The First 11 Black Videogame Stars

Jade, Beyond Good & Evil's leading lady

Can you name all the black main must-play characters in gaming? Hint: There are only eleven so far.

When I was younger, I always wondered why there weren’t more black superheroes. And, while you could ask the same question today, it also probably matters less. Today’s kids don’t dream about playing superheroes, they get to be the heroes in videogames all the time. So, that got me thinking: just how many black characters are there heading up games these days. I’m not talking about non-playable characters. And I’m not even talking about playable characters in a roster of characters you can choose between (like Street Fighter). I’m talking about the primo alpha prime you-don’t-get-no-say main playable character of the game. In other words, I wanted to find out how many times game developers have said: “You are Black. Period.” Here they are…

Moonwalker (1990) – Michael Jackson – I suppose it’s fitting that the first alpha black videogame character would be the biggest entertainer of all time. Of course, the game is a shameless attempt to capitalize on MJ’s worldwide success as a pop star. He’s also a particularly safe choice, being among the folks that Pino calls “Black but not really black” in Spike Lee’s classic Do the Right Thing. Still, what other beat-em-up insists that you take out enemies by dancing them to death? At least that’s a first.

Shaq Fu (1994) – Shaquille O’Neal – Another fighting game, this time featuring a superstar athlete. Here, Shaq wanders into a kung fu dojo in Tokyo and manages to fall into another dimension (who knew?) where he has to rescue a kid named Nezu. Hilarious B-movie premise, awful implementation. Shaq Fu is known as one of the worst games ever.

Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City (1994) – Michael Jordan – A 2D platformer featuring Michael Jordan out to rescue his kidnapped teammates. Need I say more? It made Space Jam look like Shakespeare. Few were shocked when this stinker didn’t sell.

Spawn (1995) – Al Simmons – First of many Spawn games, this was one of those titles that my little brothers couldn’t stop playing and I couldn’t figure out why. It was a cookie-cutter sidescroller, and not a very good one. Sent to hell for misdeeds in the living world, Spawn returns to Earth a kind of anti-hero, taking out the bad guys in the most brutal ways imaginable. Though he’s definitely an interesting character, it’s too bad that the hyperviolent Spawn had to be the first black comic character to cross over to videogames considering all the alternatives.

Akuji the Heartless (1998) – Akuji – Here come the voodoo stereotypes! You are Akuji, a young voodoo priest bent on taking out his murderous brother. Experience the “violent and sensual world of voodoo” first hand! Eeks. It’s a 3rd-person Tomb Raider style action adventure, but with extra evil. Seems like dark story means dark skin.

Shadow Man (1999) – Michael LeRoi – LeRoi is a reformed bad guy. He’s also a reformed living person. Existing between the land of the living and the dead, he’s slave (ugh) to a voodoo priestess who must collect Dark Souls and prevent the formation of an army of the damned. Like Spawn, this guy does evil to do good. If you can get over all that, this comic-derived game is pretty fun.

Blade (2000) – Eric Brooks – Yet another black character that walks between the land of the living and the dead, at least Blade didn’t do anything particularly bad to end up there. He’s a half-vampire head-cracking badass that protects the polite society from the vampire underground. I can dig it (even though the game is awful). Still, when you’ve got demons, when you’ve got evil, you need something almost as bad to deal with them. And, at least in the popular media (and in the last 4 titles in this list), that almost-as-bad seems to mean a black man. Thankfully, that changed in 2003…

Beyond Good & Evil (2003) – Jade (see image up top) – Did we really have to wait until 2003 for the first (and only) original IP involving a black woman to hit the videogame scene? BG&E was one of the finest games of the year and, sadly, also one of the most overlooked. For those who played it, Jade’s adventures in war-torn Hillys managed to find fun in an impressive array of play styles (stealth, action, photo snapping, hovercraft racing) while telling a story that cleverly explores the power of citizen journalism. It’s special stuff.

Men of Valor (2004) – Dean Shephard – It’s fitting that the first AAA Vietnam War title from Medal of Honor publisher Vivendi Universal developer 2015 would feature a black lead considering the disproportionately high number of blacks in the real war. Sadly, the game isn’t quite as polished as its WWII counterparts, but it’s still good news to see a big name publisher put a black face on the front cover of a big name franchise.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004) – Carl Johnson – The final installment of the GTA 3 series is a special game, but not only because of its variety of play styles or expansive environments or numerous voice cameos. The big overlooked reason San Andreas matters is that this was the first time that a AAA series chose a black protagonist and nobody batted an eye. It wasn’t a topic of conversation, it just was. And, for all the potential for stereotyping the “hood” environment offered up, Rockstar North never quite took the easy road. Impressed.

Marc Ecko’s Getting Up (2006) – Coltrane Crowley – Not the first game to feature graffiti writing as a central game element, Marc Ecko’s initial foray into “culturally savvy gaming” is quite possibly the worst. Though it fell flat, it did place a black man at the center of the exploding graffiti subculture. Is it respect or did Ecko make him black because being black is “edgy”? You decide.

Dishonorable Mention:
Final Fantasy 7 (1997) – Barret Wallace – Barret doesn’t exactly fit the criteria for this list. You must play him in the game, but he’s not the central playable character. The reason I mention him is that he is party to the single most beloved title in one of the biggest franchises in videogame history (certainly the biggest franchise mentioned here). The problem, of course, is that he’s an ignoramus who can’t manage to speak or behave property. Imagine all the worst qualities of Mr. T.

So, there you have it. 16 years have given us 11 alpha prime videogame stars who happen to be black, some a good deal more respectable than others. Why haven’t we seen more? A friend in the game industry suggested that one reason is that there are very nearly zero black folks making games. That needs to change because, frankly, I’m pretty damn sure there are a good deal more than zero black folks playing games. Here’s hoping the next 16 years see us better represented than the last.

What do you think? Did I miss someone? Leave a comment and let it be known.

 Visit the follow-up post Race in Games: The Unanswered Question

Extended List: Thanks to everyone who gave additions to the list in comments! Those that seem to meet the must-play main character criteria are:

Supporting or “share the spotlight” must-play characters:

PS: I removed Tiger Woods PGA Tour and Ken Griffey Baseball because, although they are the cover athletes, you are not required to play those characters in-game (at least from what I’ve read). I removed Guild Wars Nightfall because, while it is set in an Africa-inspired world, it appears you can make a character that looks however you want. I removed Jurassic Park 2, Streets of Rage and Crackdown per comment by Jerry X.

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209 Responses to “The First 11 Black Videogame Stars”

  1. 1 dc

    I think you forgot Eddie Gordo from Tekken and Michael Edwards from Eternal Darkness.

    Not lead characters, but playable.

  2. 2 Jason

    Hey, DC. I know Gordo but not Edwards (never got around to ED). Thanks for pointing them out.

    In order to narrow things a bit, this list focuses on characters that are the only playable in a game. If I hadn’t done that, the list would have been a good deal bigger. But that’s a good thing! :-)

  3. 3 rmo rmo

    Mike Tyson Punch out?

  4. 4 Jason

    rmo rmo: Is there a version where Tyson is the major playable character in the game? I haven’t seen that version, but I may have missed it…

  5. 5 brad

    In Jurassic Park 2 for the SNES, you are an unnamed black dude when you play 2-player. Kind of a stretch… But there it is.

  6. 6 qwentin

    Maybe you forgot 50cents in his own game…

  7. 7 qwentin

    You also forgot Tiger Woods in all the EA sports golf franchise.

  8. 8 qwentin

    Finally I think your list is shit…

  9. 9 Weefz

    Wait, Jade is black? I thought she was ambiguously tanned. ICBW.

  10. 10 Weefz

    Oh, and Tyler Miles from Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit was a black protagonist. One of three, but still a forced-to-play main character.

  11. 11 Jason

    Weefz: I always thought of Jade as black, but it’s interesting that some wonder. Could she a be a head nod to a multiracial future? Probably impossible to know without hearing from Uibsoft Montpellier direct. Without her, the list is a bit sad female-wise, so I like having her around. :-)

    BTW, I’m collecting these additions: Tiger Woods, 50 Cent Bulletproof.
    Jurassic Park 2, Indigo Prophecy, and Eternal Darkness seem a little more borderline based on what you folks said, but maybe there should be another category for “supporting character” playables.

    Any more?

  12. 12 Byru

    And what about the Bad Boys 2 movie – based game? We have 2 heroes there :]

  13. 13 Jason

    Aha! Thanks, Byru. I hadn’t heard of that one. Looks pretty awful, but then aren’t most licensed games? Plus, it’s got two playable black characters in the lead! Is that a first?

  14. 14 Montoya

    I think it’s a shame that it’s almost always either an existing black celebrity or a bad stereotype. There are hardly any original characters in video games that are black. This has something to do with the fact that in Japan, it’s only cool to be light-skinned.

