Nobody wants to save the world alone. Having a buddy at your side makes all the difference, doubly so when your wingman is a character who can carry a scene on his or her own. The five people, aliens, robots, rodents and pigs on this list are the best companions we've seen in the last decade of gaming.
Sometimes you have to give props for execution, even if it's in service to a trope we've all seen a million times. Daxter is a tough-talking wiseguy whose mouth is constantly writing checks his behind can't cash. He's also a unwaveringly loyal, devoted companion to Jak through thick and thin – and a good thing, too, because Daxter carries about 90 percent of the duo's personality in his furry little hide. Much of what elevates the series above the huge herd of 3D platformers of its time is the story. In turn, the story depends heavily both on Daxter's antics to keep things fresh and his emotional reactions to the sometimes-bleak situations in which he and Jak find themselves. Without Daxter, Jak may as well have been Blinx the Time Sweeper.
Can a father figure be a wingman? Apparently so, as protagonist Jade's "uncle" Pey'j is a great companion who provides moral guidance and support. The guy (pig?) runs an orphanage, so you had better listen up when he talks about the evils of the government – and talk he does, in an entertainingly loud and boisterous way. It may not have been the biggest surprise in the world when you find out that he's the secret chief of the resistance, but we wouldn't have it any other way. There's no more fitting patriarch this side of Gandalf. Pey'j is decidedly unheroic when he manages to get kidnapped toward the end of Beyond Good & Evil's story, but it speaks volumes that you care enough about him that rescuing him is an adventure to be embraced rather than an annoyance to be endured.
Ratchet and Clank as a team share personality more evenly than contemporaries Jak & Daxter, but Clank is often a more interesting character than the little rodent. Clank is a great riff on the Mr. Spock character, serving as a perfect straight man setting up Ratchet's action-hero exploits. Unlike many wingmen, Clank gets his own time to shine in entertaining one-off sections sprinkled throughout the long-running series where the player controls him instead of Ratchet. Insomniac should be commended for creating interesting set pieces for Clank to star in, from his Secret Agent Clank show to giant Godzilla-style stomping levels and Pikmin-like puzzles. Clank's unique personality shines through it all, giving as much of a reason for players to come back as Ratchet's explosive gunplay.
Between his intimidating frame, deadly shotgun, and powerful biotics, there's nobody in the galaxy you'd rather have at your back than Wrex. Dialogue and backstory are equally as important to Wrex's character as his prowess in battle, which separates him from the legions of bruisers that populate just about every story humanity has ever told. If every space marine mercenary were written as well as Wrex, we wouldn't have to mock that inescapable trend every time it comes up. Wrex is always there to keep Shepard grounded and focused on the importance of his mission. The Krogan doesn't have any time for ancillary concerns like feelings, guilt, emotion, or chitchat. Wrex's internal compass is strong enough that he'll challenge Shepard on questionable decisions, not just whine about it like those wimps Kaidan and Ashley. He's all business, which is exactly what an extralegal special space agent on a mission to save the galaxy at all costs needs.
When someone's first action in a game is to hook you up with papers that ensure you won't be experiencing the horrors of World War II firsthand any more, you know you've got a friend for life. Joe Barbaro is main character Vito Scaletta's best friend and de facto big brother from childhood through their rise up the Mob's ranks as adults. Joe's top-notch voice work (provided by accomplished voice actor Robert Costanzo) makes his frequent wisecracking a treat every time. His larger-than-life personality drives him to (ahem) hang around with friendly women, break into brutal violence whenever it's even remotely called for, and haul around in the fastest cars he can steal. He rarely considers the consequences, regularly leaving messes Vito has to clean up – but Vito would never so much as think about not having Joe's back, just as Joe would never hesitate to kill a man if it meant helping Vito. With a bond that goes this deep, you know that Joe wouldn't question making the ultimate sacrifice for Vito.
My Thoughts: Daxter should be one, Clank should be two, Pay'j should be three, Joe should be four, and Urdnot should be five.