Whether it's International Dog Day or just a regular afternoon of playing games with your pooch, the most pressing question we have any time a new game is revealed — or when a new trailer is shown — that also includes a dog is, "But can you pet the doggo?"
It's a testament not just to how much we all love dogs, but to how often they show up in our favorite video games. Some, like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, are pretty much there just for show, keeping the world alive and digging up stuff for you if you feed them.
These dogs are great and all, but they don't always play a substantial role; some of them can't even be pet, no matter how fluffy and oodgie-woodgie they look.
Others play a much bigger part in a game or entire series, though, and some are even the backbone of entire plots.
In honor of International Dog Day 2019, we're taking a look at those dogs playing a starring role in the world of video games.
Whether they're helping you out on the farm, hurling you to new heights, or swatting your enemies away like so much annoying dust, these dogs are versatile, loving, loyal, and everything that makes dogs wonderful in real life.
Being an animal-centric game, Animal Crossing: New Leaf naturally has lots of lovely doggos to choose from; if you want to be technical, Tom Nook is even a dog, thanks to the whole Tanooki = racoon-dog thing.
Isabelle stands a cut above the rest for a few reasons, though. Apart from having a distinct personality separate from the rest of the villagers, she always says nice things and doesn’t try to get money from you. That last one alone is worthy of a top ranking.
But it’s Isabelle’s unfailing positivity and optimism that really make her so loveable and charming. Isabelle is almost always happy — and happy to help.
She helps you settle into your new village and pick a spot for your house, always organizes special events and attends big public works unveilings, and even shoulders your mayoral duties for years on end when you forget your village exists.
Of course, that cheerfulness makes seeing Isabelle so capably beat the stuffing out of Pikachu in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate just a bit disconcerting, but it just helps underscore how amazing she really is.
Whether she’s keeping an entire village running or sweeping up the competition, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more amazing dog than Isabelle.
Final Fantasy VI boasts one of the biggest casts of playable characters in the series, and though Interceptor the dog is just a sidekick to one of those characters, he plays an interesting role in and out of combat.
Interceptor’s master is Shadow, the Ninja. Like all Ninjas in Final Fantasy, Shadow is actually pretty fragile, despite his relative strength. Even though he’s a master of stealth, enemies tend to target him rather often during combat.
Fortunately, Interceptor randomly jumps in and, well, intercepts the attack; he blocks like shields do, only more often. He also randomly attacks an enemy for Shadow, though it’s more adorable than effective in most cases.
Outside of combat, though, is where Interceptor gets really interesting, and it’s possible to completely miss how his story unfolds. At a certain spot before the game’s halfway point, the party meets Relm, a precocious young artist with a strange affinity for Interceptor, a dog who usually just tolerates Shadow and can’t stand other people. Relm lives with her grandfather and never knew her parents.
You can probably put two and two together from that information. But whether you see it play out in the game depends on a choice you make.
If you’re heartless and leave the Floating Continent without Shadow, his story ends (because he dies, spoiler alert). If not, and you make sure to speak to him at specific points, you learn about his previous relationships and roles in life.
And it’s all because of Interceptor, bringing people together like a good boy.
It’s not just one Rush, either. The robo-doggo takes on a wide variety of different forms as the situation calls for it.
The most familiar one is probably spring-mode Rush, aka Rush Coil, where he transforms into a giant springboard and propels Mega Man to greater heights. It’s a lifesaver in certain situations and absolutely necessary if you’re playing spelunker and want to get everything a stage has to offer.
But Rush’s trick repertoire doesn’t end there, and it’s arguable that as the mainline Mega Man games started to lose their luster, Rush himself started getting even better.
Over the course of his long career, he’s mastered the art of turning into the Rush Marine submarine, carrying Mega Man through space as Rush Space, flying through the air as jet-powered Rush, and doing all the things you’d expect from a robotic dog with near-endless capabilities.
Rush’s loyalty is a bit different from most dogs, though. It’s hard to say he had a choice in the matter of staying by Mega Man’s side, when his creator, Dr Light, programmed him to be (Mega) man’s best friend.
But he goes above and beyond to fulfill his duties nonetheless, like the good boy he undoubtedly would be — y’know, if he could make his own choices.
Angelo is the very definition of loyal. She’s Rinoa’s dog in Final Fantasy VIII and takes things a big step further than Interceptor. For one, she’s always by Rinoa’s side. Always. Whether it’s at school, in battle, or even after that spoilery thing happens and Rinoa is incapacitated for a while, Angelo is there, offering her support.
Rinoa’s comment about learning so much from Angelo isn’t just cute dog talk either. Unlike Interceptor, Angelo plays a more defined role in combat.
For one thing, she’s Rinoa’s Limit Break, which is obviously the series’ best Limit Break. Rinoa and Angelo start with four basic attacks, but she/you have to read dog magazines to learn new abilities as an improved dog trainer.
Depending on circumstances, Angelo can even help heal an ailing party member or perform a hard-hitting attack at just the right moment to turn the tide.
She gets a biscuit for her troubles during battle, which is sweet. But the endgame is what serves as a perfect metaphor for how our relationships with our dogs usually go.
