Traditional games have often been placed in the category of adolescent male power fantasies, or as we apparently adolescent males prefer to call it, doing things which are totally awesome. Over the years many avatars have popped up to do things which are awesome, and generally the level of awesome has increased with technology levels. This is more or less because the better the animation, particle effects and shaders, the more awesome things look.
The last few years have seen the emergence or consolidation of some serious badasses in the world of gaming, who fall into three main categories: regular Joe, superhuman or total badass. The differentiation between the three categories can be seen in the following hypothetical: what happens if a rogue soviet general (video games don't have to worry about whether the cold war is over or not) threatens to launch a nuclear weapon at the badass' home town or country?
A regular Joe level badass, such as Altair from Assassin's Creed, Riddick or Batman would respond by sneaking and/or shooting their way to the missile base and disarming the device anywhere up to ten seconds before detonation. The base is guarded by anywhere up to a hundred guards plus a couple of tanks and a helicopter. The general has a machine gun and a few grenades, maybe some sniper cover.
A superhuman badass, of the Ryu Hayabusa or Master Chief type (he's in here because he can flip a goddamned tank with one hand), would respond by knocking on the front gate and then killing everything that moved with the aid of magic or crazy sci-fi and then riding the missile into the stratosphere after it is launched and destroying seconds before it explodes. The base is guarded by several hundred guards including some in mechanised suits, a few dozen tanks and helicopters and some sort of giant demon snake thing. The general is a cyborg with psychic powers and a flamethrower where his left eye should be.
A total badass, such as Kratos from God of War or Alex Mercer from Prototype, would respond by asking nearby countries to please retreat to a safe distance. The uncounted guards would form a nice red smear background to cyborg bear mechs getting ripped in half and the flying ninja robot dragon general being killed by having his nuclear missile tipped tail ripped off and shoved down his throat. The ensuing explosion would provide waves of nuclear communist mutants that the badass would have to kill in order to warm down effectively.
The first level of badassery often makes for games with more variety, challenge and nuance but I'll always have a soft spot for a game that lets me throw a tank at a helicopter.