The Best Sidekicks in Gaming History
When you hear the term "sidekick" do you think of Robin the Boy Wonder? He's probably the most famous sidekick ever. Or maybe it's Chewbacca, Tonto (from the old Lone Ranger TV show, not the lame film that just came out), or even Spock.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a sidekick is "a person closely associated with another as a subordinate or partner." They are as much a part of the team as the glory grubbing main hero, but sidekicks are like sweet potato french fries or sea-salt and vinegar kettle chips. They aren't the main meal... but dammit if they don't make the main meal more delicious!
So, what about video game sidekicks? Who comes to mind then? These are the best sidekicks according to me, myself, and I... ones I've actually had by my virtual side when the going got tough.
Alyx Vance (Half Life 2)
Gun-toting, hacker, fighter, and scientist... Alyx Vance is one of my personal favorite 'kicks in video games. Alyx's role is crucial in the series for a number of reasons. Since she does all the talking (Gordon might have a crowbar, but he apparently doesn't have a tongue), her character really has become more three-dimensional than the main protagonist. And since we know so much about her we've become emotionally invested in her well-being. In fact, she brings a level of emotion to the game that likely wouldn't be present at all if she wasn't around. One could even argue that she has carried the series on her shoulders since she first appeared. Alyx saved Gordon's life more than a handful of times, and obviously has feelings for him, which "The Free Man" seems oblivious to. What will happen between these two? Maybe we'll get an answer when/if Episode 3 is ever released. Maybe.
Any of BioWare's Star Wars companions
BioWare's attempts at redefining the "sidekick" began with the assassin droid HK47 in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. It was violent, ruthless and loyal, but also funny... in a sociopathic-killer-droid-who-had-his-memory-erased sort of way. HK wasn't your lovable 3PO or R2-type sidekick, but when you were fighting a galaxy full of scum and villainy... you could do worse than having a literal killing machine at your side. When Star Wars: The Old Republic launched, their vision came full circle. Any of the dozens of companions (Corso Riggs, Kira Carsen, Tanno Vik, Qyzen-Fess, Mako, Vette, Khem Val, Kaliyo D'jannis, etc.) in TOR can be counted on for more than just their blaster or lightsaber... they are comrades-in-arms with their own personalities that actually evolve as the individual stories progress. If you're mean to them, they'll end up hating you. If you make a real effort to be their friend, they reciprocate in kind. Each companion also has a special set of skills that unlock and level-up over time. They can fill in a group during Flashpoints, gather information, or search for pieces to complete crafting recipes. If that's not a useful sidekick... I'm not sure what is.
GLaDOS/Potato GLaDOS (Portal series)
Yes, the Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System (aka GLaDOS) is the surly, condescending, psychotic antagonist that torments you through most of the two Portal games, but her constant aural presence wasn't just antagonistic... it was funny. In effect, she was the Nurse Ratched who led you through test chamber after test chamber like a rat in a maze. Whether you want to admit it or not, she was your sidekick that entire time. When she gets turned into Mrs. Potato Head (by Wheately, the other psychotic computer), everything changes. Through some revelatory CPU searching she becomes your friend, and for the brief time she's actually a by-your-side "sidekick" and her surly, condescending, psychotic behavior becomes even funnier because now she's on your side. When Chell eventually gets GLaDOS her powers back, GLaDOS becomes Chell's savior. She even sings a little ditty. Granted, it's about her hate for you, but...
Cortana (Halo series)
Cortana is to Master Chief as Oracle is to Batman. She's his out-of-body sidekick who guides him safely through every conceivable scenario a Spartan can get into. While "just" a computerized holographic AI (based on Dr. Catherine Halsey, the genius behind the Spartan program), she was an artificial intelligence that became real. Witty when possible, but deadly serious when it came time to complete the mission at hand. She provided tactical information, unlocked doors, hacked into computers, and listened in on Covenant chatter... all of which saved the Chief's life innumerable times. But more importantly, she became his disembodied conscience, and the only emotional bond he could cling to. Without it, Master Chief would have likely ended up as just one more mechanized, one-man wrecking crew without a soul.
Claptrap (Borderlands series)
I don't know what it is about the condescending, smart-ass attitude of a sidekick that make me like them more (see GLaDOS), but I do. When my virtual tag-along acts like comic relief they instantly become more engaging. And Claptrap is a lewd, Jewish (he had a Bar Mitzvah remember), smart-ass robot that fits the bill perfectly. And likes to dig through trash. This "cute" robo-sidekick guides you across Pandora, unlocks doors and chests, and even upgrades items in your inventory... but he does so begrudgingly. And in Borderlands 2 you are nothing more than his minion (so he thinks). Still, you can't help but love the little guy. Specially when he breakdances.
Weighted Storage/Companion Cube (Portal series)
There's nothing like having a six-sided companion to toss around willy-nilly because it doesn't talk or carry a grudge. And since it's weighted it can hold down pressure pads, allowing you to solve GLaDOS' devilish physics puzzles. Without them you'd be screwed, blued, and tattooed. Even though these helpful cubes can't talk, they are sentient... at least according to GLaDOS (which might just be a trick). Because of this uncertainty you start getting attached to the only ally (with pink hearts emblazoned on its sides) you have in GLaDOS' sterile maze. In fact, when the psychotic bitch informs you that if it could talk, "it would tell you to go on without it, because it would rather die in a fire than become a burden to you" - you cringed. Admit it. Silent, helpful, and willing to sacrifice itself for you... seems to me sidekicks don't get more sidekicky than that!
Elizabeth (Bioshock Infinite)
If asked to pick between Alxy Vance and Elizabeth as the greatest sidekick in all of gaming... I'm not sure I could. Elizabeth's combat abilities are relegated to tossing you supplies and opening tears in space-time to yank things through. During combat she's merely a tool - a pack mule really - to be used at your discretion. Some may consider that a knock, but it allows the player (you) to take all the credit for every firefight won, hardship overcome, and victory earned. Where Elizabeth really shines is when she's interacting with you (Booker DeWitt) and helping to drive the mesmerizing story of a city in the clouds forward. The whole adventure in Columbia is better off with Elizabeth at your side because she is so emotional and so full of artificial intelligence that you can't help but get attached to her. In fact, Elizabeth is so special that in the upcoming two-part Burial at Sea DLC (set in Rapture two years before it falls)... you'll actually get to play as her (in the second episode). Hey, she even has her own Facebook page. If you haven't played Bioshock Infinite yet... you're missing out on one of the most emotionally driven A.I.s in gaming.
Dogmeat (Fallout series)
Maybe it's because I recently had to put my real-life dog of seven years to sleep (RIP Osa), but I couldn't complete this list without putting man's best friend on it. In the real world, or the virtual one... there is nothing like having a good dog at your side. Dogmeat is not only loyal and ferocious in a fight, but able to scrounge up supplies like ammo, food, and weapons for you. When enemies get too close, your faithful pooch growls at them and pulls enough aggro to draw attackers away. A better sidekick there is not.
Don't agree? Then tell us... who are the best 'kicks?