The best-dressed video game characters of all time

The dust has settled after New York Fashion Week Spring ‘22. The fashion world has taken its notes, retreated into the cutting room, and adjusted its fits accordingly. Everywhere, style has changed just that little bit. Everywhere, of course, except video games.

No, in video games, it’s still the last word in sartorial elegance to pair a really, really massive pair of shoulder pads with a really, really massive pair of boots. If you’re a woman, put a few rips in a skintight bodice and that’s your outfit done, whereas men might opt for a pec-accentuating cuirass or a crew cut T-shirt with their military details printed on it. Failing that: trench coat.

But not everyone falls into these traps. A select few characters in video games demonstrate perfect poise and an aesthetic eye, dressing themselves better than most humans, and often managing to perform massacres and foil supervillains while they do it. Here are some of the best-dressed in gaming, arranged in no particular order (although obviously Agent 47 wins). 

You’ve been arrested by the LAPD and taken in for questioning. You sit in a sparse gray room, sucking down a cigarette to pass the time. Then the interrogating officer walks in. He’s wearing a Supreme t-shirt, some Japanese streetwear-inspired utility pants with more straps and buckles than a camping expo, Balenciagas and an Acne Studios beanie. You are not telling this man a single thing. 

Cole Phelps, on the other hand, a vision in tailored three-piece wool suits and all-business severity of expression, you spill the beans for. He might not make it onto many streetwear blogs, by L.A. Noire’s detective protagonist exudes authority, attention to detail and rigid conformity to the rules. He is, then, perfectly dressed. 

How we laughed at the pretentious face coverings at the time. What’s the matter, Marcus? Scared of catching cyber-cooties propagated by Big Brother? Don’t wanna miss a day’s hacking laid up with a cold? They all laughed at Christopher Columbus too, and the first person to willingly wear jorts. Fashion is about fearlessness and innovation as much as labels.

It’s not just the face mask that elevates Watch Dogs 2’s protagonist above the rabble, though. He’s clearly mastered layering, and while most of us wouldn’t think to pair a longline shirt with a pullover and bomber jacket, he’s turned that combo into a triumvirate of anti-authority sentiment. The buttons on his bag strap are a nice finishing touch that shows he cares as much about looking *checks notes* on fleek as he does taking down amoral corporations. 

YoRHa No.2 Type B – that’s 2B, to you and me – is part of a tradition of partially dressed female game characters that dates back to the earliest possible point at which an arrangement of pixels could be recognized as a boob. Some members of this tradition have become iconic, but despite her prominence, it’s hard to claim Lara Croft is especially stylish. 

2B’s garb is a slightly different matter. Drawing from Japanese Kawaii style, a little goth, and wearing a highly impractical blindfold which apparently serves as military goggles, she’s a mixture of titillation, stylistic flourish, and meta-commentary. She’s designed not just for combat (and according to her creators the short skirt is actually effective thermal venting) but also to appeal to 9S too. Without delving into spoilers too deeply, that works on a couple of levels, including as commentary on the male gaze in gaming. Oh, and her blindfold apparently symbolizes that she’s blind to the truth. So there’s more going on than catching the eye of teenage boys, which is nonetheless definitely still a factor. 

Unlike the other characters featured on this list, Chad Muska is a real, flesh and blood and skate wax, human being. He and the other pro skaters featured in the zeitgeist-defining Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series brought skate style to the masses during the nineties and noughties, and Muska always seemed to have a particularly thoughtful aesthetic eye in that regard. Clear shades, a backpack, caps at jaunty angles and the baggiest clothes – he was the effortlessly stylish rebel heartbreaker every suburban teenager wanted to be, and subsequently did a 4/10 job of impersonating until 2008.

Insert your personal favorite from the roster in here, of course – Kareem Campbell and Bob Burnquist also had impeccable ensembles, as did – well, everyone but the main man, mr all-business, ‘cover every joint in pads’ Tony Hawk himself.

Wearing clothes is the most important part of Agent 47’s job. In a very broad sense you might say that applies to anyone in the workplace – the HR department here has certainly impressed that principle on me during some of the hotter summers in the office. But when you stop to think about what he spends most of his time doing, it isn’t subtly pocketing emetic rat poison, heaving unconscious guards into wardrobes or discharging his firearm in a ‘screw it, I’ll go for Silent Assassin next playthrough’ frenzy. It’s putting on outfits.

Outfits are keys in Hitman. They permit entry to increasingly prohibited sections of a level, removing any suspicions anybody has about why this seven-foot bald man with a barcode tattoo and eyes like every serial killer doc on Netflix streaming at once who they’ve never seen before is suddenly their colleague now. He is a master of wearing it well – so much so that he even had his own turn on the catwalk during Hitman 2016’s Paris mission.

