It's that time of the year again. Everyone is ranking their favourite games of the year or their most anticipated games of next year, but for Bioware fans — with the last of Dragon Age Inquisition's DLC being released this year — there's only one list that matters: a definitive ranking of all 51* companions from the Mass Effect and Dragon Age games.
*Some exclusions include the temporary companions from various games' introductions and Tallis from Dragon Age II, considering that I never actually played her DLC. So that we can work our way up to better things, let's start with the lowest of the low:
51. Anders, Dragon Age II
Anders' terrible characterisation in Dragon Age II was only made worse by the fact that he was genuinely likeable and interesting in his first appearance in Awakening. There was nothing in the DA2 character that resembled the one from Origins' DLC at all, aside from his odd feathery shoulders. They might as well have made him a dwarf and a warrior while they're at it. Anders' DA2 incarnation is oddly preachy for someone who abandoned his oath to the Grey Wardens to become a magical terrorist, and he inevitably manipulates Hawke (even a romanced Hawke) into helping him create a bomb to destroy a place of worship. Yup. DA2 was a game full of odd plot decisions and inconsistent characterisation, but Anders was really the crux of it.
50. Blackwall, Dragon Age: Inquisition
Blackwall is like that creepy old uncle that turns up to Christmas gatherings uninvited and no one really knows how to tell him to leave. Identity theft aside, Blackwall just isn't interesting as a character. He's a Grey Warden fanboy with no personality, who will force himself into a romance with a female Inquisitor at the first sign of flirting. What's worse for the hapless players who romance Blackwall is that there are very few options to actually break off a relationship with him. Before you know it he'll be asking you to settle down and have kids with him, because he's just an exciting character like that.
49. Leliana, Dragon Age: Origins
Fun fact: I killed Leliana in Origins. She just keeps coming back. Terrible accent aside, Leliana sits halfway between naïve chantry sister and ruthless cutthroat spy and never quite works for either one. In Origins as a companion she's desperate for your approval, in Inquisition as an advisor she's more painfully grimdark than Christian Bale's Batman. I just wish she would leave me alone.
48. Solas, Dragon Age: Inquisition
I'm the first to admit that Solas is actually one of the better characters in Inquisition. That is, if you play as a Lavellan. Solas's huge flaw is that the most interesting elements of his character only come through if you're an elf and, ideally, a female. That and he's an insufferable know-it-all at the best of times.
47. Ashley Williams, Mass Effect 1 and 3
Ashley suffers in my rankings mainly because she never actually survived past the first game, but I've never had reason to save her either. Ashley is a xenophobic human in a game where, let's face it, the aliens are by far the most interesting part. Taking her in your squad just seems like a poor idea.
46. Liara, Mass Effect
Liara suffers from the same problems as Leliana. She's supposedly a naïve 'young' Asari whose entire knowledge of the galaxy is purely academic. And then she suddenly becomes one of the most powerful underworld figures in the Mass Effect universe, complete with cutthroat instinct and a sense of independence that is largely absent in the first game. Does that make sense to anyone else?
45. Zaeed, Mass Effect 2
Zaeed suffered from being a DLC character, but there really wasn't much character there to begin with. He's like an amalgamation of all 'Nam vet stereotypes ever, and when you consider what Shepard's been through, it would take a lot more than his stories to actually be impressive.
44. Jacob Taylor, Mass Effect 2
Why are you even in this game? For the first hour of Mass Effect 2 I was under the impression that Jacob was a temporary companion who would soon die off to be replaced by a more interesting squadmate. Nope, turns out the least interesting character in the game is actually here to stay.
43. James Vega, Mass Effect 3
As above. Vega isn't a terrible character, but in a game where only two new characters were introduced as squadmates, I wish they'd given us someone a bit more interesting.
42. Merrill, Dragon Age II
Merrill is written to be absolutely clueless about pretty much everything. When she's also the character in your team who wields the most powerful type of magic in all of Thedas, that seems like a really bad idea. She constantly tells everyone that she knows what she's doing but never quite proves it.
41. Cole, Dragon Age: Inquisition
Cole is just a little too odd to really form a connection to him. Most of his lines are essentially references to other geek media, which is cute as an easter egg but doesn't really contribute to creating an interesting character. Plus his 'My Two Dads' scene with Varric and Solas really seemed to come out of nowhere.
