Once a videogame hero has more than one or two adventures under his or her belt, it simply isn’t enough to just have an archenemy anymore. To keep things interesting, they need a foil, a rival, or some other angry opposite number obsessed with matching wits with them. Sometimes, those characters stick around long enough to make themselves an indelible part of the series, even going so far as to make friends with the protagonist – although more often than not, their friendships tend to be shaky at best, and even those involved might never fully admit to them. Relationships like that tend to make for gaming’s most enduring and interesting rivalries, and what follows are some of the most notable.
7. Wolf O’Donnell
Frenemies with: Fox McCloud
Making his first appearance in Star Fox 64/Lylat Wars, Wolf headed the Star Wolf team, and was notable mainly for looking and acting like Fox McCloud would if he were gray and also a bastard. As Fox’s opposite number, Wolf was a mercenary working for villain Andross, and popped in whenever the situation called for a dogfight against an evenly matched foe. He was also a pain in the ass, tending to show up expressly to distract players from some other important, possibly timed objective.
Wolf never showed any friendly inclination whatsoever toward Fox in SF64 (unsurprising, considering that one of his wingmen, Pigma Dengar, was complicit in the death of Fox’s father), but he softened considerably in Star Fox: Assault. Starting out as an antagonist, he eventually decided to put aside his differences with Fox in the face of an invasion by the alien Aparoids, even going so far as to fight by Fox’s side and rescue him from an ambush (something Wolf later claimed to have done simply because he wanted the privilege of killing Fox himself).
The grudging conversion to hero became complete at the end of the game, when Wolf and his team seemingly sacrificed themselves to bring down the alien armada, appearing to die for the same pilots they’d sworn to defeat.
Above: And so, a meme was born
Of course, a frenemy as likably snide as Wolf couldn’t be kept down for long, and he returned again in Star Fox Command. Here, his redemption was pretty much assured – although depending on the direction the story took, he could exact some measure of revenge on Fox by recruiting Fox’s girlfriend, Krystal, to his mercenary outfit. Consider it proof that it’s possible for a villain to reform and still be a complete bastard.
6. Knuckles the Echidna
Frenemies with: Sonic the Hedgehog
These days, Knuckles is pretty firmly in Sonic’s infuriatingmenagerie of dopey allies, but that wasn’t always the case. When he first debuted in 1994’s Sonic the Hedgehog 3, in fact, he was an outright enemy, having been tricked by Eggman into thinking that Sonic had stolen his Master Emerald.
Sonic and his new floating red marsupial friend eventually patched things up (before going on to star in their own spinoff, Sonic & Knuckles), but their friendship was pretty shaky for some time afterward. Rather than hang around with Sonic and freeing birds from robot exoskeletons or whatever, Knuckles struck out on his own, returning to lock horns with the blue hedgehog as recently as 1999’s Sonic Adventure.
Above: Man, you just never learn, do you?
Since then, he’s taken a more subdued role as one of Sonic’s buddies, but the potential for a violent flare-up is still there. Sadly, we’ll probably never see it, as Sonic Team saw fit to replace Knuckles' wild-card role with Shadow the Hedgehog, a lame evil-twin embodiment of chaos who’s badass enough to wield real guns and star in a game that nobody asked for and everyone seems to revile. Shadow’s manufactured, anti-hero brand of cool isn’t as volatile or as interesting as Knuckles’ baseless suspicion and obsession with jealously guarding emeralds, though. And if the Sonic franchise hadn’t become such a confused mess over the past 10 years, we’d have probably seen Knuckles throw down with Sonic at least one more time.