    I know 1080 Snowboarding had a black snowboarder, and he was actually really good, but his name escapes me now. I remember seeing an article a while back in a videogame magazine about the lack of black characters, period; they mentioned Barret just because he’s one of the few notable examples, and they talked about how terribly stereotypical his character was. Even worse, looking at this list, there isn’t a single black woman. Fighting games at least are lately full of girls, but they usually have either 0 or 1 black women… I think Killer Instinct had 1, but I don’t remember any from other series.

    Anyways, I digress. Great article, and don’t listen to all the trolls in these comments.

  15. 15 Jason

    Thanks for the comments and kind words, Montoya! When you just look at original characters, the list does get pretty lean. There’s Dean Shepheard, Carl Johnson, and Jade.

    I’d love to know what magazine that is if you happen to dig it up. One reason I wrote this entry is that I couldn’t really find a good list of black folks in games anywhere. Only bits and pieces places like G4, UGO and the SF Chronicle.

    The only black woman major playable character in a game I know of is Jade from BG&E (image at the top of this page). But, as some of the posters pointed out, her ethnicity is in some dispute. Without her, it looks like you’re right. Zero black female stars. Sad.

    BTW, I’d hoped that Valve would give Alyx Vance a leading turn in Half Life 2: Episode 1 since she was on the cover, but no dice. Here’s hoping we see that before the series is done.

  16. 16 Grambo

    You can’t forget the paladin archetype from Diablo 2. He was black.

  17. 17 Jerry Whorebach

    Nice article, although you must have subconsciously blacked out (no offense) the protagonists of such classically unplayable dreck as Urban Chaos, Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style, American McGee Presents American McGee’s Bad Day LA and Bebe’s motherfuckin’ Kids.

  18. 18 Ivan Minic

    Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City

    Haha… this was a game!

  19. 19 Chas

    What about Shaq ? Shaq-Fu anyone ?

  20. 20 Somebody

    Alyx (Half-Life 2)

  21. 21 Alex

    What about Shaq in the classic game Shaq-Fu?

  22. 22 kasa

    and what about the caracter of the game : SiN and SiN episode 1 emergence.
    He’s blackk too. :)

  23. 23 Akillays

    What about cole train in gears of war?

  24. 24 Lars Vilhelmsen

    Dont forget Tyler Miles in Fahrenheit. 3 main characters and he is one.

  25. 25 Lucifer

    What about Marcus Reed from True Crime: NYC

  26. 26 Adam

    Unreal II, John Dalton the main character is black, it’s shown on the box art as well…fo shame! how could you leave him out.

  27. 27 noob saibot

    pfffft. where’s jax from mortal kombat?

  28. 28 adsadsa

    how street fighter the jamacain guy.

  29. 29 ssx

    What about Moby from the SSX franchise?

  30. 30 microft

    Shaquile O’Neal in Shaq-Fu on the Megadrive

  31. 31 cancer710

    Streets of rage series in segaa genesis

    Streets of Rage 1
    Adam Hunter

    Streets of Rage 2
    Skate Hunter

    Streets of rage 3
    Skate Hunter

  32. 32 IceX

    Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball!

  33. 33 chi

    how about BD Joe from Crazy Taxi?

  34. 34 Gav

    How could you leave Skate Hunter out of Streets of Rage!?

    Blade was a poor video game

  35. 35 Ihf

    What about Elder Scrolls – Red Guard (can’t remember his name)
    and The Longest Journey – Dreamfall (Kian)….

  36. 36 Arcan

    Sooo, in other words, according to all the comics, this list is entirely incorrect and built on specious claims.

  37. 37 Weefz

    D’oh. Good point, Kasa. I totally forgot about John C. Blade from SiN and SiN Episodes: Emergence. He’s definitely black and the only playable main character.

    OTOH, you never actually see him in-game. You can say that for most FPS, though.

    No relation to Blade the half-vampire.

  38. 38 Action Ben

    I agree with Montoya. Even the characters from the Vietnam game and GTA San Andreas are a bit of a let-down, since the content of the games is so violent, and they are so squarely representative of the particular environments the games are set in.

    That leaves Jade, and I have to say, I didn’t think she was black either. Maybe that’s just my ingrained white bias creeping up on me though.

    What I’d like to see is some characters like Sam Wilson in Warren Ellis’s ‘Ultimate Nightmare‘ (Marvel Comics). He’s not ‘from the ghetto’, no criminal past, not a local community leader that helps young (black) people with their violence+drugs problems … his superhero name isn’t ‘the black’ anything, or ‘the panther’ or whatever … he’s a scientist and a superhero and a fully rounded charater besides, and that’s that.

  39. 39 Me

    “The big overlooked reason San Andreas matters is that this was the first time that a AAA series chose a black protagonist and nobody batted an eye.”

    I found the constant use of the word ‘nigger’ in GTA:SA so offensive that I stopped playing the game after a few hours. This game is NOT a positive role-model towards blacks by any means, and significantly worse than the stereotype against Italian-Americans in the previous two.

  40. 40 Jason

    Thanks for all the suggestions, folks. Lots of characters I didn’t know about. This is great.

    For additions that clearly meet the criteria, I’ve now got: Tiger Woods, 50 Cent Bulletproof, Urban Chaos, Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style, American McGee Presents American McGee’s (haha!) Bad Day LA, Bebe’s Kids, SiN and SiN Episode 1 Emergence, True Crime: NYC, and Unreal II.

    Supporting or “share the spotlight” main playable characters: Jurassic Park 2, Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit, Eternal Darkness, Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball, Streets of Rage

    I don’t know Elder Scrolls: Red Guard or Dreamfall: Longest Journey and I couldn’t find much on the web. Are the black characters there the central “must play” characters?

  41. 41 Jason

    Me: I know what you mean about the N-word. It bothered me in GTA:SA, too. As for the stereotypes, I think you can either take it as offensive or as parody (the designers mocking their own stupidity rather than the characters’). It’s a fine line and I can completely understand why it would offend some. Personally, I tend think the GTA games make fun of pretty much everyone. What impresses me is that they still manage to find a way to make the main characters relatable and even sympathetic. I think that’s what sets the GTA games apart from many of the knock-offs.

  42. 42 Fussbett

    Don’t forget John Madden on the box of Madden Football, and Christopher Jacobs who is one of the three playable characters in Mercenaries. Jacobs is Korean/African-American though, so I don’t know if his non-pure blood disqualifies him from your list or not. He looks black though. Discuss.

  43. 43 Maury

    How about Torque from The Suffering and it’s sequel The Suffering: Ties That Bind?

  44. 44 Jason

    Maury: I seem to remember Torque being black, too. But when I looked it up, I saw a screenshot and wasn’t sure. I’m perfectly open to the notion that all black folks don’t look “stereotypically black” (I remember the infamous one-drop rule) but I’m curious if they made a point to somehow indicate Torque as black. Is his ethnicity mentioned somewhere?

  45. 45 Chris

    Remember ultra-stereotypical Superfly Johnston, one of the many bad ideas in the failed Daikatana game?

  46. 46 Johnston

    Tiger Woods is “cablanasian” not Black. From I know of him (indirect channels) he doesn’t have much to do with Black people so really shouldn’t be considered.

  47. 47 Jason

    Chris: I certainly do remember Superfly. I even remember that hysterical porn parody mp3 The Laziest Men on Mars made: “Superfly’s Johnson.” ;-)

    This list focuses on main playable characters and, though I never played Daikatana, my impression has always been that he isn’t playable. Is that right?

  48. 48 KILNA

    Taurus from Interstate 82 :)

  49. 49 TNG

    Daley Thompson from Daley Thompson’s Decathlon, Trikz from L.A. Rush, Freeze from 25 to Life, Frank Bruno from Frank Bruno’s Boxing.

    Also, Enter the Matrix – choice between a black and an asian… doesn’t quite meet your stringent criteria, but there you go.

  50. 50 Hellmark

    Street Fighter 2 had Balrog (although DeeJay was already mentioned), Def Jam series, Marvel Ultimate Alliance has Luke Cage and Black Panther, Marvel VS Capcom has War Machine, The numerous X-Men games have Storm (including the original NES game, which had her as a playable character), XGIII has some black racers, several of the Star Wars games (Mace Windu rocks) and DOA series has Zack. Thats just off the top of my head. Far more than the 11 mentioned.

    A minor, non central character, Clubber Lang was in the Rocky games. I wont go into the many many sports games with black characters, though, because it gets too numerous.

  51. 51 Fussbett

    One of the two boxers in BOXING for the Atari 2600 was black.

  52. 52 Jason

    KILNA: I always wished I’d been able to play the Interstate games. Thanks for pointing Taurus out!

    TNG: Awesome on Daley Thompson. That takes me back. Hadn’t seen Trikz, Freeze, or Frank Bruno, either. Great stuff. I did read up on Enter the Matrix, but skipped it for the reason you mention. It is cool that they ask you to choose between two minority women, though.

    Hellmark: Thanks. In the opening, I mentioned not considering fighting games or other games that don’t require you to play the black character so I think most of the characters you mention don’t quite fit. Is Storm required in any of the X-Men games?

