At the risk of pushing a hot-button topic or two (and how appropriate to press buttons when talking about video games), it can be said that the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System actually featured some intriguing choices of role models for the physically disabled or people with special needs. At least, in this case, to the extent of only having one arm. Yes, each character on this list only had one hand to work with; granted, the opposing limb was usually replaced with something arguably even better than a hand, like an extended bionic gripper device for example.
The Five Fine NES Series Reminder: The following choices are in no particular order, and do not reflect a “best of” list, but merely a summarized list of examples per category on the Nintendo Entertainment System. In this case, characters who get it done without their full set of God-given appendages, by character name, then game they appeared in.
Samus Aran, Metroid
The classic example of a viable answer to the question, “Why have two hands when you can have one hand and a plasma cannon?” Samus performs double duty not only as a one-armed hero but also as a role model for butt-kicking females everywhere, and remains a popular character to this day for her galactic-level exploits.
Luke Skywalker, The Empire Strikes Back
Poor Luke gets his hand sliced off in a duel with daddy (“Bring Your Kid To Work Day” was always so awkward after that), having to resort to an artificial replacement afterward. Fortunately for our Jedi-to-be from Tatooine, the only difference between his prior flesh-and-blood fingers and their cybnernetic stand-ins seemed to be the presence of a stylish black glove.
Mega Man, Megan Man 2
Although the box art may appear to indicate otherwise, Mega Man definitely has a cannon for an arm and puts it to good use throughout his incredible run of six different NES titles. Eventually the arm-gun gains the ability to charge its shots, in addition to switching projectiles to match that of previously beaten bosses. With such awesome firepower on his side, it is no wonder that Mega Man blazed a remarkable trail of action-star heroism across the canon of the Nintendo Entertainment system.
Jet-Power Robo-Repair Glove Robotic Hand, Super Glove Ball
Someone may think this choice is pushing the envelope, but it is difficult to deny that the titular Glove in Super Glove Ball does, indeed, lack a second hand. On an obscure 8-bit video game that was actually optimized for the Power Glove (yes, it had special moves exclusive to the so-bad Glove), players could enjoy controlling the robo-digits in order to attempt to catch items, bounce others into enemies, navigate the starship, and follow a discombobulated plot.
Ladd Spencer, Bionic Commando
Sure, the image on the instruction manual may show a guy with two human arms, but fire up the cartridge and let the gameplay do the talking: The man is a bionic commando because he holds a gun in one hand and his other arm is purely for grappling purposes. Later games in the franchise would emphasize the one-arm nature to good effect, accentuating an enormous, cyber-awesome sort of arm. Whether saving Super Joe or fighting Nazi wanna-bes, the Commando got it done, and all without ever being able to count to ten on his fingers.
Other one-armed protagonists may emerge even in future generations of home video game consoles, but these were five of the original NES examples to set the stage. They proved that you only need one hand to grab the bull by the horns, so to speak; though, it certainly helps if your other hand is a laser rifle.