The world of gaming abounds with guys that are out to get you, your Loghains, your Borgias, your Alduins – these are the guys who form the adversity that your character is expected to triumph over. They’ll lie, cheat and bully you into submission, and it’s your role in the grand scheme of things to kick their ass.
You can’t be expected to do this by yourself, however – no matter how much firepower you’re packing, you always need that human element (or non-human element, for that matter) to always have your back.
These are the guys you can count on to offer support, medical, offensive or emotional, to provide a shield when you’re up against the wall with no way out.
They are the wingmen, the back-up, the real backbone of every rags-to-riches, nobody-to-hero stories of gaming, and right here, we honour them.
Attempts have been made to avoid unnecessary spoilers but some may remain due to laziness, you have been warned.
7. Zeke Dunbar
What is there to say about Zeke Dunbar? In the original InFamous, he comes into being as Cole McGrath’s apparently lazy, beer-swilling hick pal – a little comic relief amongst zapping some bad guys on roof-tops with LIGHTNING HANDS.
With his Elvis hair-do and unique sense of style, he spends most of his days sat on his ass handing out side-quests, Cole’s only real loyal friend in the whole of Empire City.
Sure, he has his slip-ups, but he’s only human. A momentary lapse in judgement leads him to betray Cole part-way through the first game, but it’s not long before he realises that he has made a horrible mistake, risking his own life to save his best pal and giving him a chance to save the day with his cool LIGHTNING HANDS.
Through the second entry in the series, Zeke comes into his own in the slightly-a-bit-wet setting of New Marais, offering inventions (including a brand new BIG GLOWY LIGHTNING STICK to hit monsters with) and ways to get ahead in the ruined city, continuing to stand by his only friend, through thick and thin, even though Cole’s faith has been shaken by his previous actions.
Unless you aren’t partial to the odd bit of self-sacrifice, Zeke stays with you to fend off the Beast at the end of the game – now if that isn’t dedication, I don’t know what is.
‘Hey Cole, you know what I miss? Pizza. A big sloppy slice drippin’ with grease and pepperoni. And payday. Havin’ a big fat wad of bills in your pocket’ – Zeke Dunbar, InFamous.
6. Leonardo da Vinci
We all know the name, but those guys over at Ubi decided to give us an interpretation of the famous painter, inventor and general all round fabulous genius that few have done before.
We first meet him in his workshop in Florence, and soon after Ezio is plunged into the world of Assassins and Templars, he is the one that provides him with the essential tool of the trade, his trusty hidden blade, only trolling him a tiny bit in the process.
After providing him with a few nifty upgrades, the two travel from Florence to Venice and spend the next couple of years embroiled in several misadventures, and even though Ezio has to pull his ass out of the fire more than once, he proves an indispensable ally and friend to both Ezio himself and the Assassins as a whole.
At the end of his life, Ezio remained with his friend, depicted by the Revelations tie-in novel, but we were never able to see it in game, a fact that Corey Mays, one of the writers on the series, said was one of his greatest regrets.
Either way, Leonardo has some great cut-scenes, and Ezio probably couldn’t have done a lot of the brilliant things he did without the help of everybody’s favourite bearded not-distracted-by-women (how are you not getting this, Ezio?) painter.
5. Johnny Gat
Second-in-command, epitomical wingman, merchandising cash-cow, voiced by that guy from LOST – these are just a few words that describe the fictional demi-god that is Johnny Gat.
He’s the guy that’s always there with the protagonist of Saints Row, the first one to suggest blowing shit up as the resolution to any problem, because blowing shit up is always the best way where Saints Row is concerned.
A lieutenant in the first game, and the one that the protagonist recruits upon his return to Stilwater in the second game to help him rebuild the Saints from the ground up – the great thing about Johnny is, he’s pretty much absolutely frickin’ indestructible.
He’s been shot and stabbed more times than anybody can count. In fact, even when he’s killed off for the entire third game, he just takes a five year holiday and comes right back, as shown by the trailers released by Volition leading up to the release of Saints Row IV.
Is he a clone? Is he a cyborg? Who cares – he’s Johnny fucking Gat.
‘Bullets still kill motherfuckers, right? Doesn’t get much simpler than that.’ – Johnny Gat, Saints Row.
4. Aveline Vallen
Dragon Age 2
Oh yeah, of course, Varric Tethras is Hawke’s main bro in Dragon Age 2, and like Garrus in Mass Effect before him, I think he’s more than appreciated by the community.
But one character that is less valued, even though she acts as both a conscience and damage-sponge without fail for the Champion of Kirkwall on several occasions, is skull-cracking, walking fortress Aveline Vallen.
With her flaming red hair, freckles and backbone of steel, she offers her shield and service to Hawke, through thick and thin, almost the moment after you encounter her, struggling to keep her husband alive amidst what seems like the end of the world.
