20 significant Black characters in Jrpgs

black characters in jrpgs

Black characters in JRPG games are far and few between, but when they are actually included, they remarkably stand out. What is an JRPG? In simple terms the JRPG meaning is in the name itself: Japanese Role-Playing game.

Over the last 20 years, several Black characters have made appearances in various different Japanese rpgs as either npcs or playable characters. The most notable instance is from Square Enix's video game series Final Fantasy.

It all started with Final Fantasy VII's Barret Wallace, back in 1997, and while Barret wasn’t truly the first Black character in the history of JRPGS, he was the first Black character introduced to an American audience. This was a pivotal event that helped shape the history of modern JRPG games.

Let's take a look at 20 of the most significant Black characters to appear in Jrpg games. Some of them are heroes, while others are villains, but whatever their affiliation, they are unique and we are going to rank them.

20. Terranigma - Peral (1995) 

terranigma snes peral

In Terranigma, as Ark (the protagonist) journeys from his home planet to revive the mainland of Earth, he receives help from several different characters. One of them happens to be a young boy called Peral, who resides in the town of Freedom. 

Freedom looks like an 18th century city, in contrast to Peral's character design which resembles a 90s kid from inner city New York. Players are first introduced to Peral as he performs mad skateboard tricks to cheer up a depressed looking Ark. He eventually helps the hero sneak into a castle by creating a diversion.

19. Breath of Fire - Karn (1993)

breath of fire karn
Here's a quick history lesson.. Karn was the first Black character to appear in a JRPG, predating Final Fantasy VII's Barret Wallace by several years. Appearing in the first Breath of Fire game, Karn is a thief who is first found locked up in the prison of the rich seaside town Auria.

Karn was never given a fair chance at having a decent life. As an infant, he was found by the leader of the Thieves Guild who took him home to Bleak, a place of poverty and peretual darkness. Karn knows nothing about his parents or place of birth, nor does he care. However, he is dedicated to becoming the best thief ever. 

In the western release, his skin colour was changed to a light tan to avoid a PR nightmare. Why? Well let's see.. Karn is the only black character in the game and he ends up being the thief. His in-game portrait resembles blackface and he is referred to as "Dunk" in the Japanese version.  That's good ole Capcom for you.

18. Faselai - Dorothy (1999)

black female videogame characters

As a soldier and the heroine of Faselai. Dorothy steals the show with her chill attitude and demeanour. She is extremely tough, but also the nurturing heart of her combat unit. She's supportive without tolerating incompetence (usually from the main protagonist), and her voice is loud and clear.

17. Parasite Eve - Daniel "Bo" Dallas (1998)

parasite eve Daniel

Parasite Eve is a game with a strong protagonist, and arguably more interesting support characters. 
Daniel is Aya Brea's partner in work, and also a good friend. Their partnership is arguably the most famous buddy cop pairing in the history of video games.

Don't let the 70s stache and dapper suit fool you neither, because in contrast to Aya's reserved personality, Daniel is a loud mouthed, aggressive and brash man who has a short fuse. Yet at the same time he is a loving father to his 8 year old son and acts as a sort of mentor and teacher to his rookie partner.

16. Dark Cloud - Ungaga (2000)

dark cloud Ungaga

In Dark Cloud, Ungaga is a proud warrior from the village of Muska Lacka, a place which consists exclusively of African-like people. The hero Toan initially meets him sitting outside the Sun/Moon Temple, ashamed of his failure to protect his tribe and woman from the Dark Genie's vicious assault. Though with a little convincing, he ends up joining Toan to defeat the demonic force once and for all.

Not only is Ungaga a proud warrior, but he is also fiercely loyal to those around him. Interestingly enough, Ungaga is extremely popular with the women in his village, who consider him to be a strong and handsome man. 

15. Otharon - Xenoblade Chronicles (2010)

xenoblade chronicles black characters

Being head of the Defence Force of Colony 6 and a soldier in the war in Xenoblade Chronicles, Otharon is a skilled commander, with an action-hungry heart, which knows only one direction: forward. He is stern and shows the discipline of a soldier in his speech.

Simply put, Otharon doesn't run away and is fairly rash in his decision making, as witnessed with his rushing into battles. However this doesn't take away from the fact Otharon is a smart tactician whose actions allow him to lead battles with maximum efficiency. 