    Fussbett: I love it! I played Boxing all the time back in the day. I’ve got Activision Anthology and Boxing is a favorite whenever it gets booted up even now. Dunno how that one slipped my mind!

  53. 53 Chris McDougall

    Shadowman was also a Black main character, based on the comics of the same name. He was also a somewhat positive superhero that didn’t adhere to any of the usual stereotypes (unless being a Louisianan saxophone player is considered stereotypical).

    I never thought of Jade as Black; like Chris Kohler wrote I always thought of her as racially ambiguous like myself (I am half filipino and half “white” with the obvious part of that being Scottish). You do pose some interesting and intelligent discussion and I commend you on it.

  54. 54 Chris McDougall

    I’m sorry. The Shadowman I was referring to was Jack Boniface, whom the games are not based on. The main character of the Shadowman games (Micheal LeRoi) is still Black though.

  55. 55 Chris McDougall

    Ok. Well that’s strange. I wrote this really long diatribe on Shadowman and it didn’t show up. Anyway, I originally wrote about the comics thinking that the games were close to them, but they are only loosely based on the comics.

  56. 56 Chris McDougall

    And you already mention him. My bad. Maybe I should have read the entire article.

  57. 57 Jason

    Hey, Chris. Sorry about your lost comment. My overzealous spam filter caught it but you should be able to see it now.

    Thanks for the kind words regarding my discussion of Jade. I like the idea that she might have been designed so that players with diverse backgrounds could see themselves in her. I wonder if we could get any comment from Ubisoft Montpellier on what they were thinking as they designed the character. I know she went through a number of revisions…

  58. 58 Cruds

    Here’s an other one for your list, Emir Parkreiner a.k.a Garcian Smith of Killer7. Not only is he a playable character but almost the entire story is build around him.

    Frankly I don’t care what color my character is. I mean I’m Italian/Dutch and can’t say that I feel better about playing Mario just because he suppose to be Italian too.

  59. 59 kuerin

    “Here’s hoping the next 16 years see us better represented than the last.”

    This expression of hope is ambiguous. I have no quarrel with it if you’re suggesting that more blacks should pursue jobs in the game industry. But Chris Kohler interprets this blog entry to mean that you want blacks to be better represented among main characters in video games. If his interpretation is correct, then the essential question that you’ve neglected to answer is, why? I can understand why someone would argue for more black characters in television and movies, because that would create more opportunities for black actors. But more black characters in video games wouldn’t create more opportunities for blacks in game development.

    Do you believe that there ought to be more black main characters because the percentage of main characters who are black is lower than the percentage of gamers who are black? If so, then you’re endorsing the fallacy that proportionate representation is a goal unto itself. Or do you want more black main characters because you can more readily identify with a main character who belongs to your race? If you’re less able to identify with a main character who isn’t black, then maybe you should consider the possibility that you’re unduly fixated on the color of a character’s skin.

  60. 60 Jason

    Cruds: I played a bit of Killer 7, but didn’t finish it. From what I recall, you get a choice of playing any of the 7 characters. Are you ever required to play Garcian?

    For additions that clearly meet the criteria, I’ve now got: Tiger Woods Golf, 50 Cent Bulletproof, Urban Chaos, Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style, American McGee’s Bad Day LA, Bebe’s Kids, SiN and SiN Episode 1 Emergence, True Crime: NYC, Unreal II, Interstate 82, Daley Thompson’s Decathlon, L.A. Rush, 25 to Life, Boxing (2600), Bad Boys 2.

    Supporting or “share the spotlight” must-play characters: Jurassic Park 2, Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit, Eternal Darkness, Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball, Streets of Rage

  61. 61 Jason

    kuerin: Thanks for your thoughtful comments. My intention in the closing was to suggest that an increased black representation in the game industry might result in more black characters. That could be overly optimistic, but it’s a thought.

    My desire to see more major playable black characters in gaming derives from a long-standing desire to see myself represented in the media I consume. I tackle this subject because I know how it affected me as a kid. I loved superheroes and wanted all their attributes — other-worldly powers, strength of character, respect. And another attribute all superheroes shared back then was white skin. Did I want white skin? Not particularly. But I did wonder in the back of my head why that seemed to be a requirement for being a superhero. So, I wrote letters to comic book companies. Consider this blog entry a continuation of that tradition.

    As a black kid when nearly all the movie heroes were white, you figured that career path just wasn’t open to you. When many of the black characters in movies portrayed negative stereotypes, it was damaging. In videogames, you’re not just relating to the character, you are the character.

    So, I think arguing that players shouldn’t care about the color of their characters’ skin is arguing that black folks should just get used to playing white folks because, well, that’s the default. When it comes down to it, my ultimate argument is that there should be no default. I believe diversity is at the core of the future of gaming because that’s how we reach out beyond the existing audience — diversity of play styles, diversity of subject matter, and diversity of representation.

  62. 62 neil h.

    I’ve got two for you – Taurus from the Interstate 76 series (although only playable in the Nitro Riders sequel) and Drizzt from the Baldur’s Gate games.

  63. 63 dnA

    You forgot Urban Chaos, the video game by eidos that has a black female cop as the main character. That game is awesome.

    Also, don’t the Star Wars Jedi games kind of count? you can make your character black….

  64. 64 Hoff

    I actually thought of Killer 7 as I read this as well. There are elements in the game where you have to play as Garcian (In fact, you have to do the end of the second to last chapter, the entire last chapter, and the epilogue as Garcian) and he ends up being the main character in the story.

  65. 65 eric

    found this through cool list so far.
    i have a somewhat lame entry for you.
    Blade (not the vampire) he’s a bounty hunter from the future in eternal champions for sega genesis.

  66. 66 Beef

    Well, 12.12% of the American population, give or take, is black. So 12.12% of game characters should be as well, right?

    Or is it easier to look at it from an economic viewpoint? 74.67% of the population is white, so it’s better to market to the majority than a minority? Much like you don’t see many rugby games in the US. Or much like you don’t see many female protagonists. Sure, females game, but the percentage is low compared to men, so why risk alienating men to attract the small female demographic already used to playing the opposite gender?

    Or should people just not give a damn about race, as it’s insiginficant in determining much of anything. People shouldn’t worry about the skin color of the character, much like they don’t tend to care much if the main character is blond or redheaded, tall or short, etc. They’re physical characteristics which can occasionally lead to differences in upbringing, and these issues should be entirely mooted on all sides.

  67. 67 Ace of Sevens

    Try looking at the main black characters who are actually original IPs (not based on real people or characters from TV, movies and comics) and you might not even need both hands to count them.

  68. 68 Kamizar

    Crackdown/Riot Act(Japanese): In the American version you play a host of genetically enhanced supercops many of which are not white and a main character (as in on the box and first choice of who you can be) who is black…

    Phantom Dust: One of the supporting characters is JD, you can’t play him through the story but he is playable online…

    Halo series: Sgt Johnson, not playable, pivital, and very well liked…

    Sure I wish there were less stereotyped black characters in video games, we’re not all stumble bums, but what would be best is for more mixed race, one with characteristics from each race, like Jade, or hidden race characters, like Master Chief or games that let you make make your own character…

    The arguements that profess white main characters cause of white majority are flawed, because thats assuming that the only market is the American one…

  69. 69 dnA

    Here is a link to some info about urban chaos. The main character’s name was D’arci Stern. I think this game was only for PC.

  70. 70 viewtiful_dru

    You forgot a big one:

    Kratos from God of War.

  71. 71 Kamizar

    Kratos is clearly Greek…

  72. 72 Edwin

    Several errors are in you post.

    *Medal of Honor publisher is Electronic Arts, not Vivendi Universal.
    *GTA 3 is neither the final installment nor is it a series. GTA 3 is one game. GTA is a series.
    *Can you cite your source saying Jade in Beyond Good and Evil is black, or part black?

  73. 73 Jason

    Edwin: Thanks for the feedback.

    Medal of Honor: You’re right. I should have indicated the developer (2015) rather than the publisher was the same for Medal of Honor and Men of Valor.

    GTA 3: I’m calling it the GTA 3 series largely because the “next gen” game is being called GTA 4 and the box set with GTA3, VC, and SA is called Trilogy.

    Jade: I have no source on her nor most of the other characters on the list. I’m not a big fan of determining ethnicity visually but often that’s all we’ve got with videogames.

  74. 74 Elrando

    I think the Elder Scrolls series deserves an honourable mention.
    While never a requirement for partaking in the game, you’ve always have the option of playing a black (redguard) character, allthough I’m not 100% sure about Arena.

    Also a spinoff to the series called “Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard” (release 1998) had a set character that you had to play. His name was Cyrus and he was most certainly black (Redguard).

  75. 75 rowd149

    I dunno if she really counts, considering she’s not ACTUALLY human, but Fran from FFXII has skin dark enough that she couldn’t possibly be misconstrued as being anything but black. Her battle-thong and white voice actor notwithstanding, she pretty much defies the black stereotype; she’s not at all gangsta-riffic, and is in fact quite intelligent.

