Who would Mario be without Luigi? Star Fox without Falco? Master Chief without Cortana? For every main character in the video games we love, there’s almost always a secondary sidekick who steals part of the glory. While some undeniably fail (looking at you Slippy Toad), the others stand the test of time. A few have even gone on to headline their own franchises. Here are the best video game sidekicks of all time. Remember, the list is subjective, so I’m sorry if I missed one of yours!
Look, I know, Luigi has his own franchise of Mansion games now that are wildly popular. It can’t be denied that his origin is still as Mario’s kind of annoying but still lovable brother and sidekick.
Ever since the first Supr Mario Bros. game was released on the OG Nintendo Entertainment System, Luigi has been around in some form. Sometimes he’s playable, other times he’s just… there. Oh, and let’s never forget his iconic death stare from the Mario Kart franchise.
The Han Solo of the Star Fox universe, Falco is easily the best of the game’s sidekick characters. He was so popular that Nintendo even made sure to include him in the Super Smash Bros. franchise when they had the chance.
Falco could be reckless at times, and that was all a part of his endless charm. It doesn’t hurt that he has a mysterious past that the games have never delved into. Maybe Nintendo should consider letting him lead a game. I’d like a new Star Fox game first, though. Please and thank you.
Sonic’s best friend and partner in taking down the always formidable Dr. Eggman is Miles Prower, better known as Tails. A super-intelligent kid who is a gadget magician, where would Sonic the Hedgehog be without Tails?
Tails was designed by Yasushi Yamaguchi during an internal competition at Sega. The company was looking to pair Sonic with a sidekick, and Yamaguchi’s entry won. Created as Miles Prower (a play on miles per hour), Sega wanted the character to go by Tails. The video game company compromised with Yamaguchi, making Tails his nickname.
His name might share the spotlight in Ratchet and Clank but make no mistake, Clank is just an awesome sidekick. An optimistic robot that stores an unbelievable amount of weapons and gadgets for Ratchet, he’s also the protagonist’s best friend (awwwwwwww).
Clank is even so popular that he got the spin-off treatment on the PSP called Secret Agent Clank. Maybe if the PSP had proved more vital, the lovable machine would have got more than one go.
From sidekick to the main protagonist, The Last of Us franchise sent 14-year-old Ellie on quite the path. In the first game of the series, she’s just the sidekick Joel must protect. She’s the last chance for humanity to overcome the fungus that has devastated the world thanks to her natural immunity from its effects.
The bond created between Joel and Ellie during the game is felt deeply by the player. The developer of the game, Naughty Dog, felt the connection too, leading them to turn Ellie into the main playable character in the surprisingly divisive The Last of Us 2.
When Donkey Kong was given his own franchise, Nintendo also decided he needed a sidekick. That character came in the form of Diddy Kong, a smaller monkey who was faster and more agile than his large ape leader.
In Donkey Kong Country, released on the SNES in 1994, players could toggle between Donkey and Diddy Kong to beat levels, taking advantage of each characters’ unique abilities. Like others on this list, Diddy Kong eventually became popular enough that he got his own spin-off game, Diddy Kong Racing on the Nintendo 64.
The artificial intelligence with a dry sense of humor that keeps Master Chief connected in Halo can’t be looked over. Especially when she appears as a hologram, a look that has been given plenty of makeovers throughout the years as the game’s audience has matured.
While I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, the story of Cortana and Master Chief comes to an emotionally satisfying conclusion (for now) in Halo Infinite. If you haven’t played the game yet, you’re in for quite a treat!
Always intended to be a friend for Mario, it wasn’t until the SNES came out that Shigeru Miyamoto finally had a system with the processing capabilities he needed. A dinosaur who hatches from an egg, Yoshi lets Mario ride him, giving the player control of his special abilities.
There are few things in video gaming more purely enjoyable than finding and riding Yoshi. Not only could he jump higher than Mario, but he could also eat enemies and spit them back out as weapons to use. When he was first introduced, Yoshi became a fan favorite. And for my money, meeting Yoshi at the end of Super Mario 64 was more satisfying than beating Bowser.
Depending on how you feel about Dog from Duck Hunt, he’s either a sidekick or one of the greatest trolls in video game history. Miss enough ducks and this hunting canine pops out of the grass and laughs at you. And as much as you try and shoot him, Dog just doesn’t go away. It’s his world, and you’re just hunting ducks in it.
Over the years, however, audiences have turned soft to Dog. The cult villain and pseudo sidekick became in such high demand that Nintendo even brought him back. In 2014, the character was revealed as a playable fighter on the roster for Super Smash Bros. 4 on the Wii U and 3DS.
Hal Emmerich, better known as Otacon, first appeared in Metal Gear Solid on the Playstation. An integral part of the game’s plot, he assisted Solid Snake in taking down Metal Gear REX, a machine you might remember he also helped design. Whoops. Throughout the game, Otacon helps Solid Snake with updates so he can stay alive.
