This is a thought that you have probably heard a lot if you have been hanging around any video games website for a while: Developers are relying too much on the same series and franchises, and need to come up with more original stories and characters. Of course, if a series keeps coming back, it’s because there are people buying the product at the end of the line. Therefore, the creation of new intellectual properties becomes a gamble. Sure, a company could come up with a new concept and new characters, and then take a chance on whether that game will catch on or not. On the other hand, that hypothetical company could take the same concept, slap the face of some well-known mascot on the cover, and guarantee themselves a few million dollars.
So what about sidekicks, then? Every game series is fraught with secondary characters, a lot of which become breakout stars over the lifespan of a series and sometimes outright steal the spotlight from the protagonist from time to time. These characters come with a pre-established personality and a built-in audience. Their familiarity is comforting, but their differences from the main characters are enough that should they star in their own game, it might put a brand-new twist on a stale formula.
We have picked fifteen of those secondary characters which, in our opinion, are ripe for stardom. They have proven their worth and their backstory is interesting enough that it deserves exploring. It is now time for these fifteen sidekicks to star in their own game and who knows, maybe create an entirely new franchise at the same time.
15 Tails (Sonic The Hedgehog)
Miles “Tails” Prower is one of the most well-known video games sidekick not named Luigi, as he has been active since 1992. As one of the most popular characters in the series (behind only Sonic and Shadow according to a Japanese fan poll), he did receive his very own games in the early to mid-90s… on Sega Game Gear. One of them was a Japan exclusive, while the other one was an underwhelming platformer/RPG hybrid. After that, nothing. Tails has been a part of Sonic’s adventures, but Sega has all but given up on making him an individual star.
Though they both share an incredible running speed, there are many things that set Sonic and Tails apart. The biggest one would probably be Tails’ mechanical abilities, as the different games claim that he is a bit of a genius when it comes to building machines and robots. Just with that in mind, there are already several possibilities which can be explored without resorting to Sonic-like platformers. For one, a Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts style adventure, mixing building with more traditional platforming would be right up his alley. If not, how about any kind of game which would have Tails build and maintain robots to send them against Dr. Eggman’s minion? Everybody likes robots.
14 Snott (Earthworm Jim)
It is already a shame that the Earthworm Jim series has been reduced to ports and HD remakes of the originals, but it becomes baffling when one realizes the little goldmine that the series’ owners are sitting on. Earthworm Jim was also the star of a popular cartoon in the 90s and basically everyone who was alive in the 90s is nostalgic of something from that era. The absurd charm of the main character would be enough to carry the series into the modern world, but let’s not forget about the rest of the cast.
The best character for a spin-off would be Snott. Sure, he is a sentient ball of mucus, but he is the cutest ball of mucus you will ever see. Putting Snot in a platformer of his own, which exploits his ability to transform into different shapes and objects, would be a very wise choice. If Super Meat Boy managed to turn a cube of bloody, uncooked flesh into a star, then a carefully crafted adventure for Snott would fit right in with the 2D revival which has been going on for a few years.
13 Sully (Uncharted)
Nathan Drake might be the one who best fits the traditional hero mold in Uncharted, but let’s not sleep on Sully, his resourceful mentor and friend. Victor Sullivan is a skilled boat captain and an airplane pilot, which already gives him an interesting edge if one was to design an adventure around the man. He becomes even more interesting once we remember that the series explicitly states that he used to be in the Navy, an occupation which also comes with its own particular set of skills. Sure, he was dishonourably discharged, but I for one would certainly like to know more about his early years.
Imagine a game which takes place over many years, showing us Sully in his prime at different points in his life. The Navy part is already enough to cover a game in itself, but if we add all the random dangers and encounters he must have survived over his smuggling career, or any of the scams and treachery that are only hinted at throughout the series, then we are starting to have a spin-off with some real meat around the bone.
12 Dogmeat (Fallout)
Speaking about meat, is there a better canine companion in all of video games than Dogmeat? Not only does he help us forget the loneliness of the Wasteland, but he is also a true friend, never judging any of your actions unlike some of the other companions. His loyalty is only matched by his ruthlessness, as he will fearlessly attack enemies whether you are in trouble or not. He might not be able to support a full-on Fallout game by himself (he is only a dog after all), but the series has proved with Fallout Shelter that it can do more than adventure and role-playing.
First of all, there are a few games which have already shown that gameplay centred around four-legged characters can be viable and interesting. Twilight Princess would be one of the most successful example, as the Wolf Link parts displayed an interesting take on combat. Okami could be another inspiration, as its take on canine gameplay was both refreshing and spectacular. Even if it’s just a take on Duck Hunt where Dogmeat would star as an actually helpful dog which doesn’t laugh in the face of your failures, I would be in. Just give us more Dogmeat.
