Games Character Type 1: The Little Guy

Characters of this type include: Mario, Sonic, Sackboy,

Character Strengths / Characteristics: 

The little guys exhibit the following characteristics and strengths above all others: 

Curiosity     Humility      Kindness     

Games Character Type 1: The Little Guy 

The little guy has long been one of the most popular character archetypes in games and has found the most fame (and endurance) with Mario, though characters of this type date right back to Pac-Man. As such, these characters have been one of the most consistently popular character-types throughout the history of gaming and with little surprise, for these little guys hold great strengths and great benefits to the gamer. Let’s take a look at the top 3 strengths of this type of character, what they offer gamers and why well all love them so much.


Little Guy Games Characters Strength 1: Humility

Perhaps the biggest trait of the Little Guys is that they make us more aware of the wide world we so often blind ourselves to in real life.  Whether it be Mario exploring Super Mario World, Kirby exploring Dreamland or any other Little Guy character exploring their big world, this character type makes the gamer aware of just how expansive the world outside their door is.

As Mario gets blasted into Mario Galaxy the gamer feels a sense of exploration, a positive psychological surge of energy that motivates them to open their eyes to the wider world.


There is a natural joy and relaxation to feeling oneself as but a part of a wide world: the joy and relaxation of humility. If you’re wondering just exactly what healthy humility is, consider Mario. Mario is never self absorbed. He doesn’t spend hours thinking only of himself, nor does he show off or put himself ahead of others. The good things Mario does he does not for himself but for his friends and for the MushroomKingdom. He does however take care of himself, allows himself to enjoy life and sees himself as a good person. This is exactly what healthy humility is all about; it’s about having a healthy and realistic perspective of one’s self, and because Mario is continually displaying this character strength in-game, the gamer is led to develop their own humility too. This is a great thing.

The humility a character like Mario inspires in the gamer serves some very important benefits to the gamer: it makes them relax as they realise that their present preoccupations and concerns are really rather insignificant and so are not to be stressed over and it inspires the gamer to broaden their perspectives, to look outside themselves to the wider world, or, to put it simply, to open their eyes.  So often in life are we blinded by everyday stresses and momentary concerns that we can lose sight of the real beauty of nature, of life and of the world. A character like Mario takes us by the hand and blasts us away from these preoccupations to a world of wonder and excitement, first through their ability to put things in perspective through humility, and secondly through their second character strength. . .


For a full guide to this character strength read: Humility


Little Guy Games Characters Strength 2: Curiosity

A healthy degree of curiosity is largely dependant on a similarly healthy degree of humility as one cannot see the world outside themselves whilst staring in a mirror—we cannot be curious whilst being self obsessed. Thankfully, our Little Guy characters have already dealt with our ego through the strength of their humility and so can now inspire our curiosity. Whilst all little-guy characters show great curiosity, Nintendo are the undisputed champions of this character strength. To prove this simply consider (or watch) a few cutscenes featuring Mario, Kirby, Pikachu or any other little-guy Nintendo character (which is just about all of them). Most Nintendo cutscenes will in some way show the lead character being captivated by some part of their surroundings. Here are a few examples. . .

Mario is always giving “OMG” faces, being excited about some element of his environment.



Link is always learning something new about the world he is in



Pikachu often looks puzzled, as though he is trying to work out something about his surroundings.


These characters are all investigating some part of their world; they are naturally curious about the wider world, and as we gamers sit completely engrossed in the lives of these characters, we cannot help but have some of their curiosity rub-off on us, which is a great thing given that the benefits of curiosity are immense, ranging from increased creativity, problem solving and intelligence to improved relationships and better results at school.


Little Guy Games Characters Strength 3: Kindness 

Kindness is not so pronounced in the Little Guy archetype as Humility or Curiosity but nevertheless is an important part of the psychological-make-up of these characters. Essentially, kindness in Little Guy characters is an extension of humility and curiosity and serves to keep the focus away from the lead character and on the world around them (as we discussed in our look at Humlity). Anything good these character may do or any rewards they may reap for their actions is almost always given to another. Mario, for instance, is always acting in the interest of his friends (Peach) and his community (the Mushroom kingdom). He might get the occasional kiss for his good deed, but he’s pretty much the exact same guy at the end of his journey as he was at the beginning and this is incredibly important because it reinforces the idea that life (and the game) is not about oneself but the world one finds themselves to be in. There is a sense of altruism about these characters that inspires altruism in the player, which yet again is of tremendous benefit ( has a full guide to altruism and the health benefits of being kind here: kindness).


As can be seen; these characters are entirely about taking the focus away from the individual and placing it on the outside world. Games with the Little Guy as a lead character will inspire and motivate gamers to become free of themselves (to be less self absorbed (a negative trait associated with depression and mental health issues)). All Mario, Sackboy, Kirby and friends care about is taking your hand and leading you away from yourself and into the wider world, a world of love, kindness and community. By this they offer huge benefits to gamers in real life, and for this they always have been and always will be much loved.

If you enjoyed this article you might lie’s look at Shigeru Miyamoto’s philosophy in Life & Games

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Paul Harrison

Paul M Harrison is an entertainment journalist, novelist, and blogger, and a specialist in the theory of storytelling. Paul Harrison can be contacted via his personal website or on Twitter or Facebook.

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