Just because you're the star of your very own video game doesn't automatically mean you deserve the lead role. There's a half-decent chance that one of the sidekicks is faster, stronger, more talented or just plain cooler than the actual hero, sort of like Kato and the Green Hornet.
If only the game makers would let you use them, instead.
The big appeal of Half-Life's Gordon Freeman is that he's an everyman and, more importantly, a geek. He's a scientist. He's quiet to the point of literally being mute, and he's socially awkward. He's designed to be just like a whole lot of us in the game-playing demographic. This particular geek just has to pick up a crowbar and kill off a swarm of aliens to save the world.
Even his glasses wear glasses.
That formula works so well that Freeman was recently voted the greatest video game hero of all time. Which is pretty impressive for someone who looks like Charlie Sheen in The Arrival.
Who defeated the aliens by snorting a mountain of cocaine and trashing their hotel suite.
In Half-Life 2, Gordon's friend Alyx introduces him to Dog, an 8-foot-tall, super-strong robot that her father built to protect her many years ago.
Not to be confused with Dog, the 6-foot strip of beef jerky built by sun poisoning and testosterone.
Dog is basically indestructible, never taking any visible damage from anything that explodes around him or gets thrown directly into his face. And since he's a giant robot and everything, he can throw all manner of heavy objects at enemy combatants, and we see him crush an unbreakable door with his robot claws to clear a path for Gordon.
The only drawback is that he technically has no battle AI, so Dog tends to run away from most combat, and much of that heavy-lifting stuff we talked about comes from his desire to play catch with his master. But we're told that Alyx has been building and improving on Dog since she was a child, so there's really no excuse not to reprogram him into less of a loyal robotic pet and more of a badass alien wrecking ball. Since, you know, humanity kind of depends on it.
Presumably, the alien forgot to leave some kibble in his dish.
Regardless, if Dog weren't around to save Gordon's scrawny ass, some building would've collapsed on his head and the whole franchise would've been kaput. So why didn't they just program Dog to carry out the mission, rather than sending in Gordon with his sad little crowbar?
Back in the day, Sega was in stiff competition with Nintendo and decided to respond to the whole Mario juggernaut by giving us Sonic. He was marketed as "hip" and "cool" because he smirked 24/7, shook his finger at us even though we didn't do anything wrong and ran at top speed all the time regardless of where he was going. Time and time again, he fought against overwhelming odds and defeated the evil Dr. Robotnik, who for some reason centered all of his nefarious plots on locking forest creatures inside mechanical crabs.
And giant robotic "arms."
Say hello to Tails, a 4-year-old fox with a hideous genetic deformity that cursed him with two tails.
He's a brazen insult to the natural world.
Oh. And he can fly. You can see where this is going.
But more on that in a moment. First of all, Sonic can run and jump at ludicrous speeds, curl up into a ball and blast through enemies or destroy them with a deadly flip on top of their heads. But all this power depends on collecting rings -- if Sonic gets hit, he drops every last one he has, and if he can't manage to pick any of them up in time, he's dust.
But in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, you can pick up the second controller at any time and control Tails, who possesses the useful quality of not being able to die. He can take as many hits as you need him to, making him indispensable in boss fights and reducing Sonic to a blue mohawked liability.
But more importantly, using his twin tails as a propeller he can go anywhere he wants to, ignoring all those walls and rocks and boulders that impede Sonic's ground game. Realistically, he could fly over everything in the game, go straight to Robotnik and smash him into oblivion with his invincibility. The only way Sonic could do any of this is if Tails carried him around, so who's the sidekick here?
"Remind me again why I hang out with you."
When not feeling asleep, Solid Snake is one of the biggest badasses in gaming history.
A master of sneaking up on soldiers with crippling tunnel vision and breaking the shit out of their necks, Snake has endured for over 25 years since his above-referenced NES debut. He's taken down countless elite soldiers (including his own brother), destroyed giant robots and thwarted a handful of evil schemes to enslave the populace. He can also hide in a box.
There is no way this could ever possibly fail.
Snake is really effective only when the enemy can't see him. That's one of the core concepts of the game -- if you get caught in the open, you're going to get hosed with bullets, like James Caan in The Godfather. Enter Otacon, an anime-loving nerd in an overcoat.
"You know, as opposed to my German animes."
Otacon is a master of technology and progressively does more and more of what Snake can do, only better and more effectively. The whole point of a stealth operation is to go unseen -- sneaking up on soldiers and snapping their necks is just extra gravy on the turkey. So all someone like Otacon has to do is slip on some Stealth Camouflage or hide inside a cardboard box (see above) and he's perfectly fine.
And if he doesn't feel like actually being on the battlefield even when completely invisible, he can send a tiny little machine to do the dirty work. The Metal Gear Mk II can crack door-sealing codes, disguise itself in numerous ways and ambush guards with a taser, all while looking like something your mother would buy from Brookstone.
Doubles as a back massager!
Really, Otacon doesn't need Snake at all. The only thing keeping us from Metal Gear Solid: Nerdy Mouthbreather is the fact that Otacon pees all over himself when he's scared and has sex with his stepmother. Even the most feverish of nerds would find that hard to get behind.