By the Last Token Gaming Staff
As is commonly noted amongst gamers and critics today, it’s stunning to see how far video games have come in a very short amount of time. But while titles have taken lunar leaps in areas like graphics, storytelling, voice acting and music, there’s still a frequent flaw that persists even in the best of games: horrible sidekicks. This may seem like a trivial quibble compared to more important aspects of a given title, but even in the greatest titles the experience can be hampered by an irritating tagalong. Whether it’s because they die easily, won’t shut up, or don’t contribute anything good to your adventure, you know you’d be better off without ’em. Here are the LTG staff’s picks for the 10 worst partners.
10. Zeke, “inFamous”
Michael Ros: Going solely on his portrayal in the first game, Zeke is the type of guy whom you could easily imagine wearing a tin foil hat and never shutting up about government conspiracies. Given that the characters are trapped in the middle of a massive quarantine after a bomb levels the city whilst simultaneously giving his best friend super powers, I can imagine my brain going through the same thought process. However, he seems very one-note, and his voice becomes annoying after awhile. If it were up to me, I’d probably put him a little lower on this list as he really didn’t affect my enjoyment of the game. He only ever tags along on a select few missions, only one of which (at least to the best of my memory) is an escort mission where you have to protect him. His characterization overall saw some major improvements for the second installment, and this was especially apparent with Zeke and his friendship with Cole, to the point where the final moments of both the good and evil route made me tear up a bit. Was I supposed to be talking about annoying sidekicks? My apologies. Zeke as he is in the first game is definitely annoying, but his presence is minimal and in my mind his character slowly improved in “inFamous 2”. His voice is still annoying though.
9. Tails, “Sonic” franchise
Jake: If you compare Tails to the other sidekicks on this list, he isn’t too bad. For one, he can build robots. In Sonic Genesis games, if he dies, he comes back to you, which is nice compared to some sidekicks in escort missions. So why is Tails on this list? Well, consider the following. When you play as Sonic in Genesis games, your first instinct is obviously to go fast. About 9 times out of 10 when you go fast in Sonic 2 or 3, Tails wouldn’t keep up. Despite his cool name (Miles Prower) and the fact that he could fly, he just can’t keep up with Sonic no matter how hard he tries. Once you are miles away from Miles (hur dur), he would just fly back to you, as if he manages to muster speed just to fly back to Sonic. At least Tails had your back in Sonic 2 years later, where he controls a sweet mech where you could fire a bajillion rockets at once.
8. Cait Sith, “Final Fantasy VII”
Terry: There will always be sidekicks in games that bring nothing to the table in terms of battles. Then, there are the ones who achieve the rare feat of having that annoying personality that makes you wonder what the developers were thinking. Enter Cait Sith, the ever adorably designed robotic cat riding a giant robotic moogle. Having Cait Sith in your main party during battles ensured you a huge risk of getting to a “Game Over” screen in battle. With little physical and magical strength, it was better to put in Yuffie because she could at least “Steal” things from enemies. At least Cait Sith could be the comedic relief…right? NO. In fact, like every apparently-angsty-serious-complex character in the game, Cait Sith had a dark history that just further justifies that burning desire for him to just take Aerith’s place in her infamous death. At least that way, you’d keep the healer and lose the excess angst.
7. Donald and Goofy, “Kingdom Hearts”
Terry: Donald and Goofy are very endearing…in their cartoons. In the Kingdom Hearts series, they’re easily some of the most annoying sidekicks to ever have to babysit. Strategize a battle before going in and the plan will ultimately fail thanks to them. Half of the major boss battles in this series were part taking down the baddie and part supervising my sidekicks. Most of the time, they’ll both be taking down one heartless together at a time. That’s because within the first minute of battle, Donald and Goofy will use up their MP, even when you readjust their settings to be more defensive than offensive. Have them handle potions? Smart move, because now they’ll use it when you’ve only lost ONE bar of health. It took me towards the end of the first game to realize I was a lone wolf and to leave them alone. The plus side? I learned how to multi-task efficiently in game.
6. Sticky, “Fallout 3”
Marshall: One of the most enjoyable strengths of “Fallout 3” (as well as its sequel, “New Vegas”) is the companion system. From the fiercely loyal and articulate Super Mutant named Fawkes to the adorable canine Dogmeat, the choice of friends for the hazardous trek are worth having until the very end. But that doesn’t keep the 2008 classic from having one of the ultimate tagalongs from hell in Sticky. At some point, the Lone Wanderer will make his or her way to Little Lamplight in the D.C. Wasteland, a refuge for kids to live in until they reach 16. Sticky, who claims to actually be 18, has been forced by his younger companions to leave the place once and for all. He then requests that you take him to Big Town, and should you agree, you’ll be saddled with a nonstop chatterbox. From constantly asking “Are we there yet?” to babbling a veritable Mad Libs of repetitive stories, he makes the most familiar short distances feel like a trek through the Sinai Desert. Worst of all, once you’ve agreed to escort him, he will be an unshakable companion until you get him to his destination. Best to crank up the Ink Spots on your Pip Boy and run like Usain Bolt straight to Big Town.
