Pooches. Man's Best Friend. Puppers. Woof-woofs. Whatever you call dogs, we don't deserve them.
Since the dawning hours of civilization, dogs have protected our livestock, guarded our families, retrieved our game, provided valuable companionship, and vacuumed up whatever foodstuffs we drop on the floor.
Dogs are therefore a very common sight in video games, where the landscapes are often treacherous and a couple of extra pairs of legs coupled with a real good sniffer can prove valuable.
Not all helpful video game dogs walk on four paws, however. Heck, the best video game dogs aren't necessarily made of flesh and bone. This list of wonderful game-dogs, comprised in honor of National Puppy Day, does not discriminate. Here are gaming's best boys and girls.
Interceptor (Final Fantasy VI)
Shadow's throat-gouging Doberman is more than a black-and-tan murder wagon. Sure, his ability to absorb hits aimed at his master and then throw them back tenfold is highly useful, but there's a little more to this faithful pup. Namely, he's used as a silent storytelling device that conclusively links Shadow and Relm as father and daughter. Ahh. As a writer, I declare this brand of powerful subtlety "The Good Stuff."
Dogmeat (Fallout 4)
The wasteland is dangerous, and Dogmeat is probably the only ally who definitely won't shank you for a pack of cigarettes (Milkbones, on the other hand…).
This hardy German shepherd took center stage in the debut trailer for Fallout 4 in June of 2015—and given how the entirety of planet earth was quivering with anticipation over said debut, we all immediately fell in love with the little fellow. Also, his sad tour around his master's former residence is still a tear-jerker.
Hylian Retrievers and Koholint's Dogs (The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild / Link's Awakening)
Again—as far as the loveliness of Breath of the Wild's dogs are concerned, I've been over this. However, I also want to level a shout-out at the dogs in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. They don't even walk; they just bounce from place to place. The Island of Koholint is but a dream on the lid of a sleeper's eye, but these dogs aren't interested in the islanders' collective existential crisis. There are more important things for them to worry about, like sassy squirrels that nip your tail and run away before you can turn around.
Rush (Mega Man Series)
Mega Man's Swiss Army dog is a very helpful facsimile of a domesticated canid. Despite being made of metal, he interjects a good deal of personality into the Mega Man games. In fact, he was designed to be a personable replacement for the "Items" Mega Man uses in Mega Man 2 to fly over pits and make difficult jumps. Would you rather jump on a generic platform sled, or on a dog's back? Wait, maybe don't answer that.
D-Dog (Metal Gear Solid V)
Kat already wrote a touching ode to Big Boss' dog when Metal Gear Solid V dropped in 2015, but there are a few points about this pup that are worth reiterating:
- He's incredibly helpful in combat
- He's named after a David Bowie album
- He's got an eyepatch
- He is a good boy
This is probably review for most of you readers, so thanks for your patience.
K.K. Slider and Isabelle (Animal Crossing)
The puppy personification of Nintendo sound designer Kazumi Totaka is immediately recognizable at a glance. If the acoustic guitar he constantly lugs around isn't a clear enough identifier, all doubt vanishes as soon as he opens his mouth and belts forth one of his adorably tinny tunes—preferably K.K. Rider. Go Rider!!
While we're visiting Animal Crossing, let's give a paws-up to its mayoral assistant, Isabelle the shih tzu. She's kind, she's adorable, she's incredibly helpful, and she's probably single-handedly defending your abandoned, dilapidated village from zombie hordes right this second.
Also, she gifts you with valuable non-native fruit early in Animal Crossing: New Leaf because her mom told her to share it, and "sharing is what good puppies do." Don't be alarmed; that warm feeling is just your heart melting into a puddle and running down into your socks.
Your Dog (Fable 2)
To paraphrase Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson, no matter how big of a jerk you are, no matter what you do for a living, your dog will always be glad to see you come home. The dog who sticks by you in Fable 2 is a digital embodiment of this philosophy: His alignment changes as yours does. If you're a good boy, he's a good boy. Alternatively, if you decide to travel down the road to Hell, he'll tag at your heels without complaint.
Poochy (Yoshi Series)
Poochy is admittedly a weird-looking dog, and I guess that can be off-putting. His mannerisms are inarguably adorable, though. Look at that eager pant! That ever-wagging tail! He just wants to play. Are you still going to say "No" to him, you heartless shell of a person? Just because the sight of his huge, huge mouth and comparatively tiny eyes invites nightmares into your brain?
Lesser Dog (Undertale)
The warrior race of Pomeranians inhabiting Undertale are well-known for entering a Stretch Armstrong-like state when they're excited, allowing them to expand their necks near unto infinity. Realistically, the monsters can free themselves from the underground by sitting on a Lesser Dog's head, scratching its ears, and going up, up, up, until they rise out of the hole Frisk and Chara tumbled through. But then King Asgore wouldn't get to kill children and steal their souls, and I guess that'd be no fun.
Anyway, Lesser Dog's get-up is adorable. Look at that wee sword and tiny shield!
Various Dogs (Watch Dogs 2)
The adoptable dogs in Watch Dogs 2 don't talk, but they don't need to. Their body language says everything—though their "vocabulary" seems limited to "O BOY! O BOY! YEAH! YEAH! O BOY BOY O BOY!"
And that's fine.
Be sure to celebrate National Puppy Day with a dog you love. If you don't have one, a cat will do.