The beat 'em up genre, and to an extent the sandbox genre, has been a haven for manly men. It's given us characters like Axel Stone, Mike Haggar, Ryu Hayabusa and Rick Taylor (Splatterhouse). Even John McClane has graced this genre with his presence during Die Hard Arcade. But despite playing as many of these characters and having a great time, it's a more recent one that stands out as the most manly - Kiryu Kazuma.
Kiryu Kazuma (or Kazuma Kiryu) is the main protagonist from the Yakuza franchise and despite being a sandbox game, fighting is a core part. Whether you're squaring off against random street thugs or other Yakuza bosses, someone's going to get their ass kicked, and you're the one who's going to be doing it.
There's nothing new here though, plenty of other people kick plenty of ass. Ryu Hayabusa even chops the limbs off of demons for fun. So what makes Kazuma special? Just watch the video below:
You'll notice the following. Kazuma is an expert at all weapon-based combat, even if he should never be able to lift or use something with that much proficiency. For example, when would you see a normal guy fending people off thugs by using a mountain bike or a massive lamp post. You will also notice that he also shows zero mercy when he's got his rage meter up. This can lead to him picking people up and wrapping them around lamp posts, or smacking someone straight in the face with a baseball bat.
It's the reason that Kazuma is feared, or at least respected, by most people in the Yakuza universe - if you start a fight with Kazuma, you will regret it. You'll really regret it.
Aside from the sinister story, the range of the combat is what makes Yakuza such an interesting franchise. Even fights against generic guys can be fun because you can just pick up random objects on the street and lay some smack down without too much trouble. Kazuma can also learn some sick wrestling moves as he progresses.
And to top things off, despite his unquestioned badassery, deep down he's a really sweet guy (if you can look past the whole Yakuza thing). I mean, he even runs a kid's orphanage. Most characters who're involved in this type of scenario are either ex-cops with a point to prove or super-powered demon hunters. But Kazuma is quite different. He doesn't need to fight, he's not on some great quest to save the world or rid the streets of some mass evil. No, he just makes people regret what they've done, in a big way.
All of these factors contribute to what was my manilest moment in gaming - fighting as Kiryu Kazuma for the first time and being able to physically pick a guy up and wrap him around a lamp post. It's not something you see every day in a game and it's not something I will be forgetting any time soon.