Weekend Hot Topic, part 1: Your favourite video game NPC

GameCentral readers discuss the most memorable non-player characters, from Half-Life 2’s Alyx Vane to Mimir from God Of War.

The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Xane, who wanted to know which NPC you like the most and why. What makes a memorable NPC and are there any that have elevated an otherwise mediocre game, or one so annoying it’s almost ruined a good one?

We had plenty of different answers but while it wasn’t always the same character from them, Uncharted and Mass Effect accounted for a sizeable number of letters. That and the Merchant from Resident Evil 4.


Old friend

An interesting Hot Topic for this week, not a great deal of non-player character have had much of a memorable impact recently, but certainly in the last few years the most significant was Admiral Anderson from the Mass Effect series. From the opening mission, when you take command of his boat relegating him to a desk job on the citadel, his investigations over your character in the sequel, and finally his heroics and ultimate sacrifice during the final conflict. Helped by the unique and distinctive voice of Keith David, who certainly adds a layer of gravitas and depth to the character, he certainly was memorable through my adventures savings the galaxy.

Probably not the largest or greatest of impactful NPCs, for me it was just the humble nature of an otherwise insignificant background character who obviously resonated with the game’s fans over the course of the series, to the extent that when he died beside you on the Citadel you did feel genuinely like an old friend had passed away, succumbing to the insanity of the situation. I was glad when he was included on the Citadel DLC for the third game, was a nice addition to an already fun chapter of content.
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Technical disqualification

Rolling on from my favourite Xbox game on last week’s topic I was initially going to say HK-47 from Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic – the news of a movie and possible new game, just wow – until I remembered you can play as him by switching characters.

So, the two others that I’ve always loved are Alyx Vance from Half-Life, as the writing for the character and the voice-acting was outstanding for the time and still is even now. Secondly, Navi from Zelda, even now at the wrong end of my 30s I use the, ‘Hey, Listen’ soundbite for my notifications.

I went with the ones that immediately sprang to mind because if I started to put a lot of thought into it I would have had a list as long as my arm. There’s so many games with likeable and even relatable characters that half the fun is wondering who you’re going to meet next.

I’ll leave this with a final dishonourable mention to Vaas from Far Cry 3.


Guilt personified

I had a tough time picking a non-playable character that I like because there’s been so many annoying ones. In the end I thought of Amanda Evert from Tomb Raider: Legend.

Amanda’s a strange choice because initially she’s a bit of a pest and her voice could grate after prolonged exposure. But somehow I liked her anyway.

Amanda’s got an interesting (if overused) arc: companion to arch enemy. I also appreciated her unhinged quality and her dress sense.

Amanda Evert acts as the embodiment of Lara Croft’s guilt, which is an intriguing concept. Lara has to defeat Amanda but probably doesn’t want to because she blames herself for her friend’s descent into villainy.

Of course this is an old trope but I thought it worked well in the game. Amanda’s certainly a million times more interesting than Legend’s other baddie, James Rutland, whose defining characteristics seem to be mild sarcasm and sunglasses.
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Gaming with friends

Uncharted 1 to 4 (sorry but I just couldn’t warm to Nadine in The Lost Legacy) have always had good companions, which make the games more enjoyable for me, as it makes it feel like going on an adventure with some mates. My favourite is Elena Fisher, who over the course of the four games has proven to be a charming adventure companion: funny, smart, tough, loving and incredibly loyal (even when she and Nate are estranged or going through serious relationship problems she’s always there for him). I don’t think she’s given enough credit, but for me Elena and the loving relationship she has with Nate makes Uncharted something very special.

Another favourite non-player character is Resident Evil 4’s Merchant, who makes the simple acts of upgrading weapons and buying/selling stuff so much fun thanks to his wonderful voice and funny comments!

On the negative side I have to mention Chase from Uncharted: Golden Abyss. For me Sony Bend couldn’t match Naughty Dog’s scripting and Chase was the worst point – she just proved constantly annoying and useless. She won’t use a gun but then gets very excited when Nate takes goons down, which seemed at odds with her pacifist tendencies.

While I love Uncharted 1 to 4 and keep playing them I just don’t want to return to Golden Abyss or The Lost Legacy because I just don’t love them as much, which is mainly due to the poor company.


NPC arc

There are two non-player characters that are tied for my favourite.

