Along with the promise that our decisions would have galaxy-wide consequences (which turned out to be…mostly true), one of Mass Effect‘s biggest selling points was the ability to command a ship and assemble a squad of companions that would join us on our journeys and help us fulfill our Star Trek dreams.
While Shepard is the star of the Mass Effect trilogy, it’s hard to deny that some of the game’s most compelling characters are the ones who serve alongside him aboard the Normandy and stand by his side during the game’s most dangerous adventures. Many Mass Effect players know their crew better than they know their family, which is both a testament to the quality of the game’s characters and a testament to the quality of awkward Thanksgiving dinner guests everywhere.
Which squad member is the best, though? As you’ve probably guessed, that’s the question that we’ll try to answer as we rank the various companions that Shepard can add to his away crew at various points in the game. While characters that couldn’t be added to your away team at some point in the game weren’t eligible for consideration (sorry Joker), we hope this list will remind you of your own Mass Effect adventures and the friends you made along the way.
22. Kaidan Alenko
To be fair to Kaidan, someone had to fill the “standard human dude” squad companion spot in the original Mass Effect, and Kaidan is nothing if not a seat filler.
By and large, though, there’s just not much interesting about Kaidan. He rarely rises above “serviceable” despite clear attempts at making him more interesting.
21. Jacob Taylor
Honestly, the only things that elevate Jacob above Kaidan are a few lines that may be unintentionally hilarious but at least help you remember him.
Other than that, Jacob stands as another sad example of how the Mass Effect team sometimes struggled to make human companions as exciting as their alien alternatives.
20. Nyreen Kandros
Nyreen doesn’t make her (in-game) appearance until Mass Effect 3’s Omega DLC, which means that it’s kind of hard to rank a character who appears so late in the game and only serves as a squadmate for a brief period of time.
This self-sacrificing leader of a mercenary group might have been more interesting if she hung around a little longer, but she’s just not around enough to make a lasting impression.
Maybe this placement is just a tad harsh on Morinth, but because she essentially replaces someone I’d consider to be a much more interesting character, it’s hard to rank her much higher than this.
Her introduction is interesting and the results of her romance storyline are tragically hilarious, but the ways that Morinth could have been a much more well-rounded character are just never explored as often as they should have been.
18. James Vega
Vega’s “meathead” moments and pretty good (if incredibly brief) eventual romance storyline elevate him over Kaidan and Jacob, but it’s understandable if you struggled to recall who, exactly, James Vega is.
BioWare has said that Vega was meant to be something of a new player surrogate, which is kind of odd given his relatively late debut and the ways that design decision ultimately makes him come across as somewhat vacant.
17. Aria T’Loak
Aria gets a slight nod over Nyreen by virtue of her “Pirate Queen” title (which is awesome) and for being one of the best parts of Mass Effect 3’s DLC.
However, the truth of the matter is that Aria just isn’t around enough as a squadmate to comfortably rank her above some of the regulars who better define this series.
16. Zaeed Massani
As a battle-tested veteran turned mercenary who always has a story to tell and a scar to show, Zaeed really should be more interesting than he ultimately is.
Unfortunately, Zaeed rarely rises above the level of standard tough guy. He feels like he belongs as a side character in a Gears of War game, and he never really has that defining moment that elevates him above the level of serviceable archetype.
EDI’s highly sexualized design is sometimes a point of contention, as is this A.I.’s story arc which sometimes tried too hard to examine the philosophical implications of its eventual physical existence.
Having said all of that, the relationship between Joker and EDI is often too good to ignore. EDI may fall a bit short of being as complete a character as they could have been, but they’re often a tremendous source of comedic relief.
Ranking Javik is tough. As the last of the Protheans, Javik is an inherently interesting character whose bitter and combative personality is genuinely hilarious most of the time.
It’s just a shame that Javik is introduced so late in the franchise. He’s not really given the time to develop that a character like him needs, and it just feels like the writers sometimes struggled to work his character into the bigger plot points.
I completely understand if Samara’s quiet nature and sometimes cold vibes make her one of your least favorite characters. She’s certainly not for everyone.
However, there’s something to be said about Samara’s strict moral code and how it allows her to offer a consistent point of view whenever you’re struggling between decisions. Samara’s incredible backstory and always functioning (if sometimes strange) moral compass makes her a compelling companion.
In a lot of ways, Grunt is the better version of Zaeed Masani. As a kind of “Alpha Krogan,” Grunt is practically a tank who talks. It’s often hilarious to watch him boil down complex issues into whatever solution allows him to employ the most force.
Grunt kind of gets lost in the shuffle a bit after Mass Effect 2, but his hilarious appearance in Mass Effect 3’s Citadel DLC helps ensure the character “ends” on a high note.
11. Miranda Lawson
Miranda Lawson proves to be something of a mixed bag as far as squad companions go. At the very least, her mysterious intentions and potentially heated romance storyline make her one of Mass Effect 2’s most interesting additions.