5. Ashley Graham, “Resident Evil 4”
Marshall: Oh boy, what would this list be without Ashley Graham? As the kidnapped daughter of the U.S. President, her rescue is the key purpose of Leon Kennedy’s sojourn in Europe. Unlike most bad partners, she doesn’t whine constantly, and even has decent chemistry with her protector throughout the story. But the first (and biggest) problem is that she dies easily in battle, a tiresome obstacle given the game’s relentless action. As the battles become more complex and high-octane, Ashley’s fragility leads to a spike in both mission restarts and blood pressure. It’s all the more egregious because she frustrates so much during one of the finest gameplay experiences in console history. By the same token, the wire-to-wire high quality of “Resident Evil 4” mollifies how much she ruins a given moment. But hearing “Help me Leon!” as she’s carried away, all while you’re trying to reload your gun in a nick of time and fend off an incoming hoard of Illuminados monks, isn’t exactly one of the more enjoyable parts of the best survival horror game of all-time. (Additional thought: The one stage where the player controls her is surprisingly engrossing, and features one of the best scares in the game with a hall of knight armor suits that may or may not move…)
4. Navi, “Zelda” franchise
Marshall: Some may argue that Navi should occupy the number one spot due to her instantly recognizable reputation as an inescapable sidekick. Merely shout, “Hey! Listen!” and you’ll trigger groans from any gamer, as well as a frustrated readiness to read a totally pointless speech bubble (and we all know she’s not the only guiding character who prompts that). But unlike sidekicks who are only in a few missions, or at least not the entire game, Navi often pesters you from Link’s first moments to the very end. While she does provide some important facts in tight spots, she often disrupts the pure feeling of adventure. Getting ready to take a run through a bucolic field, only to have Navi start badgering you suddenly, is the Hyrulian equivalent of your cell phone going off when you least expect it. Sorry Navi, but unless you bring a GPS system and maybe Sirius/XM radio for the journey, you can take a hike.
3. Slippy, “Starfox 64”
Marshall: Ok, let’s just get one mitigating factor out of the way: *Every* member of Fox McCloud’s crew can be a nuisance during each mission. Despite his status as the veteran sage of the bunch, Peppy’s nonstop rhapsodizing about Fox’s father can be superfluous. (Do you really warrant such a comparison for dodging an asteroid or blowing up some creampuff enemies?) Falco, sharp-witted as he may be, can really grate with his constant bickering in tight spots. But no one is as much of a drag as Slippy the Toad, who gets in danger within the first 20 seconds of the first level and is constantly begging for Fox’s immediate assistance all the way until McCloud chooses to face Andross alone. On open-world stages, he seems to attract twice the trouble, distracting the player from fighting off Star Wolf or destroying a reactor to save his rear from a few weak bogies. The best example of Slippy’s futility ironically comes when he’s not in battle, and when he’s proven his one great strength. As an engineer, he designs crucial non-flight vehicles for Fox, most notably the submarine on the excruciating water level. After Fox defeats the final boss and the crew chimes in for their regular congratulations, Peppy observes, “Slippy’s not such a screw up after all!” Well said, old rabbit. Well said.
2. Natalya, “GoldenEye 007”
Marshall: Does it get any worse? With Natalya Simonova, “GoldenEye 007” did as much to revolutionize the art form of dreadful partners as it did the first person shooter. She earns a top three spot easily for being a different kind of nuisance on almost every level she appears in. The one exception: The jungle, where she brandishes a Cougar Magnum and takes down enemies with impeccable precision. Everywhere else, she’s a pointless burden. Simply protecting her often becomes the level’s hardest objective, considering how slowly she walks even with a wall of guards shooting away in front of her. The ultimate torture comes in the control room level, one of the longer ones in the game. At the very end, Bond has to fend off an increasing onslaught of enemies from both sides as Natalya takes until half past never to hack a computer. Not to mention, she’ll refuse to help you outright if you kill Boris Grishenko earlier on. Altogether, she’s a source of frustration so legendary, she even inspired a brilliant live-action recreation of the game that illustrates it. And to answer my opening question, well, it actually *does* get worse…
1. Dog, “Duck Hunt”
Jake: Oh my dear god, I cannot even THINK about Duck Hunt without thinking of this son of a bitch (or daughter, no gender discrimination). A duck hunting dog is supposed to a duck hunter’s best friend. They go out and fetch your fallen ducks, and maybe sometimes alert you when ducks are nearby. However, there is one thing that no hunting canine is supposed to do, and that is laugh at you in a mocking tone when you keep missing your target, resulting in its escape. This particular dog, however, loves doing just that like it’s their favorite thing to do. Next to fetching your ducks. Scratch that: He enjoys laughing at you more than fetching your ducks. Looking at his snickering face while laughing just frustrates you when you fail to shoot down your target. And if you keep missing your targets again and again, looking at his face each time will build your hatred until you find yourself shooting the dog in hopes that you’ll end their mockery, before proceeding to shoot ducks in peace. When I was playing this game growing up, I wasn’t the sharpest shooter starting out so I kept missing my ducks in the beginning. My frustration with that dog grew and grew until I tried shooting him. Of course, the game wouldn’t let me do such a thing. If there is anything redeeming about this sidekick, it would be that someone managed to create a game where the objective is to kill the dog. Which would be a sweet revenge after going through that torture all of those years ago.