While you always play video games in the shoes of playable main characters, the world and the story are both heavily influenced by the 'sometimes funny, sometimes scary, while other times straight up wacky' NPCs. Today we will be ranking the most memorable NPCs of all time.
First, let us define an NPC. NPC is short for Non-Playable Character. This is a character you encounter in a game that you cannot control. That is the easiest definition there is, and while some people might argue that villains in the story or bosses are not NPCs, in reality, they are. Even if you can sometimes play a mission or two beside them, and then they become Non-Playable, they are will be counted as NPC. Without further blabbing about technicalities that most of you have never thought about (but I, as the author and master of this list have since I am living in a constant state of crisis and overthinking), let us start.
15. Watson from Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis
Game: Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis
Best Lines: None
What Makes Him Great: Starting with an NPC memorable for the wrong reasons: Watson. In the Sherlock Holmes game Nemesis, your best and trusty sidekick Watson found himself on the wrong end of the stick in terms of programming. He is the star of the famous “Creepy Watson” glitch. Thanks to the developers forgetting to program a walk cycle for him, Watson teleports either behind or in front of you making for some goofs and gaffs, but also some jump scares the first few times you are not expecting it. This NPC is so popular that even many creepypastas have been written about him.
Oh yeah, this list is not just about 'great' memorable NPCs, as you might have thought. It's about all 'great' and 'not so great' NPCs, the only condition being that they are somehow or the other memorable.
Best Lines "A Hunter back from a quest? Now that's the best storyteller in the galaxy."
"Every story has an end. This is mine."
"The Vanguard... was the best bet... I ever... lost."
What Makes Him Great: Cayde-6, the Hunter Vanguard and known owner of the Ace of Spades. His role as an NPC was selling you emblems and armour, which every player could buy for the right amount of money (except for the special Hunters armour that only Hunters could equip). He had a great personality and always wanted to go back into combat despite doing fairly well as an arms dealer. This made him memorable, as sometimes he would whisper to the player “Hey take me with you” and stuff along those lines. He is a carefree NPC, who can turn into a real badass when mad. His story has the perfect end—beware of spoilers ahead! When he finally can return to the fighting field, Cayden-6, unfortunately, dies in combat.
13. Jeff “Joker” Moreau
Game: Mass Effect
Best Lines: “What could I do against collectors, break my arm at them?"
"This is all Joker's fault! What a tool he was! I have to spend all day computing pi because he plugged in The Overlord!"
"If Your Plan to Invade A Planet Requires Strapping Guns To Your Kids' School Bus, Maybe It’s A Bad Plan."
What Makes Him Great: A pilot of the SSV Normandy known for his excellent piloting skills. Even Joker himself knows of such skills, to the point where he is awfully arrogant about it and yet, he takes great pride in it. Joker loves to tell people why he is the best and talk about his accomplishments and commendations he has earned. He is one of the best NPCs I have encountered while playing, all thanks to his sarcastic, arrogant yet believable attitude.
Game: Dragon Age
Best Lines: "I tried to be merciful!"
"I suppose violence is a solution... sometimes!"
"Do you think they sell miniatures of these in the city? I would love to have some on my mantle."
What Makes Her Great: An Orlesian bard who wanted to become a Lay Sister of the Chantry, Leliana found herself going to the village of Lothering. As an NPC, she can be a companion and a romantic interest for either male or female Warden. If the player wants, Leliana can also teach the bard specialization. She is the definition of a great NPC thanks to the great character development the game grants her. Just from hearing Leliana’s story, you can extract that she went from the bard to Lay Sister of the Chantry, and finally into a Spymaster. She is this lovely kind always do-good lady trying to escape her not-so-good past who eventually becomes the Pope's right hand.
11. Sergeant Avery Johnson
Best Lines: "Ah, man, I just had the thing washed!"
"You're almost a man!"
“Usually, the good Lord works in mysterious ways. But not today! This here is 66 tons of straight-up, H.E-spewing dee-vine intervention! If God is love, then you can call me 'Cupid'!”
What Makes Him Great: Sergeant Avery Johnson is the senior non-commissioned officer who served with the UNSC Marine Corps during the times of the Insurrection and Human-Covenant war. She was also a highly trained marine who was part of the ORION Project. Loved by many because of his overly enthusiastic and energetic personality. He was just what Halo needed, due to Master Chief being so calm and usually quiet. Hence, he is the perfect NPC to balance things out. Great lines all-around, perfect attitude for a friend, and courageous to a point of almost being crazy.
