A couple of months back, Felix penned a curious article listing the top ten gaming allies: those staunch supporters, wondrous wingmen and brilliant bros who never failed to watch your back, and you can find said article here. It got me thinking, however; how many times have TV screens found themselves with a controller shaped hole through their centres as the result of some serious NPC irritation? There were a couple of Felix's fondly loved sidekicks that I couldn't help but disagree with, and suddenly a Top Ten started forming in my mind.
More often than not, the hapless characters alongside you are just well crafted bullseyes for enemy fire, or instructors with less appeal than a sat-nav voiced by Hitler. For every Aeris there's a Natalya; for every Dante and Nero there's a Jak and Daxter; for every Army of Two there's a compelling character witness to make the case for saving the world on your own. These are those most insidious of nemeses: these are the cretins who try their hardest to ruin everything....and they're supposed to be on our side!
10. Kaidan Alenko (Mass Effect)
Remember at school whenever teams were getting picked there was always one kid who was consistently left until last? Well RPGs are no different really, and Kaidan is Mass Effect's own dependable Gareth Southgate. If you gave him a penalty to take he'd get shot and killed before he could balloon it over the bar. A jack of all trades and a master of none, Kaidan's abilities were laughable, his personality as bland as a cardboard-flavoured bran flake and you jumped at the chance to send him off merrily on his suicide mission.
9. Augustus Cole (Gears of War)
The Cole Train is actually fairly useful, and he's probably the only member of this list to have his own song. In fact he's probably the only one on the list who could feasibly grace a polarised top ten, but by god is he irritating. Why the hell do black sidekicks have to have their brains and personalities siphoned from their ears and replaced by Captain Stereotype? I know games are trying to be more cinematic, but there are better examples to follow than Michael Bay. Spike Lee is gnawing on his fist as we speak.....although having said that, I don't expect White Men Can't Jump would make for a terribly exciting game.
8. Tails (Sonic series)
So you happen to have a massively-popular game where a fleet-footed hedgehog overcomes pesky robots and collects shiny things while navigating landscapes with loops that Alton Towers can only dream of. Why the hell would you jeopardise all of that with Tails? Not only is the hovering tosspot significantly slower than his spiky pal - thereby defeating the point of the game - but you could conveniently skip the entire level by just flying over everything. He's so irrelevant that Sonic resolutely fails to bat an eyelid if he dies!
7. Wakka (Final Fantasy X)
Final Fantasy has always been about massive swords, awesome jackets, summoning apocalypse demons and ripping off Storm from the X-Men. It's about having a massive dragon open up the earth and swallow your enemies. You want powerful mages and hardy warriors, street-smart ninjas and mysterious gunsmiths who sleep in coffins...these are the sort of people you want in your corner. Who the hell thought it would be a good idea to invite a braindead surfer along for the ride? His only ability revolves around chucking a beach ball at people. A beach ball?! Why not go the whole hog and send a tiddly-winks champion to save the world?
6. Minnie Mouse (Mickey Mousecapade)
We've all been there...faced with a particularly tricky jump in a platformer, in spite of all the effort it just hasn't quite been enough and the inevitable plummeting death has swiftly followed. But that's ok, it was a timing issue, or it needed a longer run-up; all good eventually. What isn't good is when your hapless female buddy decides that in spite of your perfect long jump technique, she's just going to topple over and kick the bucket, which subsequently kills you too. On top of that, she couldn't climb a ladder without getting stuck and managed to get herself kidnapped every time you turned your back for five seconds, although who'd want her is beyond me.
5. Roman (GTA IV) / Otis (Dead Rising)
Whether you're stealthily taking out a gangland hideout, mowing down the odd pedestrian for fun or carving your way through a horde of the undead with a teddy bear, the last thing you want is some prat dropping you a phone call. The two tied at number five are notorious for busting your cellular chops right at brown-trousers time. Ignoring them is even worse: Roman turns into a teenage girl and gets all huffy and Otis becomes a needy jilted date - calling you incessantly until you pick up, and then ripping you a new one if you hang up for being 'rude'.
4. Baby Mario (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island)
Yoshi is awesome. He can eat people, poo them out as eggs or vomit them back as projectiles, he can kinda doggie-paddle through the air and cause mini-earthquakes with his ground pounds. He's a hero, not a babysitter. Unfortunately, Mario the Egotist thinks otherwise and harasses poor Yoshi to distraction whilst in his baby incarnation. Everytime you get hit Baby Mario cries and falls off his green and spiny perch; and don't think you can just run off and leave him. He'll keep pouring 16-bit scorn into your speakers until he gets reseated, or you viciously murder your SNES, the bastard.
3. Navi (Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
There's high-maintenance, there are Valley Girls with rats for dogs, and then there's Navi. Sure, she can be useful at times, but she can also be phenomenally ditsy, preferring to investigate a ledge or stone rather than the reanimated pile of bones that's sticking a sword in your face. And then, of course, there's the impatient nagging: You're a pointy-eared mute having a laugh with a horse you can summon with a musical instrument, you're just trotting round Hyrule, thinking up ways to flirt with the hot girl at the farm when all of a sudden, 'HEY LISTEN!!' You ignore her for a bit but then HEY! she just starts bouncing around in front of you repeating her LISTEN! incessant ruminations on Saria's activity. If only Link had a fly swatter.....or some Raid.
2. Natalya (GoldenEye)
I don't think I've riddled a single virtual person with more bullets than the Severnaya hacker 007 is sworn to protect, and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one. Sure, as sidekicks that you have to protect go, Natalya is a lot less talkative than Resi 4's mind-numbingly irritating Ashley Graham; but no-one steps as eagerly into your rifle's stream of bullets as the Russian. She's like a lead magnet, a suicidal magpie with absolutely no regard for mission objectives. You set her free without cleansing the building first and you can expect to see that 'Mission Failed' screen pop-up each and every time as she burst from her shackles and tries to dry-hump the first AK-47 she can find.
1. Slippy Toad (Star Fox series)
There couldn't really be anyone else up here at the top. Slippy, the worst wingman to ever take to the skies, is the most cretinous, the most useless and the most pathetic of all of the sidekicks on this list. He doesn't even have an excuse: he has a badass ship that can do flips and barrel-rolls. His dad invented most of the stuff Team Fox use so theoretically he should have a head start, but no. You'll be gunning down baddies with a vengeance when suddenly your ears will be filled with a horrifically high-pitched cry: 'Foooooxxxxx!!! Help meeeeeeeeeeeee!!!' as a burning wreck falls out of the sky, and you laugh ever so slightly before weeping tears of rage and cursing amphibious pilots. Had Slippy made it into Top Gun he would have killed Maverick, Iceman and Jester too as well as Goose through his sheer incompetence. If you were ever to find yourself under siege from the inevitable zombie apocalypse with Slippy as your only fighting companion, my advice would be to kill and eat him. He'd be much more use that way.
And that's that! Honourable mentions go to the condescending mutt from Duck Hunt who's supposedly Man's Best Friend, but laughs his ass off every time you fail and never lets you shoot him instead; Tingle from Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask who is most definitely the Jar-Jar Binks of the Zelda series; and Daxter, by far the worst back-seat gamer out there at the moment and about as funny as genital herpes.
Got a sidekick driving you round the bend that we've missed? Sound off in the comments box below!