You Got a Friend in Me
The games that we love best are packed to the brim with larger-than-life heroes of every sort and walk of life; from steel-nerved space captains to secret agents and spies on Her Majesty’s payroll, from musically inclined elf boys to chubby plumbers. But what about the unsung heroes without whose aid and assistance no heroic deeds would ever come to pass?
“Behind every great man there’s a great woman/man/animal/companion/farming tool”. Where would Batman be without his Robin? Where would Alvin be without Simon and Theodore? And most importantly: where would Turner be without his Hooch? In this edition of Top 5, it’s all about the B-sides, as the crew pays tribute to some of the greatest and most overlooked sidekicks of gaming history.
Chad Morelock – PS3/PC/Retro Writer
5. Farah (Prince of Persia: Sands of Time)
4. Joker (Mass Effect series)
3. Minions (Overlord)
2. Victor “Goddamn” Sullivan/ Chloe Fraser (Uncharted series)
1. Todd “Maniac” Marshall (Wing Commander series)
Farah and her witty banter with the Prince made what could have been an annoying escort mission much more bearable. Also, she wasn’t completely useless – although she did have a habit of popping you with an arrow now and then.
Joker, of course, practically IS the Normandy. It wouldn’t be the same ship without him at the helm.
And then we have the Minions – the mass of goblins that you command to gleefully pillage, hack, and burn your enemies and to bring you whatever goodies they find. You gotta love the sight of them guzzling tankards of beer as they annihilate a halfling party.
Then we have a tie at number 2. Now, Sully is completely awesome. He’s pretty much Bruce Campbell’s character from Burn Notice transplanted to treasure hunting instead of spy games. But…Chloe is voiced by Claudia Black. Claudia Black’s compellingly sexy voice gets her on this list too.
And finally? None other than perpetual wingman Maniac. He’s not only memorable for being an ace with a near-suicidal disregard for his own safety, but for the fact that in the FMV…he’s played by Thomas Wilson. BIFF TANNEN. You gonna argue with him, butthead?
Tom Rippon – 360 Writer
5. Shale (Dragon Age: Origins)
4. Rusty Galloway (L.A. Noire)
3. Uncle Mario (Assassin’s Creed 2)
2. Aku Aku (Crash Bandicoot series)
1. Augustus Cole (Gears of War series)
Shale’s blunt and dry humour pretty much made the middle stages of Dragon Age: Origins, where the story was dragging a little and the other characters had nothing much to give.
Rusty Galloway, your homicide partner in L.A. Noire, provides a light-hearted (at times) look at murder, and that’s really what I’m looking for when I’m trying to catch a killer. Plus the fact that he always had something to complain about, especially when I was driving.
Uncle Mario is probably the best character across the Assassin’s Creed universe. Especially when he first turns up in AC 2 shouting, “It’s me, Mario!”
If only for the fact that he takes hits for you and makes funny noises, Aku Aku made my childhood a very happy one.
Nobody else but the Cole Train could be number one – he’s invincible, badass and talks for the sake of talking. Oh, and his rap at the end of the first game that was pretty much made up of his dialogue in the game was incredible. These are all reasons that he is my go-to multiplayer character.
Martin Watts – Editor-in-Chief
5. Daisy Hernandez (Body Harvest)
4. Franky the Talking Pitchfork (Conker’s Bad Fur Day)
3. Slippy Toad (Starfox 64)
2. Natalya Simonova (GoldenEye 007)
1. Elvis (Perfect Dark)
Firstly, we have Daisy Hernandez from Body Harvest. Who, you ask? If you’ve ever played the wonderful (if flawed) title that is Body Harvest, then Daisy is to Adam Drake (Body Harvest’s main character) what Cortana is to the Master Chief. She gives you key information as you’re battling your way through each area that those pesky aliens have invaded. Her role is, to be honest, very limited, but Body Harvest is a game that makes you feel pretty isolated at times, and so having someone there to watch your back is something of a welcome relief.
Surprisingly, Franky the Talking Pitchfork is one of the more normal things you come across in Conker’s Bad Fur Day. You only team up with him for a short while, but it sure is one heck of a rollercoaster ride. Franky isn’t the friendliest of pitchforks when you first meet him, and his redneck attitude gets in the way of Conker being able to achieve his goal. However, united by a common foe (a giant, robotic stack of hay), Franky really proves just how useful he is. He’s very simple and his attempt to take his own life by hanging himself, only to then find out that he doesn’t have a neck and therefore can’t, is hilarious. He may be a small part of a stellar cast, but Franky’s role shouldn’t be understated.