While it feels like Mass Effect 3 could have found more room to expand Miranda’s story, she ends up being a pretty fleshed out (no pun…ah, never mind) character at the end of the day, and the events of Mass Effect 3’s Citadel DLC certainly go a long way towards offering her a more satisfying “conclusion” than she would have otherwise received.
10. Liara T’Soni
I’d argue that Liara benefits from one of the most complete and satisfying character arcs, but there are certainly some who feel that Liara’s intentionally disconnected nature and surprising (some say unlikely) plot twists make her hard to like.
In any case, the thing that really puts Liara over-the-top is her optional romance storyline and the events of Mass Effect 2‘s Shadow Broker DLC. If you take the time to get to know her, you’ll likely find that Liara is one of the most complete and fascinating companions in the Mass Effect trilogy.
9. Kasumi Goto
I’ll say right away that the biggest problem with Kasumi is that there’s just not enough of her. That’s kind of a compliment, but it’s a detriment when you consider that many Mass Effect players may decide to stick with other companions and ignore most of Goto’s relatively short arc.
With that out of the way, it must be said that Goto is an incredible character. She’s basically a rogue in the Mass Effect universe, which not only makes her a pretty cool squadmate from a storytelling perspective but grants her a unique set of combat abilities. I also have to give a shoutout to her Stolen Memory DLC appearance which is one of the best Mass Effect adventures ever.
8. Ashley Williams
Ashley Williams has to be the most divisive major companion in the Mass Effect trilogy. Not only is she initially somewhat underdeveloped, but her hostility towards multiple alien races has led some to call her xenophobic and sometimes something worse.
However, there’s something to be said for how Willaims has always come across as one of the most complete companions in the Mass Effect universe from a storytelling perspective. She feels like someone who exists even and lives a life even when Shepard isn’t interacting with her, and her appearance in Mass Effect 3 shows just how much she’s grown over the years by virtue of her (and your) adventures.
Legion initially comes across as a cheap nod to Star Trek: TNG’s Borg (mixed with a little Data and some other sci-fi characters), but spend a little time with this Geth, and you’ll find that they’re so much more than that.
Legion’s attempts at understanding the nature of its existence is less of a Pinnochio situation and more the result of its ability to process incredible amounts of data and turn that information into new outlooks. It’s tough to say whether Legion is more philosophical or analytical, but it’s that dynamic that makes it so compelling.
As an expert assassin who feels morally conflicted about almost every kill, Thane’s “samurai-like” lifestyle and complex views are more than enough to make him one of the companions that you’ll often want by your side.
Yet, it’s Thane’s disease that makes him a truly classic companion. What could have been a cheap emotional ploy instead becomes the storytelling device that strengthens Thane’s internal debates and regrets over how his actions will affect his distant son (among others). He’s just a great character.
I love how Jack is a fundamentally damaged person whose life is the product of one bad turn after another, but I understand if you feel that her earliest hours are trying too hard to present her as an overly edgy character.
However, Jack grows in a way that showcases just how talented the Mass Effect writers were at the top of their games. She warms up to the rest of the party as she comes to terms with the events of her life, but she never magically becomes an entirely different person. She’s also ridiculously powerful in the best way.
4. Mordin Solus
In some ways, Mordin Solus is Mass Effect’s Spock. Both are highly intelligent, both sometimes suffer from a “detached” view of others, and both are funny in a way that no other person around them quite is.
The biggest differences are that Solus is a hell of a singer who almost always has a tune in his head, and he’s partially responsible for countless deaths. It’s when you realize that Mordin’s “quirky” nature is the product of a darker mind than you could ever imagine that he becomes one of the franchise’s best characters, but Mordin is almost always entertaining no matter how much time you spend with them.
I could talk about Tali’s incredible backstory, great design, or even how she’s the co-star of one of Mass Effect’s best romances, but the thing about Tali that ultimately stands out is how she has one of the few stories that remain compelling across all three games in the Mass Effect trilogy.
There’s been a lot of talk about how Mass Effect 3 failed to end the series in a way that satisfyingly built on more of the player’s decisions, but Tali’s story showed that the Mass Effect team was more than capable of utilizing the trilogy’s ambitious format to weave a complex story across multiple entries.
I’ve never met the Mass Effect player who doesn’t at least kind of like Garrus, and I’m not sure I ever will. He is not only Shepard’s right-hand man through much of the trilogy; he’s one of Mass Effect’s most complicated characters.
Many of the things that are so easy to love about Garrus don’t change throughout the trilogy, but as Garrus’ situations change wildly across those three games, we get to see him shine in a variety of roles as we learn more about how one of the coolest characters in the galaxy often struggles to find where he belongs if he’s not by the player’s side.
1. Urdnot Wrex
At the risk of making too many Star Trek comparisons, it has to be said that Wrex will remind many players of one of TNG’s best characters: Worf. Both are members of a seemingly violent alien race whose intelligence, warmth, and leadership immediately leave most players to realize that the assumptions they made about them may not be entirely fair.
Not only is Wrex one of the clearest early examples that the Mass Effect universe is more complicated than you maybe thought it would be, but he’s one of the few companions in the first game whose incredible backstory and various conflicts may leave you wondering if he should have been the star of this impressive show.