Style

The rules of video game hairstyles

We're about to make a bold claim: video game character hairstyles can fit into one of three overwhelmingly apparent styles.

The first is the product of predictable marketing and lazy (?) design - the "Western protagonist": a short crop of brown tufts, unimaginatively styled, simple to animate. The "Eastern hero" is far more interesting: insane spikes, flowing locks and heaps more artistry. Finally, there are those which are beyond belief: the quaint, daft and wonderfully odd.

Some cuts are forgettable, others baffle, but most are brilliantly sharp. Take a click through our gallery and reminisce on some of gaming's finest cuts.

Were there any video game characters whose trim you've always envied? Let us know in the comments below.

  • The rules of video game hairstyles

    Doomguy (Doom)

    Western protagonist

    As one of the first FPS heroes, Doomguy set the standard for the Western-standard 'clean cut brown haired' look. He might have quite a bit on his plate when it comes to cleaning up hell, but at least he's got nothing to worry about on top.

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    Nathan Drake (Uncharted)

    Western protagonist

    Brown hair? Check. Ruffled? Check. Stubble? Check. By image alone, Nathan Drake could be any Western video game hero ever. Thankfully, his characterisation and personality are far more unique than his barnet.

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    Booker DeWitt (BioShock Infinite)

    Western protagonist

    (CONTAINS CRYPTIC SPOILERS)

    You never see DeWitt (well...), and yet we still know him well enough to admire the way he dresses and the cut of his mop. Booker is yet another embodiment of the 'Generic Western Hero'.

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    Gordon Freeman (Half-Life)

    Western protagonist

    No, you never glimpse him in-game, yet the scruffy just-out-of-bed/saving-the-world locks and goatee of Gordon Freeman are some of the most recognisable in the video game canon.

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    Joel (The Last of Us)

    Western protagonist

    You're probably getting the idea by now. "When I'm fighting zombie masses, I don't have time to worry about my hair, so I use Head And..." etc. Joel fits the standard marketing bill with a manly dishevelled cut - but it's worthy of notice as, thanks to powerful graphic magic, it's one of the best looking male haircuts in gaming.

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    Shephard (Mass Effect)

    Western protagonist

    Now we realise that players are given the choice of what Commander Shephard can look like, but BioWare still had to market their franchise with someone on the box. Their chosen look - generic Caucasian hard man. Bold move.

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    Tim (Braid)

    Western protagonist

    We like Tim's style. Side parting, ruffled, care free. It's a timeless look.

    That joke only makes sense if you've played Braid, and even then it isn't that good.

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    Cody (Final Fight)

    Western protagonist

    An American brawler as imagined by Japanese character designers: muscular, blue eyed and tussle-haired. Cody apparently dyed his hair for the later games, realising that blondes have more fun.

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    Prince of Persia (Various)

    Western protagonist

    He might be from Persia, but the Prince inherited an unimaginative Western look in his modern reboots. The curtained look in Sands of Time does manage to give the bandit a touch of roguishness at least. That, or it could be the shaved eyebrow. Either way, it's a memorable look we'll not be adopting this side of puberty.

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    Axel Stone (Streets of Rage)

    Western protagonist

    Another Western hero from a Japanese studio. Axel's shock of blonde caused us to consider dying our own back in 1991, but we were 9 at the time and our mum said no. Instead we just bought a blue bandana, which we subsequently never wore.

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    Yu Narukami (Persona 4)

    Eastern hero

    The Japanese are the masters of beautiful video game hair, giving guys something to flick menacingly in the heat of battle. Grey shouldn't be a good look on a youthful character, yet Yu Narukami's silky slick image is impossibly cool.

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    Cloud Strife (Final Fantasy VII)

    Eastern hero

    'Sculpted' is probably the best description we can give Cloud Strife's opulent do. Many cosplayers have attempted to match it, and many have failed. Almost as vast as his blade.

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    Lion (Virtua Fighter 2)

    Eastern hero

    If we learnt anything from early ventures into 3D games, it was that curved hair didn't work. One prime example is that of Lion Rafale and his questionable curtains - a hair style that didn't obey gravity until Virtua Fighter 4.

    (Image: Sega)

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    Leon Belmont (Castlevania: Lament of Innocence)

    Eastern hero

    The personification of swashbuckling, vampire hunter Leon Belmont boasts a luscious mop that must be a nightmare to get the blood out of. A ridiculously good looking character.

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    Leon Kennedy (Resident Evil)

    Eastern hero

    Channelling David Bowie circa 2002, Leon Kennedy is yet another eastern style iconic of the gaming world. How he has time to get his side parting to sit just right in the face of zombie hoards is beyond us.