Ah Slippy, we’ve had some good times, am I right? No, I’m not right actually and that’s because Slippy Toad is a complete moron. Some of Starfox 64’s greatest missions involve you having to take out an alien mothership before it wipes out a base and protecting the Great Fox from incoming missiles. The latter mission, in particular, is a right pain in the neck at the best of times, so having Slippy persistently radio in with “FOX! GET THIS GUY OFF ME!” doesn’t do much for my sanity. At least when Slippy’s ship took too much damage in the original Starfox it exploded in a nice big red flash, only for the annoying little frog to later turn up on a Frenchman’s dinner plate. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in Starfox 64. So why is Slippy on my list? Because without him (and Peppy “Do a barrel roll!” Hare for that matter), Starfox 64 wouldn’t be the nostalgic experience that it is today, not to mention that the one useful thing he did do was bring up the enemy boss’ health bar. And besides, it’s cool to hate.
Natalya is Elvis’ spiritual predecessor, and obviously Rare hadn’t quite ironed out all the kinks in the AI at this point in time. Natalya holds a very special place on my list, purely because no other sidekick frustrates me so much. Who else would walk in front of my KF7 Soviet while I’m emptying it on full-auto into a group of Russian soldiers? Oh, is that a live grenade by your feet, Natalya? Don’t worry, you sit on it as if it were a penguin egg while I scream at the screen. Perhaps, I’m being a bit harsh, because for all her faults, Natalya isn’t that bad – later in the game she gets her hands on a Magnum (the gun, not the ice cream) and it turns out that she’s pretty shit-hot with the thing. Although protecting her on the “Control” mission is frustratingly difficult on 00 Agent difficulty, Natalya is more useful than she is useless, and that has to count for something, right?
And finally, as far as aliens go, Elvis (or more formally known as Protector One) is certainly one of the cooler variety. Sporting a Stars & Stripes waistcoat, not only is he a cracking shot with the Farsight rifle, but he’s also absolutely hilarious too. Yes, he’s quirky but ultimately very loveable. He seems like such a goofball until he actually starts shooting things – then you realise just how much of a badass Elivs actually is. Maybe I just like hearing those big-headed greys yelling “I’ll kick your ass!”.
Pascal Tekaia – US Managing Editor, 360/Retro Writer
5. Elika (Prince of Persia)/Trip (Enslaved)
4. The Watcher (Darksiders)
3. Augustus Cole (Gears of War series)
2. Your Hunter’s Pet (World of Warcraft)
1. Epona (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
Elika and Trip have very similar purposes; both unwittingly cause their respective male counterpart to embark on his quest (in Trip’s case, she literally holds Monkey’s life hostage so he will cooperate). Both also contribute their substantial abilities to the Prince and Monkey, respectively – Elika saved Prince from death countless times throughout the adventure. And both require constant handholding, turning these games into epic escort quests. Finally, it’s nice to see the developing relationship between each duo as the games progress, turning sidekicks into potential love interests. Ah, chivalry…
The Watcher is more a guardian than a sidekick, and by guardian I mean a crap-talking, unwanted, ill-tempered entity whose charge it is to keep an eye on War, and kill him should he attempt to step out of line – an order which he does attempt to make good on. But the real reason he’s on this list? Well, Mark Hamill may not sound as sexy as Claudia Black, but his nerd appeal is at least equal to hers.
Cole Train: Let me count the ways… For every time you talked funky smack, for every time you came out of the woodwork and saved my sorry hide, for every time you rubbed it in without remorse, for every time you were just plain kick-ass awesome – this spot on my Top 5 is for you!
Warlocks have their minions, Death Knights have their ghouls, but a Hunter’s pet in World of Warcraft is something special. Hunters have the ability (once they reach the appropriate level) to tame beasts in the world and make them fight by their side. Not only does that offer up a whole lot of choice, but the beasts require sustenance, and as they level up, you can train them in certain skills. This makes a Hunter’s bond with his pet unique. Add to that the fact that you can tame certain rare creatures and rename them as you see fit (once I tamed the unique Echeyakee in the Barrens and renamed him Turdblossom, nothing could keep the two of us apart), plus the facts that they’re invaluable sources of aggro and damage in battle, and your Hunter’s pet is your best friend.
Finally, Epona takes top billing as sidekick! She doesn’t battle, she doesn’t talk, but the sheer joy of riding her around Hyrule as Link is exhilarating! She gets you where you want to go in style, and without all the annoying habits of Navi the fairy. She is one of the few creatures that Link is able to forge a deep bond with, and one of the few familiar faces that actually touches something inside of you when you see her again in some of the later Zelda games. Plus, isn’t it every young boy’s dream to have a horse of his very own?
Declan Burrowes – European Managing Editor, 360/PC Writer
5. Captain Price (Call of Duty series)
4. VAL (Startopia)
3. Cortana (Halo series)
2. Augustus Cole/Damon Baird (Gears of War series)
1. Garrus (Mass Effect series)
Though Call of Duty bashing probably qualifies as an Olympic sport, the literally awesome power of the original one-man army, Captain Price, cannot be denied. From his World War II rendition as a delightfully well-spoken whiskey-drinker in Call of Duty 2 to his stern, neatly-groomed reimagining in Modern Warfare, Price is cold, calculated and knows how to get the job done.
