Part of the reason why the new God of War game has earned so much praise is because of the dynamic between Kratos and his sidekick/son, Atreus. Not only does Atreus play a major role in fleshing out Kratos’s character, but he also helps his father solve puzzles and fight off enemies. From the gameplay to the story, Atreus is a key component to the new God of War experience, and it’s hard to imagine the game without him.
While Atreus may be the latest example of a video game sidekick done right, we’ve seen plenty other great sidekicks over the years. Like Atreus, these sidekicks often enhance the story, the development of the main character, and the gameplay experience in general, making them irreplaceable parts of the experience.
With that in mind, here are the 10 best sidekicks in video games.
While some video game sidekicks get in the way of the main character or annoy players, Clank of Ratchet & Clank fame really pulls his weight. A quirky robot with a sharp sense of humor, Clank is determined to save the galaxy from evildoers alongside his friend Ratchet, and helps out with a variety of abilities. At certain points in the Ratchet & Clank games, players have the chance to control Clank directly, and he even starred in his own spinoff game called Secret Agent Clank. And while the Ratchet & Clank movie bombed at the box office, Clank is still one of only two sidekicks on this list to have his own feature film.
Daxter mostly hangs out on Jak’s shoulder over the course of the Jak and Daxter trilogy, so he’s not all that helpful in terms of gameplay, but his quips and amusing personality really help keep the story interesting. And since Daxter’s quest to return to his normal form is also a driving point behind the events of the series, it’s easy to see how he is one of the more important sidekicks from a story standpoint. Plus, Daxter’s popularity saw him star in a self-titled PSP exclusive that earned a fair amount of critical acclaim and sales success back when it released in 2006.
Donkey Kong Country introduced the gaming world to Diddy Kong, who has managed to become one of the more successful video game sidekicks. After playing second fiddle to Donkey Kong in his debut, Diddy Kong would go on to become the star of both Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest, and the well-received Nintendo 64 racer Diddy Kong Racing. Diddy Kong’s popularity has persisted over the years, as he has continued to partner with Donkey Kong in newer Donkey Kong Country titles, and even joined the Super Smash Bros. universe in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
BioShock Infinite‘s Elizabeth is one of the most impressive examples of partner AI we’ve seen in gaming. BioShock Infinite was in danger of feeling like an especially long escort mission, but Elizabeth never gets in the way of protagonist Booker DeWitt, actively assisting him by supplying ammo and opening tears in the fabric of space and time. Elizabeth’s story significance to not just BioShock Infinite, but the BioShock franchise as a whole also helps to make her one of the most memorable sidekicks in gaming history.
The evolution of Joel and Ellie’s relationship over the course of The Last of Us remains one of the game’s strongest elements. Ellie, who was born into a post-apocalyptic world populated by deadly creatures called Clickers, has become one of the most celebrated characters in gaming for her engaging personality and ability to survive against all odds. Ellie actively assists Joel throughout The Last of Us, and in key moments during the story, she becomes a playable character herself. Now that she’s older, Ellie is taking center stage in The Last of Us: Part 2 as the main playable character, no longer Joel’s “sidekick.”
Whenever one talks about the best Mass Effect party members, Garrus Vakarian is always part of the conversation. Commander Shepard’s right-hand man, Garrus plays a key role in the Mass Effect trilogy to put a stop to the impending Reaper invasion. While player choice does determine some aspects of Garrus’s personality, his charisma is a static trait that helped him become one of the most-used party members, according to BioWare’s own statistics.
No list of video game sidekicks would be complete without Luigi. The epitome of “player 2,” Luigi may not be quite as famous as his brother Mario, but he has still become one of the most recognizable video game characters of all time. Depicted in film and cartoons, Luigi is also one of the few sidekicks on this list who has crossed over into other media. In terms of video games, Luigi is usually seen as Mario’s sidekick, but his Luigi’s Mansion spinoff series makes him the star of the show, and has helped give his character depth beyond just being a taller version of his brother.
Link’s adventures are rarely solo affairs, with the Hero of Time often bringing a sidekick along to help him repel the forces of evil and save Hyrule. However, none of Link’s sidekicks are quite as memorable as Navi from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Navi serves as Link’s guide to the world around him, offering hints as to how to fight new enemies and solve puzzles. Some players are annoyed by Navi constantly telling them to “Listen!” but others have turned the catchphrase into one that has been immortalized on shirts and other merchandise.
Monster Hunter World is a game that’s all about teaming up with other people online to take down massive beasts. While building that connection with real people is definitely an appealing part of the experience, others may find themselves bonding more with their Palico companion. For those unfamiliar with the Monster Hunter franchise, a Palico is a bipedal feline that assists hunters in their quests, offering support and even getting involved in fights themselves.
Besides Luigi, arguably one of the most recognizable platforming video game sidekicks is Tails from the Sonic the Hedgehog series. After the original Sonic the Hedgehog was a strictly single player experience, Sega added simultaneous co-op to Sonic the Hedgehog 2, with the second player controlling Tails. Tails has since appeared in dozens of games, often as a playable character, or if not, someone who supports Sonic on his adventures with a variety of gadgets.
With the success of games like The Last of Us, BioShock Infinite, and of course, the new God of War, it seems likely that video game sidekicks will only become more prevalent. As technology evolves and partner AI becomes smarter, we may see the roles of these sidekicks expand, and it will be interesting to see how many manage to breakout as gaming stars in their own right, like the sidekicks listed here.
Which video game sidekick is your favorite? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.