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    Edgemaster (Soul Calibur)

    Eastern hero

    A cross between Zeus and Thor, we aim to have the Edgemaster's look when we peak in our 60s. We can't promise we'll manage to get the physique though.

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    Sephiroth (Final Fantasy VII)

    Eastern hero

    The Final Fantasy series is a gold mine of brilliant hair, but the seventh instalment was a follicle-filled treat. Playing opposite Cloud's angular look, Sephiroth's long mane is ridiculously flamboyant

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    Goku (Dragon Ball Z)

    Eastern hero

    We realise we're crossing into anime here, but we felt Goku's various forms made him worthy of mention. Whether golden or black, it's just totally cool.

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    Fujin (Mortal Kombat)

    Eastern hero

    We're sure that Fujin could use his hair in his fighting repertoire. We're disappointed that he doesn't. As much of a nightmare to animate as it is to comb.

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    Eddie Wachowski (SSX)

    Only in games

    The ginger afro is one of the most challenging styles ever conceived. Snow-cool Eddie somehow manages to pull it off - deflecting your attention from a fairly shocking outfit.

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    Akira Yuki (Virtua Fighter)

    Only in games

    As one of the first 3D combat games ever released, Virtua Fighter was in virgin territory with hair. Akira's spiked crown is thus forgiveable. Why he doesn't just head butt people is beyond us.

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    Duke Nukem (Various)

    Only in games

    It seems to be a matter of cause that if you have a flat top, you'll have boulder-sized muscles, smoke a cigar and be partial to large guns. A cut for the Duke and the Duke alone.

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    Paul Phoenix (Tekken)

    Only in games

    Long before the conception of Jedward, Tekken's Paul Phoenix was doing great work at promoting vertical hair. Quite how he manages to maintain such a cliff-like structure is beyond our grooming knowledge. Oceans of hair spray?

  • The rules of video game hairstyles 23

    Guile (Street Fighter)

    Only in games

    Sporting a flat top that would make Bart Simpson envious, Guile's violent tendencies might well have something to do with all the funny looks he must get. We'd love to see him take on Paul Phoenix in a battle of the tower cuts.

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    Vaas (Far Cry 3)

    Only in games

    How does one accentuate a huge scar and general demeanour of badassness? With a mohawk of course. We can only imagine Vaas' mother didn't love him enough to tell him to get a proper trim.

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    Larry Laffer (Various)

    Only in video games

    A totally tasteless character with a totally tasteless hair cut, Larry Laffer's style should never, ever be sought after.

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    Sazh Katzroy (Final Fantasy VIII)

    Only in games

    Another Final Fantasy entrant, Sazh's voluminous hair was partnered by deadly duel wielding skills and the occasional touch of comic relief. Oh, and his hair is also home to his chocobo chick. Which was weird.

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    Link (Various, though specifically Wind Waker)

    Only in games

    Link has come in various shapes and sizes throughout the Zelda series, but the floppy quiff of Wind Waker is easily his most iconic to date. Vast, charming and totally unachievable.

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    Illidan Stormrage (Warcraft)

    Only in games

    We're going to tell Illidan that a top knot and horns aren't a good look - we're just not going to tell him to his face.

    (Image: Sandara)

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    Guybrush Threepwood (Monkey Island)

    Only in games

    This towering, flowing mass of blonde is key to Guybrush Threepwood's irrepressible charm. Not dissimilar to Brad Pitt's recent ponytail attempt, we think Guybrush did it better.

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    Bowser (Various)

    Only in games

    Lizards can't grow hair. It's a fact. Wikipedia told us. It wasn't until Super Mario Bros. 3 that Bowser disobeyed the laws of nature and gained his orange tufts, but they've been central to his image ever since.

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    Rayman (Various)

    Only in games

    Rayman's hair has gone through a variety of looks over the years, but his bounding golden centre parting has made an appearance in most of his outings. We're sure he uses chemical straighteners.

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    Sonic (Various)

    Only in games

    Did you know that a hedgehog's spines are actually hair stiffened with keratin? Sonic's spiked style is surely a contender for the most iconic video game hair style of all time, albeit one you'll never get to pull off.

    (Image: Sega)

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    Kratos (God of War)

    Very occasionally, designers decide to same themselves the hassle of animating hair. Kratos proves that bald is beautiful, and ruins our categories completely.

    (Image: God of War)

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    Agent 47 (Hitman)

    And if to make us look even more stupid, here's another domed antihero. Agent 47 is as clean as his kills.

    Perhaps we were too hasty in our bold ruling...