I think one of the main differences in games with characters vs. games without characters is how in control they make you feel.
For example, games like SimCity and The Sims give the player a feeling of a god. You see the game from above and you can go to any part of the world by dragging the screen. Also, you can make things happen just by clicking different things in menus.
On the other hand, in games like The Walking Dead and Assassin’s Creed you are limited by the main character’s vision and actions. Although you are responsible for the actions, you feel like you are the character. You try to understand what the character is going through and what would he or she do in each situation, and at the same time you also consider what would you do in each situation. Then, it is like you and the character become one.
I don’t think that necessarily one type of game is better than the other because of the things said above. I just think they provide different experiences and I love both types!