Everyone needs a sidekick. Han has Chewbacca, Bart has Millhouse, I’ve got that weird kid who keeps following me round, hiding behind bins and breathing really loudly in my ear while I try and get to sleep.
Here are ten of the best videogame sidekicks. Feel free to add your own ideas and inevitable disagreements in the comments box at the bottom.
10. Navi: The Legend Of Zelda: The Ocarina Of Time
We’ve all wanted a helpful spirit-fairy-thing to come and fly around our heads, shouting at us when there’s something going on nearby that we should be interested in, right? Navi acts as a guide, pointing out what we might be missing and generally chirupping up when we need to be paying attention. It’s a riff on the Peter Pan-Tinkerbell relationship, but it’s handled with a deft touch and, whilst Navi could have been annoying, she becomes an important facet of a revolutionary game.
9. Ralph: Sleepwalker
Not technically a sidekick, because you spend the game controlling him, but his every action is designed to stop his sleepwalking master, Lee, from falling to an untimely and grisly death, and as far as I’m concerned, that counts. A game released in order to make money for Comic Relief, Sleepwalker was a platform puzzler with voices provided by Lenny Henry. Ralph is the epitome of the unflustered sidekick, helping out the hapless hero of the piece and getting somewhere between little and no reward for his actions.
8. The Weighted Companion Cube: Portal
Look, whether or not you’re one of the people who went utterly mental over the cube, you have to admit that, as phenomena go, this one was massive. Granted, The Weighted Companion Cube isn’t in Portal for very long, nor does it play a particularly important role in, well, anything. The Internet latched on to it however, and what the Internet wants, the Internet gets. Plushies, greeting cards – Valve played a master stroke of marketing and an inanimate object became the videogame character of 2008. I guess, in the end, making a cuddly toy out of an evil, multi limbed super computer just doesn’t make financial sense.
7. Agro: Shadow Of The Colossus
Your only real companion on an epic mission to destroy a cavalcade of hulking giants, Agro is a tragic counterpoint to the slowly deteriorating Wander. More than a simple fast travel device, Agro is a loyal friend and, at times, an essential part of finding and exploiting a Colossi’s weak spot. Like Yorda in Ico, the relationship you build with Agro is sweet and simple, which makes the inevitable separation such a heart wrenching one.
6. HK-47: Knights Of The Old Republic
The single greatest robot in a game ever. HK-47 is an Assassin Droid with a penchant for offing his owners. With the sardonic sense of humour of a serial killer and the cold dead eyes of a machine, he’s the stand out character in Bioware’s Star Wars epic. As is often the case, the devil gets the best lines, and HK-47’s odd way of prefacing every statement with a context clarifying word or two make sure that he’s commanding the biggest laughs.
5. Dominic Santiago: Gears Of War series
Where is his wife? Marcus’ companion throughout the Locust infested world of Sera, Dom’s gravelly tones are as much of a constant in the Gears Of War series as the incessant rattle of machine gun fire and the high pitched whine of children accusing you of being a n00b for using a shotgun. Apparently, he was the ‘heart’ of the second game, poised to make us feel emotions other than ‘kill stuff’. Which isn’t really an emotion. That didn’t work, but it’s his inclusion that opened up the sheer, unflinching joy of co-op play, and whilst Baird may get the best lines, it’s Dom who’s by our side to the bitter end.
4. Dog: Fable 2
There were lots of other dogs that could have taken this space in the list, but in the end, I went for the mutt in Fable 2 because it’s such an integral part of the whole game. A treasure hunting, Hobbe biting extension of your own character, your dog even changes its appearance as you do, reflecting the saintly or ghastly deeds you’ve been perpetrating. Your canine companion becomes part of the triumvirate of moral choices presented to you at the end of the narrative, making them all the more gut wrenching. Faithful to the end, the Dog is one promise Fable 2 managed to keep.
3. Barret: Final Fantasy 7
Cloud may be the absurdly haired main character of FF7, but the star of the show is the gun armed behemoth that is Barret. From the start, you may be controlling the proto-emo clone boy, but your heart’s with Barret. Stomping around, cursing, having a huge cannon surgically attached to the end of your arm, these are the things of which dreams are made. Not only is Barret more awesome, he’s also better adjusted, less likely to break down and be overpowered by hallucinations and at no point in the game dresses up like a lady. Oh, and did I mention he has a gun on his arm?
2. Tails: Sonic 2
I’d like to make it very clear that this is Tails before he started talking and not the whiny, annoying post-Adventure bore who looks at Sonic like he wants to hug him. This is Tails for the brief, one game spell when he was actually pretty cool. All right, not cool, but you get the idea. Tails was as fast as Sonic, as well as being able to fly, thanks to his extra tail, and if you plugged in a second controller, a friend could aid you in ring collection. Sadly though, Tails’ life was ruined when he opened his mouth and sounded suspiciously like Haley Joel Osment. It wasn’t him, but their careers now share the same trajectory.
1. Luigi: The Mario series
The perennial sidekick, cursed to forever play second fiddle to his dumpier, overbearing brother. Sure, he had some time centre stage when Mario got lost in a haunted house, but that hardly makes up for decades spent as the green suited whipping boy of popular culture. Criminally dumped for the original Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, Luigi is the second player booby prize nowadays. It won’t be long before he snaps, slaughters Mario and sits laughing in his blood, muttering under his breath as he plays with the gory remains, “Bits of you, Mario.”