  76. 76 Cruds

    “Cruds: I played a bit of Killer 7, but didn’t finish it. From what I recall, you get a choice of playing any of the 7 characters. Are you ever required to play Garcian?”

    Yeah, Garcian is the cleaner if a one of the other killers dies Garcian goes out to pick him/her up and bring them back to live. If Garcian dies the game is really game over, there is a good reason for that. The last two stages are entirely played only with Garcian. The Killer7 story is about Garcian’s life so he’s an important character for the game. I’d say he should be on your list. He’s not stereotyped in anyway, He’s a cool dude that happens to have a dark skin tone without emphasizing on it.

    You should give killer7 a try again, if you still have it that is. I agree that it has award controls but once you’re used to it, the game is a total blast.

  77. 77 Blackfaced Kitschy Tuco

    LOL @ claiming Jade from BG&E is black.

    Anyway, what about Alyx from HalfLife 2, she’s half black.

  78. 78 Jason

    Thanks for the contributions, folks. So all the additions are easier to find, I’m maintaining a regularly updated list at the end of the entry above.

    Erlando: Cool. I’ve added Redguard to the list.

    rowd149: I suppose Fran doesn’t quite count since she’s not human. I do appreciate the fact that she’s smart and non-gangsta, though the perpetual thong does set her back a couple notches in the role model category. ;-)

    Cruds: I added Gracian up above. Yeah, I couldn’t cope with the load times and controls of Killer 7 (especially just after finishing RE4) so I sold it. The premise was intriguing, though. Who knows, I may yet get back to it during the summer release lull.

    Blackfaced Kitschy Tuco: Alyx doesn’t fit because she’s not playable. I really hope Valve changes that before HL2 is done, though.

  79. 79 Cruds

    If the Wu made it than those DefJam wrestle games are valid too and maybe Parappa the Rapper. Ok I admit he looks a bit yellowish but he sure can flow so I would give him the benefit of the doubt :P

  80. 80 Hellmark

    Jason, in some of the Xmen Games, there are portions where Storm is required.

  81. 81 James

    How about Dan from Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike?

  82. 82 K

    If you’re considering 100% completion of the game and not just the minimum requirements to “finish” it, then in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance Storm, Luke Cage, and Black Panther are all characters you must play as (everyone in the game is except Nick Fury and Silver Surfer.)

  83. 83 John

    Hehe I thought that Gordon Freeman from HL2 was black until I read this discussion and looked a little closer at the picture on the box. Frankly, I still think he could pass for black as easily as Alyx. (though that retarded “one-drop” thing apparently applies(?)) Also it seems like black characters are accepted in realistic roles only if their skin-tone is damn pale. Seems that way in politics too with Condi, Barak, and Colin Powell (who I didn’t even realize was considered black until the media spammed that he was the first black secretary of state). I agree with your main point, but this racial ambiguity (like Jade) is pointing out the fact that “race” is practically meaningless biologically. It’s like arguing whether or not aquamarine is really blue, or really green, or if mauve is red or purple. “Race” is an illusion continued on, in part, by society’s inability to understand the facts of genetics. If we apply the “one-drop” rule to everyone, then every human on the planet is black, or african in origin, or whatever.

  84. 84 scralpha

    I always thought Kratos from God of War was Black, based on his facial structure and voice. Someone said he’s ‘obviously’ Greek, but that’s a (weak) assumption. At the time depicted in the game, many conquered peoples would then be forced to fight in their conqueror’s armies. It is very possible that Kratos is not Greek (or Spartan).

    Also, the guy from The Suffering?

  85. 85 Thomas

    Not to pimp my own stuff, but my Escapist article a while back was on the lack of Black protagonists in video games. It’s not the most eloquently-written piece, but some of your readers might be interested:

    Guns, Gangs, and Greed: Gaming’s Hip-Hop Diversity Gap.

    The point that I find striking is how few of these are original IP: most of them are licensed from Black celebrities or other media properties.

  86. 86 Keleidogamer

    WTF? Jade is totally white!

    There are always a few black guys hanging around in the Resident Evil games.

  87. 87 Nate

    Just wanted to point out a couple of new 360 titles that feature black main characters.

    The Outfit – J.D. Tyler is one of the 3 main characters you can choose to play as.

    Crackdown – Super powered bionic black policeman. You can customize him to look like whatever you want later on though.

  88. 88 Jose

    How about these?

    Riddick from:
    The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay

    Mathayus (the Scorpion King) in:
    The Scorpion King: Rise of the Akkadian (PS2)
    The Scorpion King: Sword of Osiris (GBA)

  89. 89 David

    You all missed a spot.

    Cyborg, a Commodore 64 game from CRL, had an unambiguously must-play black protagonist. Well half-black, the other half being made of death-dealing robotic machine parts, but I’m sure he still counts.

    The internet seems to tell me that it came out in 1986, but that sounds far too late to me. My recollection was that he was the first black protagonist (and I recall the game got previewed in a magazine that went defunct in 1983), but we all know the internet never lies so I must have been mistaken…

  90. 90 Unbathed

    Mercy sakes, how could you overlook the Mage in Diablo and the Paladin in Diablo 2?

  91. 91 mike

    diablo – socerer

  92. 92 Bald Bull Was Here

    Let’s not forget Bald Bull in Punch Out!

  93. 93 Jacob

    Jade is very clearly Asian or of Pacific Islander descent. Her skin is vaguely yellowish in color, she has epicanthal folds on her eyes, and she has pronounced cheekbones. “Jade” is also a name very commonly associated with Asian characters and settings in video games.

    I thought it was pretty obvious.

    You are right, though. It is a shame that there aren’t more black leading characters in video games.

  94. 94 Tyrion Xavier

    The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay

    There are many, many others not in this list.

  95. 95 Dan

    Man, what a retarded article. There is no lack of black protagonists in this day in age nor with a lack of women protagonists. You missed so many games and people realize its not worth listing ever game with a black lead, considering there are so many of them. Probably directly proportioned to the number of black people too. So i dont see a problem.

  96. 96 Michael Teplitsky

    I have been playing games my whole life and until I saw this blog entry I have not once thought about the race or sex of the character I was playing at any given time.

    Is it really that important? I am a white male, a being of unimaginable evil according to some, yet I have never had any problems associating with any characters. They could be they black or white, male or female, as long as they were believable, I could “be” them.

    Could you please elaborate on why it is so important? I genuinely feel as if I am missing something.

    Now, I have one to add to your list. In the original Diablo, the Mage character was black. In fact, now that I think about it, he was my favorite choice when playing the game. =)


    P.S. – Jade is not black. I checked very thoroughly after I read your post and I assure you she is most certainly not black. Not that it matters. =)

  97. 97 blitzvvolf

    Geez, when they said Jade, I thought they meant Jade from Mortal Kombat (3?). The gal up top looks more Asian.

  98. 98 ganga

    what about the new guild wars game? All the characters are African.

  99. 99 Ran Dom

    Dr J from that ancient EA 1-on-1 game with Larry Bird. I loved that damn game.

  100. 100 Jason

    Thanks for all the contributions, folks! Just a reminder that the list only includes characters that are the main must-play character in a game so most fighting games and rpgs that give you a choice don’t quite fit. You can find all the additions at the end of the main entry above.

    Michael Teplitsky: I think my response to kuerin pretty much captures my thinking on the subject. Hope that helps.

    scralpha: Could you have a look to my reply to Maury above? If you could help answer that question, it would be great.

    Thomas: I actually read your bit in The Escapist when it hit originally, but I’d forgotten about it. Great stuff. Thanks for the reminder.

  101. 101 Someone

    You also forgot the perennial supporting black character, the black guy who is the player’s only link to Command in Freespace 2. Sure, all he does is bark orders and take credit for your Triple Ace skills, but when was the last time anyone had a boss that didn’t do that?

  102. 102 xephoid

    First off I would like to thank Jason for writing this and congradulate him for getting recognized. Unfortunately this discussion is rooted in a much deeper issue. An issue that no one wants to talk about anymore becuase it is hard to deal with. The worst thing about this is that the people who actually have the power to change it aren’t the people who are affected by it. Don’t understand? Let me paint you a picture.

    A kid is born with a facial deformity. He’s a really nice kid and his parents love him to death. They tell him everyday of his life that it doesn’t matter what he looks like he can do anything he wants. His self esteem is boosted as much as humanly possible. But he still notices people staring. He gets more and more self concious of the fact that people look at him a little differently. No one ever says anything to his face, but after a while he knows. People don’t want him around because he looks different. Everyone says “No one should treat you differently because of what you look like” but they DO! The worst part is that it is unspoken. No one else knows about it. He tries to tell other people, but they just say he is paranoid.

    Do you see the delema? Whenever a black person cries racism now everyone jumps on him and says he’s being paranoid. I’m not asking anyone to do anything about it. I just want people to stop ignoring it. Pretending like it doesn’t exist anymore. Sure, we are better off than we were, but I feel like we stopped growing when we hit “good enough”. And by good enough I mean people wont say it to your face, they just give you a dirty look. The majority doesn’t see it, or doesn’t want to see it but it is there.

