D-Dog - Metal Gear Solid 5
Metal Gear Solid 5’s companions are actually pretty decent, assisting you in taking down enemies while you handle the bulk of the mission. Quiet and D-Dog are both good contenders when it comes to top allies, but we’re going to have to side with the canine by virtue of A: He wears an eyepatch instead of a bikini in the middle of a scorching desert, and B: He’s a doggo.
Initially found as a wee pupper, D-Dog soon becomes a stalwart companion of Boss’, able to join you on missions and, most importantly, to have his fur and eyepatch customized. D-Dog is capable of tagging enemies for you in a huge radius, scouting out so you can plan ahead. D-Dog can spot enemies, mines, vehicles and more, but is also fully combat ready, able to stab enemies to death with a knife he carries in his mouth (yes, really) or taze them with an electric rod. This wolf is even capable of setting an enemy up for Fulton extraction. What we’re trying to say is this dog is more dexterous than we feel as fully functioning humans. Truly a good boy.
(Good NPC allies? Pah! Here are eight maddeningly stupid AI companions. Twenty years on and we're still raging at #4...)
Alyx Vance - Half-Life 2
Not just the heartthrob of many a teenage gamer, Half-Life 2’s Alyx Vance is one of the best AI companions we’ve been lucky enough to have watching our back. A key character in the game’s story — arguably more so than Freeman himself — Alyx is capable in both the plot and combat, helping you dispatch Combine goons during your stints with her in City 17 and Nova Prospekt.
As a partner, Alyx only gets better during the Episode expansions, in which she’s a near constant companion. With added fighting abilities and some rather cool finishing moves, Alex goes beyond the level of most NPC companions by not only avoiding being a nuisance, but actually being joy to have around. Valve’s work with Alyx in Half-Life 2 and its expansions set the bar at a level modern games still struggle to compete with many years on. Plus she’s friends with a giant robot dog, and that’s always a winner in our books.
Ashley - Resident Evil 4
The opening of Resident Evil 4 sees Leon Kennedy sent on a mission to rescue the president of the USA’s daughter. As it happens, Ashley Graham is a whiny, self-entitled late-teen who Leon needs to escort through a good portion of the game. We know what you’re thinking, oh no, not an escort mission, the most dreaded of gaming set pieces.
Fortunately, while Ashley might start off as insufferable, guarding her as you traverse villages, castles and secret compounds isn’t all that bad. Ashley keeps close to Leon’s back, ducks when he needs to take a shot and, by far the best of all, can be told to wait in a dumpster until you need her. Yes, that’s right, Leon Kennedy can order the daughter of the president to sit in a dumpster until he’s cleared the area of enemies.
While Ashley does grow on you (and as a character) over the course of the game, our favorite feature besides dumpster hiding is one of the game’s unlockable costumes. Complete the Separate Ways bonus mission included in every version after the Gamecube release and you’ll unlock the option for Ashley to don a full suit of medieval armor. This isn’t just a visual change, however, as the suit will make her entirely invincible to attacks from enemies and friends, too. She’ll also be far too heavy to be carried off by the Ganados, and the game even updates the animation for when Leon catches her from a fall, making him wince from the extra weight.
Navi - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. But seriously, just imagine trying to play the game without Z-targeting.