￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼Whether they’re sassy potatoes or dogs, non-player pals always make their video games ten times better. Especially if you can smooch them, too. Not the dogs, though. That’d be weird. I've looked through the Xbox back catalogue to pick out the best allies, sidekicks, and buddies to join your gaming adventures.
Lydia – The Elder Scrolls
As my mother used to tell me, the best kind of friends are the ones who can hold all your junk when your pockets are full. Your mother did tell you that too, right? Lydia might not be the most fascinating companion – unless, uh, you married her, in which case, congratulations – but she’s basically a human backpack, and the reason she’s on this list is because she’s actually better company than a regular backpack. Look, I’m not saying my standards are low for what makes a good companion, but... actually, no, I totally am. For the record: Lydia is officially the Best Human Backpack In Video Games.
Potato GLaDOS – Portal 2
I love GLaDOS, and I love potatoes. The former is witty, cruel, sassy and sarcastic; the latter tastes nice with salt. Maybe a little bit of paprika. My point is this: Potato GLaDOS is the best thing to happen to both the psychopathic AI and tubers, because it gives the former a sense of pathos that allows you to understand some of her motivations and feelings. There’s also something thrilling about your former enemy becoming a reluctant companion, especially as she’s stuck inside a potato and can’t do anything about it. Maybe 2017 can be the year we get more vegetable companions.
Naiee & Naia – Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons
Is it cheating to pick two characters that you both control? No, because I make this list, and I make the rules, so if you have any complaints, please write them on a piece of paper and then EAT IT. The whole point of Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons is the companionship and the teamwork between the two brothers at the crux of the story, even if they’re both essentially you. The game wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t for both characters, and it also wouldn’t be at all playable – making these two youngsters the ultimate companions. They literally can’t get by without each other. Awwww.
Claptrap – Borderlands
Yes, you might hate Claptrap, and yes, that might actually be the whole point of the irritatingly overenthusiastic robot, but you can’t deny that he’s actually quite endearing at times. Much like Potato GLaDOS, he’ll entertain you with wit, sarcasm and jokes that drip with self-deprecation, but unlike Potato GLaDOS, he’s actually quite helpful (and can move around without your help, which makes a nice change). Plus, it’s nice to not be alone in the frigid wastelands of Pandora, even if your companion is basically a more upbeat version of Marvin the Paranoid Android.
Elizabeth – BioShock Infinite
BioShock Infinite’s resident Disney Princess can be a total pain in the arse for most of the game – especially when she’s flouncing around somewhere when you’re trying to get things done, or when she’s constantly yelling “Booker, catch” because she happened to find a penny – but she is genuinely quite useful and quite good company some of the time. She throws ammo in battle, she opens tears to help you escape and though you could probably do without her pet Songbird tailing you the whole time, her influence is positive overall. Without her, you’d just be another grumpy, middle-aged dude, after all.
Dorian – Dragon Age: Inquisition
Dragon Age is all about the sexy – uh, I mean helpful companions that you manage to recruit during your adventures. Whether you’re more into your ten-foot BDSM beef-men like Iron Bull, or your quieter, friendlier, boring types like Alistair or Cullen, there’s something for everyone. So why have I chosen sassy mage Dorian? Because, in case you can’t tell, I like my companions sassy, and they don’t come much sassier than Dorian. He’s well-dressed, smart, flirty and the kind of guy I’d probably be friends with in real life. (I’d totally have a secret crush on him, too. Shhhhh.)
Roach – The Witcher
“How can you put Roach on this list?” you cry. “Saying Roach is a good companion is like saying a handful of salt is a nutritious meal.” Okay, I get your point – Roach’s flawed AI and apparent inability to avoid trees makes her possibly the worst horse in existence, let alone in video games. When you call her, she’ll often magically appear halfway up a cliff. And when you try to ride her down mountains, sometimes she hovers, legs curled under her like a dead spider. Sigh. In short, she’s terrible. And I love her anyway, because at least she’s a memorably bad horse. And there’s nothing quite like galloping across the wide-open plains with her.
Garrus – Mass Effect
If you liked Dorian, you’ll love Garrus. Unlike my favourite mage, Garrus is quiet, shy and nervous around you. He’s a sweet boy. Well, he’s a sweet cat-beetle-thing that, in BioWare’s confusingly gendered world, counts as a ‘boy’ and, ah, let’s just not get into what’s going on in Garrus’ space-pants, okay? It’s not important. What is important is that he’s absolutely adorable, and he made legions of Mass Effect fans fall deeply in love with a cat-beetle-thing despite that being kinda gross, and that’s one hell of an achievement. Space-marry us, Garrus!