    Let me stop right here just to mention I don’t think being African American is anything like having a facial diformaty(sp?). I am just using the analogy to say he looks different.

    Ok, here is the part where I bring this back to video games. the message I got from Jason’s article was that there needs to be more positive, non-stereotypical characters in PROMINENT video games. I see a long (and getting longer) list of video games that had Black characters in them, but most of them I have never heard of or they sucked (note the word MOST) in some cases I am going to assume both. I would like to see some major titles come out with a character that is just black. For no reason. You know what I think would be awesome? If at the end of HALO3 the MASTER CHIEF took off his helmet and he turned out to be a black dude. For me, it would be almost as awesome as finding out Samus was a woman.

    There it was, I submit myself before the comment paranas…

  103. 103 xephoid

    Oh, I also thought Jade was black, but upon further inspection she could just be French… I mean the game was made by Ubisoft… Which is French, no? Not that it acutally matters. I like the fact that she is ambiguous so you can let your eyes choose.

  104. 104 Zephiris

    While I thought the article was generally rather silly, the picture offered as ‘OMG, black!’ is even sillier. I haven’t played ‘Beyond Good and Evil’, I imagine most people saying ‘OMG! Notblack!’ haven’t either. That was my first inclination as well, looking at the box art offered. However, it becomes pretty obvious from looking at an in-game screenshot thanks to Wikipedia:
    Rather high chance for either African or Middle-eastern descent, anything else is unlikely from facial structure, et cetera.

    There have been plenty of black leading characters in games, more than a few of which haven’t been braindead stereotypes (and to be fair, there are lots of braindead stereotypes and lots of braindead games, especially since 99% of PC games are just bad console ports), saying there have only been 11 in the history of all of gaming just appears to be extremely inflamatory. I’m a black woman, and honestly, race makes no difference to me in video games. Though, I’d like to see more non-idiotic/non-stereotypical women in games (Tomb Raider just sets me into a rage), race hasn’t been a significant factor for me in playing any particular games. While this provides a lot of hype, and gets some people into a fervor, it seems that people should be talking more instead about why games have become so brain-dead and boring in this console-centric area, and whatever happened to innovative (let alone graphically interesting) and playable PC games, particularly by major publishers?

    Releases like Rainbow Six: Vegas, Need for Speed: Carbon, and Battlefield 2142 are shining examples of botched console ports that go about things in all of the wrong ways. Race in games might be a more poignant argument if any ‘meaningful’ games were being released, instead of a thousand cookie cutter games, and ten thousand console ports.

    And people can argue all they want that consoles are ‘OMG TERRIFIC!’, but it still comes down to lack of originality, and that the lack of thought put into most games is really bringing everything else down (apparently, independent releases for OSX excluded, there are just tons and tons of good games for that platform, sadly).

  105. 105 Sloth

    John Dalton from Unreal 2, and the stars of that tank game from a black game studio that came out in the 90’s.

  106. 106 Tom

    How about the horrible game “Catwoman” based on the bad movie with Halle Berry.

  107. 107 Mike

    I usually play black redheaded women in MMORPGs. Not because of racial preference but because it looks good.

    Also, do not forget Deus Ex where the player could choose skin color and most of the choices were non-caucasian.

    I wager that more people on Earth care less about color than a self-conscious colored might think. I dated a girl periodically for a whole year before realizing that she was 1/4 african (and I’m north european).

  108. 108 Cruds

    “It seems that people should be talking more instead about why games have become so brain-dead and boring in this console-centric area, and whatever happened to innovative (let alone graphically interesting) and playable PC games, particularly by major publishers?”

    Ain’t we doing that enough? I know I do, not really PC games but games in general. I thought this threat was fun because it requires to sit back and think about all the games you have played in the past. I still check back regularly to look what people came up with and what games I did forgot about. The discussion or Jade is black or not is of lesser importance to me.

    If you like to see more non-idiotic/non-stereotypical women in games and are concerned about originality and graphic style I suggest to pick up a copy of Beyond Good & Evil. I know she has a pig as friend which is kinda odd but other than that there is not much bad stuff that can be said about this game. Dunno or it’s availably on PC tho.

  109. 109 RDM

    Wasn’t there a guy in Double Dragon? Or am I making that up?

  110. 110 Eldubble

    Although it seems like this topic has been beaten to death I’ll through my hat in.

    For the most part race doesn’t play any part in what kind of game I play. But there are times that I won’t play a game that has what seems like a focus on black on black crime. I think it was a game called “Streets of N.Y.” and the first few scenes was of a black character shooting and getting shot at by other blacks in the game. Also the Marc Ecko game struck me in this way.

    And did some one in a post prior to mine refer to Black people as “coloreds”? Did any else catch that!?

  111. 111 Ranyen

    There is a great deal more I can say on this issue but il try to keep it short.

    Personnally i think the lack of leading black character’s in today’s game industry is appalling. Great games like warcraft 3: frozen throne where not 1 black character can be found. Then SOME of the white players for years who are used to seeing their own kind on screen with the odd coloured exceptions turn round and say “whats the problem?”. Well for those finding it hard to understand, try this imagine warcraft 3 or dungeon seige 2 with only black characters. Infact imagine all your old and new favourite games with 99% of the characters being just black especially the respectable ones left with just 1% for the white characters who are just barely noticeable background characters. (get the idea of whats wrong, now?)
    Now take the opposite of that mentioned above and you will find that
    this is how many of today’s games refelect the other races black, latino…… I have rarely seen an indian character except in prey and 1 or 2 others.

    What iam saying is that games containing a decent mixture of races would be more appreciated by most players than those games which have only a single race. As it shows respect for their race’s existence and allows you to better relate to the game’s world if not the main character.

    I feel that deus ex deserves mentioning as it gave the player the option of choosing the skin colour of your character which also affected your brother who was just as important. Although it didn’t feature an overdose of races each character from the respective race stood out Smuggler, Tracer Tong…..


  112. 112 Jerry Whorebach

    What about all those games that get rebranded for release in African markets? Twisted Metal Black, Ninja Gaiden Black, Need for Speed Most Wanted: Black Edition, etc.

  113. 113 Ice Cream Jonsey

    I can tell you that Avandre Varick from the 1999 Splatterpunk, text-game thriller “Chicks Dig Jerks” is both the player character and an African-American. for more info.

  114. 114 Fussbett

    Ranyen, saying that 99% of all old and new games feature white characters is wrong. This is only your RACIST assumption. In the earlier days of gaming, things were very ambiguous before the aryan takeover. Who’s to say what race is under Mr. Do’s clown makeup? Under the helmets of the NARC cops? Inside the Pole Position cockpit? Beneath the Wizard of Wor spacesuits? Assuming it’s a white person (or a MALE person) tells us a lot about you. Plus you’re flat out denying the obviously asian Pacman and Ms. Pacman, the native american (or as you say, “Indian”) Winky from Venture, and the likely Sicilian mixed heritage of Mario, just to name a few.

  115. 115 Vichus Smith

    Some of that list is downright embarrassing. Shaq-Fu? Come on! Awful.

  116. 116 Ice Cream Jonsey

    The claw in Tempest was also Asian. I think that’s pretty clear if any of you look at it again. Fun fact: if you play Tempest for an hour your right hand will begin to assume a claw form due to hitting the “shoot” button thousands of times. Thus, Tempest is the first game to actually *turn you into* your in-game avatar. An honor it kept to itself when a late rev to Frogger removed the end-of-level French lessons. Bon sang!

  117. 117 Hey now...

    The Wu Tang Clan had their own videogame now, don’t forget them

  118. 118 Jerry X

    Playing as a black character in Jurassic Park 2 and Streets of Rage is entirely optional, and (sadly) it’s not even the default option. Also, while the black character in Crackdown is featured prominently in the game’s advertising, he’s still just one of several user-selectable avatars (like the black merc in Mercenaries).

  119. 119 Shaun

    They need more leading black women, wait I don’t think they have in in videogames. That’s really a shame I agree.

  120. 120 Anonymous

    What about black women? or latina women? or women period?

  121. 121 Craig

    I hope people get ready for the timesplitters I make, hopefully 4, because the main character is gonna be black.

  122. 122 Yamagashi

    *Ugh* I can’t believe how so many of you have ignored that fact that the article focuses on black “lead protagonists” not optional side characters such as the characters many of you have mentioned.

  123. 123 JOE BLADE

    Well all of ya’ll have seem forgotten Sanity: Aiken’s Artifact which featured the voice of Ice-T as the main character (Agent Cain). THat needs to be added as well.

  124. 124 trailer park

    I didn’t see any mention of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories. The main character is Vic Vance, and he’s black.

  125. 125 RAWR

    Hmm…. in Hereitic II, I used to use the toolkit to make black shidhes… both male and female. Aren’t toolkits great? You can bypass the bullshit of the media by making you’re own characters. Oh and Dungeon Seige, I made my default character a black chick.

