The Top 10 Best Companions in Gaming

It’s nice to have friends, and video games are no exception. Ever since Mario first hopped on the back of a long-tongued, green dinosaur in Super Mario World, companions have been an important, recognizable feature in countless games. Since then, some games have practically defined themselves by their exceptional tagalongs, whether that be due to their relationship with the main character, their utility in gameplay, or their deep personalities (or a combination of all three).

10. Companion Cube (Portal)

companion cube best companions

There is only one inanimate object that will break your heart, and that is Portal’s Companion Cube. Introduced in Test Chamber 17 of the puzzler, the Companion Cube remains your steadfast ally all the way up until the end of Test Chamber 17. It is a story for the ages, truly, and it must be played to truly understand how deep the bond between player character Chell and the Companion Cube runs.

What’s more, though Companion Cube’s tenure in your company is brief, it provides you with countless gameplay benefits, such as comfort, companionship, and the ability to redirect floating light balls so they don’t hurt you. A strong, stoic figure, the Companion Cube is a box of few words, which makes its undying friendship all the more meaningful. All the way up until you throw your ever-loyal friend into the incinerator. You monster.

9. Tails (Sonic Series)

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It was a foregone conclusion that at least one of Sonic’s many friends and allies would appear on this list, and it only makes sense for it to be Tails. The yellow fox is almost as ingrained into the fabric of the Sonic franchise as the blue hedgehog himself, and it is easy to see why. Plucky and childlike, Tails is a constant stream of positivity, hope, and ingenuity, making him serve as the “heart” of the core Sonic cast when compared to the gruff Knuckles or the self-serious Shadow and Silver. And yet, he rarely comes off as annoying or useless, unlike other companions like Amy or (God forbid) Big the Cat.

What’s more, he provides a huge gameplay benefit in pretty much all his incarnations: flight. By spinning his twin tails (don’t ask us about the anatomy), he is able to lift himself and his friends up like a helicopter, letting you reach higher points of the level or glide over obstacles. This power is practically critical, and it is routinely one of the most fun movement mechanics in the games outside of Sonic’s speed itself. Combined with his cheery, personable attitude, there is a lot to like, both mechanically and narratively. In Sonic’s cast full of colorful, interesting companions, Tails takes the top spot.

8. Dogmeat (Fallout Series)

dogmeat best companions

Man’s best friend, and a post-apocalyptic staple since 1975’s A Boy and His Dog, what would any blasted wasteland be with a dog? Thankfully, that’s a question that the Fallout series has never had to answer, and filling the spot since the series’s first iteration is Dogmeat. The possibly-immortal wasteland wanderer can be made a companion in every single mainline Fallout game, and always to great boon.

Not only is Dogmeat a loyal, immediate friend, but he also is one of the most capable companions on this list. Depending on the game and your playstyle, Dogmeat can find loot, take on formidable enemies, and even break each game in some hilarious ways. So long as you take care of him, he will take care of you, and that makes him not just the best dog to have around after the bombs fall, and the best companion in Fallout, it makes him one of the best companions of all time.

7. Kazooie (Banjo Kazooie)

kazooie best companions

Banjo Kazooie is a strange franchise with a rocky history, constantly wavering in popularity. It will disappear for years at a time, only for its titular heroes to pop up again in strange places. It is inconsistent, at best. But you know what isn’t inconsistent? Kazooie’s enduring friendship with Banjo. The sarcastic, grumpy bird serves as an excellent foil to the dimwitted, lovable bear, and it’s their banter which gives true life to the series and helps it stand apart from other similar collect-a-thons.

Of course, Kazooie also provides numerous gameplay benefits to Banjo from her roost in his backpack. Similar to Tails, she can provide Banjo with the ability of limited flight, but she can also attack enemies at range using her eggs, repair vehicles in the underrated Nuts n’ Bolts, and hurl insults at every ne’er-do-well that you come across. Oh, and she can turn into a dragon. Long story.

6. Ellie (The Last of Us)

ellie best companions

One of the most well-realized characters in recent years, Ellie from The Last of Us is far more than a fun sidekick to Joel as he travels across America in search of a cure for the zombie virus, she is the reason his journey is happening. In one of the most moving, powerful relationships in gaming, Joel’s bond with Ellie deepens over the course of the game. An intelligent, capable girl, she becomes the adoptive daughter of the gruff, jaded Joel, and both are able to learn and grow deeply from the experience in one of the most potent, well-written stories in video games.

But Ellie’s contributions to the game aren’t simply narrative; she is also doing everything that a companion should do in a zombie apocalypse. She goes around the level, tossing ammo and other consumables to Joel and giving him hints and combat warnings to ensure he stays alive. And, best yet, she stays out of the way, never getting herself into needless danger or trouble. Her role mechanically is passive but essential, and this lines her up to be the perfect foil to Joel throughout the story as they both undergo an intensely-emotional journey.

5. Cortana (Halo)

cortana best companions

One of the most recognizable faces in gaming, Cortana maintains a special, venerated place in Halo canon, being perhaps as universally loved as Master Chief himself. The snappy, blue AI is as brilliantly realized and acted as any other companion on this list, and has been since Halo: Combat Evolved in 2000, long before any of the other narrative heavyweights here made their first appearance. Gamers have followed her story for years as she has remained the most compelling character of the series, her more emotive personality and dramatic moments outshining even Master Chief’s, and her involvement is often the reason we are able to see Chief show any emotion or vulnerability whatsoever.