40. Vivienne, Dragon Age: Inquisition
I really don't mind Vivienne's pro-templar opinions. It was interesting to see that there are mages with that viewpoint, although the rest of the character was a little lacking. You never really learn anything about Vivienne herself — you only hear her opinions.
39. Dorian, Dragon Age: Inquisition
First of all, Dorian breaks the game's own lore. Through the entire series, codexes have told us that Thedosians don't really care about sexuality at all. Unless you're Dorian, as it turns out, and it's vital to your plot line. He's also a spoiled brat who tries real hard to justify Tevinter's culture of slavery — so long as it benefits him.
38. Oghren, Dragon Age: Origins
Oghren was great fun to have around, but he was also quite a two dimensional character. A lecherous, bearded dwarf who likes drinking isn't exactly ground-breaking.
37. Sten, Dragon Age: Origins
Like a lot of the characters in Origins, Sten wasn't fleshed out as much as companions in other Bioware games, though getting our first look at the Qunari culture through him was always interesting.
36. The Iron Bull, Dragon Age: Inquisition
The Iron Bull started out as one of my favourite characters, but he never seemed to change throughout the game. He always remained the same mix of bravado and apathy — even after you do his seemingly life-changing companion quest.
35. Alistair, Dragon Age: Origins
In Bioware's own canon for the Dragon Age universe, Alistair becomes king. Alistair makes a terrible king — he's not even willing to take charge when it's just him and the warden in the party, so how's he going to go with an entire kingdom? On the surface, Alistair seems lovely — and his romance is pure saccharine — but when it comes down to it he's fairly useless and incredibly whiney.
34. Morinth, Mass Effect 2
Morinth is every goth philosophy student who's watched Fight Club too many times, which is actually pretty fun during the mission where you have to 'seduce' her. Given I didn't have high enough renegade to properly recruit her, so I couldn't justify ranking her any higher.
33. Justice, Dragon Age: Origins Awakening
Justice was an interesting concept for a character and, I would argue, a more well-realised spirit companion than his successor in Inquisition, Cole. The fact that he was essentially walking around in a zombie body for the entirety of Awakening was pretty great, too.
32. Javik, Mass Effect 3
Javik is hilarious, if only for his banter with Liara. However, for such an interesting character — the last surviving member of a long dead, technologically advanced race — he really suffered for being a DLC character.
31. Sebastian Vael, Dragon Age II
Again Sebastian suffers as a DLC character who could have been so much more. His ten minute long speech at the end of the game definitely feels shoehorned in, and his romance is halfhearted, but I'm still a sucker for that accent.
30. Kaidan Alenko, Mass Effect 1 and 3
As goofy as Kaidan is, I can't quite bring myself to hate him. He makes for good comic relief, but I just have to wonder why, out of all the talented people you met throughout Mass Effect, anyone decided to make Kaidan a Spectre.
29. Sera, Dragon Age: Inquisition
I loved Sera at first, and then I hated her. Eventually it settled somewhere in between. Her 'quirkiness' seems a little too forced to be a favourite, but she's also a lot more fun than most of the people on your team in Dragon Age Inquisition.
28. Loghain, Dragon Age: Origins
I never recruited Loghain for the longest time. He's a racist old man, but he actually redeems himself a fair bit when you recruit him as a Grey Warden. He knows he did the wrong thing, and he's happy to sacrifice himself to make up for it. His subtle digs at Alistair are also pretty hilarious.
27. Nathaniel Howe, Dragon Age: Origins Awakening
For a DLC addition that's not quite its own game, Awakening had some of the most interesting characters in the Dragon Age universe. After Arl Howe was such an effective villain in Origins, bringing his son in as a companion and actually making him likeable was a point of genius by the Awakening writers. Bonus points for a prison scene that's much better than Blackwall's.
26. Samara, Mass Effect 2
While Samara is an interesting character — and a part of Bioware's best squad, your team in Mass Effect 2 — she's always just a little bit distant. Morinth does seem like she would be a bit more fun to hang out with than her mother.
25. Dog, Dragon Age: Origins
Dog sits squarely in the middle. While you can't help but love your furry companion in Dragon Age: Origins (and no, I'm not talking about Oghren), he also suffers as a team member due to his inability to equip armour or weapons. Poor Barkspawn inevitably gets forgotten in the latter half of the game — at least until you send him to rescue the warden in Fort Drakon.
