Welcome to another awesome iteration of The Top 5, where you get to know the crew a little bit better and we get to see what your guys’ Top 5s are and discuss it with many of our other readers, listeners, and viewers! This week’s Top 5 is quite interesting, as it deals with something that not a lot of people think about: Sidekicks. Yes, there’s been a ton or sidekicks in gaming history over the past couple of decades and our crew narrows their choices down to their Top 5.
Who will our crew pick as their favorite sidekicks in video games? Will one company rule the roost with most sidekicks picked by the crew? Let’s not delay then. Here’s everyone’s Top 5!
5. Colonel Anderson from the Mass Effect trilogy
I could have very well picked any member of Sheperd’s team in Mass Effect to be part of this list but when it came down to it, Colonel Anderson was the one character that was with me during the beginning and the end of my entire journey through the trilogy. Maybe it’s because I’ve been in a Battlestar Galactica kick recently (the remake, not the original), but Colonel Anderson served as both a mentor and a friend to my Commander Sheperd and his advice and counsel was something that I always used to mold my vision of who my character should be.
4. GLaDOS from Portal 2
While she wasn’t widely responsible for the players’ inability to solve puzzles in the original Portal, GLaDOS was the symbol of all that is wrong with that world. And yet when it came down to partnering with said omniscient being towards the end of Portal 2, I laughed at the idea that a single potato battery powered this once cunning master of ceremonies. It’s true that she wasn’t really of much use while you’re partnered up with her, but I found sheer satisfaction with seeing her be completely useless and reliant on such a small source of power. Of course, that doesn’t stop her from offering her “helpful advice” to the player.
3. Leonardo da Vinci from Assassin’s Creed 2
Ezio’s introduction to Leonardo da Vinci in Assassin’s Creed 2 was probably one of the most awesome moments in video gaming I’ve ever seen. As a real life renaissance man, Da Vinci was legendary with both his inventions and his artwork. So imagine when the Patrice Desilets and his team of developers decided to intertwine Ezio’s adventures with da Vinci’s inventions. The result was one of the most interesting and memorable collaborations in video game history.
2. Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite
Elizabeth is probably one of the more interesting characters to grace video gaming in a while, and for good reason. She’s got a lot of character, curiosity, and charm similar to a child emerging from their mother’s womb. I have to admit that initially, I was concerned that Elizabeth was going to interfere with Bioshock Infinite’s gameplay. After all, since you were rescuing her and had to escort her, many other games in the past would essentially force you to multitask defeating nearby enemies and also preventing Elizabeth from falling into peril. But Elizabeth proved to be a worthy companion throughout my adventure through Columbia, helping me with ammo and tossing the occasional coin, as well as providing a lot of color to the world. And I guess the whole part about being able to create tears in the world is a bonus…
1. Teddie from Persona 4
Teddie is a representation of the traditional hero’s journey as we know it. Starting off as someone who just didn’t know who they were in the beginning, then finally growing into his own somewhere down the line, Teddie was both a perfect comedic foil to the investigation team and, at the same time, someone who reflected some of the players’ inner questions and doubts. I personally feel that Teddie transcends the space that he’s in, and not just with him transcending his presence in the Midnight Channel, but rather also reaching out to the players who feel the same as he does. It’s a similar feeling to watching a really good Saturday morning cartoon with some morality tale thrown in and teaching kids values. Perhaps this is also why he’s portrayed often as a childish person. Either way, I’ve had great memories with Teddie and it’s these experiences are part of why I’ll always be in the mood to replay Persona 4 over and over and over again.
This week’s honorable mentions go to Nall and Ruby from Lunar: The Silver Star and Lunar 2: Eternal Blue, both on Sega CD (and later, PSOne). These adorable little flying, talking balls of fur were a bit annoying, granted, but they were also likable characters in their own right, and ended up having significant places in their respective storylines. They also let you save the game, which was kind of important.
