Video games have a pretty bad history when it comes to stereotypes. On one hand, you can understand how we got here. Fighting games need memorable character archetypes, games set in foreign countries aren’t always developed by people that live there, and every Italian is just like Mario. On the other hand, it leads to a lot of pretty offensive and dated depictions of people, and cultures watered down to little more than flags and accents.
Over the years, we Irish have had a pretty mixed bag in our minimal video game representation. Some of it has been dead on, some of it feels well-meaning if a bit off the mark, and others…well…
13 Aran Ryan – Punch-Out
You know, Aran Ryan, isn’t exactly the most flattering depiction of an Irishman, but when you compare him to some other countries’ representatives in Punch-Out, Irish folks got off pretty light. He replaces Pizza Pasta (yes, that is the Italian’s name) in Super Punch-Out on the SNES, however, he doesn’t entirely shake his Italian connection, since Charles Martinet also voices him.
In Punch-Out on the Wii, his depiction is even more unflattering since he seems to be a crowd favourite when it comes to booing. We can’t help but feel if there was a new Punch-Out game that Ryan might get a bit of a personality rework considering the popularity of Irish boxers like Katie Taylor in the years since.
12 Aiden Pearce – Watch Dogs
Maybe we were too harsh on Aiden Pearce when Watch Dogs came out. Yes, he is a bland and boring, brooding uncle in that game, but that is just his Belfast roots shining through. Maybe he’s just always in a bad mood because he’s living in Chicago and misses real Irish pubs and a well-poured Guinness.
By the time the DLC featuring him came around in Watch Dogs Legion, he thankfully had developed more of a personality. However, he was probably even more miserable having to live in a dystopian London, of all places.
11 Becky Lynch – WWE
The biggest problem in creating a list like this is just how few original Irish characters have been created for video games. There are so few, fictional Irish people in games, we’ve had to include a few real Irish natives here.
While some might debate whether any person on the WWE is real, or if they are all just characters, Becky Lynch is a shoot Irish woman that was born in Limerick and grew up in Dublin. Of the several Irish exports into the world of wrestling, she is probably the most popular and likable, but that’s just her Munster charm shining through.
10 Tony Cascarino – Sensible Soccer
Yes, as a country we are much better at rugby, and there have been a handful of Gaelic football and Hurling games over the years. However, the last real Irish person we will put on this list has to be one of the many famed Irish soccer stars that have appeared in countless football games over the years.
While Robbie Keane might be a local hero and appeared in every FIFA game until 2017, and Roy Keane might get angry at us for not selecting him, none of them has a song dedicated to them like Tony Cascarino.
9 Ellen Reid – Folklore
Remember Folklore? We hardly did, but this 2007 JRPG is one of the few triple-A games to be set in Ireland (and also the magical Netherworld).
The protagonist Ellen isn’t the most interesting character in the game, but she’s the window into this weird world. It’s fascinating to see a Japanese development team’s interpretation of countless Irish myths and legends, and even if the game hasn’t aged all that well, it’s a noteworthy Sony-published release that respected Irish folklore and history.
8 Sean MacGuire – Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead’s Irish characters have really run the gamut across the two games. It’s hard not to be offended by just how one-note the drunkard, nicknamed Irish, in the first game is and Colm O’Driscoll might be one of the most irredeemable characters in a series full of awful humans. However, Molly O’Shea is a breath of fresh air and Sean MacGuire is an authentic and likeable Irish sidekick.
If anything we wish that we could spend more time with him after he reunites with Van Der Linde’s gang in Red Dead Redemption 2. Sadly though, fate and an ambush in Rhodes, result in his grizzly and sudden death.
7 Sean Devlin – The Saboteur
There was something about the late 2000s that suddenly a bunch of game publishers started to include Irish characters in their games. GTA 4 had a whole Irish gang, and so too did Mafia 2, but one of the few positive depictions of an Irish character at the time was Sean Devlin.
The resistance fighter nicknamed “The Irishman” fled to France to escape criminal charges, but after living there for several years he bore witness to the Nazi invasion. Maybe it was the 600 years of oppression at the hands of the British in his blood that caused him to stand up to an overwhelming invading force. Whatever the reason, he certainly wreaked havoc on a lot of Nazi plans.
6 William – Nioh
We don’t know much about the protagonist of Nioh, outside the fact that before the events of the game, he was an Irish sailor. However, after a shipwreck, he’s now trapped in a mythological federal Japan, and must quickly adapt to survive.
We like to think it was all his years with a hurley that trained him to be so good with a katana, but that is just our own headcanon. You’ll grow to love this quiet survivor as you both die over, and over, and over in this unforgiving land. At least nothing bad happens to him by time the second game comes around… right?
5 Thomas Burke – Mafia 3
Is Thomas Burke a constantly swearing stereotype of an ex-IRA soldier hiding out in Louisiana? Yes.
Did we let this charismatic loose cannon control most of the areas we took over in New Bordeux anyway? Of course.
4 Moira – Overwatch
Moira, along with Mercy, might be one of the most debated characters within the Overwatch community. Her position as a super survivable healer that can dish out plenty of damage, makes her the bane of many DPS players’ existence.
That said, how can you hate her velvety accent and her brooding nature?
3 Anna And Nina Williams – Tekken
It’s easy to forget — between all the throwing siblings in volcanoes, robot men, wood men, pandas, the Devil Gene, boxing kangaroos and raptors, and so on — that the fan-favourite sisters in Tekken are actually from Ireland.
While most Irish people living aboard get on like a house on fire with other people from Éire, Anna and Nina could not hate each other more. What’s worse is their father’s IRA training makes them both dangerous killers constantly trying to embarrass one another.
2 Atlas – BioShock
If you talk to any Irish person about the best Irish accents in games, they are sure to bring up Atlas from the first BioShock game. This guiding force sounds just like a fella you would meet in a pub in Dublin, and for most of the game, he seems that friendly too.
However, in a shocking twist, it is revealed that Atlas is actually Fontaine, a New Yorker doing the most pitch-perfect Dublin accent imaginable to lull the protagonist into kindly helping him take down Andrew Ryan. While Fontaine might actually not be Irish, the voice actor of both men, Karl Hanover, is so for that reason he gets an honourary spot, for being able to trick everyone that he’s your pal from up the road.
1 Kasio – If Found…
There is no depiction of Ireland more honest, and more real, than that of Achill Island in 1993 in If Found. This small indie game went under the radar in 2020 but stars Kasio, a young trans woman, returning to her rural home after a tough few years at college in Dublin.
Maybe it’s the authenticity of world-building and references to local Irish TV and phrases, but Kasio and her friends feel like the most real Irish characters ever depicted in a game. Moreover, she’s an incredibly likeable and complex character just trying to find her place in the world, something many Irish ex-pats can empathise with.