14. Fire Emblem Awakening - Basilio (2012)

fire emblem awakening

As the West-Khan of the country Ferox, a militant nation that values strength over all things, Basilio has the might and fighting prowess befitting of his position. His eyepatch, bald head and dark complexion has led some Fire Emblem fans to jokingly compare him to Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury.

Despite his serious position, Basilio often leaves the castle to find amusement and is a hard drinker. He is also quite immature for a man of his age, which leads his frenemy Flavia to constantly call him an oaf. Regardless, Basilio is often viewed as the father-figure of the group due to his old age and he acknowledges the skills of others greatly.

13. Fire Emblem Path of Radiance - Devdan (2005)

fire emblem devdan

First introduced in Chapter 16 of Path of Radiance, where he is shown forced to work as a guard to Duke Tanas. Devdan also known by his alter ego Dandev is a an eccentric and amusing fellow who clearly exhibits signs of mental illness, a notion which is further accentuated by his third person speech and denial to admit that his alternate personas are one of the same.

He also enjoys pranking people and expects his victims to react positively, however he doesn't really pay attention to the fact that his restless behaviour may actually be annoying his peers instead of cheering them up. On a positive note, Devdan shows a keen interest in helping the younger generation of his army reach their highest potential. 

12. Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes - Wayve (2023)
eiyuden chronicle characters

In Eiyuden Chronicle, which is a brand new JRPG from the creators of the Suikoden series, Wayve is a strong and hefty Guardian who is the leader of his own platoon. While he isn't one for much chatter, he always puts his friends first, even to the point of sometimes risking his own life.

11. Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes - Marisa (2023)

eiyuden chronicle release date

Another stunning and standout character from Eiyuden Chronicle is Marisa, a young woman from a family that is part of the Guardians, a clan that protects the forest and woodlands.

Since she was small, Marisa's family passed their traditions and ways down to her, thus preparing the teen for her destiny as protector of the forest. She also has a sweet smile, but don't let that fool you because in battle, Marisa shows the countenance of a bonafide warrior.

10. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch - Khulan (2011)

ni no kuni wrath of the white witch khulan

Level 5 certainly surprised us halfway through the story when Khulan was introduced as the current leader of Perdida, a melanated woman with an afro hairdo. Not only does she govern the sacred of Perdida, but she is also one of the several Great Sages in the magical world of Ni No Kuni.

Before her arrival in Peridida, Khulan was also the former queen of a fallen City called Xanadu. Although she had to flee her home after the Dark Djinn Shadar had attacked and destroyed the skybound city. Shadar also rendered her brokenhearted, stealing her love before her arrival in Perdida.

9. Suikoden II - Hauser (1998)

Suikoden 2

If a war was about to take place, Hauser is the kind of man you'd want on your team. First appearing in Suikoden II, Hauser is a talented military officer who served as the general of the Muse City army. Due to his capable command, he has been able to stave off an invasion by a rival army with ease.

As a soldier, Hauser holds a strict attitude and makes sure that all his actions as such are made on the basis of the law, refusing to fight as a general for any reason other than the law.

8. Tales of Eternia - Shizel (2000)

black jrpg character

Shizel is the main antagonist in Tales of Eternia. At the injustice of betrayal and the loss of her spouse, Shizel merges with an ancient god, desperate for vengeance. Unluckily, the deity she merges with is a full-fledged beast, who completely takes control of her mind.

Places are wiped out of existence. She torments her brother, her people suffer and she experiments on her own child. While being controlled, however, she feels disgust and shame, which leads her to eventually fight back and sacrifice herself to bring the mishap to an end. 

7. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin - Ash (2023)

Stranger of Paradise ash

Square Enix missed the opportunity to cast a Black protagonist in  their latest Final Fantasy spinoff, nevertheless Ash's presence is refreshing. As the rock of the team, he is a supportive companion who is always calm and collected. He also recognizes his partner Jack's high combat skills and confidently accompanies him to kill Chaos.

6. Final Fantasy VIII - Kiros (1999)

michael jackson lookalike

Michael Jackson had a huge impact on Japan and Kiros creation was clearly inspired by MJ, as he shares a slight resemblance with the king of pop (jheri curls and all). In Final Fantasy VIII, Kiros is one of Laguna's best friends and a fellow Galbadian soldier. 

