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 411mania » Games » Columns

The 8 Ball 05.13.14: Top 8 Animals Characters
Posted by Marc Morrison on 05.13.2014

Welcome all to another edition of the 8 Ball. This week, Liana and I are here to talk about games, she is focusing on animals as companions while I focused a bit on animals that you can actually control. I'm not 100% dedicated to that criterion, but it's what I tried to base most of my list around. Also, I tried in my list to base it on actual animals. Daxter doesn't count because he was originally human, and the "Ottsel" isn't a real creature. Anyways, let's begin:

8. Conker (Squirrel)

 photo Conker_zps817aecc9.jpg

I was never a huge fan when Conker first came out. It came out in 2001 which was an extremely late-generation N64 game. The game came out a full year (and a day) after the PS2 was released and while the Dreamcast was in its death throes. Conker's basis was that of essentially Fritz the Cat (look it up), a surface-level "cute" character who is an alcoholic in a world populated by sex, curse words, and the Great Mighty Poo. Not exactly what Nintendo is known for, in any era, really. Conker was a well-regarded game on the N64 (as well as the Xbox, eventually), but it didn't get the sales Rare expected, so that was the last of the series.

7. Epona (Horse)

 photo Epona_zps5b2b84d2.jpg

Introduced in Ocarina of Time, Epona has become a stalwart companion for a good chunk of the 3D Zelda games. She serves as a good method of getting around the various overworlds the Zelda games have. You really need Epona to do this (less in Majora's Mask, but still), because the overworlds in the games were extremely large and filled with annoying enemies to encounter. Epona let you bypass a large amount of this and saved you the headache of trying to run from one end of Hyrule Field to the other. More often than not, I would try to shoot through her head as Link would ride her, it gave me something to do as you travelled along

6. Star Fox Cast (Many)

 photo StarFox_zps65de949c.jpg

Almost all of the "main" Star Fox cast are cool in their own way or another. Peppy is the experienced one, Slippy is the newbie, and Fox/Falco have the slightly antagonistic relationship but still remain friends while battling the likes of Star Wolf, and Andross. There are a ton of animals in the series; fox, wolf, frog, hare, dog, pigs, and evil monkeys. It's like an intergalactic version of US Acres. In fact, there aren't any people at all in the Star Fox universe, which is alright in my book.

5. Shadow (Wolf/Dog)

 photo Shadow_zpsfcd3f075.jpg

Shadow in the Dead to Rights franchise is analogous to the dog in the Fable series, with the core difference being that Shadow is actually useful. Shadow can attack your foes and actually kill them if given a chance. Beat that, Fable dog! In some of the Dead to Rights games you even take control of Shadow and just start ripping the throats out of a ton of bad guys as you have to help out your human partner, Jack. Between an emotionally exploitative plot device (Fable) and a dog that can tear through flesh and see through walls (DtR), I'll take the killer dog every single time.

4. Ecco the Dolphin (Dolphin)

 photo Ecco_zps6cae74de.jpg

Ecco 1 and 2 were not good games, in the slightest. As young kids were trying to figure those games out (pre-internet), no one had a chance. Still, they did have a cool "feel" to them as you controlled Ecco, jumping out of the water was neat, using your sonar to see the map, and just exploring the ocean was kind of fun. The Dreamcast Ecco game took it a major step up though and might be one of the best ocean/sea creature games out there. The "tailwalk" move was of particular note since you could see what was on the surface of the ocean.

3. Amateratsu (Wolf)

 photo Ammy_zps06799483.jpg

Sure, it's a female divine god, but she is in the body of a wolf. "Ammy" did a lot of things that were both player-driven and animation driven that were good. As the player, you could bark, do a quick dash, and in battle see fit to pee/defecate on enemies which netted you demon horns. However, during cut scenes Ammy did some really dog/wolf behavior. Laying on her paws, occasionally biting herself (to get to Issun), or just having dumb-founded looks when a character says something strange.

