If there’s one thing that’s been established in a video game, it’s that you can rarely succeed without donning a full-bodied, hi-tech armored suit of some kind. Sometimes these very suits define the character; they are such iconic symbols that one immediately knows the game that they are from. In even rarer cases, the entire suit is ALL you know of the character, covering every inch of their body in every single game they’ve been featured. No face to put to the name, just an image of one badass suit.
#10: Kain’s Dragoon Armor (Final Fantasy IV)
We start out with the oldest name on the list. In fact, he is one of the reasons I was inspired to create this list, given that his featured game has just recently received a remake on the Nintendo DS to raving reviews. The legendary Dragoon Kain is an icon of Final Fantasy IV, and is often a contender for best Final Fantasy hero. For any fan of the series, the mere sight of this iconic armor evokes a sense of awe from this powerful warrior.
#9: Valiant Mail (Radiata Stories)
Possibly the least acclaimed game on this list, Radiata Stories is a light-hearted and quirky RPG and remains a mainstay in my favorites in the genre. The main character, an outspoken and often-naive Jack Russell, bears the weight of various armored suits throughout the game, all of which are unique and remarkable looking, but none more so than the game’s version of “ultimate” armor – the Valiant Mail.
Inspired by the armor of famed video game heroine Lenneth Valkyrie, of Valkyrie Profile (who makes her own appearance in this game as an optional boss and recruitable character), the Valiant Mail is easily the most breathtaking and powerful piece of armor in Radiata Stories.
#8: Zero’s Armor (Mega Man X)
Not quite as popular as his blue-suited “brother,” Zero is the Dante of the Mega Man series. He’s the rebellious and independent robot of the bunch. But in being so, he also has the best looking armor in the entire franchise, especially the listed one above, first featured in Zero’s debut game, Mega Man X.
The character is itself a complete contrast of the iconic Mega Man, not just in color, but in combat style. While X features long-range projectiles, Zero fights with his concentrated Z-Saber at close-range. He not only kicks ass and takes names, he does it in style.
#7: Octocamo (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)
The newest entry to the list, but one of gaming’s oldest legends (pun intended). The Octocamo is an extension of Snake’s earlier sneaking suit; however, with the aid of nanotechnology, the suit, as its name implies, contains near-instant camouflage technology. Merely pressing your body up against any surface blends the suit directly into the environment, allowing Snake almost limitless freedom of movement on the battlefield.
#6: Big Daddy Armor (BioShock)
The only featured name on the list to not be a playable character, the Big Daddy is easily BioShock’s most recognizable character – and rightfully so. One look at this overbearing monstrosity and anyone would be terrified (well, anyone except the Little Sisters…).
The steel-plated frame of this beast gives him near-vulnerability to most weapons, and the massive drill on his right hand makes him a true force to be reckoned with. Couple this with his unusual and eerily protective-nature of the Little Sisters and you have one awesome – and awesome looking – creation.
#5: Gears (Gears of War)
Alien invasion? Check. Chainsaw bayonets? Check. Huge, burly men wearing even bigger suits of armor? Checkcheckcheckcheck. Gears of War was a violent romp into a futuristic, yet devastated world of dismemberment, foul language and chainsaw-buzzing.
But what’s even more interesting is how the hell those guys are able to run around in armor THAT big. Seriously. You could fit three normal people in one of those. What was Epic thinking? Apparently, they were thinking, “Let’s give them some epic armor.” And you know what? They damn sure did.
#4: Nanosuit (Crysis)
Going further with the nanotechnology touched upon with the Octocamo, Crysis’ own variant of a nanosuit features a much more futuristic approach. This hi-tech suit has the ability to increase movement speed and strength nearly threefold, as well as the ability to reduce damage received from any kind of weapon and render the user completely invisible for a short period of time.
This kind of suit in the wrong hands would definitely be a deadly weapon; fortunately, the guys at Crytek were one step ahead of the game. Each nanosuit comes equipped with a self-vaporizer which can be initiated by any of the squad members. Want to get rid of a body and nanosuit so the enemies don’t get their hands on it? Vaporize away!
#3: MJOLNIR Mark V (Halo)
Another iconic figure in video game, a relative newcomer to the medium and yet still one of the industry’s most well known figures. Master Chief, like the Big Daddy and Nomad of Crysis, is a character whose face you never see. Regardless of that, however, simply laying ones eyes upon the Mark V Armor is more than enough to know what game it’s from.
It’s one of the most recognizable symbols from any game, and is literally the image of the franchise’s legendary hero, Master Chief.
#2: Varia Suit (Metroid)
Arguably gaming’s most famous female protagonist (possibly besides Lara Croft, though that’s to be debated elsewhere), Samus Aran is rarely seen without her armor. If and only when one completes any of her games does she treat the player to a vision of beauty that lies beneath the heavy suit.
Samus has been featured wearing a large variety of different armor throughout her masterpiece of a franchise; from the listed Varia Suit in a majority of the titles, to the Fusion Suit, and the various enhanced armors throughout the games such as the Phazon Suit and the Zero Suit (a more revealing, completely helmet-less bodysuit).
However, no matter how many new suits Samus wears, there are none more recognizable and important than the Varia Suit.
#1: HEV Suit (Half-Life)
The silent protagonist that is Gordon “The Free Man” Freeman and his trusty HEV suit received the number one spot on this list. Why? Because unlike the others featured, it is NOT a hi-tech suit with nanotechnology; it is NOT massive cast of armor that’ll deflect rockets and any other kind of explosive projectile; it is NOT a legendary piece of armor or a robotic body. It is simply a Hazard Suit – and simply is the key word.
Gordon Freeman is a scientist. Seeing him in anything that looked remotely futuristic would be even more absurd than the actual plot of Half-Life. So, Valve decides to give him a standard-procedure Hazard suit, similar to ones that real-life scientists wear.
Sure, the game features armor and health stations to replenish the respective points, but if it didn’t, it would be a freaking hard game. However, it’s in the design of the HEV suit that makes it stand out above the rest. And that is why it deserves the number one spot on this list.
There you have it. We’ve seen robots, we’ve seen space marines, we’ve seen underwater-monsters, and we’ve seen scientists. Each are vastly different, but all of them have that one thing in common – they all wear protective suits. Some are more absurd than the others, and even fewer are the ones that seem remotely logical by real-life standards. If there’s one thing that can be learned from this list, it’s that no matter the age, no matter the game, from now until the end of time, we can look forward to more burly protagonists, more armor-clad bounty hunters, and more old men in sneaking suits.