5 iconic and memorable sidekicks in video games
As is the case with many a superhero, video game protagonists also sometimes benefit from having a sidekick or two. The addition of another character to accompany the player through the game, gives the protagonist someone else to play off of, instead of narrating to themselves or making fourth wall breaking jokes all the time.
These side characters can provide many different functions such as giving the player a second life, aiding in combat, helping solve puzzles, showing the way forward or simply being someone they can rely on to take on a wave of enemies all by themselves.
Over the years, many such sidekicks have cropped up over various video game franchises, with some becoming popular enough to appear in future installments or get their own game. Here are five such iconic and memorable sidekicks.
Note: This article reflects the writer's opinion
5 sidekicks in video games who became fan favorites
1) Tails - Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Miles' Tails' Prowler is a character in the Sonic universe who debuted in Sonic The Hedgehog 2 for the Mega Drive. Tails, so named due to him having twin tails, was a second player option, which was otherwise left to the AI to handle.
Using his two tails, this fox could help Sonic out in a pinch by flying him and his blue buddy out of danger. Out of all of Sonic's many sidekicks, Tails has stuck by him the longest, appearing in a multitude of Sonic games and scheduled to make his PS5 and Xbox series X debut in Sonic Origins.
Tails has popularity has grown so far that he has now joined Sonic out of video games and on the silver screen, playing a sidekick role in the movie Sonic the Hedgehog 2, released in early 2022.
While the movie's critical success was merely above average, fans of the character and games generally enjoyed the depiction.
2) Wheatly - Portal 2
Wheatley is an AI personality core appearing in the second Portal game. At the beginning of the game, he serves as a guide. He sometimes serves even as a partner, helping Chell (the protagonist) with certain puzzles.
Through many chapters of the video game Wheatly and the player become quite the hero sidekick duo, and there's no real reason not to trust him, although with Stephen Merchant's performance, who wouldn't.
Finally, after a confrontation with the original game's protagonist, GLaDOS, Chell detaches her from her command console and puts Wheatly in her place.
And this is when the ball drops. Having gotten a taste of power, it is almost comedic how quickly Wheatly gets corrupted, now assuming the recently vacant status of the antagonist.
For the rest of the game, Chell and GLaDOS form an uneasy alliance to try to beat him, and it is this betrayal halfway through the game that made Wheatly such a memorable character. Who knows, maybe he'll show up in Portal 3.
3) Alyx Vance - Half-Life 2
Valve may never release a new Half-Life game, so the main protagonist for the original series will forever go down in history as a shy scientist who never talked.
While capable of handling various Combine threats, Gordon Freeman wasn’t exactly a chatty person, speaking nary a word in the two games he was the main character of. To somewhat address this issue, Valve added Alyx Vance to Half-Life 2
Alyx provides much-needed dialogue during gameplay and her adept ability to get Freeman out of tight spots. Since then, she has somewhat stepped out of her sidekick status, getting a game all on her own in Half-Life Alyx.
While Half-Life Alyx is a VR-only experience, it was received quite positively. The game showcased Valve’s affinity for sandbox physics, even in a VR environment. Fans were delighted to return to a Half-Life video game, with a beloved character at that.
4) Navi - Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time
Link has had many people help him out over the years and will probably have more in Breath of The Wild 2. But none stand out more than Navi, the fairy partner accompanying him in Ocarina of Time.
The Great Deku Tree assigns her to guide Link on his journey. Navi is relatively small in size as a fairy and appears as a round glowing orb floating near Link in the game.
In-game, she acts as the player's instructor, in the beginning, teaching Link the controls and fighting mechanics. She also offers hints and clues to various puzzles and riddles.
Additionally, she may even call out to Link to points of interest if the player is stuck in an area. After all, there is a dedicated button to request Navi's help.
Most essentially, she's a sidekick in battle, too, acting as the in-world target lock-on mechanism, without which combat would have been nearly impossible.
Despite all these positives, though, Navi's one demerit is her voice as she calls out to Link. So despised and yet so iconic, Legend of Zelda veterans might visually cringe when they hear "Hey, listen!"
5) Garrus Vakarian - Mass Effect
Mass Effect has players take control of Commander Sheppard, who leads a crew of space-faring scientists, soldiers, and mercenaries. So it’s safe to say that Sheppard has a lot of sidekicks to pick from. However, choosing the most iconic and memorable one amongst them isn’t hard.
Garrus Vakarian is the Turian who stole our hearts. Charismatic and humorous, while also being an expert marksman? These are some serious skills to have in one person.
It has to be said that aside from Tali, Garrus is the only other character to be present as a squad member in all three games. And to be perfectly honest, Tali is not that great at being a sidekick.
In addition to the above, Garrus also has a pretty cool side story in ME2 where, during Sheppard’s absence he took up the role of a watchful protector on Omega, going by the codename Archangel. Fans can only hope he returns in the upcoming game.