38. Max Payne
What more does former cop need than grit and the ability to hurtle through the air, guns blazing? Motivation. And Max Payne has a bucket-load of it. His wife and child have been murdered by the bad guys, and he’s being framed for the murder of his partner. He’s no hero and we know it because we hear his inner thoughts and frequently question the reality of what we’re seeing through his eyes. By his third game, Payne has added an addiction to painkillers and booze to his roster, and we get to examine a character attempting to cope with all the violence he’s experienced and committed in the past.
Iconic moment: While in a dream, Max realizes first that he’s in a graphic novel, and then that he’s in a video game. “Funny as hell, it was the most horrible thing I could think of,” he drawls.