6 Video Game Heroes Made Useless By Supporting Characters
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.
Gordon Freeman vs. Dog the Robot (Half-Life Series)
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?
Sonic vs. Tails (Sonic the Hedgehog Series)
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."
Solid Snake vs. Otacon (Metal Gear Solid Series)
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.
Mario vs. Peach (Super Mario Series)
Mario is basically the most famous video game character ever. For almost 30 years, he has strolled, jumped, ran, swam and fire-balled his way through adversity to save the day. He's become so much of an icon that it's virtually impossible for any product featuring his mustached visage to fail.
Above: The exception that proves the rule.
His entire existence is focused on saving the incredibly helpless and abduction-prone Princess Peach, who has been kidnapped by Bowser so many times she keeps a toothbrush at his place.
Seen here poppin' a squat.
See, what's weird is that game after game begins with her getting helplessly abducted like a toddler, but then every once in a while she shows off supernatural abilities that quite frankly seem much more impressive than Mario's.
Remember Super Mario Bros. 2? It was the sequel that wasn't really a sequel because the real sequel was too hard for Americans, so Nintendo took an unrelated game, photoshopped Mario characters into it and released that as the sequel. But then the real sequel was released years later, with a different title and the fake sequel was still called Super Mario Bros. 2, even though the real sequel was readily available in the States.
In Super Mario Bros. 2, you can switch among four characters at any time, and every single one of them is better than Mario. In fact, there's no reason to ever pick anyone but the Princess, because she, like Tails, can fucking fly.
She's like Boba Fett. In a dress.
For short distances, anyway. Peach can jump in the air and hang there for a ridiculous amount of time, during which she can fly over countless obstacles and bottomless pits that Mario would just stare at. She is without question the star of Super Mario Bros. 2, but somehow Mario still gets the damn thing named after him.
And don't tell us that ability isn't canon; years later she shows up in her own DS game, still with the ability to fly ...
... and oh by the way can freaking surround herself with a ball of psychic hellfire.
Which is not a great quality in a girlfriend.
That game is the only one that gets the logic right: It's Mario who gets kidnapped, and she has to go save his ass. Not only does this make more sense considering her arsenal, but we can't figure out how she ever allows herself to get kidnapped in the first place.
Donkey Kong vs. Funky Kong (Donkey Kong Country Series)
The original Donkey Kong led a simple life, but nowadays you need more than an endless supply of barrels and a house made up of construction beams if you hope to excel in the workplace. So Donkey Kong got a revamp in the Donkey Kong Country series, pitting him against an endless stream of enemies in an action platformer setting. In these games, Donkey Kong shambles around the jungle in a necktie and bonks villainy on the head.
Also, he eats a shitload of bananas.
Enter Donkey Kong's cousin Funky Kong, who is better than him in every conceivable way.
That funky monkey.
Funky Kong lives in the woods and stockpiles weapons, presumably to take down the FBI when they show up one day to steal his freedom. Being Donkey's cousin, he sells these weapons, along with any other groundbreaking and world-changing technology he just happens to have lying around, for a discount price at Funky's Armory.
This was before he put up the "Where's the Birth Certificate?" billboard.
Funky even has planes and gyrocopters, whereas Donkey is still picking his ass riding around on a rhino in the jungle.
Now, we know what you're thinking. Just because he has a massive arsenal at his disposal doesn't mean he's qualified to use any of these weapons. Maybe he has some kind of disability that affects his motor control. Maybe he's a pacifist, and his conscience will only allow him to sell the coconut guns that Donkey uses to terrorize the bad guys.
Ah, no. At the end of Donkey Kong Country 64, the main bad guy (King K. Rool) has the Kong family surrounded when Funky swoops in with a goddamned rocket launcher and blasts Rool into oblivion.
The asshole could've done this at any time. Once more, it raises the question of why send Donkey Kong to do anything when you have this guy around? What can't be accomplished when you have a monkey with rocket-propelled explosives?
Master Chief vs. Cortana (Halo Series)
Gordon Freeman may have won a gamer popularity poll, but Halo's Master Chief dominates on the sales charts. This despite being yet another faceless, voiceless protagonist designed to let the player pretend he's a genetically enhanced super-soldier out to save the universe from unspeakably evil alien parasites.
As opposed to speakably evil alien parasites.
This isn't a bad thing -- the Chief is certainly not to be fucked with. He's an intergalactic badass with some of the most high-tech armor and weaponry imaginable, and he's managed to blast his way through countless utterly hopeless scenarios and come out on top every time.
Cortana, the Chief's AI sidekick. She exists mainly for providing tactical support and information for the Chief, along with providing 15-year-olds with nerdtastic geek boners. (Hint: Don't Google "Cortana nude.")
But in the games, we see that she can control entire cities by remotely breaking into their battle nets and taking over their weaponry, without anyone ever setting foot in the area. Which is another way of saying that she really doesn't need the Chief at all.
"I dunno. Mainly for the eye candy?"
Also, the whole point of the Chief's operation is to destroy the Halo machine in the hopes that it would kill the Flood. What it would actually do is kill off anything the Flood considers food, which is absolutely every living thing in the universe. Chief, being a faceless meathead who tends to just shoot everything he sees, would not have figured that out until after everybody was dead. Cortana did all the thinking for him and learned the truth about Halo just in time to keep him from dooming us all.
Basically, she could've fought the entire war and probably won it by herself simply by crippling the enemy's weaponry, without any troops ever getting too close to actual gunfire. Her remote hacking and expansive information-gathering abilities make her the clear poster child for evolved futuristic combat.
This is not evolved.
Master Chief, for all his badassitude, is really just a grunt whose life is being put unnecessarily at risk, although a video game featuring him doing nothing but sitting around eating tacos in the cafeteria while Cortana does all the work would probably not have sold as well.
Be sure to learn about some gaming antagonists that were huge let downs, in The 6 Most Disappointing Video Game End Bosses. Or learn about some cinematic good guys that should've stayed home, in 6 Movie Heroes Who Actually Made Things Worse.
And stop by Linkstorm to find out why Luigi was actually the better brother.
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