After staying by Rinoa at all times, saving the party’s skin on countless occasions, and generally just being perfect, what does Angelo get? More biscuits? Head pats?
No. She gets left behind while Rinoa has a moment with Squall.
Games in the Tales of franchise typically have some sort of animal sidekick. While Mieu in Tales of the Abyss is one of the better ones thanks to being a barometer measuring Luke fon Fabre’s character development, Mieu isn’t a dog.
Repede from Tales of Vesperia is a dog — and one with impeccable style and presence. He carries a pipe in his mouth and swaps it out for weapons during combat, both of which make for a pretty hard act to beat.
Repede doesn’t necessarily have much story significance in Vesperia, other than being a reminder of how difficult protagonist Yuri Lowell’s past has been. Beyond plot necessity, though, he's a genuine friend to the isolated Yuri, with all the loyalty and affection we'd expect from the best dogs — and all that in spite of what Yuri did in the past to Repede's father.
Repede's also a true beast in combat.
He’s one of the first party members you get, and also one of the rare examples of using a “pet” as a full-time party member — outside Breath of Fire III, at least.
While he might not be much of a magic user, Repede is speedy and strong, with powerful technical Artes attacks and the ability to strike and retreat with haste. Add his theft ability on top of that, and he’s a character you’ll want to regularly keep on the field.
Repede is exactly what all good dogs are: invaluable and adorable.
You’d be hard pressed to find a dog or wolf that’s more of a contradiction than Zeit is in The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero and Trails of Azure.
He’s at once massively important to the plot, themes, and backstory, but simultaneously doesn’t have a big role to play in the plot thanks to an exception in a certain contract he has. (Yes, a wolf has a contract. It’s a thing.)
Zeit is a legendary divine wolf who watches over the land known as Crossbell. After one of the mafia groups from Crossbell City starts wreaking havoc in the countryside, the divine wolves get blamed until the Special Support Section of the Crossbell Police steps in to put things right.
Despite being huge, divine, and legendary, he acts like a normal dog from then on, protecting the SSS headquarters, and generally letting the city’s kids do whatever they want with him.
Outside some indirect combat support, it initially seems like that’s what Zeit’s role is — big, loveable pooch.
As Azure gears up for its final chapter, though, that notion changes in a very big way as you learn about Zeit’s past and his connection with Crossbell. Among other things, you can take control of Zeit as a playable party member, and you quickly find out he can basically end the world with a swipe of his paw.
Yet whether you’re worthy or not, and despite his own circumstances, he chooses to be your friend and help you when times get tough.
It’s a subtle underscoring of the games’ “true bonds” theme — and pretty much what dogs do in our lives every day.
Sandy doesn’t get much screen time in Dragon Quest XI, but what she does get makes her a top-notch canine companion.
The first thing you have to do in the game is climb Cobblestone Tor for a ritual that proves you and your childhood friend Gemma have grown up. The problem with this particular tradition is that the Tor is crawling with monsters. Gemma, grown up though she may be, is no fighter. That leaves Hero to fend off the creatures alone.
He’s not entirely alone, though. Good ol’ Sandy comes to the rescue and joins the party, with some powerful attacks to help see you safely through your trials.
Doing a regular mode run, that might not seem like much of a big deal. This is the first dungeon, after all, a time for extended tutorials and enemies no tougher than pudding.
Take on a Draconian Quest, and it’s a different matter entirely. Without Sandy, these early-game monsters would kick your rear right off the Tor with no effort at all.
Sandy doesn’t play a direct role in the plot, but she’s still important. Hero grows up with Sandy, and like all good dogs, she’s part of everything in daily life — until that fateful day when their world changes.
Thinking about Sandy and Cobblestone like that makes the first gut-punch hurt that much worse and sets a distinctly different tone for Hero’s adventures from that point on.
Koromaru is the Persona 3 version of the famous Greyfriars Bobby in Scotland. Bobby was a Skye Terrier who became known throughout the city of Edinburgh during the late 1800s; after his owner died from tuberculosis, Bobby remained in the cemetery for 14 years, faithfully waiting to see his master again.
Koromaru once lived at a shrine on Iwatodai Island with his owner; Shadows killed his owner, but Koromaru stayed at the shrine nonetheless, waiting faithfully, until the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (S.E.E.S.) comes along and adopts him.
Unlike Bobby, though, Koromaru isn’t real. That key difference means his strength of heart lets him summon a Persona — Cerberus, of course — to take the fight to the Shadows.
He’s one of the only party members with a natural defense against dark magic, has high speed, and lands critical hits often, which lets you get that sweet, sweet “One More” extra attack. Like Repede, Koromaru wields a knife in his mouth.
But more importantly, he wears an unbelievably adorable pair of tiny wings and a T-shirt.
His floofy cuteness actually plays an important role in the story as well. Koromaru keeps Shinji Aramaki from being the stereotypical gruff character with no depth, as he’s the only one Shinji opens up to and acts like a normal human around.
That’s a very important point to note later on, before the very bad thing happens ,and you learn more about Shinji, Akihiko, and Ken’s intertwined past.
