The President of the United States of America. A position of power. A position of honor. The highest office of public service in the Union. The president highlights issues, sets the national agenda, and exemplifies American values to the rest of the world.
With the exception of political strategy games, the mere inclusion of the President of the United States in a video game is the equivalent of having an evil overlord in a fantasy setting. Video game presidents are universally corrupt and stupid. If the player is president and it’s not a strategy game, it’s probably of little or no consequence. If an NPC is the president, they’re usually out to “remove” the player.
In many cases, the success or failure of a fictional president is determined by the world they inhabit. Jack Nicholson’s sleazy President James Dale fits perfectly in the equally slimy world of Mars Attacks. Video games, on the other hand, typically take place in ultra-violent realities where “peacemakers” refer to Red Ryders.
By real world standards, there is no such thing as a “good” video game president. To determine the “best” video game presidents, we need to find the most cruel, the most corrupt, and the most sociopathic people to tyrannize the Oval Office. While several real presidents have been featured in video games (Bill Clinton in sports games, Kennedy and Nixon in Black Ops, Obama in Mercenaries 2, and Washington in Assassins Creed 3), we’ll be highlighting original characters holding the title of President of the United States of America.
With that in mind, here are the top six presidents in video games.
6. President (Duke Nukem Forever)
It’s a bad sign when the President of the United States is outsmarted by a man who can only speak in pop culture references. The nameless president of Duke Nukem Forever ticks off all the boxes for the ideal video game president. He’s stupid, violent, incompetent, corrupt beyond redemption, guilty of high treason, and tries to kill the player. From the little snippets of dialogue, it seems Duke Nukem Forever’s president was trying to strike a deal with the aliens. That deal would, apparently, result in him being crowned Emperor of Earth. After Nukem destroys the Hoover Dam, the president arrives, yells at Duke, and calls down a nuclear missile on himself. Moments later, the Cycloid Emperor smashes the president into a red smear.
5. Elizabeth Winters (Vanquish)
In her universe, Elizabeth Winters is the first female President of the United States but is otherwise a pretty minor character. After the destruction of San Francisco, President Winters delivers a rallying cry. Those inspiring words give players all the motivation they need to fight Russian ultranationalists IN SPAAAAACE! It’s no surprise President Winters was supporting the Russians all along. What was her motive exactly? To use a war with Russia as an economic stimulus package, of course! Corrupt, stupid, out to kill the player, and guilty of high treason, it’s no wonder President Winters also became the first president to commit suicide.
4. John Henry Eden (Fallout 3)
John Henry Eden, the voice of America, is an idiot. In fact, the Enclave as a whole is really, really stupid. Their plan in Fallout 2, a plan they spent 164 years developing, was to liquify all “near-humans” on Earth, sparing only those living in vaults and Enclave bases. After their plan was thwarted by the Chosen One, John Henry Eden tried to enact the same plan on a much, much smaller scale. Imagine George Washington made an evil plan in 1776 and by 1976 Gerald Ford was still working on it. That’s how stupid the Enclave is.
Other than trying to poison everyone in the D.C. area, what has Eden specifically done that makes him a terrible president? Eden can’t be that bad, right? After all, he’s the amalgamation of every President’s writings, policies, and values. For one, 3/4 of player interaction with this highly sophisticated supercomputer result in it killing itself. Eden has such low self-esteem, he can be convinced to kill himself and simultaneously destroy one of the last remaining bunkers of “actual humans” after being called an “abortion of science.” Additionally, Eden’s only hope of completing the Enclave’s 200-year-old plan is to convince a “near human” to deliberately poison the region’s water supply, resulting in the Lone Wanderer’s own demise. Stupid, violent, guilty of high treason, and initially out to kill the player, it would take some kind of lunatic to top the idiocracy of John Henry Eden.
3. The Boss (Saints Row IV)
Thug, mass murderer, movie star, pop culture icon, terrorist, and finally President of the United States. In some ways, The Boss is like a fictional icon of the American dream, starting as a simple worker and steadily building enough influence to take the country’s highest office. Upon his election, The Boss of the Third Street Saints filled the White House with movie stars and mobsters. When they’re not beating up senators, The Boss makes daily headlines with insane, self-inflating rhetoric. By the start of Saints Row IV, The Boss holds an approval rating of 20%, even lower than Truman at rock bottom. The Boss is like every other president on this list: violent, insane, and corrupt. At least The Boss is loyal.
2. President Max (Sam & Max)
In Episode 4 of the Telltale Sam & Max series, Max became President of the United States. What followed is exactly what you’d expect. Within minutes of being elected, Max allocated the entire historical site budget to his neighborhood convenience store for a single bottle of vodka. He sends critics to fight Press Secretary Maim-Tron 9000. He didn’t even pick his best friend as Vice President; he picked their goldfish. Max is the worst kind of villain, the one who doesn’t have a plan. While being President has little effect on the second and third seasons of Sam & Max, Max is equal parts stupid, corrupt, violent, and pointlessly cruel.
1. You! (Democracy series)
There are some serious villains on this list. Video game presidents are often inhuman, genocidal monsters. Thankfully, there’s one president capable of bringing about either a new birth of freedom or an age of darkness. That president is you. In the Democracy series, the fate of the nation is in your hands. You have the power to transform the United States into a dystopian nightmare or a utopia motivated by individual liberty. There’s no reward for moving the country in either direction other than your own satisfaction and the knowledge your children will grow up in the society that you’ve created.
You are the ultimate president, the one capable of choosing right from wrong, just from unjust, and liberty from bondage. Making small moves that won’t see results for months or even years may seem inconsequential, but those acts add up. In time, your actions will have created a better America for everyone.