The 8 Ball 10.8.13: Top 8 Supporting Characters
Posted by Marc Morrison on 10.08.2013
From Leonardo da Vinci in Assassin's Creed 2 and Captain Price from Modern Warfare to Cortana from the Halo series, Rush from the Mega Man series, and more, 411's Marc Morrison ranks his Top 8 Supporting Game Characters!
Welcome all to another edition of the 8 Ball. This week the topic is on supporting/sidekick type characters. I chose more support and Liana chose more of the sidekick role. I tried to limit my characters in either not playable, or playable, but not have the focus of the story/game on them. With one exception (number 6), I think I held fast to this rule. Still, let's begin:
As the only non-human character on this list, Rush is a bit of an odd choice, but stick with me. Since his inclusion in Mega Man 3, Rush has provided ample help with getting Mega Man through levels and helping you to access power-ups and what not. Really though, Rush came into his own in Mega Man 6 by being able to combine with Mega Man and decimating the game, with his rocket punch and jet-pack. There are other such creatures out there in games, notably Yoshi in Mario, but most of them are pretty one-note. Rush remains awesome to this day, although not in cartoon form.
At this point it can be argued whether or not Cortana is a main character of Halo, or not. Still, I included her because you haven't actually played as her in a game yet (to my knowledge at least). Cortana has been your constant companion in the main Halo games, giving you advice, objectives and the occasional sarcastic remark. While she went a bit crazy in Halo 4 she made up for it in the climax of the game sacrificing herself to save John (Master Chief). While it's probably debatable if she comes back or not (I say yes), she put her stamp on the Halo franchise for sure, along with Master Chief, Captain Keyes, and that annoying marine voiced by David Cross.
6. Captain Price
I think you only play as Captain Price twice in the entirety of the Modern Warfare franchise, but I'm not sure about this. Still, Captain Price has been the breakout character for most of the relevant Call of Duty franchise. He is a caustic in spots but he always tries to get the job done, no matter the odds against him. He seemed to have less of a presence in MW3 (likely due to the fractured nature of the game) but he always came through, even when those around him died. And let's be honest, the last mission with him solidly ends the Modern Warfare franchise plot. At least until Activision needs more money and resurrects it.
5. Leonardo da Vinci
There is a lot of praise thrown at Assassin's Creed 2, from its improved combat system, to the graphical upgrade, to having a stronger (and stranger) plot, but one thing AC2 (and Brotherhood, for that matter) did really well was create a set of strong characters for you to actually give a damn about. Leonardo was a great character, from his personality (slightly flummoxed but brilliant), to the subtle hints about his more interesting habits, and his enthusiastic persona were all kind of hilarious, but in an endearing way. It's great how enthusastic he Above it all though, he remained loyal to Ezio and that was, for me, the core relationship in AC2.
Viola in Eternal Sonata is interesting because she has almost no reason for being in the party/going on the quest. You rescue her from monsters and she just joins up, like in a lot of other RPG's. Even as the story progresses, she might occasionally say a line or two, but the focus is never on her and you don't really find out a lot about who she is. However, when you actually use her in battles, you find out she brings death to enemies, and life to allies. Using her bow is weird in combat, but you can get used to it in time. However her game-breaking "Heal Arrow" spell is why she's so great and can just be relegated to healing your characters over and over. She is almost the definition of a "support" character, since her role in the game is supporting the party.
What meatbag doesn't fall in love HK-47 when playing KOTOR? A dead one, I assume. As the venerable assassin droid with a chip on his shoulder, HK was generally not a great party member in the game. Sure he was better than T3-M4, but that's not saying much. Still, I kept him around just for all the trash-talking he would say during conversations and his "Just kill everyone" attitude. He was the break-out character from the game, so much so, that he came back in KOTOR 2 and in The Old Republic MMO.
While each party member generally has their place in Planecape, Dak'kon is a good hybrid character. While he spouts endlessly about knowing and Zerthimon, Dak'kon is an effective warrior and an effective mage rolled into one nice package. It's through him that you find out what a terrible person your previous incarnation was, when he essentially enslaved Dak'kon for his life. While Fall-from-Grace is a more useful character in the game (being the only healer), and some of the others (Morte/Nordom) provide more hilarity, Dak'kon provides balance in the game, and that is ultimately partially what the game is about.
1. Kinzie Kensington
Kinzie would have made this list just for Saints Row 3, alone. While bubbly and energetic, she belied a great intelligence (and paranoia) about her that served her well. She really came into her own in Saints Row 4 though, continually saving the boss's ass at almost every point. From unplugging him/her/Nolan North from the Matrix, to figuring out how to bring down the simulation, to rocking an awesome poodle skirt during her loyalty mission. Kinzie supports the boss and the Saints with a lot of sarcasm and yelling about their idiotic plans but she always manages to come through.
