Silent protagonist: laziness or a way to get involved?

Silent protagonists have always been part of the narrative in video games. They can be found in shooters, horror, platformers and even strategies. While some characters were able to comment on what was happening, others preferred to take action, leaving the talking to the supporting characters. How does the main character’s silence affect the gameplay and how does it affect the atmosphere? Let’s find out!

Silent protagonist

Developers rarely add mute protagonists to their games. With such an unsightly technique, they put players in the place of the main character. Or they want to save on voice acting and dialogue. 

Unfortunately, this approach does not always work. Players are annoyed that their hero does not react to the scary monster or does not comment on what is happening on the screen. Due to the protagonist’s silence and the developers’ poor approach, the player may not learn anything about his character. For him, the protagonist will differ only in backstory, appearance and abilities.

Silent story

Most often, silent people were encountered in the past, in games such as Mario , Metroid , System Shock , The Legend of Zelda . This was due to weak computing power, due to which the protagonist’s voice had to be sacrificed. But as time passed, technology took several steps forward. Many heroes of old games learned to speak. The same Mario began chatting with a strong Italian accent.  

But others left the protagonists silent and in sequels. The Legend of Zelda games take place in different time periods. Each time the player takes control of one of Link’s reincarnations, and the character’s muteness allows him to imagine himself in his place. Like you’re the one saving Princess Zelda, stopping Ganondorf, or preventing the end of the world. You can immerse yourself in a world with interesting characters and an exciting story.

silent people were encountered in the past, in games such as Mario , Metroid , System Shock , The Legend of Zelda

The famous shooter series Doom has not abandoned silent protagonists either . Moreover, she improved this format. In Doom 2016 , as in the previous three parts, the main character does not utter a word. His hands speak for him: Doomguy breaks chains, turns demons into mincemeat and destroys valuable equipment. In this unusual way, the game conveys the emotions of the protagonist.

Sometimes the narrative is built on the muteness of the main character. In Half-Life, Gordon Freeman was explained the principles of operation of the complex. The guards gave survival tips. They told him about the situation around him. It would seem, how can one remain silent in such situations?

It’s just that the conversations are structured in such a way that Gordon doesn’t need to participate in them. It feels so natural that you stop noticing the protagonist’s silence. In Half-life 2 this system has evolved. The amount of dialogue increased, but Gordon’s presence still did not feel out of place.

In Metroid Dread, Samus Aran will silently shoot, roll into a ball, kill bosses, and fight off robots. Even in the plot scenes, the heroine is stoically silent and only looks angrily from under her spacesuit at the last enemy! This did not stop the audience from warmly accepting the game – the polished and driving gameplay is enough for them to be happy.

Individual projects are not lagging behind either. The players liked Scorn , which they were already desperate to wait for. They were drawn in by meat walls, puzzles, creepy monsters and the silent suffering of the main character – no extra words needed here!

Too many choices

RPG is a separate topic. In good role-playing games, the player is given a huge variety of playthroughs. This means that the protagonist needs to write down and voice hundreds of possible answers.

Games such as Mass Effect , Witcher, Dragon Age or Gothic coped with this task. Shepard, Herald and Nameless find an answer to any situation. Whether the player plays a good guy or a bad guy, the protagonist will always comment on the situation, make sarcastic remarks or persuade the ship pilot to have a same-sex relationship. Yes, and although there is a lot of text in these games, the variety of answers is still too limited – there are only a few to choose from.

Games such as Mass Effect , Witcher, Dragon Age or Gothic coped with this task. Shepard, Herald and Nameless find an answer to any situation

The Elder Scrolls and Fallout games no longer cope with this task. In Bethesda projects, the hero can only select lines in dialogue windows. And Bethesda’s role-playing games are primarily about the player’s association with his own character.

But here, the amount of text that would have to be voiced becomes a problem. Hiring multiple actors of each gender and race to voice the main characters’ messages is too expensive, even for Bethesda.

Silence as art

Some developers turn games into works of art. They focus on moving through locations, and the plot is presented through the environment.

There’s no point in talking in Journey . Your goal is at the end of the journey; all around are the ruins of an ancient civilization. There are no dangerous enemies in the game, nor are there any difficult riddles. All you have to do is move forward, admire the views and enjoy the wonderful music. If you are playing online, another player may join you. But even then there will be no point in communication! Already together you will meditate in order to achieve the end of the journey – and no words are needed for this.

Pointless silence

These are all examples of the successful use of silent protagonists. More often than not, it happens that developers don’t know how to use the characters’ laconicism in their creations. And then the player asks the question: “Why is he silent? Why doesn’t he answer when they talk to him? Why doesn’t he react to creepy monsters or current events?

In the Metro series of games , Artyom, the main character, speaks while loading. He discusses his thoughts and feelings in detail, but in the game itself he remains stupidly silent. Artyom fights off monsters, moves through the metro tunnels, and shoots back from warring factions.

In Metro: Last Light and Metro: Exodus the situation reaches the point of absurdity. Other heroes try to talk to Artyom and ask him questions that need to be answered. But during conversations, Artyom simply stands and looks at the interlocutor – as if he were a piece of furniture without personality or character. And it’s no longer possible to justify something like this as “immersion.”

What’s interesting is that in the Sam’s Story add-on, the main character can speak. In broken Russian, he comments on the situation, talks to people, jokes. And the addition only benefits from this, and you become more attached to Sam!

There is a similar problem in Doom 3 . During the videos, the camera seems to be moving out of the skull of the main character, the Marine. This allows you to see him from the outside, to evaluate his silent reaction to what is happening. Yes, his silence has a great effect on the atmosphere. Doom 3 is a scary game! But the Marine is a professional who arrived on Mars in the company of his comrades. He had to try to contact them, join forces, warn them of the danger. The walkie-talkie was under my nose the whole time! But instead, the soldier remains silent and follows the player’s orders until the very end.

Isaac, say a word!

The focus right now is on Dead Space . In the first part, Isaac Clarke’s silence complemented the atmosphere of the game, even if it looked strange. The hero was attacked by a meat creature from nightmares, and the engineer did not utter a word – he only grunted angrily, smashing the necromorph’s head with his boot. Isaac desperately searched for his wife throughout the ship, but did not say a word about her.

And he didn’t seem to take part in the conversations. The characters turned to the engineer, and he stood hunched over and looked at the interlocutor through the screen. It’s time to create theories that Isaac is a hallucination of the Monolith for the rest of the characters in the game. His presence is so unnecessary at such moments.

In the remake, players will finally hear the engineer’s opinion about what is happening on the Ishimura ship – in it, Isaac will finally remember that he can speak. This proper change finally solved the problem with the dialogue and especially the final revelation. 

In Dead Space 2, Isaac could speak. And how! But the focus of the second game was shifted from horror and survival to shooting necromorphs and increasing the action. In this case, adding lines to Isaac did not spoil the experience of the game.

In the third part, not a trace of horror remained. Isaac got a partner, with whom he destroyed not only necromorphs, but also people. In the end, he completely destroys the giant monster with Obelisks – what kind of horror is that! In such conditions, the presence of lines from the protagonist is the least of the problems that beset the series.


Silent protagonists have always been a part of video games. Some allowed the player to put himself in the place of the hero, others addressed him through the monitor screen, and still others allowed him to enjoy beautiful views without further ado. 

Judging by the success of games like Metroid Dread or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, modern gamers are embracing games with silent protagonists. And no one is in a hurry to criticize old, beloved games with mute protagonists for this approach – after all, they used to be able to develop even silent characters. 

by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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