5. Toad from Super Mario Bros.
There’s a fungus among us. Toad first appeared in Super Mario Bros. as the consolation prize for reaching the end of a world, only to give Mario the sad news that the princess was in another castle. Toad usually appears as an NPC throughout the series, providing guidance to Mario, or panicking on queue whenever Bowser showed up. In any case, it is in the more recent games when Toad finally got his voice that I really started to enjoy the character. I mean, just listen to him, he’s hilarious! So gravelly! Such rasp! I love Toad. Though he’s rarely seen as more than a sidekick, even when he is directly playable, he’s still a great character, and one that has improved over the years as he has been further defined.
4. The Weighted Companion Cube from Portal
I’ve never been so attached to an inanimate object; though this is really more of a compliment to GLaDOS, one of my favorite antagonists, and to the excellent writing and voice acting that brought her to life. With all those pieces working together, GLaDOS introduced us to our one and only companion throughout Portal, the Weighted Companion Cube, and it was impossible not to love; GLaDOS made sure of that. Though we spent only a short time with it before being forced to say goodbye, it will always have a place in our hearts.
3. Yoshi from Super Mario World
Sometimes the best sidekicks are colorful dinosaurs that use their own eggs as projectiles. Yoshis have been a lovable part of the Super Mario Bros. series since their species was introduced in Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo. Ever since, any Mario game without them feels incomplete. With cute voices, chubby babies and insatiable appetites, Yoshis are utterly adorable. They always add an interesting element to the gameplay, making the games they are in more fun as well. Overall, Yoshis make great sidekicks, and they can even fill the main character’s role from time to time.
2. CL4P-TP (Claptrap) from Borderlands and Borderlands 2
I give a lot of credit to games that manage to be funny. Lots of games try to be funny, but few succeed in any sort of meaningful way. Borderlands and Borderlands 2 are a couple of rare exceptions, and the majority of the comedy in those games comes from an obnoxiously lovable CL4P-TP General Purpose Robot, affectionately dubbed Claptrap. Though he never shuts up, the majority of dialogue that he spouts is well written, remarkably insensitive to the current situation, clever, and funny as heck. It’s no wonder that at VGA12, Claptrap won the Character of the Year award, and he very nearly got my #1 spot on this list as well.
1. Wheatley from Portal 2
Many sidekicks in gaming exist to provide guidance to the player. The problem is that most of those do so in an extraordinarily annoying fashion. They repeat dialogue, they interrupt the player and the gameplay, and sometimes you get so frustrated that you just want to kill your own fairy. By contrast, Wheatley guides players through the early stages of Portal 2 with class and comedy. Valve was so thoughtful with the construction of his dialogue that if you ignore him, instead of repeating himself he will actually have additional dialogue which is so entertaining that I found myself purposely not progressing just to see what he’d say. And more importantly, he might be the funniest character in gaming, or perhaps Portal 2 simply has incredible comedic direction. In any case, for getting me to laugh out loud more than any other character in over 25 years of gaming, Wheatley is my favorite sidekick of all time.
The way Wheatley was introduced in Portal 2 was fantastic and one of my favorite moments of that game.
The funny thing is that I was having a hard time thinking of a list for days. Then, when I finally sat down to write this list, a flood of characters cascaded into my mind and I actually had a hard time of narrowing it down to 5. Yes, there are a LOT of fantastic supporting characters, and if this was a list of 25, I would still not be able to list them all. So, as it goes, these are my top 5:
5. Captain Price from the Call of Duty series
One of my favorite running gags in the Call of Duty series is the constant appearance of Captain Price – the grizzled war vet is one of the best, most reliable, and straight up badass characters in any video game. Never mind that he sets off a nuke EMP above Washington D.C.!
4. HK-47 from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Bioware’s inspired answer to C-3PO’s cowardly, nervous droid, HK-47 is anything but. Brash, blunt and ever ready to dish out violent death to all “meat bags,” he is everything a fallen Sith Lord could want in an ally. Needless to say, I kept HK-47 with me the entire game once he joined my party – if only in hope that he would offer his snarky and inappropriate commentary on whatever situation we found ourselves in. Good stuff.
3. Tenzin from Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Though he is only with Drake for a few chapters in Naughty Dog’s fantastic Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, he leaves an indelible impression without speaking a word of English. Nate trying his hardest to have a conversation with him never gets old. Another fun character in Naughty Dog’s ever expanding stable of memorable characters.
