Fire. One of the four elements. It’s red, it’s hot, and we love it. Fire plays a huge role in video games, whether as a weapon or a symbol or theming for characters. We use it to defeat Grass-types, to light our way, and to give us much-needed updrafts when gliding. We wear armor that resists it, weapons that command it, and ingest flowers that allow us to throw it from our bare hands. So today I thought it would be fun to talk about my favorite fire-wielding heroes (and villains) in the world of gaming!
NUMBER FIVE: JENNA (GOLDEN SUN: THE LOST AGE)
Jenna is a character that appeared in the original Golden Sun game, but not as a playable character. She and her brother Felix are plot devices in the early game, disappearing from their home village which they share with the game’s protagonists, Isaac and Garet. It is in the second game, The Lost Age, where Jenna becomes a main character and her actions really begin to influence the game.
Jenna is the romantic lead, in a sense, as the game ships her with the protagonist of the first game, Isaac. However, there’s not really much focus given to this. If anything, Isaac and Jenna are in opposition for the majority of these games, as in the beginning they are fighting for opposite causes. Isaac wants to prevent the Elemental Lighthouses from being lit – it’s what he grew up learning, after all – while Jenna believes lighting them is necessary to save the world. Despite being associated with fire, Jenna is not hot-tempered and is generally the voice of reason for her team. She’s the one who keeps the antagonism between Isaac and Felix from building to legitimate violence, and she helps the teams to see past their differences and unite for a common goal.
This is what pushes her to number five on my list: Jenna breaks the mold. She’s not a “fire” character in the typical angry, impulsive, or out-of-control sense. And she’s not a “fiery” female in that she isn’t portrayed as sexual or seductive. She even breaks the mold within the context of the game world – Garet, the fire character in the first game, is a massive warrior type who relies on physical attacks more than magic (or Psynergy, as it is known in these games). Jenna turns that on its head, wielding fire Psynergy with incredible proficiency and even being able to serve in a healing/support role – something typically unheard of for a fire-elemental character. Jenna shows that fire theming doesn’t have to be quite so literal, and that earns her a spot in my top 5.
NUMBER FOUR: AXEL (KINGDOM HEARTS SERIES)
I’m honestly over the Kingdom Hearts series at this point. I know there are a lot of people who love these games, but for me a lot of the appeal has been lost in the sheer amount of time between main-series titles and in the convoluted storyline that marks these games as property of Square Enix. Heck, the character who looks like Axel isn’t even Axel anymore. But I could care less about that guy. The character I love, the one who earned his spot on this list, is the Axel of Chain of Memories, 358/2 Days, and Kingdom Hearts 2.
Axel is the ultimate double-agent. He plays every side of a conflict, supposedly helping Marluxia while secretly helping Sora but only because he’s listening to Xemnas, who he later betrays. Everything Axel says is cryptically layered with meaning that most of the people around him can’t understand because they don’t know everything he knows. His only true loyalty is to his best friend Roxas, and even though he technically doesn’t have feelings, he manages to muster up enough of them to sacrifice himself for Roxas’s sake. Er, Sora’s sake. Whatever.
Design-wise, this guy looks awesome. I love the Organization 13 coats and Axel’s sharp red hair is a nice compliment to their style. His chakram are unique weapons that work both in melee and at a range. His fire-based attacks are a serious pain to go up against, particularly his wall of flames that pushes you away from him so that he can safely attack you with his wicked throwing weapons. Toss in a cool, originally-mistranslated catchphrase (the iconic “got it memorized?” was “commit it to memory” in Chain of Memories) and you’ve got a character who is well-suited for number four on this list.
NUMBER THREE: VIVIAN (PAPER MARIO: THE THOUSAND-YEAR DOOR)
Vivian is one of my favorite partners in the Paper Mario series and arguably the most valuable partner in The Thousand-Year Door, at least against the final boss. You meet her first in the Boggly Woods as an enemy, but through cut scenes you learn more about her poor relationship with her older sisters and that Vivian just wants to be accepted by somebody. Her chance comes in Twilight Town, when her wicked older sister Beldam leaves her searching for a Mario-destroying weapon called the Superbomb. At this time, Mario’s identity has been stolen and Vivian can’t recognize him, and the two become fast friends. When Vivian learns Mario’s true identity and has to choose between him and her sisters, she decides to go with the only true friend she has ever known.
Vivian’s not just a cool backstory, though. She’s got some serious use in the field and in combat. In the overworld, her ability to pull you into the shadows allows you to disappear from view and dodge dangers. This can be used to navigate around booby traps, avoid enemy encounters, and even spy on people, listening to their conversations while you are hidden out of sight.
“Uh, Ian, isn’t this post about fire?” Right, right. Vivian has two different fire-based combat abilities – the Shade Fist and the Fiery Jinx. The former is her basic attack, a punching move that can strike opponents anywhere on the battlefield. The significance of this cannot be understated in Paper Mario; battlefield positioning is important in combat and having someone who can hit an opponent regardless of their position is really valuable. Plus, the move can set opponents on fire when executed properly, the flames chipping away at HP turn after turn. Fiery Jinx can also inflict this Burned status condition, but it is more magical in nature and affects not just one opponent, but all of them. This spell hits every enemy on the field, pierces their defenses, and sets them on fire, and requires no physical contact to execute. This means that Vivian can hit nearly every enemy in the game with this nifty attack, and it’s incredible for dealing damage against the multiple targets in the final boss battle. Add in her ability to avoid attacks with the Veil ability, and you have a character whose combat prowess can’t be beat!