Alyx Vance – Half-Life 2
Gordon Freeman must be a hard man to be friends with. He doesn’t say anything, and though that might make him a good listener, it makes him terrible at almost everything else. What do you want for dinner, Gords? Nothing? Okay. Where should we go on holiday, G-Dog? Nowhere? Cool. His right-hand woman Alyx Vance deserves a goddamn medal for putting up with the taciturn crowbar boy, and she deserves a bunch of extra medals for actually being very good at her job (her job being taking care of Gordon). And what thanks does she get? NOTHING. I’m not sure Gordon really appreciates having such a kick-ass friend like Alex.
Dogmeat – Fallout
Brace yourself, the dog companions are coming. Oh, Dogmeat. Sweet, soft Dogmeat. You’ve been with me throughout Fallout, going from the dog that thought I was its owner in Fallout 1 to the bouncy German Shepherd I fell in love with in Fallout 4. You fetch me wrenches, wear tiny dog scarves and rip out the throats of my enemies before bouncing back to me all happy and blood-soaked. You are the best. I prefer you to (almost) every other Fallout companion, even though you can’t talk. You are such a good dog, especially when you look at me with those sweet puppy eyes. Yes you are. Yes you are.
Dog – Fable 2
Another very good boy is Fable 2’s dog companion, which you can call ‘Dog’ if you are devoid of any independent creative thought, or you can give a nickname if you are great. This dog is very similar to Dogmeat from Fallout in that he can fight and sniff out important treasure and other items. What gives him the tiniest edge over Dogmeat, however, is that he can sniff out condoms. Yep, seriously, someone in this dog’s life trained him to be able to find plastic-wrapped, lube-covered genital socks. Why? We may never know. What we do know is that Dog, or whatever you choose to call him (something nice, please) is easily the cutest thing about Fable 2.
Cortana: the companion so good Microsoft put her inside your Xbox One. She’s the Siri of your heart. I could yell, “Hey Cortana” in the office right now and it would probably... do nothing, but it might make people think about why Cortana is such a great character (after I’ve been told off for being disruptive). She’s helpful like System Shock’s Shodan, but thankfully less homicidal; she’s caring like a mum, but less disappointed in you; she’s sort of sometimes in love with you, like the robot lady in Flubber, but less creepy. It’s all we’ve ever wanted from a best friend-slash-mentor-slash-computer.
Kazooie – Banjo-Kazooie
Look, I might get in trouble with PETA for saying this, but I really, really wish I had a bird that could hang out in my backpack. Banjo-Kazooie wouldn’t be the same without Kazooie (obviously, duh) because not only would Banjo fail every single level, but he also wouldn’t have Kazooie’s – ugh, I hate to have to use this word – banter. The two bounce off each other like friends who’ve known each other for years, and they’ve always got each other’s back, despite Banjo actually being quite stupid and Kazooie being roughly 1,000 per cent smarter. She’s a brilliant addition to a game that could have just been about one character, but the bear-bird combo, while being a little unorthodox, makes Banjo-Kazooie a game to remember.
Hancock – Fallout 4
Okay, this one is favouritism. I’ll admit to that. You won’t see Fallout 4 companion Hancock in many other lists of sidekicks, and even if you do, he won’t be this high up. So why have I put him here, next to the throne? It’s personal, okay. Sometimes, in the irradiated, post-apocalyptic wasteland that used to be your perfect life, you just meet someone who makes you forget all about your murdered spouse and stolen child. Someone who makes you want to roam around, shooting giant cockroaches, hand-in-hand, for the rest of your half-life. And sometimes you take the wedding ring that you prised off your dead partner’s hand and you put it on that person in a not-at-all-creepy declaration of love. That person is Hancock.
Weighted Companion Cube – Portal
After all those jokes about poor, silent Gordon Freeman from Half-Life 2, how can I pick a not-even-sentient cube as my favourite companion? Because Valve made you feel something for a cube. I’m choosing the Companion Cube as our ultimate companion because it’s a beacon of incredibly good writing. Through GLaDOS’ taunts, the cube’s adorable little heart and the eventual heartbreaking task of having to incinerate the poor thing, you fall in love with something that, in most other games, would be nothing more than a puzzle solution. A thing that holds down a switch or helps you get through a door. But Companion Cube was more than that. Companion Cube was my only friend in a hostile, empty test chamber, when I had no one else. I miss you, Companion Cube. I’m sorry for what I did to you. *sniff*
This article originally appeared in Xbox: The Official Magazine. For more great Xbox coverage, you can subscribe here.