Mechanically, her role in the Halo games is minimal, but that’s all she needs to be. Series protagonist Master Chief hardly speaks, and when he does it is gruff and serious, and so Cortana’s more lighthearted, personable attitude is essential to keep the game engaging. As well, she is often the character delivering your next objective, telling you how to complete your current one, and otherwise giving you the details on “what to do next.” Without Cortana, Master Chief would work, and neither would Halo.

4. Garrus (Mass Effect Series)

garrus vakarian best companions

Many games on this list have a multitude of companions, and deciding between them to determine the best was difficult. But, while Mass Effect does have the same huge amount of companions, figuring out which one is the best barely takes a moment. Garrus Valkarian, the Turian who accompanies Commander Shepherd through all three games, is the stand-out character in a huge lineup of stand-out characters. Serious and mature, Garrus gets all the best lines, gives all the best advice, has all the best interactions with Shepherd, and — fitting Mass Effect — has the series’s best possible romance (at least for a female Shepherd).

What really sells Garrus as a companion, though, is that he can actually stand up for himself on missions. Whereas most other characters seem to be either made out of paper, or seem to be shooting it, Garrus manages to both pack a punch and have decent survivability. His myriad talents and quippy banter make him an ideal partner to take on nearly every mission, even as your other squadmates might be swapped out each time you leave your ship. Regardless of how many calibrations Garrus is in the middle of, he will always be Commander Shepherd’s most loyal, most capable companion.

3. Yoshi (Mario Series)

yoshi best companions

Introduced in 1990’s Super Mario World, Yoshi is the oldest companion on our list, and still one of the best. The dopey, comically-proportioned green dino has been all over Mario games ever since and — being a Mario character — this means that he has changed over time (and in individual games) to be whatever he needs to be. But, in all iterations, he is faithfully loyal to Mario and company, and his goofy, fun-loving personality makes him a joy to see. Nobody has ever hit a “?” block to see Yoshi and been disappointed, which is a testament to just how likeable the goofball is.

As for his use in-game, it is extensive. The concept for Yoshi is simple: what if Mario had a pet dinosaur he could ride? And yet, the mileage that Nintendo gets out of that concept is mind-blowing. Yoshi is able to double-jump, kick his little feet to hover, consume enemies (and spit them back out) with his freakishly long tongue, drop eggs with all sorts of effects, and (horrifically) be used as a jump-boost to reach the next platform. And that is without even going into the many-colored variants of Yoshi, each with its own special effects. What on the surface appears to be a simple, silly sidekick, then, turns out to be one of the most multifaceted and adorable companions in gaming, and certainly one of the most iconic.

2. Elizabeth (Bioshock: Infinite)

elizabeth best companions

Bioshock: Infinite’s Elizabeth is a fascinating character, and the perfect one to assist Booker DeWitt as he tries to make sense of the flying city of Columbia (or the time-bending plot of the game). Possibly her most interesting attribute is how intriguing she is. She is, after all, part of a Bioshock game, and so mystery and twists are baked into her character. But, despite that, Elizabeth never seems like a pawn of the plot, instead being a very active agent with a charming, determined attitude. Bonus points for her active rebellion against the racist, patriarchal society depicted in the game.

Mechanically, she falls into the category of companions who are unobtrusive but greatly helpful, as she will toss ammunition, health, and tonics at you with the press of a button, and will rarely find herself in peril. She facilitates your journey through Columbia, and acts as the main mover of the plot as Booker struggles to understand the complexities of the place he has found himself. And all that is to say nothing about the various, masterful twists that recontextualize and deepen her personality and relationships with the other characters in the game.

1. Atreus (God of War Series)

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Atreus had an impossible task: make God of War’s Kratos — the rage-and-revenge-obsessed “Ghost of Sparta”, who destroyed the entire Greek pantheon — into a father. Well… Make him a good father, at least. And not only does Atreus fill that role, but he is also one of the primary elements that elevate the franchise as a whole, and the centerpiece of the entire series reboot. He is not the only likable child character on this list, but he is probably the most relatable, despite his divine lineage. He acts like a child but is charming and intelligent, and both God of War and Ragnarök were able to portray him as a complex individual, separate from Kratos, who also serves as a perfect foil for Kratos.

Mechanically, he is one of the most enjoyable companions in gaming. Not only can he act on his own, firing his bow or using a variety of magic to fend of enemies, but he also reacts seamlessly to the push of a button, meaning that Atreus’s powers flow seamlessly into the brutal combat of both games. His commentary warns of danger, deepens the story, and points out missed loot. He stays out of your way but is still present in the environment enough that he feels like he is there (rather than disappearing into the scenery a la Ellie or Elizabeth. He is the ideal narrative companion, improving every aspect of the franchise while also standing alone as a fascinating, lovable character.

So, there are the best companions in the history of gaming! Or, at least, our list of them. What do you think, are there any tagalongs we’re missing from the list? Or maybe any on the list that you don’t think are deserving? Let us know in the comments below!

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Graves is an avid writer, web designer, and gamer, with more ideas than he could hope to achieve in a lifetime. But, armed with a mug of coffee and an overactive imagination, he’ll try. When he isn’t working on a creative project, he is painting miniatures, reading cheesy sci-fi novels, or making music.

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