Although a soldier, Kiros has a sharp wit and often pokes fun at Laguna's stupidity and awol behaviour, although at the same time he also trusts that man with his life. He also has the highest speed stat out of all the playable characters in the game.

5. Commander Gore - Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey (2009)

black characters in jrpgs

Before his promotion to sole commander of the Schwarzwelt Investigation Team, Gore was originally serving in the armed forces for a large country. The initiative he showed during his service earned him a promotion in the top position of that team, a team which held the fate of mankind in their hands.

Commander Gore did as good a job with the crew of his Red Sprite ship as might anybody who had to endure the hardships this captain suffered throughout. Gore and his people would be ambushed by demons in deep space. Despite losing members of his staff, he never lost focus during a trying moment and did his best to bring the situation under control. Though the commander went down in the end, he did so in a noble effort.

There is no information on his country of origin but when he greets the protagonist in the USA version, he says, "Another American, eh?" implying that he may also be American.

4. Children Of Zodiarc - Nahmi (2017)

History is made as Children of Zodiarc is the first JRPG to feature a Black protagonist. The game features an engaging underdog story about a thief called Nahmi, The Ebony Flame who runs with a ragtag bunch of orphans led by a charismatic opportunist known as Zirchoff.

The area Nahmi and her friends lives, The Shambles, is substantially the poorest part of the city of Torus, a place where wealthy folks live a life of luxury and money can buy you anything, while the poor are destined to a life of servitude. A reminder of this social divide and how it affects people is constant, with Nahmi and her mates in clear, open revolt about the issues they face.

3. Black Pokemon trainers (2010-)

black pokemon characters

Since 2010's Pokemon Black and White which was the first game to feature a region outside of Japan, Gamefreak has become more inclusive in regards to racial diversity, ultimately introducing a variety of memorable dark skinned Pokemon trainers with each new instalment. 

Final Fantasy XIII - Sazh Katzroy (2009)

sazh katzroy

Sazh stands out in Final Fantasy XIII, not just because he's a middle old aged Black man among a cast of wayward teens and and twenty-somethings, but also because he's just a normal guy who joins the party to save his son, Dajh.

Sazh's simplicity is in complete contrast to the other characters in the game, and that's what makes this mellow airship pilot and single dad so uniquely grounded and down to earth. On top of that, he is a careful thinker with a composed and positive attitude which consistently saves the other party members from running off and getting themselves killed. 

1. Final Fantasy VII - Barret Wallace (1997)

barret wallace

In Final Fantasy VII, the AVALANCHE leader Barret Wallace, is a chaingun-welding loudmouth (yet passionate and caring) eco-terrorist, whose fight against the evil mega corporation Shinra is personal. That's because Shinra is liable for murdering both Barret's spouse and his best friend. The company also amputated Barret's right arm, and wants to suck the world's lifestream dry.

Barret's uprising against an oppressive entity makes him one of the most political and thought-provoking characters of any JRPG to date, despite some comical dialogue steeped in slang. Aside from his drive to save the planet, Barret is also considered to be the first true father figure in the series, for his relationship with his adoptive daughter Marlene.


Your thoughts?

  1. I loved Sazh as a character. He felt the most 'real' to me and I could really connect with him.

    I don't know how to feel about the whole chocobo in his Afro though. I doubt they were trying to imply anything racist, but at the same time it is a little disturbing.

  2. Sazh was one of the few things I enjoyed about Final Fantasy 13, and probably the only character I actually liked and connected with. His emotional scenes were perfect.

  3. Barret really stole the show for me in the FFVII remake. His voice actor John Eric Bentley was amazing and god he just looks so cool.

  4. That awkward moment when you realise the Dragon quest series has never included any blk ppl, despite being released in 1986.

    1. I think the main reason why there hasn't been a black character in dragon quest is because akira toriyama can't design a black person without black stereotypical features. I want to say Dragon quest 11 will change that, but I can't see anything changing unless the art style of the game goes in a new direction.

  5. Really appreciate the high presence of black characters in Pokémon nowadays. Compared to when I first played Pokémon Diamond and Pearl and there were... no black people. This is a HUGE improvement and I’m glad ever since around Black and White they’ve been adding more diversity to the cast with characters such as Lenora, Iris, Grant, Olympia, Kiawe, Olivia and more.

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