Every hero needs help from time to time.
Batman has Robin (and, to be fair, a variety of other helpers). Robin Hood has Little John. Even Superman sometimes has Krypto, his cape-wearing super-dog.
No matter how big, strong, and downright awesome you are, some challenges are just too great to tackle alone.
Sidekicks have long been a staple part of gaming, and the best can actually overshadow the hero themselves, stealing the show from the leading guy or gal like a great supporting actor in a movie.
We can all name at least one, most likely a certain green-clad plumber happy to help his brother out when needs must, but there are plenty of others out there deserving time in the spotlight.
So, join us as we look at five of the most underrated video game sidekicks, including one or two you may not even know about …
Nick, the Severed Head (Lollipop Chainsaw)
Lollipop Chainsaw may not have revolutionised gaming when it hit the market some years back, but it’s nonetheless a fantastic, fast-paced, blood-soaked romp.
Starring Juliet Starling, a cheerleader/zombie-hunter, Lollipop Chainsaw’s a frantic mish-mash of B-movie delights, including foul-mouthed zombies, ridiculous mini-games, and OTT combat.
Throughout her adventure, Juliet receives help from her boyfriend, Nick. However, Nick’s not a traditional lover: after he’s bitten by a zombie, he’s forced to live on as a severed head, dangling from Juliet’s belt.
Nick is a great sidekick. Not only do his quips and interactions with Juliet help to keep the game fun, he also doubles as a weapon. At times, Juliet can also attach his head to random zombie bodies, allowing players to take control of him in a bizarre QTE mini-game.
Lollipop Chainsaw was written from none other than James Gunn, writer/director of Guardians of the Galaxy, Slither, and more. His B-movie roots serve him, and the game, brilliantly, helping to make it a blast from start to finish. Nick is one of the game’s most original elements, and as sidekicks go, he’s one of the coolest, most bizarre ever created.
Yamato (Shadow Dancer)
Shadow Dancer’s a pretty tough game. Sure, people might be able to speed-run the entire thing without losing a life, but it’s an incredibly unforgiving game: the hero himself loses lives like loose change.
Still, you’re not alone in your quest to take down terrorists and other assorted weirdos. Nope, you’re aided throughout your adventure by a lovable canine helper. Yamato, your little furry pal, jumps around the screen with an impressive dexterity even the yappiest Jack Russell might struggle to emulate.
Your wolf-like helper can attack enemies, triggered by holding the attack button down for long enough, but he can also take damage too, so you need to use him wisely. Having a fierce little sidekick helps to make Shadow Dancer look, and feel, like one of the more unique platformers of the late ’80s/early ’90s.
Dogs, of course, went on to become a major part of such games as Fallouts 3 and 4, Fable II, and others.
Catwoman (Arkham City)
This might be a controversial choice: is Catwoman actually a sidekick in Rocksteady’s masterpiece?
She definitely qualifies. While she needs Batman’s help early on in the game, she returns the favour later on, helping the big-eared bruiser out from under an inconvenient mound of rubble (provided you actually guide her there, rather than allow her to slink away from Gotham instead). She has her own playable missions, which affect and improve the overall game, and is more than capable of handling the mean streets all by herself.
While Robin is technically Batman’s sidekick, he’s barely in the game at all (though the Harley Quinn DLC rectifies that a tad). Oracle and Alfred provide help too, but they’re miles away. Catwoman, on the other hand, is Batman’s helper inside Arkham City, confronting Poison Ivy, Two-Face, and others in grand style. As gaming sidekicks go, she’s way better than some of the more well-known ones – she’d take Luigi apart without breaking a sweat.
Controlling her is also a far different experience to taking Batman’s reins: she’s faster, has great weapons, and scaling buildings with a set of claws is awesome. On top of all this, she’s far cooler, with a wicked streak, a good sense of humour, and a great set of goggles. She definitely deserves a game of her own, perhaps with Batman on sidekick duties.
Some might say her sections, brief as they may be, are even more fun than Batman’s …
Barry Wheeler (Alan Wake)
Alan Wake is a fantastic game, filled with suspense, oodles of creepy atmosphere, and axe-wielding civilians possessed by the bizarre darkness spreading throughout their sleepy American town. It’s Twin Peaks meets The X-Files meets many of Stephen King’s books, with a dash of other influences here and there.
Alan himself isn’t particularly the most captivating lead, though. He’s fine, don’t get me wrong, but he doesn’t exactly ooze charisma.
His sidekick, though, is far more memorable.
Barry is Alan’s agent and buddy, and while he’s just a voice on a phone to start with, he actually arrives in Bright Falls later in the game. He’s then more than happy to drop quips while helping Alan out – he’s the witty supporting character the game needs when it’s at its heaviest.
He also looks pretty darn cool in the latter stages of the game, wrapped in Christmas lights to ward off the monsters lurking in the shadows. Seeing an out-of-shape dude shooting villains while glowing with multicoloured bulbs is just one of the game’s many great visual treats.
Maybe it’s time he got a game of his own (unlikely, yes, but we can dream, can’t we?!).
Sheva Alomar (Resident Evil 5)
Resident Evil 5 might have seen the return of the mighty Chris Redfield, but his sidekick, Sheva, is one hell of a great character.
Not only is she a refreshing contrast to the uber-buff, all-American, somewhat-bland Chris, but she’s also a total badass. Sheva’s handy with a range of weapons, but the longbow is perhaps the best choice – mainly because it looks so freakin’ cool.
Sheva was indispensable throughout Resident Evil 5, and it’s hard to believe the game could have been anywhere near as good without her.
Which video game sidekick do you think is most underrated? Let us know!