Otacon is also noticeable for being one of the only characters in the game with a sense of humor. In a franchise as bleak as Metal Gear Solid can get, any comic relief is welcome. After the first game came out, the character was brought back for two of its sequels.
Arguably Shepard’s best friend in Mass Effect, Garrus Vakarian stands out in the crowd of characters as a kick-ass sidekick. And in some circles, fans have wondered if there is anything “more” going on between the two.
Garrus has stuck by Shepard’s side throughout the franchise, endearing himself to fans worldwide. Having a knack for weapons calibration and cynical attitude, I would even argue Mass Effect wouldn’t be as effective narratively without Garrus. It would still be fun, but it wouldn’t live in my memory so fondly as it does writing this today.
I can’t have Falco on this list from Star Fox without also including Peppy Hare. The oldest and wisest member of the team, Peppy also serves as a mentor for Fox. Playing Star Fox 64 was my introduction to Peppy, and hearing his voice give directions was always one of my favorite parts of the game.
Oh yeah, he also famously says, “Do a barrel roll!” which you can type into Google if you want to see something really awesome happen. Long live Peppy! He definitely deserves a place on our list of the best video game sidekicks of all time.
I know, another dog! The difference is the dog in Fable II doesn’t start as an antagonist in the game. Instead, he truly is man’s best friend. Dog helps find treasure and joins you side by side in battle. The emotional attachment you build with your canine companion makes the end of the game a real heartbreaker.
If you’ve played Fable II then you know. If you haven’t, I highly recommend grabbing a copy and checking it out. Just be prepared to let your emotions get the best of you as the narrative wraps up.
Link’s guiding light in The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time maybe have said “hey, listen!” one too many times, but without her, our hero would be lost. Navi helped guide a fairy-free Link as he grows up, essentially acting as a parent in the game. I wouldn’t have been surprised if at one point she reminded me to tie my shoes before leaving the house.
Another reason Navi sticks out so much is that she was the first character where voice acting was used in the franchise. All just to make us “listen!”
The always helpful red-crested breegull that sits in Banjo’s backpack waiting to help, Kazooie never lets him down. Kazooie was indispensable, blessed with a slew of abilities like flying, pecking enemies, running up slopes, and shooting eggs. SHOOTING. EGGS.
There is nothing bad to say about the sassy Kazooie. The only disappointing thing is how few games exist in the franchise. The good news is that if you pay for Nintendo Online, you can relive the original Banjo-Kazooie from 1998 in all its glory.
Kratos’ son in God of War, Atreus is just as integral to the story of the game as his god-killing father. Throughout the game, Kratos teaches Atreus valuable lessons about being a respectful and honorable person. These moments help humanize Kratos and emotionally connect him to his pint-sized sidekick.
The game unfolds an emotional narrative as Kratos fights for redemption and Atreus comes to terms with losing his mother. He really does carry the emotional heft of the story, earning him his spot here.
The partner and mentor to Nathan Drake in Uncharted, Sully is a perfect sidekick. The conversations the two share help keep the narrative moving at a brisk pace while they hunt for treasure and take down any enemies who get in their way. Sully even got a happy ending, announcing his retirement to Nathan at the end of the 4th game in the franchise.
Fans wanting more Sully should be happy that an Uncharted movie is on the way. Although, casting Mark Wahlberg in a role that should be reserved for a more weathered and rugged actor doesn’t fill me with confidence.
Donald and Goofy
One of the more surprising franchise successes in video game history, in my opinion, is Kingdom Hearts. The melee game full of Disney magic and characters has no right to be as good as it is, but here we are. It helps that Donald and Goofy come together early in the game to become trustworthy allies for Sora.
Donald is a sorcerer while Goofy is a melee specialist, and you don’t want to be left without either in a battle. But, of course, the game makes sure that you have to make a decision about that early, and the choice isn’t easy because both are better than the other sidekick options.
The loyal sidekick to Jak in Jak and Daxter, the human turned Ottsel is also the only source of dialogue. At least in the first game. Daxter is also the reason the pair begin their adventures, as Jak hopes to find a way to turn his best friend back into a human. This tuns into a MacGuffin, but the relationship this builds for the player is important to make us care about the characters.
At one point, Daxter is given the option to be turned back into a human. The only catch is then he and Jak won’t be able to save the world. With that, his furry fate is sealed, as well as his spot on this list.
Perhaps the most important character in Bioshock Infinite is Elizabeth. She can pretty much do anything. Assisting out Booker DeWitt, she picks locks and helps him regain health and replenish ammo during battles. Elizabeth is also connected to the villain of the game, making her a character impossible to replace.
The reason I love Elizabeth so much is because of one special ability. She can tear a hole in the space-time continuum. This allows Booker to look into different worlds where different outcomes are occurring. He can also take items from those worlds, or transport himself there with Elizabeth. Pretty nifty!
Did I miss any of the best video game sidekicks on your personal list?