of his skull, and blood oozing all over his face like a fountain. I’ll admit, it’s not the most impressive form of character progression, so let’s look at some other contenders.

3. Until Dawn

Until Dawn - Horror Gameplay Trailer | PS4

Imagine living your worst nightmare. What if it runs, on and on, throughout the night? By the time dawn reaches, you’ll definitely be looking much different: worn out, exhausted, injured maybe. For characters in Until Dawn, they face their worst, living nightmare until, well, until dawn. 

This drama horror features eight friends trapped in a remote mountain retreat. In attendance with them are dreadful creatures. Death is a possibility. So is saving one another. So, who will survive until dawn?

In the midst of the fear and tensions running high, Michael takes it all in like a champ. He suffers a beating all through the night, you feel sorry for him. From gorgeous to gory, calm to beat, you can see all the expected transformations throughout. He even loses a finger in a bear trap. Sorry, Michael.

2. Red Dead Redemption 2 

Red Dead Redemption 2 Trailer

Red Dead Redemption 2 plays its cards perfectly right. As a fugitive, I can imagine that in the first few days, Arthur will have the strength and will to outrun his gunners. And his physical appearance matches too. But as days go by, his will to fight starts to fade. The last fight becomes the one that could be the last. But he pushes through. 

As much as he feigns strength, his body starts to give in. We see him sustain a light cough at first. Soon, the perils of being on the run catch up with him. By the time Arthur takes on that round of bullets, he looks like a mess. He’s defeated, and it shows. It didn’t help he was suffering from tuberculosis too, such that the disease and the run both gave in. 

As he faces his adversaries one last time, Arthur can barely stand. He takes that last defeat sorely, collapsing on the street like dead weight. This progressive outcome certainly plays a part in how gripping and devastating Arthur taking his last breath was.

1. Spec Ops: The Line

Spec Ops: The Line - Launch Trailer

When designing real-life simulation games, an aspect that is often ignored is the character progression through them. For a game like Spec Ops: The Line, at first, it makes sense that the soldiers will have confidence in themselves. Giving out commands will seem so easy. Your squad troops will do what you say, no questions asked. That’s exactly what happens in this game.

But as the battle continues, the plot thickens. Captain Martin Walker sustains bruises and injuries vividly visible to the eye. But it goes deeper than visual injuries. All the chaos takes a mental toll on him. His orders no longer sound sure. As he tries to lead his crew, it’s clear they have lost their faith in him. They either ignore what you say or tell you to shut up. 

As much as it is daunting to struggle through these final moments, it creates an authentic picture closest to realism as much as possible; not just physically, but mentally and emotionally too. 

So, what’s your take? Do you agree with our five video games that nailed character progression? Do let us know down in the comments or over on our socials here.


Evans I. Karanja is a freelance writer who loves to write about anything technology. He is always on the lookout for interesting topics, and enjoys writing about video games, cryptocurrency and blockchain and more. When not writing, he can be found playing video games or watching F1.