Bioware is a game developer and their games are character driven narratives. In the world of gaming characters are usually shallow and conform neatly into the plot and this list is to celebrate those who are a bit more. I’ve pulled 11 of Bioware’s best characters and lined them up in some sort of digital meat market. How is this list determined? Well first off I want to point out I used the word ‘best’, not ‘favorite’. Is the character particularily unique? Does the character invest the player in the process? Does the character present a meaning beyond ‘the main antagonist really screwed me over’?
You may get to the end of this list and think, “this is pretty skewed to newer games”, and you’d be right. Newer games are on an unfair playing field; their budgets are much larger and their characters are fully voiced. A powerful voice performance on top of a well written script goes a long way in humanizing an image on a screen. I can safely say voice preformance got at least one of these characters in the top 11. Take heart though, this list does include the old games. The other note is while I have played and really enjoyed Neverwinter Nights and Jade Empire I’m not super familiar with their characters’ story arcs anymore.
11. Miranda Lawson (Mass Effect 2)
“Omega. What a pisshole.”
Miranda isn’t the most likable in the Mass Effect series, but she’s not suppose to be. You meet her right away and her role in the story is doubly important from the developer’s standpoint in terms of the consumers who played the original Mass Effect game. If you didn’t play the first game and just jumped in it is no big deal. If you did play the original you shut down some fairly twisted Cerberus operations. Making the Shepard even standing next to Cerberus narrative believable falls on her.
Mass Effect took some heat from critics involving a few butt shots with Miranda. I always thought that critique was shallow. Yes close ups of her quite shapely posterior existed, but they were there to further the character, not to titilate. How do you describe a character as a strong and having black widow feel without just coming out and saying it? Imagery, but we’ll save the aesthetics talk for a different post.
10. Mordin Solus (Mass Effect 2)
“I have killed many Shepard. Many methods: gunfire, knives, drugs, tech attacks, once with farming equipment, but not with medicine.”
Mordin was always in danger of being the mad scientist cliche. Thankfully it never happened. Hewas different, but never foolish. His comedic injections were never silly slapstick, but presented in an oddly serious way. He was a character you probably used a lot if only to hear his party banter.
9. Sera (Dragon Age: Inquisition)
“*giggling* They don’t got no breeches!”
Sera is easily my favorite character in Dragon Age: Inquisition to listen to. Hyper violent, hyper sexual, just plainhyper. Her English accent is thick and she speaks quickly so sometimes I’ve had to hit the subtitle button. Thankfully it’s just a thumbclick away. Getting her going on class warfare or Qunari women is always good for a chuckle. In a title full of memorable characters being so different and making it work gets you on the list, right up there with Lord Poncyfonts.
8. Canderous Ordo/Mandalore (Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2)
“You had us outnumbered five to one. You had more ships, more troops, more supplies and the Jedi on your side. And we still made the Republic tremble before we fell!”
Canderous is his name and Mandalore is the title he goes by in KOTOR 2. I put them both, because the games don’t directly connect them. Until this game most RPGs came out of Japan, and most of the bad asses in those games were between 15 or 20 years old. Even when I was young it was hard to me to wrap my head around the idea of some high school aged kid with a pound of styling gel in his hair as some incredible combat hero. Knights of the Old Republic does it right and Canderous is what you’d expect an experienced war vet and mercenary to be. He’s older, somewhat past his physical prime, gruff, and most importantly, not moody. He doesn’t hide what he’s done; doesn’t brag about what he’s done. A big plus comes when you bring him along with you to the Sith Academy on Korriban. Hearing him perfectly retort the students’ threats is grand.
7. Anders (Dragon Age 2)
“Ser Pouncealot hated the Deep Roads.”
Anders is the character whose voice actor (Adam Howden) secured his place on this list. Anders slowly unravels throughout the game and his mental turmoil and increasing zealousness never would have been captured through text alone, nor taken seriously by a poor or even okay voicing. You get through the game and think, “A lot of the things he said means something a lot different now.” Anders becomes more important to the plot than the main character and the player starts to see that develop early in the 2nd act.
6. Varric Tethras (Dragon Age 2, Dragon Age: Inquisition)
“Bianca (crossbow)? She’s one of a kind. There’s a hidden shop in Kirkwall called the Black Emporium. I found her in a barrel labeled ‘swag.’ The owner sold her to me for a ham sandwich and a pair yellow ruffled pants.”