  126. 126 Johny Zuper

    Tale of Tales’ 8 and The Path feature a young black girl as their main character. She visits the authors’ interpretations of ancient fairy tales, Sleeping Beauty in the former, Little Red Ridinghood in the latter.

  127. 127 CK

    Are you CRAZY? When GTA SA announced the lead would be black and in the “hood” the internets went crazy. Their was outrage all over the video game forums, people pledging not to buy it and others patching in different skins so you didn’t have to be black.

    and wtf Jade is black?

  128. 128 Euro Reader

    This is just silly… There are black people making video games but they don’t find it “racist” if they don’t put a black player in a game.

    Some people have just gone beyond that, but apparently this article is here to show that the author hasn’t.

  129. 129 troy

    honerable mention

    balrog – street fighter 2
    dudley – street fighter 3
    elena – atreet fighter 3
    birdy ? – street fighter alpha
    dee jay – street fighter 2
    eddy gordo – tekken 3
    troy – gta 1

    i think with tekken 3 u have to beat the game with eddy to get a bonus of some sort, and also beat the game with every charater for another bonus

  130. 130 Thorgard

    Why do games where you can make your character be black or white or any number of other races ‘not count’ as games where the hero is black? Does the developer have to make the character exclusively black without giving you the choice of not being black in order for it to matter that you can play through the entire game with a black character? Is the only way to achieve racial progress in games to eliminate racial choice in the character you control just as effectively as if the character was white-end-of-story? Or is there some sort of specific content that has to go along with a black character that isn’t present in games where the dialogue and plot don’t change whether you choose to be black or not? I really don’t understand.

  131. 131 Kelsipher

    Barret isn’t a dumb ass cuz he’s black. he’s a dumb ass cuz he’s a big muscle head. All brawn no brain.

  132. 132 Guy

    Don’t forget Fortune from Metal Gear Solid or Cole from Gears of War.

  133. 133 Shadowcaster

    Considering how many white main characters are stupid fucktards that just make you want to facepalm… do you really want to belong to that group? ;)
    Also consider RPGs that let you create a black (or asian) main character. Star Wars: KotOR jumps to my mind.
    Still, nice list.

  134. 134 art_zombie

    … Most characters like Jade and Torque from the Suffering are made to do exactly what everyone here is doing, drawing at straws. The developers in the Suffering (in the bonus movies) make a point of saying ‘We wanted Torque to represent the every man, so he really doesn’t look like he could be just one race.’ The same thing seems to apply here for Jade as well. Also, a lot of games that don’t feature a prominent singular, linear storyline tend to do one of two things. A) They allow the character complete customization of their character’s appearance. B) They never reveal what the character (pilot, racer, etc) looks like outside of a ship, helmet, etc.

    So while most narrative driven, linear games star a character who may not be black as a ‘must play’ but a lot of games out there where you can really picture yourself as the main protagonist (because for all intensive purposes the identity is a reflection of your choice) allow you to do so. I guess I’m a little sorry that you feel underrepresented, but it could be worse. You could be Russian. Or Middle Eastern. Those guys always get the bottom end of the video game stereotype barrel.

    I’m also a little pissed that you took the Streets of Rage series off. And people tend to judge Barrett very harshly. Besides his ranting, look at his positive traits; he’s a single father who fights for a better world for his daughter even though he’s not related to her by blood. He’s also closer and more committed to his family than most of the other characters are (Cid’s obvious a bigger asshole than Barrett by a long shot).

  135. 135 this is dumb

    Here’s some c64 games with black leads.

    Daily Thompsons Olympic Challenge
    Beverly Hills Cop
    Daley Thompson’s Super Test
    Street Beat

    I’d also add Battlefield 2 as two of the classes are black, so if you want to be Assault or Support you have to be black.

  136. 136 How dare you?

    How could you forget Raven from Tekken 5? He is as far from the black stereotype as much as possible. I mean a black ninja? Be serious. He is in fact my favourite character due to his speed, strength, and dexterity.

  137. 137 B

    If you ever wish to update the list Cole from Gears of War is Black.

  138. 138 Juggalo3000

    you forgot Tanya from Mortal Kombat, dude, do your research before posting plz

  139. 139 Tom W

    I’m not really sure what the deal is. I understand there are limited black characters, but in reality, race shouldnt be a problem. By saying more black characters need to be made it’s only keeping the racial divide open. Yes, I know its naive to think that the racial problems in the world will disappear any time soon, but whining that blacks arent put into video games will only make it worse (I strongly believe this)

    Its like when I got into the race/gaming debate with a few classmates who were ticked that in Turok, you are an Indian who uses a bow and arrow to hunt animals… and wear tribal gear. Ok. Yes. Thats true. Point? Turok is a GAME. And there ARE pictures of native americans wearing head gear and the like. They built him to “resemble the everyman indian” so to speak. Sure it wasnt totally historically accurate (he fights Dinosaurs, come on)… What I asked them was do they expect a game like Turok to have the main character dressed in a business suit and tie carrying a briefcase? No.

    Make characters to fit the games story. And heck, if you want a black main character, go for it. I’ll play it and if the game is good, I’ll love it. Sure, Shaq Fu might sound racist, but heck, Shaq gave them the OK to make the game didnt he? Heck, with the lame synopsis, I wouldnt doubt it HE made the story(not a black joke, a joke at his not being a game designer)

    I’ll never check back at this site more than likely… But maybe I will… I just dont see why i comes as so shocking and terrible… it really shouldnt matter… and anyway, we;ve come a long way stereotype-wise since the days of NES games…

    Regardless, you can say the generalized, stereotypical thing about many characters who are white or non american. Mario/italian/plumber/likes pasta etc. the First GTA3 and ALL its various generalizations. All Final Fantasy games having the white characters save the world like IRL. (Im so kidding about that last one)

    But really… I dont see the big deal in pointing it out. After reading this should we go and recruit blacks to go into the gaming industry?

  140. 140 Tom W

    “And people tend to judge Barrett very harshly. Besides his ranting, look at his positive traits; he’s a single father who fights for a better world for his daughter even though he’s not related to her by blood. He’s also closer and more committed to his family than most of the other characters are (Cid’s obvious a bigger asshole than Barrett by a long shot).” – art zombie

    exactly. what a lot of what I was trying to say (which probably didnt come out right, its late..sorry) is that it seems to be if you look for the bad (stereotypes/racism/etc) You will only see that. But look what you missed in the case of barrett…. think about it.

    I, too, am sorry you feel underrepresented, but I really dont see it as a world threatening, or even a slight, problem…. just… something that is how it is because those making each individual game chose what they did…

  141. 141 Tom W

    “Don’t forget Fortune from Metal Gear Solid or Cole from Gears of War.”
    SIGINT in MGS was not a playable, but he had some good stuff on him. Since it was during the 60’s racism was high, and yet he still manages to team up with foxhound and provide Snake with all that weapon/gadget info via the radio… or can we now say that sigint only knew about guns cuz he was from duh hood?

  142. 142 Tom W

    sorry, one last posts, i posted on the other links as well, but i wanted to close with what I said on another…

    “anyway, its just getting later and im sure i sound racist as all heck, please, dont take it this way, im just brainstorming by writing… i hope you take this all as a way to continue brainstorming yourselves…. :) g’night”

  143. 143 Punta

    “This is just silly… There are black people making video games but they don’t find it “racist” if they don’t put a black player in a game.

    Some people have just gone beyond that, but apparently this article is here to show that the author hasn’t.”

    I’d like to meet these “black people making video games” who think being under represented is just peachy keen.

  144. 144 Doc Strange: The Legend of M.E.T.R.O.Y.D.

    What about the black jedi’s in the star wars universe-Jolee Bindu and Mace Windu, although they are not the main characters they serve a substantial role in the games development and outcome. Also Vin Diesel’s infamous “The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher’s Bay”

  145. 145 Muslimah

    I got one for you. Its new and it will not be released for another two weeks. It’s called sandstorm. Based off the comic book. It stars an egytian princess named Anumari. She is black and beautiful and she will be a mobile must have! After its mobile release you will be seeing a console version for it the following year or so. Check out the book and the game:

  146. 146 Aunk

    This is an interesting project. The next question is, how many of these AAA’s are cast in a Culturally Healthy context?

    I gave the story a digg and seeded it on newsvine.

  147. 147 Walter D. Wormack

    I realize I’m coming to the party really, really, REALLY late. But it seems to me that the pachyderm in the room that everyone is trying to ignore is that game developers only make these programs for their ‘Golden Demographic’ i.e. WHITE MALES.

    Everyone else’s participation is pretty much taken for granted. It’s pretty much the developers attitude that those of us who are not part of the ‘Golden Demographic’ i.e. WHITE MALES, can take it, or leave it.

    The gaming industry makes money hand over fist because their products sell. And as long as they do nothing will change.