Best Lines: “Hello, my friend. I was hoping you'd return; it gets very unnerving here. especially when I am alone.”
“I have spent decades trying to understand the forces at work in this world. But, in the face of all that is transpiring, I realize how meagre my knowledge is.”
"Oh... Blessings on the Rogues! They finally rescued me from that cursed place!"
What Makes Him Great: A Horadric scholar who is a master of both obscure lore and history of the arcane. He assists most, if not all, of the travellers working against the Prime Evils and their associates or kin. Deckard has a lot of interesting quotes and storytelling. He is the most interactive with NPC in Diablo if you are a sucker for obscure lore and interesting world-building.
9. Darth Traya
Game: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords
Best Lines: "Know that there was once a Darth Traya. And that she cast aside that role, was exiled, and found a new purpose. But there must always be a Darth Traya, one that holds the knowledge of betrayal. Who has been betrayed in their heart, and will betray in turn.”?
"To be united by hatred is a fragile alliance at best."
"You must understand. I did not wish the Jedi dead. Defeated... perhaps. I merely wished them to see that they and their teachings were wrong. That one could not truly understand the Force simply by adhering to the Jedi Code."
What Makes Her Great: SPOILER ALERT!! Darth Traya gives you one of the best plot twists in the video game history ever, at least in my opinion. The old lady you save at the start of the game turns out to be a full-fledged Sith. She is the puppet master pulling all the strings. She was the first character to make me question if the Jedi ways were perfect and the only truth. Love the plot twist, the motivation, and the development from an old lady to Sith Lord.
8. Happy Mask Salesman
Game: Majora’s Mask
Best Lines: “Whenever there is a meeting, a parting shall follow. But that parting needs not last forever. Whether a parting is forever or merely for a short while... that is up to you.”
“You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?”
What Makes Him Great: Was I the only one who was afraid of him as a child? His smile and demeanor are so creepy, and yet those two characteristics are some of the reasons that make him so memorable. He is mysterious, happy, excitable - all great things for an NPC to have and earn a spot in everybody’s mind as unforgettable. He helps Link with his wares while delivering great lines. To be honest, the reason I am afraid of him is probably because of the face he makes when you do not return the mask at the beginning of the game. Simply chilling.
Game: Far Cry 3
Best Lines: “Did I ever tell you what the definition of insanity is? Insanity is doing the exact... same fucking thing... over and over again expecting... shit to change... That. Is. Crazy.”
“You are angry Jason. You are angry. I get that. I get it. I mean without family who the fuck are we? There was a time I would do anything for my sister, I mean the first time I ever killed was for my sister.”
“Take me into your heart. Accept me as your saviour. Nail me to the fucking cross and let me be REBORN!”
What Makes Him Great: I don’t know if it has to do with the fact that maybe, just maybe, I am a little bit crazy, but I have always been drawn to crazy villains. Never a fan of Batman, always loved the Joker. Likewise, I love Vaas more than the main character that you play within Far Cry 3. Initially, the plan was for Vaas to not have as many lines. His role wasn’t as important to the game, anyway. However, after a great audition from Michael Mando, Vaas’s voice actor, the game developers decided to make him almost a centrepiece of the game. He has everything an NPC who is the bad guy should have: Despicable yet charmful in a way, talks crazy, but you know he is capable of doing everything he says. A true psychopath whose quotes are top-tier when it comes to game history.
Game: The Walking Dead
Best Lines: "This man found me and took care of me... His name was Lee. He taught me how to survive."
It's okay, we're smart and he's not. We're smarter than all of them.
"Yeah. Now we're the cookies."
What Makes Her Great: Clementine is another example of great character development. A little girl you find while playing Lee in the Walking Dead eventually turns into the main protagonist, after Lee’s death. However, we are concentrating on her story when she was an NPC, which is still pretty great. Left alone with the babysitter who gets killed by zombies, Clementine is found by Lee and starts creating one of the greatest bands in gaming history. She brings a great touch of innocence in a destroyed world while also growing and adapting to the new world she lives in. Clementine’s last talk with Lee before his demise is one of the best ones I remember ever playing.
