What good is a video game hero without a wise-cracking buddy by their side? Sure, roleplaying as the brave protagonist ensures that we as players get to perform staggering feats of endurance and tenacity, but all of it would mean nothing were it not for those trusty in-game sidekicks that help keep us grounded while placing such amazing actions into context. Creatives recognised the value in this dynamic duo set-up decades ago – and there’s been no shortage of great video game companions ever since. This list is our way to show these folks some proper appreciation and have them share the spotlight for a while. Here’s our definitive ranking of the 10 best game companions.
10. D-Dog (Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain)
Unlike every other Metal Gear Solid game before it, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain is far more open and sandbox-like in its structure. This leads Punished Snake to venture into the throes of Afghanistan from a range of drop points, often with one of four possible buddies by his side, when undertaking covert missions. Of course, you could rely on the sniping abilities of Quiet to help you or capitalise on the fast-movement speed of D-Horse to make a quick getaway, but really it’s your canine companion D-Dog who proves the most useful – and not only because he’s a very good boy.
Relating to D-Dog is no hard task, mainly because you quickly raise him from pup to full-grown attack dog while on mother base and both share a fondness for eye patches. Out in the field he also serves as a useful ally, marking enemies that you might otherwise miss on the map within a 50m radius, sniffing out harmful landmines and, of course, attacking soldiers on command. D-Dog is simply the most versatile form of back up in Metal Gear Solid V, hence why he makes our list of the best video game companions.
9. Jonah (Tomb Raider)
Being a new addition to the Tomb Raider mythos following 2013’s reboot, Jonah quickly imprinted himself onto the hearts of players as one of the best video game protagonists for how earnest and spiritual he is. Lara is continually forced to make tough decisions and perform gruesome acts throughout the course of Square Enix’s modern trilogy, but Jonah is the gentle giant who keeps this legendary adventurer humble by helping her not lose sight of herself. He may have begun life as a simple cook for the Endurance research vessel, yet since crashing into the lost island of Yamatai, he has since remained one of Lara’s most reliable and honest cohorts.
Jonah plays a key role towards the beginning of 2018’s Shadow of the Tomb Raider, asking Lara to question whether or not she is the catalyst for all the resulting destruction after she steals an important artefact from an ancient Mexican tomb. This leads to a fractured and prickly relationship between the pair throughout much of the rest of the game, allowing players to witness their bond slowly reach its original state. Jonah is the prime example of doing a lot with very little when it comes to video game protagonists, being clear evidence of a developer taking the time to make you care just as much about the people surrounding the always triumphant hero.
8. Elizabeth (Bioshock Infinite)
Every Bioshock game might always revolve around a man and a lighthouse, but for Infinite this changed when the doe-eyed Elizabeth joined protagonist Booker DeWitt on his journey in the sky-high city of Columbia. She might be someone who’s spent most of her life stuck in the confines of a library under the protection of a mechanical bird, yet that’s exactly why she wants to make the most of her sudden freedom, aiding the protagonist’s first-person shooting antics by regularly throwing you health and ammo during gunfights.
Elizabeth ends up playing a much more crucial role in Bioshock Infinite’s story than a simple victim for Booker to rescue, boasting immense power that allows her to shift realities, timelines, and perspectives. The beauty of this is that it also bleeds into gameplay, as well as just the story, as when you’re together players can phase unique tools into the environment, such as defence turrets and useful cover to help give you an edge in battle. Elizabeth is very much the full evolution of video game companions in the style of, say Resident Evil 4’s Ashley, acting as a big help rather than a hindrance.
7. Dom (Gears of War)
From the outside looking in, Gears of War is a cover-shooting series that seems fairly superficial. You play as the hulking Marcus Fenix, seemingly infallible and always ready to kick some Locust arse by gunning legions down with his lancer as needed or getting up close and personal to saw them to death. Marcus is your stereotypical gruff protagonist, so thank heavens he had his trusty pal Dom by his side to help lend the initial Gears trilogy a healthy helping of humanity. It’s precisely because of Dom that the player never forgets what the Cog army is fighting for.
This all comes to a head roughly two thirds of the way in Gears of War 2, where Dom finally reunites with his long-lost wife Maria, only to discover that the Locust have left her traumatised. Dom’s emotional reaction to the situation resonates with our traditionally surly main protagonist, inspiring the pair and the rest of Delta squad to finally battle their way through the Locust tunnels and save the remaining civilians. The bond between Marcus and Dom remains one of the focal points of the first three Gears of War games, no doubt inspiring future heroes Kait and J.D.
6. Yoshi (Super Mario)
Yoshi shook up the Super Mario formula by giving the titular plumber a trusty (and always extremely hungry) dinosaur companion to ride on. His first appearance came in Super Mario World, a game which most players consider to be the best from Mario’s 2D years. Yoshi played a large part in this, allowing players to move around stages much faster when obtained and making short work of shy guys thanks to the long reach of his tongue. Better yet, Yoshi is also a chameleon of sorts, coming in colours like red and white, as well as the traditional green.
