Empire: Whether hearty plumber, battleworn grunt or cutesey farmyard animal, the colourful stars of video games have become emblems of their respective eras. Mario, Sonic and their ilk are the De Niros and Bogarts of the gaming world, closer to the hearts of die-hard console-addicts than any Hollywood icon could be. With this in mind, and after much soul-searching, arguing and quiet contemplation, we have painstakingly assembled our list of the greatest gaming characters ever devised. Most will be old friends, some will be new acquaintances but each and every one is a standout - be they cultural icon, inspired innovation or a masterpiece of character design. The rogue's gallery of gaming legends starts here.