He also helps you raise Social Link points with others by taking him for a walk at night. Truly, no one can resist Koro-chan’s charms.
What’s the one thing you need if you’re struggling for survival in a post-apocalyptic world that's reeling from the effects of nuclear disaster? Food, radiation protection, and survival gear are all wrong answers because a dog is what you need.
Fortunately for our Fallout hero, a dog is what they get in the form of Dogmeat.
Dogmeat’s appearance isn’t uniform across the Fallout games. He’s sometimes a large black dog, a wolf-like dog, or a German Shepherd, but the basic gist remains the same across the series.
At some point during your travels, you get the chance to find and recruit Dogmeat by helping him out and taking an interest in his wellbeing.
Typically, his owner died sometime in the past, or he just didn’t have one. Though initially spending his days guarding his territory and terrorizing anyone who comes near, he eventually takes up with you and joins your journey for survival as a party member.
Unlike other party members (and JRPG dogs), Dogmeat can’t equip gear or use weapons that you couldn’t normally fit on a dog, but he still holds his own in combat with no trouble, so long as you make sure to look after him.
In return, Dogmeat looks after you, alerting you to the presence of enemies, helping you find items, dealing huge amounts of damage in combat, and generally just being your best friend, especially in Fallout 4.
The world might be dark and deadly in Fallout, but Dogmeat is a good reminder that a loving dog by your side makes every day just a bit easier.
Bill Grey is the quintessential guard dog. Data for Bill existed in the scrapped Star Fox 2 game for the SNES, but he didn’t make a proper debut until Star Fox 64. He’s one of Fox McCloud’s oldest friends, with the two having grown up and attended pilot school together.
In 64, Bill takes charge of Corneria’s defensive squadrons, aptly called the Husky and Bulldog squads because duh. He also makes an appearance in the often-overlooked Star Fox Command, also on a defensive mission with Falco, and then he returns yet again to defend Katina once more in the ill-fated Star Fox Zero.
No matter what he does, Bill is always looking to protect the things that mean the most to him.
He might not be as visible in the series as General Pepper, but he’s certainly got something Pepper doesn’t. Where the General barks orders and maintains a definite distance from the rest of the squad, Bill is right there in the space-trenches alongside everyone else, sharing their burdens as one of the team.
Unfortunately, Bill still manages to be the one left out of the big picture. He gets no special ending in Command and doesn’t have as much chance for character development as a certain frog, falcon, and donkey.
While we hope, one day, Bill gets some more attention, maybe even part of a full-blown adventure like Star Fox Adventures, he serves as a good reminder to give credit where it's due to all the goodest watchdogs in our lives.
Most dogs in video games are your friends, your sidekicks, or your pets. But in Okami, you are the dog — or, more accurately, you are the white lupine representation of the sun goddess Amaterasu on the mortal plane.
Okami is all about Amaterasu and her truly epic journey to preserve creation in the face of Orochi’s impending onslaught of darkness. It’s drawn straight from Japanese legends, though naturally, with some changes and embellishments for game purposes.
Being an almost all-powerful goddess, Ammy, as her villagers call her, is able to change the world around her using a mechanic that makes the game shine as a unique experience almost as much as it is a unique game. You’ll use Ammy’s powers to solve puzzles, bring objects into creation, interact with and change the environment, and take on foes throughout the gorgeous watercolor world.
Amaterasu’s story might be beautiful, but it isn’t always a happy one. She’s tested to the end of her abilities and faces defeat and despair more than once. At her weakest point, though, when all seems lost, she transforms into her true self and suppresses Orochi’s darkness for all time, before ascending to the Celestial Plain.
Now, most dogs aren’t going to have lives quite that active, and hopefully, yours won’t have a face-off against the lord of darkness. But Amaterasu’s actions still embody the essence of being a dog — putting everything on the line for the ones that need them most and trying their hardest to make sure they don’t let anyone down.
He or she has a lovely little dog house outside for those cool mornings and lazy evenings, and there’s always a place ready to snuggle down for the night inside your house. All that’s really needed to make them happy in life is a smile and a good head pat, though snacks are most welcome of course.
You’ll frequently see your four-legged friend wandering about the farm, casting an eye over the crops and keeping the other animals in line, occasionally wandering over to make sure you’re okay.
It’s getting your dog that really makes the farm first seem like home, too. Before that, you’re a newcomer to a strange place, with a massive farm to look after and a big, empty house to exist in. Add a dog, and just like in real life, you’ve got an instant home, a bright spark of life that makes the future seem good after all.
Unlike your other animals, you technically don’t have to feed your dog either, so pointing to your canine caretaking abilities in Harvest Moon et al probably isn’t the best way to convince someone you can care for a real dog.
Still, in those early days when times are tough, resources are scarce, and crops are slow to grow, it’s a great comfort knowing your dog is perfectly happy eating air.
It's not really an exaggeration to say none of these games would be quite the same without their fabulous canines.
No matter what your favorite video game dog is and why you love it so much, though, make sure to take some time today and every day to give your real dog some snuggles, snacks, and playtime.
Oh, and if we had to make a list of honorable mentions, it would be:
Let us know which good doggos you would add by sounding off in the comments below!