Winner: Noah (Xenoblade Chronicles 3)
The Xeno series has given us many fascinating and excellent protagonists, but I think Noah is the best one yet. Where others have personal drives that are understandable and relatable, Noah really is us. Or at least who we want to be. He sees the world the way we want to. He makes many of the same decisions we hope we would make. His gentle maturity, his empathy, and, in the end, his willingness to sacrifice what matters most to him is what we all aspire to be. Really, his quiet, often calm characterization reminds me of a “silent” protagonist in many ways, but Noah achieves what many of these characters want to achieve: relatability. It’s this brilliance about Noah that allows the thematic concerns of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 to shine through so well, and he’s more than worthy of winning this category.
by Zach Wilkerson
Runner-Up: Aloy (Horizon Forbidden West)
Aloy is special to me. She’s not the first strong female protagonist in an RPG, but she is the one that has meant the most to me ever since her debut in Horizon Zero Dawn. She’s smart, capable, determined, and she doesn’t suffer fools lightly. At the start of Horizon Forbidden West, Aloy’s been on her own for a while, but over the course of the game, she learns to let people in and share her burdens. It’s not easy for her, nor is it always easy to watch, but it is compelling and adds more layers to an already complex character. I can’t wait to see where the upcoming expansion, Burning Shores, will take this fantastic leading lady!
by Caitlin Argyros