Game: Twilight Princess
Best Lines: "You don't have to look so sad! We actually find it to be quite livable! I mean, is perpetual twilight really all that bad?"
"Zelda...Your words are kind, and your heart is true. If all in Hyrule are like you...then maybe, you'll do alright."
“What? Say something! Am I so beautiful that you’ve no words left?”
What Makes Her Great: Midna is first presented as a mysterious masked being, with an impish demeanour and sarcastic remarks for ages. She is a resident of the Twilight Realm and a direct descendant of the ancient Twili people. While first presented as a dark creature with an agenda of her own, as the game progresses, you begin loving more and more of her character. Firstly, her sarcasm and teasing of Link for not speaking is just great. She might come off as rude or condescending, but she is not bad nor a bully. Instead, she is really caring and the balancing act between those two things make her great.
Game: Ocarina of Time
Best Lines: "Hello!"
What Makes Her Great: One of the most divisive NPCs that are going to be included on the list. Just like Watson, she is memorable for all the wrong reasons. She is Link’s companion in Ocarina of Time and makes his life unlivable by constantly screaming “LISTEN!”. In the end, you start getting attached to it, and was does the fairy do? She decides to YEET the hell out, leaving you sad and hopeless and missing her annoying interjections. She is the reason I have trust issues and attachment issues, so thanks Navi for being so memorable and almost ruining my childhood. I hope you are well, wherever you are.
Game: The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
Best Lines: “What is better? To be born good or to overcome your evil nature through great effort?”
"Dov wahlaan fah rel. We were made to dominate. The will to power is in our blood. You feel it in yourself, do you not?"
"I have overcome my nature only through meditation and long study of the Way of the Voice."
What Makes Him Great: If I would let my personal love for this character cloud my judgment, I would have easily put him on spot number one. What is not to love here? He is a dragon. In a world in which dragons hate humans, he protects them. He chose humans over his kin because he knew what was better. I am not crying you are. He is the greatest to ever lived and the strongest dragon that the player encounters on Skyrim. If you decided to kill him, you will always be at war with me, and I will forever judge you for your decisions. Paarthurnax, pardon me for not putting you on the spot you deserve, always being on top.
Game: Bioshock Infinite
Best Lines: “Can you take me to Paris”
“Oh come and dance with me Mr.Dewitt”
“Time... Time rots everything. Even hope.”
“Who needs to cover, I make my own reality.”
What Makes Him Great: Elizabeth might be one of the most heartbreaking character developments in the history of gaming. A happy, carefree girl whom the player is tasked to protect. She seems to love life and wants to discover everything and do everything. Elizabeth genuinely is the definition of a pure, innocent character. As the player, you slowly start caring about her and becoming a little bit like her, just as she starts going the other way around. Elizabeth starts learning that life is not a magical story that she always thought. Her carefree attitude slowly starts becoming a dark and serious one. Gameplaywise, she is the player's strongest ally, as she throws mana and ammo to the player and can open portals/rifts of some kind to aid the player. The little details that make her memorable are the fact that when you are not shooting and going crazy on your enemies, she interacts with the world like a true human. She sits, watches the structures, gets interested in random things. It’s almost as if Elizabeth was truly alive. She is a memory many of us will never forget.
1. Solaire of Astora
Game: Dark Souls
Best Lines: "I am Solaire of Astora, an adherent to the Lord of Sunlight.”
“Now that I am Undead, I have come to this great land, the birthplace of Lord Gwyn, to seek my very own sun!"
“So, what do you say? Why not help one another on this lonely journey?"
"But I am a warrior of the sun! Spot my summon signature easily by its brilliant aura."
"If you miss it, you must be blind!"
What Makes Him Great: The real question here should be “What makes him not the best?”. In my opinion, the most memorable NPC ever is Solaire of Astora. Why? Well for starters, outside of the Dark Souls community he is/was a famous meme template. Gaining fame outside of your own community is definitely a plus. Within of the Dark Souls community, he is a loved character for being such a happy and positive dude in a world that’s dominated by grim and darkness. He is the spotlight, the lighthouse, the salt in a crazy negative setting. He helps the player beat bosses and accompanies him for some time. He truly is that positive energy we all need in our life. PRAISE THE SUN!
The universe of NPCs is so vast, that I am sure I must have left out some of your favourites.