The Better Half with Liana K
Top 8 Game Sidekicks
The sidekick is a noble role. Their entire job is to make the protagonist of a story look good or more interesting, while allowing said protagonist to be brooding and slightly boring because they're providing the laughs or riskier story arcs. It's for this reason that I thought it would be a good idea to spotlight some of the characters in video games that have, historically, not gotten their fair credit. They may get a few gameplay levels, be a second player avatar or a total NPC, but like a good bra, they provide attractive support. They're the Fruit of the Loom that supports the testicles of the video game industry. They're... okay, fair warning guys, I'm sick while I'm writing this. So if things get weirder than usual, that's why.
For the purposes of this list, I'm defining sidekicks as characters that are not game protagonists, but who spend a significant amount of screen time with the main character and who help carry the narrative. So, for instance, Ellie from The Last of Us is not a sidekick because she's more of a co-lead than a supporting character since the mid-to-late-game plot revolves around her. I also don't consider Mass Effect party characters sidekicks, because none of them are really integral to the mandatory missions in the series, and most can be killed at any time. The characters that follow land somewhere between those two extreme-yet-somewhat-arbitrary lines. Forward, faithful readers!
8: Midna (Zelda: Twilight Princess)
Confession time: I have little-to-no emotional attachment to most of the Legend of Zelda characters. They're bland, gooey-eyed, and there have been many moments I wanted to smack the ish out of their squeaking, grunting mugs. Furthermore, the sheer amount of Wii remote waggling required to play Twilight Princess felt vaguely masturbatory. But I loved Midna! She was sazzy, fun, and cool looking in both forms. And she made fun of Zelda a lot. Zelda had it coming. Midna made Twilight Princess an enjoyable experience for me despite its weaknesses... except for that stupid air castle level! Gah did I loathe that level! I'm digressing. Midna's great. Moving on.
7: Sully (Uncharted)
Victor "Goddamned" Sullivan is one of the most lovable scumbags in gaming, and he's more mature than Nathan Drake. It's always strange to me when people complain about the death toll in the Uncharted games, because at no point in that trilogy does the game ever portray Nathan Drake as a "good guy". He's likeable and charming, but his interactions with others indicate that he's an immature, self-deluded, commitment-phobic, thieving, adrenaline junkie. Sully's role as mentor and foil plays a big role in bringing this all out, because Sully really shouldn't be mentoring anyone, and he's increasingly a voice of reason as Nate's obsessive tendencies worsen. But Sully's pretty likable in his own right, a quality the series uses to maximum effect in the third game, but it's his original appearance with the bad debts and desperate decisions that cemented the serial adventure feel of the franchise. He also taught me the word "hinky", and it's important to expand one's vocabulary.
6: Imoen (Baldur's Gate)
Apparently, the Baldur's Gate's protagonist's little sister proxy was a low budget, last minute addition because they needed an early game thief character who wasn't bonkers. From these humble beginnings she progressed to awesomeness, turning out to be a fellow Bhaalspawn and, eventually, a Harper. If you don't know what these things are, you lead a deprived life: you didn't play the spiritual precursors to the Dragon Age games. If you're a Milennial, you have an excuse for this state, but you likely also have crushing student debts and poor job prospects, and I'm getting very much off topic. While Minsc (and Boo) steal the show as soon as they enter the Forgotten Realms, Imoen is the emotional core of your party. She's so darned nice that she doesn't outwardly display any symptoms of being the spawn of the Lord of Murder, but this late bloomer takes the sequel by storm, dual-classing as a mage and getting more than a little creepy. It's such a huge change that you're left compellingly bewildered, creating huge emotional depth in an isometric game where the supporting characters are little more than portraits. Bioware attempted the same "traumatizing the happy character" trick with Anders in the Dragon Age games, but it didn't work as well, mostly because it resulted in the loss of Ser Pounce-A-Lot.
5: Morte (Planescape: Torment)
Morte is The Nameless One's wisecracking guide to the City of Doors and The Nameless One's lost past. He makes up for being just a floating skull by having a big personality. No one's sure where he keeps his inventory, but he carries a lot of secrets too, so he's clearly a tough little guy. At first you love Morte because he's hilarious, but you gradually learn that he's prone to lying, and responsible for huge amounts of doom, thickening the plot significantly. Morte also has great taste in women – redheaded fiendlings voiced by Sheena Easton – and he has, possibly, the nerdiest inside joke in all of video games. Column space doesn't permit me to explain the Head of Vecna reference, so find the biggest D&D dork you know and ask them. When they're done, you probably still won't understand it. It's that nerdy.