2. Yoshi (Dinosaur)

 photo Yoshi_zpsfdcdeecc.jpg

Since his introduction in Super Mario World, Yoshi has been a favorite of most Mario players. He tends to have egg-throwing abilities, a tongue that can eat/grapple anything, and can be counted on to run on spikes if you need it. He's even spawned a series of semi-respectful games with the Yoshi's Island series. The two best Yoshi appearances are in Super Mario World (obviously) and Mario RPG. In Mario World, the Blue Yoshi was king. With him, you could just fly over almost any level you wanted, with relative ease. In Mario RPG, Yoshi wasn't cool anymore, but Boshi was. All the cool kids wear sunglasses and Boshi was the one who started this trend.

1. Big the Cat


1. Bubsy


1. Sonic The Hedgehog (Hedgehog)

 photo Sonic_zpsd5348ae5.jpg

Yeah, it's Sonic, but what do you expect? I'm sure everyone who grew up on Sonic games actually wanted a hedgehog as a pet. The blue blur for a time was an incredibly dangerous threat to Mario's grip on the industry, Sonic's games were faster, had more secrets in them, and contained "attitude". We all know how this fight ended up, but still. Sonic might not have been the originator of the animal-based mascot for system, but he was definitely the most popular, spawning comics, multiple cartoon series, and a glut of Sonic games that continue to this day. Sonic's best days are behind him, and it's extremely unlikely he'll ever live up to his reputation again, but for a while, Sonic was the most popular animal character there was, and despite everything Sega has done to kill him, he still holds a place in my heart.

The Better Half with Liana K

Top 8 Video Game Animal Companions

Modern gaming has embraced pets. I'm not talking about that creepy Kinectimals stuff, or being a vet in the Sims. I'm talking about heroic animal companions of badassery, that sometimes make you feel like your own pets should be doing more to pull their weight. That's about the time when my pets start giving me dirty looks, and trying to bite my face. I guess they're right, and I shouldn't judge. Since there are a lot of fictionalized types of fantasy animals that would make the list too wide in scope, I limited my list to real-world animals, or things that approximated them. I could do an entire separate list on the best dragons in gaming, after all. Hey! That's not a bad topic!

Honorable Mention: Omid and Christa's Cat (The Walking Dead Season One)

Technically you never see Omid and Christa's cat, so I didn't feel right including this kitty on the list itself. For some reason, however, I ended up caring a great deal about what happened to said off-screen cat. I'm apparently not the only one: doing a google search of "Omid's cat" brings up fanfiction about the cat. Man, even I wouldn't go that far.

8: The Mouse in Escape from Rungistan

Anyone who was playing video games back in early 1980s fondly remembers the Apple IIe. Those who remember the rudimentary graphics from Escape From Rungistan also remember catching the mouse that runs through your jail cell at the beginning of the game, accompanied by the Mickey Mouse Club theme song. It took six year-old me forever to catch that darned mouse, partially because it involved typing fairly quickly... but oh was catching that mouse sweet when I finally did it.

7: Riley, AKA the Call of Duty Dog

Riley is a pretty badass dog. Not only did he steal the show when the game was originally announced, but he takes a bullet and lives! Also, there's something cool about the fact that motion captured an actual dog to make the game. I'd actually play a game starring badass dogs. Maybe someone will make a game of the comic book Rover Red Charlie.

6: Dogmeat (Fallout)

When Fallout 3 was announced after a ten-year series hiatus and a change in developer, the most important question for me was "Is Dogmeat in the game?" Sure enough, he was, in all his derpy glory, and every time he leaped into the air to bite a Sentry Bot, I was happy. Video game dogs biting robots is a special kind of Heaven on Earth!

5: Rex (Fallout New Vegas)

But Obsidian was not content to just duplicate the awesomeness of dogs biting robots for Fallout New Vegas. Oh no! They upped the stakes with Rex, a cyberdog that bites robots! Rex has some pretty great side quests attached to him as well, and I'm pretty sure I over-thought which brain to give him to save his life. Also, the "Jimmy's well" Lassie reference is classic.