Varric is kind of a hero’s sidekick. He’s the first of that type on the list, but won’t be the last. I don’t mean a Batman and Robin thing either, more like a Luke and Han Solo relationship. You know Luke is the Jedi and has all the powers, but Han is still important on his own. He’s a Dwarf, but he doesn’t have a beard, doesn’t smith, and doesn’t use a two handed ax. But that doesn’t make him just a short human. Storyteller, nickname giver, and chest hair owner… he has it all.
5. Morrigan (Dragon Age)
“There are two things men are always willing to believe about a woman: 1. That she is weak. 2.She finds him attractive.”
The writers for Dragon Age did a lot when it came to name play. Most of the character’s names have some hidden meaning in other languages or cultures. Morrigan comes from Irish/Celtic lore meaning in short a witch and seducer, which is what she is in the game. I still remember how floored I was when she walked out on us right before the finale when I turned down her ritual request. I don’t know why I was shocked. The more she liked you the more she talked about how it will make the future more difficult, how she was sent with you for a reason. But she’s pretty and I wanted some of that raven haired witch. Should have pursued Leliana, she does threesomes… foursomes, or if you’re female and you worked Alister a certain way.
4. HK-47 (Knights of the Old Republic 1 & 2)
(in translating a Jawa’s speech) “…two per cent probability that the miniature organic is simply looking for trouble and needs to be blasted. That may be wishful thinking on my part, master.”
HK is a fan favorite for good reason. He’s like Sheldon of The Big Bang Theory, but instead of physics it’s murder and assassination. HK-47 truly is the droid you’re looking for. Party banter with Canderous and HK is wonderful. He is very quick to attempt to convince you to slaughter your enemies… or random organics. He is the only one dimensional character on this list, but he’s really good at it. HK-47 is our last entry from the KOTOR series.
3. Minsc *and Boo* (Baldur’s Gate 1 & 2)
“Go for the eyes Boo, go for the eyes! *SQUEAK!*”
We have to go all the way back to the beginning of Bioware’s catalog to find Minsc. Minsc is a barbarian ranger and Boo is his miniature space hamster. Everyone around him believes Boo to be a normal sized, earthbound hamster, but Minsc has none of that. A normal hamster wouldn’t be able to tell him how to do things like Boo does. Minsc is quick to rage in the name of good and honor and quick to love on Boo. It’s actually quite adorable. The two of then are even referenced in the Mass Effect games: you can buy a specifically described normal sized pet space hamster for your captain’s cabin and while in combat Tali will at times tell her drone to “go for the optics Chiktika!”
2. Garrus Vakarian (Mass Effect series)
“If this ends with the both of us dying in a giant explosion killing a Reaper, just remember. I took the kill shot.”
Garrus tops off the characters from the Mass Effect series. Truth be told, Garrus and the top spot on this list are basically a tie, but for one minor caveat. Garrus is one of the two squad mates who join up with you all three games, and even though he doesn’t have Tali’s hips he sure is a great companion. The player develops and respect and bond with Garrus. It was very visible as before the cast of Mass Effect 3 was announced there was a huge campaign to get Garrus included as a playable character. As a testament to the strength of the character, I never could romance him (Garrus became a possible romantic partner to FemShep in ME 2 and 3). I could never get past that idea that he was Shepard’s friend. The others were squad-mates, but Garrus was the real deal. Brandon Keener who voiced Garrus also did an incredible job in relaying the character. All around a perfect character.
1. Alistar Theirin (Dragon Age)
“…I was sent to the larder more times than I can count. (pause) And that’s a lot I can count pretty high.”
Garrus or Alistar? In a lot of ways they’re similar. Both would be the stars of the story if not for the main character. Steve Valentine did an excellent job voicing the character. The reason I pick Alistar over Garrus comes down to the decisions in game at Denerim’s Landsmeet. If you’re evil enough, and I don’t mean just your character but you as a person, you can get Alistar executed. That’s cold! This guy takes you on, helps you do Warden stuff, everyone but you and him get killed, and you fight your way the whole game to get out of the ground and as soon as you
achieve victory you betray him!? What?! I felt terrible enough choosing Loghain the two times to get those endings. I’ve beat the game over ten times and never went the kill Alistar route.
Like with Garrus I always thought Alistar was the main character’s friend and the rest, while great, were just squad-mates. Alistar and the Warden also have a more obvious bond than Shepard and Vakarian. Being the only Wardens, both rookies, in a devastated country will do that.
There you have it, the best of the best! Feel I slighted someone? No worries I feel it too. “You don’t have XYZ on here, this list is crap!”. I hear ya. I wanted Isebella and Tali on the list, but we ran out of room.
Andrew Koerwitz is a freelance writer and comedian. He has found publishing success writing about small furry things and his work can be seen in Guinea Pig Magazine.