Video games are a means of pure escapism, but that doesn’t mean that disabled people shouldn’t be represented too. Here’s some of our favourite video game characters who just happen to be both bad-ass and disabled.
By Katie Campbell
Wolf (Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice)
The latest game from the creators of the multi-award-winning Dark Souls series sees FromSoftware tells the story of Wolf, a deadly and stealthy shinobi who, early in the game, loses his left arm during an attempt to save his master, a young Prince named Kuro who possesses the power to grant immortality. Wolf meets the Sculptor, who provides him with a prosthetic which can be upgraded with an assortment of weaponry to aid him in his quest to fulfill his vow to his young master Kuro, and his ultimate goal of exacting bloody revenge on his arch-nemesis.
Stephen (Shin Megami Tensei)
Eagle-eyed readers may notice some similarity between Stephen and the late Professor Hawking, and the homage is intentional. While he’s not a main character in the beloved series of Japanese role-playing games, Stephen sets the entire Shin Megami Tensei series in motion. He’s the coder behind the Terminal System, which allows the main character to summon demons, who assist them in fighting through post-apocalyptic Tokyo. Stephen appears in almost all of the main video games in the series in a supporting role, taking on a much more important role in Shin Megami Tensei IV where he appears often to help the protagonist.
Senua (Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice)
While many video games deal with mental illness and auditory hallucinations, not one does it as well or as accurately as Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. The game follows Senua, a Pict from Orkney as she travels through the Norse interpretation of Hell to bring back her lover, Dillon. As she journeys, her struggle with psychosis, which manifests as voices in her head, taunts her and tries to lead her astray. Developers Ninja Theory worked extremely closely with Wellcome Trust and a number of leading scholars on psychosis to ensure their portrayal of mental illness was both accurate and not problematic.
Dunban (Xenoblade Chronicles)
Xenoblade Chronicles’ main character Shulk is the man most associated with the Monado, the bright red sword which is said to be the only thing that can protect his world from the Mechon, the race of mechanical beings which threaten it, but before it was his, it was used effectively by Dunban. Unfortunately, as a consequence of using the Monado, he lost the use of his right arm. Dunban doesn’t let this subdue him, and accompanies Shulk on his quest to defeat the Mechon that terrorise their home, acting as both a vital partner in battle and a sound voice of reason throughout the game.
Barret Wallace (Final Fantasy VII)
For many children of the 90s, playing Square Enix’s smash hit Final Fantasy VII was the first time they would have encountered a disabled protagonist in a video game. Barret is the leader of the eco-terrorist resistance group who are trying to prevent the malevolent Shinra Electric Power Company from draining their planet Gaia of its energy. After an accident where he lost his hand, Barret replaced it with a Gatling gun, which the player can swap out for a number of things, including a bazooka and a ray gun. That’s one prosthetic you won’t find offered by the NHS.
Kenshi Takahashi (Mortal Kombat)
Kenshi is one for the more mature gamers: introduced in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, the fifth game in the controversial series. The reason for Kenshi losing his sight changes between games, but his status as a deadly ronin – a wandering samurai without a master – stays intact. Kenshi relies on his ultra-honed sense of hearing during battle to stay on top of his opponents, and his blindness occasionally offers him a slight advantage over other characters: those who have moves that attack the eyes find them totally useless when used on Kenshi.
This article was originally printed in the June/July 2019 issue of PosAbility Magazine.