It’s not uncommon for Yoshi to serve as Nintendo’s secret weapon, ready to spice things up in a pre-existing Mario series to help improve it. The dedicated dino obviously did this for Super Mario World where he first appeared, but also enhanced gameplay once again in Super Mario Galaxy 2 on the Nintendo Wii. Alongside additional suits and powers, Yoshi’s ability to inflate into a balloon or illuminate the path in specific spooky levels helps solidify him as one of the best video game companions. And if that wasn’t enough, he’s been the star of several beloved spin-off entries.
5. Tails (Sonic the Hedgehog)
It’s hard to imagine Sega’s infamous blue blur running through Green Hill Zone, performing effortless loop-de-loops without his faithful flying fox friend trailing behind him. Because, despite Tails not appearing until 1992’s Sonic the Hedgehog 2, he’s become equally iconic as his arrival fundamentally changed the way players would approach Sonic games forever; especially those played on the classic 2D plane. He’s the rare example of a video game companion who made playing as Player 2 actually cool, largely as flying throughout such stages as Chemical Plant and Casino Night made hard-to-reach areas much easier to navigate.
Very much slotting into the younger brother archetype most players with siblings can likely relate to, Tails is always in awe of Sonic’s fearlessness whenever the two clash with Dr. Eggman. These wildly different attitudes don’t hinder either character’s appreciation for one another, especially since Tails can easily keep up with Sonic’s stark sense of speed and in some ways improving upon it by using his namesake to take on enemies from the air. Sonic has kindled friendships with many companions over the years, but no-one is yet to beat the original.
4. Mimir (God of War)
In the lead up to 2018’s soft God of War reboot, we were all lead to believe that Atreus would be our sole companion on this epic road trip through the nine Nordic realms. However, having experienced the game in its entirety, many of us couldn’t imagine this journey without the dulcet Scottish tones of Mimir telling us tales of the times before. Also known in Norse mythology as the Smartest Man Alive, Mimir traditionally served as Odin’s advisor but swiftly finds more than he bargained for when joining the stoic Kratos’ quest to spread his deceased wife’s ashes.
The entirety of God of War (2018) occurs largely during one continuous shot, requiring several journeys by boat whenever you must travel a long distance. Any danger of these instances feeling boring or dull, however, is avoided thanks to the various stories about Odin, Thor and the rest of the Nordic gods Mimir regularly regales Kratos with. These range from the world serpent’s history, the flight of the Jotnar and many more. Mimir might lack every body part from the neck down, but his companionship only improves God of War’s worldbuilding.
3. Cortana (Halo)
How do you solve the problem of the silent video game protagonist? By surrounding him with companions, of course. This poses a problem, though, when your main character is primarily a war hero who spends most of his missions exploring and shooting alone. That’s where the genius of Halo’s Cortana comes in. She might be an AI (as well as a voice companion for your phone), but Jen Taylor’s excellent voice performance has seen her swiftly grow just as iconic as Master Chief – to the extent that she’s played a crucial role in the overall Halo story arc.
Cortana herself is based on Dr. Catherine Elizabeth Halsey within Halo lore, being the person responsible for the SPARTAN-II supersoldier project that eventually went on to spawn the Master Chief. She serves as your trusty video game companion and intelligent guide to the universe, always speaking in your ear to keep you as the Chief informed, even when her systems are slowly degrading as presented in Halo 4. Whether you need a computer terminal hacked or a transmission decoded, nobody video game companion does it better than Cortana.
2. Clank (Ratchet and Clank)
While you might not directly play as the eponymous robot throughout much of the Ratchet & Clank series, the latter half of PlayStation’s iconic duo has proved many a time that he packs a lot of punch. Not only is he the brains of the operation, but Clank is also what enables Ratchet to traverse planets with ease and is often the source for most of the franchise’s unique weaponry and gadgets. What makes Clank one of the best video game protagonists is his ability to prove time and again that size doesn’t matter, except in those few situations where it does and you get to control him in giant form.
Clank has become so beloved by fans that he even received his own spin-off game on the PSP in 2008’s Secret Agent Clank. And though not Earth-shattering in terms of story or gameplay, by any means, it at least proved how the small shiny android might handle himself whenever Ratchet isn’t around. Both Ratchet and Clank spend much of their time apart during the PS3’s Future trilogy, making it all the sweeter when the pair were finally reunited in a true reimagining of their origin in 2016’s reboot. Every Ratchet needs a Clank, and this partnership is almost two decades strong.
1. Victor "Sully" Sullivan (Uncharted)
The most quintessential video game companion of recent years absolutely has to be Uncharted’s own Victor “goddamn” Sullivan, otherwise known as Sully. He serves as Nathan Drake’s cigar-chomping savant, always on hand to help the roguish hero successfully pull off that next archaeological heist in whatever part of the world its required. Sully’s thirst for thrill and treasure is only matched by his father-like love for Drake, as evidenced in the opening chapters of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, in which we got to experience and play through the pair's very first meeting.
Sully has remained by Drake’s side through thick and thin, appearing in every single Uncharted game ever released (even PS Vita’s Uncharted: Golden Abyss) whenever things go awry. He’s the ultimate back-up plan throughout all of Naughty Dog’s globe-trotting adventures, pooling together resources even if it means getting into just as much danger as the franchise’s hero. You only need witness his several apparent deaths to reinforce just how much Sully has connected with players over the years. In many ways, this old geezer represents Nathan Drake’s humanity, always there to remind him what he’s at risk of losing by living a thief’s life. Respectable or not!