11 Waluigi (Mario)
Nobody is even sure what Waluigi is supposed to be. Is he Wario’s brother or an evil Luigi clone? Whatever he is, it seems like he was simply wished into existence because Wario needed a tennis partner. Despite his less-than-glorious debut, his odd charisma and peculiar design has led to Waluigi developing a cult following of fans who admire his strong personality in the middle of a cast of vanilla characters. Sure, he also has his detractors, who claim that his lazy origins should be the object of scorn, but I think this can all be remedied by giving the man his own game.
If Wario has two series to call his own, then Waluigi can definitely support one. Wario’s outings are defined by the accumulation of riches. Waluigi’s defining trait is supposed to be his cunning and his dislike of everyone’s happiness. Now I am no game designer, but I think that a game which explains Waluigi’s backstory while focusing on his brains and hijinks would be the perfect setting for a good antihero story. His personality is different enough that it could create a compelling storyline and finally giving him an origin story would help in rehabilitating his image with Mario fans who are still unconvinced of his greatness.
10 Sheva Alomar (Resident Evil 5)
Although it did not lean as heavily into horror as some of its predecessors, Resident Evil 5 was still a very successful game and a big part of that was the inclusion of new character Sheva Alomar. Usually relegated to the rank of on-screen helper, Sheva became a playable character if the main campaign was played cooperatively. In that regard, she imposed herself as a badass operative whose knowledge and skills are vital to the survival of Chris Redfield. After a promising role in RE5, she then disappeared from the series, as it took a completely different direction with its next two games.
Resident Evil is one series which has never shied away from trying different concepts with its spin-offs. These side games have had different degrees of success, but revisiting past events in the series has often proved fruitful, as exemplified by The Umbrella Chronicles and Revelations. With that in mind, let’s hope that it is only a matter of time before we see more of Sheva Alomar, be it in a prequel in Africa or in a future mission anywhere around the world. Her vendetta against Umbrella Corporation is certainly ground for an eventful story.
9 Falco Lombardi (Star Fox)
After the mitigated success of Star Fox Zero, the series could use a kick in the butt. Fans of the old days are probably clamoring for a return to the original formula, where it was more important to shoot down enemies and blow up gigantic bosses in new and innovative ways than to come up with a clunky gimmick to control the Arwing. As for me, I think it’s time to take Star Fox in a new direction, by focusing on some of its other characters, namely the cool and confident Falco Lombardi.
Fox McCloud has been the protagonist of the series since its inception and while he is a competent hero, he is also the blandest of its main characters. Falco has the attitude (and is definitely the coolest), Peppy is the wily veteran, and Slippy is the (slightly annoying) mechanical genius. So why not send the team on a brand new space adventure, but seen through the eyes of Falco? You can still keep Fox as the leader, but having the player control Falco and making the story about him would open up new dialogues and storylines. If that fails, then putting Falco in a Star Fox Adventures-like game would also be a good way to use the blue bird.
8 Alyx Vance (Half-Life)
At this point, it is becoming less and less likely that Valve will ever release Half-Life 3. So how about a spin-off then? Alyx Vance was the perfect secondary character in Half-Life 2, saving Gordon’s life on more than one occasion and generally being the complete opposite of Natalya in Goldeneye. She was competent, helpful, lethal and could hold her own without Gordon needing to save her every ten meters.
As for the game itself, though we did learn a little bit of her backstory, we did not exactly experience it. There are a lot of things which could have happened in Gordon’s absence between Half-Life and Half-Life 2, so there is a lot of material to pick from. How did she join the Resistance? What did the Resistance do to survive all this time? How did she build Dog? Alyx’s life was a busy one and I for one would be itching to play as a character which is that skilled and ingenious.
7 Proto Man (Mega Man)
Though he has been playable in a few games, Proto Man was never the main character. As an early prototype of Mega Man, he possesses a few flaws which make his gameplay a bit more difficult, but which results in a more rewarding experience. He absorbs more damage and he recoils more when hit, but his shield and slide more than make up for it. It has also been revealed through cut scenes in different games that he is defective in some regards, in that a bad hit could destroy his nuclear reactor and be quite disastrous for his surroundings.
With that in mind, I think that Proto Man could be the star of the ultimate Mega Man-style game, where the difficulty is such that it would make Dark Souls feel like Kirby’s Dream Land. Better yet, make it the Fire Emblem of Mega Man games: every decision and every death would have a consequence. Protecting yourself at all cost would be imperative. For all the gamers who complain that today’s games have become too easy, Proto Man would be the answer.
Plus, if nothing else, Proto Man is a robot who wears sunglasses and a cool scarf. Just give him his own game already.
6 Meta Knight (Kirby)
Sometimes enemy and sometimes sidekick, Meta Knight was introduced in Kirby’s Adventure in 1993. He is a antihero who lives by his own code, plus he has a sword, a mask and a cape. All of these things make him instantly cooler than Kirby and yet, save for a few mini-games or an appearance as a secondary character in Return to Dream Land, he is always relegated to the role of second fiddle, if he is not an outright nemesis.
