We’re just two months away from the release of Mass Effect Andromeda, a game that seems to have been in development for ages. In a way, that’s pretty accurate as the last entry in the series came out back in 2012 and five years can definitely feel like an eternity for many gamers. Since we still have a bit to go until Andromeda comes out, we figured we’d pass the time by waxing nostalgic about some of the things that made the original trilogy so great, namely, its varied cast of companion characters. Although Commander Shepard was an awesome character in his/her own right, I think we can all agree that Mass Effect would have been a lot less interesting if it didn’t feature so many memorable squad mates.
Mass Effect 2 was based almost entirely around the idea of recruiting the best of the best in the galaxy and it definitely lived up to that concept by providing an extensive cast of interesting companions. Because of that, it’s often easy to dismiss the relatively generic bounty hunter Zaeed in favor of other, more exotic potential squad mates. Give him a chance, however, and you’ll soon find out why Zaeed is considered one of the most feared mercenaries in the galaxy. The man is a battle-hardened badass who is willing to follow Shepard to hell and back just so he can add a few more war stories to his already extensive repertoire about fighting around the galaxy with his “shitty old rifle”.
A fully self-aware artificial intelligence created by Cerberus, EDI was already an interesting character even before she was able to join you as a companion in Mass Effect 3. Things only got better once she was able to acquire a body and make everyone paranoid about the AI possibly going rogue in the future. Luckily for everyone aboard the Normandy, EDI remained helpful and friendly towards the crew throughout Mass Effect 3 while also proving her worth in combat should Shepard decide to bring her along. The most memorable thing about EDI, however, is definitely her relationship with Joker, which proved once again that love knows no boundaries in the Mass Effect universe.
Jack, also known as Subject Zero, is arguably the most interesting human companion in the Mass Effect series and by far the most powerful. While Miranda was genetically engineered to be the perfect weapon and Zaeed earned his numerous scars after dozens of battles, Jack is the result of ruthless experiments meant to enhance her already impressive inborn biotic powers. Her backstory is one of the most heart-wrenching in the entire series, which is why she appears extremely hostile and psychotic when you first meet her. Help Jack get the catharsis she so desperately needs, though, and you may be surprised to discover in Mass Effect 3 that behind her bad attitude and love for profanity lies a compassionate soul looking to protect and teach other biotics how to control their powers.
I won’t lie, Liara seemed extremely boring and awkward when you first meet her in the original Mass Effect, so I wasn’t too sad that she was missing for the majority of the second installment. When she did return in Lair of the Shadowbroker, however, it was a bit surprising to learn that she had become a much more compelling and interesting character since we last saw her. Liara continued to evolve as a character throughout Mass Effect 3 and became indispensable as a companion because of her expertise into Prothean technology and ability to acquire valuable information thanks to the connections she made when she took on the role of Shadow Broker. Liara is a great example of how Bioware successfully managed to take a relatively bland character from the first game and transform her into a memorable companion by the end of the trilogy.
The proud and often grouchy Urdnot Wrex is the perfect representative of the Krogan species, and yet he is also a lot more interesting than most of his kind. Unlike most Krogans, Wrex wasn’t content with simply traveling around the galaxy and picking fights as he went on, though he undoubtedly had his fair share of brutal battles. More importantly, though, Wrex is a Krogan with a cause, which is very rare among his kind, and he is willing to go to any lengths in order to fulfill his goal of finding a cure for the Genophage. In his quest to cure his people, Wrex stomped on anyone that got in his way, including some of his own people and even went as far as to put his own life on the line and challenge Commander Shepard in that infamous scene from the original Mass Effect. Needless to say, Wrex is a total badass who managed to earn our respect by always standing up for what he believed in.
Before Legion came along, the Geth were presented as one-dimensional antagonists that often killed on sight for no particularly good reason. But Legion reminded us that the Mass Effect universe is truly composed of shades of gray and that most of the Geth were simply being manipulated by the Reapers, much like the organic species. Legion is unique among his kind as he seems to exhibit some form of emotion when the incorporates a piece of Shepard’s armor to repair his own body, which suggests that he may have admired the Commander, as strange as that may seem for a synthetic being.
