So, this thread was made to discuss your favourite protagonists and antagonists in modern video games, that is to say Super Mario and Sonic do not count. What, in your opinion, is needed in order for a protagonist or antagonist respectively to become truly amazing and memorable?
There does seem to be a lack of remarkable protagonists in modern-day games, my favourite, and only, ones are Gordon Freeman, Commander Shepard and Darth Revan, perhaps Agent 47 and Master Chief.
It does seem strange to me that there seems to be a lack of unique protagonists in gaming, whereas we're swimming in antagonists.
My favourite antagonists have to be G-Man, Illusive Man, Queen of Blades a.k.a Kerrigan, Arthas Menethil a.k.a Lich King, Illidan Stormrage, Saren Arterius and Sovereign/Harbinger.
The best ones are those you can sympathize with, games where there is a morally grey universe, where the choices you make reflect that overarching philosophy of you being the right man in the wrong place, where the lines between good and evil are blurry at best. If you accept the thought of the ends justifying the means, as the Illusive Man, Arthas and Saren do, you end up becoming that which you despise, which is probably why someone like Darth Vader is so memorable, as he turned to the dark side in order to protect the ones he loved, not out of selfish motives such as wanting property, money or items.
If you can sympathize with the antagonist, if you can understand, if not accept, their motives, if you realize it is not a fight between the champions of the light and the purse-snatching evil-doers, but rather between two different perspectives of the same problem, then you've got the basics for a potentially critically acclaimed antagonist, perhaps the best solution would be one where you are offered different perspectives throughout the game, where the protagonist may appear to be the real villain, and the antagonist to be the hero, depending on who you are as a person.
So, what would you require of a protagonist or antagonist for him/her to become one that you can become emotionally attached to, one which you will remember and not simply forget after the first playthrough, one which you wish you could experience more of?
Best protagonist: Umm.... Cecil? Not modern, but I don't care. Has a remake made in a modern age, and he's more developed and competent than any other RPG protagonist I can think of. The Courier from New Vegas is pretty cool in an indirect way though.
All I really want from a protagonist is for them not to be a dry, cliche Mary Sue and to not be silent, obviously quite the monumental tasks for modern RPG developers, for whatever goddamn reason. Also, character progression! It's alright if they're not great protagonists at the beginning, but have them develop into one at least. Give me more Clouds, Nekos and Prices. People with obvious flaws but that turn into badasses in their own unique ways.
Best antagonist: Teryn Logain, Sephiroth, Sin/Jecht, Golbez until that mind-control/moon man nonsense. A few others. Developers are much better at writing antagonists that appeal to me.
I want a villain that shows up a lot, gives us a viable reason for hating him, has some sort of motivation beyond 'I'm looney and want to rule the world!', and pushes the story along. A gray personality is nice, but not necessary. I also don't want them to be completely unrelatable. I want to see and understand why they are evil, or at least the workings of their mind that make them evil.
Also, no random villains that show up out of nowhere. It's contrived and dull.
Vayne is a great example of a useless villain. Barely shows up, does nothing directly and emotionally evil, hardly does anything at all! Teryn Logain is a manipulative, evil, heartless bastard who actually has a good motivation. He's got pride in his country, just pride to the extreme. More villains like him and Sephiroth, please. Less Archfiend, Chaos, and whatever the hell was at the end of Blue Dragon. Curse that story's conclusion to hell.
Isaac from Golden Sun, Lloyd Irving from Tales of Symphonia, and Link from the Legend of Zelda will always be my favorites because I grew up with those games in the early part of last decade. Good times all around, and the games are pretty good to boot. The characters themselves aren't that much to get excited over, but they'll always hold a special place in my heart. Commander Sheperd is a pretty good one too, although he's a bit special in that the player defines him for themselves more than the game does, so its hard not to like him. If you don't you're likely making choices you don't want to for other benefits down the line.
As for antagonists, I really liked Saddler(sp?) from Resident Evil 4 (actually the only one I've played, I tried to go back but they played so damn bad after playing 4 ). He just seemed so...I don't know, trollsy with how he treated Leon and Ashley. Plus, that final fight against him was pretty damn cool.
My favorite Protagonists would be the ones with a strong sense of justice and morals, but not afraid to rough people up sometimes, alongside the Papa Wolves and Redeemers.
Some of my favorite Protags would be Isaac Clarke, Adam Jensen, and my Paragon Shep/Good karma Courier.
My favorite antags would usually follow the Fallen Hero, Anti Villan, Blood Knight, or Made from Evil tropes.
Saren, Sovereign , the Lich King, Legate Lanius, Vanitas, Jecht are some of my favorite Antags.