With God of War 4’s release and the introduction of Atreus, it’s time to look at gaming’s best companions. To meet the criteria, this does not include party members or teammates, but an individual character. These characters aren’t sidekicks, like Clank in Ratchet and Clank or Daxter in Jak and Daxter, but independent. For example, Atreus accompanies Kratos on his journey, helping in combat and puzzles. He acts as a secondary character to the player and an active presence in the game, but they don’t directly control him. As a result, he is an effective companion, both in God of War’s story and gameplay. A poor example is Ashley from Resident Evil 5, who was a burden for the player. Poor AI and a lack of independence meant the player essentially had to babysit her. Here are some of the best companions in gaming.
Alyx Vance – Half Life 2
Alyx Vance set the blueprint for an effective companion in games. She was effective in combat, crucial to the story and detailed enough for players to invest in her. By virtue of being invisible, she never felt like a burden to players. In Episode One and Two she shows off even more of her skills, being an absolute beast with a shotgun or sniper. As the daughter of Dr. Eli Vance, she is essential to the story. Her distain for the Combine’s cruelty, rebellious spirit and optimistic sense of humour is crucial to player’s understanding of the world. Through Alyx, the voiceless Gordon and the player learn about the dystopian world and the impact of their actions. Her growing fondness for Gordon becomes increasingly blatant by the end of Episode Two. The relationship between Gordon/the player and Alyx is no doubt why fans are dying for the illusive Half Life 3.
Elizabeth – Bioshock Infinite
In Bioshock Infinite, Irrational Games were able to shatter the gaming industry’s ideas of the damsel in distress and escort mission. They achieved this entirely through Elizabeth. In Bioshock Infinite, players set out to rescue her and escort her out of Columbia. However, she proves to be more than capable on her own. While she cannot directly fight enemies with the player, she can manipulate the environment around them. This means she can create weapons stations for ammo, pull up cover for players or spawn environmental traps for triggering. Furthermore, she will directly aid the player by giving them health kits, mana potions and ammo. On top of this, Elizabeth is one of the best written characters of the last generation. Her innocent curiosity for the world warms players to her naivety, while her rushed maturity shows her development into a darker character, burdened by her own importance. It’s not just Booker DeWitt who will fall in love with her, in a father-daughter sense, but also the player. Just listen to her rendition of Johnny Cash’s Will The Circle Be Unbroken to see why she’s stayed in gamers hearts all these years.
Ellie – The Last of Us
The similarities between Joel/Kratos and Ellie/Atreus are so on the nose that God of War director Cory Barlog acknowledged the influence. With Bioshock Infinite and Last of Us releasing in the same year, 2013 was the year for companions. Everything that critics praised Elizabeth for could be said twice-fold for Ellie. She plays similar to Atreus, an independent child who navigates around the player, never getting in their way. In combat, Ellie uses her shiv to immobilise and distract enemies. However, the reason why Ellie is so important not just as a game companion but as a narrative character is her role in the story. Players meet her at the same time as Joel does, so they can see the relationship grow organically. She presents the perfect balance between independence to seem like a badass, but vulnerability to seem like a kid. By the end of the game, not only will Joel see Ellie as his daughter, but also the player will. Fans’ love for Ellie was so overwhelming that NaughtyDog gave Ellie her own story in the Left Behind DLC. Here’s looking to The Last of Us 2 for more of Ellie’s story.