4: Kai (Heavenly Sword)
Kai is one of those characters that really defies description. I could describe her as one part cute neko girl from your local anime convention, one part Gollum from Lord of the Rings, but that leaves out the lesbian subtext and protests that her "twing-twang" is her crossbow. Dear god we need more lesbians in video games. In media in general. Seriously, I'm tired of gay guys getting the sitcoms and the movie stuff, while lesbians are still ghettoized into porn and Chicago Fire. That show is practically porn as is! Fire porn. Weird. Anyway, yes, I support more lesbians in video games. I'm never going to be allowed to write a column while sick again, am I?
3: The Arbiter (Halo)
The Arbiter is my absolute favorite Halo character, and the reason why Halo 2 remains my favorite Halo game. Though he starts the franchise as an antagonist, his enduring role has been fighting alongside Master Chief, even through a giant alien asshole known as the Gravemind. Technically the particular Arbiter I'm referring to is named Thel 'Vadam, but I prefer to affectionately call him "Arby".
The one flaw with Arby's role as sidekick is that he rapidly eclipsed Master Chief in terms of character depth... in that he actually had a character arc in the original trilogy. His is a journey from blind faith to rational choice, and in the process he changes sides in the war between the UNSC and the Covenant. He ends up killing his former leader, the Prophet of Truth, and advocating peace with the humans. Master Chief... um... macks on Cortana, fights 343 Guilty Spark twice, turns out to be really lucky, and eventually ends up in stasis and wakes up near a Forerunner planet. Upstaging the star of a gazillion dollar media franchise is practically a religious taboo in itself, which is why, I suspect, he had a smaller role in Halo 3, and doesn't appear at all in Halo 4.
2: Barry Wheeler (Alan Wake)
If I threw objectivity to the wind, I would make Barry my number one sidekick pick. I suggested this topic because I wanted to put Barry on a list, because he is adorable. He's unusual among game characters, in that he's a chubby, allergy-plagued literary agent who ends up helping his client fight shadow monsters in a small town while growing sweet on the female sheriff. But Barry lightens up the game both literally and figuratively, his "flaming eye of Mordor" being one of the most memorable moments in a story that's pretty big on them. While he starts the game as a device for plot advancement, he embraces ass-kickery more thoroughly than Alan does, and the dreary man-versus-himself themes of Alan Wake would be unrelenting bleak – and possibly boring -- were it not for the comic relief that Barry and the Old Gods of Asgard provide. I'm still holding out hope for Alan Wake 2, and more Barry, once Remedy gets out of Xbox's Dark Place where they are being held captive making Quantum Break.
1: Luigi (Super Mario Bros)
Gaming's most-beloved second fiddle is technically the star of his own game series, but let's face it, he's a sidekick. The name of the game is Super Mario Bros, not Super Luigi Bros, and that alone proves my point. That shiz is all about Mario, and Mario's dysfunctional relationship with Princess Peach and Bowser. Despite this, Luigi has been able to have a pretty good life in his squatter brother's shadow and he's one of the most recognizable figures in gaming, despite being a player two avatar and a sacrifice on Nintendo's recent altar of hubris as Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon got stuck on the 3DS. I thought I'd show Luigi some respect at the top of this list, because he gets precious little anywhere else!
I'm sure every game has supporting characters I missed, or didn't think of. Here are a few of the ones I came up with, off the top of my head. Some of these are from games I haven't played yet, so I can't judge on them, aside from other critical responses:Elizabeth (BioShock Infinite), Yoshi, Meta Knight, Cid (FF7), Viki/Jeanne (Suikoden), Steven Heck (Alpha Protocol), Veronica (Fallout: New Vegas), Ellie (Last of Us), Geno (Mario RPG), and Mordin/Thane (Mass Effect 2).
The General Roundup
There were actually a lot of pretty decent-to-good comments from last week. Color Liana and I fairly impressed. I'll try to address some of the good ones in a non-snarky tone. The usual bad ones will get my full snark: Breaking Bad is an interesting choice for a game, but I don't think it'd work from an open-world perspective. Well, unless you played it from Jesse's perspective, anyway. But Walt is too damaged (both physically, and as a character) to pull something like that off.
I think the game "State of Decay" on 360/PC is the Walking Dead/survival game you're looking for. I haven't played it, but it's about the only game of that type (besides Day Z).
Chuck might be interesting also, but it really depends. Chuck started to really fall apart around season 3 or 4 and never recovered.