Gaming’s heroes tend to be the least patriotic characters. 

The hero is usually the type that bucks tradition – that says “no” to law and order and “yes” to self-sufficient, independent bad-assery. Even many of the more patriotic characters end up having a complex relationship with the nation/Empire they so fervently love, whether they’re a Master Chief or a Solid Snake. 

There are a ton of religious zealots, priests, paladins, and gods, but those who worship nations are few and far between. So, come this Fourth of July, who are the true patriots of gaming that we can celebrate? Well, this list attempts to answer that question by looking beyond the typical protagonist, and instead finding the real defenders of nations and peoples: the true patriots of gaming.

Super Mario’s “Toad”

A really good picture of Toad.

That’s right, this colorful mushroom friend is arguably the Mushroom Kingdom’s most fervent loyalist. Toad takes on many roles in service of the Mushroom Kingdom: he attended to royalty, travelled, planned parties, ran kitchens, assisted Mario on almost all of his adventures from guiding him throughout his journey, to fighting by his side — all in service of the Mushroom Kingdom. And let’s not pretend watching Mario eat mushrooms that look more or less exactly like Toad doesn’t require an impressive tolerance and fortitude.

The mushrooms in question.

The mushrooms in question.

Toad is the exact kind of patriot that deserves attention and rarely gets it — the worker who believes in the greater good and puts stake in things beyond his/her own self-interest. Let’s hear it for Toad, please. 

Kirby’s “Waddle Dee”

In the same vein as Toad, Waddle Dee is the thankless worker-bee in King DeDeDe’s Dream Land. Waddle Dees often just amble about Dreamland, doing their best to prevent Kirby from defeating DeDeDe. 

But in the process of defending DeDeDe’s Dreamland, Waddle Dees are swallowed, spit up, eaten, burned, zapped, punched, thwomped, frozen, and stabbed to death (plus more!). DeDeDe has been known to use them in battle, going so far as to hurl them at enemies, and Waddle Dees oblige with nary a complaint, or even a grimace. They are the eternal foot-soldiers of DeDeDe’s Kingdom, and they die gracefully for their lord. If that’s not patriotism, I don’t know what is. 

Final Fantasy XV’s “Hot Boys”

Look at these hot boys hanging out.

Look at these hot boys hanging out.

Most Final Fantasy characters are the rebels fighting against an empire. They are the original “rag-tag teens” that dominate JRPGs today, fighting the power more than they fight for the power. 

But that’s not true in the most recent installment in the main-series, Final Fantasy XV. Galdiolus, Ignis, and Prompto – these sultry, spry, boy-band-looking party members – love their country, and their best friend Prince Noctis. It seems like they’re all just hanging out, being bros, cruising in their car, taking photos, and cooking sweet meals, but they’re actually performing a patriotic duty for all of Lucis. 

These guys fight to death for their Prince, traveling all over the massive open-world, confronting fantastical, titanic enemies as well as enemy soldiers from the warlike continent of Nilfheim. This is true patriotism in the face of war, and in the face of certain destruction (later in the game) – why these guys don’t all have sexy soldier uniforms on is beyond me. 

Legacy of Kain’s “Kain”

Wait, Kain? The Kain from Legacy of Kain? That Kain? Yes, stop asking. 

While developer Silicon Knights was inspired by William Munny — the outlaw and killer from Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven — Kain’s motivations for his brutal actions are not just revenge, but to restore the Pillars of Nosgoth and rebuild his home. Kain is so driven by his desire to restore Nosgoth that he brushes aside his own inherent pessimism to build his empire. Kain is a different kind of patriot — a ruthless, obsessive one, but a lover of his home none-the-less, willing to literally die and come back as a vampire to restore it to its former glory. 

Legend of Zelda’s “Link”

Thankfully, we're missing the Link from the Zelda cartoon.

Thankfully, we’re missing the Link from the Zelda cartoon.

Now, hear me out. I don’t mean a single Link from one game, or just one of the many heroes from multiple games — the Hero of Time, or the Hero of Winds for example. What I mean is the entire lineage of Links

They have collectively spent at least a millennium defending Hyrule, even when it was underwater, or buried underground, and even after they’ve been . Where Mario clearly did everything for a Princess who he loved, Link lived and died for his Kingdom, only getting sidetracked in Majora’s Mask when he was stuck in a Groundhog Day hell. The lineage of Links have often left their own village in order to serve a greater purpose of defending a Kingdom they don’t even have a personal investment in. These are the greatest patriots in gaming. These Links are unquestioningly loyal to Zelda and Hyrule, traversing time, space, and, yes, going through puberty for his country.

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