NPC sidekicks can be the bane of an otherwise great game. Even classics like Ocarina of Time are dogged by the persistent cry of, "Hey! Listen! Hey! Listen!" But what about when they're great?
We will continue publishing a different category each day through the end of the year, leading up to our final vote for best game of 2016. Join us as we count down to our Game of the Year! And remember, you can follow the rest of our 2016 coverage in our handy hub.
Best Sidekick: The Nominees
NPC sidekicks are more common than ever, and 2016 had some pretty interesting ones on offer. Here are our favorites.
Kat: Ignis (Final Fantasy XV)
I vacillated a bit between Final Fantasy XV's cast of sidekicks before finally settling on Ignis-the bespectacled companion who can cook a mean Prime Garula Rib. Though less forceful than Gladio, and less of a pest than Prompto, Ignis still makes his mark in the latter part of the story. In fact, the turn his character takes and the effect that it has on the party is ultimately why I think he's the most significant of Final Fantasy XV's secondary characters. It's a pity we don't get to know him better outside of the upcoming DLC, but his personality still shines through whether he's driving, fighting, or writing down another recipe.
Mike: John Donovan (Mafia III)
John Donovan is the definition of a bro. "What? People tried to kill you and you want revenge on their operations across an entire city? I'm onboard!" Donovan is joyful in his mission to help Lincoln Clay get revenge and yes, there's a bit more going on underneath the surface, but I'm a big fan of joyful bad guys. I note "bad guy" here because Lincoln and his crew aren't really the good guys, they're just the protagonists. In the midst of sad people doing angry things, John Donovan is happy to be doing what he feels is right. That's the kind of bro you need alongside you.
Jaz: Trico (The Last Guardian)
Is the cat-dog-eagle-griffon-what-the-hell-is-he Trico really a sidekick? I'd like to think so, despite the fact that he often seems reticent to actually help you out. But then, that's partly what makes this unique character so incredibly charming. Sometimes I just sit there and look at the screen and wonder what it's thinking. Then I remember that Trico is an AI character, and that I've been completely fooled into believing it's a living, breathing animal that has a mind of its own. That's a remarkable achievement.
Nadia: Chocobos (Final Fantasy XV)
Man, I love riding me some Chocobos in Final Fantasy XV. I really love dyeing my Chocobo a gorgeous royal blue, then forcing Prompto to ride a pukey green abomination (Ignis gets red, of course). Riding Chocobos is slower than taking the car, but even the Regalia can't offer the unbridled sense of freedom that comes with calling your Chocobo, mounting it, and zipping off towards the horizon in search of the next fishing spot, the next treasure, or whatever. Like I said on Axe of the Blood God, if there was a way to shove the game's oldschool Final Fantasy music CDs up your Chocobo's butt and pipe Final Fantasy IV tunes out its mouth, I'd let the Regalia collect dust in a garage somewhere. (Editor's Note: Buy the MP3 player, Nadia!)
Jeremy: Trico (The Last Guardian)
Who's a good bird-dog-dragon-thing? Yes, that's right. It's you! Yes you are!
The Winner: Trico (The Last Guardian)
Trico may ultimately go down as an incredibly annoying sidekick—there are times when it just refuses to go where you tell it—but there's no denying its charm. As in Shadow of the Colossus and Ico, The Last Guardian steadily builds up your bond with Trico over the course of the adventure through the canny use of game mechanics. You will find yourself completely reliant on Trico, and totally grateful when it swoops in to save your sorry human butt. Irritating as it can be, Trico is easily the most memorable sidekick of 2016.
Runner-up (Weighted Average): Ignis (Final Fantasy XV) (3.0)
- Best Single-Player Campaign
- Best Multiplayer
- Best Visual Style
- Loveliest Soundtrack
- The Game Universe We'd Like to Live In
- Biggest Disappointment
- Best Surprise
Tomorrow: 2016's Game of the Year