Video games let us be whoever we want to be; a race car driver, an intergalactic marine, a 5'0" plumber. Sometimes, these characters we play as evolve in front of us as if they are alive. Video games, and the characters in them, have grown up with us and matured the pixelated avatars into something that only movies and books could portray. "Hero" is such a broad definition, with many deviations inside of it: anti-hero, paragon, unwilling hero, all of which are portrayed in games. Video games, like books, let us follow these characters, and show us how they unfold into a "hero".
Anti-Hero: Joel (The Last of Us)
Joel is one of the more realistic depictions of an anti-hero in recent video games. While starting out as a selfish man with little to no regard for anyone else, Joel does what he believes is right. His journey with Ellie slowly turns from a standard bodyguard job to one of companionship, and he would kill anyone who got in their way. The world had changed to a more violent, more barbaric place, but even in the light of hope Joel makes a selfish decision. While he never claims to be a good person, Joel does lay his life on the line to protect something if it deserves it.
Unwilling Hero: Garrett (Thief series)
Garrett is an interesting character, teetering between an anti hero and a reluctant one, but overall becomes the savior of the City from a religious cult, wishing to revert the world into wilderness. He was thrown into the role unwillingly, and stumbled into it without an exit plan. His motives, while starting out as being purely for personal gain, evolves into what is right for the citizens who are rendered without a voice. While he is still a cut purse and a thief, he does what he must for those less fortunate.
Paragon: Amaterasu (Okami)
Amaterasu is the embodiment of good, and in a sense, a true hero. She is the goddess of the sun in Japanese folklore, and is called up to help protect the land from demons who swear its destruction. While she is weak by herself, she journeys across the land to help free her deity friends, so that they may all defeat Orochi, and Yami, from destroying Japan. She does not save people for personal gain, or to win someones approval, or because she is made to, but she stands up to the task because that is her duty as a goddess; to protect those in need.
Questionable Hero: Sam Gideon (Vanquish)
Sam... is an interesting one, and more or less an action hero. I threw him on here because of the overall ridiculous mentality and actions he takes on. Sam is an ex-football star who is enlisted by the United States to protect the world from the Russian Federation. He is enlisted into Bravo Company, an elite group of soldiers, and is equipped with the Augmented Research Suit. He is over the top, and more or less a love letter to every action star from the 80's. I really didn't need to throw him on here, but to me he is a comical choice for any form of "hero".
There are more heroes than these, and probably better examples, but it is astonishing how far video games have come. What started out as a plumber trying to save a princes, has now lead to characters who face life altering dilemmas, and shows that games are an excellent medium to convey emotions. I hope that characters become deeper in the future, but also, make sure to keep the oddballs... just for fun.