NUMBER TWO: BOWSER (MARIO SERIES)
When it comes to villains who bring the heat, Bowser is the hottest of the bunch. I mean, he’s pretty much a buff dragon, right? But Bowser didn’t make number two on my list just because he can breath fire. No, this guy takes fire to the EXTREME.
If you’ve ever played a Mario game, you know that Bowser loves his flames. His castles are always filled with pits of boiling lava spitting fire spirits into the air just as Mario leaps over the chasm. Huge whirling columns of fire spin in arcs around precarious platforms, daring you to jump across without getting burned. And while you’re jumping past all of this heat, you’ve got Bowser’s fiery breath blasts coming at you too. No one goes through this guy’s castle without getting burned.
The thing I love about Bowser is that he’s not all bad. Sure, he kidnaps Peach three or four times a week, but after everything goes down he’s not a sore loser about it. He might crash a Mario Party, but it’s only to introduce his minigames to the collection. And he’ll still gladly race karts, play soccer, and smack a few tennis balls. On top of that, Bowser is a responsible and dedicated single father who carefully monitors his son’s video game time and encourages him to broaden his horizons. What’s not to like about that?
Of course, my personal favorite Bowser moments are all from the Paper Mario series. In these games, he’s more than just the go-to villain. He’s got a great sense of humor and fun banter with his minions. And while he’s always ready to trounce Mario, he understands that sometimes there are bigger bad guys who need trounced, and Mario can help with that. Bowser is a great villain, a great dad, and great comic relief, all in one big fiery package.
NUMBER ONE: VAHN (LEGEND OF LEGAIA)
“Okay, Ian, seriously, who’s at number one?” Don’t claim to know fire if you don’t know this legend!
In all seriousness, I know this might be out of left field. Legend of Legaia was a PS1 game, after all, and kind of got lost in shuffle compared to other JRPGs like, I don’t know, Final Fantasy. But this game was a gem, and one of my favorite games from my childhood.
Legend of Legaia tells the story of a world where humans worked side-by-side with creatures called Seru to build a great society. That society crashed and burned when a strange Mist appeared that caused the Seru to turn on their human masters. Humanity was forced to cower in small civilizations protected by massive walls or complex fans meant to keep the Mist away. The only real protection came from mystical trees known as Genesis Trees, but the Genesis Trees were dying and no one knew what to do about it.
Vahn was a hunter in the small town of Rim Elm. During a crisis in which the Mist was brought to his front doorstep, Vahn was chosen by a creature called Meta, a Ra-Seru. This type of Seru was born from the Genesis Tree and possessed immunity to the Mist. Wearing it gave Vahn considerable power and enabled him to reawaken Genesis Trees through prayer. With Meta at his side, Vahn set out to discover the truth behind the Mist and to rid the world of it for good.
Vahn is an all around good guy who wants to do right by everyone. He loves his family and his special gal in the village (but is also woefully oblivious to her affections), and he believes in doing what’s best for his community. More important than all of that, though, Vahn is a gifted martial artist. His whirling kicks and devastating punches tear through enemies, and with the power of his Ra-Seru he is able to imbue his attacks with the power of fire. His signature move is the Tornado Flame, a whirling pair of fiery uppercuts that puts the enemy on their rear-end – permanently. Vahn doesn’t just punch and kick, though – he specializes in knives and swords, and wields these bladed weapons in tandem with his Ra-Seru, a wicked gauntlet sword. Vahn’s fighting style looks awesome, and as a kid I always fantasized about being able to fight like that. Not that I had anyone to fight, of course.
Nostalgia might be influencing my answer a bit on this one, but that’s something I’m willing to accept. Vahn is an awesome character whose combat animations are fun to watch, his unique style and sharp weapons blending with the power of fire to create attacks that feel incredible when you unleash them. And that puts him at number one in my list of flaming hot characters.
I hope you enjoyed this list of my personal favorite fire-starters! Now I turn the conversation to you, adventurers. What flame-wielders would you rate highest in video game history? I’m sure you’ve played different games than me and have your own thoughts on iconic hot-heads, so be sure to include them in the comments!
Oh, and if you clicked on this article and read through the whole thing because “blaze it” was in the title…gotcha!
It’s almost here, adventurers! What’s “it,” you ask? Why, the interactive blogging event of April 23rd, of course! Sunday will be the beginning of this special event here on Adventure Rules, and I want to get as many folks involved as possible to make sure we have the maximum amount of fun. So if you’re still reading, be sure to come back on Sunday to find out what exactly is going on with this event, and to participate. Particularly if you too are a blogger, I encourage you to come check it out!
To wet your whistle a bit more for Sunday’s event, I’m going to drop the third and final hint about what’s coming. If you missed the first two hints, you’ll have to read my other articles for this week (or scroll to the end, whatever). You can find those here and here. Have you looked at the hints? Are you ready now? Good! Here’s the last one, adventurers. Look hard, because this is all you get before I reveal the full answer on Sunday!