Hooo boy. How to even begin to explain this one. K/DA is a fictional band comprising League of Legends characters, whose performances come from real musicians, and whose music has a real fanbase. If Mark Zuckerberg thought he was introducing us to something new with that Metaverse video, he should have played a bit of LoL first.

Their style could be summed up as ‘sporty streetwear, animal ears, tails, and the color purple’ if you were looking to make a Pinterest board about it, but just as important as the actual band image is the concept itself – video game characters imitating the already confusing machinations of J-Pop and K-Pop and creating a musical entity with genuine popularity. It’s kind of genius, even though it makes me feel 5,000 years old writing about it.

This is more like it – a nice, simple, non-conceptually challenging entry. Thanks, Nico. The raven-haired French photojournalist has maintained impeccable dress sense across an entire long-running Broken Sword series, resisting any temptation to solve Templar mysteries in a boob tube as was de rigueur in the ‘90s and instead turning up in ensembles that exemplify Parisian street style over the years: clean lines, femininity and sophistication. Even as her friend and on-and-off boyfriend George experimented with undoing increasing numbers of shirt buttons, she kept it simple and chic. 

The EA of circa 2008 was such a different entity than it is now. In Mass Effect it found a new visual language for sci-fi, seeming to take inspiration from sportswear trends and curving off every available straight line to produce something instantly recognizable and Mass Effect-y. And Mirror’s Edge, without looking the least bit like the aforementioned space RPG, did the same thing.

Faith is a courier, counter-culture firebrand and parkour enthusiast. And you get that by looking at her – she’s dressed for all three jobs. She seems to have an awareness for contemporary streetwear that no other game leads did at the time, and her developers didn’t even crop her trousers off at the upper thigh for ‘thermal venting’ like Nier’s did.

We might just as easily have featured Lightning in here instead, with her Louis Vuitton crossover and that bold pink mullet. Unfortunately for her, the games she found herself fronting – or conspicuously absent from, in FFXIII 2’s case – weren’t the stuff of brilliantly forged memories. Now, Noctis – Noctis is something different.

He and his road-tripping buddies are carefully coordinated like a goth boy band, their ensembles speaking to numerous Japanese subculture styles within one car and the main man’s outfit looking pretty close to something you’d see in an affluent burgh where a matcha costs $22. Yes, his utility pants are cropped just below the knee, and yes it’s absolutely ridiculous to pair them with military boots that come up to about an inch below that, but otherwise he’s making an all-black layered outfit look impossibly sophisticated.

It takes a special kind of eye for clothing to pull together a look that’s equally ready to host a summit of foreign dignitaries and kick your ass. That’s what Nadine manages throughout Uncharted 4 – an understated dignity that speaks to her three-dimensional nature as an antagonist. She doesn’t need to turn up in a black cape and waggle her eyebrows at the camera. You understand her, you just disagree with her. Naughty Dog’s outfit picks lean into that – in more rugged environments she’s basically dressed like Drake, only with better deltoids and without a neck scarf from Camden market circa 2008.

Like Oliver Sykes or Dua Lipa, one suspects the ‘Mad dog of Shimano’ Goro Majima could wear anything and make it look sufficiently cool for you to empty your Asos online basket and start again from scratch. And we’re talking about a man who wears multiple animal prints at once, so that’s saying a lot.

He’s lean, shredded, all straight lines and contemptuously jutting cheekbones. His tattoos are both threatening and impressive. You could fire him out of a cannon into a Gap and he’d probably come out looking like a Fear of God ad. As it happens, the man’s preference is for a boa print snakeskin blazer, various leather garments and gold chains. On anyone else it might look like a disastrous attempt at Russell Brand cosplay, but we’re too scared of Majima to level such accusations at him.

It wasn’t long ago we relied on game developers to dress us in games, like virtual personal stylists. But with the rise of the season pass economy, and the line in the sand we drew about pay-to-win microtransactions, there’s been a laser focus on aesthetic customization in recent years, and nowhere is that more true than in Fortnite, where you can dress up as LeBron James, John Wick, or an indeterminate sea creature depending on your mood that given round.

Just as fashionistas often fixate over labels instead of looks and silhouettes, Fortnite players are all about skin rarity. Nobody would have cared about the John Wick skin if you didn’t need to be a level 100 back in the day to get it. Luxury fashion houses create scarcity with their price point, Fortnite does it by ensuring only the select players who are willing to destroy five buses in Greasy Grove every day for a week get to wear their most exclusive creations. It’s nightmarish and beautiful at the same time – again, a bit like the output of luxury fashion houses.

Written by Phil Iwaniuk on behalf of GLHF.






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