“Who the hell is VAL?”, you might rightly ask. Should you be a management gamer in the know like what I is, VAL is the cynical, wryly humorous AI companion for your burgeoning space station in the horribly underrated Startopia. With perfect delivery and a penchant for sarcasm, even the most mundane of station news is rendered hilarious.
O, Cortana, my sweet bluebell of the galaxy, with your ample holographic figure and your genius-level intellect, o how my adventures in battle against the Covenant would have been dull and corridor-laden without you. (Wait…) Fawned over by fans for a decade, Cortana has proved a reliable, intelligent and attractive “love interest” for the Chief throughout the Halo series, giving life to an otherwise characterless protagonist.
Okay, so I may be cheating a little by including two “sidekicks”, but considering Gears of War’s Cole and Baird are stuck to each other with the manliest of superglues, I’d feel heartless separating them even in writing. Baird, with his arrogant, exhausted humour, is perfectly counterweighted by the hyperactive, big-spirited Cole. Both make Sera a pleasure to chainsaw through.
Garrus takes my top spot. I’m not sure why. He’s not outrageously funny, nor is he especially heroic. More than anything, he’s a real friend, sticking with you throughout the tumultuous events of both Mass Effect games. Mysterious enough to warrant interest and investigation, but friendly and dependable, his superb voice-actor creates a level-headed, compelling character with his own ideas and agenda. Plus, he’s a turian. Everyone knows turians are cool.
Armand Kossayan – PC Writer
5. Rush (Mega Man series)
4. Mortimer “Morte” Rictusgrin (Planescape: Torment)
3. Dogmeat (Fallout)
2. R.O.B., the Nintendo Robot
1. Buddy (Another World, aka: Out of This World)
Rush, Mega Man’s robotic sidekick hasn’t made it into too many Mega Man games, but he was there when I was a kid, and finding his upgrades were always some of the most exciting power-ups for me personally. I mean, he transformed into a doggie submarine! How cool is that?!
Morte was a healthy dash of humor and silliness in the otherwise dark and serious Planescape, and a useful party member to have around.
Dogmeat has appeared in most of the Fallout games, and after years of having this sometimes too easily killed dog helping out my lone wanderers, he’s found a special place in my heart. Also, default first choice for a dog name were I ever to actually get a pet.
R.O.B. was not a videogame sidekick. He was a gaming buddy! Well, provided you wanted to play one of two crappy NES games with the overpriced and under-utilized robot companion. Nevertheless, what I wouldn’t give to have one of those little guys on my work desk today!
Finally, Buddy – or the silent alien companion in one of the best games I enjoyed on my SNES (yes, I know it was a computer game first, I just played it on the SNES). Buddy, without uttering a single word through the entire game, somehow managed to convey emotion, friendship, and a deep sense of respect in me. When he finally carries the player’s beaten and dying body onto the back of a large pterodactyl at the end of the game, well, let’s just say I somehow always find a little dust in my eyes at that point.
Sebastian Force – 360/PS3 Writer
5. Globox (Rayman 2)
4. Urdnot Wrex (Mass Effect series)
3. Bloodwing (Borderlands)
2. Your dog (Fable series)
1. Johnson (Shadows of the Dammed)
I have no idea why Globox was so awesome. He was stupid, pretty useless and average, and only served to be the dumb sidekick who somehow told you what to do. But the interactions (the little bit we had) between Rayman and Globox showed a great friendship, which inevitably rubbed off on the player. This is what made Globox such a great sidekick.
Does this need an explanation? The Krogans in general are badass, but Wrex is the pinnacle of Krogan badassery. How many times in the first Mass Effect have you walked into a enemy-filled area and have him just take out a whole fleet of bad guys? Once he actually killed everyone before I could get close enough to start shooting. Add that to his “I’m going to enjoy killing you” archetype and we have a great sidekick in Wrex.
Bloodwing doesn’t speak. He doesn’t need to. Bloodwing only responds to four words: “GO GET ‘EM, BLOODWING!” Once you hear those words, you will behold the destruction of all that dare get in his way. In later levels he might as well be a flying nuke with a mortar attachment. If you had this bird as a pet, you were walking around with your own personal army.
Even evil bastards will develop an attachment to their dog. I know when I played and something touched my dog, I beat the ever-loving hell out of them. Someone tried to kick my dog and I set them on fire. I even briefly considered the good ending of Fable 2 just because it would bring back my dog, despite being the most evil thing since we put crocks on Bobby Kotick.
Johnson definitely deserves the top spot. Okay, so Johnson’s a bit crass, and let’s say that doesn’t appeal to you because your father is the Quaker Oats guy or something. Even taking that into account, let’s look at what Johnson is. He’s an upgradable talking pistol/shotgun/automatic rifle from hell that turns into a motorcycle and a grenade launcher, has a passion for strawberries and hot women, can fire bullets of light that incapacitate demons, and has a cool chrome skull for a face.
P.S. He’s also a vegetarian, and British. Deal with it.
Share Your Thoughts: Our team has selected some of our favorite “second fiddlers”. What about you? What sidekicks have taken top billing in your heart? The floor is all yours…