“There’s no accounting for taste,” said someone it seems rather a long time ago. Well, okay, some accounting. We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t have rationalizations for our pick of gaming’s most influential super-spies, brawlers, arch-villains and redoubtable heroines.

But before you wade in, a note about “influential,” which we endeavored not to confuse with related terms like “beloved” or “innovative.” We instead tried to gauge simple characterological impact, whether within or beyond gaming. Thus while an icon like Nintendo’s Mario routinely headlines roundups like this, we’re suggesting that his status as a gameplay vanguard (totally legitimate, by the way!) might be overshadowing his converse lack of influence as a character in gaming-dom. Note that we’ve also limited ourselves to one character per series to avoid overrepresentation.

Here’s our take on the most influential game characters circa 2017, as compiled by TIME’s technology reporters and editors.

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Write to Matt Peckham at matt.peckham@time.com.

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