When you make it to Kirkwall, she integrates herself into the guardsmen of the city, rising through the ranks, but remaining by the side of even the most rogueish Hawkes even when she finds herself disagreeing with the action they take.
If you show her respect she even follows you into the battle between the mages and the Templars, against her better judgement. If you don’t, she throws her sword down at your feet to even the score and walks away. Honourable to the end – what more could you ask of a companion?
‘Protect what matters with everything you have, or you’ll have nothing, and deserve it.’ - Aveline Vallen, Dragon Age 2.
3. Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan
Sully, Sully, Sully: replacement father figure to the cocky adventurer Nate Drake, connoisseur of fine cigars and seducer of ice cold British women that totally aren’t Helen Mirren.
Having essentially saved the life of a young street urchin, he raises the kid to join him in a life of adventure and escapades hunting treasure and fighting various stereotypes across different continents.
With his Havana shirts and quips to rival even the saltiest of men, he’s a loyal and unwavering companion to the sometimes probably difficult to not want to punch in the face Drake.
When it comes down to it, who doesn’t want a white-haired, horny old guy that stinks of tobacco covering their ass in some old temple in the middle of the desert?
‘We don’t get to choose how we start in this life. Real ‘greatness’ is what you do with the hand you’re dealt.’ – Sully, Uncharted: Drake’s Deception.
2. Kaidan Alenko
First Lieutenant and later Major Alenko is an under-appreciated member of Commander Shepard’s cavalcade of misfits. Usually overlooked by players in favour of fellow squad-mate Ashley Williams for obviously carefully considered and various reasons (heh), poor Kaidan always seems to find himself at the bottom of polls.
This is unfair, however, because if allowed the chance, he is willing to stand with Shepard to the bitter, awful, depressing and emotionally devastating (I should stop) end.
Sure, he’s a little wary due to the path Shepard has taken since his second coming, but that’s to be expected – and less patient and understanding players can end up putting him on the wrong side of their crosshairs.
Of course, when you think of Shepard’s wingman, you think of Garrus – and who doesn’t love old scuttlebutt? But he gets enough recognition for his services to badassery, so I think he won’t mind being overlooked just this once.
Starting with the fact that Kaidan’s voice actor, Raphael Sbarge, may possibly have one of the most amazing voices to ever grace gaming (also voicing the less cool Carth Onasi in Knights of the Old Republic, BioWare’s other space epic) may also help a tiny bit too. With his raspy, carefully considered and delivered tones, he gives the character an air of wisdom.
For those inclined (of both genders, of course), taking your relationship with Kaidan can add some extra emotional layers that can lead to some emotionally charged cutscenes and some great writing, but he doesn’t need the extra encouragement to lay down his life on the line with yours, gain his trust and he’ll do it without hesitation.
When it comes down to it, when looking for back-up, you want the guy who’ll kick some serious Reaper ass, go out and get drunk with you and then cook you dinner– and you get that with Major Kaidan Alenko.
‘We finally get out here and the final frontier was already settled. And the residents don’t even seem impressed by the view – or the dangers.’ – Kaidan Alenko, Mass Effect.
Yep – number one. Surprised? You shouldn’t be (mainly because she was the header image, so you should have seen it coming).
Elizabeth makes number one on this list of wingmen for many reasons, but one reason specifically, she’s the best wingwoman a down-on-his-luck-PI-lost-in-a-floating-city-in-the-clouds could ask for.
When she was first revealed in the earlier iterations of Infinite, people all had the same thought: oh god, this whole game is going to be a giant escort mission onoes :( :( :( :(’.
This couldn’t be further from the eventual truth. Elizabeth quickly establishes herself within the game’s narrative as a brilliantly conceived character with her own mind, with useful abilities that save Booker’s skin on more than one occasion.
It’s a pretty much unheard of dynamic in gaming: a totally non-sexualised female character almost escorting Booker through a world in which he’s out of his depth in, but that she understands fluently.
Her knowledge and wisdom from a life-time of reading anything she could find gets them out of many situations in which without her skills, Booker wouldn’t be able to get very far. In fact, in the sequences in which you are sans-Elizabeth, you feel the difficulty spike immediately, and it’s painful.
Face it, Booker can’t even pick a lock by himself. Unlike most games, Infinite recognises that lock-picking isn’t an inherent skill and you can’t just pick any lock with a hairpin – it’s something that needs to be learned and practised.
It’s not just her skill at getting through doors, either, it’s the fact that even though she never once fires a shot, she’s more useful than anybody with a gun or a sword. Taking her out of the role of damsel in distress and subverting it was a genius decision, and led to the creation of a character that I think deserves her place on this list completely.