We often shower endless amounts of love upon the primary protagonists of our games while secondary playable characters are left to be something of an afterthought. Sometimes this is because their presence hasn’t the impact or emotional resonance of that of the lead, but it also occurs because their gameplay segments are little more than carbon copies. Either way, for this week’s Top 5 Tuesday, we’re highlighting those supporting characters that manage to shine, even within the shadow of their more prominent counterparts.
Kai – Heavenly Sword
To be completely honest, I think I fell in love with Kai a little bit. From a narrative perspective, she seemed to be a bit of a lunatic but her wild, childish nature gave Heavenly Sword’s story a sense of levity without which it would have felt very different. Where Kai really shone, however, was in her brief gameplay segments. While Nariko’s action was heavily inspired by God of War and its ilk, Kai used a bow, meaning that it was important to stay out of range and pull off quick shots. Because of her effect on both the narrative and gameplay, there is a strong case for her inclusion on this list.
Robin – Batman: Arkham City
If you have the challenge maps DLC or Harley Quinn’s Revenge, you can play as the boy wonder himself, Robin. In Arkham City, Robin has a badass new look and and a badass new style. He plays not quite as fast as Catwoman, but not quite as meaty as Batman. In fact, he’s a whole different beast. He wields a metal bo staff that is brandished with an elegant flourish, but still manages to pack a punch that’ll make you grimace. He’s the primary character in Harley Quinn’s Revenge and is quite a cool guy to play as, thus earning his spot on the list.
Arbiter – Halo
In Halo 2, the story rotated around primarily Master Chief as he fights to send the Covenant scum to back from whence they came, while discovering more about the Flood. However, there is also a secondary story, one that is very important in the long run. This story focused on the Arbiter, and his army of rebellious Elites. For about 30% of the game, you played as the Arbiter, and he was great. He played differently, had a different UI, and had different weapons than Master Chief. Indeed, he was a very different character than 117. The Arbiter was fighting not for justice, but for honor. His Elite comrades would fight to the death, and in a losing battle you saw your brethren charge the enemy, even on the brink of death and defeat. He was very relatable, and you sympathized for him, making playing as him a joy. And for that, he gets this spot on the list.
Luigi – Mario
In this, the year of Luigi, it would be utterly irresponsible of us to neglect Mario’s green-clad brother in a list like this. Introduced to the gaming world as a second player palette swap of Mario in Mario Bros. 30 years ago, he has gone on to become an immediately recognisable character in his own right. From the platformers and the kart racers to the Party series and a presence in the Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games series, he has played second fiddle all along, only occasionally getting a chance to be the star on a few occasions, most recently in the DLC of the brothers’ Wii U platforming debut. Despite the fact that he has always been a secondary consideration, Luigi has become an icon in his own right and that absolutely qualifies him among for inclusion among the upper echelons of gaming’s sidekicks.
Ellie – The Last of Us
Let’s be honest here, although we played as Joel in The Last of Us, Ellie was the real main character. It was for her sake that we were making that desperate quest across a ruined America and that made it all the sweeter when we got a chance to slip into her somewhat daintier boots. Although the fundamental gameplay was unchanged, Ellie’s segments required a greater focus on stealth and her comparative physical weakness made it all the more harrowing when being engaged in combat. With a limited arsenal and crafting options, as well as the lack of buffs provided by Joel’s vitamins, playing as Ellie really did negate the “forward charge” method that was possible, if inadvisable, in the rest of the game. For all of this, and more, Ellie rounds out our Top 5 Playable Support Characters.
(Thanks to Thomas Connelly for writing the Robin and Arbiter pieces.)