The character becomes even more complex in the third installment as he shows even more signs of becoming an individual being rather than a collection of programs when he begins to ponder the nature of his own existence. In the end, and depending on Shepard’s choices, Legion sacrifices himself for the greater good when he helps put an end to the long-running conflict between the Geth and the Quarians. “Does this unit have a soul?”
The Salarian scientist comes across as a quirky character when you first meet him and seems to serve as Mass Effect 2’s comic relief at first. But while he is indeed responsible for a number of humorous moments, Mordin is, in fact, one of the most complex characters the series has to offer. You see, Mordin is one of the scientists responsible for developing the Krogan Genophage and we quickly learn that this burden weighs heavily on him, particularly in the third game. So much so, in fact, that Mordin is willing to die in order to reverse the process and correct his past mistakes.
Whether or not he is able to do that depends entirely on the player and fortunately the game allows you to save him, albeit through a pretty complicated process. Aside from his willingness to sacrifice himself to cure the Genophage, we will also remember Mordin for his hyperactive delivery and for his impressive singing skills during his interpretation of “Scientist Salarian”.
Thane is a member of a dying species, suffers from a deadly disease exclusive to the Drell, and ultimately dies at the hand of one of the most hated characters in Mass Effect 3. Despite all of that, Thane manages to remain a total badass all the way through and almost wins the fight against Kai Leng even though he was in the terminal stages of Kepral’s Syndrome. A deeply spiritual individual, Thane asks Shepard to recite a final prayer while on his death bed, a prayer that was meant not for himself, but for the Commander. Thane makes for a very tragic but also very compelling character in Mass Effect 2, as we see him constantly being haunted by his troubled past and blaming himself for abandoning his son and failing to prevent the murder of his wife. To make matters worse, the Drell have
Thane makes for a very tragic but also very compelling character in Mass Effect 2, as we see him constantly being haunted by his troubled past and blaming himself for abandoning his son and failing to prevent the murder of his wife. To make matters worse, the Drell have perfect memory, a fact that forces Thane to remember in vivid detail everything he lost and all the lives he had to take during his long career as an assassin. Ultimately, Shepard gets to avenge Thane later on in a scene that remains one of the most memorable in the entire series.
Tali is one of only two characters that can serve as full-fledged companions in all three Mass Effect games, with many of the others coming and going as the series progressed. We can see Tali evolve throughout the trilogy, perhaps more so than any other character, as we witness her growth from a wide-eyed (so to speak) teenager out on her Pilgrimage to a strong young woman that desperately wants to save her people and see their homeworld restored. This ultimately forces Shepard to make an incredibly difficult choice in Mass Effect 3 – does he/she side with the Quarians, the Geth, or try to appease both factions? Regardless of the choice, someone will die so there is really no happy ending here, which makes her story arc that much more impactful on the player.
Despite the fact that we never really manage to see her face with the exception of that one controversial stock photo, Tali somehow manages to convey more emotions that many other characters, and perhaps it is that very sense of mystery that makes her so alluring. Whether you met her as Tali’Zorah nar Rayya, vas Neema, or vas Normandy, most Mass Effect fans will always remember her as cute and lovable Tali.
I tried my best not to make this like other lists and place Garrus first, but how could I not? I mean, maybe if the list had a different theme, sure, but when it comes to memorable characters Garrus is definitely number one in my book. Much like Tali and Liara, we see Garrus evolve throughout the trilogy and get more and more badass with every installment. From former C-Sec officer fed up with bureaucracy to masked vigilante dubbed Archangel, and ultimately reluctant Reaper expert for his people, Garrus’ adventures throughout the Mass Effect series rival even those of Commander Shepard himself at times.
What makes Garrus so awesome is that he is always there to provide some friendly competition to Shepard as he seems just as capable and resourceful as the Commander most of the time. Alas, Garrus is overshadowed by the legendary Commander at pretty much every turn, though this also pushes the Turian to constantly get better in order to prove that he is an equal partner and not just a sidekick. Indeed, fighting side by side with Garrus makes you feel like you can take on any challenge and win, even if that means going up against ancient towering robots like the Reapers. Whether you’re looking for a best friend, expert sniper or wise-ass gun calibrator, you can rely on good old Garrus to always have your back.