Best Protagonist of 2016: Noctis, Final Fantasy XV
Noctis Lucis Caelum (Final Fantasy XV)
Best Protagonist of 2016

Best Protagonist of 2016: Noctis, Final Fantasy XVA small, all male cast for a mainline Final Fantasy game could be a tough sell for fans of the series' knack for wildly diverse playable characters. With four handsome boys with perfect hair as the only party members, it could be difficult for the game's writers to interestingly distinguish the characters. Noctis, the leader of the bro-trippers and prince-turned-king of the kingdom of Lucis, fits in with many of the angst-filled, father issue-suffering, anime-haired protagonists of the series, somewhere in between Cloud, Tidus, and Squall. But unlike all of the previous Final Fantasy protagonists, the player is forced to sit with Noctis for unprecedentedly long periods of time, whether in the car, on the train, or inside a mini-mart. Noctis' little jokes and comments, small things that grab his attention, are at the forefront of Final Fantasy XV's narrative. By the end of the game, the player feels close to Noctis, not necessarily as a hero, but as a person and friend. Final Fantasy XV downplays the Hamlet scenario it so majestically sets up and instead gives great weight to Noctis changing the radio station, Noctis pumping gas, or Noctis looking awkward in a selfie. When the game's climax occurs, it almost seems like an afterthought due to how at ease and comfortable the player has become with Noctis and his friends. Noctis won't go down as the most iconic Final Fantasy protagonist, nor the most beloved, but certainly the most real. In this way, he is unique to the series, and a treat for players. He challenges what traditionally makes Final Fantasy great, which pays off big time here.

Read our review of Final Fantasy XV

Henry (Firewatch)
Best Protagonist of 2016: Runner-Up

Henry is a very relatable character. Before Firewatch even begins in full, you're forced to make decisions on his behalf to drive the background behind his character. So when you actually control Henry, you feel like you know him inside out. As someone who's just trying to run away from his problems, he becomes extremely likable through his frequent banter with his supervisor Delilah and his constant joking around. And it's plain to see how Henry develops throughout the story. While flawed, there's an innocence to Henry that compels you to fall in love with who he is.

Read our review of Firewatch

Best Protagonist of 2016: Readers' Choice

Noctis Lucis Caelum (Final Fantasy XV)

Rean Schwarzer (The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel I & II)

Having seen the love both of these games are receiving throughout our awards this year, it likely will not surprise you to know that only ten votes separated the winner from the runner-up in this category.