24. Wynne, Dragon Age: Origins
Wynne is like the Samara of the Dragon Age universe — she's your standard team mum, but she's also very morally upright, which can be a problem when you play a morally questionable character. That being said, she's a solid asset to any team, and dressing her up in heavy armour as an arcane warrior never gets old.
23. Thane Krios, Mass Effect 2
Thane was supposedly designed to be a sexy alien love interest, but he still just comes across as creepy. That whole photo-memory thing he does would have me backing away slowly. As with many Mass Effect 2 characters, however, it's his personal quest that really makes you form a connection to the character — just in time for them to kill him off in the third game.
22. Isabela, Dragon Age II
Isabela was another returning character in Dragon Age II who barely resembled her Origins counterpart, although in this case it was definitely for the better. Isabela seems shallow at first, but can come around thanks to a fairly satisfying character arc. If only it wasn't bugged. That's right, in some games you can do all the right things and she'll still turn on you. Thanks, Isabela.
21. Zevran, Dragon Age: Origins
What is it with rogues and being bugged? Zevran's romance in particular is notoriously buggy, but if you can look past it then he's one of Origins' most successful characters. On the surface he's a typically campy sexy assassin — with some admittedly brilliant banter — but the depth of his character is revealed once you get closer to him.
20. Jack, Mass Effect 2
By the end of Mass Effect 2 I had gained Jack's loyalty and I considered us friends, though trying to talk to her gave me only an "I'm done talking to you." We left at a low on the end of that game, but it was Mass Effect 3 that really cemented her as a great character — even if most of her arc occurred offscreen.
19. Miranda Lawson, Mass Effect 2
Miranda was a character who slowly grew on me. Unless you're romancing her (I assume) she never becomes truly likeable, but she at least demands respect. That is, when she stops talking about how it sucks that she's perfect. I know you were genetically engineered, Miranda. You told me seven times before lunch.
18. Morrigan, Dragon Age: Origins
While Morrigan's return in Inquisition was questionable (seriously, when did she become an expert on ancient elves?) she was one of my favourite characters in the first game. From the standoffish and often cruel character that you pick up at the start, becoming friends (or more, if you play a male warden) with Morrigan is a slow but rewarding process.
17. Sigrun, Dragon Age: Origins Awakening
Dragon Age needs more female dwarf companions. Dragon Age needs more dwarves in general. While Couslands and Dalish Elves were overhyped in Origins, the dwarves had some of the most interesting lore in that game, and Sigrun personified the best of it.
16. Kasumi Goto, Mass Effect 2
I have to admit: I thought I was going to hate Kasumi when I first played Mass Effect 2. I had thought she would turn out to be a kind of space Leliana, and I put off playing her mission until after I had finished the suicide mission itself. I regret that now — I would have liked to have Kasumi around for longer, considering how fun her character ended up being. Of course, a large part of that is likely to do with how enjoyable her companion quest itself was.
15. Velanna, Dragon Age: Origins Awakening
The Dragon Age series has only had two Dalish companions, and Velanna typifies the best of them. She's openly derisive of humans and she doesn't care who knows it, but she's also the perfect Grey Warden. She'll do what has to be done to end the blight, no holds barred.
14. Nyreen Kandros, Mass Effect 3: Omega
Nyreen was only a companion for the short Omega DLC for Mass Effect 3, but she deserves a spot here as one of the only female turians we actually see in the game. She also provides the perfect counterpoint to Aria's angry crusade, showing a more benevolent side to Omega Station.
13. Shale, Dragon Age: Origins
Shale is hands down the best DLC character in any Bioware game. She's sassy and unexpected, demanding gems to make her huge (but don't tell her that) golem body "glitter". If you didn't enjoy taking Shale out as a companion, then you're probably playing the game as above.
12. Aria T’Loak, Mass Effect 3: Omega
Aria is an unashamed badass, and she'll actually join your party for the Omega DLC. If your Shepard is a biotic then she'll probably put you to shame, and prove why she is the largely undisputed "queen" of Omega. Unlike most of your Mass Effect companions, Aria doesn't want Shepard's approval. Just your help.
