When videogame sidekicks rub people the wrong way, they really rub them the wrong way. Maybe they’re a bit clingy, maybe they get in the way during fights, maybe they aren’t as sexy as the characters everyone else likes. Maybe they have the misfortune to be literally any sidekick from a Resident Evil game.
But you’re moved to stick up for at least one of them, dammit. One of the characters who falls outside the top 20 on our list ranking the Mass Effect companions, for instance. If only the world could see it from your point of view! Well, now they can. Make a case for the defence.
Which unpopular sidekick would you defend with your life?
Here are our answers, plus a few from our forum.
Christopher Livingston: When enough time has passed, something that seemed annoying at the time can be remembered fondly. And now I think I can finally see the value of Oblivion’s Adoring Fan. Sure, he was useless in combat, and would immediately flee any danger, but he was remarkably durable because even when he died one of his many, many deaths, he’d reappear again a few days later, alive, excited, and apparently unaffected by the trauma of dying horribly and having his soul plucked from the afterlife and jammed back into his body.
And while it was irritating at the time, these days I could really use someone following me around telling me I’m great. Who wouldn’t want an immortal hype man shadowing them around at all times? It’s a real confidence boost.
And just take this bit of trivia from the Elder Scrolls wiki: “The Adoring Fan will always take the shortest way back to the Arena if told to go away. This can include jumping off cliffs and mountains.”
The guy lets nothing stop him, not cliffs, not mountains, and not death itself. He’s not the sidekick we want, but maybe he’s the sidekick we need.
Katie Wickens: Bethesda doesn’t have the greatest track record for helpful companions. They can often be found setting off traps/mines, barreling into danger while you’re trying to be stealthy, or accidentally hurling themselves from the top of buildings. But there’s something to be said about their depth of character. Veronica from Fallout: New Vegas (an Obsidian Bethesda game, but still) was one of my favourites. From her devil-may-care, unarmed fighting style, to her rich, dark backstory. And those warm, sarcastic tones were just the cherry on top. I knew she was the pal for me from day one. And I always carved out a good portion of my playthroughs to get her that dress she always wanted. The little squeal when you finally slip one into her inventory is the most gratifying thank you anyone could ask for.
Veronica is my forever friend, even if she gets in the way of all my good headshots.
Graeme Meredith: People love dumping on Tails—from the popular duo “Sonic and Tails”. Even the fabled hardcore Sonic fandom can be pretty brutal towards maybe the cutest sidekick there is, one who has a pretty cool foundation in Japanese folk-lore, too. And while the modern iteration of pretty much every Sonic character ranges from creepy to irritating, on a cellular level, let’s think about where the derision for Tails originally comes from.
Running back to Sonic 2, a lot of people dislike Tails because he lags behind and gets himself killed. Especially in Special Stages, Tails can get in the way, losing you vital rings and causing you to miss out on Chaos Emeralds. But keep in mind, Tails is a friend. He’s a child. And you’re there to protect him. If seeing Tails fail is causing you upset, maybe that’s just because it’s reflecting your own failings. Be a better Sonic, guys.
Jody Macgregor: The human companions in Mass Effect games are always second-best. Jacob from Mass Effect 2 seemed to annoy people even more than the others, though. It’s true that he doesn’t get along with Tali and that put off protective dudes trying to bang her, but more than that, Jacob’s sin is that he’s boring. By the standards of Mass Effect companions, he’s normal. They’ve all got issues they’re dying to tell you about—Thane admits he’s dying before he’s known you five minutes—but not Jacob. He does pick up some daddy issues during his loyalty mission, but having parental stuff to deal with on the Normandy? Buddy, get in line.
I like Jacob. He’s the one well-adjusted guy in your squad, when everyone else has issues so blatant they may as well be tattooed on their skin. In Jack’s case, they literally are. Plus, he has one of the best of all the cheesy one-liners in the game: “A good deed’s like pissing yourself in dark pants. Warm feeling, but no one notices.”
Robin Valentine: I suspect the main character’s customisable sidekicks in Dragon’s Dogma, known as ‘Pawns’, probably weren’t popular, on the whole. They’re not very clever in combat, they require quite a lot of micro-management of their skills and items, and they’re constantly repeating the same hints and combat barks.
But I have a real fondness for them. Dragon’s Dogma’s world is big and dangerous and sometimes pretty inscrutable. You spend hours and hours trekking through hostile wilderness, miles from any civilisation. It’s comforting, then, to have company, and in a weird way their empty-headed behaviour just makes them more endearing. When you don’t know what’s going to lunge out of the next shadow, there’s a reassuring familiarity to your companion repeating the same ‘Watch out, danger lurks nearby!’ line for the 100th time. The way they hurl themselves heedlessly into danger makes you feel like someone’s got your back out there. And when you inevitably dress them up in the ridiculous free DLC outfits for the stat bonuses, they even provide a bit of light entertainment on the road.
Andy Chalk: I loved Jaheira and Khalid. They took me under their wings at the Friendly Arm Inn and stuck with me through the toughest of times, only occasionally reminding me that they could be off doing other things. But what really sold me on them was the obvious affection they had for one another. They bicker, she yells, he stammers, she’s brash, he’s withdrawn, and there’s never a moment where I don’t believe that each would die for the other, without hesitation.
They were very capable, too: Khalid was a competent front-liner (although his morale was a little fragile) and the multi-class Jaheira was flexible enough to fill pretty much any hole. Mostly, though, I just really liked them. I didn’t need that many fighters hanging around—I was a fighter too, and of course there was no getting rid of Minsc—but they were my friends, and that’s what mattered.
Sarafan: It’s a hard choice because there are a few. I’d say Marcus from Fallout 2 however. I won’t lie. He’s not always in my party when I’m replaying Fallout 2, but I frequently find him underappreciated. The main problem with this companion is his tendency to shoot friendly characters when using burst fire. It’s annoying, but he’s the only recruitable character in the game which can use big guns and heavy energy weapons.
It’s dangerous to give Marcus a Minigun or Bozar, but he really starts to shine when equipped with a Plasma or Pulse Rifle. These weapons don’t have a burst fire mode and do a lot of damage with single shots. Of course there are some problems with Marcus’s endurance late in the game, but if you’re using the Restoration Project, you can get him a decent armor.
mainer: That’s a tough question, it’s hard to know (sometimes) if a companion/sidekick is considered unpopular by other players. But one of my favorites was Oghren from Dragon Age Origins. I don’t believe he was quite as popular as the rest of the crew. but I really liked him. He was a drunk, belched a lot, leered at women (especially Morrigan), but he was an awesome tank-like fighter and has some really funny lines throughout DAO. He had an interesting relationship with his wife, Branka, and also with Felsi. In all, I think he was a much more complex companion/sidekick than given credit for.
McStabStab: Dogmeat. I think people liked him more in Fallout 1 and 2 as opposed to the more recent iterations. We must protect Dogmeat at all costs.