  148. 148 Kratos

    Kratos character was supposed to be some african with dreadlocks but they changed it to a greek guy because its much cooler to be a greek guy in ancient greece then some black guy fighting in the jungle, problem is they left all his black features and his voice from the african which messes up the character, they should have just made him like somone from 300 the game would have been 10000x better

  149. 149 moumi

    i remember playing these in the late 90s , then and now atleast 3 of chracters in the list didn’t strike me as black ( i know a few blacks argue that their grand dad had a similar european look ). But for real though, why is that that many of these characters are just Tar brushed europeans .

  150. 150 KBeezy

    Until the Japanese start seeing dark skinned people as more than african or black American stereotypes, we won’t see more black characters (at least more positive ones) playable in future videogames. Does Roadblock in any of the GI Joe games count? lol

  151. 151 Invertedzero

    Whoever listed Alyx off Half Life 2, i understand why you did, but she’s mixed-‘race’. Isn’t that clear? The reason i say this is because shes the only mixed race(black) video game character I can actually think of, and so deserves to stand seperately, else we have none.

  152. 152 Greg

    I’m a little surprised that there’s all this discussion on a year old post, and not ONE has mentioned the indie gem, Lyle in Cube Sector. But I suppose indie games don’t count for as much as mainstream drek.

  153. 153 Mik

    In the puzzle game “I have no mouth and I must scream”, if I remember rightly, the black girl is the smartest and joint most blameless of the playable characters (you have to play through all their stories to win, so she counts, I think). She’s also the only one whose consciousness survives to the end, and the one who lands the final blow on the evil computer system(s).

  154. 154 Josh

    One things for sure, theres a lot more black protagonists than there are Asian, why aren’t people complaining about that?

  155. 155 Ozone

    Dont all Egyptians count as African?

  156. 156 Twin Tiger

    I remember reading an article with Koji Igarashi, the head creator on the Castlevania series. He mentioned that he loved the character of Blade portrayed by Wesley Snipes and wanted to do a Castlevania game with a similar character. I was hyped to read that! However, a few years and a few Castlevanias later… we still haven’t seen that character. Too bad, I would’ve bought that game on day one.

  157. 157 baptist

    50 Cent did a game..

  158. 158 aqua

    Christie from tekken is Afro-brazillan and no she is not latina if ya don;t belive me look at her grandpa is her tekken 5 ending an d on top of that she based of of tyra banks!

  159. 159 LDT

    there is a black guy in this game for ps1 and its sequal for ps2 but i cant think of the name all i remember was he had a skull on his chest i think,and it bugs the hell out of me that i cant think of the games name. but i think he was a witch docter or somthing,he was bald an had sun glasses help me out with this someone!!!

  160. 160 Shazam

    Jade is obviously Asian. She looks Asian, uses a j? staff, has mysterious magical powers, hangs around with creepy humanoid-animal hybrids, and has a tendency to photograph everything.

  161. 161 BritishMiracle

    heres a few that havent been mentioned:

    50cent – blood on the sand (not out yet)

    m.c kids, the macdonalds game for the nes had a black kid in it
    there was a white kid too but if you wanted to play 2player
    you had to use both of them

    men in black starred will smith, not sure if u could switch
    2 tommy lee jones i cant remember

    def jam icon, this beat em up casts mainly all black players
    but i think u can make ure own player,… not sure

    ready to rumble boxing has afro thunder and alltho hes not a must play character he was featured on the box cover and was definatly the reason to buy that game he was so cool,…

    hope this helps. over.

  162. 162 BritishMiracle

    oh and LDT, ure probably thinking of shadowman,…
    its been mentioned and dismissed, i was gonna say it too.

  163. 163 Quigley

    There was a black female “Lara Croft” type character in a game I came across years ago but I don’t remember what it was called.

  164. 164 Mary Baker

    Thanks for being an inspiration! My grandson’s goal is to design video games and this website is great reading for other memebers of our family don’t understand his dream. Your art is visually exciting and makes I a grandma want to play games.

  165. 165 Urbn1nja

    Yo Dude. I totally agree with you there man. There should really be more focus on black people in games. I have another game series for the list if it counts the Def Jam Vendetta series…

  166. 166 Daryl

    The mortal kombat developers i have to give a thumbs up becuz they have a lot of diversity in there games. What game as 2 BLACK FEMALE FIGHTERS! Not 1 but 2! Lol they have Tanya, Jade, Jax, Darrius, Kai, and Cyrax.

    I know u said that ur not going by fighting games.. but thats like the only games i can think of that has black females in it.

    So pretty much a list of black female characters:

    Tanya (MK)
    Jade (MK)
    Vanessa Lewis (Virtua fighter)
    Grace (Fighting vipers)
    Storm (most x-men titles)
    Christie Montiero (Tekken)
    Elena (street fighter 3)

    I guess a new title that has a black female lead now is Resident Evil 5 Sheva. She is controlled by the 2nd player.

  167. 167 tommy

    did you forget storm in that spiderman and the x-men game for snes ? :)

  168. 168 Godheval

    Hey Daryl,

    Vanessa Lewis from VF actually presents an interesting study in whitewashing. She WAS of some visible African descent in her original incarnation, but sometime afterwards – I think in VF5, she was transformed completely. Not only did they bleach her skin and thin out her lips, but they even changed her body type. If you remember, Vanessa had quite the set of hips on her. Now she’s been slimmed down to a more generic – i.e. “white” – body type. Look at the image below.

    So, while she may have counted originally, she doesn’t anymore. And she highlights the problem with the lack of black female representation in games.

    As for Sheva from RE5, don’t even get me started on her. Aside from vaguely “Africanesque” features, there is nothing about her that is “black”. And it is not lost on me that the “good African” is light-skinned while the “evil” ones are dark.

  169. 169 kejaris

    Birde from Street Fighter games chamges from a white guy to a black guy by the time he’s in Street Fighter ALPHA. And Jade from Mortal Kombat changes 3 races, Dark-skinned black in MK3, Asian in the second MK movie, and Latina in MK Armageddon! What’s up with that?

  170. 170 Godheval

    Sounds like Jade from MK has an identity crisis! But really, that’s just what happens when you have too many hands in the pot. You see the same kind of thing with comic book characters.

    Getting back to Jade from BG&E, I’m going to have to disagree with Jason on counting her amongst the first 11, for reasons I discuss here:

    Thanks for the inspiration to write that, Jason.

  171. 171 Godheval

    By the way, you forgot:

    Hugo from Suikoden III.

    Apparently his ethnic inspiration is debatable, since he’s done in an anime style, and because characters with dark skin and light hair are common enough in that medium. A friend of mine plainly denied that Hugo was of any African ethnicity.

    But I say he is – and moreso than Jade – because of his clearly Africanesque clothing, the hunter-gatherer culture of his tribe, that he’s even IN a tribe, and…most importantly, the look of his mother.

    Since the release of the game, there has been a Suikoden manga, the artist of which has seen fit to eliminate any suggestions that Hugo is anything less than full-on Aryan:

    Much like what happened to Vanessa Lewis from Virtua Fighter… Gross.

  172. 172 Free Online Games

    You missed a game with a Black lead character…Bad Day L.A. in which you play a homeless Black guy that most save L.A form zombies

    reading the comments it seems that many people missed the point that this list is only for Black characters that are the main character in the game. listing the fact that their are token characters in fighting games doesn’t count.

    @rmo rmo, Mike Tyson punchout doesn’t count because you don’t play mike you play a white guy.

  173. 173 Matt

    Ohhh, Moonwalker is hard to beat, but FIFA International Soccer came out in 1993 and that must be the first game with the most black characters on screen at any one time !!!!

  174. 174 Dann

    Darci Stern Urban Chaos, She was a good cop

  175. 175 Dan

    Don’t you play a black guy in The Suffering? Left 4 Dead 2 has a few black characters too

  176. 176 SAM

    What about Dr. J from One on One?
    a 1983 computer basketball game for the early era of home computers. It was developed by Eric Hammond and published by Electronic Arts (EA) and Ariolasoft in Europe.

  177. 177 Gary K Martin

    There’s one I noticed you missed: The Suffering.
    The Character: Torque.
    Although the first installment they left the main character’s ethnicity as ambiguous as possible (making him more of a neanderthal), they did imply that he was black in the beginning (a picture of his black wife and two black sons, and a black man on death row telling the story about how the protagonist “shived (stabbed) half the aryan brotherhood over at Eastern [correctional facility]”.

    It isn’t until the second installment, Ties That Bind. That the game openly admits that Torque was in fact, black.

    The storyline was somewhat interactive with moral challenges along the way that not only determined the outcome of the ending, but the psychotic powers you apparently posess. I will not ruin the game for you, it is very good, it’s a horror-action game for the XBOX, PS2, and PC. Check it out!

  178. 178 Arthur P Miller

    I believe there are some more black characters you are missing but none the less you are right. The same for movies and every other race in all forms of media.

    One game you forgot to mention was BREAKDOWN for XBOX 360. A sequel is coming out but incidentally they made the character masked and white. Figures.

  179. 179 Arthur P Miller



  180. 180 visitor

    you forgot SHADOW MAN!!