It is time for Meta Knight to shine and if his multiple participations in Super Smash Bros. have shown us anything, it’s that he is a deadly and versatile character. An entire game spent slicing, dicing and skewering baddies would be beneficial to the Kirby series, as it might raise the difficulty a little bit and reinvigorate the franchise at the same time. The contrast between Kirby’s brightly-coloured world and Meta Knight’s slightly more direct approach to enemy threats would be a treat to play through.
5 Mr. Torgue (Borderlands)
Though not exactly a sidekick, Mr. Torgue is definitely a friendly secondary character, as the downloadable content for Borderlands 2 slowly turned him from simple tournament of death hype-man to full-on ally. In fact, his own grandmother reveals that he considers the vault hunters to be his only true friends. What else do we know about the man? His love of explosions is equalled only by his passion for science-fiction and fantasy games. Put all of these together, and you have the ingredients for one hell of a first-person shooter.
Mr. Torgue was a narrator for the announcement of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. His stock in the series has steadily been rising and yet, he hasn’t had much to do outside of being a very funny non-playable character. The next Borderlands should give him the same chance that The Pre-Sequel gave Claptrap, another beloved NPC. We know that Mr. Torgue has the love of guns necessary to make it on Pandora and while development for Borderlands 3 is already underway, I certainly hope that he is one of the selectable characters this time around. His loud personality and explosive tendencies would make for an interesting skill tree.
4 Sheik/Zelda (The Legend of Zelda)
Let’s start by saying that I would play any game which would star Zelda instead of Link. Not that Link is not an interesting character on his own, but Breath of the Wild is so stunning that many people are asking how Nintendo could ever top themselves. Inverting the roles the next time around could help keep things fresh now that The Legend of Zelda has broken away from its established formula. However, if we want to revisit a specific timeline, I think that Ocarina of Time still has a lot of ground which could be covered.
The seven-year slumber of Link left Hyrule in the hands of Ganondorf, but Zelda took the opportunity to transform into Sheik and fight evil by herself while everyone else was fleeing in fear. A spin-off game could show exactly what happened during Ganondorf’s rise into power. We have already seen through cut scenes that Sheik has fought demonic spirits which were imprisoned at the bottom of Kakariko Village’s well. What else has she done over those seven years? Her skill set is very different from Link. Sheik is almost like a magical Solid Snake, combining stealth and mystical Sheikah powers. She would be a perfect protagonist.
3 Garrus Vakarian (Mass Effect)
From the first time a player meets Garrus, he impresses with his cool demeanor and determination. As you get deeper into the Mass Effect series, he becomes more than a calm and collected badass. Sure, he will be one of your most reliable squadmate, but he can also become a friend or even a lover. There’s no wrong way to approach Garrus. He’s just a lovable guy who might be a bit too serious at times, but who will always have your back no matter what. Such loyalty and reliability has to be rewarded with a starring role. Or maybe I just really want to play as a rogue space investigator.
A Mass Effect game focusing on Garrus can go in many directions. It could either go into a brand-new adventure or it can pick up before he first joined Commander Shepard. The important part here would be to preserve what made the character so awesome in the first place: his incredible charisma, his odd and dry sense of humour, and his effectiveness when business needs to be taken care of. His backstory is interesting enough that it could warrant a full game by itself.
2 Geno (Super Mario RPG)
Geno may have only appeared in one game, but his effectiveness and his odd story have made him a star. The internet has been a breeding ground for an underground cult of Geno, one which has unsuccessfully tried to get him included as a playable character in Super Smash Bros., and which is longing for a return of the original Super Mario RPG universe. So what is it that makes Geno better than Mallow?
While he may have taken the body of a doll, Geno is a courageous warrior from the Star Road which has been sent to the Mushroom Kingdom to restore peace and order. In fact, he was about to take on Smithy’s minion by himself in Forest Maze before Mario arrived to lend a hand. His fearlessness makes him a fun character and his departure at the end of the adventure leaves the player wanting for more. Be aware, however, that any future game starring Geno might not necessarily show him in his trademark blue cape. Geno (real name ♥♪!?) is in fact nothing more than a star when in his real form. Let’s hope that he would possess the same doll once more should he return to Mario’s world.
1 Team Rocket (Pokémon)
Jesse, James and Meowth are indeed sidekicks, it’s just that they usually work for the bad guy. As the underlings of Team Rocket’s boss Giovanni, they have so far been unsuccessful in their quest to capture Pikachu despite giving it everything they had. Following Ash around the world has certainly been a lot of work, which always made me wonder what they’re up to in-between their encounters with Pokémon’s protagonist.
The closest the series has ever been to following the anime’s storyline was with Pokémon Yellow. An inversion of that formula, starring Jesse and James (with Meowth as the starter Pokémon) could provide a fresh spin on a concept which is now twenty years old. Sure, it would mean that you play as the baddies, but the TV show has proven that they also have a sweet side. A game in which they try to prove their worth to Giovanni while being oblivious to the bigger events going on around them would fit the characters well and be a nice twist on the usual heroic story. And if Nintendo insists on making them good, then pitting them against Team Galactic (or Team Magma, or Team Aqua) as the lesser of two evils would do the job nicely.