11. Wrex, Mass Effect
Wrex doesn't have to survive past the first game. If he doesn't, however, you're missing out. Despite his main contribution being in the first game — where the companion relationships weren't emphasised as much as they were in the last two — Wrex is that old friend who just keeps popping up where you least expect him.
10. EDI, Mass Effect 3
From her suspicious beginnings in Mass Effect 2 to her sexy robot body in the third game, EDI is your ship. It's honestly hard to hate her, as the unshackled AI slowly develops her sense of humour — with the help of Joker, of course.
9. Fenris, Dragon Age II
In a game that's full of weird black and white opinions on the mage/templar debate, Fenris actually has a reason to hate mages. It's not his most endearing quality, but it's his loudest one. The depth of Fenris' character beyond his hatred is evident instead through the small things — like the fact that he plays cards with Aveline's husband once a week, or his surprising dry wit.
8. Mordin, Mass Effect 2
It's a hard thing to do to make someone with an irritating speech pattern likeable, but then there's Mordin. Technically he seems like he should be a bad guy, a Joseph Mengele of the Mass Effect universe, but throughout the games he seems to make all the tough decisions and still seem like he's doing the right thing. I'm not even going to mention Mass Effect 3. It's too soon.
7. Legion, Mass Effect 2
After so much of the first game involving killing geth, meeting Legion was a bit of a shock. At first you don't trust him, maybe even don't like him, but he quickly grows on you. Like EDI he asks the hard questions about consciousness and identity — all setting up for heartbreak in true Bioware style. Yes, this unit does have a soul.
6. Cassandra, Dragon Age: Inquisition
Cassandra believes in the Inquisitor. It's how she motivates herself and even other people in Skyhold when the task seems impossible. Even if you manage to lose all your approval with her, she still believes that the Inquisitor is the right person to lead. She even has a bit of a fangirl moment if you play a female Inquisitor — she loves the fact that a woman is in such a position of power in Thedas, and this seems to make her friendship even more rewarding than actually romancing her.
5. Varric, Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition
Varric's inclusion in Dragon Age Inquisition seemed entirely unnecessary, but his Dragon Age II incarnation remains one of the best in the entire Dragon Age series. It's not often that a character in game feels like a best friend, but that's exactly what he is for Hawke. Add in some stellar voice acting and a generous heaping of chest hair, and Varric has to make it into the top 5.
4. Tali, Mass Effect 1, 2, and 3
As another character I didn't expect to like (I went into the Mass Effect series with a lot of preconceptions), Tali ended up being a favourite. Part of this has to be attributed to the fact that she's one of the two (see below) characters who's present in every game in the trilogy. Unlike what they did with Varric in Dragon Age Inquisition, however, Tali continues to grow in each new game, instead of just coasting on her likeability from the last game. Plus, drunk Tali in the rec room is priceless.
3. Garrus, Mass Effect 1, 2, and 3
As above, Garrus sticks with Shepard throughout the three games, going from a bored C-SEC investigator to a turian military leader. Like Alistair in Dragon Age, he struggles with being a leader himself, constantly working under Shepard's command instead. Unlike Alistair, he actually overcomes this problem to take responsibility.
2. Grunt, Mass Effect 2
Encountering him as essentially a newborn, it's no surprise that we follow Grunt through such a huge character arc. From almost killing Shepard in the beginning to becoming something like an adopted son, it's honestly hard not to like Grunt. He's fairly easy to understand — there's no complicated backstory, no ulterior motives. Shepard is letting him kill things and he loves it.
1. Aveline, Dragon Age II
Considering I have cosplayed her, it's not surprising that Aveline gets the top spot in my list. Aveline is one of the few characters in any Bioware game who seems to have a life outside of their respective main character. She does her own thing, chooses her own love interest and she's entirely unapologetic about it all. At the same time, she has a definite bond both with Hawke and most of the other characters — all of her interactions with other companions show a surprising level of nuance, and she's always looking out for her friends even if it requires bending the law just a touch. Aveline is the hero Thedas needs.
With Mass Effect: Andromeda rumours popping up all over the place, there's already plenty of discussions on what sort of companions the next big Bioware game is going to give us — here's hoping for more Grunts and less Jacobs.
Have I neglected your favourites or exalted your most hated characters? Where would you have ranked things differently? Let us know in the comments!