Gaming is full of memorable characters. From mascots like Mario and Sonic to fighters like Ryu from Street Fighter and Scorpion from Mortal Kombat. But for every main character enjoying the limelight and appearing on marketing material, there is a veritable army of video game side characters that do more than support the protagonist. In some cases, they make the game what it is, they enhance the game and lift it to heights the main star couldn’t do alone.
With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of five of my favourite side characters in video games. But let’s be clear, this isn’t necessarily my top five, I could literally write a top 100 list, this is just a glimpse of some of my favourites:
Elizabeth - Bioshock Infinite: The Bioshock Collection
You could argue that Bioshock is Elizabeth’s story, not DeWitt’s. But ultimately we see the game through DeWitt’s eyes, it’s his decisions that drive the narrative forward. Regardless of whose story it is, the moment you meet Elizabeth you’ll be enthralled. As the story unfolds and you find out what she has been subjected to and what she has endured. She changes from a timid, delicate flower to an empowered, enduring and unstoppable force. As her powers grow so does her confidence, and it gives you, the player, an odd sense of pride to watch her become who she was meant to be free from the invisible (and visible) shackles of her captors. Plus she throws you ammunition when you’re running low.
Tifa - Final Fantasy VII
Owner of the Seventh Heaven bar in Midgar and childhood friend of protagonist Cloud. Tifa is kind and soft-spoken. She’s always willing to lend a hand to those less fortunate, but can turn that hand to a fist and wipe the floor with any opponent that stands in her way. Although a brawler she is the heart of the group and always has good advice for Cloud and a calming tone for Barret. She is always in my main party in every playthrough of the 1997 original Final Fantasy VII and still gets top billing in the Final Fantasy VII Remake.
Cortana - The Halo Series
The blue AI is just as synonymous with the Halo saga as Master Chief himself. When she’s not infiltrating enemy channels or hacking systems to make your journey easier. She’s a voice in your head keeping you abreast of developing situations through each of the Halo games. Her character has seen a lot of development across the five Halo titles... although the less we say about five the better. The relationship between Cortana and Master Chief grows and flourishes across the original trilogy, with Cortana even risking her existence to keep you alive. Even though she’s an AI construct, she is the human side and heart of Spartan-117.
Garrus - The Mass Effect Trilogy
Commander Shepherd goes from soldier to Spectre (read: better soldier), to saviour (read: best solider). But Garrus goes from Security Officer at C-Sec on the Citadel - the hub of the intergalactic federation. To volunteering himself to join Shepherd crew after getting fed-up with all the red tape he faces when bringing down criminals. A quick time jump in Mass Effect 2 and Garrus is now a deadly sniper and scourge of the criminal underworld. One who brings swift vigilante justice with him wherever he goes. Every interaction with him is memorable and his journey across the Mass Effect Trilogy, much like all of the Shepherd’s team, outshines the Commander’s. In a game that is full of memorable and interesting characters, Garrus still stands out amongst them.
BT - Titanfall II
Criminally underrated Titanfall II fell victim to bad timing. Some suit and tie without a clue sandwiched this fantastic game in between the releases of Call of Duty and Battlefield. So it went fairly unnoticed for a long time. And it really is a shame. Not only is the game fantastic, but the gunplay is also smooth, Multiplayer is frantic. The character movement is silky. But it features a robot buddy that stands alongside the likes of Optimus Prime, Johnny Five and Wall-E. BT becomes your Titan early on in the campaign, but you’ll always refer to yourself as his Pilot. It’s that simple phrase that sets the tone of the relationship. You belong to BT. He wants to, and will, protect you above all else. Much like Cortana, BT is the heart and soul of the partnership and his actions show more humanity than some actual humans... and I don’t mean just in gaming.
So, how does my list compare to yours? Have I left an important character on the sidelines? (see what I did there!) Let us know on the Zatu social media channels.