The first is Sadie Alder from Red Dead Redemption II. The arc she was given in the story was incredible – better than many player characters get – from inconsolable, grieving widow to revenge driven hellion, to a bounty hunter with a smouldering rage fuelling her. All of this was helped by a brilliant voice (and mocap) acting performance. Every time Sadie’s icon appeared on my map, I held off on it, saving it as a treat.

And then the other is the street vendor in Sleeping Dogs who shouts, ‘You like a man who needs a pork bun’ because it’s hilarious.
Martin Smith


A man’s best friend

My favourite non-player character? Wow that’s a tough one for me! I tend to play a lot of racing titles, so having memorable NPCs… is a rarity. I assume the question isn’t just any gaming character you can’t play, rather one that accompanies you on missions or journeys throughout the game.

I guess my immediate reaction was Sully from Uncharted. The guy is an absolute hoot, I don’t think Nathan Drake would be half the character he is without his trusty sidekick. But alas, he actually IS a playable character, as I recall a mission playing as Sully in Uncharted 4 (and I’m fairly certain he’s a popular choice with multiplayer).

So with old mate effectively out of the running, I had to go with my second choice: Dogmeat. Fallout 4 is a favourite of mine, and whilst I did fall in love with Piper the Pesky Reporter (hey gimme a break, I’m single), Dogmeat was the NPC who ranks up there as my favourite companion. Loyal to a fault, I found myself looking out for the fur-face at every single turn and would fly into a rage (i.e. mutter some choice words under my breath) when raider scum would shoot at him point blank.
He seemed hopelessly vulnerable being a melee-only companion and would wade into battle armed with nothing but a growl and sharp teeth.

Piper on the other hand, well, she could take care of herself in the heat of a skirmish, and I figured her girlish charm was just a ruse (even though it worked).


Character update

Without doubt, Alyx Vance from Half-Life 2. Back in 2004, when Half-Life 2 was first released on PC, she looked so lifelike and behaved in a very convincing, compassionate manner. She was also hard as nails as well. Fast forward to 2019 and she has dated somewhat, but stills sticks in my mind.

As a side-note, I’d recommend anyone who’s got Half-LIfe 2 on PC to install the free fan-made HD update, which was released in the past few years, making a great game even greater. From what I recall, it was a labour of love for the developer and Gearbox Software was so impressed with it, they offered them a full-time position.


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Relationship issues

I have two favourite non-playable characters, both from the Mass Effect universe.

First is Mordin Solus, encountered in Mass Effect 2. It had to be him. The Mass Effect trilogy had a lot of great characters but he really stood out from his introduction when you meet him in the clinic and you hear him thinking aloud, trying to work out who you work for. This scene, with his Sherlock Holmes-esque deductions was brilliantly written. He turned out to be quite a complex character, being one of the persons involved with creating the Genophage, which pretty much sterilised the whole Krogan race, then thinking it was a big mistake and trying to rectify his wrongs.

The second is Liara T’Soni. When I first met her, I really didn’t trust her and thought she would turn out to be a villain. I suspected she was lying about not knowing anything as to her mother, Benezia’s involvement with the main antagonist Saren Arterius but by the end of the first Mass Effect I was in love!

I have to admit that our relationship didn’t always go smoothly. I was a little bit naughty and flirted with Ashley too, so when they both came to me demanding I choose between them I was quite shocked and well put in my place. But I seemingly didn’t learn my lesson.

As I voyaged through Mass Effect 2, I didn’t think Liara would make an appearance, so started to court Jack, which was hard work as she had a lot of issues. But then Liara came back into my life and I thought everything was lost between us when she had a go at me for ditching her for a psycho (those weren’t her exact words, but I knew what she meant). I was so worried that I had ruined our relationship for good that I did something that I rarely did back then. I bought a piece of DLC.

I bought the Liar Of The Shadow Broker in the hope Liara and I could spend some quality time together and mend our relationship. As we travelled the galaxy gaining leads to the Broker’s whereabouts, we build some new memories together, putting the past behind us. We eventually found his base and took the Shadow Broker down together.

As Mass Effect 3 began I was not remotely tempted by Miranda Lawson (okay I was, just a bit but don’t tell Liara!). I knew it was only a matter of time before I would be reunited with my sweetheart again. With everything that had happened, she had changed but I could still tell the old feelings were there. It took time but we managed to rekindle what we once had, which made saying goodbye to her as we departed for the final mission all the more difficult.


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