Companions are an important part of apocalyptic games, including the Fallout titles. Humans, mutants, robots, and dogs travel beside us across these cracked stretches of foul earth, and when things get violent, they fight beside us as well.
In other words, a stalwart companion can be even more valuable than clean water or secure shelter. For that reason, we have some very specific folks we'd like to call upon as friends when the Doomsday Clock strikes twelve:
Gordon Freeman (Half-Life Series)
Our first choice for a wasteland companion is an obvious one, but let's face it, he's also the most solid choice on this list. The One Free Man has left his footprints across alien hellscapes, and he's also battled the merciless Combine right here at home. He's proficient with a huge array of weapons, but he can still get the job done with an old-fashioned crowbar. Freeman is also steady, loyal, steadfast, and quiet as a Church mouse. He's exactly the kind of companion you want if you're not into small talk, or if you just like to bounce one-sided conversation off another living being, but your cat is unavailable (it's the Apocalypse, after all). It's not like Freeman is doing anything else right now, anyway.
Ellie (The Last of Us)
Though she's in her early teens, Ellie is incredibly sharp as a result of growing up in a ruined society with few comforts. She learns quickly, and is skilled with a number of weapons, including guns, bows, and knives. She can hunt, she's light on her feet, and she has a pretty stellar immune system.
Despite the hardships she's faced, Ellie still possesses a sense of childlike wonder and innocence that's in short supply in the world of the infected. That's not a bad thing to hang onto, nor is it a bad idea to receive occasional reminders that life is still full of small wonders, however cruel your surroundings are.
Imperator Furiosa (Mad Max: Fury Road)
If the world ended and the survivors got to choose their bodyguards in the same manner as kids picking sides for dodgeball, Imperator Furiosa would probably be both sides' first pick. The primary female protagonist of Mad Max: Fury Road is capable, ferocious, and is an all-around bad-ass.
There's also the fact she's extremely talented with vehicles. She can get them running regardless of their condition, and she's not the least bit bothered by rough terrain. If anyone can get the now-useless husks of cars and trucks strewn all over Fallout's wastelands purring again, it's Imperator Furiosa.
Celes Chere (Final Fantasy VI)
The second half of Final Fantasy VI takes place in a wasteland—and a vicious one at that. Once Kefka kicks nature's magical balance out of alignment, animals mutate, the land rips apart, the water turns foul, and ancient demons wake up and start partying.
Though she understandably despairs at first, Imperial General Celes Chere quickly steadies herself and crosses the ocean on a rickety raft to find her old friends. When she finds them, she restores their hope and initiates a strike against Kefka.
Trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic environment sucks in any circumstance, but it can be particularly devastating if you remember how things were before the beat dropped. Holding onto your hope becomes more important than ever, and in those instances, you want someone like Celes to keep your morale buoyant.
Rush the Robot Dog (Mega Man series)
You don't have to stretch your imagination very far to get why a Swiss Army Robot Dog would be an asset in a wasteland. Rush's toolset might come in very handy. Use his springboard to reach lingering stores of food on high shelves. Use his submarine form to find valuables under the toxic soup that was once the ocean (it won't hurt him!). Use his jet form to, er, jet around.
Use his Super Rush Adaptor to rule over your new shattered kingdom with an iron rocket-fist.
Trunks Briefs (Dragon Ball Z)
The bastard son of the Saiyan Vegeta and scientist / engineer Bulma Briefs is basically Akira Toriyama's answer to Kyle Reese. He lives in a robot hell where armed androids hunt down the remnants of humanity for fun. It's the perfect environment for survival training, though the trade-off is having to take your sword with you to every visit to the outhouse. Oh, and there's that whole "losing everyone you love" thing. That sucks a bit.
If you need something metal-plated kicked around, Trunks is your boy. He's even-tempered, he can go Super Saiyan, and he wears a jacket that's pretty cool, even if it doesn't fit properly.
If you object to partnering with a Dragon Ball Z character for survival, you can opt for Trunks' video game equivalent: Silver the Hedgehog from the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog game. Have a good time.
A Swarm of Pikmin (Pikmin)
You wouldn't know it by looking into their sweet, trusting eyes, but Nintendo's Pikmin are already masters at eking out a living in an apocalyptic landscape. After all, the series takes place on a future Earth where the cute plant-based beings have set up camp in the rusted-out remnants of civilization.
It feels wrong to exploit Pikmin, but they seem to enjoy being pushed around. At any rate, they're helpless to resist the shrill call of a whistle. They show surprising strength and intelligence when they work in large groups, and they have no trouble reproducing despite their harsh surroundings. If you take care of them, maybe they'd be good for finding and retrieving food and supplies. Or maybe you can use them to slow down threats while you run. You monster.
Rusty (Steamworld Dig)
Steamworld Dig is populated by steam-powered robots who inherit the Earth after we humans blow ourselves up. Its main character, Rusty, literally unearths the history of humanity as he digs and equips himself with bigger and better weaponry. While he's down below, he's mostly unbothered by the radiation-soaked soil that doubles as our legacy.
If you befriend Rusty and take him on as a companion, you'll have a pickaxe-swinging pardner who can help you mine for raw gems in dangerous territory. Sounds good. Just don't get stuck down below when his solar power cells inevitably run out. Turns out there are some facsimiles of humans running around down there, and even though you can't see in the dark, they can .
The protagonist for the first season of Telltale's The Walking Dead is troubled, to say the least. Even before the zombie apocalypse broke out, he had blood on his hands and wound up doing time in jail as a consequence. Taking care of fellow survivor young Clementine has helped his vital softer side surface—but he doesn't hold back on resorting to violence when it's necessary.
The zombie infestation molded Everett into a hardened survivor, and if you're a willing student, he has a lot to teach you about surviving against monsters and humans alike.
Look. Mario's been around for a long time. He's capable of Olympic-level athleticism despite his rotund figure. He can build. He can tear down. He can traverse burning fields of fire and frozen tundra. He stands up to monsters ten times his size and doesn't flinch. He loves his friends, and he takes good care of his brother.
If anyone is surviving the Apocalypse—and if anyone is capable of helping you survive it—it's Super Mario.