4: The dog in Fable 2

For a large portion of Fable 2, I felt like the dog was a bit gimmicky. I'm not sure when the doggy companion grew on me, but at the end, I could not bring myself to make any choice other than saving the dog. Even when I played through a second time as evil, I had to save the dog. I was psychologically incapable of doing anything else. Because that dog loved me even when I was a raging jerk. That dog was the thing that filled the hole in my blackened soul. And he made things easier to dig up!

3: Ser Pounce-A-Lot (Dragon Age: Origins - Awakenings)

I freaking love cats, okay? And cats do not get nearly enough love in video games. But Bioware managed to include a feline companion that was 1) A Song of Ice and Fire homage before the Game of Thrones TV show was a thing. 2) An Arthurian Legend reference. 3) A reason to hum "Baby Got Back". Also, Ser Pounce-A-Lot is a cautionary tale about how mages seek vengeance if you make them give up their pets. He also reminds us that despite how cuddly Alistair is, the Grey Wardens in general are major assholes. Ser Pounce-A-Lot is, therefore, a critical character in the Dragon Age Universe. See also: Kitty the Desire Demon, and Schmooples.

2: Boo (Baldur's Gate)

However, Bioware's animal companion tradition began with Boo, a hamster who is apparently the brains behind the ranger Minsc's brawn. Boo was, according to Minsc, a pygmy giant space hamster, which was an awesome Spelljammer reference in a Forgotten Realms game. It's possible Boo was just a regular hamster, but there was also a rumor back in the day that he was actually a cursed level 47 mage. That would be a pretty nasty curse, being condemned to spend the rest of your very tiny life in a smelly adventurer's man-funk-soaked equipment pack. Ew. No wonder Boo was filled with "go for the eyes" rage.

1: Dog (Dragon Age: Origins)

Okay this one's personal for me. Way back when Dragon Age: Origins came out, I had a dog named Snickers who was a big muscle-chested mutt. She'd been abused, and she tried to eat pretty much everyone except me, my husband, the cats, and our other dog Bandit. She even managed to headbutt a vet when she could not eat them due to a muzzle that would make Hannibal Lecter proud. So when I discovered the Mabari Warhound in Dragon Age, I thought "Hey! It's Snickers!"

So I named the in-game dog "Snickers".

Well, Snickers was already fifteen when Dragon Age Origins came out, and she eventually got really old and died. But whenever I fire up Dragon Age, there's my digital version of her, putting dead things in people's bed rolls and biting Darkspawn. And I remember my vicious-but-oddly-lovable dog, and it gives me a bittersweet, but happy, feeling. And this is the power of video games.

Complainer's Corner

As per usual, I tried to come up with a small list of characters that didn't quite make my big list. Here is what I came up with: Sly Cooper, Parappa the Rapper, Mister Mosquito, Donkey Kong, Crash Bandicoot, Chocobo, Worms, Rush (Mega Man), Goat (Goat Simulator), Earthworm Jim, Octodad, Rex (New Vegas), Croc (Croc games), Nintendogs/Nintencats and any/all Pokemon.

The General Roundup

There weren't a lot of comments from last week, but actually most of them were good. As far as the Javik stuff goes, "Yeah", it's crazy that he wasn't included in the main game as a required content. If anything, the Mass Effect 3 roster was incredibly small and kind of stupid. You spent most of ME2 getting your crew together and then "Hey, here's ME3, none of those characters are on your ship"….uh…what? The list could have really just been populated with Mass Effect aliens (like a few pointed out), but where is the fun in that? Toejam & Earl were cool also, LONG LIVE PLANET FUNKATRON!

Next Issue

Top 8 Regressive Sequels


Would Guardians Be A Hit Without Marvel?

Boardwalk Empire Review: 'Good Listener'

Top 8 Comic Abuse Storyline Moments

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