2. Ellie from The Last of Us
Well-written characters are nothing new in a Naughty Dog game, but Ellie is something special. Young, somewhat innocent, tough, and funny, Ellie instantly endeared herself to me and by the time she pulled out her book of puns, I knew that I wouldn’t want anything to happen to her. Joel made the right choice.
1. GLaDOS from Portal 2
Having the enemy in the previous story became an ally in the sequel is nothing new. Putting that enemy’s consciousness into a potato battery and sticking them on the end of your Portal gun is just straight up insane and brilliant.
5. Ebisumaru from the Goemon series
Renamed Dr. Yang for The Legend of the Mystical Ninja, Ebisumaru has tagged along with Goemon in adventure after adventure in his native land of Japan. Ebisumaru’s affectations are hard to pin down, but he has this strange lovable quality even if he might try to… well, I don’t know. I’ve always been fascinated by big franchises that never make it over here, and so Ebisumaru is one of the great sidekicks we may never truly know.
4. Tails from Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Sonic the Hedgehog took the world by storm in 1991 and pushed the Genesis ahead of the Super Nintendo in sales for a short period of time. With a hot title like that, people get antsy for the sequel. Sonic teamed up with a two-tailed fox named Miles “Tails” Prower. While I just now got the Miles Prower pun (miles per hour) as I am writing this, Tails was cool automatically because you could play 2 player Sonic, and one person could be Tails, and could fly and not die because Tails was invincible. Maybe it’s my nostalgia talking, but we still lived in an era back then when somehow, multiplayer play was greater than the sum of its parts. Simultaneous play in a platformer like that was a total thrill.
3. Otacon from the Metal Gear Solid series
Metal Gear Solid first introduces you to Otacon, a technician at Shadow Moses Island, as man who pees his pants because a robot ninja is trying to kill him. Once that awkwardness passes, you’re introduced to a character that has quite a few complications, but ultimately shows a multidimensional human side. Later in Metal Gear Solid 2, he adds a bit of confidence and poise to his character. The Emma Emmerich thing aside, Otacon is developed nicely over the series, and plays a nice foil to Snake.
2. Zero from the Mega Man series
Mega Man X was an attempt to make Mega Man relevant for the 16-bit era. Besides a redesign of sorts for new hero X, there was a new character named Zero who had a sweet laser sword and a ponytail. Remember, this was the 90’s, so it wasn’t ironically bad yet. Zero was the epitome of cool, and by Mega Man X3, you could play as the orange robot warrior. He died at the end of Mega Man X5 and was supposed to stay dead, but unbeknownst to the producer of that game, Mega Man X6 entered production and he came back to life. He was supposed to stay dead in order to set up the Mega Man Zero franchise on the Game Boy Advance, which ended up being well-received and quite the difficult romp.
1. Alyx Vance from Half Life 2
Half Life 2 sure took its sweet time to come out, but it ended up redefining the very crowded FPS genre. Early on, you meet Alyx Vance, a young woman of great capability. She would interact with you in subtle ways during your adventure, her eyes darting to and fro. I’d have to point out that at this time, the fact that she was very good at not getting in your way. Up to this point, your average escort NPC was dumb as rocks, and tended to stand where you wanted to walk. They were especially good at blocking doors. Alyx Vance was the first one to feel like an addition, and not a subtraction.
I have to reiterate that when we’re doing our Top 5s, none of us actually talk about what we’re going to be putting on our lists. That being said, it’s incredible to me that all of us mentioned at least one Valve character in our lists. I feel this serves as a testament to how rich Valve’s character development is with their games and how they feel that they don’t need cutscenes to convey character. No, I’m not condemning cutscenes, but rather pointing out the difference in Valve’s storytelling approach versus everyone else’s.
Next week, we’ll be counting down our favorite science fiction video games ahead of Titanfall’s March 11th release date. Will we see Aliens: Colonial Marines on this list? Will we see everyone list Mass Effect at least once? Find out next week! Until then, hope you enjoyed this list!