Good to see you again
Most of the NPCs you run into in any given game are pretty inconsequential. It's nice to have them around to make the world feel populated, and they can say some pretty funny/disturbing stuff to help set the tone, but rarely will they have a major impact on you or anything you're doing. You can usually pass right by while they're being mugged in an alley or muttering to themselves about how they're going to be the world's greatest Pokemon trainer without a second thought.
But what happens when the same person shows up again? You think nothing of it, until they appear a third time, then a fourth, and suddenly that unimportant thing they're doing seems relevant to your life because why are you doing that, and who the heck are you?! Here I ask that very question of 16 random minor characters that deserve an explanation, telling you what I do know and then taking my best guess at the rest. Seriously, are you some sort of spy? A ghost? My secret twin brother? I need to know!
Why we care: Every time I see this guy I half-expect him to offer me a magical Rolex that fell off the back of a truck. Instead he offers me something 'exotic', which is not much better, but everyone just turns a blind eye because the swag he hands out is too awesome. No, seriously, look at his in-game description: "Xr comes and goes freely, his strange curios too valuable to risk driving him from the Tower." Also, I cannot be the only one that noticed he has no face.
Our best guess: We know for sure that Xur is a Jovian, or a resident of one of the worlds beyond the asteroid belt (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) that were abandoned after the Bad Thing came or something. Whatever went on out there after things went dark transformed the Jovian people, both physically and mentally. Who knows what sort of moon-wizard space magic came about as a result. Xur probably developed the ability to create fine mystical wares at an early age while under the command of the forces of darkness. Or he's a Heartless. I could see either.
Why we care: One good look at this guy sets off about a thousand alarm bells. The hunched shoulders, the crazy bloodshot eyes, the inhumanly long nose. That becomes even clearer when he starts visiting you in your dreams like a dapper Freddy Kruger and telling you that terrible misfortune will soon befall you. Yet despite all of that, he's a perfectly polite guy who really does seem to want to help you out with all your Persona-splicing and fortune-telling needs.
Our best guess: Between his bizarre appearance (seriously dude, are you making a face or what?) and impressive mystical abilities, he probably ran away to join the circus at a young age as a penny fortune-teller. He doesn't have the friendly look or stage presence of the Miss Cleo crowd of psychics though, and summoning demons probably doesn't go over well with carnival-goers once they figure out the things are real. So he sold his tent, rented a trans-dimensional limo, and got a gig peddling monsters to teenagers. It's a living.
The Wolf Among Us' Ginger Man
Why we care: At first glance, this guy is as regular of a schmoe as you can get when there are fairy tale characters involved. He gets to say a whole two words at the very beginning of the game, and after that is shuffled off into not-worth-a-voice-actor land where he just stands around in hallways or drives Bigby's cab. But then you realize he's driving allof the cabs, and is standing outside the Fabletown business office immediately after, or is sitting by a fire in an alley while also driving a taxi immediately next to it? Yeah, this is getting a little weird.
Our best guess: Lets ignore the out-of-universe explanation for a minute and go for internal consistency. Think about this: packs of siblings are kind of a thing in fairy tales, like the Little Mermaid's five sisters or the six swan brothers or the seven dwarfs (though they might just be conveniently named roommates). That could be the case with Ginger Man - maybe his mom's the little old lady who lived in a shoe - and every time we see him we're actually seeing one of his identical siblings. Together they own and run Fabletown's sole taxi service, except the alley-lurking brother. He's a black sheep.
Resident Evil 4s Merchant
Why we care: Dropped into rural Spain to rescue the presidents kidnapped daughter, Leon Kennedy doesnt meet very many people who arent trying to kill him. Infected villagers, crazed cultists, and other biologically-empowered baddies behind every corner can really wear a guy down, so its no surprise that glowing blue torches and a familiar Whatre ya buyin? is always a relief. But as much as we love him, the Merchants limitless supply of military grade weaponry and medicinal herbs has us questioning our mysterious entrepreneurs motivations. How come he isnt dealing with these guys himself?
Our best guess: Leon wasnt the first US agent sent to retrieve Ashley. Armed with the best weapons money could buy, this operative (Codename: Mr. Chant) disposed of his enemies with such aplomb that they cowered at the first sight of his trademark trench coat. But he became disillusioned upon hearing Ashleys incessant whining, abandoning the mission without a hint of remorse. Stranded in the countryside, he sells his old weapons to finance a trip back home.
Earthbound's Camera Man
Why we care: Ah, the Camera Man. This silly guy follows Ness and his friends throughout their quest, always insisting on taking photos of the children in a completely consensual and totally not creepy way. He also kind of teleports down from the sky, and has this weird fixation with Fuzzy Pickles wait, whats this guys deal anyway?