  181. 181 Jizahl

    Don’t forget T.J. Combo from Killer Instinct

  182. 182 Unknown

    In all honesty, the stereo type from music, movies, and other forms of entertainment carry over all accross the world.

    R&B is considered “Black Music” in so many other countries.

    Rap is considered to be a creation of Blacks as well, even though way back before it was called rap, it was called stand-up poetry played to interpretive jazz-styled background music.

    Talking with a certain type of slang, whether you are White or Black means you’re “talking black”.

    The truth is, in testable theory, the only attention getters that are portrayed across the mostly viewed media are the ones we actually see. A loud creaky door hinge is all we pay attention to, not the sound of the lock turning, or the handle being engaged.

    My point is that, like how when we think of a door opening as just the creaking sound and not all the other sounds that go with an opening door, we think of black people as just the ghetto personalities and not all the other personalities that make up the group of black people.

    There are Blacks who hate the stereo type and would love nothing more than to be viewed as “classy” instead of “acting White”, the same way there are Whites who would love to be considered as “Being Ghetto” instead of considered “acting Black”.

    Colin Powell does not act “White”. He acts “like a Politician”.

    Cowboy Troy doesn’t act like a “Redneck”. He acts like a “Cowboy”

    Marshall Mather doesn’t act like a “negro”. He acts like “an up and coming Rapper”.

    Perspective shift is necessary before you will see any change in things. The world is not “White Washed” as some would say, its really just dominated by classifications that seem prevalent due to what anyone is able to see by turning on the Television, Radio, or Internet.

    This world lacks justice when it comes to these little niches and stereo types. It’s thinking patterns in general are mostly controlled by the Generation just after the end of the “Slavery in America” stage.

    Once that Generation passes by, and the various races around the world begin to forget that vile period in time and move on to bigger and better things, even the video game industry will begin changing, and becoming more diverse.

    I play League of Legends. There are no Blacks in that video game, however, its ok because there really is no racial distinction on another planet in another ideological universe. Even the Ninjas and Tribals are the same skin color as all the other Champions.

  183. 183 k


  184. 184 sims796

    A few comments are irritating. To the point, the “non issue” posts are just asinine. Of course it is an issue, it will always be one. You will never understand, as your race will always be represented. There is nothing bad about it, but it seems ignorant.

    Honestly, this is not something that should be ignored. When I play a game, I play a game where I am not represented. Does that mean it should be forced? No. However, you get to play a game that shares your face, that looks like you. You get to connect more with the character. You may say that you don’t care about race, but you have that option. You don’t have to feel like you’re living as part of a “white world”.

    It is as xephoid said. You may say it isn’t a problem, but you don’t live his world (and no, a short story about how you two “are not so different” because you have “experienced” racism worst that most doesn’t count). His story captured how I felt for quite some time. You say that it doesn’t matter, but you never have to feel different everywhere you go. I walk outside, and everyone’s white. I watch TV, everyone’s white (cept that terrible network, BET), I play games, the leads are always white. You will never have to feel ‘out of your element’, as it is always there. Sure, you may have a short feeling about how that is, but imagine that we feel that way everyday.

    BTW, there is nothing wrong with being white. At all. You are not ‘the devil’, and it is wonderful that you see past the race. But that doens’t mean that it doesn’t exist, which is what many of the ‘naysayers’ on this article seem to feel.

  185. 185 Nini

    Why does no one ever remember Kiros from FF8(who looks, to me, like an islander of some vague African decent)? Aside from the fact that FF8 sucked all kinds of?

    But this is an issue I understand and am also apathetic to a point of. On one hand, I never really paid much mind to race when I played a game…. not really anyway, most of my ilk came from ‘wth is this, why couldn’t this have been a woman lead?’. But, on the other hand, I know and experience how damaging stereotypes can be. For example, when I meet someone I often note some of their auto mental responses. First it’s ‘oh gosh, it’s a black person’, then they notice I am a girl(I’m kind of boyish looking) and go ‘oh snap, it’s a black woman… this is potentially bad because she will Z snap me to the next world and must be Sassy’, then I open my mouth and speak and I can practically see them relax. It’s amazing. Those few reactions come from stereotypes from media. Media means tv, movies, books, and yes video games. If every other black character was a gun toting nut and ‘talked like dis, foo!’, and was a charming buffoon, I promise you that image will stick in some manner. Like when you see a group of black kids you think ‘gangs?’ or ‘up to no good’. I’ll admit I’ve even caught myself thinking it before I caught myself which is pretty darn sad, but that’s the power of the stereotype. To be fair everyone gets stereotyped(Caucasian man is the Everyman that every human is meant to relate to, Asians are either the hot exotic or smart ones, Hispanics I’m sorry to say in most games seem like the other half of Sassy, and women are Boobs or nags).

    And that’s why I’m sort of happy for this article. It’s necessary to see everyone, and not just Africans, more frequently out of their roles and or taking up roles as leads. The more we see that the perspective of the main character is essentially the same regardless of nationality, gender, or race the less we’ll mentally associate someone who is not a Caucasian male as ‘other’ or ‘other and it has breasts, too’.

  186. 186 miaalien

    M BISON IS BLACK! Duuhhh & so is Zalasmel, Skate was black in streets of rage

  187. 187 Black Gamers

    Lol – Mike Tyson Punch Out was a video game i remember well. I can still hear the sound effects. Still don’t think Moonwalker gets enough credit :)


  188. 188 isaiah

    like anything else in this society gears the heros to be prodomently white video games included . or you have a secondary role in the game that’s not important of the outcome of the gamne .
    truth be told we still have this stigma of black participation and actual contribution to anything that means success in this world . i myself am so tired of seeing the same innate racist bigotry running rampid in this society , as mundane as a video game they still implement thier racist bigotry and that’s ashame. except it be about drugs and whores , shootem up violent games where do you find a significant balck hero in video games ?? no where to be found . reason i’m so tired of these racist writers and developers of video games reason i’m in college now at 60 years old in graphic design and gaming to bring a new venue to video games not just black heroes but indian, hispanics , chineese , jewish , etc. tired of the same old faces as heroes being just white men and women , aren’t you ?? hell we have our first black president doesn’t that say something about historical change in this society founded on racist bigotry ??
    when i graduate i will and don’t get it wrong develope games for all cultures and races so that all children see its not just white people that can be heroes in a video game , and not just cheap corny video games either that don’t sell, but actual main stream games for everyone to enjoy whites as well time to bridge this racist gap bring in new minds and creativity to the video game industry !!like spike lee did to the movie industry and tyler perry !! you go boys !!

  189. 189 flux

    Portal. You play as a black chick in Portal, one of the best video games ever made. How has this not been mentioned yet.

  190. 190 Micaiah

    Jade is clearly asian

  191. 191 Diablo

    Carl Johnson looks a bit lost, like his face is missing or something. Haha, old school graphics are always funny to look at. Wonder where we will be a in a few years.

  192. 192 Bogle

    Hi. If you want a valid list and people to follow by your requested criteria (main character, not an optional character), then please be consistent as well. I certainly appreciate your desire to “have Jade around” as she is well and truly awesome, but I think you’re aware she’s not black and yet are leaving her here anyway. I’m pretty sure that means anyone can say anything valid or not. The appearance of Jade is actually based on a French voice actress who is close to Michael Ancel (who created the game and Jade). He has stated that Jade is based on her. If you want to have a good list, just please make obvious corrections. You actually have a woman at the top of this supposed “all black” list who is indisputably not black. This destroys the authenticity of your list to say the least. I think you’re just keeping here there to get additional comments, but whatever…your page. I’m not concerned with what she is…she’s awesome regardless cuz she’s awesome, but a square is still a square and a triangle a triangle and so on. Let’s not get stupid. It’s kind of fun when something is disputed to undeniably prove something but, without further delay…here you go kids…the French voice actress Emma De Caunes and personal friend of Michael Ancel. Jade in flesh.

  1. 1 cookkie basic » The First 11 Black Videogame Stars
  2. 2 Infinite Lives » Is Jade, hero of Beyond Good and Evil, black?
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  5. 5 Raw Vegan Momma » Beyond Good & Evil
  6. 6 79soul » Blog Archive » What Can We Do About Video Games…
  7. 7 Pro Game News » Jade is Latina, Asian, Black … who knows?
  8. 8 Asides #47 |
  9. 9 Confessions of a GTA Virgin: San Andreas · Cheat Grabber News
  10. 10 Resident Evil 5 and Race in Games « The Theory of Gaming
  11. 11 Why is racial belonging for game protagonists so one-sided? at That VideoGame Blog
  12. 12 Why is racial belonging for game protagonists so one-sided?| Ultimate Gaming Blog | Complete Coverage of Game News, Reviews, Updates|
  13. 13 Race & Video Games Update - Animal Crossing and Black College Football at Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture
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  16. 16 » Blog Archive » Black, White, and Jade: Race in Video Games
  17. 17 Black, White, and Jade: Race in Video Games

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