In video games it’s usually all about the hero and his/her merry band of sidekicks and antagonists. Most of the time, the smaller characters are merely plot devices; minions to give you quests and send you to fetch things. But other times, their little faces are the sunshine in your day, the sweetness in your coffee, or just a sight for sore eyes… and weary feet.
It’s the kind of NPC that just keeps cropping up unannounced that becomes a massive part of the game. Why are you here again? We’re not complaining, but why? Who are you? What are you up to? Tell us more. Here we ask all those questions and more of 20 minor game characters that really deserve some kind of explanation. Or at least a bit of backstory, giving you the official line (or lack of it) followed by some proper exposition.
Why we care: Every time we see this guy in Destiny we half-expect him to offer a magical Rolex that fell off the back of a space truck. Instead he offers something 'Exotic', which isn't 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: 'Xur comes and goes freely, his strange curios too valuable to risk driving him from the Tower'. Also, we cannot be the only one that notices 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.
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 all of 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 4's Merchant
Why we care: Dropped into rural Spain to rescue the presidents kidnapped daughter, Leon Kennedy doesn't meet very many people who aren't 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 What're ya buyin'? is always a relief. But as much as we love him, the Merchant's limitless supply of military grade weaponry and medicinal herbs has us questioning our mysterious entrepreneurs motivations. How come he isn't dealing with these guys himself?
Our best guess: Leon wasn't 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 Ashley's 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, he's only ever spoken to over the phone. He says that its because of work, but the truth is that he's 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 he's always ready to throw out his signature pose for the camera. As for that entrance of his, lets just say that the psychic apple doesn't fall far from the tree - don't ask about the Fuzzy Pickles though, we don't get it either.
Fallout's Mysterious Stranger
Why we care: The Mysterious Stranger is a prime example of Fallout's 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 wasn't long before his idealism turned to self-centered cynicism. Nowadays he passes the time by silently following travellers, using an ancient stockpile of Stealth Boys to constantly save the day and stoke his own insatiable ego.
Borderlands 2's Face McShooty
Why we care: Generally speaking, people don't 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 Jack's 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 fiancee is leaving him for his best friend Crotch O'Punchme, 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 we've stumbled. A hollowed warrior too set in his ways to take a chance outside of camp, he's 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: It's 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 we're that guy/girl 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... dude's 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 we'd 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 (that's right, he's an orc) only serves as a stepping stone in your quest, we'd 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 humanity's best interests in mind. Her loaded questions may make her seem a bit cold, but we're 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 Man's love. It took nothing short of death, destruction, and a few good punches to finally teach her that, sometimes, words are just words.
Pokemon's Nurse Joy
Why we care: Anyone who's 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 she's 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 Ellie's trip through the overrun sewers gradually reveals the story of a crafty fisherman named Ish and his ragtag group of survivors. Frankly, it isn't 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 aren't 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, he's just another friendly survivor tomorrow, hell become the hero we so desperately need. Or maybe he'll be one more infected in The Last of Us 2.
The Legend of Zelda's Old Man
Why we care: It's dangerous to go alone! Take this. Just like that, Link's 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. You've 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 -doesn't even have a weapon. What's 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 'What's 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 doesn't 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. He's 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 they're willing to make for the home team.
Red Dead Redemption's Uncle
Why we care: SPOILERS! At first glance, Uncle's pretty lame. A lazy old alcoholic, he lounges around dodging chores and sneaking naps in the hay whenever Marston isn't 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.
Animal Crossing’s KK Slider
Why we care: KK Slider, or DJ Slider as he is often known, has appeared in every single Animal Crossing game ever, delighting the villagers with his tunes - even if you do have to know the secret password to get him to play them. He’s relaxed and mellow, but ultimately he’s a guitar-playing dog who’s seriously passionate about music. What’s not to love?
Our best guess: He’s probably travelling around the various towns to protest music piracy on behalf of all the talented dogs out there who just can’t find their beat. And on said journey he needs some dosh, a place to rest his paws and chow down on some kibble.
Grand Theft Auto’s Lazlo
Why we care: Lazlow Jones is the only character in the entire Grand Theft Auto series that pops up in every entry. The radio DJ, turned Talk Radio host, turned radio renegade has amused us with his wit and jest since our very first GTA misdemeanour. There’s a strange joy in tuning the various radio stations in each game to find out where Lazlow will pop up next. Is Lazlow actually the voice of GTA?
Our best guess: How does one radio man make his way to a local radio station in every city we happen to be causing damage in? Maybe he’s a failed investigative journalist still looking for that elusive serial killer that will get his byline on the headlines. Or maybe he’s always been outspoken, and his whimsical, often slightly deranged chat has repeatedly got him in trouble with the authorities and the ladies, and he’s now forced to stay on the move.
Tomb Raider’s Butler
Why we care: It doesn’t matter how many times Lara locked him in the freezer, unloaded several rounds of bullets into his chest, or simply just ran away from him, our old Butler pal would always come back, still persisting with that bloody tea tray. Sorry mate, we’re too busy trying to beat the assault course timer to focus on tea right now, we’ve got tombs to raid and we’ve got to be ready. The sound of that tea tray bumping on the wall of the freezer behind a locked door haunted our dreams for months.
Our best guess: Our unnamed Butler has been working from the Croft family since before Lara was born, and he’s now just a senile old man looking to please his master by doing anything he can. Even if that is just following her around with a pot of tea and generally getting in the way.
Tearaway Unfolded’s Misplaced Gopher
Why we care: The Misplaced Gopher wasn’t a part of the original PS Vita version of Tearaway, but he crops up once per level in the PS4 counterpart, Tearaway Unfolded. This particular gopher is a needy guy, who keeps getting lost and has to ask you to carry him through the level to his house. Because you can’t accidentally drop him off a cliff or leave him behind if you want to get the achievement, you build a strong love/hate relationship with the boxy critter, ingraining his visage into your memory for years to come.
Our best guess: The little fella is just a lonely soul who hasn’t managed to make many friends in Tearaway’s world. The other gophers laugh at him, think his jokes are lame and think he’s got a memory about as good as Dory from Finding Nemo. Because of that, he’s had to reach out to anyone who’ll listen, and getting them to carry him from point A to B is just his roundabout way of getting a hug. SOB.