Our best guess: Creepy, far too attached old man, or a loving father watching over his son throughout a life-threatening adventure? Think about it--we never see Ness dad throughout the game, hes only ever spoken to over the phone. He says that its because of work, but the truth is that hes borrowed waaaaaay too much money from the Minch family and cant show his face around town without wearing some kind of disguise. Theres a good chance Ness himself is in on the secret, seeing as hes always ready to throw out his signature pose for the camera. As for that entrance of his, lets just say that the psychic apple doesnt fall far from the tree--dont ask about the Fuzzy Pickles though, we dont get it either.
Fallouts Mysterious Stranger
Why we care: The Mysterious Stranger is a prime example of Fallouts quirkier side. Sporting an 1950s noir overcoat and fedora in the newer games, this guardian angel can appear out of thin air to lend a hand (and about six .44 rounds) during combat. Who is he, and why is he always following us around?
Our best guess: Radiation can have some pretty wild effects. While some victims of the Great Wars nuclear blasts may have turned into Ghouls or Super Mutants, the Mysterious Stranger was instead granted rapid cell regeneration, effectively granting him eternal life. Inspired, he traveled across the wasteland looking to help innocents and rebuild the ruined society as best as he could. However, years upon years among the cutthroat survivors slowly took their toll, and it wasnt long before his idealism turned to self-centered cynicism. Nowadays he passes the time by silently following travelers, using an ancient stockpile of Stealth Boys to constantly save the day and stoke his own insatiable ego.
Borderlands 2s Face McShooty
Why we care: Generally speaking, people dont enjoy being shot in the face. Its been known to cause bleeding, disfigurement, headaches, and, in some instances, death. Face McShooty spits in the face of all of that. He wants to be shot. He lives for it.
Our best guess: The truth is that the Psychos of Borderlands also boast a very active and fulfilling personal life. There are whole communities of Psycho families--flaming husbands, badass wives, and midget children--going about their daily lives, attending their jobs and gossiping around the water cooler about whats really under Handsome Jacks mask. Face is one of these average, everyday Psychos whose personal life took a turn for the worse. His home is being demolished to make way for an Iridium plant, his fianc is leaving him for his best friend Crotch OPunchme, and his pet skag ran away from home last night. Its a sad story, really--just a hard one to take seriously with that goofy name of his.
Dark Souls' Crestfallen Warrior
Why we care: He waits for us by the fire, a lone swordsman whose cynicism and paranoia speaks for the dreary, dangerous world into which weve stumbled. A hollowed warrior too set in his ways to take a chance outside of camp, hes always ready to mock and belittle anyone who tries to take fate into their own hands. It kind of makes us wonder--was this guy always such a depressing jerk?
Our best guess: Its tough to be young and suddenly feel like you need a new identity to stand out. The transition between cheerful kid and melodramatic, eyeliner-wearing pile of angst was swift for the Crestfallen Warrior, but while most of us come to our senses before were that guy still trying to fit in at a Bullet For My Valentine show, our gloomy knight stayed the path. Did some hollowed girl break his heart long ago? Is he too sensitive to ignore the misery and pain of the world around him? Neither--dudes just an asshole.
Why we care: When we think fantasy, an image of swords, sorcery, and dragons immediately springs to mind. In fact, the world of celebrity chefs is probably the last thing wed think to associate with the genre but, lo and behold, the Gourmet exists to smash all of our preconceptions into dust. Although the celebrated orc (thats right, hes an orc) only serves as a stepping stone in your quest, wed love to know more about the less violent side of Skyrim.
Our best guess: Like others before him, Balagog gro-Nolob grew up in a stronghold community that valued ferocity and bloodshed above all else. Instead of wrestling with his orc-ling friends or mauling his first dire wolf, Balagog instead found joy in freshly baked sweetrolls or a well-seasoned elk. He took a big chance leaving his home, knowing that he could never find true happiness among such a barbaric culture, but the risk paid off when his anonymously published cookbook captured the culinary imagination of Tamriel. At least, for a time
Mass Effect's Khalisah al-Jilani
Why we care: Commander Shephard! What are your thoughts on--POW! Down goes Khalisah al-Jilani, the galactic reporter who always has humanitys best interests in mind. Her loaded questions may make her seem a bit cold, but were dying to know more about the woman behind the knuckle sandwich.
Our best guess: Public opinion is one of the strongest weapons in any war, and no one knows that better than the Illusive Man. Looking to gain more support for the pro-human cause, he sees opportunity in a young reporter preparing to cover interspecies politics on the citadel. After a few nights with those piercing blue eyes and their promise of a life beyond anyones wildest dreams, she was hooked--all too easy for the man willing to do anything to reach an end. Purpose locked within her innocent mind, she traveled to the Citadel ready to cast aside her ethics and win the Illusive Mans love. It took nothing short of death, destruction, and a few good punches to finally teach her that, sometimes, words are just words.
Pokemons Nurse Joy
Why we care: Anyone whos touched a Pokemon game knows about Nurse Joy. Greeting us at every Pokemon Center with a warm smile, our quest to be the very best (like no one ever was) would have been a lot shorter without her medical prowess. That being said, the fact that shes greeting us at every Pokemon Center is a little bit troubling. Each one claims to be related, but anyone with a hint of genetics knowledge can tell you that type of duplication is about as likely as finding a shiny Legendary.
Our best guess: The answer is staring us in the face. Somewhere out there, an underground facility is holding hundreds, if not thousands, of Nurse Joy clones in captivity. When J-Day finally hits, Team Joy will take control of each regions organized crime, leading an army of instantly-recuperating Chanseys able to defeat each and every ten-year-old kid in their path. The only hope we have left is that their rivals, Team Jenny, may someday bring justice to their pink-haired terror.
The Last of Us' Ish
Why we care: Joel and Ellies trip through the overrun sewers gradually reveals the story of a crafty fisherman named Ish and his ragtag group of survivors. Frankly, it isnt too pretty--most of the group falls to the infected, yet by the end Ish manages to escape with a woman and some of the children and lives to fight another day. Is that all were allowed to know about this hero?
Our best guess: The people of ruined America are just that: people. There arent any fantastical origin stories for us everyday folk, and Ish is hardly any different. What made him stand out, however, is that he never lost his humanity when the world around him fell apart. When even our protagonist Joel turned to looting and banditry, Ish soon found himself a following as the stories of his courage and decency spread like wildfire amongst a broken people. Today, hes just another friendly survivor--tomorrow, hell become the hero we so desperately need.
The Legend of Zeldas Old Man
Why we care: Its dangerous to go alone! Take this. Just like that, Links gone from an aimless adventurer to the slayer of beasts and the rescuer of princesses. But wait! That kind old man with the wooden sword disappeared! Who was he, and why the heck was he just sitting there in that cave?
Our best guess: Imagine that you were Ganon, the Prince of Darkness. Youve captured the princess, your forces are everywhere, and the only person who dares challenge your might is a young boy in a silly green outfit that--get this--doesnt even have a weapon. Whats he planning to do, tickle you to death? Just for kicks, you decide to give him a sporting chance. You transform into an old man, hand him a useless wooden sword, and give him a good scare as you fade away into the darkness. Watching him run outside ready to battle your army, you chuckle one last time and think Whats the worst that could happen?
Watch Dogs' Defalt
Why we care: This enigmatic hacker is a huge source of frustration for Aiden Pearce. Ripping some valuable data and taunting him at every turn, we have a begrudging respect for anyone who can balance the workload of a high-stakes criminal with the partying lifestyle of a DJ. But doesnt this guy seem a little familiar?
Our best guess: Our masked hacker was probably born in Canada, but moved throughout the world to pursue his musical career. He likely released his first album around 2005, and later began his own label in 2007. Perhaps his popularity picked up in the years following, to the point where his trademark rodent helmet became a cultural icon. We bet that even today his fans continue to argue over the correct pronunciation of the misspelled moniker-- then again, all this is just a guess. Hes probably just a rip-off of that Skrillex fella all the kids are talking about these days.
Psychonauts Clem and Crystal
Why we care: All of the young campers Raz meets on his journey are fascinating, but none seem to have more to hide than Crystal and Clem. Both are obsessed with cheerleading and being overbearingly happy at all times. Turn away, however, and those happy smiles immediately turn grim. Now the pair is discussing poisons, throwing themselves off of buildings, and talking about reaching the other side. What dark past could have turned such a happy duo suicidal?
Our best guess: Were ashamed to admit that we first suspected the worst when facing the overwhelmingly negative evidence, but the truth is that there was no dark past--Clem and Crystal were really doing it for the fans. Realizing that their fabulous cheers were landing on deaf ears, they were searching for a new audience when the realization hit--who needs S-P-I-R-I-T more than all of those miserable souls trapped in the afterlife? The journey may be a bit grim, but its a sacrifice theyre willing to make for the home team.
Red Dead Redemptions Uncle
Why we care: SPOILERS! At first glance, Uncles pretty lame. A lazy old alcoholic, he lounges around dodging chores and sneaking naps in the hay whenever Marston isnt around to chew him out. But when the ranch is attacked, Uncle transcends his inept form. Rifle in hand, he picks off waves of attackers until a stray bullet finds its way to his heart. Bleeding out, his final concern is for Marston and his family. Rest in peace, you magnificent bastard.
Our best guess: Judging by his final moments, Uncle clearly led a life of unfiltered badassery. While his early years were spent robbing trains, taking names, and wooing dames, poor investments in a couple bad poker hands left him penniless. A cold, grizzled felon, he signs on with Van der Linde crew for one last score when an ambush tears the gang apart. Rescuing one of the wounded bandits amidst the chaos, a young Marston swears to repay his savior in whatever way he can.
Decades later, he regrets every word.
You seem familiar...
Some of these guesses might seem a little weird or unlikely, but I totally did the research and it makes perfect sense. Trust me. Have you done any digging into the life of a intriguing NPC? Come up with a pretty water tight-origin story for them? Let us know in the comments!